I found it pretty easy to rank these.
6) Tenet, written and directed by Christopher Nolan
Nasty violence, incomprehensible time-travel plot and Kenneth Branagh does a very silly Eastern European accent.
5) The Old Guard, written by Greg Rucka, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood
Charlize Theron and her co-stars are very cute immortal fighters in today’s world, and do a lot of biffing, for no reason that I could really detect.
4) Soul, screenplay by Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers, directed by Pete Docter, co-directed by Kemp Powers, produced by Dana Murray
In case you were worrying, I liked all the others, including this. Soul is a fun story of a man whose soul is separated from his body just before he was going to get his big musical break, and then becomes incarnated as a cat. Features Graham Norton in a supporting role.
3) Palm Springs, written by Andy Siara, directed by Max Barbakow
A reshaping of the concept of Groundhog Day where the repeated day is someone else’s wedding. I thought this was sweet and funny and kept up the pacing well, but then realised when I came to write this post that I couldn’t remember all that much about it.
2) Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, written by Will Ferrell, Andrew Steele, directed by David Dobkin
We had some complaints after the final Hugo ballot was published from people who thought that this film anout the Icelandic entry for the Eurovision Song Contest was not sfnal. I’m tired of explaining that the subject criteria for the Dramatic Presentation categories are not as restrictive as they are for other categories, but anyway this film features several appearances by the ghost of a character who is killed early on, and one of the other characters is killed by invisible elves, which seems pretty sfnal to me. It also features Graham Norton (whose life goals probably did not include appearing in two Hugo finalist films in the same year). As my regular reader knows, I love Eurovision, and I really liked this film, including Pierce Brosnan as the protagonist’s grumpy father. My one quibble is that Will Ferrell is a little too old to credibly be in the central part (though this is lampshaded in the script). There’s a particularly glorious scene where Ferrell and Rachel McAdams participate in a singalong of Eurovision classics with some of the previous winners and contestants.
1) Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), written by Christina Hodson, directed by Cathy Yan
I know, totally inconsistent of me to mark down Tenet and The Old Guard for the cartoonish violence and then give my top vote to a movie that is all about cartoonish violence. But, even for someone like me who has almost no familiarity with the Harley Quinn comics and did not always enjoy previous DC movies, this has an internal integrity and an amazing level of energy that lifts it above the other contenders this year for me. We know exactly who our protagonists are, and why they are doing what they are doing, because the film tells us; and yet it also has a cleverly fragmented timeline (like Tenet and Palm Springs) which of course echoes the fragmented nature of Harley Quinn’s mind. It’s funny and witty, and beautifully put together, and it gets my top vote. Rock on, Margot Robbie.
2021 Hugos: Best Novel | Best Novella | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Series | Best Related Work | Best Graphic Story or Comic | Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form | Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form | Best Professional Artist and Best Fan Artist | Lodestar | Astounding