Mr. President — Ever since you began posting your best-movies-of-the-year lists (when was that, late ’16 or early ’17?), Hollywood wags have doubted that they represented your own personal tastes. The assumption was that younger folks on your staff chose the right “tasteful” films and you signed off on them. I, for one, have always (naively?) trusted that your lists represented your own actual preferences, so I’m going to address my comments directly to you, the 44th president of the United States. Here they are…
(1) I’m going to assume you haven’t seen Pedro Almodovar‘s Parallel Mothers. Because if you had, there’s no way you would have omitted it in favor of Old Henry (who’s even seen that film?) or Passing (c’mon…a 1920s Manhattan-Harlem drama, one that barely had a pulse, about a completely unbelievable interracial marriage…the film’s admirers pretended that Ruth Negga‘s facial features could have passed as European-descended, even to a toxic racist husband who was hyper-attuned to such matters) or Pig (a movie about great organic cooking for the ages vs. blandly catering to to the know-nothings). These are all passable or pretty good films, but Almodovar’s is masterful. Did you not see it or something?
(2) Why did you choose 14 films? Why not 15? Why not 10? Nobody chooses their top 14 films of the year.
(3) Did you honestly feel that Drive My Car needed three hours to make the points that it made? Did you think that the director’s wife had betrayed him just that one time (which is what N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott thought) or did you come to realize that she had numerous other sexual partners as a way of coping with the death of their child?
(4) Hat tip to your including The Worst Person in the World and Quo Vadis, Aida — both triple-grade-A, European-made films.
(5) In The Power of the Dog, did you honestly understand what had happened to Benedict Cumberbatch‘s Phil Burbank during the final reel? Because I didn’t. I had to ask friends and research it before I realized what had happened. Director Jane Campion certainly didn’t make it plain to the dumb people in the audience. This, to me, is not the mark of a triple-A film.
(6) Did you honestly think that the Robert Bresson-like prison ending of The Card Counter worked? Did you honestly think there was a compelling romantic current between Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish? Did you really believe Haddish “was” who she was playing, a sharp casino talent scout?
(7) I thought you would have included the excellent King Richard on your list of 14, but it didn’t make the cut. Why not? It’s the only 2021 film that said “this is what it takes to make it in a difficult realm….only the devoted and highly disciplined succeed.” Plus it has a fascinating lead character, which is arguably Will Smith‘s best performance. You can’t tell me you saw King Richard and didn’t greatly admire it.
(8) In sum, no King Richard and no Parallel Mothers constitute, no offense, a pair of glaring WTFs.