The Daily Gamecock

Staff Picks: Favorite movies of 2021 include heist thrillers, musicals, coming of age adventures

Oscar statues backstage at the 90th Academy Awards on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, California. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Oscar statues backstage at the 90th Academy Awards on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, California. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

With the Oscar nominations recently released, The Daily Gamecock decided to follow up its recap of its staff's music taste with its staff picks for favorite movies of 2021.

In the coming Lifestyle newsletters, writers from different sections will contribute blurbs about different topics as a part of this new segment called, "Staff Picks."

"Don't Look Up" 

Director: Adam McKay

Caleb Bozard, News Editor

“Don’t Look Up” is a refreshingly pessimistic take on human nature in the face of certain doom.

I’ve often wondered if there is room for satire in a world that has gone beyond the decency of being parody-able. This film is the closest I think you can find. 

Often we turn to film to escape into a world where logic and compassion win over evil. In “Don’t Look Up,” it's the opposite. The corrupt and moronic are in charge, and those fighting for what is right can do nothing to change the world’s fate. This movie is funny, yes, but it is also incredibly painful. 

This is the movie 2021 deserved. 

"tick, tick... BOOM!" 

Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Stephen Pastis, Arts & Culture Editor

Johnathan Larson is the modern American standard for following your dreams. From the smashing success of “Rent” to the story behind it, Larson’s story is one of someone who actually did what most spend their lives wishing to do. 

I don’t have the answer of what to do when turning thirty without your miracle, but I do know that the movie trope 'following your dreams' is often overdone in the world of storytelling. But in the case of “tick, tick…Boom!,” Larson’s authenticity in the writing next to his music creates an overwhelming feeling of hope.

This feeling, combined with Andrew Garfield’s exemplary theatrical, grinning stage moves and the standard-setting visuals for movie-theater adaptations, does it better than most. 

"Licorice Pizza" 

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Noah Trainor, Co-Engagement Director

“Licorice Pizza” is the story of fifteen-year-old Gary Valentine and his twenty-something-year-old friend Alana Kane, who spend their days running around a loving re-creation of 1970’s Los Angeles.

The film feels incredibly '70s, even beyond the recreation of its time period. The film doesn't pander or teach lessons, it simply exists to show these characters in full uncompromising light. In that way, it's a lot like the best films of the '70s “New Hollywood” era. Much of the time it’s a joyous experience, other times it’s a little uncomfortable. They're imperfect people living in an imperfect world.

No matter how the film makes you feel, it is packed with rich characters, exciting vignettes, a killer soundtrack and stylish filmmaking from one of this generation’s best filmmakers. It’s ultimately a triumphant escape from adulthood that will have you forgetting your troubles as quickly as Gary and Alana run away from theirs. 


Directors: Byron Howard, Jared Bush

Amelia Farrell, Asst. Arts & Culture Editor

Disney’s "Encanto," a movie filled with charm, brightness and heartfelt messages, was the breath of fresh air that 2021 needed. The story follows Mirabel, the only member of the magical Madrigal family without a magical ability, as she explores the literal and metaphorical cracks forming within her household. 

The songs in the film, which accompany the rich, vibrant animated visuals of every scene and setting, are incredibly catchy and are practically begging to be replayed over and over. The end of the movie is sure to make you "ugly cry," but the messages of embracing forgiveness, expressing who you truly want to be and overcoming expectations set by family figures can be understood by audiences in all walks of life. 

"Encanto" is a timeless staple in the Disney franchise thanks to its everlasting messages and sprightly visuals and soundtrack. It’s sure to continue to charm audiences as the years go on. 

"No Sudden Move" 

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Max White, Asst. News Editor

Steven Soderbergh’s “No Sudden Move” is my favorite movie of 2021. Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching a ton of 1940's noir flicks recently, and this movie just slots right into that kick of mine. Or maybe just because it’s a really, really fun crime drama. 

Don Cheadle as the Machiavellian gangster Curt Goynes and Benicio del Toro as the veteran-thief Ronald Russo seek one more heist headline in this heist-gone-horribly-wrong movie. These two and their slimy counterparts scheme and plot against each other throughout the entire movie in an effort to take one another out in order to keep a bigger score for themselves.

Soderbergh is known for his enthralling crime thrillers and “No Sudden Move” is no different. Do I think it’s the best movie of the year? Probably not. That accolade most likely goes to “The Power of the Dog," another movie that will get its rightful acclaim from The Academy Awards. But if you want to sit down, turn your brain off and just have fun with a movie, this is the one for you.


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