M.N. Miller’s Film Year in Review: The Hidden Gems on Streaming in 2021

January 3, 2022
M.N. Miller 0
Film, News, Ranked, Streaming Service

Here at Ready Steady Cut, we pride ourselves in uncovering cinematic hidden gems from a wide range of voices on various streaming platforms. We aren’t talking about films like Don’t Look Up or Being the Ricardos, but those you’ve never heard of. The documentaries that need to be discovered. The foreign-language movie hits in their respected countries find an exclusive streaming home in American markets. Or just a few movies I think need to be revisited so an audience can start to stream them at their fingertips.

Please read my list of hidden gems that have been forgotten and are about to be found.

M.N. Miller’s Film Year in Review: The Hidden Gems on Streaming in 2021

Ankahi Kahaniya: Manjari & Nandu

The anthology film Ankahi Kahaniya is an uneven experience but has a hidden gem with this second story, “Manjari & Nandu.” The second installment, directed by Abhishek Chaubey, has two souls united by the misfortunes of being born into dysfunctional families. Manjari (Rinku Rajguru) and Nandu (Delzad Hiwale) are both trying to escape their lives but are trapped. It’s a raw, completely authentic, straightforward, and riveting piece of filmmaking.

Dance of the 41

Alfonso Herrera and Mabel Cadena give two standout performances in Dance of the 41. Director David Pablo’s highly fictionalized reimagining displays a fine eye for composition and captures emotions in almost every scene. Not just lust or love, but fear, anxiety, contempt, and hate. The third act in Dance of the 41 is particularly powerful, showing the house of cards that fell on top of the lie Ignacio was living, his wife being the one to knock it over. It’s a beautifully shot film with expert production and costume design that takes you to another time and place.

The Father Who Moves Mountains

Writer and director Daniel Sandu’s latest film might as well have been called Picnic at Snowy Rock. A Romanian film with an ending that will be incredibly divisive for many, you cannot argue the intriguing character study in obsession and redemption. However the film plays out, why’ll many walk away thinking the story left them unfulfilled? What you can’t argue about The Father Who Moves Mountains (Tata muta muntii) is it’s a compelling one.

Fever Dream

Films like Claudia Llosa’s Fever Dream need to be pondered and digested simply because large sections of the film, particularly the ending, can be left up to interpretation. It may flounder a bit in its self-importance and be uncomfortable for some with its ominous psychological horror instead of the usual slasher p**n so many are fond of these days. It can be debated, dissected, and will no doubt be another divisive Netflix offering for many. 

The Forgotten Battle

The Forgotten Battle is filled with refreshing narrative storytelling choices that usually feel cheap. This is rare for the genre—a film with small minor character studies about the spoils of war where no one is the victor. 

Found

Here is a culturally relevant look at international adoption that is a much more personal and intimate look at the unintended consequences caused by the One Child Rule—unpretentious, raw, and full empathy.

Found is not just about personal identity, but a cultural one.

How I Became a Super Hero

Netflix’s How I Became a Super Hero is not a perfect film, but it is a solidly entertaining offering. These days it’s hard these days to make a genre film that is funny and genuinely engaging while holding onto classic tropes. Either way, if Pio Marmai and Vimila Pons are on board, I know a potential franchise when I see one.

Milestone

Ivan Ayr’s Milestone is a perfect follow-up to Soni’s meaty character study. Filmed right up to the outbreak of COVID-19 last year, it’s a film that many will relate to nowadays; isolation, loneliness, and generations fighting to keep their spot in the world or take it for themselves. And most of all, it speaks to one’s resiliency.

Operation Hyacinth

There’s a grit to Operation Hyacinth‘s layered script. The Polish Netflix film is inspired by the true story of the operation that documented over 11,000 citizens of the LGTQ+ community. It’s a terrific performance by Tomasz Zietek. You watch the facade slowly break as he starts to question and ponder his sexuality. It evokes comparisons to Robert Altman’s Homicide in how Joe Mantegna’s Detective Bobby Gold begins to embrace his heritage and investigate the world under attack.

The film is a gritty mystery with deeper themes than most films of the genre. It’s the way the narrative pulls Robert into a world that has freed him of his oppression that’s liberating.

Settlers

Overall, many won’t come around on Settlers’ uncompromised vision, which is rare nowadays even if its final act is alarming. Not to mention the two standout performances from Prince, and the actress who plays the older Remmy, Servant’s Nell Tiger Free. You can admire a film more than outright enjoy it, but can it be recommended? You can’t deny the emotional reaction Rockefeller creates here. It’s visceral.

Super Me

Netflix’s Super Me is just so much bloody fun. It works on many different levels. As a comedy, drama, fantasy, and horror picture, all seamlessly, with thrilling action, spectacular visuals (that firework scene!). All while playing with mental health themes that lead to manic behavior, sleep disorders, and our overall quality of life. Except for a few too many music videos and montages, I’m not sure I’ve had a more entertaining film experience this year.

Queen pins

Let’s cut to the Chevy Chase here. Paul Walter Hauser is hysterically funny in Queenpins. His chemistry with Vince Vaughn, at its lowest, is constantly amusing, and at its best, hysterical. Their interaction led to a line delivered by Hauser that was so perfect it had me laughing and snorting for several minutes (my wife has decided to find that adorable).

Yakuza and the Family

Formerly known as Yakuza and a Family but rebranded as A Family on Netflix, it is a killer gangster epic. Blood is spilled, guts are splattered, and some sentimental tears are shed. This is about honor, after all. Writer and director Michihito Fujii brings his trademark visual style, a multi-layered script, and the perfect balance of unnerving violence and criminal repentance. Fujii’s film is a superb example of narrative and visual storytelling when the shine of when being a gangster loses its luster.

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