Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 English speaking films

During the Covid-19 Pandemic most of us probably watched more films more often in a streaming format.  There has been some criticism over movie production going ahead while many had to stay at home.  I am lucky, retired I am not losing any money staying home, but like many others I suffer from cabin fever and am grateful that there are a lot of archive films and new ones available.  A trend for me, shared by many others is to mini series perhaps accelerated by the pandemic.  I was fortunate to have a conversation with Lawrence Hill, successful author negotiating a mini series.  He felt there was more room for character development. 

 "Nomadland" (2020)  A movie more about character than plot.  Frances McDormand is displaced due to a plant shutdown and limited financial resources takes off in her van.  She meets a lot of displaced people who develop strategies for coping.  Won Oscars for Frances McDormand (first to win for both acting and producing), and Chloe Zhao.






 "Promising Young Woman" (2020) had a good plot focused on sexual consent and the unfairness of women's treatment.  It had bits of humor, suspense and twist (of course).

   "The White Tiger" (2021) has a lot of Bollywood connections, but is 90% English.  Priyanka Chopra Jonas is one of the three main stars and is also an executive producer.  Rao Rajkumar, a popular Bollywood star played probably the second star.   The real star is Adarsh Gourav who plays a poor man who eventually becomes rich.  Corruption, crime and caste all play a role.  Based on a Booker Mann literary award.


 "One Night in Miami" (2021) perhaps inspired by an actual meeting between Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke and Malcolm X.  Underlying theme is what blacks need to do to empower themselves.  Malcolm X seems to feel that Jim Brown and Sam Cooke are catering to the white man while they point out that is where they can gain wealth and power.    One interesting example was with Sam Cooke gaining enough wealth and power to form his own music company that allowed him to hire black musicians and composers.   One of the composers had a rhythm and blues song reach number 94 on billboard, but Sam was able to sell rights to the Rolling Stones and they turned "It's All over Now" into a number one hit that eventually gave the original composer a huge residual.

 "Jojo Rabbit" (2019) doesn't glorify Naziism and in fact brilliantly satirizes it.  From the talented Taika Waititi of New Zealand 

 "The Dig" (2021) was a movie about recognition.  Before WW II a wealthy woman hired an "excavator" to explore some mounds.  Basil Brown uncovered an ancient ship used for a burial, but museum people took over. 

"Judy" (2019) about an icon and one who seemed so innocent when we first became aware of her.  Renee Zellweger deservedly won an Oscar.  Tragic story.

"Dark Waters" (2019) based on true story concerning misleading practices of DuPont.  Some of the actual participants consulted and had bit parts in the movie.

"Bombshell" (2019) included because it uncovers Roger Ailes, but done much better  (more detail) with "The Loudest Voice"  A good short version.

"Let him Go" (2020) starred Kevin Costner and Diane Lane in a conflict about parenting styles.  A son has died and his parents visit their grand son and feel he is being abused.

"News of the World" (2020) Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel who stole a lot of the show without speaking hardly any English

"Top End Wedding" (2019) is in some ways a typical romance comedy, but it is noteworthy having been co-written by a well known aboriginal actress Miranda Tapley? and set in aboriginal territory of Australia.

 "Our Friend" (2019) tear jerker based on a true story.

 "Fatherhood" (2021)  Father loses his wife after a child birth and decides to tackle bringing up his daughter on his own  The big surprise was how good Kevin Hart could be.  

"The Mauritanian" (2021) Guantonamo detainee for 15 years.  You would think he would be discouraged and bitter.  A charming man in real life--sings along with Bob Dylan song.    Rule of law affects everyone.  Tahir Rahim and Jodie Foster were excellent. 




 "Words of Bathroom Walls" (2020) is a story about a young man with schizophrenia who tries to hide it.  With Charlie Plummer and Taylor Russell.

"Judas and the Black Messiah" (2021)  won two Oscars, one for Danial Kaluuya and one for music.   It pitted the Black Panthers against FBI who had an inside spy.





 "Grand Unified Theory" (2016) is a semi typical family angst movie, but has a redeeming feature.  One of the characters is an astro physicist who brings up provocative questions such as how do we get something from nothing.

"tick, tick...BOOM" (2021) musical on Jonathan Larson who wrote "Rent" I had watched the movie only because my cousin Linda who doesn't like musicals, commented that she did like Rent.  Good music





"The Power of the Dog" (2021) is a modern Western with Benedict Cumberbatch.

"Pig" (2021) shows Nicolas Cage in a very different role.  He has a pig he uses to find truffles and someone steals it.  We learn that his character had been a greatly respected restaurant owner, but dropped out many years ago to live by himself chasing after truffles.  He was very attached to the pig.  The DVD comes with a special feature showing Nicolas Cage cooking on two videos under the guidance of a master chef with some interesting recipes. 


"The Unforgivable" (2021) A de glamorized Sandra Bullock, also a producer.  We all make judgments based on superficial information and sometimes we are terribly wrong and unfair to others.   A story based on British series created by Sally Wainwright who also contributed to some of my favorites such as  "Happy Valley" (2014-2022), "Last Tango in Halifax" (2012-2020) and "Scott and Bailey" (2011-2016).


Older flims (before 2011)

"The Magnificent Seven" (1960) Mexico was upset over "Vera Cruz"(1954) that they felt insulted Mexicans.  Some censorship and even plot change--asked for guns first rather than gunmen, clean clothes (1960)

"The Elephant Man" (1980) made me feel something like a voyeur, somewhat repulsed, but very curious.  We like to picture ourselves as very open minded, but we are have fairly set ideas of normalcy and beauty. I remember actually hiring someone who had a distorted face that I at first felt repulsive, but gradually accepted and found him to be helpful whereas I also felt protective.  Some of those feelings were evoked by this film.  We do have prejudice against appearances and don't always realize there is a person there.  Mel Brooks, noted for comedy was the deliberately uncredited executive  producer who was very involved with decisions.  

I watched the revival "The Producers" (2005) to remind what Mel Brooks usually specializing in.  In poor taste, but hard not to laugh at points.

"The Aviator" (2004) was a blockbuster I missed when it came out.  Leo DiCaprio was phenomenal.   Howard Hughes stood up against Hollywood censors and the United States Senate.  A very innovative man, but with some devastating faults.

"Seven Years in Tibet" (1997) had been seen many years before, but not really appreciated at the time.  Since then I have come to admire the Dalai Lama who is depicted as an inquisitive 14 year old boy.  Magnificent scenery.  I have also come to enjoy music of Yo Yo Ma, here composed by John Williams. 

"Holiday" (1938) with Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and Lew Ayres.  Directed by George Cukor. 

"Erin Brockovich" (2000) won an Oscar for Julia Roberts in an out of character role.  

"Jezebel" (1938)." Now, Voyager" (1942), "Dead Ringer" (1942)," The Little Foxes" (1941) were seen as part of my Bette Davis study.

"Sweet Bird of Youth" (1962) had been censored from the original Broadway production written by Tennessee Williams.  Paul Newman had a clause that allowed him to take on Broadway shows that he liked and so he opted for this one and then brought it to the screen along with Geraldine Page and Rip Thorn.

"2001:  A Space Odyssey" (1968) Amazing concepts of the near future.  Most perceptive would a danger of artificial intelligence.   





 "Limitless" (2011) depicted Bradley Cooper as a man given a pill that opened one's whole intelligence enabling him to make an immense fortune.  But life is not that simple.

"Ordinary People" (1980) An excellent movie on human relations.  A big shock for me was Mary Tyler Moore who been a favorite on tv.  Donald Sutherland showed his versatility.  Surprised to learn it was directed by Robert Redford.   




"Midnight Cowboy" (1969) regret I consciously avoided.  An excellent story of two men who come to support one another.. 

"Kramer vs. Kramer" (1979) Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep  After a divorce the mother decides she wants her son back.

"Stranger than Fiction" (2006) Will Ferrell--a new opinion  Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson

"A Beautiful Mind" (2001) A contrast to previous Russell Crowe movie, "Gladiator"  (2000).  Game theory, Ron Howard, director and writer conveyed mental illness in way that at first caught one off guard, but increased our understanding of the disease.

"Groundhog Day" (1993)  Everyone would like a second chance.  Bill Murray classic.

"White Dog" (1982) a film that had been shelved, partly as one authority declared it to be racist.  Actually it is anti-racist demonstrating racism exists.  Heard about as had been a book by Romain Gary.

"The Importance of Being Earnest" (1952)  An Oscar Wilde play.  Manners of English upper class.

"In the Heat of the Night" (1966) with the impressive duo of Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier.  Displays the racial animosities of the time with slight melting with a very long way to go.  Big well deserved Oscar winner.  Racial tension had Sidney Poitier requesting all filming north of the Mason Dixon line.





"Chicago" (2003) winner of 6 Oscar Awards.   Who knew Richard Gere could tap dance?  Murder and music and especially dancing with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger and Chita Rivera,

"Beat the Devil" (1953) Despite a stellar cast and crew this film is only included  because of a side issue.  Humphrey Bogart had a serious auto accident while filming and was not able to speak clearly so the studio found a man gifted for voices--Peter Sellers.

"Seconds" (1966) was a rare movie for glamor superstar Rock Hudson, but he proves a better actor than credited.  It is sort of science fiction where a man dissatisfied for life accepts an opportunity with plastic surgery, rehabilitation and coaching to restart life.  Satisfaction in life is hard to define.  From the supplements appreciated the cinematography of James Wong Howe.  Not a box office success, but has since achieved cult status.

"The Fallen Idol" (1948) is a British masterpiece inspired by a Graham Greene story, directed by Carol Reed with Ralph Richardson and Jack Hawkins playing a role.  About an eight year old boy who doesn't understand deceptions of adults and gets involved in police investigation.  Innocent and not so innocent lies play a role.

"Sunrise" (1927) A silent film, but including some music and street sounds.  Won 3 Oscars.  An early cinematographic model.

"Fried Green Tomatoes" (1991).  A fine cast led by Jessica Tandy gives a view of the South in the twentieth century.

Mini Series

"John Adams" (2008) of course had a lot of history involving critical people and their decisions that carry on to today.  A tremendous effort to convey the atmosphere of the times.  Abigail Adams was given almost equal coverage and demonstrated that women did deserve the vote.

"Six Feet Under" (2001- 2005)had been seen in part years ago, but decided to watch total series.  The ending was unique in that it truly projected an ending.  Ernest Hemingway once said in paraphrase that if there is no death it is not a true story.  Fictional stories are more credible that end in death.

"Chernobyl" (2019) a horror film, although it is true.  A phrase to remember: "Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth.  sooner or later that debt is paid."

"I, Claudius" (1976)  A classic starring favorite Derek Jacobi. 





 "William and Mary" (2004-2007) was a series I had seen partially on tv many years ago, but enjoyed even more when able to see full set on DVD.  Julie Graham is a favorite and Martin Clunes (a favorite of Helen Rigby) was not at all obnoxious.   He plays an undertaker and she is a midwife, covering the circle of life.

"United Shades of America"  (2018- 2021) such a mind opening.  Racism is obvious, but the unconscious part is also dangerous.  Education is so critical and when everyone has the same opportunity we all benefit.  W. Kamau Bell and his crew are excellent at uncovering basic problems.  Sexual orientation, refugees, blacks and minority    how racial factors interact with establishment.

"Startup" (2016- 2018) about a trio that uses their skills to set up their own organized crime syndicate. 

"Wire in the Blood" (2002) Watched as part of Robson Green blog.  A bit gory.  Robson played a police affiliated psychologist who liked to get inside the mind of serial killers and their victims.  Robson was very good at that.   link



 "Castle and Castle" (2018)is from Nigeria which is slowly gaining international recognition and English is fairly common.  They have money and have built up some expertise.  This is about a legal firm which is one way of connecting to power.  They try to copy American and European high end people, but do have a few unique angles--Muslims with more than one wife, colonial laws, extradition to the U.S.  tribal loyalties.  They do have inventive relationship entanglements.  Lagos is a very large modern city which impacts the rest of the world.   Nollywood is making progress:


"Inside Einstein's Mind" (2015) using graphics and animation demonstrated Einstein's theories.  Hadn't realized the scope of his thinking.  

"The True Cost" (2015) uncovers the cost of fashion.  It starts at farming where genetic engineering, fertilizers, pesticide spraying are intended to increase profits at the expense of famrers and labourers.  Creates financial stress that has resulted in farmer suicides.  A profit driven society stresses that consumption will solve problems.  Trash increases as we dispose of used up products.  The real bottom line is unbridled capitalism.

"The Secret Mind of Slime" (2020) follows experiments with slime and discover that brainless entities are able to duplicate some laboratory results obtained by such animals as mice.  One of the thoughts is that this is a step in evolution.  The slime is able to distinguish light and chemical that it either wants to eat or avoid.  One experienment demonstrated that over time it is able to get around a substance they do not like such as salt to reach the food that had been blocked.

"Lincoln: Divided We Stand" (2021)  Six part CNN series points out that Lincoln was a complicated man who didn't set out to free black slaves, but evolved in his thinking.  He was open minded and practical.

"In Defense of Food" (2015) processed foods, cheaper--Govt finds itself attacked by interest groups when trying to regulate such things as sugar--French are healthier--French serve smaller portions--food meant to be enjoyed--eating is an event--eat slowly

"The Whale Detective" (2019) following a whale breaching on top of producer Tom Mustill.  Awesome

"The Hunt" (2015) is a mini series narrated by David Attenborough.  The most basic story of life.  The inter play between predator and prey.  Very wide reaching.  The effort to kill more often fails, but persistence and ingenuity pay off.   Balance of nature, ignored at our peril.    Too many survivors result in starvation and/or depravity.     

"Cowspiracy" (2015)  Climate change is fueled significantly with meat eating.  The cattle industry is well entrenched.

"Raise Hell:  The Life and Times of Molly Ivins" (2019)  Very astute political observer with a excellent  irreverent sense of  humour.  Brings up important point that politics should not be boring, it affects everyone every day with their decisions.

"I am Not Your Negro" (2016) James Baldwin, articulate spokesman wrote the script many years ago.

"Control Room" (2004) focused on the Iraqi invasion as covered by Al Jazeera and referencing American media and state--Donald Rumsfeld (who lied about justification) said Al Jazeera was pounding flat out lies all day--realize edited to make points, but my experience with Al Jazeera is they make an honest attempt to be objective--they offend many Mid East governments--one of American military spokesman came to realize Al Jazeera is trying to do a job

"Putin Interviews" (2017) U.S supported Taliban against Russia  U.S. initiated Turkish missile sites that provoked Russia to put missiles in cuba.  NATO supposedly not needed after collapse of Soviet Union, but missiles surround Russia.  Has sense of humour.     Ukraine, Georgia, Chechen  Snowden, Trump--denials and dubious justifications

"Escape from Extinction" (2020) focuses on the increasing animal extinctions.  It also attempts to shift criticisms of previous zoo practices to their efforts to curb extinctions.   It eased my guilty conscience a little bit.


"Haida Modern" (2019)  Have been fascinated with the Haida nation since a news announcement fromPierre Trudeau.  Have a few prints on hand.  Robert Davidson was the focus (no relation). 





"The Game Changers"(2019) This film will tip me closer to veganism.  Athletes deostrate that being a vegan can be a boos.  Doctors and scientists and archaeologists provide rational proof.    



 For subtitled movies from around the world check out:   Why should you bother with "foreign" films?  A different perspective--help you understand and appreciate.  Best of all because creativity is everywhere.they are enjoyable.  After awhile you will notice a lot of borrowing between cultures.  This year my top ones come from that list.

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