10) I Want You Back
I love a rom-com, and this was my favorite one this year. Often these movies will be more rom than com, but Charlie Day and Jenny Slate had me laughing out loud several times, and deliver fully-formed characters in a genre that is often willing to do caricatures. Despite the laughs, this is a sweet story that will have you rooting for everyone involved, even when they may not deserve it. Sure, it reaches its predictable conclusion, but I had a great time on the ride.
09) Tick Tick Boom
Ever since Hamilton debuted on Disney+, there has been a plethora of musical movie content trying the recapture the magic. Here Lin Manuel makes his directorial debut, telling the story of Jonathan Larson, the creator of RENT, trying to write his first musical. Not only is the music catchy, but Andrew Garfield, who had an all-time year of performances, anchors this movie with one of his best roles yet.
08) Bo Burnham: Inside
Never has a performance encapsulated a moment so well as what Bo Burnham does in this something-more-than-a-comedy special. It is truly a time capsule of what we went (are currently going) through. Burnham wrote, starred, directed, and edited it all himself, and for better or worse the progression of the movie captured the emotions of the first year of the pandemic precisely and condensed it down to 90 minutes. This was brilliant and (hopefully) we never see anything like it again.
07) King Richards
When a sports movie is done well it can transform you, and this one is exceptional. Not only is the game of tennis cut together to make the actors look like they are some of the best players in the world, but we get one of the best performances of the year, and his career, out of Will Smith. But it's not just Smith who shines, the entire supporting cast is great, including Aunjanue Ellis who matches him shot for shot in some of the movie's pivotal scenes.
06) West Side Story
If I was a man of conviction this would probably be higher up on the list. But whenever I think of West Side Story I will most likely still picture the original, not this new one, and that has to count for something. But man did I enjoy this movie--not only for the music and performers, but because it was amazing to see that, after 50+ years, Steven Spielberg still has it. There are a bunch of shots that prove it, but the scene at the school dance has been rightly highlighted by many, including Guillermo Del Toro.
05) Power of the Dog
While watching this movie at first, I couldn't get over how slow it was. If you like shots of rocks and cows this is the movie for you. Undeniably those rocks and cows were very well-shot, but watching this movie at home left something to be desired. At least there were amazing performances, particularly by Benedict Cumberbatch and Kodi Smit-McPhee. It wasn't till we get to the last 30 minutes of the movie that everything comes together and rewards the patience of the viewers. A long drag before keeps this movie from being higher on the list, but an amazing ending does wonders for leaving an audience with a lasting impression.
04) Drive My Car
This is probably the actual best movie of the year, and if I took myself seriously at all it would be my number one. But at three hours it is a commitment. That commitment is rewarded, though, because the film is deliberately paced, and director Ryrsuke Hamaguchi ties everything together by the end. This is an original story, and one that feels authentic to life.
When I think about my best movies, I try to imagine what movie I will be thinking about 10 years from now, and for me, I believe I will be thinking about CODA for years to come. Not only for its sweet story (which I knew was going to be emotionally manipulative and still got me right in the heartstrings) but for its representation. This movie is about a deaf family that primarily stars deaf actors and unfortunately, that is a significant achievement. It's hard to go toe-to-toe with an Academy Award-winning actor, but that's exactly what Troy Kotsur does--providing not only the film’s humor, but the emotional heft with a scene in a pickup truck that is making me tear up just thinking about it. This movie made me feel good and after a year like this, that's what I want from my movies.
The most technically accomplished movie of the year. The source material for this movie is tough to capture, as evidenced by David Lynch’s attempt. Denis VIlleneuve pulls it off. This movie is a spectacle, the music is haunting, Jason Manoa is the coolest person ever to be named Duncan Idaho. I loved the action set pieces, but they weren't at the expense of the characters or the story, which is what makes this movie successful.
01) Spider-Man: No Way Home
I only went to the movie theater four times this year due to Covid, having a new job, and a two-year-old at home. This was one of the times I went and I had a great time. I am in the bag for the Marvel machine, so this movie was always going to get me, but it also has several Oscar-winning actors just chewing up scenery and having a ball. The action is expertly paced, and for a Marvel movie with questions about what happens next production-wise and what studio will ultimately have control, this movie lands the plane. This movie lived up to the hype, of which there was a lot, and in an overall mediocre year, why not give the number one spot to the movie I had the most fun watching?