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Movies that Matter: Spotlight

agoodmovietowatch Spotlight is a series of sections that shine a light on excellence in under-represented cinema.
spotlight: BIPOC Stories
spotlight: European Stories

A hot summer night, around 2 a.m. You’re outside talking with a close friend about life, happiness, and the human condition. That quality and depth of conversation, which you reach at best a couple of times a year is present throughout the 106 minutes of The End of the Tour.The film depicts the story of David Foster Wallace, played by Jason Segel, and his interactions with then Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky, played by Jesse Eisenberg.It’s like being with two smart friends and discussing your life and theirs in the sense that it is deeply personal, very smart while being simple, and unpretentiously relevant.Performances are nothing short of perfect as Segel completely transforms into the character, and everything is authentically orchestrated with the deft hand of The Spectacular Now director James Ponsoldt. A rare and important film.

9.5

Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea) and featuring the ever-reliable Mark Ruffalo as well as a fantastic performance from Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me is a beautiful and beautifully told story of siblings growing apart and later finding each other again. Sammy (Linney) helped raise her younger brother Terry (Ruffalo) after they were orphaned at an early age. Now a single mother, her life turns around when Terry comes back after a long time of being absent, with the two having become almost completely different people in between. Such an honest, genuine exploration of unconditional love, think of it as much more hopeful The Skeleton Twins.

9.4

Zero Days is a fascinating and alarming documentary about the Stuxnet computer virus that raised red flags throughout the cyber-security world in 2010 due to its complexity and ambiguous threat. Told in urgent fashion with first-hand accounts from cyber professionals from around the globe, Zero Days details the efforts of analysts to painstakingly dissect the Stuxnet code, and ultimately determine that it was the wayward product of a joint effort between the U.S. and Israel governments to sabotage centrifuges inside Iran's Natanz nuclear plant—in the hopes of slowing their development of nuclear weapons. The unfolding mystery of this story plays out with urgency and dismay, as the implications of this covert operation unfold, including the legitimate threat of retaliation by the Iranian government. It’s a stunning real-life thriller from renowned documentary Alex Gibney (Going Clear, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) that not only details the complexities of advanced coding in a remarkably evocative visual manner, but also spells out much of the modern espionage involved in making such an elaborate operation even possible. Ultimately, the message here is that cyber warfare is very much our new reality, and this film deserves to be seen by anyone with any degree of concern over our safety and security in the 21st century.

9.1
spotlight: Immigrant Stories

A brilliant science fiction film from the writer of 28 Days Later (and 28 Weeks Later).It tells the story of a developer who is invited by a billionaire CEO to participate in a groundbreaking experiment and interact with a robot called Ava. Questions of trust and ethics soon collide with the protagonist’s personal views. It’s a cultural take on the debate between artificial and human intelligence.The visual effects are stunning and efficient, making Ex Machina feel just as casually futuristic as Her. In its emphasis on ideas, it is as daringly simple as a David Fincher production.

9.0

A heart-breaking examination of a decaying shell of a once-bright marriage, this sad yet erotic-seeming story mixes happy flashbacks of attraction and desire with the grim reality of a dull life. It boosts an electrifying performance from Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, who seamlessly combine tenderness, rage, lust and sadness. This is a guaranteed tear-jerker, so make sure you've brought your Kleenexes!

9.5
spotlight: LGBTQ+ Stories

A thoughtful drama about the financial crisis, Margin Call is gripping. Seriously, even something as convoluted as the 2008 global economic meltdown is not only accessible and understandable, but it's gripping. Margin Call transports you to the heart of Wall Street, both the financial institutions and the street, literally. It is exciting, well-acted and informative. Uh, also: Kevin Spacey.

8.6

Starring Matthew Broderick and a young Reese Witherspoon as, respectively, Jim McAllister, a high school teacher and Tracy Flick, a notorious 'that girl' in his class. When Tracy decides to run for class president, we see the floodgates open as all sorts of bizarre and insane behavior pours out of the two. Quickly, it becomes clear that Tracy will do nearly anything to win, and as circumstances spiral out of control, madness descends - along with hilarity!

8.3

Will Ferrell plays a well organized IRS agent named Harold Crick who seems to have figured out everything in his life to the dot. Little does he know his life is being run by someone else, a nervous and morbid novelist, famous for ending her works with the death of the main character. As the nature of his life and eventual doom, he decides to lay back and enjoy the ride, breaking all his ingrained and boring habits. While this film is recommended for everyone, Will Ferrel fans, especially, need to watch this to see Will's acting variety.

8.5
spotlight: Women Stories

Moon is a sci-fi movie that doesn’t care that it’s a sci-fi movie. It’s not about space exploration or aliens. It’s about a man struggling to understand what and who he is and the dehumanizing effect of industrialization. Moon leaves you with a pit in your stomach and an incredible feeling of melancholy. It is perfectly acted by Sam Rockwell and the voice of Kevin Spacey. Moon keeps you guessing and deeply enthralled. A true masterpiece I would recommend to anyone, whether they are sci-fi nerds or just movie lovers.

8.5