SENSES OF CINEMA: 2021 World Cinema Poll

Every year, the Australian-based online quarterly, Senses of Cinema, invites writers from all over the globe to submit their selections for the best movies of the year—including those seen for the first time regardless of the year of release.

As I have done in past years, I broke my submission ballot into two seconds: One for contemporary releases, one for discoveries.

Top Ten Movies of 2021:

The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, 2021)
The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier, 2021)
Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2021)
Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2021)
Pig (Michael Sarnoski, 2021)
The Green Knight (David Lowry, 2021)
Red Rocket (Sean Baker, 2021)
A Hero (Asghar Farhadi, 2021)
Flee (Jonas Poher Rasmussen, 2021)
Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021)

I saw all but two of the above in a movie theater—six of them at film festivals—filled with strangers all breathing the same air, sharing the same experience, our faces upturned to those magnificent images ten times bigger than any one of us in the room. Still, that sentiment seems like an outlier considering how I saw the vast majority of movies in 2021. While I leaped at any chance to see a movie in the theater with an audience, I saw most of them by myself on a well-worn gray pullout couch in front of a typical-looking Westinghouse flat-screen TV. That’s where I watch the vast majority of the movies I see each week, be it for work or pleasure, and that’s where 2021 expanded my cinematic horizons thanks to the continuing work from Blu-ray and DVD manufacturers. Those ten titles at the top encapsulate some of the great work that made it to screens these past 12 months. But without The Criterion Collections’ release of The Signifyin’ Works of Marlon Riggs, Mandabi (Ousmane Sambène, 1968), and After Life (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 1998); Arrow Video’s reconstruction of Major Dundee (Sam Peckinpah, 1965); and some time spent catching up Kino Lorber’s Pioneers of African-American Cinema, 2021 would have felt incomplete.

Other discoveries I’m thankful for:

The short films of Vittorio De Seta
An Angel at My Table (Jane Campion, 1990)
Around the World with Orson Welles (Orson Welles, 1955)
The Ascent (Larisa Shepitko, 1977)
California Split (Robert Altman, 1974)
The Lusty Men (Nicholas Ray, 1952)
Only Angels Have Wings (Howard Hawks, 1939)
Possession (Andrzej Żuławski, 1981)
Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985)
Working Girls (Lizzie Borden, 1986)