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Christopher Llewellyn Reed’s Top 10 Films of 2021

Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | December 24th, 2021

This last year saw me once again attend in-person screenings (at least a few). A Quiet Place Part II was my first such movie, and while it comes nowhere near my favorites of 2021 (as it did for my Film Festival Today colleagues Matt Patti and Adam Vaughn), I did enjoy it; it was no doubt enhanced by the theatrical experience. Still, most of what I saw over the past 12 months I watched at home via link, though I managed to make it to one live film festival (Middleburg) for a return to something resembling pre-Covid life. One surprising aspect of the pandemic has been the steady flow of cinematic releases, whether from content already in the pipeline when the world shut down or new material produced under strict health-and-safety guidelines since then. In short, there are as many films, movies, and shows to watch as ever, no matter where one chooses to see them.

Which brings us to my 2021 Top 10, listed below in alphabetical order. I pull these choices from the two separate lists I already published at Hammer to Nail (where I am lead film critic). I will soon, on my blog, publish a longer list, with additional runners-up and honorable mentions. Where I have previously reviewed a film (which is the case for 9 out of 10 of these), I hyperlink the titles to those reviews (whether on this site or on Hammer to Nail). For the one I did not get a chance to review, I write a brief capsule of my thoughts and link to the movie’s website. Enjoy!

  • Ascension (Jessica Kingdon)
  • Attica (Traci Curry/Stanley Nelson)
  • C’mon C’mon (Mike Mills)
  • Drive My Car (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)
  • Listening to Kenny G (Penny Lane)
  • Passing (Rebecca Hall)
  • Petite Maman (Céline Sciamma)
  • Prayers for the Stolen (Tatiana Huezo)
  • Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Questlove): When we think of music festivals in the summer of 1969, we most often think of Woodstock, that celebration of the counterculture and rock ‘n’ roll (with more than a little sex and drugs thrown in for good measure). But did you know that there was an equally momentous event happening further south, in Harlem? That would be the Harlem Cultural Festival in Mount Morris Park (now renamed Marcus Garvey Park). There, bands and solo artists from the top tier of (mostly) Black musicians performed for large, rapturous crowds (without the sex and with nary a drug in sight). Fortunately, there were crews on hand to film the whole thing, and even if the 6-week concert never received the subsequent attention it deserved, that footage is at the heart of Questlove’s phenomenal new documentary, which brings history squarely into the present. What a joy it is see the likes of Nina Simone, Gladys Knight, B.B. King, Sly & the Family Stone, and others performing in front of such appreciative audiences. Their time was then, and thanks to Questlove, it is also now.
  • Writing with Fire (Sushmit Ghosh/Rintu Thomas)
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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), as well as a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is Managing Editor at Film Festival Today; lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is a former cohost of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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