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Match Cut's Top 20 Movies of 2021

Sparing the fluff about how "great the last year in movies" was, we've all seen some wonderful new films and we invited the entire University Film Society to submit their favorites. Along with the list, the 2021-22 executive board has written a series of brief statements to accompany the five lucky flicks that came out on top. So, without further ado, we present Match Cut's official top 20 movies of 2021!

1) Licorice Pizza (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

Though the core elements of Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest have been dissected ad nauseum by those writers more literate and adept than myself, the main salve that keeps Licorice Pizza’s acidic core from destroying the film’s ecology – in my eyes – is the angular prism refracting youth. In his middle-period, PTA has traded in the excesses of his aesthetics for a complete vivisection of his own fetishistic desires, displaying a level of honesty and humility rarely seen in the detritus of modern American mythmaking. In Alana and Gary, Paul takes the ethos of the American cinematic myth – life on the edge of experience as a response to a collective fear of stagnation – and embellishes it to its most humanistic conclusion, positioning the film as contemporary cinema’s closest analogue to the work of Jonathan Demme. An achingly beautiful ode to the soulful white boys and angry Jewesses that rest within us all. - Vance Osteen, Webmaster

2) The Suicide Squad (dir. James Gunn)

James Gunn’s splashy tribute to exploitation feels ripped straight from the comic page, a tour-de-force of blockbuster filmmaking in a time where the biggest budgets are afforded to the dullest directors. Why does this one stand out against the modern wave of heroes and anti-heroes, you might ask? Unlike his contemporaries, Gunn is obsessed with extending pathos to the weirdos, a sympathy they are rarely afforded. The Suicide Squad believes that everything from the lowest of the low (a rat) to the outright monstrous (Starro the Conqueror) deserves better than the cruel circumstances that warped them. It’s not just superheroes cursing, fucking, or leaving gore in their wake, yet we are still allowed to delight in those indulgences because, let’s face it, it’s too much fun to pass on. Gunn imagines a colorful world of violence where the outcast can self-actualize and find meaning in others once they break from the apathy holding them back. - Tommy Rosilio, Treasurer

3) C'mon C'mon (dir. Mike Mills)

So many movies about the messy lives we lead end up being just as messy and abstract as the emotions they try to portray. The miracle of Mike Mills is his profound ability to articulate all of these complicated feelings, no matter how uncomfortable or contradictory. Led by two incredible performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Woody Norman (not to mention the supporting cast, all of whom may as well be giving masterclasses in character economy), C’mon C’mon is Mills’ most affecting and distinctive movie yet. Dispensing with his old tendency to build his characters as archetypes (perhaps for fear of alienating his viewers), Mills here fully embraces their idiosyncrasies. C’mon C’mon is so investing precisely because you don’t feel pressured to see yourself in the characters; their struggles are so clearly universal that we feel with them, not as them. - Chance Freytag, Secretary

4) Dune (dir. Denis Villeneuve)

A behemoth of a film that refused to buckle underneath the weight of its expectations. With Dune, director Denis Villeneuve managed to take source material previously considered to be unadaptable and impossibly unwieldy and provide the gold standard of sci-fi filmmaking. Through his masterful understanding of scope and sensory provocation, Villeneuve presented audiences with truly awe-inspiring spectacle at a refreshingly singular level. Few films have ever been as genuinely immersive and transportive as this one. To operate on such a massively visceral and cerebral scale is an unbelievable feat. The fusion of practical and special effects on display here is near-unparalleled, resulting in sequences that are bound to be played in Oscar reels for years to come. The world Villeneuve engulfs the viewer in here is one I have to be reluctantly ripped away from every time I see it. Part II cannot come fast enough. - Chris Hall, President

5) The French Dispatch (dir. Wes Anderson)

The French Dispatch is Wes Anderson’s love letter to filmmaking (and newspapers). It’s clear that Anderson had fun making this film and was able to explore new avenues in the realm of filmmaking. He takes a step back from his trademark style and tone in order to take a true step forward with his work. Through this anthology structure, he creates new, thrilling, and dark stories that are rich with detail. He takes the fundamentals of filmmaking and storytelling and runs with them. Through the sheer amount of peculiarities that Anderson pumps into his films, it is quite clear that he has a true dedication to his craft, as he has thought of every single detail– and it definitely shows in this film. Since every aspect of this film has been deliberately placed there, it creates an exciting scavenger hunt for avid fans to dissect on each subsequent viewing. - Cara Panarisi, Vice President

And now for the runner-ups, the ones who couldn't quite make it, but that the club loved all the same...

6 - Spider-Man: No Way Home (dir. Jon Watts)

7 - West Side Story (dir. Steven Spielberg)

8 - Spencer (dir. Pablo Larraín)

9 - Metal Detector Maniac (dir. Charles Roxburgh)

10 - The Green Knight (dir. David Lowery)

11 - The Card Counter (dir. Paul Schrader)

12 - Titane (dir. Julia Ducournau)

13 - The Tragedy of Macbeth (dir. Joel Coen)

14 - Malignant (dir. James Wan)

15 - The Matrix Resurrections (dir. Lana Wachowski)

16 - House of Gucci (dir. Ridley Scott)

17 - Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi)

18 - Old (dir. M. Night Shyamalan)

19 - tick, tick...BOOM! (dir. Lin-Manuel Miranda)

20 - Red Rocket (dir. Sean Baker)

Thanks again to all who voted and those of us on the executive board hope you have an exciting 2022 at the movies! Happy watching!