All movie buffs out there should get your notepads and/or tracking apps out because you will want to check out the slate of films selected as Best of the Year by the National Board of Review. The entity has been singling out formidable films from each year for almost a hundred years, and in 2021 it wasn’t any different. This year, the group of academics, professionals, and film enthusiasts have selected Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, Licorice Pizza as the best among a selection of over 200 films screened and debated by the group.
Licorice Pizza is a coming-of-age story that chronicles the teen life of a boy who is loosely based on legendary movie producer Gary Goetzman. The film features Sean Penn and the breakout performances of Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim–one-third of the girl group Haim, whose music videos have been frequently directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. The filmmaker was also the NBR’s choice for Best Director. Haim and Hoffman were announced as winners in the category Breakthrough Performance.
World-famous superstar Will Smith was selected as Best Actor for his performance in King Richard, a movie that follows the rise of tennis players Venus and Serena Williams (played by Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton, respectively). Aunjanue Ellis, who plays Brandy Williams (mother of Serena and Venus), was selected as Best Supporting Actress.
First-timer Rachel Zegler kick-starts her career in overdrive by being announced as the Best Actress of the year for her performance in Steven Spielberg’s remake West Side Story. Zegler has already booked two other blockbusters for the next years: she will be in Shazam! Fury of the Gods and in Disney’s live-action version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
Internationally acclaimed Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) was remembered in the Best Adapted Screenplay category for his new film A Hero, which also won Best Foreign Language Film. In the sister writing category, Best Original Screenplay, the winner was Joel Coen, for his upcoming The Tragedy of Macbeth. The drama starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand was also selected as the winner in the Best Cinematography category.
Disney’s latest movie Encanto was the winner in the Best Animated Film category. The adventure follows a girl born into a magical family but without any gifts. The story features songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda and celebrates the Colombian culture.
Netflix’s The Harder They Fall was singled out as Best Ensemble cast, while Irish actor Ciarán Hinds was selected as Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Belfast. Critically acclaimed movie Pig, starring Nicolas Cage, was selected as the Best Directorial Debut, a prize that goes to freshman filmmaker Michael Sarnoski.
The National Board of Review also gave nods to movies that unveil real-life stories and issues: Summer of Soul (… or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), which chronicles the impact of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, was selected as Best Documentary. The animated documentary film Flee, which tells the story of a man who escaped Afghanistan as a refugee, was selected in the NBR Freedom of Expression Award.
The National Board of Review is set to celebrate the winners in a Gala on January 11, 2022 (if nothing changes until then, pandemic-wise). You can check out the other nine films selected as Best of the Year in the list below in alphabetical order:
- Don’t Look Up
- King Richard
- The Last Duel
- Nightmare Alley
- Red Rocket
- The Tragedy of Macbeth
- West Side Story
He’s a chameleon.
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