Director Paul Schrader Lists His Own Movie, The Card Counter, As His Best of the Year

Critics, directors, even the former President of the United States have shared their favorite films of the year. But director Paul Schrader might have one of the more unique lists we’ve seen this year.

The “American Gigolo” director submitted a top 10 list of his favorite features of 2021 to Screen Slate, a site devoted to film and repertory cinema that included the likes of Pedro Almodovar’s “Parallel Mothers,” Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast,” and Steven Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story.” But in the number one position was Schrader’s own directorial offering, “The Card Counter.” Yes, a director considered his own feature the best of the year.

Many of the comments below are finding the humor in Schrader’s decision. Schrader also included “Memoria,” “Bergman Island,” Asghar Farhadi’s “A Hero,” “The Rescue,” the Apple TV+ documentary on the Velvet Underground, and Pablo Larrain’s “Spencer.”  “The Card Counter” also made the list of former President Barack Obama’s favorite features.

Obama also made room for films including “Pig,” “Passing,” Oscar winner “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “The Worst Person in the World” (Norway’s entry), “Old Henry” “The Last Duel,” “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” “C’mon C’mon,” and Oscar nominee “Quo Vadis, Aida?”

IndieWire’s David Ehrlich was a fan of Schrader’s feature, which stars Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish. He said in his “B+” review, “That ‘The Card Counter’ shakes your faith in the writer-director’s ability to beat the odds is part of its scabrous charm. Schrader’s film is perhaps too enamored by perdition to reach for the sublime — for all of its familiarity, even that ending is stuck in an unsettled emotional limbo — but poker is all about feeling around in the dark, and Schrader knows there’s no limit to what a man can do who’s capable of forgiving himself. It’s just like what Travis Bickle said to Wizard after his big ‘we’re all fucked’ speech: ‘I don’t know. That’s about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.’”

Schrader’s list arrives as critics’ 10-best lists start pouring in. Both IndieWire’s staff list and its annual critics survey crowned “The Power of the Dog” as the year’s best film by a wide margin. No doubt “The Card Counter” should see more love as other critics reveal their picks.

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