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This year was, once again, one of those On-n-Off years. Between confinements and "new normals", we mustered the courage to maintain sanity.  On a lighter note, theaters are now finally open and with a few standout releases. Some premiering solely on theaters or simultaneously on VOD/Netflix/HBO. Nonetheless, no amount of turmoil can change the fact that 2021 was a great year for cinephiles. Here is part 2!!

 

Benedetta

Director: Pau Verhoeven
Genre: Religious Drama
Countries: France and Netherlands
Language: French
Running Time: 131 minutes

Benedetta is many things: a lesbian nun thriller, a visceral body horror flick, a 17th century period piece, an adapted historical tale, and much much more. But above all, it’s a sharp, stinging critique of the Christian church’s history of abuse and power-mongering – an exposé on what church looked like. The movie tells the true story of Benedetta Carlini, a nun who raises havoc in her Italian convent when it is found she's in a lesbian affair with another nun.  The lead character, and even Verhoeven, in a way, look the church in the eye and asks “What do you have to say for yourself?”. Knowing the reply will be non-existent or defensive, it continues with a “Fuck you.” The king of provocation is back and better than ever!

 

West Side Story

Director: Steven Spielberg
Genre: Musical
Country: USA
Languages: English and Spanish
Running Time: 156 minutes
Now in Cinemas

West Side Story? is essentially another variation of the same old “Romeo & Juliet” narrative. The tale bases itself on the forbidden love between Maria and Tony. Two individuals from very different backgrounds that are a part of rival gangs. The film was a huge success in the 1960s and scored 10 Oscars . Did we need a new adaptation then? The answer is DAMN RIGHT YES. This new version looks explores new narratives and themes, presents a much more diverse cast, removes subtitles in the Spanish segments (Latino's amount for 20% of US population) and tackles racism and xenophobia in a much more modern way. The problems are still presented in the depths of our society. It is also a chance to see Rita Moreno on the screen once again. This is a gorgeous, specific-looking film that manages to avoid emotional manipulation as it aims for the psychological jugular.

 

A Hero

Director: Asghar Farhadi
Genre: Drama
Country: Iran
Language: Farsi
Running Time: 127 minutes
Now on Amazon Prime

There are no heroes or villains in the exquisitely layered drama of Asghar Farhadi. Only imperfect people, scrambling to escape the legal and moral crises that have fallen upon them. Rahim, a gentle, puppy dog-eyed divorcé is imprisoned for an outstanding debt. When his girlfriend discovers a bag of lost gold coins, it sets off a domino effect of misunderstandings and ethical quandaries. Farhadi is a hero for bringing to such a complex story to the screen in a society where that is not a given.

 

Power Of The Dog

Director: Jane Campion
Genre: Western Drama
Country: New Zealand, Australia and USA
Language: English
Running Time: 127 minutes
Now on Netflix


Many of Campion’s movies focus on shifting power dynamics between characters: who has power, who loses it, and how they gain it back. Things are not different here. Benedict Cumberbatch shines in this flick as the dominant leader in a deep masculine crisis. The setting is 1920s Montana, where two brothers run a profitable ranch: charismatic but boorish Phil Burbank (Cumberbatch) and George So Phil is outraged when George marries a widow from the town: Rose. This new woman invades their once quiet life along with her son Peter, a sensitive and delicate boy. This new male presence will force Phil´s to face secrets of his past. This psychological Western’s themes of isolation, toxic masculinity and violence are sure one o the greatest pieces of work of 2021.

 

Hand of God

Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Genre: Coming Of Age Drama
Country: Italy
Language: Italian
Running Time: 130 minutes
Now on Netflix

The Hand of God is a gorgeous memoir of family love and grief. Sorrentino adapts events from his own life to build one of the most touching movies of the year. Set in Naples during the 1980s, the movie follows introverted 17-year-old Fabietto Schiesi as he figures out his identity relative to his horny, embarrassing, and affectionate family members. On another note, it explores the profane love that Napolitanos nurture for soccer Megastar, Diego Maradona. At a given point, Fabietto suffers a profound tragedy, best left for viewers to experience for themselves. In the midst of his grieving, the young adult has the daunting task of becoming both a man and an artist. Food for Thought!

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