Despite the pandemic disruption of the film industry around the world, which impacted everything in film from production to simple moviegoing, the vibrancy of cinema culture throughout the year has felt as strong as ever, and fiercely resilient. In our small but passionate way we also have made a show of force. In 2021 alone, Notebook has published over 400 articles. Here are some highlights from the year—and we encourage you to use the "Explore" menu or dive into our archives to find even more excellent work published this year.
- TikTok meets silent cinema in Caroline Golum's witty essay. Cinematic technology used not for social celebrity but rather for criminal forensics was the focus of an article by Emerson Goo.
- The French New Wave's Luc Moullet, a guiding light for Notebook, was the subject of two pieces, one about the extraordinary TV show How to with John Wilson, the other a review of the filmmaker and critic's memoirs.
- A look at other TV highlights of the year include Ryan Meehan on Adam Curtis's Can't Get You Out of My Head, and Elissa Suh on Barry Jenkins' The Underground Railroad.
- Critics Sean Gilman and Evan Morgan continue their long-running dialogue over the evolving career of South Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo with one of his films this year, Introduction.
- The contentious subject of film restoration in the digital age looked at both home video releases and streaming solutions. Meanwhile, a landmark of the year is the restoration and release of a lost Iranian classic, Chess in the Wind, as Bedatri D. Choudhury writes. Related, living in a film material and immaterial world is a subject of Christopher Small's review of the book Scratches and Glitches, by curator Jurij Meden.
- Some filmmakers take years to make a picture; others, crank them out at a prodigious pace. Thomas Quist looks at the phenomenon of filmmakers make two films in a single year.
- Something new and exciting is afoot in African film production, writes Wilfred Okiche.
- Terrific explorations of filmmakers from around the world include Shiv Kotecha on India's Mrinal Sen, Maximilian Luc Proctor on Mexico's Teo Hernández, Luise Mörke on Germany's Christian Petzold, Carolyn Funk on Poland's Walerian Borowczyk, Susana Bessa on Portugal's Manuela Serra, Kayleigh Donaldson on America's Philip Kaufman, Alonso Aguilar on Cuba's Sara Goméz, and Yoana Pavlova on Bulgaria's Binka Zhelyazkova. For communal directorial portraiture, Madeleine Wall wrote on the Insoumuses, a French collective of independent filmmakers.
- Actors in focus include Dana Reinoss on Barbara Stanwyck and Yaphet Kotto, Lillian Crawford on Jane Birkin, and Peter George Kim's conversation with Honor Swinton Byrne.
- Some of the best and most-debated premieres of the year were reflected in Anthony Hawley's look at Titane, Meehan on The French Dispatch, Raffaela Bassili on The Souvenir Part II, and Greg Cwik on Zeros and Ones.
- The Deuce saw guest columnist Madelyn Sutton explore the sinful genre of nunspoitation just in time for Paul Verhoeven's Benedetta.
- Join in the tremendous, kinetic ingenuity of Uganda's Wakaliwood, from Jonah Jeng's Action Scene series.
- A look at the discourse of intertwining auteurship and fandom in Leonardo Goi's Current Debate devoted to Zack Snyder's Justice League.
- An ode, in art and words, to the Mexican cypress and Portuguese director João César Monteiro in "The Baron Under the Tree," one of Patrick Holzapfel and Ivana Miloš's Full Bloom columns.
- It's hard to choose a favorite from Adrian Curry's Movie Poster of the Week column, but the German designer Hans Hillmann, and a new book devoted to his iconic work, stands out.
- We published eighteen Primers, including ones devoted to the L.A. Rebellion, Debra Winger, mermaid cinema, 90s erotic thrillers, queer Korean cinema, pop fictions, Hungarian animation, and the Nokiawave subgenre.
- Browse twenty entries in the One Shot series, which encapsulates in one image Ernst Lubitsch, Road to Nowhere, The Taste of Cherry, The Blood of Hussein, Manhandled, Claire Denis, and The Clock.
- Listen to "Trent Reznor in Hollywood," one of many Soundtrack Mixes composed by Florence Scott-Anderton.
- Touching on the nature of fatherhood, corporate capital, and the NBA, Kelley Dong's kids' movie-themed Under Childhood column hit the court with Space Jam: A New Legacy.
Festival coverage being our bread and butter, you can find extensive festival writing throughout the year:
- Winter: Daniel Kasman was at Rotterdam; Ela Bittencourt at Sundance; and Bittencourt and Kasman traded reviews from the Berlinale.
- Spring: Caroline Golum explored a new virtual festival, Prismatic Ground; Matt Turner founds gems at two documentary festivals.
- Summer: Leonardo Goi was at Cannes; Kasman at Locarno, with Celluloid Liberation Front reporting on the Alberto Latuada retrospective there; Jordan Cronk wrote on highlights from FIDMarseille. Goi and Olaf Möller reported from Venice; Kelley Dong and Michael Sicinski wrote on Toronto.
- Autumn: Emma Piper-Burket explored New York's experimental section; Aaron E. Hunt profiled the impressive intervention being made by Indie Memphis; and Christopher Small found cinema revitalized at Doclisboa.
- The Just One Film series lets critics pinpoint a major highlight from a festival they're covering. Beatrice Loayza chose Tim Leyendekker's Feast; Caitlin Quinlin chose Zhang Ji's Fire on the Plain; and Ruairí McCann selected Thi Trinh Nguyen's How to Improve the World.
We conducted over 30 interviews, but where to start?
- We recommend you begin with conversations with Lizzie Borden, Youssef Chahine, Antje Ehmann, Paula Gaitán, Haile Gerima, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Alexandre Koberdize, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, David Prior, Emma Seligman & Rachel Sennott, Elia Suleiman, and Amalia Ulman.
INTRODUCTIONS AND INSPIRATIONS
- Filmmakers whose movies are receiving their streaming premiere on MUBI are asked to write any words of introduction they wish to accompany their films. This year, the prompt has resulted in over forty director introductions, including those by Radu Jude, Matthew Porterfield, Valentyn Vasyanovych, Alice Rohrwacher, Janis Rafa, Fradique, actress Magdalena Koleśnik, Guillaume Brac, Kazik Radwanski, Cheryl Dunn, and Dalibor Barić.
- Some filmmakers have offered their Five Inspirations for their newest work, including contributions from Dea Kulumbebashvili (Beginning), Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs), Ayo Akingbade (Fire in My Belly), and Dash Shaw (Cryptozoo).
- For the fifth year, we collaborated with Filmadrid to showcase their section "The Video Essay," premiering seven new works online. Additionally, Amos Levin continued his series revealing how painting informs the art direction of films by Eric Rohmer; video essay pioneer Kevin B. Lee made a video on Béla Tarr's Sátántangó; Manuela Lazic and Alessandro Luchetti on Michelangelo Antonioni; and Michaela Popescu made videos on subjectivity in a film by Nuri Bilge Ceylan and feminism in the films of Hou Hsiao-hsien.
BEST OF 2021