Times have changed, and the “old normal” seems to be part of a different galaxy in more than one way. The movie industry is no exception.
The pandemic redrew the demarcation lines, so to speak. New rules and regulations, higher cost and risk factors, as well as ways of release came into play. Many of this year’s movies have gone straight to VOD or streaming. In the very last weeks of this year, high-profile blockbusters and mainstream movies are hitting theatres from “The House of Gucci” (Ridley Scott) to “West Side Story” (Steven Spielberg). Hollywood giants and their aspirations for the award season will soon be in the spotlight.
Now that the new year has started, I hereby present my choices for the best movies of 2021. Movies that might not have their titles flashing red on the radar but bear with complex stories that are worth to emerge in. What is it that they all share? A sharp focus on the importance of human contact, and a deep appreciation of all human rapports we have in our lives. Hug your loved ones now that it is possible, as long as it is possible.
Honorable mention: Pig (USA)
“I’m looking for my pig.”
Michael Sarnoski’s directorial debut provides Nicolas Cage a less-is-much-more showcase of his talent. Cage plays Rob Feld, a well-respected chef who has been living in the woods for the past fifteen years with his pet, a beloved truffle pig. Fled is a sombre man, a loner, a grief sickened hermit who hunts for truffles with his pig, Apple, trades those with big-city buyer Amir (Alex Wolff), bakes, and listens to old cassettes. Then one night strangers show up at his cabin and kidnap Apple. This sets Fled on a revenge mission to bring his pig home. He turns to Amir who takes him to Portland where they sink into the underworld of the city. The duo takes on truffle dealers, junkies, and moves every stone just to find Apple.
Pig similarly to Riders of Justice messes you over. During the first twenty minutes or so Sarnoski tricks you by making you believe his story is an out-of-kilter Hollywood revenge story. However, it is much richer and more complex than that. It shows you knives in a kitchen and makes dinner with them instead of using them for stabbing people in the chest. Cage has a contemplative role, a profoundly sad and sensitive part. He has much foisted anger, frustration, pain on the inside yet spreads a weird sense of peace and wisdom that only comes by experiencing the darkest corners of human existence.
Sarnoski establishes a dense atmosphere where you can smell the wet moss, the crackling firewood and the freshly made dough. It is a visually stunning movie, shot by cinematographer Patrick Scola (Monsters and Men). I am a fan of all its aesthetic choices, imagery, and music. Interestingly, nearly one hour was cut from the movie as distributors considered it to be too long. This definitely shows, in certain parts you can feel the tempo going a bit off making you think there was something going on in post.
Pig is an existential meditation on meaningful things in life. It raises questions about the dangers of non-authenticity, losing sight of goals, and the shallowness of today’s like-driven superficialities and debauchery. There is a magnetizing scene between Rob and a chef who has opened a high-end restaurant instead of the pub he always wanted to run. The exchange is emblematic of the film’s distaste for bad faith and people-pleasing.
Pig is a much needed movie in the current climate. It has a gigantic heart filled with understanding, togetherness and of course, admiration for food. It might have some pacing issues, might contain some loopholes but never ceases to be honest and empathetic. It is a poem-like synesthesiac directing debut.
Where to watch: buy or rent it on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and AMC on Demand.
Thank you for your attention! Here you can read all parts.
Dora Endre is a New York based Hungarian film and theatre artist with an extensive educational background (media, international communications, filmmaking, acting, editing). For the past four years she was lucky enough to collaborate with other creatives on a number of short movies, commercials, music videos, musicals, dance and off-Broadway shows. She loves to wear many hats but primarily works as a director. She also loves guacamole.