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Culture Choices 2021: Films

Culture Choices 2021 is a series by Roar’s Culture section on their favourite releases of the year in Music, Films and Literature. 

Films have always held a place for artists’ creative expression. Not only for the filmmakers, for whom it encapsulates a sense of elation, but for the film enthusiasts who have an endearing attachment to the characters and stories spewed ever so carefully. The sudden impact on the industry in 2020 closed all the doors to the cinematic universes, and audiences were left to cope with the bleak reality. With this year pushing us closer to the new normal, producers have reopened the doors of the wildest lands, lifted the blanket of grey clouds, and filled the sky with imaginaries. Following them, these are the best films of 2021, handpicked by Roar writers.

“The French Dispatch”

“The French Dispatch” is a much-anticipated film directed by Wes Anderson. It is his first live-action movie since 2014, yet it features the animation-like cinematography one can expect from any Anderson movie along with an exceedingly aesthetic scenery and a dramatic yet whimsical plotline. Known as a “love letter to journalism,” the film captures four different stories that features in the last issue of “The French Dispatch,” a fictional American newspaper based in the eccentric, fabricated town of  Ennui-sur-Blasé, France. The film enchants the viewer, immersing them in the heavily romanticized time and place of 20th-century France.

The meticulously detailed narrative allows for each character to elegantly display their idiosyncrasies. This is only further enhanced by the costume design, which alludes to the candid and unique air that each journalist possesses. The stories brought to life are under the sections of human interest, art, politics, and gastronomy, and whilst each does appeal to their particular categories, the unique set of quirks, focus, and atmosphere allows them to reach allurement stretching far beyond their titles. Anderson’s obsession with symmetry and theatricality creates a composition ready for all to take delight in.

“After Love”

In 2021, “After Love” won six awards in the BIFA, one of them being the Best British Independent Film Award. Being the director’s, Aleem Khan’s, first film, the level of empathy which this film evokes is superlative. Loaded with heavy emotional charge, the film accompanies an English Muslim woman in her journey through grief, following her husband’s abrupt death and the uncovering of a secret of his which leads her to Paris. A veil of melancholy and deceit sits over the plot, invoking a myriad of emotional responses ranging from compassion to unease.

One would imagine such a film to psychologically deplete the viewer; instead, combined with the appealingly bleak atmosphere of the drama and the vastness and pure beauty of the portrayed landscapes, one can drift into the narrative, experiencing every sigh and tear closely to the exceptionally talented cast. Joanna Scanlan’s powerful protagonistic performance won the best actress award. The film invades her character’s privacy, but unlike most dramas – which sacrifice mundane moments – it cherishes the prosaicness of everyday life, making the story all the more realistic. The bittersweet shape that intimacy and companionship take is truly unparalleled, and although slow, this film’s suspenseful, anomalous plot allows for it to stand out.

“Last Night in Soho “

“This is London. There’s been a murder in every room in every building on every corner of this city”. With a rather glamorous yet grim look at London, Edgar Wright comes up with another masterpiece. The pleasing visual concoction of cinematic genius by Chung-hoon Chung and thrilling horrors of the narrative hypnotise one into the world through the eyes of Eloise. Starting out as a fashion student at London College of Fashion, Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) finds herself in the middle of patriarchal horror from the 60s lived by Sandy (Anya-Taylor Joy). As she progresses into her quest to find answers to what happened to the glamorous blonde girl, she uncovers truths from the past hidden between the shiny lights of Soho.

The film engulfs one in its rose-coloured lens, catching them off-guard with the frightening moments. The montages and smooth cuts surely mesmerise the film fanatics. Despite the alluring visuals, the soundtrack gives an edge to the film unlike any other. “Land of 1000 Dances” by The Walter Brothers, “A World Without Love” by Peter and Gordon, “Starstruck” by The Kinks, and many others will totally enchant one into dreaming of London in the 60s like Eloise. With its blend of outstanding filmography and smartly constructed soundtrack, the film charms one into a world beyond the horrors of it.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home”

Another one for the fans – “Spider-Man: No Way Home” directed by Jon Watts is surely charming. Being the last one in the trilogy, the story continues with what happens to Peter Parker when the world comes to know their friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. After the brutal fight with Mysterio, Peter is left to deal with the consequences of his actions. The trailer peaks into his efforts to fix teenage troubles with Dr Strange’s ‘magic’; will he be able to cope with what life brings to him?

Considering the adoration and nostalgia attached to the character, the film is spewed brilliantly and precisely for the fans to cherish. The yet again brilliant portrayal of Spidey by Tom Holland will make one’s eyes tear several times. The movie also delves into the sweet romance of Peter and his MJ (Zendaya). The film amplifies the emotions unlike any other made before. 

Overall, the film took me back to my childhood and made me reminisce the first time I fell in love with Spiderman. Unlike several other Marvel productions, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” lives up to the hype around it. It’s the perfect Christmas gift for Spiderman lovers.

From classic blockbusters to debut award-winning films, this list comprises what we believe to be the best films of 2021. This was a difficult year for all of us, but film-watching was definitely one of the outlets that not only assisted us in getting through it individually; it is one of the channels which we all share, connecting us to each other through creativity and enjoyment.

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