Highly-rated yet little-known movies

agoodmovietowatch suggests excellent movies (and recently shows) that you might not know about.

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agoodmovietowatch

The 1980s were not a great time to be of Pakistani descent in the UK. Hate crimes are at an all-time high and the economy is suffering. Plus, there is really no good era to be a misunderstood teenager. Javed is both those things in this coming-of-age comedy based on a true story. Javed finds solace in the music of one Bruce Springsteen, relating to his themes of small-city blues and the dreams of escaping them.All of this makes Blinded By The Light a charming movie about a lot of unpleasantness, and while it tries to be too many things (a commentary on race, a musical, a coming of age story, etc), it succeeds where it matters: to treat the story with care and intelligence.

7.1

Set in 1970s Italian countryside, this is a quirky movie that’s full of plot twists.Lazzaro is a dedicated worker at a tobacco estate. His village has been indebted to a marquise and like everyone else, he works without a wage and in arduous conditions.Lazzaro strikes a friendship with the son of the marquise, who, in an act of rebellion against his mother, decides to fake his own kidnapping. The two form an unlikely friendship in a story that mixes magical realism with social commentary.

8.0

This is a documentary with a dark underbelly. When Bobby Shafran goes on his first day at college, everyone seems to recognize him. The person they're actually recognizing is his twin brother, as the two were separated at birth by an adoption agency. A third brother surfaces to make the story even crazier, but things take a darker turn when questions arise about why they were separated as toddlers and to what end. If it wasn't a documentary, this story would be an unusual science fiction on the themes of identity and nature vs. nurture.

7.7

Demian Bichir was nominated for an Oscar for his role in this movie where he plays an illegal immigrant and father. You might be wondering "who is that?", but trust me you won't after watching this movie. The kindness, complexity, and authenticity he brings to this story are unparalleled.A Better Life is about the illegal immigrant experience, about the line between the fear of being caught and the aspiration for a better future. It's an excellent and important movie.

7.6

There are far too many things that are worse in life than being on a journey with Danish super talent Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal, The Hunt).And that is what this 98-minute movie is: an almost one-actor movie set in the arctic. Mikkelsen plays a man trying to survive a plane crash, which at some point becomes about deciding whether to embark on a dangerous journey or stay in the plane rubble and risk a slow death.It’s an extremely well-acted movie with nail-biting suspense. Bonus fact: it received a 10-minute standing ovation when it premiered at the Cannes film festival this year.

7.5

This is a gripping and incredibly well-made documentary about the demise of the last two Brazilian presidents, Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva (2003-2011) and Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016). The first is now in prison, while the second was impeached.The Edge of Democracy is narrated in English by the filmmaker, Petra Costa, a renown Brazilian director. Costa intertwines her family history with Brazil’s, as her parents were activists who were sent to jail in the ‘70s (her mother was held in the same facility as ex-president Rousseff).This grounds the documentary and turns it into a personal story that illustrates the bigger political picture. The Edge of Democracy knows that you don’t know much about Brazilian politics, but makes that a source of suspense rather than a disadvantage. It’s a perfect instructive watch.

9.0
BF

Rilakkuma and Kaoru is that perfect mix of cute and profound that you’d expect from a Japanese show about a woman living with teddy-bear roommates. The first episode is about cherry blossoms, but really, it’s about loneliness.Actually, the best term I can find to describe this show, and I’m not joking, is “slice-of-life.” The stories are endearing and intimate. You won’t be able to help but relate to the main character as she deals with being single while her friends are in relationships, her apartment building being demolished and she can’t find another affordable place to move into, her stressful job, etc.I have never seen a show combine this many absurd elements (the woman lives with three goddamn teddy bears), with so much realism. And all of this is done in an easy, quiet tone.

8.2

When I learned about Street Food the first time, I was reluctant to sit through yet another Netflix cooking show. They’ve made so many that when I want to bring up an episode with a friend I forget if I saw it in Ugly Delicious, Chef’s Table, Salt Fat Acid Heat or others.I can’t say that Street Food is a different format. It uses the same slow-motion takes of food, the same close-ups on chefs and the same style of interviews.Here is the thing though. Street Food might be similar to other Netflix cooking shows, but it’s also better than them in almost every way. Much better.It’s only 30 minutes long per episode, so it doesn’t indulge in egos or stray into unrelated stories. It doesn’t showcase kitchens where only the rich eat, like Chef’s Table often does, but stalls that are accessible to everyone. And in the best way, it connects the story of the food makers to the food.The show is mostly about middle-aged to senior women, and people who do not make that much money. It’s not about glamorous young chefs. It’s about food stripped away from any marketing or showbiz.Real cooking, real chefs, real diners. In its unpretentious nature, Street Food feels euphoric.

8.0

Stories We Tell got on everyone’s radar when, back in 2015, it made the list of the all-time top ten list of Canadian films.That speaks to both the caliber of this movie and its relevance to North America. It’s in fact a first-person account about (and made by) actress Sarah Polley (Mr. Nobody, Exotica, Away from Her, Take This Waltz).In the film, she investigates the rumor that she was the product of an affair, and that her father might not be her biological father. Her family and suspected fathers are all storytellers, and many of them Academy Award winners.Ultimately, the movie becomes about her family’s remembrance of her now-deceased mother (the famous actress Diane Polley). It’s an examination of how the same story can be told so differently by different people and across time. Lies get added and truths are hidden, and all of that enriches Polley’s pursuit.

7.5

This movie’s energy is completely intoxicating.It’s the directorial debut of renown British/Nigerian actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, but it feels like the work of a veteran.In a true story told in English and Chichewa (a language from Malawi), a young boy is expelled from school because his parents couldn’t afford tuition. At the same time, his village is struck by a variety of natural circumstances that bring them the threat of drought and famine.The young boy sneaks into the library in the hopes of making a windmill and saving his village, and you can guess what follows from the title.The triumph of engineering and a boy with a dream; mix in an incredibly interesting culture, full of unique family dynamics and a thought-provoking intersection between religion, tradition, and technology. The result is a delicate but uplifting movie, not to be missed.

7.9