2021 is over and I’ve caught up with the last few films I’ve missed, so I think it’s time for EoM to unveil its Sixth Annual Sticky List!
If you’re unfamiliar with the Sticky List, these are the films which made me want to watch, rewatch, discuss, and share. While certainly several films on my favorites list meet this criteria, chances are you’ve heard about those ad nauseam from the countless other “Best Of” lists that drop starting at the beginning of December. What this list focuses on are films that either you’ve never heard of or may have forgotten were released at all.
Click here to check our previous Sticky Lists.
If you’re interested in checking out my full list of favorite films from this year, I kept a running list on Letterboxd all year and it has my full list of favorite films from 2021.
- Malcolm & Marie
- America: The Motion Picture
- Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself
- The Mitchells vs. The Machines
- Shiva Baby
- Women is Losers
- The Matrix Resurrections
Reviews for each film this list are available at EoM. If you’d rather listen to my thoughts on each one, check out The Cine-Men, Episode 61 where podcast co-host Darryl Mansel and I discuss out favorite films of 2021.
PG: Psycho Goreman
Director: Steven Kostanski.
Cast: Nita-Josee Hanna, Owen Myre, Adam Brooks, Alexis Hancey and Matthew Ninaber.
Once more for the cheap seats, PG: Psycho Goreman absolutely rules. Kostanksi displays a masterful understanding of the tokusatsu shows that adorned many broadcast channels and the operatic elements which made so many of them cultural phenomenons. Though there are a few moments in which things occur in a tad too simple a manner, the fact that the whole never loses its appeal while it simultaneously maintains its own wacky rules of reality makes any area of weakness undoubtedly forgivable. It’s also a kickass way to kick-off 2021’s cinematic year.
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes
Director: Junta Yamaguchi.
Cast: Aki Asakura and Kazunori Tosa.
The easiest way to describe Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is as a mixture of the hilariously inventive One Cut of the Dead (2017) and Tenet (2020), but that would be far too diminishing a description. It’s got the heart reminiscent of the Bill & Ted films, the creativeness of practical-based F/X movies of yore, and science that actually makes sense. Even when the early repetition starts to grate (we get the idea, y’all), the joy emanating from the characters just brings a smile to your face. Combined with the impressiveness of the detail work within the film, it’s hard not to fall in love. Do make sure to stick through the credits as you get an opportunity to see how the film was made.
Director: Lado Kvataniya.
Cast: Yulia Snigir, Niko Tavadze, Daniil Spivakovsky, Evgeniy Tkachuk, Aglaya Tarasova, and Victoria Tolstoganova.
Between 1978 – 1990, a series of brutal murders were committed by Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, totaling more than 50 women and children before he was captured, convicted, and executed via firing-squad. This absolute horror serves as the narrative jumping off point for first-time feature director and co-writer Lado Kvataniya’s The Execution which has its World Premiere at Fantastic Fest 2021. Rather than try to recreate these horrors, the story by Kvataniya and Olga Gorodetskaya (Evil Boy) borrows pieces, crafting something entirely new to explore the contest of good vs. evil while requiring suffering through a variety of grief. Truth is often stranger than fiction, but it can serve as the spring board for some truly immaculate storytelling in the right hands. Folks, The Execution is that story and Kvataniya possesses those hands.
Riders of Justice
Director: Anders Thomas Jensen.
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Lars Brygmann, and Nicolas Bro.
What unfolds within Anders’s Riders of Justice is an exploration of the light and darkness of humanity, of our search for answers, and the various ways in which healing can come. The violence which comes from a film built upon the film’s premise of vengeance-seeking is staged for maximum emotional impact versus physical, opting for simple and elegant over elaborate, making for more striking responses from the audience. What lingers, though, are the questions Anders presents and the strange hopefulness that flickers upon the credits roll, burning like the embers of a dying fire in the darkness of night. Marked by powerful performances from an ensemble cast, Riders of Justice culminates in one of the more surprising films of 2021.
CODE NAME: Nagasaki
Director: Fredrik S. Hana.
Cast: Marius K. Lunde and Fredrik S. Hana.
Listening is the best thing we can do in order to communicate with someone else. Not talk, listen. If one were to talk about the creation of CODE NAME: Nagasaki, then the discussion of it being a commodity seeking recognition from audiences around the world comes first. As such, one could view the film as a hodgepodge of cinematic tastes slapped together in an effort to pad the time of a brief 69-minute documentary. Another perspective, one taken from listening to what Lunde and Hana have to say, is that Nagasaki is a profoundly personal videographic journal which can only be truly understood if the coded language of cinema is understood by the receiver. Even the happiest of homes have experienced some kind of strife, some difficulty that they needed to contend with, but it could only be done if everyone spoke the same language. If you don’t have some understanding of the history of horror, jidaigeki (or Japanese period films), detective stories, or just general social dramas, it may be hard to conceive of Lunde’s pain and his persistence in finding answers.
Director: Yûgo Sakamoto.
Cast: Akari Takaishi and Saori Izawa.
Yakuza films run the gamut from comedic (Enter the Fat Dragon (2020)), supernatural (Versus (2000)) to romantic (First Love (2020)), so why not something that’s uplifting and gender-positive? It’s not that Sakamoto reinvents the subgenre of crime tales, it’s that he subverts it into something bubbly yet not afraid to kick ass. In fact, it invites it, goads it, and has all the capabilities to back it all up. What’ll surprise you, though, is that you’ll come to Baby Assassins for the action and end up falling for a tale of friendship. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go start a petition for Izawa and Takaishi to join the John Wick series before those are wrapped up. Wick could clear the Table with these two talented actors by his side.
The Night House
Director: David Bruckner.
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis Hall, Evan Jonigkeit, and Stacy Martin.
Loss hits us all differently and unexpectedly. We can *know* that someone is no longer with us, yet feel them, as though they are lingering in the air. We can *know* that they may not see them again, yet we can revisit them through photos and videos. We can *know* who they are with us, yet we can never know who they were without us. Loss can take what we know and twist it, grind it, gnarl it up, until all that’s left is pain and red pulp. Directed by David Bruckner (The Ritual) and written by Ben Collins (Stephanie) and Luke Piotrowski (Stephanie), The Night House takes the cognitive confusion of loss and grief and gives it a thriller spin, creating a tale that will have you question what it is you see and wondering what you don’t see, even as you recline in a place of comfort.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
Director: Ian Samuels.
Cast: Kathryn Newton and Kyle Allen.
The end result of The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is a film which is immediately familiar while offering something wholly unique. It reminds us that what we think we know is often far less than what is available to know, that what we see is far less than what’s out there, and that the best joys, the purest of joys, come from the unexpected. Not unexpected as in “surprise,” but in the uncanny way in which wonderful things happen. Like scoring a winning goal in a tense match or dancing at the sight of having the perfect hand. Like seeing nature in all of its cruel wonder or noticing the corners of your world that typically go totally ignored. For Mark and Margaret, being given the gift of time means that they have the opportunity to catch all the things they miss. While we aren’t afforded that terrible luxury, Map reminds that by allowing ourselves to be so focused on what time we’re losing that we miss the things that make our time worth spending.
Director: Natalie Morales.
Cast: Kuhoo Verma and Victoria Moroles.
Natalie Morales is as versatile as one can get. She’s an actor (Parks and Recreation, The Newsroom), writer (Language Lessons), editor (Lost It (short)), and director with two feature films under her belt released within two months of each other. With just these two projects, she demonstrates that she’s not confined to one form of storytelling, exploring and challenging what audiences expect along the way. Plan B may not be her words, but the execution is entirely her vision, one built on mining the authentic hilarity of life’s situations. Credit where credit is due, this cast, these writers, and this director pull off the kind of joyous, honest, and loving adventure we really need right now.
Director: Josh Ruben.
Cast: Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, George Basil, Sarah Burns, Michael Chernus, Catherine Curtain, Wayne Duvall, Harvey Guillén, Rebecca Henderson, Cheyenne Jackson, Michaela Watkins, and Glenn Fleshler.
When it comes to adapting games, especially video games, for cinema, the track record is low for success. While there’s some fun to be had in Doom (2005) or Mortal Kombat (1995), it’s best not to mention any appreciation for Street Fighter (1994) or Super Mario Bros. (1993) in any kind of mixed company if you want to maintain any street cred. (Disclaimer: I possess an unabashed love for SMB.) 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog gets pretty close to taking the top spot, mostly for capturing the spirit of Sonic and his nemesis than the 1:1 recreation. It’s in that vein that the new crown-holder for game adaptation comes in the form of one audiences may not even realize is inspired by a Playstation VR game from Ubisoft, the whodunit Werewolves Within. This mostly inoffensive horror-comedy feels a bit like Clue (1985) (one of the great game adaptations of all time), Knives Out (2019), with a generous helping of atmosphere reminiscent of Ready or Not (2019). While that might sound like a strange concoction, it all comes together as a deliciously dark, devilishly hilarious, and surprisingly heartfelt adventure where you’ll be second-guessing yourself until the very last moment.