5 Best Movies to Watch by John Ortiz

Staff & contributors

One of The Drop's many strengths is its dark, clever, yet compassionate script. It will take you into the heart of the Brooklyn crime scene through the characters and their respective more or less fragile lifestyles. The extremely good performances, however, soon become the focus and attire of the film. James Gandolfini couldn't be more at home in this context and excels with his usual menace, yet somehow relatable presence. Tom Hardy, however, surprises in unfamiliar grounds, sharply portraying a vulnerable character, whose vulnerability you will keep doubting. The Drop is consistent from start to finish, and with jaw-dropping moments here and there, it is both an interesting and enjoyable film.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Alex Ziwak, Ann Dowd, Chris Sullivan, Danny McCarthy, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Erin Darke, Jack Dimich, James Colby, James Frecheville, James Gandolfini, Jeremy Bobb, Jessica Tate, John Di Benedetto, John Ortiz, Khan Baykal, Lucas Caleb Rooney, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michaël R. Roskam, Michael Aronov, Michael Esper, Michael O'Hara, Mike Houston, Morgan Spector, Noomi Rapace, Patricia Squire, Robert Turano, Ross Bickell, Scott Johnsen, Tobias Segal, Tom Hardy

Director: Michael R. Roskam, Michael Roskam

Rating: R

On the one hand, American Fiction is a razor-sharp satire that pokes fun at the hypocrisy of the literary and entertainment industry. It's only when Monk (Wright), a genius but esoteric writer, decides to pander and give in to what publishers have come to expect from Black authors (that is: trauma porn) that he is finally celebrated for his work. But on the other hand, the film is also a tender family drama. Monk sells out, as it were, partly because he’s fascinated by the stupidity of decision-makers and supposed intellectuals, but mostly because he needs to pay for his ailing mother’s care. His relationship with his siblings and deceased father likewise informs much of his character, and they complicate what could’ve been just an intellectual approach to a social issue. This is an educational and entertaining film, yes, one that looks at the complex intersection between identity, craft, and profit. But it’s also an empathetic film, told with a big heart and a surprisingly light touch.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adam Brody, Alexander Pobutsky, Bates Wilder, Celeste Oliva, David De Beck, Dustin Tucker, Erika Alexander, Greta Quispe, Issa Rae, J. C. MacKenzie, Jeffrey Wright, Jenn Harris, John Ales, John Ortiz, Kate Avallone, Keith David, Leslie Uggams, Michael Cyril Creighton, Michael Jibrin, Michael Malvesti, Miriam Shor, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Neal Lerner, Okieriete Onaodowan, Patrick Fischler, Raymond Anthony Thomas, Skyler Wright, Sterling K. Brown, Tracee Ellis Ross

Director: Cord Jefferson

Rating: R

This is the most practical romantic movie I have seen though many would disagree with its ending. It's a triangular love story that trades cashable means of storytelling with a much more sensible approach. After a failed relationship, Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix) returns to live with his parents only to find himself torn again between an exciting neighbor and a woman his parents set him up with. Phoenix delivers an impeccable performance as it goes without saying but Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw really steal the show as the two love interests. They both deliver honest and very interesting portrayals. All in all, Two Lovers is a complex and very well-acted film that goes as far as examining the notion of love, and what we look for in people, through seemingly a simple story.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Anne Joyce, Bianca Giancoli, Bob Ari, Carmen M. Herlihy, Craig Walker, David Cale, David Ross, Don Hewitt Jr., Elias Koteas, Elliot Villar, Geronimo Frias, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Isabella Rossellini, Jeanine Serralles, Joaquin Phoenix, John Ortiz, Julie Budd, Mari Koda, Marion McCorry, Mark Vincent, Moni Moshonov, Nick Gillie, RJ Konner, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Samantha Ivers, Shiran Nicholson, Uzimann, Vinessa Shaw

Director: James Gray

Rating: R

This emotionally rich biopic spans Reinaldo Arena’s lifetime, from his childhood and early embrace of the Cuban Revolution to his deportation via the notorious 1980 Mariel boatlift, and subsequent death in the United States. The story of Arenas’ life is told through using his own words, over director Julian Schabel's beautifully crafted images. In his first-ever English-speaking role, Javier Bardem renders a strong dramatic performance for which he deservedly received wide acclaim. Before Night Falls is a finely crafted portrait of a creative yet self-destructive poet who has to face the clash between his identity and the political environment surrounding him.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alfredo Villa, Andrea Di Stefano, Diahnne Abbott, Diego Luna, Francisco Gattorno, Héctor Babenco, Javier Bardem, Jerzy Skolimowski, John Ortiz, Johnny Depp, Marisol Padilla Sánchez, Maurice Compte, Michael Wincott, Najwa Nimri, Olatz Lopez Garmendia, Olivier Martinez, Pedro Armendáriz Jr., Rene Rivera, Santiago Magill, Sean Penn, Vincent Laresca

Director: Julian Schnabel

Survivors are often painted in a brave light; they’re applauded for their resilience and toughness, and in the case of school shootings, many of them are also expected to take up arms and fight the good fight. While this is of course laudable, many survivors are simply trying to get by. Unable to process trauma and inexplicable loss, they become withdrawn, depressed, and reckless—not exactly noteworthy traits, but understandable and equally deserving of empathy.

The Fallout shifts the focus on this side of survival by following Vada in the aftermath of a school shooting. Unlike her peers, she fails to cope positively and becomes increasingly self-destructive. But it's through this unsentimental portrayal that The Fallout achieves a frankness and rawness that few films like it have. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Austin Zajur, Christine Horn, Elliott Roca, Jenna Ortega, John Ortiz, Julie Bowen, Lumi Pollack, Maddie Ziegler, Niles Fitch, Shailene Woodley, Will Ropp, Yindra Zayas

Director: Megan Park

Rating: R