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Staff Picks: The Best Movies to Watch

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There is so much power to this story based actor Shia Laboeuf’s life. As a kid, he lived with his father on the road during the filming of Even Stevens and other star-making roles. His dad was a war veteran who goes to bikers’ AA meetings and who had a brief acting career himself.  He was full of anger that made Laboeuf later suffer from PTSD, but which he was able to perceive in a fascinating way. Putting Laboeuf’s fame aside, this is an incredible movie on emotionally abusive parent-child relationships. It’s a universal story. With Shia Laboeuf as his father and Lucas Hedges as current-day Laboeuf.  

8.4

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A beautifully shot movie about a high-schooler who's pushed by his father to always work and exercise the hardest. He aces his exams and always wins at wrestling, but nothing is ever good enough for the father and there is no margin for error. When things with both his body and his relationship start going wrong, his existence comes crashing down. This movie has two parts, and it takes a lot of narrative risks, but the beautiful camera work and believable characters land every single risk. It's an incredible achievement and a movie that should have gotten much more attention than it did.

8.7

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The first movie to be nominated to both the Documentary and Foreign-Language Oscar categories, Honeyland is a portrayal of one of the last wild beekeepers in Europe shot over three years. Her life consists of taking care of her ailing mother and harvesting honey according to rules her ancestors taught her, such as only taking half of the produced honey at any one time. These rules are broken when a nomad family arrives. The father, anxious about securing for his children, threatens the beekeeper's way of life.There is so much incredible footage in this difficult documentary, from hazardous mountain climbs to a kid helping a cow give birth. But throughout, the question of "how am I watching this?" often comes up, since the footage the filmmakers gained feels unobstructed by anything: it doesn't feel like there is a camera around.

9.3

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This story of a filmmaker who stayed in Aleppo, Syria during the war, got married then had a child called Sama, is a mix of difficult and inspiring.There are stories of unsurmountable loss, as the filmmaker’s husband is one of the 30 remaining doctors in Aleppo (a city of almost 5 million), and she films many of the victims that come to his hospital. But while this is happening, there are also uplifting stories of resilience and rare but profound moments of laughter and joy.We’re growing too sensitized to violence in Syria, and this movie, possibly the most intimate account of the war, can stir back a much-needed awareness of the injustices that take place.When things get really bad in the documentary, it’s hard not to wonder where the humanity is in all of this. You quickly realize that it’s right there, behind the camera, in Sama and her mother’s will to live.

8.6

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This is the latest Oscar-nominated movie by Spain's highest-regarded director, Pedro Almodóvar. It's his most personal work to date, being a slightly fictionalized account of his youth and then the last couple of years. He is mostly portrayed by Antonio Banderas, who was also nominated for an Oscar for this role; while another star performance comes from Penélope Cruz who plays his mother in the flashback scenes. Pain and Glory is about life in the arts: how a tormented artistic personality is formed, the days of focusing on work over relationships, and dealing with the consequences later in life. It begs the question: in Almodóvar's life, was the glory that got him to making as great of a movie as this one worth the pain?

8.7

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A sweet feel-good movie starring Nick Offerman as a dad who has to deal with his only daughter leaving for college and his record store struggling. The daughter is played by Kiersey Clemons who you might recognize from the show Easy. And Ted Danson has a great role too. This is a relatable and heartwarming movie, one of the best the so-called "indie" genre has known in a long time.

8.0

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Such a good movie. The start is reminiscent of great, funny coming-of-age stories. However, a violent event quickly takes place and The Hate U Give becomes a powerful comment on police brutality in America, institutional oppression, and what it's like to be from a marginalized community but try to find your place in the world. But at the end, it's a 'movie' movie, directed by George Tillman Jr. who made the Barbershop movies and Men of Honor (with De Niro).

8.5

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Two storylines take place in this Parisian animation: one of a Moroccan immigrant who works as a pizza delivery guy, and the other of his hand, somehow no longer part of his body, but also going on a trip around Paris.   The hand storyline is not gory by the way, except for one or two very quick scenes. Mostly, this is a film about loneliness and not being able to find your way back, both as an immigrant who misses how they were raised and as a hand who misses its body.   Sporting some of the most beautiful animation work this year, this movie premiered at Cannes where it became the first-ever animated film (and Netflix film) to win the Nespresso Grand Prize.

8.2