2021 has been, like any other movie year, one of ups and downs. I've been busy as a bumblebee this past year, so I haven't had as much time to write as I'd like. But rest assured, I am seeing as many 2021 releases as I can. All of which have been in the comfort of my home. Because of the pandemic, there is still so much being released at home. Netflix is releasing new movies a week. HBOMax is pretty much doing the same. Streaming services are keeping the business afloat right now. I don't know how theaters are really doing right now. But streaming is making it work. Digital rentals are making it work. With all of this together, I am still awash in film. What some people don't seem to understand either is that "new" doesn't automatically mean 2021. I've been spending 2021 watching as many movies that I haven't seen yet. From the 2000's, the 90's, the 80's, even the 30's. I've been watching 2020 movies that I haven't had a chance to see yet. Anything you haven't seen yet is new, and its been an adventure at home, even when I'm not actively going to the theater.
That's not to say that 2021 hasn't already been memorable. Let's dig through some of the 2021 releases that I haven't written about yet.
It was pretty canny move for Warner Bros. to release their entire yearly slate on HBOMax as well as theaters. Has it paid off so far? Well, that really depends. A studio is a studio. They will have hits and misses, and usually in the beginning, there are mostly misses. "Locked Down" starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Anne Hathaway features two great leads, it's got a fun "Ocean's 11" style vibe, but its pretty teflon Hollywood as far as story and structure is concerned. There wasn't enough here to fully wow me in any way. It's a movie that tried really hard to use COVID-19 as a springboard, but just because you take advantage of a momentary gimmick doesn't mean your movie is going automatically be good. The movie itself doesn't have much to say about how our society has changed or evolved because of this and it's entertaining enough to matter. It's very, very light entertainment.
"The Little Things" starring Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto is a fairly typical, gritty detective movie. We got two hotshot cops who are trying to solve a series of grizzly murders. They constantly trying to one-up each other. They will eventually grow to respect each other. One cop has a family he really cares about, the other is divorced with a tough past that will miraculously tie into the story in this movie being told. Does any of this sound familiar? Because it should. We see so many of these types of movies, that they are a dime a dozen. So much so that I wonder why Denzel and even Rami bothered in the first place, surely they could find better projects to spend their talents on. It tries hard to reach a morally gray ending, but its really not enough to warrant a "good enough" rating, especially since they aren't covering new material here.
Warner Brothers will probably have more misses this year, each year is full of them.
More than a magician
Easily the best thing I've seen in 2021 so far has been "In and Of Itself" which is currently showing on Hulu. On the surface, it may look like magician Derek DelGaudio performing one of the many showings he had live from New York City (I believe it was?) but this isn't just some special. DelGaudio isn't the typical magician. When I say that, I don't mean that I can't figure out the prestige in his tricks. I'll confess to you all, magicians do nothing for me anymore due to "The Prestige" and "The Illusionist." Simply because I spend my time trying to figure out the trick instead of focusing on the show. DelGaudio isn't just a typical magician, he is also a vulnerable storyteller. There is so much of DelGaudio that goes into his show that its almost an autobiography. Not only that, but he asks his audience to give something of themselves to the show as well. One of the big, story-weaving tricks is that each member of the audience must pick a card, each card has a specific nickname on it and you must pick a nickname card that pertains to your life. How that ties into DelGaudio's show is just part of the fun. Magician's don't need to be vulnerable, they don't need to tell their stories to us. But DelGaudio chose to in order to enhance his show and it makes for quite the experience.
JT making it real!
I can't say that I was a big NSYNC fan growing up. I also didn't really care for Justin Timberlake as an actor when he first started showing up in movies. Much like many celebrities who jump into acting, Timberlake carried his persona into his roles and it usually hurt the movie in some way. Those days could be behind him now. Scoring big playing in films like "The Social Network" and "Inside Llewyn Davis," Timberlake has made a true name for himself as an actor. He just leveled up this year in the unforgettable "Palmer" available on AppleTV+. Palmer is a guy who has just got out of prison when we meet him. He's currently living with his grandmother until he gets on his feet. He's got a parole officer, he's struggling to find work. The whole bit. Despite the violent arrest on his record, he's able to get a janitorial job at a school. Palmer reluctantly bonds with a child who lives next door to his grandmother, and they begin hanging out quite a bit. The child's mother is taken away due to drugs and the boy stays with Palmer's grandmother, which leads Palmer to become even closer to the boy. When his past tries to catch up with him, Palmer must make some quick, smart decisions. It's a simple story, a straightforward tale but its well done. Justin Timberlake gives the best performance he's given in anything so far, and just watching him grow is all the reason to see it.
Worth The Hype
As we draw closer to a very weird Awards circuit, you'll be hearing much about "Nomadland" which is now available on Hulu. I watched this past weekend and I am glad I did. I am usually weary of anything getting such a big push from awards season lobbyists, but in this case, they are dead right. "Nomadland' is visual poetry. A miracle of a movie. Francis McDormand lands yet another stellar, memorable performance to add to her unbelievable career. Here, she plays Fern, a woman who sadly lost everything in 2011. Her job, her husband, her home. Because of her circumstance, she sells most of her belongings, purchases a van and equips it to live out of. She becomes a "nomad," and spends her days looking for work.
We get what feels like an exclusive look at a very small corner of our country's culture. Fern follows a long line of other nomads; people who are living out of their cars, constantly traveling for work, a community that gets together and learns and teaches itself survival and self-sufficiency skills. What's amazing is the movie features actual, real-life nomads. There isn't much of a story here, as Fern drifts in and out of the Nomads, working, seeing the corners of our great nation. McDormand is able to speak volumes by just making a face, just reacting to this newfound lifestyle. There are many parts of the movie that feature no dialogue and McDormand is able to communicate much by just how she reacts to things. It's amazing acting. A once-in-a-lifetime performance by an actress that has elevated herself year after year.
The movie is also wise to not look down on these people or their lifestyles. There isn't some big dramatic change, that you often see in these types of movies. This isn't a situation that Fern is trying to escape. In fact, its really about what its like when you finally find your people, find your destiny, what you want out of life. "Nomadland" is a movie that simply gives you a glimpse of a facet of our country's culture. A truly spiritual and wonderful experience.
There is all sorts of good stuff out right now that is simply brand new. Check it out!