ACRN’s Top Movies of 2021

Pig, [Neon; 2021]

By Ben Lindner, Staff Writer

Michael Sarnoski’s “Pig,” a meditative tale of learning to cope with loss, stands as one of the year’s best films. Nicholas Cage stars as Robin, a former chef who has transitioned out of city life and now lives with his truffle pig in the woods. When his beloved pig is stolen, he returns to the city in search of her, coming face to face with his past life.

“Pig” walks the middle ground between revenge thriller and thoughtful indie drama, reaping the rewards of both. It’s slow and introspective but keeps viewers on the edge of their seats waiting to see what will happen next. The film, like its protagonist, says a lot by saying very little. It thrives in its small moments and silences as it lets viewers feel what it has to say rather than fill time with dialogue that would say the same thing.

Nicholas Cage has never been better. Don’t let his name fool you: this movie is no “Con Air” or “The Wicker Man.” Cage gives a nuanced and impactful performance that is certainly in the conversation for his best performance. He is joined by Alex Wolff and Adam Arkin in a pair of supporting performances that take their few moments to make “Pig” really hit hard.

“Pig” is a movie that should not be missed this year, as it delivers viewers a package with the depth not many films this year are full of.

The French Dispatch, [Searchlight Pictures; 2021]

By Grace Koennecke, Staff Writer

Wes Anderson’s return to film this year was a love letter to journalists everywhere. Set in a fictional 20th century French city, an American newspaper brings to life a collection of stories published in “The French Dispatch.” What makes this film so good is the individual characters introduced throughout the film. From a convict abstract artist, played by Benicio Del Toro, to a young journalist trying to start his own revolution, aka Timothee Chalamet, The French Dispatch is a captivating journey centered around self-expression and individualism. Like most of Anderson’s films, the plot did get confusing at times, but overall made impressive connections to real-life figures such as author James Baldwin and journalist Harold Ross. The French Dispatch is overall a movie that addresses issues like freedom of speech, exploitation of art and revolution, and how these all affect the world beyond fiction today, especially for writers and those with a passion for storytelling.

The Mitchells Vs. The Machines, [Columbia Pictures; 2021]

By Ben Lindner, Staff Writer

After years of being the laughing stock of the animation industry, churning out one bad movie after another, Sony Pictures Animation has suddenly become one of the best animation studios. They suddenly hit a home run with 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and now follow it up with another animation triumph: “The Mitchells vs the Machines.” This film follows the dysfunctional Mitchell family as their family road trip takes a sudden turn for the worse when the robot uprising derails their travel plans. As the last humans left, the Mitchells must rise up to save humanity, all while putting up with all of the classic family road trip problems. 

 This film comes courtesy of producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the creators behind “Spider-Verse,” “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and “The Lego Movie.” Their creativity shines through once again, bringing inventive animation to their top-notch premise. This movie shows how valuable animation can be and the unique advantages it can bring to the table.

It’s not just flashy colors and funny gags (though there are plenty of both). “The Mitchells vs the Machines” offers heartfelt and relatable conflict as well. Each of the characters feels real and the emotional moments between them are well-earned. The Mitchells are a realistic family, making it easy for viewers to relate to them. Both kids and adults alike can easily get hooked by this, smart, funny and heartwarming new classic

Spencer, [Komplizen Film Fabula Shoebox Films; 2021]

By Grace Koennecke, Staff Writer

Spencer uses suspense and psychological horror as an attempt to capture the late Princess Diana’s, played by Kristen Stewart, struggles with conforming to British royalty. The film focuses on her failing marriage with Prince Charles during Christmastime after rumors of affairs and divorce consume Diana. What makes this film so suspenseful is the eerie and false sense of peace felt throughout its one-hour-and-51-minute duration, and the use of an orchestra to heighten the feelings of suffering, loss and regret that Diana is feeling. Another interesting aspect to Spencer is that it highlights Princess Diana’s struggle with bulimia and self-harm, which the public has not been well aware of before. Overall, this film not only acts as a biopic but as a psychological thriller as well and Stewart does a stunning job of portraying a princess on the brink of mental collapse.

CODA, [Apple TV+; 2021]

By Ben Lindner, Staff Writer

Apple broke the record for the most expensive Sundance distribution purchase when they spent $25 million on “CODA” in February. Their purchase was worth all of that cash, as “CODA” is one of the best films of 2021. 

“CODA” stars Emilia Jones as Ruby Rossi, the only hearing member of her otherwise all-deaf family. Ruby dreams of going to school for music, but when her family’s fishing business starts to face new hardships, she must find the balance between her different worlds. 

While most families aren’t deaf and don’t run a fishing business, the Rossi family is still relatable to any viewer. Their conflicts with one another are genuine and the obvious love they have for one another makes it even harder when they are in conflict. “CODA” presents relatable ideas about growing up and family conflict, but tells through its unique perspective, providing an original vision that is a new angle on tried and true themes.

“CODA” can come across as a bit cheesy at times, but it’s balanced out by equally many fantastic emotional moments. These moments add up over the course of the film to create a final product that is irresistible, something even the most stonehearted viewers will have a difficult time resisting. “CODA” is a very fresh take on classic ideas that is sure to bring a strong, emotional viewing experience for anyone.

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