You would think that with most of last year spent in quarantine, I would have watched more movies than usual. On the contrary, I have only watched 14 movies in the last year; down from 30 movies the previous year! It really boils down to my wife and I spending more time watching TV shows than movies these days, but I still want to post my annual list highlighting my favorites. So here are the four best movies I saw in the last year!
First Man had been on my list of movies to see ever since it came out, simply because it is directed by Damien Chazelle whose two prior movies, Whiplash and La La Land, were among my favorites of past years. This Neil Armstrong biopic is a much different beast than his previous jazz-music-centric entries, and I wasn't really sure what to expect. It ended up being a very unique film that really focuses on Armstrong the person and feels almost like a series of home videos where you are in the room watching everything unfold. While I could see some people being disappointed if they were expecting a more traditional approach to historical drama (e.g. Apollo 13, which is great, but different), I found myself sucked in and really empathizing with these early astronauts and how they were really just normal people. Also, it is a movie that will leave you wondering why anyone in their right mind would have ever wanted to become an astronaut in the 1960s.
I was generally aware of Hamilton when it was live on Broadway, but didn't really know much about it beyond it being popular and combining a modern hip-hop style with early-American history. I also didn't listen to any of the music before seeing it (other than hearing some short clips), and I enjoyed going into watching it mostly blind. And it kind of blew me away! The music and lyricism are outstanding, but I was just inspired by the whole thing as a piece of art: the monumental creative achievement of Lin-Manuel Miranda, as well as the outstanding performances by such talented actors and actresses. I am not one to rewatch movies often, but I have seen Hamilton three times in the last year, and have probably listened to the full soundtrack (which is essentially the full run-time) another 5 times. Probably my favorite "art" consumed in the past year, and one that resonated with me as both a consumer and a creator.
My wife is a huge fan of period dramas, and I generally have a hard time enjoying them. When I saw that the latest movie adaptation of Little Women was rated highly, I suspected that it was another case where fans of that genre would love the movie, but people like me probably wouldn't. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I really liked it! It probably helped that I wasn't familiar with the story of Little Women at all, but it is just a well-made film with a compelling storyline. If you had told me that Little Women would make my list this year and Christopher Nolan's Tenet would miss it, I wouldn't have believed you. But here we are, and it is a good reminder to try things outside of your favorite genres.
Three Identical Strangers
Lastly, we have a documentary, examining the fascinating story of three identical triplets that were separated at birth and didn't know about each other. What starts as a fun and interesting look at a big coincidence being uncovered ends up going in a direction I didn't expect in the second half, and the whole package ended up having more meat than I anticipated. I don't watch a lot of documentaries, but I do love finding a good one, and I think Three Identical Strangers is definitely worth a watch.
A much shorter list than previous years, and it makes me want to watch more movies this next year. Always open to suggestions, let me know what movies you feel are worth checking out!