Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to the final installment of Steven Spielberg Month! You know what that means? It is time for shameless self-promotion! If you are interested in checking out more of my Steven Spielberg-related reviews for the month, this is your opportunity to read up on my thoughts regarding “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” and “The Post.” With that out of the way, it is time to introduce the last review of the themed event. It is one of Spielberg’s most recent outings, “West Side Story.” I would have reviewed this film last year if I had the time to. Unfortunately, I could not make it happen. Although I am glad to finally be able to give myself an opportunity to release my thoughts on it, and for you to finally find them out. Ladies and gentlemen, here is my review of “West Side Story.”
“West Side Story” is directed by Steven Spielberg (Lincoln, Ready Player One) and is based on a 1957 play by Jerome Robbins. The film stars Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Rita Moreno, and Rachel Zegler as Maria, a young Puerto Rican girl who falls in love with New York native Tony (Elgort). These two are caught in the middle of rivaling gangs, conflicting sides, and altering identities. While these two may be star-crossed, the turmoil beyond their relationship heats up.
I saw this movie on December 6th, 2021 during a free IMAX fan event screening in Boston. The screening took place days before the film’s wide release. This was my first time seeing anything related to “West Side Story.” Prior to rewatching this film for review purposes, not to mention after, I still have not watched the 1961 “West Side Story” adaptation, despite its acclaim. The film won ten Oscars, including Best Picture. In recent months, Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” sort of followed in its footsteps. The 2021 remake won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in addition to earning other categorical nominations. One such nomination was Best Picture, which the film lost to “CODA,” which I have no problem with as that film was brilliant.
Having rewatched “West Side Story,” it honestly was more fun than it was the first time around. And that says something because that first viewing was a great time. Did I mention that my most recent watch of the film is not my second, but my third time? I went to go see the film in theaters twice, and both times it knocked my socks off. Therefore, it should be no surprise that I am handing the film this much praise.
I am so glad to finally get to talk about “West Side Story” after being busy during the tail end of 2021, partially because it is my favorite musical movie of that year. I had fun with “In the Heights” and I admired “Tick, Tick… BOOM!”, but “West Side Story” takes the cake as the most serotonin-emitting of these films. When I first heard about a remake for “West Side Story,” I had mixed thoughts, and slight indifference as I had not seen the original film. When you announce that you are about to remake something iconic or highly acclaimed as this, it begs the question as to how you can make something that is on par with what the prior material provided. Again, I did not see the 1961 movie, so I cannot compare and contrast these two films together. Although as a standalone movie, “West Side Story” 2021 is one of the most finely crafted creations of the decade thus far. The decade has only started, but if things continue to go in a certain direction, “West Side Story” could end up in my top 50, maybe even top 25 films of the 2020s by the time the ten year span ends.
The cast of “West Side Story” could not be better. Every actor is perfectly placed in their role, they feel at home, and they play their part to the best of their ability. Rachel Zegler is a goldmine of adorableness as Maria. Not only is Zegler a ridiculously talented singer, which is an ability that is somewhat expected in a film like this, but she is also unspeakably beautiful. Every time I glance at Zegler in this movie, I can sense that not only is Zegler happy to be in the movie, I can sense her character is always in the moment. Even during an occasional sense of hardship, every time I look at Rachel, I am, assumingly, as happy as her. She is always either upbeat or expressive, which for a musical, is an appropriate set of emotions. Part of the recently mentioned adorableness not only has to do with Rachel Zegler herself, her character, or her acting ability, but also the costume design.
The costumes in this film are designed by Paul Tazewell, who also designed costumes for the musical “Hamilton.” Tazewell’s designs feel straight out of the 1950s. To go along with the extravagant, larger than life feel of a story like this, some of the costumes feel attractively glitzy. Again, Zegler’s costumes, such as her white dress from the first act, are standouts. All the costumes from the dance in the gym are easy on the eyes. Another one of my favorites is Anita’s yellow outfit that she wears during the “America” scene. It goes well with the atmosphere and the time of day. Everything feels intricately planned.
Speaking of Ariana DeBose, she and Zegler pretty much tie for the greatest performance in the film. DeBose won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as Anita, which is undoubtedly deserved. Everything from her physicality to her line delivery to her overall charisma makes for one of the best performances I have ever seen in musical film. The past couple times I watched “West Side Story,” every line out of DeBose’s mouth, even minor ones, made me smile. There is a saying about movies providing escapes for audiences. Anita in “West Side Story” is synonymous with such a philosophy. Every time she spoke, I instantly transported to another world. I am going to continuously debate as to whether Zegler or DeBose gave my favorite performance in the film, but as far as non-lead roles go, DeBose may have given the greatest of them all in 2021.
Despite having story in its name, the story of “West Side Story” is not the most original when you break it down. Not just because it is remaking a 1961 movie based on a 1957 play. If anything it is a spin on the “Romeo and Juliet” formula with different characters and dance fighting. If anything, this latest iteration of the musical is a fantastic spin, and even saying that is arguably an understatement. As I have said before, you can always supply a cliché story, or a story that has been done in the past. What matters is the execution. If you deliver something great with familiar elements, then job well done. This is exactly what Steven Spielberg did, I was on the edge of my seat during scenes that could have potentially come off as goofy. Dance fighting is a concept that to my surprise, successfully highlighted much of the tension between characters. Not only that, but the music used as a backdrop sounded great. It kept my attention.
This movie is shot by Janusz Kaminski, a brilliant cinematographer who has worked with Spielberg for years. The wides in this film are beautiful. The opening sequence is one of the most intriguing of the year based on the camera movements alone. The scope of the film would not be as massive if it were not for some of Kaminski’s long takes. One of my favorite shots of the film is when we get into the gymnasium and see everyone dancing. The camera swoops around the entire place non-stop until we arrive on our core characters like Anita, Bernardo, and Rachel. Looking back on it and what that one moment was able to capture, is jaw-dropping to say the least. Also, if you ever watch the scene, note the use of color. There is a sense of consistency between the colors of various outfits throughout the shot. It almost comes off like a painting. Again, credit goes to Paul Tazewell for how well he handled the film’s costume design.
Musicals, including this one, often thrive based on the spectacle. “West Side Story” has a ton of poppy moments where the cinematography and musical numbers keep my eyes on the screen. That is despite there being a sense of danger throughout the movie. “West Side Story,” at its core, centers around two star-crossed lovers. Although this film effectively encapsulates how their connection affects the people around them. The rivalry between the Jets and Sharks was already heading for trouble, but as soon as we see Rachel and Tony together for the first time, we also begin to see how various supporting characters handle this matter. Even though it should barely affect them on paper, it ends up resulting in increased calamity. As for said calamity, it made for a great movie.
If you ask me, based on everything I presented so far from the costumes to the shot selection to the editing to the acting, this is a sign that Steven Spielberg has brought together one of the greatest directorial efforts of his career. Or, as some might call it, just another Tuesday. “West Side Story” is apparently a part of Spielberg’s childhood, and it shows. The numbers are handled with grace, the characters are well realized, and the aesthetic of the film has a perfect blend between lighter and darker moments in addition to tones. There is no surprise that a sense of passion was present in every scene.
Aside from the cliché elements and familiar story treads, there are not many noticeable flaws with “West Side Story.” This might not be my favorite Steven Spielberg movie, but I cannot help but recognize how massively bonkers and fun this movie is. At the same time, it also successfully hits emotional beats. Performances from Rachel Zegler and Ariana DeBose highlight this. One of my favorite elements of the film, as someone who watched it perhaps the way Spielberg intended, is that when the characters speak in Spanish, they do not provide subtitles to aid in regard to what they are saying. I have taken a screenwriting class in college, and one thing my professor noted is that dialogue does not always matter. Sure, movies can have great lines that enhance the experience. Whether they are funny, dramatic, or emotionally charging. Although what makes “West Side Story” great is its tendency to use Spanish, a language which I do not understand, without subtitles, and nevertheless compel me into the scenes in which such a language is spoken. Given select moments and the supposed attitudes of various audiences, this sounds like a big risk. As someone who dropped out of Spanish class in high school for Sociology, I have been moved by this choice and its execution.
Big risk, big reward.
One might as well make the conclusion that this is what the whole movie sounded like from the beginning. A big risk. Sure, when you have Steven Spielberg in the chair, he makes everything look easy. Sure, name recognition is definitely a selling point in modern media. The film did not do well at the box office for various reasons. COVID-19, competition with other movies, and controversy with Ansel Elgort are contributing factors. However, this film is now available to watch at home and if you ask me what movie in the musical genre you should watch nowadays, this is one of the first I can think at the top of my head. It is that good. I do not know if Spielberg will make another musical, but if he does, I wonder how the heck he could top this one.
In the end, “West Side Story” is one of the best musical films of this century. Why should I be surprised that this movie is as solid as it is? Steven Spielberg is at the helm. Then again, maybe I should be surprised. After his many previous monumental successes, Spielberg has yet to create a film in the musical genre. He has done a variety of genres prior to “West Side Story” like science fiction (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), period pieces (Lincoln), adventure (Raiders of the Lost Ark), war (Saving Private Ryan), drama (The Post), and you could even argue that “Jaws” would be considered a horror film. By today’s standards, it is not the most terrifying option on the table, but it has its eerie moments. The man has done everything, and yet he continues to pump out gold. For some filmmakers, this would be an achievement. But I cannot call it that for Spielberg after watching “West Side Story.” As far as Spielberg is concerned, his efforts have amounted to another day at the office. That is how effective of a filmmaker he continues to be. Spielberg could have ended his career at say “Jurassic Park” and have an endlessly celebrated library of films. But that is not the case. His adaptations of songs like “Somewhere,” “Cool,” and “America” have stayed in my memory for a long time, and will likely continue to do so. The look of the film is stunning, the shots are beautiful, and the cast is incredible. Again, I have yet to see the 1961 film, so I cannot confirm if this is better or worse, but I can hardly think of a single problem I have with Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.” So much so, that the film is worthy of a 10/10.
Musicals are not my genre, but this is a film that I liked the first time, adored the second time, and found myself eating up by the third time. I am floored by this film’s craft and how extravagantly immersive it is, even when watching it at home. I feel bad for skipping this review last year, but I am more than happy to have gotten my thoughts out by now. Although some of you reading this might not be that surprised that I liked the movie so much, because I ended up nominating it in a few categories during the 4th Annual Jackoff Awards. If you want to see what the film did or did not win, check out the post!
“West Side Story” is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray. The film is also available to rent or buy on VOD. For those who have the services, it is also available to watch on Disney+ and HBO Max.
Thanks for reading this review! This is officially the end of Steven Spielberg Month! But this November, we will be seeing the latest addition to Spielberg’s neverending library. That my friends, is “The Fabelmans.” The film is loosely based on Spielberg’s childhood, and the trailer looks phenomenal. Between this and Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon,” this awards season is likely going to have lots of talk about Hollywood’s self-indulgence. Whether such self-indulgence will be successfully utilized, is a question waiting to be answered.
Also, my next review is going to be for the all DC film “Black Adam.” Be sure to stay tuned for the nine-millionth superhero movie I will be reviewing in my blogging journey. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “West Side Story?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see the 1961 “West Side Story?” What did you think of that? How would you compare the two movies? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
WARNING: This post is over 12,000 words long. It contains words like “award,” “show,” and “Jackoff.” There are many more, but these are just a sample. Grab some popcorn, get a soda, and enjoy the 4th Annual Jackoff Awards at your own pace. Enjoy.
Hello everyone! Welcome to the The 4th Annual Jackoff Awards! We’ve got a great show ahead where many movies enter, and one leaves triumphant as 2021’s Best Picture. Fun fact, I almost ended up calling this year’s show the Jacks. Because 9 out of 10 general audience members agree, award shows need to shorten their runtime. We’re really putting the “off” in Jackoff. Today is a celebration of everything movies, that is as long as they are not shorts, made for television, straight to DVD, or some Christmas thing featuring Danica McKellar.
We love you, Danica.
Here’s how the show works. Every movie that yours truly, Jack Drees, saw this year has been qualified in advance to be nominated for a Jackoff. Those that have been nominated compete against four other films to win the category, and the winner gets my respect. However, with Best Picture, the ultimate category, that is not the case, as ten movies will compete in that category and the winner has been decided in advance by the people’s vote. I sent out a form for willing participants to fill out, the votes have been counted and the tallies are here! But one thing that is true for every category, I must have seen the film for it to be nominated. Sorry, “Cruella!”
Another rule I must state, 2021 has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has not fully come to an end and that is evident in the entertainment industry. You may have noticed a trend that many films have come out on streaming at the same time they hit theaters. Disney has done this with films like “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which has received a Best Animated Feature nomination. Warner Brothers has also done this with “Tom & Jerry,” which has been nomin— Haha, sorry. Bad example. Either way!! Films that hit theaters and streaming at the same time do qualify for the Jackoff Awards. I am willing to accept just about any film to step into the ring as long as they had a theatrical release. The general rule for the Jackoffs is that the movies featured and nominated have to be in theaters, because if they’re on streaming, then that is technically a TV film. Therefore, films like “The Tomorrow War,” “Home Sweet Home Alone,” and “Vacation Friends” do not qualify for this year’s Jackoff Awards. Apologies in advance, but these are the rules.
We’re gonna start the show the same way we always do, with a little monologue. And if you thought that I would be telling all the jokes this year, it just so turns out that’s not true. Plot twist! I’m being voiced by Chris Pratt! It’s time for “Jack Drees Tells Jokes to Nobody in Order to Please Himself!”
I’m going to state some facts about this year in film, and since there is no audience, there shall be no laughs. But, for those of you checking this out yourselves, feel free to jump into the auditorium and react however you’d like. Even throw tomatoes at me if you please! And I will say that 2021 has been a great year for film. Lots of fun blockbusters, some great animated flicks, and fun times at the movie theater. It’s been great year overall! Unless you’ve been chopped by Venom, eaten by a Sandworm, devoured by King Shark, ran over by Dom Toretto, or sucked into a ghost trap.
I want to congratulate the creative minds behind season 2 of COVID-19. It all started with the ongoing plot of getting the vaccine into people’s arms and ended with an epic cliffhanger… What will the world do without Betty White? What will Impractical Jokers be like without Joe? Will booster shots make you run races faster?! Find out in the hopefully short-lived, season 3!
Last year, you may have watched some award shows like the Golden Globes, the SAGs, and the Critics Choice and may have noticed some degree of virtual technology being implemented. You may not remember this, but at the Golden Globes this year, when Daniel Kaluuya won the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture he said, “I would like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, this is an honor, and now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go in my chair, and watch the rest of the show with my pants off.”
“Four Good Days” starring Mila Kunis and Glenn Close has received a Best Picture nomination for today’s ceremony! Congratulations. In addition, Mila Kunis and Glenn Close were nominated for their performances as Molly and Deb, and the film also received a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination. Four good days is also how long it is gonna take the average person to read the 4th annual Jackoff Awards!
I want to give a big congratulations to Denis Villeneuve and his brand-new movie. I really enjoyed the first half of the pilot episode of “Dune.” Very much so that I willingly watched it twice in two days.
“Dune” released this year in theaters and on HBO Max on October 22nd to successful results given the current circumstances. The film is based on a novel by Frank Herbert and centers around a group of people who attempt to bring peace to the sandy planet of Arrakis. It’s interesting seeing a movie where people actually want the desert planet. Isn’t it often the other way around? There’s a reason why a couple Skywalkers went away from Tatooine. You think they wanted to spend their lives in all this freaking sand? What’s so beautiful about Arrakis? Does it have a profitable pod racing industry?
“Space Jam” received its first sequel after a couple decades, “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” The film stars LeBron James, who is joined by his co-star, the green screen.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” released this year and has been a big success for both Marvel Studios and Sony. Studio executives everywhere all thought the same thing, “We should try making more superhero movies!”
I don’t know EVERYTHING about Spider-Man, partially because the character has existed for such a long time, it’s hard to catch up on every single comic, video game, and television episode. But I do know that “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is said to be one of the top 2 “Spider-Man” films in the past six months.
Speaking of “Spider-Man,” “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” was also a big success at the box office. The film made over $90 million on its opening weekend, which at the time, was a COVID-19 pandemic record. SPOILER ALERT! Tom Hardy has a mask on for most of the film!
Other MCU movies that came out this year include “Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi,” and “Eternals.” In the time that it took me to tell you this information, they announced five sequels to each of these movies.
Zendaya’s had quite a year between “Spider-Man,” “Dune,” and “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” all these films have had some degree of success. Fun fact about Zendaya, she once said if she could not be an actress, she’d be a teacher or a basketball player. So she settled for being Spider-Man’s girlfriend.
Zendaya is both a love interest to Tom Holland’s character in the “Spider-Man” movies in addition to the two being real life partners. Things were going great in their relationship until Zendaya found out Tom Holland sleeps on the ceiling.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” released early this year in March! “Godzilla vs. Kong” has received a Best Visual Effects nomination, congrats! SPOILER! The winner of the film is every city that these two titans didn’t destroy.
“Army of the Dead” released in theaters and on Netflix this May. This is Zack Snyder’s first Netflix feature film and second directorial effort ending with “of the Dead” after his attempt at remaking “Dawn of the Dead.” The film is about a group of people in Las Vegas trying to take a lot of money while also avoiding sleazy zombies. In other words, it’s just a weekend in Vegas. Nothing too crazy.
“West Side Story,” the Steven Spielberg-directed remake starring Rachel Zegler was nominated for several awards today. You want to know how many nominations this movie got? It’s a Jackoffs record! 11 nominations baby! Unbelievable! “West Side Story” is arguably the second-best shark movie directed by Steven Spielberg.
It was a jaw-dropping experience.
Steven Spielberg, speaking of which, during last year’s show, he was actually recognized as that year’s Roger Deakins award winner, which is given out to anyone who has an outstanding achievement in film worth celebrating. The achievement, allowing Hollywood to make one dinosaur movie every three years.
Steven Spielberg has film credits going back to 1959. Yeah, Steven Spielberg has been making films for such a long time, that when it came time to make the “Jurassic Park” movies, he reflected on a time of his life when an asteroid hit the Earth. Steven, you invincible son of a gun.
San Diego Comic-Con cancelled their in-person event for the second year in a row, once again resorting to their Comic-Con at Home concept. On the bright side, a lot of the core demographic going will not have to face a certain problem, which is, going out and talking to people.
AMC Theatres had quite a year. Have you guys been following the story about the meme stocks? At one point, everyone jumped on the bandwagon to raise GameStop’s stock, then they did the same with AMC. Over the winter, all these people on the Internet came together to bump AMC’s stock price, which helped the chain in terms of keeping their cash flow deep into the year. Yeah, they had so much dough that they started projecting all their movies in bright digital gold!
WHY IS VENOM HURTING MY EYES?!
Also at AMC, have you seen this? They’re now playing an advertisement starring Nicole Kidman. She’s walking into an AMC, going through the auditorium entry hall, she enamors herself with the wonder of the big screen. This is a first in AMC’s history and has aired a number of times during television broadcasts. I’ll also add, they’re apparently airing this ad in theaters, the place exactly where you happen to be buying AMC’s products! Congratulations, AMC! You figured out an algorithm, it’s called, going to a website, and suddenly seeing it advertised on your computer for the next three days!
I ALREADY bought a house on Zillow! What makes you think I want to buy another one?!
Also, what’s with Nicole Kidman’s outfit? This makes me think that I should not go to the movies and instead buy a ticket to the freakin’ opera!
Speaking of cinemas, this year we lost the Arclight chain. For those who don’t know Arclight Cinemas, they were a small chain of theaters mostly in California. They had locations in other states as well including Illinois and Massachusetts. Unlike some multiplexes, they had a policy that they’d usually play somewhere around seven minutes of trailers, which could sometimes come out to three trailers in total. That’s a great policy! AMC and Regal saw this idea and thought it would be great if they implemented SEVENTY minutes of trailers!
That movie was great! But it can’t beat that 27th trailer!
2021 was the year when everyone and their rich mother went to space. Jeff Bezos. Michael Strahan. Richard Branson. It’s kind of like the space race except that everyone had enough money to upgrade to first class if they wanted to.
One of the biggest stories when it comes to the celebrity space race has to do with William Shatner, one of the most famous actors in all of sci-fi. Known for his role as Captain Kirk, who journeyed strange new worlds in “Star Trek,” Shatner finally got the chance to ACTUALLY go where… Well, in this case, few men have gone before.
Two months after Shatner’s joyride in space, he ended up crashing his Mercades SUV into a sedan. True story. So, I’m assuming in addition to grampy Bill’s car keys, we’re also taking away his piloting privileges too?
“Free Guy” was released this year, which made my top 10 of the year as I wrote it. “Free Guy” stars Ryan Reynolds as a non-playable character in a video game who wants to become a hero. Gamers everywhere are calling “Free Guy” “unplayable,” “broken,” and has received the complaint, “why is this one cutscene going on for two hours?!”
“The Mitchells vs. The Machines” was nominated for Best Animated Feature! “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is one of the year’s best films, unless your name is Siri, Alexa, or Okay, Google!
Andrew Garfield was nominated for his performance in “Tick…Tick…BOOM!”, a spectacular musical! “Tick…Tick…BOOM!” is a great movie, but it would have been better had the title not spoiled the fact that the protagonist failed to destroy the bomb at the end.
You see what happens when Netflix fails to get the rights to “Mission: Impossible?”
One of the biggest movies of the summer was “F9: The Fast Saga.” Now if you have witnessed the second iteration of the Jackoff Awards, you’d be aware that I surfaced a highly missed marketing opportunity that I feel everyone involved with “Fast & Furious,” or in the case of the movies nominated that year, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” should have considered. You may remember that I pointed out that the movie could have really used a promotional partnership with MAACO, the body shop perfect for all your uh ohs and explosions that make Jason Statham and The Rock look totally badass. Unfortunately, MAACO did not come up with a marketing deal regarding “F9.” Although this is a Jackoffs exclusive, another company reached out to the folks behind “Fast & Furious” about a commercial. But much like MAACO, the plan did not fall through. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you what could have been the perfect cross-promotion for “F9: The Fast Saga” and a famous insurance company.
You ready for some awards? No? Too bad! You’re getting awards! It’s time to commence the 4th Annual Jackoff Awards, starting with Best Animated Feature!
Movies have a way of bringing their viewers to worlds they cannot experience themselves. Animated features are no exception. Between robot apocalypses, magical wonderlands where everyone is gifted, and immersive social media worlds, animations this year have brought us to places that take us from reality and plant us in an unfamiliar, but exciting environment. As far as the previous year goes, these five animations are the greatest escapes of them all. Here are the nominees for Best Animated Feature.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Belle (Nozomu Takahashi, Yuichiro Saito, Toshimi Tanio, Genki Kawamura)
The Mitchells vs. The Machines (Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Kurt Albrecht)
Sing 2 (Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy)
Raya and the Last Dragon (Osnet Shurer, Peter Del Vecho)
And the Jackoff goes to…’
Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and Kurt Albrecht for “The Mitchells vs. the Machines!”
“The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is one of my late tagalongs this year, but I ended up having zero regrets when it comes to finally watching this absolute masterpiece of a film. Given how late I ended up watching this movie, I ended up not reviewing it, but in my top 10 movies of the year, I noted that this film is probably the hardest I have laughed at an animation since “The LEGO Movie,” and animations have a way of making you laugh in some ways that most live-action movies cannot. “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” ends up working because of its animated nature, a lot of the styles and choices that are made and implemented into this final product are truly beyond the imagination despite using a concept that has been used in other movies, some of which can be called the greatest of all time. And you know what? I think “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” belongs in that club. It is one of the greats not just for animation, but also amongst movies in general. Congratulations to “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” you have won Best Animated Feature!
Moving onto Best Visual Effects, this category reflects realism within the imaginary. Authenticity within the imposters. The implementations within the mainstays. Special effects have had a large impact on films over the years from miniatures to puppets to modern day CGI. These five films are the latest and greatest amongst the aesthetically pleasing. Here are the nominees for Best Visual Effects.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Godzilla vs. Kong
Spider-Man: No Way Home
The Suicide Squad
And the Jackoff goes to…
Wow. Wow. Wow. Denis Villeneuve packed a punch, threw it, and it hit us all like a giant sandbag! The visual effects for “Dune” are a literal achievement, because even though the book has been adapted time and time again, Villeneuve brought a modern, detailed, almost auteur-like feel to the film. Everything from the giant sandworm to the spice to the explosive fight sequences. Let’s put it this way. A great blockbuster can show you jaw-dropping visual effects that will take your breath away. An epic blockbuster can make your jaw drop just from seeing visuals in the trailer. “Dune” is a massive, big budget, sci-fi treat. As mentioned in the monologue, I saw “Dune” twice in theaters, and I was easily marveled both times. The locations, the environments, the surroundings within all the locations. It adds up to be one of the most thrilling and inviting film experiences of the year. The visuals for “Dune” only make me more excited for “Dune: Part Two,” because if so much care was put into this film, I think it is safe to say that its sequel could receive similar treatment. Congrats to “Dune,” and this is its first win of the night!
It is time to unveil the first Best Picture nominee of the night! We will talk a bit about what the movie entails, and play a trailer for you all to enjoy. This is the first of ten nominees, and the winner was chosen by you at home. Who won the award? We will find out at the end of the show.
Our first Best Picture is the biggest movie in a couple years. Having broken box office records that we would be accustomed to be seeing broken in the 2010s, before there even was a pandemic, this film was an experience like no other. Finishing the touches of a two year old cliffhanger, Tom Holland returns to the big screen as the masked web-slinger, Spider-Man, to face his most multiversal challenge yet. Also joining him this time is Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, who tries to help Spider-Man in his ongoing crisis, only to lead themselves to a mistake that could mean the end of several civilizations as we know them. Nominated for 5 Jackoff Awards, with great power, it is therefore my great responsibility to tell you that this is “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
2nd place. It is something that most people, despite its occasional prominence, try to avoid. Because why be the runner-up when you can be the best? Supporting actors like these five on the other hand, turn a second position into first. These supporting actors vow to amaze to a point where they steal scenes and bring a balance to the movie at hand alongside the leading roles. Here are the nominees for Best Supporting Actor.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
J.K. Simmons (Being the Ricardos)
Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)
Jared Leto (The Little Things)
Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man: No Way Home)
Mike Faist (West Side Story)
And the Jackoff goes to…
Daniel Kaluuya for “Judas and the Black Messiah!”
It is has been over a year since my first and only viewing of “Judas and the Black Messiah,” but I was amazed by just about the entire cast from LaKeith Stanfield to Jesse Plemons to even Dominique Fishback. I thought everyone did a great job and offered some of the year’s best collective chemistry. However, if I had to pick one actor to praise above all, it would have to be Daniel Kaluuya, as he carried every scene he was in, and delivered the best mix of physicality and mentality brought to the screen this year. Kaluuya was a force of fire, bringing a real personality to life with a captivating, emotionally thrilling interpretation of Fred Hampton that had my jaw dangling from one moment to another. Kaluuya delivered one of the most attention-grabbing scenes of the year, where he gives a speech at a rally. Let’s just say I looked forward to it with what little I saw in the trailers, but I was even more impressed when we got the actual result. Here is a clip of Daniel Kaluuya from “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
And of course, we cannot have a Best Supporting Actor award without a Best Supporting Actress award. The job of the supporting actress is not necessarily to walk underneath the shoulders of giants, but accompany them on their cinematic journey. These five ladies walked the walk and much more. Here are the nominees for Best Supporting Actress.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Judi Dench (Belfast)
Glenn Close (Four Good Days)
Anya Taylor-Joy (Last Night in Soho)
Ana de Armas (No Time to Die)
Ariana DeBose (West Side Story)
And the award goes to…
Ariana DeBose for “West Side Story!”
In a film as sappy as “West Side Story” can come off, it also comes with a little bit of bleakness. Several scenes take place in darker areas or have a more rugged color palette. Whenever Ariana DeBose comes on screen as her character of Anita, it just makes you want to move. Whether she’s busy singing about America, trying to convince people close to her to speak English, or simply talking smack to those around her, DeBose brings every dose of personality to the film that she can. I saw “West Side Story” twice, and while I really loved DeBose the first time around, I got incredibly giddy, almost to level of a kid on Christmas morning, whenever she spoke during the second viewing. Not only because her character was well written, but because Ariana DeBose brought her own flair to the role. “West Side Story” is Steven Spielberg’s first musical, but with DeBose in the mix, it feels more like he already made ten of them. You know DeBose is the winner when you literally grin like an idiot as soon as she starts speaking. Here is a clip of Ariana DeBose in “West Side Story.”
Our second Best Picture is yet another adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, who has been nominated for his efforts, this film is the story of a young boy named Paul Atreides, played by the remarkable actor Timothee Chalamet, who has been sworn to protect the universe’s most valuable asset. Joining Chalamet is one of the year’s most recognizable and talented casts with Jason Momoa, Zendaya, Dave Bautista, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, and Stellan Skarsgard. The film has been hailed as a cinematic achievement, taking a book once considered unfilmable, but somehow marvelously bringing it to life. In this film, we are introduced to a magnificent universe of worlds, rivalries, and sandworms. Nominated for 10 Jackoff Awards, this is “Dune.”
As a guy who often cuts his nails a couple times a month and his hair buzzed as often as he can, I do not often think of makeup or hair as an essential feature of my being. But for these five groups, this is their livelihood, and they utilized said livelihood to let their respective actors and characters shine and simmer. Here are the nominees for Best Makeup & Hairstyling.
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
Being the Ricardos (Ana Lozano, David Forrest, Kim Santantonio, Kyra Panchenko, Michael Ornelaz, Teressa Hill, Yvonne Depatis-Kupka)
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (Vickie Lang, Kristyan Mallett, Donald McInnes)
The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Donald Mowat, Love Larson, Eva Von Bahr)
In the Heights (Martha Melendez, Betsy Reyes)
West Side Story (Judy Chin, Kay Georgiou)
And the award goes to…
Donald Mowat, Love Larson, and Eva Von Bahr for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye!”
I’m going to be real with you. “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is a film that I never looked back on because of its story. Because of its screenplay. Because of how much I liked the characters themselves. A lot of what I like about “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is about aesthetic. From the costumes to the color palette to the makeup. The makeup and hairstyling departments receive their award today mostly because of one character herself, Jessica Chastain’s Tammy Faye. Jessica Chastain is one of my favorite actresses, so therefore I have a good idea of what she looks like and how she comes off whenever she performs. I rarely experience this with some actors, but as I watched “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” I felt like I had a true revelation that I was not for once watching Jessica Chastain, who again, is a proper thespian by herself, but she has been heavily enhanced her makeover which very much feels like the real life character she attempts to project. For that alone, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” earns its win. And I should also note the crisp hair job done on Andrew Garfield, who looks mighty impressive. Congratulations!
Now we move onto one of my favorite categories, Best Original Score. The original score of the film can sometimes make or break the production. Sometimes I watch a movie and maybe think it is not too great, but maybe I will listen to the music after. Whereas others utilize the score to their full potential to match the tone and feel of the film, making you more immersed into what is happening. I have listened to parts of some of these scores during my free time this year and have also admired them when watching the film from where they originate. Here are the nominees for Best Original Score.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Dune (Hans Zimmer)
Godzilla vs. Kong (Tom Holkenberg)
Raya and the Last Dragon (James Newton Howard)
The Suicide Squad (John Murphy)
Spider-Man: No Way Home (Michael Giacchino)
And the Jackoff goes to…
Hans Zimmer for “Dune!”
This is “Dune’s” second win of the night! It needs eight more for a clean sweep! It also needs four more to tie the record for the most wins in a Jackoffs ceremony. For your information, last year, “Tenet” set the record for most wins in a single ceremony with 6 wins, which included Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Picture. After my second screening for “Dune,” I left the theater around 12:30 a.m. and made a half-hour trek home. My trek consisted of night skies, little traffic, and me blasting Hans Zimmer’s booming tunes in the car. One of my favorite scores of all time is from “Blade Runner 2049,” also directed by Denis Villeneuve. Also, it was partially composed by Hans Zimmer alongside Benjamin Wallfisch. Zimmer returned for “Dune,” making this next collaboration a worthy followup. During the press screening I attended the day before the film came out, I was in an end seat next to a wall. If you have ever been to theaters with two random seats on the sides, you know what I’m talking about. There were times during the score where percussion became enormously present and gargantuan that I could feel the walls shaking. So much love and passion was put into the score of “Dune,” and history shows it. While producing the score, Zimmer drove the team crazy with so many ideas, and clearly some great ideas made it into the final cut. The book was a huge inspiration for Zimmer during his younger years, so I am glad that he is getting to make a project he is proud of. And frankly, I am proud of it too. Congrats to Hans Zimmer! Here is a sample of the score for “Dune.”
Our third Best Picture was voted my #1 movie of the year, and it is almost not even a close competition. In a year of great comic book movies, I have hailed this film as the greatest installment in the Detective Comics Extended Universe to date and another home run for director James Gunn, whose creative freedom is extremely evident. This film delivers the greatest cross between dark humor and heart ever conceived. Anybody can make an R-rated film with tons of blood and gore in it, but it takes a true genius to create one with blood and gore, with emotionally charging scene after scene. This film has a stacked cast from Margot Robbie to Joel Kinnaman to Sylvester Stallone to John Cena to James Gunn mainstay Michael Rooker. With some of the industry’s most awe-striking visuals, the film is a feast for the eyes, and I’m not just talking about mature content. Nominated for 5 Jackoff Awards, this is “The Suicide Squad.”
Just recently, I just showed you a revolutionary GEICO commercial, and you may just be thinking, that’s all the stuff he has today for commercialized content. No, I have another. And you might be thinking, why is this guy showing all this tied in commercialized crap? First off, I’m not getting paid for this, so it’s not tied in. Second, this is such a neat coincidence because I actually have been working on another awards show dedicated to commercials and selling you all sorts of stuff. …It’s called The Game Awards. It’s gonna be great.
With that being said, I am proud to announce the second ad of the night. I want to thank one of the official sponsors for the Jackoffs. I am sure they are having a headache just thinking about our partnership. What do I mean? Just watch the ad. Take a look.
We are moving onto the design categories of the ceremony. What do Best Costume Design and Best Production Design have in common? Well, you cannot wear a building, so that’s one difference. Although as for commonalities, both crafts have their people who dedicate hours upon hours to making sure the talent look as pretty as the backgrounds that surround them. We will be starting this segment of the ceremony by honoring the designers who create labors of love that they wear on their sleeves, and talent wears all over themselves. Here are the nominees for Best Costume Design.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Dune (Bob Morgan, Jacqueline West)
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (Michael O’Connor)
The Last Duel (Arthur Max)
Last Night in Soho (Odile Dicks-Mireaux)
West Side Story (Paul Tazewell)
And the Jackoff goes to…
Odile Dicks Mireaux for “Last Night in Soho!”
How could I not pick this film? The film is literally about someone who wants to be a fashion designer! It’s like going to Chicago and missing out on deep dish pizza! What are you doing with yourself? I contend that “Last Night in Soho” may be the most aesthetically pleasing film of the year. Not only is it a breathtaking, time-travelling trip back to the 1960s, it accentuates the beauty and glamour that said era provides. When my grandfather sits in a rocking chair and tells me what happened back in his day, I would not think he would have lived in London, but I would love to imagine that he lived in an era as enchanting as this. All the clothing is Heaven-like from the dresses to the suits, everyone is dressed to nines and makes all the neon surroundings that much more attractive. Congratulations to Odiles Dicks Mireaux!
And speaking of surroundings, it is time to honor five production designers who made the best surroundings of the year. Here are the nominees for Best Production Design.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Belfast (Jim Clay)
Dune (Patrice Vermette)
The French Dispatch (Adam Stockhausen, Rena DeAngelo)
Last Night in Soho (Marcus Rowland)
West Side Story (Adam Stockhausen)
And the winner is…
Marcus Rowland for “Last Night in Soho!”
THIS. WAS. TOUGH. I mentioned when talking about “Last Night in Soho’s” costumes that the surroundings of the film are a pure highlight. I am not lying. Every frame of this film is infused with color that fits the characters in front of them, from particularly quirky walls to the neon that flies all around the city. The same goes for another nominee, “The French Dispatch,” but looking back, I felt more through the 1960s nostalgia of “Last Night in Soho” compared to the typical Wes Anderson quirkiness of “The French Dispatch,” not to put such an aspect down. Years ago, certain filmmakers fought to keep the art of black and white filmmaking alive, and while such a debate may have been worth having at the time, I would love to go back in time and introduce them to “Last Night in Soho,” which may have one of the finest color palettes in film history due to its similar, but slightly varying environments, and the variety of neon lights that come in scene after scene. When we go back to the 1960s, the movie theater felt attractive to the point where part of me wanted to watch “Thunderball.” Congratulations! “Last Night in Soho” takes home both design categories!
Our fourth Best Picture is a collaboration between acting legend Glenn Close, who you may know from the Oscars as the lady who wouldn’t stop shaking her butt, and a modern actress with the whole package, Mila Kunis. The film is based on a true story that has been slightly changed for the screen, but said changes did not stop the movie from delivering one of 2021’s most compelling and enthralling scripts. Close and Kunis deliver two great performances with Kunis arguably giving the best of her career. At the end of the day, this is a real drama with important issues that showcases the struggle of addiction. Nominated for 4 Jackoff Awards, this is “Four Good Days.”
Every year during the Jackoffs we take a moment to recognize two people who have earned respect in the industry through their craft. Why two? One is alive, and one is not. We will be presenting the first of two lifetime achievement awards tonight, the Roger Deakins award. The Stan Lee award, which is presented for someone no longer with us, will be awarded later in the show.
The Roger Deakins award is given to individuals who are still with us today who have brought a major punch to the movie world. Past recipients include Roger Deakins, a cinematographer known for crafting brilliant shots through films like The Shawshank Redemption and The Big Lebowski. Bill Murray, an actor whose comedy chops have made many movies worth audiences’ time through the years. And Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest directors of all time with a resume ranging from Jaws to Jurassic Park to Minority Report. Coincidentally, those three movies are going to apply to this year’s recipient. Because this year’s winner has created some of the most iconic sounds in film history. And I do not mean sound design, sound mixing, but something you hear almost every movie. Music. This year’s winner was born in Flushing, New York, where his music origins are clear. He ended up being the son of a percussionist for CBS Radio and the Raymond Scott Quintet. During his college years, he attended UCLA and Los Angeles CIty College, beginning his mark on his Angelino background and as one of Hollywood’s greatest composers. When he started, he was a piano player for productions like “Some Like it Hot,” and he even composed a few scores himself during that time during an episode for “Playhouse 90,” more episodes for “M Squad,” and even more episodes for “Bachelor Father.” His earliest film composition was for “Daddy O,” which currently stands at a 1.9/5 stars on Letterboxd, a 2.7/10 on IMDb, and a 4% on Rotten Tomatoes. Obviously, the film of a lifetime. But he went on to craft some of the most iconic movie scores of all time, many of which are continously blasted and hummed today. “Jaws,” “Superman,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Jurassic Park,” and “Harry Potter.” Chances are if you ever saw a movie, you may have heard this man’s music somewhere. Did I mention he comes from a family of music? Yes? Well, that legacy lives on as he has a few kids of his own, a couple of whom are rock musicians. He is no stranger to the awards scene, having won 5 Oscars, 3 Primetime Emmys, 7 BAFTAs, and 4 Golden Globes. He also holds the most Oscar nominations for a living person with a total of 52. He has collaborated with Boston Pops, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. His work with the latter allowed him to sell the most popular orchestral album of 2020. Perhaps his most famous creation is his scores for “Star Wars,” which have been celebrated as much as the movies which they come from. He composed every movie in the “Skywalker Saga,” including the most recent installment, “The Rise of Skywalker,” which some thought may be his last work in the “Star Wars” franchise. That is until it was announced he would be composing the music for “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” the upcoming show on Disney+. I am also proud to announce that I have very close seats at a concert event he is doing this year at the Hollywood Bowl this September. The world would never be the same without this man’s music. This year’s Roger Deakins Award goes to the maestro of our time, John Williams!
I could play a victory celebration, but unfortunately we do not have time to waste. But hopefully unlike Chewbacca, John Williams ends up getting his award. Congratulations to John Williams, one of the greatest composers of all time.
Now, for those who are new around here, I am currently a college student, and I often find myself doing assignments that I make strictly for the professor to grade and then almost never touch again. Although there is one assignment I did last year for a class called Comparing Cultures Through Film. The assignment was at the end of the term, I had to take what I have learned about films I watched in that class, which takes an aspect of culture that applies heavily in its time and place, and make a film about a culture that speaks to me. So I chose to tell a story that blends YouTube, physical media, and technology. I have the film for you all to watch, it’s just under 7 minutes, I hope you all enjoy it.
Our fifth Best Picture is one of the two animated films to receive such a nomination tonight. Originally slated for a wide release by Sony in 2020, but ultimately dropped onto Netflix and in select theaters in 2021, this film is one of the past year’s most exciting screenplays. Known for producing past animated hits like “The LEGO Movie” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, among others, deliver another hilarious adventure that support the notion that the animated genre is for everyone. With stars Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, and Michael Rianda as the Mitchells, they all come together to deliver one of the most charming and delightful robot apocalypse movies of all time. Nominated for 4 Jackoff Awards, this is “The Mitchells vs. the Machines.”
Let’s move onto the sound categories. Once again, we are sticking with tradition and starting with Sound Editing, because E comes before M, therefore editing comes before mixing. These are the five movies of the year that deliver the most pleasing sound concepts. Here are the nominees for Best Sound Editing.
BEST SOUND EDITING
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
The Suicide Squad
Spider-Man: No Way Home
And the award goes to…
This is the only nomination “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” had for the entire ceremony, and it wins because of its unique standpoint. I often compare “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which if I did a Jackoff Awards in 2016, I probably would have nominated for this exact category. Part of it is because of its use of sounds that are nostalgic to the point that the make themselves prominent to the viewer. Because let’s put it this way, anybody can make a ghost scream. Anybody can turn on a proton pack. But “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” delivers an impressive use of nostalgia through what I can only describe as minimalism. “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” despite being one of the year’s most highly anticipated blockbusters, executes each nostalgic sound beautifully by allowing the viewer to take everything in one scene at a time, not to mention one second at a time. I very much enjoyed the sounds in “Dune” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” but those films occasionally feel more chaotic, although I will admit, the former does have plenty of time to breathe. All the films deserve to be nominated, but only one can win, and this is the one. Congrats to “Ghostbusters: Afterlife!”
Now here are the nominees for Best Sound Mixing!
BEST SOUND MIXING
Godzilla vs. Kong
The Last Duel
No Time to Die
And the Jackoff goes to…
This is “Dune’s” THIRD win. Once again, this was a tough one! But I chose “Dune” because all the sound in the film helped bring this story to life. Many people have different interpretations and ideas of how the book would appear in real life, but I think it is safe to say that Denis Villeneuve and a bunch of other people who work on the movie have brought this fantastical universe to our reality in both a grand and compelling fashion. Between the sandworms, the explosions, and the sounds of the sand which is always in sight, “Dune” is a movie that is not afraid to make its presence known. “Dune” is one of the most boisterous films of the year between its booming score from Hans Zimmer and intense action sequences. But it does not imply that there are no moments of subtlety. The sounds for the one on one fight between Paul and Gurney is one of the simplest, yet enchantingly audible sequences of the year. “Dune’s” sound mix is a balancing act at its finest, and that is why a hearty congratulations must be given to the team who put this mix together.
Our sixth Best Picture is yet another animated movie that is being honored at today’s ceremony. From Disney, comes a film where a young girl goes on a quest through the realm of Kumandra, where dragons almost cease to exist. With a voiceover cast ranging from Kelly Marie Tran to Sandra Oh to Awkwafina, this film is as adventurously fun as it is ridiculously funny. Scored by James Newton Howard, whose talents have also been shown through the scores for other 21st century Disney pictures including “Treasure Planet” and “Maleficent,” the film promises a journey of friendship, trust, and discovery. Speaking of music, this is an unusual Disney feature where there are no written original songs, allowing us to focus more on the characters in each one of their moments. Nominated for 3 Jackoff Awards, this is “Raya and the Last Dragon.”
It is time to recognize the Best Screenplays of the year, and we will be starting with the original category. For the newcomers to this awards show, no, we will not be continuing with the sequel category. But before we get to the second of the screenplay categories, we shall honor five original ideas that brought joy and wonder to audiences this year. Here are the nominees for Best Original Screenplay.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Being the Ricardos (Aaron Sorkin)
Belfast (Kenneth Branagh)
The French Dispatch (Wes Anderson)
Last Night in Soho (Edgar Wright, Krysty Wilson-Cairns)
The Mitchells vs. the Machines (Mike Rianda, Jeff Rowe)
And the winner is…
Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe for “The Mitchells vs. the Machines!”
Yes, animated movies can win categories too! “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is one of the most charming movies I have watched in a long time. The film is from Sony Pictures Animation, a studio I do not often think about, but they have been on a roll the past couple years between this and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Animations often excel because they try to execute ideas that would not often work in a live-action environment. Maybe something would be too crazy, or hyperactive. “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” embraces that idea and dials it up to an 11 with some of the most intense and insane attempts at humor, yours truly has ever seen. This is the vibe of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” if someone decided to put it in animated form and give it a style that is almost reminiscent of “The LEGO Movie.” Everything from the inserted bubble texts to the cutaway with the monkey to the massive, outrageous action sequences, some of which I cannot even believe they got away with in a film that was probably meant for families, was top notch. It’s like the crew decided on a rule to be as crazy as possible and went with it. And for that, “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is a gem. Congratulations!
And when I say we are not moving onto the sequel category, I mean it. Even though we are moving onto a category which contains ideas that are inspired by others, not one of them is a sequel. However it is time to honor a remake that takes inspiration from a sci-fi novel, an idea based off of a news story, a historical event based on a 2004 book by Eric Jager, the true life story of the man who created “Rent,” and a remake based on a popular musical inspired by “Romeo & Juliet,” so many ideas, so many recreations, so much glory. Here are the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Dune (Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth)
Four Good Days (Rodrigo Garcia, Eli Saslow)
The Last Duel (Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon)
Tick, Tick…BOOM! (Steven Levenson)
West Side Story (Tony Kushner)
And the Jackoff goes to…
Steven Levenson for “Tick, Tick…BOOM!”
Last year’s Jackoffs had an interesting result for the Best Original Screenplay category, and that is almost imitated this year. I say almost, because this involves something that happened with this Adapted Screenplay category. The thing, of the five nominees, the one to win is the only one that was not nominated for Best Picture. “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” was a movie that came out of nowhere for me. I did not watch the film on Netflix, I ended up watching it in the theater. But I feel like doing so allowed me to sink myself in to some of the points this movie was trying to make through its script. “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” feels like the combination of the everyday dreams and nightmares of being a struggling writer. The film has marvelously realized numbers, imaginative sequences, and as an aspiring writer, I felt the words uttered on the screen, especially in one scene towards the end of the film. It took me back to a screenwriting class where I learned a lesson that I had to keep in mind every single day. It is something that as a writer that I understand why I need to hear it, but it is also something that makes me wonder if it limits my creativity. The idea that I should write what I know. I consider writing an escape. I want it to be a travel away from what I know. If you enjoy writing or are an artist of any kind, “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” is for you. Congratulations to Steven Levenson!
Our seventh Best Picture is a tale of perspective and truth coming together. This story is told in three ways, with each one having slight differences compared to the last. Actors like Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Jodie Comer grace the screen through this gritty epic where questions and bias arise. Directed by Ridley Scott, this film encapsulates what happens when the fight for the truth becomes the fight for everyone’s lives. Trust, companionships, and emotions are all broken in this two and a half hour story that pits friend against friend, allowing for a match that could change the course of history. Nominated for 6 Jackoff Awards, this is “The Last Duel.”
Editing is one of the most essential aspects of any production. Including this one. I edited the trailers. I edited the intro. I edited the sketches together. Just about any production you can think of comes together because of an edit. Whether it was done on Adobe Premiere, Avid, Final Cut, or even a splicing machine, editing lines everything up together and allows a previously existing vision to finalize itself into its ultimate form. These five movies have the greatest edits of the year. Here are the nominees for Best Film Editing.
BEST FILM EDITING
Being the Ricardos (Alan Baumgarten)
The French Dispatch (Andrew Weisblum)
The Last Duel (Harry Gregson-Williams)
The Suicide Squad (Fred Raskin, Christian Wagner)
West Side Story (Michael Khan, Sarah Broshar)
And the Jackoff goes to…
Harry Gregson-Williams for “The Last Duel!”
A few of these films are nominated because of their editing quirks. On the other hand, “The Last Duel” is nominated for how it handles seemingly normal editing techniques. “The Last Duel” has some of the most intense sequences ever created for modern cinema. I do not know what Ridley Scott’s goal was with this film, or Harry Gregson-Williams’s for that matter, but the two have joined forces to make a film that part of me almost never wants to watch again because of how GREAT it is. It did its job from a storytelling perspective of making you care for the characters at hand. The final battle between the two leads was gripping and emotional. The camera lingers on each character long enough to properly highlight their stakes within the situation. If the sound, shots, or interlinks were messed with a single bit, it would be harder to consider this film to be as epic as it is.
“The Last Duel” also has a nomination for Best Cinematography. And joining it happen to be four other truly deserving nominees who have their fair share of beautiful wides, breathtaking closeups, and marvelous shadows. The job of the cinematographer is to deliver the finest and divinest images for the biggest and smallest screens. Here are the nominees for Best Cinematography.
Dune (Greig Fraser)
The Last Duel (Dariusz Wolski)
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Bill Pope)
Tick…Tick…BOOM! (Alice Brooks)
West Side Story (Janusz Kamiński)
And this year’s Best Cinematography award goes to…
Dariusz Wolski for “The Last Duel!”
Dariusz Wolski has had an impressive resume throughout his career. Doing everything from blockbusters like the first four installments of “Pirates of the Caribbean” to more adult fare like “News of the World.” With the latter and this very film included, this is Dariusz Wolski’s first win and second nomination. Wolski has a trademark of delivering shots that cover the entire scope of an area. His wides deliver some of the finest pieces of camerawork of the year. With an essence of detail and inclusion, each shot looks as inviting as the next. And there is no wonder why he and Ridley Scott have collaborated from one project to the next between “Prometheus,” “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” and “The Martian.” The two are currently working on a Napoleon Bonaparte project alongside a sequel to “Gladiator,” giving audiences more to look forward to. Congratulations!
Our eighth Best Picture is one of the two Marvel Studios films that has been nominated today. Of the two, this one released first, specifically in September when theatrical exclusives were on the rise again. Having banked a $70 million opening weekend, this film is a financial success by the standards of the pandemic era. Much like “Black Panther,” one of this film’s strengths is its well-executed diversity while also writing a compelling story. Much of the film centers around two characters played excellently by Simu Liu and Awkwafina, the latter of whom also appears in another Best Picture nom, “Raya in the Last Dragon.” With stunning visuals, stunts, cinematography, and Marvel’s trademark blend of comedic and serious nature, this is yet another action-packed thrill that just about anyone can enjoy. Nominated for 3 Jackoff Awards, this is “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
They say not every film is perfect. Whoever said that is right, not every movie has the word “perfect” in the title. Speaking of films not being perfect, there have been lots of films over the years that have been great, but if they tweaked one or two little things, they could make for the ultimate Friday night on the couch or at the theater. Can you imagine how much better “Jaws” would be if the shark shot lasers? Can you imagine how much better “Clerks” would be if the convenience store were guarded by wrestling robots? Can you imagine how much better “Cats” would be if… They… DIDN’T make it? When it comes to 2021’s films, I think a lot of them are absolutely fantastic, including our Best Picture nominations. But there’s always room for improvement. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for the fourth edition of Film Improvements!
We are down to the final five and it is time for Best Original Song. Last year we honored four films that made brilliant, compelling originals for all to enjoy. Why four? Because one movie had two songs. This year, we honor five. While times and honorees change, the ideas are still the same. These five movies, artists, and songs, moved audiences everywhere this year. Whether it was animated or live-action, the songs were pitched perfectly and written elegantly. I would also like to note that a couple nominees’ names have been added since announcing them two weeks ago. Here are the nominees for Best Original Song.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
A Million Miles Away – Mamoru Hosoda, Kaho Nakamura (WRITER), Taisei Iwasaki (WRITER/COMPOSER), Kaho Nakamura, and Kylie McNeill (PERFORMED BY) (Belle)
Down to Joy – Van Morrison (Belfast)
Dos Oruguitas – Lin Manuel Miranda (WRITER/MUSIC), Sebastián Yatra (PERFORMED BY) (Encanto)
On My Way – Alex Lahey (The Mitchells vs. the Machines)
No Time to Die – Billie Eilish (No Time to Die)
And the Jackoff goes to…
Mamoru Hosoda, Kaho Nakamura, Taisei Iwasaki, and Kylie McNeill for A Million Miles Away from “Belle!”
This is the second year in a row where an animated film is the winner for Best Original Song, following in the footsteps of Rocket to the Moon from “Over the Moon!” “Belle” is a film that despite this Best Original Song nomination, is not exactly the most original concept as it was inspired by “Beauty and the Beast.” After all, Belle is a character that is prominent in both of these tales. But one of the best moments of the entire film comes toward the end where one character makes an unexpected choice, and then belts out this song. I will not say anything more because doing so will spoil the movie, but this song helped give “Belle” the proper finale it needed and deserved. I like all these songs. No Time to Die is as epic as can be and I went to a “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” taping a couple weeks ago where Sebastián Yatra played Dos Oruguitas for all of us, which was amazing. That was also a contender because of the emotion such a song can provide, even to someone who doesn’t speak Spanish. But A Million Miles Away wins because it handles its subject matter brilliantly while also being a great song on its own. It is wondrous, emotionally charging, and has wide range of instruments to accompany it by the end. Below I have provided two links to the song. The FIRST is the Japanese version. The movie comes from Japan, so therefore some would call this the proper version. This one is performed by Kaho Nakamura. But the SECOND version, for some of my audience who may prefer something different, is in English. That one is sung by Kylie McNeill. Feel free to listen to one song, both, you choose. These are eight minutes each, so listen wisely! Here now is the song A Million Miles Away from “Belle!”
We are down to the final four! It is anybody’s game! “Dune” could possibly win one or two more Jackoffs! There are a couple films that have not won an award all night that could swoop in and take the cake like “Four Good Days” and “Belfast,” maybe Meryl Streep could come in and steal every award! We still have FOUR categories! We’re almost at the end.
One of the most important positions, in fact, what is arguably THE most important position for all of filmmaking, is the director. Movies like “Dune,” “Tick…Tick…BOOM!,” and “West Side Story” would not have been adapted properly had it not been for the touch and passion their auteurs, Denis Villeneuve, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Steven Spielberg provide. While originals like “The French Dispatch” and “Last Night in Soho” would not be here if it were not for the unique, and sometimes off the wall thinking of the minds of Wes Anderson and Edgar Wright. All five directors deserve the honor, but one will leave the best of them all. Here are the nominees for Best Director.
Denis Villeneuve (Dune)
Wes Anderson (The French Dispatch)
Edgar Wright (Last Night in Soho)
Lin-Manuel Miranda (Tick…Tick…BOOM!)
Steven Spielberg (West Side Story)
And the Jackoff goes to…
Steven Spielberg for “West Side Story!”
Last year, he won the Roger Deakins Award! This year, he claims another victory! Spielberg is Best Director. I’m gonna tell you the truth. If you asked me what my thoughts were about Steven Spielberg doing a “West Side Story” adaptation a year ago, I would not have cared. I love Spielberg, but “West Side Story” was never something I watched, never something I listened to, so I did not know what to expect. But the more I watched the teaser trailer, I had an idea that Spielberg may have known what he was doing. While I never ended up watching the 1961 film prior to this ceremony, I have seen the 2021 film twice in the theater. There was a constant between one show to the next. Enormous numbers, epic music, tremendous performances all around, and swooping shots allowing for some of the finest camerawork all year. “West Side Story” was a huge part of Spielberg’s growing up, and now that he has aged to a certain point, he was able to take his child-like wonder and combine it with his perked up experience. Some directors say they want to be the next Spielberg. Many friends of aspiring filmmakers hope said aspiring filmmaker becomes the next Spielberg. Here is hoping that this movie will inspire future filmmakers the same way “Jaws” did for one generation and “Jurassic Park” did for another. Congrats to Steven Spielberg!
This next Best Picture is the latest film from Edgar Wright, known for his fast-paced and exciting previous efforts like “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and “Baby Driver.” The film centers around a young girl, played marvelously by Thomasin McKenzie, who moves into an apartment in London with the hopes of taking her dreams of becoming a fashion designer to the next level. And her life is much like a dream as she occasionally ends up in the 1960s, where we meet a dazzling, promising singer, portrayed elegantly by Anya Taylor-Joy, who has a complicated rise to being a star. The film is as attractive through its neon infusion as it is suspenseful through its stellar script. Nominated for 5 Jackoff Awards, this is “Last Night in Soho.”
Now we just presented Best Director, and one of the most important jobs of a director is making sure their actors are competent and comfortable enough to do their job. Because the job of an actor is to convey to the audience that they are believing the lie that is in front of them. Even if it is truth within an adaptation or social commentary. Sometimes actors, like Nicole Kidman for example, play actors. But just because they play themselves, does not mean they forget to do so with talent. It does not mean they forget that the audience is watching them and waiting for that one moment that will take them out of their seats and into the scene, feeling totally convinced and in agreement with the lie that’s in front of them. Here are the nominees for Best Actress.
Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos)
Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)
Mila Kunis (Four Good Days)
Alana Haim (Licorice Pizza)
Rachel Zegler (West Side Story)
And the award goes to…
Jessica Chastain for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye!”
Much like “West Side Story,” “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is a movie I never ended up reviewing on Scene Before, but had I been given the chance to do so, I would have been RAVING about Jessica Chastain. For a long while, Rachel Zegler was the frontrunner for me. She packs such enormous talent for a body as tiny as hers. Jessica Chastain came swinging and swooping in at the last minute, delivering an inconceivably on point performance for her character of Tammy Faye. I never grew up with Tammy Faye, nor was she ever a part of my life. But between her almost cartoon-like expressions, accentuating the heavily detailed makeup on her face, all the way to her trademarked voice, Chastain put me in a trance that was difficult to exit. Chastain has had quite the resume thus far with “Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Martian,” and my all time favorite movie, “Interstellar.” “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” as a movie, is no “Interstellar,” but Chastain’s performance here may be her greatest yet. Here is a clip of Jessica Chastain in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”
It is time for Best Actor, where we honor the male liars! This year, we will be honoring five men big and small, young and old, thin and thick, black and white, these are not lies. But the five men who have been nominated have delivered some of the most delicious and convincing lies of the past year. Here are the nominees for Best Actor.
Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos)
Jude Hill (Belfast)
Will Smith (King Richard)
Cooper Hoffman (Licorice Pizza)
Andrew Garfield (Tick…Tick…BOOM!)
And the Jackoff goes to…
Andrew Garfield for “Tick…Tick…BOOM!”
WHAT A YEAR for Andrew Garfield! You know how good it has been for Andrew Garfield? Well, aside from being in a film with the guy who made “Hamilton,” let me remind you, Jessica Chastain just won Best Actress. Her co-star in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” was Andrew Garfield, who also did a great job in that film! I have never known about the story behind Jonathan Larson, I have never watched or listened to “Rent,” I knew nothing about this movie’s subject matter. And in a way, I don’t see myself getting myself too much further down the rabbit hole, but Andrew Garfield not only brings Jonathan Larson to life, but I saw a little bit of myself in him. An aspiring artist who hopes to simply get by from day to day, working on his lifetime masterpiece that nobody actually might see, only to occasionally get close to a semblance of success without actually achieving it. I was floored by this story and as an artist, I can see myself going through some of the things this character goes through, and Garfield embodied that from start to finish. Garfield also sang the numbers like a champ, giving him some extra points if you ask me! Here is a clip of Andrew Garfield in “Tick…Tick…BOOM!.”
It is time for the second of the two Lifetime Achievement Awards, the Stan Lee award. This award is given to someone who is no longer with us as of the past year, but has earned a great deal of success while revolutionizing the industry. Past recipients have been Stan Lee, the cameo master and Marvel creator whose characters are used in television and film. Syd Mead, whose work as a visual futurist helped bring us films like “Blade Runner” and “Tron,” and Ennio Morricone, a legendary composer known for his scores in westerns, some of which have been used in a variety of media to this day. Now, a Golden Girl will join the ranks. The winner of this year’s Stan Lee award is an actor whose movie credits include Lake Placid, Bringing Down the House, and The Proposal. While she definitely appeared in a film from time to time, her forte was television. Every now and then, you would find her on game shows from “Match Game” to “Tattletales,” and even “Password,” which had been hosted by one of her husbands, Allen Ludden. She has become a celebrity game show icon to the point where she is perhaps more well known in the genre compared to some television hosts. Her most famous creation for television is “The Golden Girls,” which aired on NBC from 1985 to 1992, with a total of 7 seasons and 180 half-hour episodes. The show consistently reairs its episodes on television and has become known for its chemistry between its cast and its iconic theme song, “Thank You For Being a Friend.” At age 95, she joined the Academy, making her the oldest new member at the time. Some of her later roles were in big budget animations like “The Lorax” and “Toy Story 4.” In the latter of the two, she played a character kind of named after herself, Bitey White, which she would go on to portray once more in the Disney+ original “Forky Asks a Question.” This would become this legend’s final acting credit, and just one of the 126 she has listed on IMDb. When she was not busy blazing a trail on her own variety show, or earning a Guinness World Record, or doing one of the episodes for TVLand’s “Hot in Cleveland,” she was an activist and animal lover. She has dedicated as much of her life to helping animals as much as she spent living out her acting career. When she died at age 99, people did point out that she got to live a good life, but there were also complaints from some that she did not get to make it to 100. When you are 99 years old and people still think you died too soon, you have made a massive impact on those who look up to you. I am proud to honor one of the most revolutionary actors and personalities of all time, one who is so beloved that Alex Trebek once selected her to replace him when he leaves “Jeopardy!.” This year’s Stan Lee Award goes to Betty White.
Some say that Betty White’s death made 2021 end with a whimper. I prefer to think that she brought gold to the Heavens and the great beyond. And maybe, a little extra gold would not hurt. Congrats to Betty White, may she rest in peace and thank you for being a friend.
Our final Best Picture nominee is proof that not all remakes are terrible. Based on a play of the same name, which takes some inspiration from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet,” this film is about the rivalry of two dancing street gangs and the perils of falling in love with someone from the other side. The film has a remarkable cast, led by Rachel Zegler as Maria, who hopes to make herself comfortable in New York City, an enormous, unfamiliar environment as far as she is concerned. Directed by last year’s Roger Deakins Award winner, Steven Spielberg, he continues to prove that he is arguably the greatest director to ever set foot in the film industry. Enchanting musical sequences with booming music and intricate choreography deliver a treat for both the eyes and ears, but it does not stop the film from having incredibly compelling moments from character to character in every other scene. Nominated for a record-breaking 11 Jackoff Awards, this is “West Side Story.”
We have arrived at the final category, Best Picture. First off, I want to give a big congratulations to all of the nominees tonight. Second, I want to remind everyone of how this works. Unlike the other eighteen categories presented during the ceremony, Best Picture is the only one where I do not choose a winner. That is decided by the people at home, the viewers. I have tallied the votes one by one, and I can declare that one of these movies is going home with the biggest honor of the night. Past honors have gone “Avengers: Infinity War,” “1917,” and “Tenet.” So, will another MCU film take home the crown? Will DC steal Marvel’s spotlight this year? Will “Dune” or “West Side Story” acquire yet another win? Will an animated movie claim victory? It’s hard to say… To me… All these movies are winners. I cannot choose one.
I mean that literally and figuratively. I gave the voting power to the public.
Here are the nominees for Best Picture!
Dune (Mary Parent, Denis Villeneuve, Cale Boyter, Jon Caracciolo Jr.)
Four Good Days (Rodrigo Garcia, Jacob Avnet, Jon Avnet, Marina Grasic, Jai Khanna)
The Last Duel (Ridley Scott, Kevin J. Walsh, Jennifer Fox, Nicole Holofcener, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck)
Last Night in Soho (Nira Park, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Edgar Wright)
The Mitchells vs. the Machines (Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Kurt Albrecht)
Raya and the Last Dragon (Osnet Shurer, Peter Del Vecho)
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Kevin Feige, Jonathan Schwartz)
Spider-Man: No Way Home (Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal)
The Suicide Squad (Charles Roven, Peter Safran)
West Side Story (Steven Spielberg, Kristie Macosko Krieger)
And the Best Picture of 2021 is…
This is the tenth nomination and fourth win for “Dune.” The film also won Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score, and Best Sound Mixing. “Dune” was also nominated for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Director. This is the second Best Picture win for a Warner Brothers film.
To make it to the top, one must not fear! Warner Brothers takes home another Best Picture win, and “Dune” is officially the most respected movie of 2021! In a year where we have three comic book movies nominated for Best Picture, all of them are beaten by the latest adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic! Like many movies of the past couple years, including last year’s Best Picture winner, “Tenet,” “Dune” was on its way to being one of the biggest movies of its time, only to face a significant hurdle. COVID-19. The film was set to release in December 2020, only to be pushed back almost an entire year where it would end up releasing both in theaters and on HBO Max at the same time depending on your market. Again, I saw “Dune” twice in theaters! And both theatrical experiences added up to be some of the most exciting of the year. Denis Villeneuve is one of my favorite filmmakers working today. In addition to “Dune,” he directed my #2 film of the 2010s, “Blade Runner 2049,” a movie that may honestly be better than its 1982 predecessor. While “Dune” has been brought to the screen before, it should not come as a surprise that Denis Villeneuve brought an epic interpretation of Herbert’s novel to the forefront given his knack for great sci-fi. The book was a part of his growing up, much like composer Hans Zimmer’s, who also won an award for Best Original Score during this exact ceremony. Some remember that “Dune” was once brought to the screen by director David Lynch. Despite Villeneuve’s respect for Lynch, he tried to refrain from using his material as inspiration, and Hans Zimmer did not even watch Lynch’s film to begin with. This provided for one of the year’s most unique film experiences, even though I could compare it to franchises like “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.” Although, in actuality, the book came out before the first “Star Wars” movie, so it’s like we have a patterned family tree on our hands. And it is one of greatness. Much like those two franchises, “Dune” is no stranger when it comes to showing off its technical aspects. The sound is obnoxiously beautiful and the effects are a special kind of special. You truly have not watched a movie until you witness a full-scale sandworm. The film has a cast stacked to the brim between Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Momoa, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Dave Bautista, and Stellan Skarsgard as one of the creepiest looking and sounding villains I have heard in my life. I. WANT. MORE. I put “Dune” amongst the ten best pictures of the year for a couple reasons. Like its nine competitors, “Dune” was a great movie on its own. Some claim that the movie feels unfinished. I prefer to think that the movie finishes the story it sets out to tell. It has a main character who goes through an arc and changes through the runtime, but it promises a new story as a reward for those who sat through this already exciting one. Promises have been made, but not by forgetting to deliver something great with what we already have. “Dune Part Two” releases in 2023 and hopefully this sequel can follow in the footsteps of its predecessor. Congratulations to Warner Brothers! Congratulations to Mary Parent, Denis Villeneuve, Cale Boyter, and Jon Caracciolo Jr! Congratulations to “Dune,” you have won Best Picture!
That’s all the winners! That’s all the categories! Categories like Editing, Makeup & Hairstyling, and even more categories that some award shows may or may not decide to present! Congratulations to all of the movies that have released in 2021, regardless of whether or not they were honored at this ceremony! I want to give a special shoutout to all our winners and nominees! Thank you for making this edition of the Jackoffs a great one! Shoutout to everyone who voted for Best Picture, you made your choice possible by clicking a button! If only life were always that easy!
That’s our show! For those who want to stick around on Scene Before I have reviews coming for “The Batman” and “Turning Red!” I will hopefully see you all for a fifth ceremony in 2023, where I am thinking of changing the name. Apologies to winners of the Twitter poll in 2018. Until then, follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, check out the Facebook page, and Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Happy start to the new year as we get excited for another slate of movies and cinematic history! Speaking of cinematic history, it’s time to reflect on some of said history as I count down the top 10 BEST movies of 2021. If you are new to Scene Before or have not read my countdowns in the past, the rules go a little something like this. First off, this is a subjective list. This is a list of the movies that I think are the best. This is not a test of how much I know about movies, nor should it be a test of how much you and I agree on movies. As the old saying goes, different strokes for different folks. Also, I should note that I have not seen every single movie that has come out in 2021. I still have not seen “Licorice Pizza,” I still have not seen “Don’t Look Up,” I still have not seen “The Matrix Resurrections.” I have not had the time or motivation to see every movie that has come out this year, it’s just the way it is. So if you’re wondering why there’s a movie that is not on this list, I either didn’t enjoy it as much as the ten listed here, or I didn’t see it. One or the other. OR, it was not released in theaters. For the sake of not clogging this list, I’m only listing films that came out this year theatrically, so apologies in advance to “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” as good as that movie is. Before we dive into my main ten, I want to list three honorable mentions.
Honorable Mention: Tick, Tick…BOOM!
Kicking off the honorable mentions list is “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” stars Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson, who would eventually go on to create the musical “Rent.” Speaking of musicals, this is a beautifully done couple hours of Andrew Garfield singing and dancing his way through life as a struggling artist that sort of reminded me of my own life as an aspiring artist myself.
Honorable Mention: Eternals
Up next for honorable mentions is “Eternals.” “Eternals” is the twenty-sixth MCU movie and Chloe Zhao’s first film released after the Oscar-winning “Nomadland.” This film introduces a bunch of new characters to the universe and gives them all their own moment to shine through a beautiful, visually stunning, slightly romantic tale that makes many of the other Marvel Cinematic Universe installments feel small.
Honorable Mention: West Side Story
And finally for honorable mentions, we have “West Side Story.” I saw this film at an IMAX Fan Event and was blown away. Rachel Zegler shines as the lead role of Maria, and the same can be said for a lot of the other actors in their respective roles, especially Ariana DeBose as Anita. With stellar cinematography, an enchanting retelling of a classic tale, and dazzling musical sequences, “West Side Story” is my favorite musical of the year. Steven Spielberg has another top-notch project to put on his endless resume.
With that being said, these are my top 10 BEST movies of 2021!
#10. Free Guy
Starting off this list is “Free Guy!” I was looking forward to this movie for a long time. The film was originally set to come out as early as summer of 2020, but of course, it got pushed back multiple times due to COVID-19. Honestly, it was worth the wait. I think this is a perfect film for today’s gaming culture because it successfully deals with topics and issues that gamers have to push themselves through today between microtransactions and not being in on the latest trends. But even with that in mind, it is just a damn good movie. Directed by Shawn Levy of “Night at the Museum” fame, this film centers around a non-playable character who wants to become a hero in a video game after realizing how mundane his life is. That’s a cool concept, which eventually becomes well executed. Ryan Reynolds stars in this film and at times you can say that you can pick on some of his trademarks as an actor, but for a film like this, it works. Plus the climax is epic and hilarious in every way. There are only a couple movies I can think of this year where I’ve laughed harder. If you like Taika Waititi already, I promise you, you will want his autograph with authentication on it by the end of this film. The dude plays this executive and he’s got the personality of a DJ who spends his spare time in a gang or something! I don’t know if his mannerisms were his ideas or the director’s, but he brought this character to life! I think “Free Guy” is one of this year’s most accessible, fun, and entertaining flicks. Check it out!
#9. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
This year we returned to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and while “Black Widow” was entertaining, it is not good enough to be on this list. So instead, we’re gonna talk about the badass film that came out after it, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings!” This has everything an MCU origin story needs and more. New likable characters, intense non-stop action, and glorious CGI from start to finish. I will admit, the third act is a bit of diversion from the first two, which is why this is a bit lower on the list, but I still had a ton of fun with it. I saw it twice in IMAX and I had fun both times. Also, can we just admit that Wong may be arguably the MCU’s best supporting character at this point? People often joke about the MCU and how it often relies on humor to keep things going. This film is no exception when it comes to humor, and by that, I mean, it is sometimes ridiculously funny. It’s got some of the most laugh out loud lines I’ve heard in the saga. There are quite a few martial arts sequences that it feels weird to say, twenty-something movies in, had my jaw drop to the floor in regard to how marvelous they were executed. They were quickly paced, fun, and had me on the edge of my seat. What really makes the movie though is the chemistry between the characters. There’s a lot of family drama within Shaun and the people who raised him, and I felt all of that. Also, I could literally watch a sitcom with the two main characters, Shaun and Katy. The two are delightful together and brilliantly cast. Simu Liu and Awkwafina have brought one of my favorite relationships into the MCU today. I don’t often think my mother would want to watch a comic book movie in her spare time, it’s never been her genre, but I would recommend this film even to her. I think it’s just an easy film to digest. If you’re not into comic books or superheroes, I think you’d still like this movie, and that is one of the best compliments I can give a movie of this kind.
#8. The Last Duel
Coming in at #8 is “The Last Duel!” Ridley Scott directed two movies that came out in 2021, the other being “House of Gucci.” Of those two, I only saw this one, and it was great! This film is told in a rather unconventional order, but I think it was a great way to go about telling this story. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon deliver their first script to the big screen together since “Good Will Hunting” and brings in a compelling cast along with them. Adam Driver gives one of the best performances I have seen from him. Jodie Comer, who was already delightful in “Free Guy” is a different kind of great in “The Last Duel.” This film ultimately reveals what happens when you have one story, and three different people with altering perspectives. I left this film feeling satisfied because of how it ended, but to get to that ending, I had to go through one of the all-time most uncomfortable moments I’ve endured as a moviegoer, but it made the ending incredibly worthwhile and all the more fulfilling.
At #7, we have “Dune!” I tried reading the book for “Dune” and gave up quickly. It’s not that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t have time for it, but it did not stop me from absolutely looking forward to the “Dune” movie. It was my most anticipated film of the year and it did not disappoint. This is sci-fi at its finest. Denis Villeneuve continues to make a case as to why he’s one of the best directors working today. “Dune” has been out since October, so I don’t know if it is still in cinemas near you, but if it is, or if it ever comes back, PLEASE make an effort to go see it in a theater. Maybe Oscar season will give it some help. “Dune” was by far one of the best experiences I’ve had watching a movie on the big screen in some time. I went to the press screening for it the day before it opened, I had one of those end seats right next to the wall. It’s one of those situations where there’s two seats next to the stairs, then on the other side is the main part of the row. At times I could literally feel the wall next to me shaking like there’s no tomorrow. “Dune” is a film that introduces its fair share of lore and characters, and rarely is it ever uninteresting. People argue that the ending of this film is a bit abrupt, and you could make that argument, I could see why you would say that. But this film ends at a proper place. It’s Paul Atreides starting at one point, fulfilling an arch, and therefore finishing at another. To me, it didn’t feel abrupt, it felt like the end of one story and the start of another. As for that other story, I cannot wait for it. 2023 is gonna be epic when “Dune: Part Two” hits the big screen.
#6. Four Good Days
Coming in at the next spot is “Four Good Days,” which is arguably Mila Kunis’s best work as a performer. Well, acting-wise I should say. “Family Guy” as a concept has heavily influenced me over the years, but that’s more on the written portion than anything else. But when it comes to “Four Good Days,” this is one of those movies that came out of nowhere for me. I honestly don’t know if I wouldn’t have seen this if it weren’t for seeing a clip of it on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” so good on them for advertising it properly. Kudos to the marketing crew. As for the actual movie, it is one of those movies that is hard to believe that it is somehow in actuality, a true story. It’s real. A lot of things were changed in the film, but the story is nevertheless real. Mila Kunis and Glenn Close have dynamite chemistry and may be one of the best on-screen pairs I have seen in a long time. If you have a chance, check this movie out. One of the most moving experiences I’ve felt in a while.
#5. Raya and the Last Dragon
Up next, is one of this year’s surprises and overall best animations, Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon!” If you know the history of this movie and all the development changes that happened after all the press it got at D23, you could look at it with a bit of skepticism, but it turns out that the changes did not matter much as the movie kicks ass from start to finish! All the characters from Raya to Sisu to Boun are charming and inviting. This movie is so hypnotizing and fun that it is easy to forget that the villain is literally a bunch of blobs. How imaginative! Either way, if you want a great family movie, I give this the highest of recommendations. Also, shoutout to James Newton Howard, your score is incredible. I listened to the prologue several times this year. Weirdly enough, and I’m not complaining about this because it works, this is one of the rare Disney animated movies where you don’t see anyone singing. If you ask me, this is what the live-action “Mulan” should have been. Take notes! Also, between Netflix’s “Over the Moon,” which more people should watch at least one time and “Raya and the Last Dragon,” animation revolving around Asian culture has been killing it lately!
#4. Spider-Man: No Way Home
For many, this was the most anticipated film of the year. For me, it was kind of that at first, then the more I thought about it, the more nervous I became. Then I saw the movie only to have said nerves washed away. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” This is the second top 10 in Scene Before history, not counting honorable mentions or MCU films where he is not the focal point, where a movie featuring Spider-Man makes it in. This character is showing no signs of slowing down. Every goal that this movie had written down, it checked off. It entertained the audience. It brought nostalgic feels while also trying to freshen up the characters of today. For me, this was an event film that felt bigger than “Avengers: Endgame,” because I went to see this film twice in two days and both times my theater LOST their minds over everything that was on screen. And I gotta give credit to Jon Watts and the writers of this film. Even though this film relies heavily on aspects of the past, it’s not like the live-actionish version of “The Lion King” where it doesn’t try anything new. There are some real character moments in this film that I personally was not ready for. I knew given how this was the third film of a trilogy, I would be getting something rather emotional, but even with that, seeing this all play out made me motionless a couple times. Tom Holland is great as Spider-Man and gives his best portrayal of the character yet. Alfred Molina as Doc Ock is back and just as impressive as his 2004 interpretation. And I would argue Willem Dafoe is even better in this film than he was in 2002’s “Spider-Man.” Do I think we’re getting too many superhero movies? If they continue to make them as good as this, then absolutely not. If we kept getting more movies like “No Way Home” as opposed to “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” then bring em on!
#3. Last Night in Soho
We are nearing the end of this countdown and I cannot go on without mentioning Edgar Wright’s latest master class work, “Last Night in Soho.” This film reminded me of why I love movies. I went to see this at a 9:30 p.m. opening Thursday night screening at a historic venue near Boston in 35mm. I went for the nostalgic gimmick and intent to support local cinema, by the way, if you are a cinephile and in the Boston area, PLEASE make a trip to the Coolidge, but I ended up getting something much more. “Last Night in Soho” works not only because of Edgar Wright’s neon-infused, trippy, downright disturbing vision, but because of the compelling performances of its two lead actresses, Thomasin Mackenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy, the latter of whom I’ve seen in other works, but I will say this is probably the best she’s done to this day in regards to cinema. I will admit, I am a sucker for neon. It’s my favorite chemical element. Gosh, that’s how much of a nerd I am. I literally have a favorite element on the periodic table. Therefore, I was a tad predisposed to loving the atmosphere of the film as it waltzed back and forth from the 1960s London to present London. Each and every frame had me transfixed on the screen like I was five years old and looking at action figures. I had an idea on how they did some scenes as I looked at the shots, but part of me wanted to know as soon as I left the film how they put certain scenes together. I mean, even if you take out the fantasy and horror element, at its core, this movie is about dreams. Like “La La Land,” where the whole idea of the film is about people who want to pursue what they love, and the consequences or dangers they may face because of it. The two films are completely different in terms of setting, genre, subject matter, and I’d say the movie we’re focusing on is more dramatic as opposed to comedic, but they have similar themes and the main characters have alike motivations. “Last Night in Soho” is perfect for any movie night with the lights dimmed and the popcorn right in the palm of your hand.
#2. The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my favorite animated movie of the year, and I would also claim that this is the hardest I’ve laughed at an animation since “The LEGO Movie,” it’s another project from producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, “The Mitchells vs. the Machines!” I waited months to watch this film, but after I watched it, I don’t think I’ve felt as satisfied after watching an animation since last year’s “Over the Moon.” Yep, I’m mentioning that movie again, it’s that good. This is a brilliant story about a dysfunctional family whose lives collide between tools and technology. The dad is obviously tech-challenged, but everyone else, including our lead character Katie, has a hang on things. The film does what a lot of other films with a sci-fi angle have done over the years like “The Terminator” and “2001,” which basically develops the story to the point where the robots try to destroy humanity and take over. Not a new concept, but the way it is handled here is INCREDIBLY fresh and the evil A.I. antagonist is undeniably brutal and ridiculously savage. It’s like if GLaDOS from “Portal” were transferred into a cell phone and had the ability to magically disintegrate the remains of Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and OK, Google! I love this movie. I enjoy animations, and I hate how people think animations are “only for kids,” because this one can suggest that THEY ARE NOT. This is probably the most fun I’ve had watching an animation in some time. There are actually some really dark images I’m almost shocked this movie got away with. And of all the movies I have seen this year, “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” may have the greatest replay value because they pack the screen with so much information that I want to look at all of it in clear detail. Between that, in addition to the the unique animation style, a concept that Lord and Miller are not a stranger to courtesy of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and the bone-breaking, throat-destroying hilarious writing, “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is probably going to warrant repeat viewings. All movies are made to make money, but I think “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” comes off as this year’s greatest animated passion project!
#1. The Suicide Squad
Alright, here we go. We have made it to #1 and I assure you all that this pick was probably a definite since I first saw the movie. If you thought “Spider-Man: No Way Home” would be my favorite comic book movie of the year, guess what? You’re wrong! The film is epic in every way, but because of a couple minor issues, it’s lower on the list. This next film is a comic book movie that met every expectation, sometimes exceeding it, gave me one of the best theatrical experiences of the year, and made me laugh harder than I do during most comedies! James Gunn, you have done it again! My #1 movie of 2021 is the bloody, the brilliant, the diabolically insane masterpiece! I’m talking about “The Suicide Squad!” I have not seen every single DC movie in existence. I’ve seen a lot of the highly praised ones like “The Dark Knight,” Tim Burton’s “Batman,” “V For Vendetta,” and I honestly think “The Suicide Squad” outranks ALL of them! This film is not only ridiculous, mature fun, but it is also a surprise! Because if you wondered where my excitement level was in 2020 when this movie was being made, I would have put them low considering how 2016’s “Suicide Squad” was not that great, and “Birds of Prey” was barely passable and I mean BARELY despite the amazing talent of Margot Robbie. When I saw the trailers for this film, I was fully onboard. It promised brutal action, an immature yet genius script, and tons of humor. And we got all of those! But what I was not expecting months before going into “The Suicide Squad” is the amount of heart it had. James Gunn, based on his outings with the “Guardians of the Galaxy” has a delightful way of balancing mile a minute humor with real connections with real people, even if they aren’t people! This film got me to care about a man-eating shark who wears shorts and has the vocabulary level of a three-year-old. On the surface, he’s a killer that will tear you apart, but at the end of the day, all he wanted was friends. Polka Dot Man… Holy s*it. I LOVE HIM. I was at a mall the day after I saw this movie and I bought his Funko the moment I saw him. Polka Dot Man may have the most twisted mind I have seen in recent film history. He turns people into his mom and kills them! I mean, the guy on the surface is practically a joke character, but they successfully managed to turn a joke into a logical part of a storyline that made sense and provided real depth and emotion. I love what they did with him. Ratcatcher II may be responsible for delivering this year’s most emotionally charging ending. I won’t even say what it is, but the second time I watched this film after obtaining it on 4K Blu-ray, I had water in my eyes because she highlighted this film’s idea of people being misunderstood. What it means to come off a certain way and not be given a chance. This is the third movie with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and this is frankly the best she’s ever been as the character. She’s wonderfully insane, occasionally loud and upbeat, and super funny when she needs to be. There is a great scene, very well directed I’d say, where we see Harley killing all these people and we get her perspective on it, and she basically thinks she’s in wonderland! It’s kind of sick, but beautiful! Will Smith did not come back for this film, instead the lead this time is Idris Elba, and much like 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” which had Will Smith playing Deadshot, Elba’s character of Bloodsport is doing the mission he’s assigned to for his kid. His rivalry with Peacemaker, oh my god. That was fun to watch. Speaking of Peacemaker, I think his costume may be the most ridiculous yet awesome costume in recent superhero movie history. Yes, it’s comic accurate, but it literally looks like something out of a kids superhero movie, but based on the content of this R rated film, it did not distract me, especially from the surprisingly compelling performance from John Cena himself. He’s been in things in the past, but he’s not exactly proven his acting abilities to the world. “The Suicide Squad” however made him incredibly convincing. Most specifically in the third act. Some might compare this to “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which too was directed by James Gunn, because it has criminals trying to save the universe, and both involve select comic book characters that some regular Joes won’t be able to point out, but I honestly think this movie did that concept better. It handles SO MUCH blood and gore while also trying to provide hints of heart every which way, and that makes this movie so damn watchable. This is the best R rated comic book flick I have seen in my life, and the fact that this film is OVER “Spider-Man: No Way Home” on this list to me represents how great of a year it is for the genre, even if “The Suicide Squad” undeservedly flopped at the box office. I’d think twice before putting this film on with your kids, but I highly recommend it to just about anyone who loves a great action film with tons of humor. “The Suicide Squad” is my personal favorite film of 2021.
Thanks for reading this countdown! I always enjoy recapping the year in film and showcasing my favorites of the year, and depending on how things go in the next month or two, these ten films could be the Best Picture nominees of the Scene Before award show, The 4th Annual Jackoff Awards! I’ve still got more movies to see, so things could change! I always love celebrating the things I love. But unfortunately, all good things must come to an end as tomorrow I will be releasing my list for the top 10 WORST movies of 2021. This year, collectively, was a better year for film than the last, but trust me when I say that within all the special snowfalls that looked pretty, we had some occasional treacherous downpours. We’ll be talking about those TOMORROW, January 12th! If you want to see this list and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, what are your favorite movies of 2021? Our lists are probably not the same, so I am excited to hear your picks! List them in the comments! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!