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Films Watched in 2021


We saw SOOO many good films this year that I had to expand our Top 10 to Top 15 AND include subcategories based on directors and countries.

David and I always start the new year off with a long film or multi-film series. Last year, it was The Emigrants and The New Land, both of which I highly recommend. From our list of films, you’d think we never watched comedies, and it’s kind of true. We tend to reserve our comedy-watching for UK panel shows (Mock the Week, QI, Would I Lie to You) and endless repeats of Blackadder, but when it comes to film…it’s true they tend to be of a darker nature and more serious subject matter. 

Even when they’re comedies, they’re dark. 

The Finnish and the Danish have mastered that combination, and 2021 had no dearth of films from both countries in our repertoire. I mentioned Aki Kaurismäki in my 2020 list, and more of his are below, and the first Fassbinder film we watched had us spellbound. We watched a ton by Danish directors Susanne Bier, Anders Thomas Jensen, and Thomas Vinterberg — in all of which you’ll see a rotation of the same brilliant actors. 

In our Top 15, you’ll see FOUR films by Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev, so definitely check those out. Not. Comedies. But absolutely heart-rending and heart-filled. Lilya 4 Ever may be the most devastatingly sad film we’ve ever seen, but it’s so brilliantly made and acted that I have to recommend it. It will rip your heart out, and you will never forget it. 

Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading our list and our rating of each film, and of course I hope you enjoy any films you watch because of it. We rate each film we see on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest), and we have a number of films rated at 8.0 and above that aren’t in the “top” lists below. And don’t skip the 7.0 films; they’re decent films — entertaining, enjoyable — but just not fall of your seat good.

TOP 15 FILMS WATCHED IN 2021 

  1. The Emigrants and The New Land by Jan Troell — I’m counting these as one movie, because we loved them equally well, and they’re really part of each other. You wouldn’t watch one without the other. 
  2. Sorry We Missed You — Ken Loach has been telling the same story for 30 years, and damnit if he doesn’t tell it well. 
  3. Ali, Fear Eats the Soul — directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. If only everyone looked through the same lens as the female main character, the world would be a better place.  
  4. Flickering Lights — Directed and written by Anders Thomas Jensen (starring Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Ulrich Thomsen) We saw the original French version of this story many years ago (which is great), but this one…It’s like watching Seven Samurai, where each and every character deftly reveals his own strengths, flaws, passions, and contribution to the whole.
  5. The Secret of Santa Vittoria — I guess this one could be considered a comedy despite the Nazis. An absolutely delightful film with fantastic performances and perfect comedic timing. 
  6. Another Round — How Thomas Vinterberg is able to make film after film about difficult subjects without judging the characters’ decisions or manipulating the viewer to think one way is beyond me. Absolutely brilliant. I’ve watched the ending about 50 times already.
  7. Riders of Justice — A perfect example of a Danish film that squeezes into 5 genres, each equally well. Directed and conceived by Anders Thomas Jensen, it will make your laugh, cry, and drop your jaw.
  8. Infernal Affairs — The film that inspired The Departed. While I really liked The Departed, now having seen the inspiration behind it, I can say there is definitely more heart and soul in the Hong Kong original. (We did watch Infernal Affairs II and III, but the first one is superior and can stand on its own.)
  9. Lilya 4-Ever — Based on a true story, this movie tore our hearts out, and it’s not one we’ll soon forget. Watch it, but be prepared to be devastated. 
  10. Wild River — A perfect example of how Elia Kazan let his actors depict the most human, honest, well-rounded characters and turn in the most honest, human, raw performances. 
  11. La Vie de Boheme by Aki KaurismäkiThe story will be familiar to you if you’ve ever seen (or heard of) Puccini’s opera La Boheme, but this lovely movie is quintessential Kaurismäki. 
  12. Leviathan (2014) by Andrey Zvyagintsev  — David and I have spent hours talking about our perspective of what brings the main character to his demise. Every second of the film, I hope he will make a different decision than he does, but he is also the victim of relentless cruelty and revenge. How much is his responsibility? How much is he a victim of someone else’s bitter resentment? Would love to hear your thoughts.
  13. The Return (2003) by Andrey Zvyagintsev — Brothers Andrei and Ivan return home from school to find their father has returned after a 12-year absence. What happens next is suspenseful and perplexing — and makes you want to jump through the screen and envelope these boys.
  14. Loveless (2017) by Andrey Zvyagintsev — I think a reviewer in The Guardian put it best: “after spending two hours in the company of toxic Boris and Zhenya [the main characters], I emerged from the cinema in dire need of a shower.” Chilly, dark, unsettling, and sad, it’s also gorgeous, brilliant, and flawless.
  15. The Banishment (2007) by Andrey Zvyagintsev — This was the first movie of Zvyagintsev’s I watched, and it not only hooked me on his filmmaking but also on Maria Bonnevie’s acting. As dark and stunning as his others, what sets this one apart is the ambiguity of time and place. You’ll never guess either.  

RECOMMENDED KEN LOACH FILMS

  • Sorry We Missed You (2019) 8.0
  • I, Daniel Blake (2016) 7.0
  • Land and Freedom (1995) 8.0

RECOMMENDED DANISH FILMS (there are more, but these are taken from our 2021 watch list)

  • Submarino (2010) 8.0 directed by Thomas Vinterberg
  • Another Round (2020) 8.0 directed by Thomas Vinterberg  (Mads, Thomas Bo Larsen)
  • A Second Chance (2014) 7.0 directed by Susanne Bier written by Susanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Maria Bonnevie, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Thomas Bo Larsen)
  • Open Hearts (2002) 8.0 directed by Susanne Bier, written by Susanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen (Mads Mikklesen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas)
  • Riders of Justice (2020) 8.0 directed by (also idea by) Anders Thomas Jensen  (Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas)
  • In a Better World (2010) 8.0 directed by Susanne Bier and written by Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen 
  • Pelle the Conqueror (1987) 7.0 (Max von Sydow)
  • Babette’s Feast (1987) 7.0
  • Force Majeure (2014) 7.0 / 6.0
  • Flickering Lights (2000) 9.0 
  • Brothers (2004) 8.0 – another great Danish movie by Susanne Bier – starring Ulrich Thomsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, and Connie Nielsen
  • In China They Eat Dogs (1999) 8.0 
  • Adam’s Apples (2005) 8.0 directed by Anders Thomas Jensen and starring Ulrich Thomsen, Mads Mikkelsen, Nicolas Bro

RECOMMENDED ANDREY ZVYAGINTSEV FILMS

  • Leviathan (2014) 8.0 
  • The Return (2003) 8.0
  • Loveless (2017) 8.0 
  • The Banishment (2007) 8.0

ALL FILMS WATCHED IN 2021

  • The Emigrants (1971) 9.0
  • The New Land (1972) 9.0
  • Ali, Fear Eats the Soul (1974) 9.0
  • Zodiac (2007) 7.0
  • Rust and Bone (2012) 7.0
  • La Vie de Boheme (1992) 9.0
  • The Prophet (2009) 8.0 
  • Opening Night (1977) 7.0
  • La révolution française (1989 TV series) 8.0
  • Sorry We Missed You (2019) 8.0
  • I, Daniel Blake (2016) 7.0
  • Land and Freedom (1995) 8.0
  • Appaloosa (2008) 6.0
  • The Rose Tattoo by Daniel Mann 4.0 (Please don’t watch this disaster of a movie. It was the most embarrassing film we’ve ever seen, despite it starring two of my favorite actors: Anna Magnani and Burt Lancaster.)
  • The Horse Soldiers (1959) 7.0
  • The Red Badge of Courage (1951) 7.0
  • War and Peace (1972-1973) BBC series with Anthony Hopkins 8.0
  • War and Peace (2016) BBC series with Paul Dano, James Norton, and Lily James 8.0
  • Sideways (2nd time since it was in the theater in 2004) 7.0
  • Nomadland (2020) 6.0
  • The Seven-Ups (1973) 6.0
  • The Desperate Hours (1955) 8.0
  • Night Moves (1975) 7.0
  • The Long Goodbye (1973) 7.0
  • Nightcrawler (2014) 6.0
  • Black Hawk Down (2001) 7.0
  • Leviathan (2014) 8.0 directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev —
  • The Return (2003) 8.0 directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev —
  • Loveless (2017) 8.0 Andrey Zvyagintsev —
  • The Banishment 8.0 Andrey Zvyagintsev —
  • The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969) 8.0
  • The Lighthouse (2019) 7.0
  • Midsommar (2019) 6.0
  • Infernal Affairs 9.0 (2002)
  • Infernal Affairs II (2003) 7.0
  • Infernal Affairs III (2003) 6.0
  • Submarino (2010) 7.0 
  • Another Round (2020) 8.0 
  • A Second Chance (2014) 7.0 
  • Open Hearts (2002) 8.0 
  • Riders of Justice (2020) 8.0
  • In a Better World (2010) 8.0 
  • Pelle the Conqueror (1987)  7.0 
  • Babette’s Feast (1987) 7.0 
  • Force Majeure (2014)  7.0 / 6.0
  • Journal 64 (2018) 7.0 
  • Flickering Lights (2000) 9.0 
  • Brothers (2004) 8.0 
  • Three Monkeys (2008) 8.0 (David saw this Turkish film without me, but it’s on my list. He loved it.)
  • Zorba the Greek (1964) 8.0 (I saw this years ago, but David saw it for the first time.)
  • The Medusa Touch (1978) 6.0 
  • Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) 5.0
  • The Proud Ones (1956) 7.0
  • Department Q: A Conspiracy of Faith (2016) 6.0
  • Department Q: The Absent One (2014) 7.0
  • Department Q: The Keeper of Lost Causes (2013)
  • A Hijacking (2012) 6.0
  • A Quiet Place II (2020) – 8.0
  • In China They Eat Dogs (1999) – 8.0
  • Adam’s Apples (2005) 8.0 
  • Lilya 4-Ever (2002) 8.0
  • Crime and Punishment (1983) 7.0
  • Black Girl (1966) 7.0
  • Into the Okavango (2018) 7.0
  • Blood Diamond (2006) 6.0
  • District 9 (2009) 8.0
  • 99 River Street (1953) 7.0
  • To Walk Invisible 
  • Wild River (1960) 9.0
  • The Art of Crying (2006) 7.0
  • A Face in the Crowd (1957) 8.0

FAQ

Each cooking class is fully interactive. While I am demonstrating, you can chime in with comments, questions, and ooohs and ahhhs the entire time. Not only does this increase connection among the students, both my assistant and I see your questions and make sure we answer all of them.
You can participate in the class using Zoom on your computer, tablet or mobile device.
Upon completing your registration, you receive your confirmation email, which includes the link to our Zoom class, along with information and recipes. Each class is officially a go once a minimum number of slots are filled — at which time the recipes appear on the document. My goal is to have the recipes available to you at least 5 days before the class to give you enough time to order / shop for ingredients, should you choose to cook along.
While I love to see the faces of my students, the use of video during the live class is optional. NOTE: Even if you opt to show your video, for the class recordings, which go out to the general public as on-demand classes, NO ONE'S video is shown except for mine.
We do our best to prepare you in advance so you are ready for when the class begins. If you have issues during the class, my assistant is there to help you. Sometimes it's an issue on the user side, and when there's an issue on my side, we do our best to mitigate it right away. One of the benefits of live classes is that they're in real time, which means it's a live feed. Sometimes technical issues are out of our control, but so far, we've never had any real issues that took away from the purpose of the class.
Absolutely! Unless something goes horribly wrong (and it rarely does), each class is recorded, and students receive the class recording within 2 days of the live class.
While I do send a reminder email out a couple days before our class, I encourage you to add the class to your calendar as soon as you register.
Some students love being able to cook along; some students love to just watch. It is entirely up to you how you want to enjoy the class.
You can decide in advance which dishes you want to cook along with. You might choose to cook along for just one of the dishes or all of them. Whatever you decide, I suggest you have your mise en place all ready. That is to say, have all the ingredients measured and prepped as much as possible. (Mise en place is a French culinary phrase meaning "everything in its place.”)
Ultimately, what we take away is based on what we give, so I encourage you to be present and engaged in the class. But, for my part, if you know me, you know I'm pretty passionate about many things, and I can’t help bringing my love of food, history, language, animals, film, literature, and food lore to each class. My aim is that you walk away with a richer understanding of food, cooking, and eating than before you arrived. More than that, you will get helpful step-by-step instructions about each dish I'm demonstrating and a clear up-close view of all the ingredients and procedures. The best part is that I, too, make mistakes, and you see me make them live in real time. That's how we learn the most.
I'm thrilled to say that many students are regulars and repeats, and you will no doubt get to know some fabulous people when you attend these classes. I encourage engagement and follow-up, including posting photos, questions, and comments on our private Facebook page. Many friends and family members join from different cities, then share a virtual meal with each other once the class is over. (That makes my heart sing.) So, yes, despite being online the classes foster connection.
I have found that 90 minutes is the ideal amount of time to spend in a virtual class. It gives us time to settle in and for you to ask questions throughout without feeling rushed. It also gives us time to enjoy an occasional bonus cocktail by our resident mixologist (my adorable husband), but we like to honor your time and keep the classes to 90 minutes.
Absolutely! Once you are registered and the class is a go, you are officially enrolled. That means the recipes, resources, video recording, and even the chat transcript are yours to enjoy. You will receive a follow-up email whether you are in the live class or not.
Because the value of the classes includes exclusive recipes and resources as well as the live class / video recording, once a class is officially a go and you get access to the recipes, you cannot be refunded. However, if the class does not meet the minimum sign-up threshold and I cancel the class, you have the option of getting a full refund or switching to a different class. (This is one of the reasons I don't share the recipes until I know we've reached the minimum threshold.)
After the live class is over and enjoyed by students in real time, each class gets converted into an on-demand class so that others may enjoy the recipes, resources, and video recording. Most live classes become on-demand classes within 2 days.
No animal products are ever used in my recipes, so yes, all the classes are vegan / plant-based, which means nothing that comes out of or off of an animal. I've written three cookbooks (The Joy of Vegan Baking, The Vegan Table, and Color Me Vegan), and two lifestyle books (Vegan’s Daily Companion and The 30-Day Vegan Challenge), which also include recipes. I'm also always testing and developing new recipes (as well as modifying and perfecting old ones) to make sure students get the best, clearest, easiest-to-follow recipes — qualities that have become trademark in my work.
While living compassionately and consciously is not about being perfect, and while some students may not have access to the same bulk stores and package-free ingredients as me, I make an effort in my classes to use (and promote) as little packaging and plastic as possible, which is why so many of my recipes and menus are for how to cook and bake homemade and from-scratch!
My classes span a huge range, and your suggestions are always welcome: *Different types of cuisines (Italian, Thai, Asian, Mexican, etc.) *Particular ways of cooking and eating (Quick & Easy, Oil-free, By Color/Phytochemicals, ) *Cooking with specific appliances (Air-Fryer, Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker / Crockpot, etc.) *Homemade from scratch (Seitan, Tempeh, Tofu, Miso, Nut Cheeses, Nut Butters, etc.) *Various holidays and seasons (Mother’s Day, Easter, Passover, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Summer, Fall, etc.) *Focused on meals (Packed Lunches, Breakfast, Brunch, Fancy Dinner, Quick Dinner, etc.) *Cooking with specific foods/ ingredients (Aquafaba, Beans, Spices & Herbs, Greens, Lentils, Grains, etc. *Baking from scratch (Pizza Dough, Breads, Pretzels, Bagels, and Biscuits, Cakes, Pies, Cobblers, etc.) *And everything in between.
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