Highly-rated yet little-known movies

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

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agoodmovietowatch

This is a slightly weird and not so slightly quirky movie to be avoided by anyone with a low tolerance to the weird or quirky. Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, Frances Ha) and Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, also Frances Ha) write the story, while Gerwig plays a lead role. Two girls, one a New Yorker and the other having just arrived in New York for a writing program, get in touch because their parents will marry. The writer is fascinated by the personality of the New Yorker and follows her everywhere to understand her more, and eventually write about her. Mistress America is their journey through friendship and through New York. Stick around the first 40 minutes or so, because the second half of this 82-minute movie is hilarious.

7.0

This is a gorgeous Danish period drama that’s based on a famous story and book in Denmark called Lykke-Per (or Lucky Per) by Nobel Prize-winning author Henrik Pontoppidan.Per, the son of an overbearing catholic priest, leaves his family house in the country side to seek a new life in Copenhagen. His passion about engineering was at the time contrary with the Christian faith, but manages to introduce him to the capital’s elite, and a chance at social ascension.Lykke-Per and A Fortunate Man are about nature versus nurture. Per’s passion about engineering and renewable energy (back in the 1920s) is set against his need to emancipate and the pride that was instilled in him by his upbringing.

7.5

From the Oscar-nominated cinematographer of City of God, this is a Brazilian Netflix TV show that I can only describe as a smarter Hunger Games.In a dystopian society, the majority of the planet’s population lives in extreme poverty while a select 3% (hence the title) live in a heaven-like world called “The Offshore”. Every year, the 20-year-olds of the planet get a chance to join the 3% in a selection process that for the first time might harbor moles.With an intriguing first episode that shares just enough to keep you informed but engaged, it’s easy to want to binge-watch the whole first season of 3% in one sitting.

8.0

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

Bosch returned recently for a fifth season, with a sixth one confirmed. It’s a sleeper hit that you may not have heard of, but with time should get the coverage it deserves.Titus Welliver (Lost, Sons of Anarchy, Argo) plays an L.A.P.D. homicide detective who is on trial for using questionable methods during a fatal shootout. At the same time, he is trying to solve an open murder case.Bosch is carried by almost entirely by Welliver, who delivers such a good multi-layered performance that it’s hard to think anyone else could have played this character.

8.0

Graduation is a Romanian movie from the director of the Palme d’Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (also number 15 in the BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.)Romeo is a 49-year-old doctor in the city of Cluj-Napoca. He is immensely proud and dedicated to his daughter, Eliza, who gets awarded a scholarship to go to Cambridge provided that she does well in her last high-school exam.The day before this exam, Elisa is sexually assaulted outside her school, and her wrist is broken. The event haunts the family and jeopardizes Elisa’s chances of succeeding in her exam.Romeo, still determined to ensure his daughter’s success, vows to do anything to not let the assault ruin his daughter’s future. Graduation is about this father and daughter duo as they go against a corrupt but quickly changing Romanian system.

7.9

This is an HBO dark comedy that was intensely loved by anyone who knew about it before it was inexplicably canceled.Laura Dern plays a corporate executive who has a full-blown meltdown. I’m talking mascara streaming down her cheeks and screaming “I’m going to destroy you” to a coworker.When she comes back from a retreat in Hawaii she is forced to take, Den’s character is no longer filled with corporate rage but with inexplicable and almost obnoxious positivity. She tries to spread her new outlook around by giving people books like “Flow Through Your Rage” and telling them about sea turtles. Things get more real when she decides to take on her old company’s abuses.I think the reason this show has such hard-core fans is that they fell in love with Laura Dern’s character. Watching this show is like letting in a flawed, dependent, but extremely determined and well-meaning person into your life.Enlightened is funny, engaging, and all-around near-perfect TV.

8.0

This is a hilarious political comedy starring the ever-great Steve Buscemi. Set in the last days before Stalin's death and the chaos that followed, it portrays the lack of trust and the random assassinations that characterized the Stalinist Soviet Union. Think of it as Veep meets Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator. Although to be fair, its dark comedy props are very different from the comedy that comes out today: where there are jokes they're really smart, but what's actually funny is the atmosphere and absurd situations that end up developing.

8.1

If you liked Superbad, you will love Booksmart. It's a funny coming-of-age movie about two best friends who embark on one last crazy night before their high-school ends. Sounds like something you've seen before? Don't worry, it's not. This movie might be for fans of smart coming-of-age comedies, but it's very different from them. It's current, creating situations and premises for jokes that haven't been explored before, ranging from taking a Lyft and finding out the driver is their school principal; to mistakenly connecting to his car's sound system while trying to get educated on how two women have sex. The girls in Booksmart are overachieving, fiercely supportive of each other, and yet in the right context, ready to let go and have fun. In short, their endearing attitude makes this movie not only funny but extremely likely to charm your socks off.

9.0
BF

Here is a TV show where the performances are so good that it's hard to give any credit to the story. Patricia Arquette as a prison employee, and Benicio Del Toro and Paul Dano as inmates are an unbelievable trio. They all shine in their own right in this true story of escape from a prison in Upstate New York. Arquette is almost unrecognizable in the role of a frustrated middle-aged woman who gets romantically involved with the inmates. Dano plays the young one, a smart but easily excited guy. Del Toro plays an experienced, shrewd, and boss-type prisoner. Together they take an already exceptional story and create one of the most realistic mysteries in recent memory. Because of this, the pacing might be slow for some - but remember, it's not like the cast is difficult to follow.

9.3

This Netflix production is based on a case that rocked public opinion in Italy. Stefano Cucchi was arrested for a minor drug charge and died five days later from police brutality.The movie takes its time to expose what Cucchi went through, which might lead some viewers to find On My Skin slow, and rightfully so. Thinking about the issues at hand here, it’s easy to understand why the director made that choice. In fact, Italians’ complex relationship with the Carabinieri, a division of the Italian army that carries out domestic policing, is delicate to explain and requires meticulous unveiling.Nominated to nine David di Donatello Awards (the equivalent of the Academy Awards in Italy), of which it won three.

7.7