10 Great 2021 Movies That Should Have Been Nominated For Best Picture

6. The Tragedy of Macbeth

Joel Coen, working solo for the first time in his career, is the latest in a long list of renowned directors to dive into medieval Scotland and adapt Shakespeare’s seminal play onto the silver screen. Living up to its towering source material — let alone the cinematic legacy attached to it — seemed like a lofty endeavor, but the veteran auteur proved more than fit and delivered a timeless rendition that thoroughly stands on its own.

The Tragedy of Macbeth swirls in the gray line between stage play and feature film, making use of minimalist production sets and an elegant monochrome cinematography to evoke striking imagery and retain the intimacy and gravitas that defined the original story. Translating Shakespeare’s flowery lyricism on-screen has proven difficult in past iterations, but the film benefits from two heavyweight performances in Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, who deftly convey the jaded desperation wearing off their respective characters without an ounce of pomposity.

Fans expecting quirky characters and tongue-in-cheek humor are bound to be disappointed with the latest entry in the Coen-verse. Admittedly, there’s little beyond some thematic parallels that might trace Joel’s new film back to the rest of his oeuvre. But in any case, as an artistic detour and possibly his latest rodeo at the director’s chair, Macbeth is an impressive outing that should have earned him his fifth Best Picture nomination.


7. The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson’s long-awaited anthology generated quite a buzz following its Cannes premiere, and seemed all but destined to emerge as one of the biggest players come this awards season. That it failed to clinch a Best Picture nomination is head-scratching enough, that it wasn’t among the final five contenders for Best Production Design strikes one as foul play.

For better or worse, The French Dispatch is the most Wes Anderson-y movie to date — an open canvas where the director pulled every visual trick up his sleeve and doubled down on every zany quirk we’ve grown to expect in his eccentric ensembles. On a technical level, his latest endeavor is a sight to behold, with every frame impeccably realized with staggering attention to detail. Story-wise, the episodic nature blends well with Anderson’s breakneck pace, though the film bites off more than it can chew and might feel too saccharine even by his usual standards.

The French Dispatch is certainly best experienced when one fully surrenders to its frantic rhythms and unapologetic excesses. Though the film may not grant Wes Anderson many new devotees, it’s still leaps and bounds ahead of most of the nominees we got this year.


8. Petite Maman

How do you follow up an instant classic like Portrait of a Lady on Fire? Apparently, the answer is by stripping down your next film to its bare essentials, going back to basics and expanding upon the talent that made you a household name in the first place. French-sensation Céline Sciamma took the world by storm with her entrancing period romance two years ago, and if her latest effort is any indication, she still remains at the very top of her game.

Few directors working today can conjure up magic out of the ordinary and elicit a bucket-load of feelings from mundane moments the way Sciamma does. In Petite Maman, an eight-year-old girl befriends a neighbor kid during her stay at her late grandmother’s cabin. The austere scope actually plays to the film’s benefit — staying grounded to reality while hinting at cosmic revelations. Self-discovery, intergenerational bonds and memory are all thoroughly examined through a thick, cozy layer of warmth, with every little scene charged with purpose.

Compare this with Belfast, a banal coming-of-age story with the emotional resonance of a grocery’s list, and it’s hard to fathom how the most heart-warming and life-affirming story of the year missed the cut. If the Academy scrapped the antiquated rule that prevents the same country from submitting more than one film, gems like Petite Maman would stand a chance.


9. C’mon C’mon

Watching Mike Mills’ new movie can be something of a paradoxical experience. Granted, an A24 black-and-white indie film set in the Big Apple, led by an award-winning actor with loose philosophical ramblings and naturalistic dialogue can smack of déjà vu. C’mon C’mon seemed like the latest, forgettable entry in the mumblecore canon — something of an improvised subgenre spearheaded by the likes of Richard Linklater and Noah Baumbach. It’s arguable if that’s even a thing at all, but the point still stands: we have been here before, so does this film bring anything new to the table?

As to that question, C’mon C’mon answers yes emphatically. The film traces the unlikely bond that forms between a New York radio producer (Joaquin Phoenix) and his reckless nine-year-old nephew (Woody Norman) as they travel together across the country conducting interviews. There’s certainly some overlap with Frances Ha, Almost Famous and The Pursuit of Happyness among many other slice-of-life classics. But the end result remains fresh and exciting; an earnest melodrama that somehow manages to dodge every worn-out cliché it first seemed destined to carry.


10. Bergman Island

Apparently, the king of doom and gloom is in vogue once again. Not only did HBO recently remake Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, but the Swedish giant also served as the main inspiration for Mia Hansen-Løve’s latest feature film.

Arguably no director has ever poured his own existential turmoil into his work as extensively as Bergman did throughout his lengthy career, leaving us an oeuvre full of contemplative masterpieces that reverberate to this day. Most of them were conceived in the secluded island of Fårö, where the artist found a home and a perfect backdrop for his bleak chamber dramas. In Bergman Island, two married filmmakers decide to go on a cinephile pilgrimage and finish their scripts under the same roof where Persona, Shame and Hour of the Wolf were once penned.

There’s a novelty in how the film echoes these aforementioned art-house staples, obviously in setting but also in the way it lends itself to introspection, plunging us into a film-within-a-film where different layers of fiction seemingly blend together. From the spiritual endeavors known to every artist to the emotional catharsis of overcoming writer’s block — Hansen-Løve delivers a thematic juggernaut intricate enough to warrant repeated viewings.