Today is publication day for GHOSTS the final novel in The Voices series by G X Todd..an absolutely fantastic set of novels that lands its finale pitch perfectly.
To celebrate Gem gives us her top movie picks from 2021 by genre. I’ve obviously got some catching up to do. Details on the book follow – make sure you pick up the whole lot because you are in for a treat.
The Best Movies of 2021 by GENRE
‘Genre’ is such a great word. It’s not only fun to say, it always makes me feel clever whenever I fit it into a sentence. So, for this list, I’m not going to write a ‘Top 10’ of my favourite films of the year (also a couple 2020 titles will sneak in, if I’m honest). No. I’m doing it in a way that hopefully upsets fewer people when I inevitably forget to mention one of their favourites.
Yes, I’m a woman and, yes, I like Westerns. So what, Mister? You got a problem with that? Oh. Oh, you don’t. Um. Okay, then. Forget I said anything. We’ve been fairly well treated this year with new, quality Westerns but between the ones I’ve managed to watch – some I kind of wish I hadn’t (I’m looking at you The Harder They Fall) and some that were so depressing and bleak it hurts to think about them (The World to Come) – I think News of the World is winning out so far. Tom Hanks can really do no wrong and he proves it again here as a lonely, travelling news orator who stumbles across a non-English-speaking orphaned child who needs escorting to her family. There’s a really touching redemption arc here, of found family and of letting go of the past, and I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a few tears during the last fifteen minutes. If you enjoyed the Coen brothers’ True Grit, you’ll enjoy this one, too, I’d wager.
(I will say, though, that I’ve got big hopes for Mr Cumberbatch in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, which releases this December.)
Hm, this one is tougher. Purely because I feel like there have been waaaay more animated films released this year than Westerns. Right? I’ve enjoyed a fair few, including Luca and Wolfwalkers (and if you want to see the most amazing animated TV series of 2021, head over to Netflix and watch Arcane because HOLY CRAP THAT SHOW IS AWESOME). But, anyway, my absolute favourite animated movie of the year is, by far, Raya and the Last Dragon. I liked the trailer so much I bought early access to it on Disney+ for £20 (no, I’m not proud of myself). But, in my defence, I did watch it three times, so I feel like I got my money’s worth. Plus, I’d watch anything with Awkwafina in it. I may have cried at one part (where Boun hugs onto Raya’s leg). If you’ve seen it you know what I’m talking about.
I always find ‘Drama’ a weird, catch-it-all genre for things I’m not always sure fit in other categories. So I’m going to put three films here that I watched and thought were brilliant, each in different ways. First, Promising Young Woman, mostly because I think Carey Mulligan is one of those actors who can take on any role and completely ace it. I liked the build-up in this one, but by the end I thought it all was a little too… on-the-nose? I don’t know. I appreciated twist, but I somehow wanted it to be even darker. Does that make me an awful person? Yep, probably.
Next comes Minari. I loved this film so much. Not only because I love Steven Yeun but because it was like reading a really, really good book. Like one of those literary novels that meander around and don’t go much of anywhere, plot-wise, but it immerses you in a world and in a cast of characters that you’ve never seen or experienced before and it’s like you’re living and breathing inside of them for a little while and you feel more awake that ever when coming out the other side. Also, it made me cry. Man, I feel like I’m coming across like a total wet lettuce over here…
Finally, The Father. Oh my God, this film broke me. An acting masterclass in the duo of Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins. And it’s so clever, too. How the sets in the apartment change to correlate with Anthony’s mental deterioration. How the actors swap characters in different scenarios. It was all just very well done. I thought about this film for days afterwards and what more can I say than that? (And, yes. I cried.)
Is this even a genre? Who the heck knows. But I’m sticking two contenders in this one anyway. First comes Kajillionaire. I picked this one to watch primarily for its cast of Richard Jenkins and Evan Rachel Wood as I knew absolutely nothing about the story. And it’s an odd one. It’s not for everyone, for sure. Tonally, it’s odd. Character-wise, it’s odd. Plot-wise, it’s super odd. And Evan Rachel Wood does some very odd, improvisational dancing at one point, too. But if you like oddness and great acting and a really good heart at its centre, give this one a shot. You might be surprised.
I Care A Lot. I watched this one to deliberately be contrary. I’d heard so many people say it was bad because the leads were despicable people, and that just piqued my interest. Can the film really be called bad just because the main characters are assholes? In my opinion and in this case, no. This film is a straight up dark satire. Bad, morally bankrupt people doing bad, morally bankrupt things to others. I mean, it is what it is, and Rosamund Pike kills it. In more ways than one. I have to admit, though, for it being classed as a ‘Comedy’ (Pike won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical or Comedy), I didn’t laugh once.
There’s a limited number of options for me to go with here and I’m going to be judging which was my favourite based solely on the amount of watches I’ve done to date.
The Suicide Squad – one full watch at the cinema. (I will watch it again, though. I thought it was a huge step up from Suicide Squad (2016)).
Shang-Chi and the Something Something Rings – one full watch at the cinema and some hightlighted bits on Disney+ (including the runaway bus and scaffolding action scenes, and best Awkwafina bits). Honestly, the fact I can’t even remember its full title doesn’t bode well.
Black Widow – one full watch at the cinema and one full watch on Disney+.
Therefore, Black Widow (and Scarlett, Florence and Rachel) win! HOORAY.
Arguably my favourite genre and it was a fairly busy year (there are a couple of 2020 films included but COVID made it a little harder for me to get access to them so I’ve only recently caught up).
Honourable mentions: two Netflix offerings, starting with Love and Monsters. I thought this was tonnes of fun. It reminded me of an old 1990s boy loves girl, journeys from A to B to prove himself to her action movies with a bunch of mutant creatures thrown in (and an absolutely adorable pooch). It was lovely to look at, to boot. Secondly, Blood Red Sky was a surprisingly dark and gory offering. I enjoyed the body horror of it as the humanity of the mother gave way to the animalistic cravings inside her. The main vampiric creature was genuinely disturbing to look at by the end, too. Third film comes in the form of a John Green-esque romantic tragi-comedy but with massive amounts of blood and entrails. And I’m talking Olympic-sized swimming pool amounts. One memorable scene is literally dripping with the red stuff. It’s called Spontaneous and it’s definitely worth a watch.
The best of the bunch, though, first comes with Saint Maude (with a star turn by Welsh actress Morfydd Clark). It has an end scene which is such a shocking gut-punch it transformed what was, up until that point, a slow-burn look into mental illness coupled with religious fervour into something that was so disturbing to look at it was fortunate said scene only lasts a few seconds. Truly impactful.
Next was The Night House with the wonderful Rebecca Hall. I love films that use metaphors and symbolism and something other to explore human emotions and real-life trauma. Like the Babadook with single-parenting a child when suffering from postpartum depression, or The Taking of Deborah Logan with tackling dementia and the responsibility of caring for an elderly loved one by using demon possession. The Night House uses hauntings and poltergeist-type activity as a way to work through the fear of what comes after death and what happens to those we love when they leave us. It was very effective and creepy and left me with a lot of thoughts.
Finally, The Wolf of Snow Hollow. A different take on werewolf movies and the guy behind it (writing, director and star) Jim Cummings is a criminally underrated artist. He’s so watchable and depicts the emotional dismantling of his characters is such an entertaining yet visceral way that it keeps you teetering on the edge of your seat.
This is going to piss a few of you off, I’m sure, but I’m picking only one for this genre, because we’ll be here all day otherwise. Is action the most prolifically-made genre of film ever? PROBABLY.
It’s not even a great film. Ha. It’s simply a movie that takes me back to Saturday afternoons when my dad would take me to my local video shop and I’d pick out a gun-filled, katana-swinging, extravaganza of an action flick where the baddies got sliced up and so did the hero, but whatever happened you knew it was gonna be EPIC. And Kate was epic, too. Even the fact that Mary Elizabeth Winstead did all the choppy-socking while looking cool as f*ck made it all the better. (Fun fact: I went and bought a pair of the same Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66s she wears in the film because why can’t I have a tiny bit of her coolness while walking into my local Tesco Express on a Friday night to buy a pack of chocolate Hobnobs?)
SCIENCE-FICTION (and also my favourite film of the year)
You thought I wasn’t going to give my ultimate favourite film of all of 2021, didn’t you? Well, I am. So, here ya go:
There. Done. I’m not even going to explain myself. Go watch it and enjoy it for yourselves.
MY MOVIE DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2021
These are films I really looked forward to this year but were, in some cases, a steaming pile of poop (only my opinion, of course) or didn’t meet my lofty expectations.
Sound of Metal – Heh, I’m gonna have a few people apoplectic with me over this one.
Free Guy – Lazy, lazy, lazy. I’m a pretty big gamer, too, and even I couldn’t squeeze much enjoyment out of this one.
Eternals – I wanted this to be better. I truly did. But there’s too much going on and too many characters to fit in any decent development. A TV series might have had better results.
Army of the Dead – Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead is honestly one of my favourite zombie flicks ever, so I was super duper excited about this one. And while it looks great visually, the story and characters are paper thin. Shame.
The French Dispatch – Don’t get me wrong. I loved many parts of this film, and relished the casting and off-the-wall acting. (Tilda Swinton is a divine creature who must be protected at all costs.) But, overall, despite the highlights and occasional moments of pure wonderment, I found the entirety a disappointment. I think The Grand Budapest Hotel and Isle of Dogs set my Expectations Bar™ far too high. I’m sorry, Mr Anderson. It’s me, not you.
I’m an absolute nut when it comes to rating things – movies, books, TV shows, sauce condiments. So, in addition to IMDb, I now have all my movie-watching escapades recorded on Letterboxd. If anyone wants to follow me over there, I’m Gemma X Todd. Come and join me!
The heart-stopping conclusion to the highly acclaimed Voices series, where there is no place left to hide and nowhere else to run.
Seven years ago, the voices came. Some people could hear and others despised them for it. As death and destruction spread, a ghostly figure was waiting in the shadows. Now the Flitting Man is ready to show his face – and no one is safe.
Pilgrim was made for this broken world. He’s chosen his path and will stop at nothing to see it through.
Lacey grew up in this changing world. She’s lost almost everything to the Flitting Man, but her fight isn’t over yet.
Albus sees this world as others cannot. And the friends that he’s kept safe are facing terrible danger.
Addison belongs to a very different world. She might just be the future, if she survives…
You can purchase Ghosts and the other novels in the series here.