Highly-rated yet little-known movies

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

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Scarlett Johanson, in her best performance since Lost in Translation, and Adam Driver, in the peak of his career, star in this heartbreaking drama as a couple going through a divorce.They are respectively an actor and a director living comfortably in New York. They’re keen to make the divorce go smoothly so as not to affect their son, but with entirely different visions of his future, this proves to be difficult. This premise makes for familiar territory for director Noah Baumbach who specializes in dramatic storytelling of the intellectual upper-class (like his other Netflix movie The Meyerowitz Stories). Here, Baumbach made his best film yet.Divorce is a recurring topic of our daily lives, but somehow there hasn’t been a movie that treated it with as little melodrama and as much compassion as this one. It’s still a difficult movie, but it’s good difficult. Perfect difficult.

9.0
BF

Like a Wes Anderson movie, The Last Black Man in San Francisco takes artistic risks and nails every one of them. There are many quirky, aesthetically well-studied, and even funny aspects to this moving story.Jimmie has been maintaining a typical San Francisco Victorian house, regularly painting the windows and watering the plants. One small problem: other people live there and they don’t want him around. It turns out this was once Jimmie’s family house, having been built by his grandfather in 1948, and he misses it deeply.This story is based on writer Jimmie Fails’ life, as he tried to reclaim his family home in SF. However, it’s not a movie that limits itself to gentrification. It transcends that to being about the universal yearning to find a place to call home.

7.6

Adam Driver, Annette Bening, and Jon Hamm are among the many recognizable faces of this star-packed political drama.Driver, pictured above in his ‘I’m goofy but I will save the world’ signature stare 😍, plays Daniel J. Jones, an investigator working with the Senate. He is assigned to write a report (“the” report) about the CIA torture program post 9/11.If you so much as liked Vice, the hit movie from earlier this year, you will love The Report. It covers similar grounds: incompetency, unclear intentions, confusion, etc; but in a way that is more to-the-point (which might make it feel dry to some). It also helps in understanding or getting a refresher on, how the Senate works and how organizations like the CIA interact with (bully) other branches of government. I would almost go as far as to say that if you are a U.S. citizen, watching this movie, with its many goofy Adam Driver moments, is your civic duty.

8.0

Three half-Puerto-Rican, half-white boys grow up in suburban New York in this personal movie shot on stunning 16mm film.This movie follows the boys, often literally with the camera behind their backs, as their parents’ relationship goes through turmoil. The kids are often left unattended and have to fend for themselves. The beauty of We the Animals is illustrating how they grow-up swinging between the angry character of their father and the protective nature of their mother.This is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time, and I think I loved it so much because I was able to relate and feel for the main character (one of the boys). I really hope you will too.

8.0

This is a slow but well-made movie about a Jehovah’s Witness family, directed by a former member of the organization.The family is made of Alex, her mother, and her older sister. Alex follows her mother and her religious teachings with the utmost loyalty, especially as she refuses a blood transfusion that is crucial to her health. Her older sister starts showing signs of independence by lying to her friends about her family’s faith and dating a Muslim man.Apostasy is about family bonds versus belief bonds. It’s not a movie that judges or preaches, rather it simply portrays the complex situations that structured religion creates.

7.1

This is a half-hour documentary about Cuban-American artist Carmen Herrera. She is one of the oldest artists working today, close to being 100 years old.Her story is fascinating because she only became successful in her 80s, although she never stopped working her whole life. There are many reasons as to why her work went unnoticed for so long and they’re all examined here. But the best thing about this movie is Herrera’s outlook on life and what drives her every day.

7.8

A flawless Daniel Day‑Lewis stars in this thought-provoking romance. He plays a successful dressmaker in post-second-World-War London who falls for a waitress while on an excursion to the countryside. It's hard to tell you what this movie is about without ruining the story for you but I can tell you how it made me feel: it kept me guessing the whole time. Day-Lewis' character is so masterfully played that I felt that every move he made was calculated and that every line meant something. Plus, expect stunning dresses, beautiful country-side sequences, and an all-around gorgeous aesthetic experience.

8.4

This true story of a white-supremacist and the civil rights unit that tried to stop his group was so gripping. You might recognize the title from the Oscars ceremony, as a shorter version of Skin (same director but different actors) won the Academy Award for Best Short Film. The longer movie provides much more time for the characters to develop, and room for more of a commentary on the current political situation in the U.S.Fun fact: see that scary man in the picture? That’s Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell who went through a transformation for the role, including always wearing a device to pull his ears closer to his head because they were “too cute”.

8.1

As the name indicates, Losers tells stories of failure in sport - an unconventional way to look at competitive personalities. The first episode is on boxing, the second is on soccer, and so on. But if you stick around, you’ll make it to episode five - my favorite (full disclosure: it is set in Morocco, where I’m from).Every episode is about a different story, so you can watch one or two not in any particular order, then keep the rest for later. It is the perfect documentary style with enough of a narrative to keep plot-addicted people like me captivated.A bonus is that this show is created and directed by renown animator Mickey Duzyj - prepare for stunning yet purpose-driven animations.

8.4

Iceland is a country of vast lands but limited population - only about 300,000 people can call themselves Icelandic. On the other hand, 8 million people have connecting flights through Iceland every year. In this setting of mass movement, a single mother dealing with poverty is offered a chance to turn things around - a job as a border agent. One of her first days, she comes across an asylum seeker on a connecting flight from Guinea Bissau to Canada, trying to cross with a fake passport. Their stories don’t only intertwine as border agent and asylum seeker, but as two mothers. And Breathe Normally is about struggling with poverty both in Europe and coming from a place like Guinea Bissau. It’s a beautiful, plot-heavy statement on the importance of solidarity and of seeing the human behind the country of origin or race.

7.8

When asked about starring in First Reformed, Ethan Hawke said it’s the kind of role he would have never dared to audition for 10 years ago. This is coming from the same goatee icon who did Gattaca 22 years ago, and Training Day 18 years ago. Needless to say that his performance in this movie is exceptional, and we hope that it will be rewarded with an Oscar. The film centers around his character, a reverend of a church in New York, who is trying to help a couple with marital issues (deciding the fate of a pregnancy). Instead, he uncovers a deeper story and becomes unexpectedly involved. Religion intersects with ethical questions on activism, abortion, and environmental issues. I know that sounds like a lot, but First Reformed delivers on everything. The writing by Paul Schrader is delicate yet ensures that the movie keeps a gripping pace.

8.8