A cow wearing a crown is saying the words "good movie" and a banner above says All-Beefies

The 2021 Alleged Beef Awards


Weird Year!

We were all a little hesitant to visit the movie theater in 2021, what with the worldwide pandemic and all. Several high-profile movies were still released that year, and it was interesting to look back on the past decade and realize that 2021 was a pretty good year for movies. I had mentally noted 2019 as the best year for a while, but now I am not so sure. (2019 was still miles better. –Ed.)

The 2021 All-Beefies awards ceremony was held in the infield box seats of PNC Park during a Pirates game*. The celebrities in attendance at the event outnumbered the baseball fans, and Kenneth Branagh was asked* to pitch an inning of relief (he declined politely). Tilda Swinton caught a pop fly* in a gold lamé glove that perfectly matched her gown. Timothée Chalamet was refused sale* of some Iron City tall boys… not because he was too young, but because the vendor didn’t care for his performance in The French Dispatch. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.



Favorite Performances

A priest holds out a communion wafer


Charlotte Rampling as Abbess Felicita in Benedetta, and as Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam in Dune

Rampling, one of the legends of cinema, had a great year in 2021, with supporting roles as powerful holy figures in two vastly different movies about the role of the church in secular life. Her performance as the Reverend Mother was instantly iconic and held more spooky menace than Siân Phillips in the 1984 Dune adaptation (I find that everyone in Lynch’s adaptation is either too subtle or too hammy).

Benedetta is a weird movie but it was engrossing. I liked that the Abbess was the antagonist to Benedetta but never seemed like a villain, and Rampling really makes that balancing act work.


Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate, Kate

Please stop with the “secret life of hitmen” movies. One John Wick movie makes money and then everything has to be gun kata for a flippin’ decade.

Winstead is the titular assassin in Kate. After the deluge of Gunpowder Milkshake, John Wick, Bullet Train, Colombiana, Peppermint, Hotel Artemis, Anna, Ava, Gemini Man, The Accountant, and a hundred Liam Neesons, Winstead is the only one who left an impression on me. She makes enough weird acting choices that the character feels complex and alive in ways that the thousand other hitman movies are not.


Hamish Linklater as Father Paul Hill, Midnight Mass

Like every Netflix miniseries, Midnight Mass was at least three episodes too long and the narrative wheel-spinning was frustrating. However, it was also really good. And that was in large part due to the lead performance by Hamish Linklater as the tormented Father Paul. His character grappled with questions of faith and morality like George C. Scott in Exorcist III: Legion or Doc Cochran on Deadwood. I don’t name-drop those characters lightly. When I say that Linklater gives a nuanced and pained performance, I mean it.


Virginia Efira as Benedetta Carlini, Benedetta

The 2021 awards are riddled with religion-heavy films, aren’t they? I had never seen Efira in a film before, and she was captivating. Is she guided by the word of God, or is she faking it? Can both be true? Combining this question of determinism with human desires and needs could have veered into farce. Efira makes it all work: the forbidden lust, the pride at becoming abbess, the devout faith.


Vincent Lindon as Vincent, Titane

Titane is a wild movie. If you gave me a thousand guesses as to what would happen once Alexia fled, I would have been wrong a thousand times. I really didn’t expect the horrors of the film to lurk in and around a devastating story of a father’s grief, and I never expected that story to be so touching. Lindon, as the fire chief with the missing son and the fear of aging, is a wonderfully human performance that takes a batshit serial killer film and elevates it to immortality.




Favorite [___]…


several students look directly into the camera
The French Dispatch

Homage to the French New Wave: “Revisions to a Manifesto” in The French Dispatch

Charming section of the movie with some students incidentally starting a political movement (that peters out just as quickly). The shot in the image above reminded me of the last shot of Breathless (1960).



A thief in a mask gives instructions to a bank teller in the back of a car
The Friends of Eddie Coyle
Two thieves wear masks and stand in a kitchen
No Sudden Move

Homage to Peter Yates: No Sudden Move

Soderbergh has no qualms about co-opting bits from old movies. I think he does it better than just about anyone, so rather than be annoyed that the heist in No Sudden Move is ripped directly from The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), I was charmed by it. It helps when you cast Don Cheadle and Amy Seimetz and David Harbour to really sell the moment.

The masks and the setup (guy goes to retrieve what the robbers want while some of them hold his family hostage) are explicitly taken from that film, although Soderbergh spins out the story into some unexpected places. I found the overall vibe to be similarly fatalistic and frustrated with capitalism; that scene when the money was returned to Mike Lowen is a real gut-punch.

Plus, Bill Duke!


Character holds a shotgun and wears a top hat
The Harder They Fall

Appearance of Zazie Beetz: The Harder They Fall

Obligatory award for the amazing Zazie Beetz being in a good movie. This was a fun, stylish Western and as always, she was one of the best parts of it.



Favorite Films

A presenter at a car show lays across the hood of a car painted with stylized flames



I did not enjoy watching Titane. The movie was intense and weird and never lets up. Vincent Lindon’s performance gives a warm heart to the movie, but I watched his scenes expecting something terrible to happen.

This all said, I couldn’t stop thinking about Titane for weeks after I saw it, and in recent years that has been my highest compliment when evaluating a year’s worth of movies. I do not know if I will ever voluntarily rewatch Titane but I also know that I’ll never forget it.


The Green Knight

This is another film that stuck in my head for a year, and not only because of how handsome Dev Patel is. The locations are incredible, the costumes are beautiful, the performances are wonderful. I like that the Sir Gawain story was not overly embellished. It would not have surprised me to see the story pushed into a conventional, modern narrative form, but David Lowery’s script hits all of the myth’s high points in a relatively brisk two hours and ten minutes.



I expected more questions of faith than were in this movie, but there were at least attempts to grapple with sainthood, faith, madness, and the church’s role in the community. There are several great performances here: Virginie Efira, Charlotte Rampling, and Daphné Patakia make the movie very rewatchable as each commands the screen in every scene. This is Verhoeven’s best movie in a long while.



I’d have loved this movie if the only great facet was the sound design, or only the costuming, or only the best-designed spaceships in years. There is so much to love, and the movie wisely adapts the first (and more interesting) half of the great novel.

Villeneuve is a great spectacle filmmaker. Like S. S. Rajamouli, James Cameron, and Peter Jackson (Jackson has been disappointing for five straight movies. — Ed.), Villeneuve has an eye for how to make big experiences and convey largeness and grandeur. The locations in Dune have a scale that almost no other movies achieve, and they feel lifelike. Even when my rational brain know that I am not really looking at a sandworm swallowing a mining vehicle, my lizard brain is all in. The palace on Arrakis, the spaceport, the Harkonnen fortress, the Atreides home on Caladan, every location is etched in my memory and I’ve only seen this movie one time.

I don’t know how the second half will go, but Dune Part One was a great film.


Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

I was so happy that I found this on Hulu. The Harlem Cultural Festival was a concert series that I never knew of until I watched this documentary, and it is criminal that it doesn’t sit in the same lofty heights as Woodstock or Monterey Pop or any of the cultural events of the era.

Questlove interweaves incredible musical performances with interviews and narration, and it mostly works. I would love if the concert footage was available uncut as special features on a disc release, because there are infuriating cuts away from people like Stevie Wonder. And… you just don’t cut away from Stevie Wonder while he is doing a drum solo in the coolest ‘fit that I’ve ever seen. Nina Simone is as great as one expects of one of the greatest of all time, and Sly & The Family Stone are amazing. I could list 15 musical acts that are amazing, honestly. It never ends. This must have been a really special event to attend.

This is a heavy recommend from me and one of the most delightful concert documentaries that I’ve seen in recent years.