8. The Tragedy of Macbeth
In adapting Shakespeare from the stage to film, one must ask: what is the point? In The Tragedy of Macbeth, director Joel Coen answered emphatically, presenting his tale in black and white, the purest form of cinema and the furthest that any image can be from real-life’s rich colour palette. And he delivered it all in a 4:3 aspect ratio, thus narrowing each frame as if a peak through the very film stock this picture was seeking to replicate the look of.
Rich in sets inspired by 1920s German Expressionism and shot from all kinds of angles to emphasise the camera’s presence and reinforce the richness of cinema’s greatest storytelling devices, The Tragedy of Macbeth felt more like Joel Coen and company were challenging themselves to tell as much of this timeless story through film language as they could, and it is all the more monumental for it.
There is no part of The Tragedy of Macbeth that is made to appeal to casual moviegoers, but that’s okay. For cinema to be considered an art form of such importance as the stage or sculpture, it must be made as this film has been made: in such a way that every element of filmmaking exclusive to film itself should be highlighted and used to enhance whatever was originally written on the page.
7. The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Funny, outlandish and yet somehow very relatable, The Mitchells vs the Machines offered a truth about family dynamics and growing up that far too few apocalypse-driven animated films do, and it turned out to be magnificent.
Sony Pictures Animation, the studio behind the equally as spectacular Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, rarely seem to shy away from reminding you why their animated films need to be animated, and in an industry where CG-driven renders can make photorealistic animals talk, their movies are a beacon of hope for traditional, expressionistic animation, The Mitchells vs the Machines very much at the forefront of that.
Important as it may be, and as terrifically animated as it certainly is, what made The Mitchells vs the Machines such a memorable and unmissable 2021 film is its relatability, inspired characterisations and phenomenally accurate portrayal of a family (or at least a not-quite-ideal family) learning to appreciate one another in the midst of world-ending circumstances; the latter being something many people who lived through 2020 and 2021 can relate to.
Recommended for you: Sony Pictures Animation Movies Ranked
6. The Power of the Dog
Jane Campion’s usual deftness of touch is decorated with some striking brush strokes in this quietly expressionistic western that tackles masculinity and its evolution, with a number of memorable performances at its forefront.
As all great storytellers do, Jane Campion looks to the past to help explore issues of the present, centring her most traditionally manly of genres on three men of differing masculine archetypes. As these characters interact and evolve we witness the only true female presence in their lives lose her mind, and various forms of male viciousness come to the surface.
Witnessing three men (one with ideals of a past in which men were men, the other evolving with the times, and the last embracing femininity as we most stereotypically recognise it) manipulate, perform micro-aggressions and transform, we are forced to see the inherent darkness within all men, Campion aptly bringing to the fore how so-called progressives must, at least at this time in our dark history, be considered wolves in sheep clothing.