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Staff Picks: The Best Movies to Watch

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

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A gritty and realistic thriller set in France’s notorious capital city of crime - Marseille. Zachary is released from Juvenile prison to learn that his mother has abandoned him. He finds kinship in an underage sex worker by the name of Shéhérazade. This seems like the set-up for a tough watch, but Shéhérazade plays like a romance when it’s slow, and a crime thriller when it’s fast (it’s mostly fast). Everything about the story and two leads’ relationship rings true. Added to the fact that it has no interest in emotionally manipulating you, the movie is more gripping and thought-provoking than sad.A great story, fantastic acting from the cast of first-timers, and outstanding direction give the feeling that Shéhérazade is bound to become a modern classic. If you liked City of God, you will love this. 

8.6

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Cinematography is a big part of Cold War, the story moves through stunning shots of the Polish countryside and later on an incredibly delicate portrait of Paris. All of that would be a waste if you watch it on an iPhone, so I really recommend watching this on as big of a screen as you can get your hands on. In 1950s Cold War Poland, a band of folk musicians find themselves used as a tool for Soviet propaganda. Their travel through the country is hijacked by this agenda, but it remains an incredible journey. It goes through different seasons and aesthetics uncovering lost Polish songs and poems. The leader of the band falls in love with one of the dancers, and the limits imposed on the couple under communist rule make them seek alternatives. Cold War is a statement on how far artists go for their art, especially when they become constrained not only by politics but by romance. It’s a poetic yet quiet movie that doesn’t scream its point but rather invites you to come to your own conclusions.

9.2

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

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

A relevant and deeply entertaining movie that only has the appearance of being about politics. In reality, it is about television, and one brilliant journalist’s pursuit of the perfect interview.  Richard Nixon stepped away from the public eye after the Watergate scandal, and was counting on a series of interviews three years later to redeem himself. His team assigns an unlikely reporter to sit in front of him, a British reality TV host named David Frost. Both men have everything to gain from this interview by going against each other, as Frost tries to extract a confession of wrongdoing in Watergate that Nixon never gave.  Who will win? The master manipulator or the up-and-coming journalist? Frost / Nixon was originally a play, and this adaptation is full of drama and boosts great dialogue.

8.8