My favorite new-to-me movies in 2021
I watched about 65 movies in 2021, including rewatching about 15 that I had seen before.
Of the ones that I hadn’t seen before, here were my favorites, in approximate descending order:
1. The Milagro Beanfield War (1988). Lovely, funny, charming movie full of great character details. Liked it a lot.
2. In the Heights (2021). Liked this a lot too. I didn’t love some of the changes from the stage version, and I recognize that the paucity of Afro-Latinx representation was problematic; but overall I thought the movie was very well done.
3. The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (2021). Lovely and sweet time-loop romance. I could nitpick—the leads both looked way too old to be the character ages they were playing, and I found the songs mildly annoying, and various other minor issues—but overall I liked it a lot. (I seem to be using that phrase a lot here.) It’s now my favorite time-loop movie.
4. (Tie.) Free Guy (2021). I’ve been meaning to write a post about this, and it’s conceivable that I still might. For now, I’ll just say that I enjoyed it a lot, significantly more than I expected to. It has the (usual for this kind of movie) there’s-only-one-woman problem (one of several ways in which it reminded me of The Lego Movie), and is probably problematic in various other ways too; but I liked both Ryan Reynolds and Jodie Comer quite a bit.
4. (Tie.) The Lovebirds (2020). I was hesitant going into this, because (a) there’s a murder near the start, and (b) it starts with a couple who spend a lot of time squabbling. And both of those are things that tend to make me tense. And the tension is increased by racial profiling; the two leads, both POC, worry quite reasonably that the police won’t believe them about what happened. But despite those things, I found the movie hilarious almost all the way through. Really funny dialogue, delivered really well, especially by the leads, Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani. (I was quite surprised to discover afterward that the movie was written by 2-3 white guys.)
4. (Tie.) To All the Boys I've Loved Before (2018). Lovely and sweet and funny teen romcom; very well done, despite a few cringe/embarrassment moments. And I really like the actors, especially Lana Condor, who plays the lead (Lara Jean), and Anna Cathcart, who plays Lara Jean’s younger sister Kitty. (…Though Condor is of Vietnamese descent and Cathcart is of Chinese descent, both playing characters of Korean descent.)
5. (Tie.) Saving Face (2004). Written and directed by Alice Wu, whose 2020 The Half of It I loved. Saving Face was Wu’s first movie, and I had somehow gotten the impression (before I saw it) that it wasn’t very good; but that impression was wrong. Like The Half of It, this too is a lovely and sweet lesbian romcom. (Well, romantic comedy/drama, I guess.) Oddly, the Netflix description of this movie focuses entirely on the secondary storyline about the protagonist’s mother, completely leaving out the lesbian love story that the movie is focused on. :( …Content warning for dead parents, and for a couple of otherwise sympathetic characters expressing anti-Black racism and homophobia. (But the movie doesn’t approve of their views.)
5. (Tie.) To All the Boys : P.S. I Still Love You (2020). Pretty much the same reaction as to the first one—I liked it a lot. (I also liked the third movie in the trilogy, but not quite enough to put it on this list.)
6. (Tie.) Black Widow (2021). Enjoyed it quite a bit; not in my top tier of MCU movies, but overall well done.
6. (Tie.) Love Hard (2021). It got a little too tense for me in a couple of scenes, but overall I liked it a lot. Funny and sweet romcom. Content warning for dead mom backstory and for lots of embarrassment/cringe (which usually turns me off, but I was okay with it here).
6. (Tie.) Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). Mostly enjoyed it quite a bit.
…Apparently, for me this was a year for romance movies. Six of the abovelisted eleven are primarily romances, and there are major romance elements in two or three of the others. I always like romances, but I’m pretty sure they don’t usually make up more than half of my favorites-of-the-year lists.