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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: European Stories
spotlight: Immigrant Stories
spotlight: LGBTQ+ Stories

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
Very Best

Steve Carrell delivers an amazing performance here. Beautiful Boy is a movie that is based on a true story that first appeared as a best-selling serialized memoir. It’s about a son’s journey through drug abuse and how his relationship with his father evolves. The son is played by Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name), Carrell is the dad. As you can probably guess, the themes of drug addiction and family are made to induce tears, which this movie manages to do in a lot of ways. It can come across as somewhat emotionally manipulative at times. In those moments, it helps to remind oneself that it is based on a true story. The performances and the exploration of the limits of the father-son relationship remain the reasons why you should consider watching this movie.

8.2

It wouldn't be too far of a reach to evoke Kids (1995) while diving into Mid90s. But instead of taking on the HIV crisis, Mid90s is a much more tender, poignant reflection on coming of age in 90's skate culture. Jonah Hill, writer and director, examines the complexities of trying to fit in and the difficult choices one has to embrace individualism. From an opening of physical abuse to scenes of drug usage and traumatic experiences, Mid90s is a meditation not only on culture, but also a subtle examination of what it means to be human, to reach emotional and physical limitations, and to seek acceptance. Filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio, Mid90s doesn't concern itself with grandiose filmography, but instead the aspect ratio almost reflects the tonal and metaphorical aspects played out on screen. With a smaller dynamic range of color and the familiar dust/scratches, the 16mm film compliments gritty and emotional moments of Mid90s. The emotional range of the film will take the audience from the depths of empathy to laughing out loud, but there is no compromise to the weight of each moment. Jonah Hill's directorial debut is beautiful in every sense of the word.

8.0
Very Best
spotlight: Stories of Color

An intimate look into the rich yet short life of Alexander McQueen, the British fashion icon. I didn’t know much about him prior to watching that movie, and that didn’t matter. His story of a tormented genius transcends fame and even time. In art and in fashion, McQueen’s journey was celebrated by everyone but him. This is the type of movie where after you watch it, you need a good hour of Wikipedia searches and Youtube interview viewing. It’s powerful and will introduce you to an entire world that is the impact of Alexandre McQueen when he lived.

9.0
Very Best

It’s 1984 and miners in England are on strike against Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s plans to close pits. Their cause has unlikely appeal for Mark Ashton, a human rights activists who decides to take a group of people who had joined an early Gay Pride parade in London to rural England to show support for the (often socially-conservative) miners.You can see how things might go wrong, but in this case they didn’t. This heartwarming tale is based on a true story. An easy, funny, and relevant movie about the bond that oppression brings to the oppressed. Super earnest, too.

8.1
Very Best
spotlight: Women Stories

A delicate and profound exploration of loss, and an unbelievably well-made drama, Manchester By the Sea is a true triumph. Its focus on the characters, its timely unfolding of story elements, as well as its world class acting are only equal to the best European dramas. This deep and slow exploration of the human condition has rarely been successful in American cinema, if ever. The last best attempt was probably another movie  by director Kenneth Lonergan, You Can Count on Me. Manchester by the Sea is where he unveils his full potential, and takes the viewer deep into the tensions and history of a building handyman, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck). His angry but quiet life is interrupted by news that his brother suffered a heart attack, and upon going back to his hometown he finds that he is the only one left to take care of his teenage nephew. A truly amazing movie, not to be missed, and a huge success too.  It grossed around $80 million on a budget of $8.5 million.

9.0

A hilarious and smart comedy that is almost impossible to hate. It doesn’t matter if you liked The Room or not; or if you’ve even heard of it, you will find The Disaster Artist extremely enjoyable. Same applies for James Franco, it’s irrelevant if you think he’s the hottest man walking or a complete waste of screen-time - this movie is better approached without any preconceived ideas. It follows the true events surrounding Tommy Wiseau’s making of The Room, a movie so bad it actually became a worldwide hit. Tommy’s character, played by Franco, is 100% mystery. He pops out of nowhere and does and says things that contain little to no logic. Capitalizing on this, the movie is both absolutely hilarious and intriguing from beginning to end.

8.6
Very Best