MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Best 2023 Awards Contenders

2023 has been a brilliant year for movies and an astonishing number of outstanding films representing all genres are now vying for awards consideration. There are so many top titles that if you were to watch movies from dawn to dusk for this quiet week between Christmas and New Year’s Day — without taking a break — you probably couldn’t manage to view all of the serious awards contenders. So, with this week’s Movie of the Week feature, we are recommending titles picked by Team MOTW members — titles that they say must be seen before the awards shows so you will be prepared to enjoy all of the awards season’s buzz and shine in social media opining and chatter around the watercooler. These are our must see films and we’ll wager that once you see them you will want to see them again. Happy holiday week viewing!!!

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 22, 2023: Best MOTWs of 2023

Team #MOTW looks back at the films we featured during 2023 and highlights our favorites. There are many things about 2023 that we want to forget, but these femme-helmed/femme centric films that brought inspiration, understanding, compassion, and respite replete with laughter are not among them — and they must not slip into oblivion. Their themes, topics and genres are diverse, and each one of them is a gem. Add them to your watch list. Share the titles with friends. To find out more about each of the selected films, click on the titles for links to our full #MOTW coverage. Enjoy all of AWFJ’s Best #MOTWs of 2023.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 15, 2023: HO HO HOLIDAY VIEWING

December — and especially this December — is a very good time to seek a bit of seasonal levity in the form of favorite flicks for a bit of respite from the world’s worries. And so we present for your enjoyment AWFJ’s wonderfully varied list of recommended movies for your ho ho holiday viewing. The roster features romance, comedy, thrills and lots of food. Team MOTW has selected films that are upbeat, inspiring and spirited, although not all are directly connected to traditional celebrations. Wonder what’s in store?

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 8, 2023: THE PEASANTS

Polish author Wladyslaw Reymont’s epic, Nobel Prize-winning novel gets an appropriately impressive adaptation in Dorota Kobiela (DK) and Hugh Welchman’s The Peasants. Lushly and gorgeously animated using the same painstaking rotoscope process the duo and their talented crew earned accolades for with 2017’s Loving Vincent, the lovingly crafted film follows the inhabitants of a Polish farming village over the course of a year at the turn of the 20th century. Watching The Peasants is like seeing an Impressionist painting come to life.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 1, 2023: SISTERS (MASAS)

Raw and documentary-like in its realism, Linda Olte’s coming-of-age drama Sisters (Masas) is the moving story of a Latvian teenager who seems older than her years but in many ways is still a vulnerable child. It hinges on the powerful performance of Emma Skirmante, who makes her feature debut as 13-year-old Anastasija, a tough-acting group-home veteran who finds herself conflicted over the chance of a fresh start in America.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 24, 2023: SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD

Women of all shapes and sizes come together in a traditional Estonian sauna to sweat out their pain and fear in filmmaker Anna Hints’ meditative documentary Smoke Sauna Sisterhood. As the steam swirls around them, the women tell their stories, sharing joys and sorrows, trauma and triumph. Underlying everything is the reality of what it means to be a woman — and how essential it is for women to support one another.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 17, 2023: MAY DECEMBER

May December, inspired by headline-grabbing true stories like that of Mary Kay Letourneau, introduces us to Gracie (Julianne Moore), a one-time teacher who’s been married for 20 years to Joe (Charles Melton), the former student she first slept with when he was 13. They’re living an uneasy but largely happy life in Georgia when well-known Hollywood actress Elizabeth (Natalie Portman) arrives to do some background research for the movie in which she’s been cast to play Gracie. By turns star struck and suspicious, Gracie, Joe, and the rest of their family members take Elizabeth into their lives.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 10, 2023: A PLACE IN THE FIELD

As intense international conflict again dominates the headlines with tragic stories of loss and suffering, director Nikki Mejia’s feature debut, A Place in the Field, feels particularly timely. Her contemplative, emotionally resonant drama about Giovanni Scuderi (Don DiPetta, who also co-wrote the film), a former soldier grappling with unresolved feelings of guilt and grief that kick into high gear after the death of his best friend, puts a very human face on the long-lasting trauma of war.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 3, 2023: SUBJECT

True crime podcasts, “murder shows,” and documentary films that expose the darker side of humanity have never been more popular — and there’s no denying they can be fun to listen to and watch. But what happens to the interviewees when the cameras stop rolling? What do the real-life people featured in documentaries give up when they agree to be filmed? The ethics of documentary filmmaking are at the heart of Jennifer Tiexiera and Camilla Hall’s fascinating, thought-provoking Subject.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK October 27, 2023: BEYOND UTOPIA

By turns heartwrenching, insightful, and as suspenseful as any big-budget thriller, Madeleine Gavin’s Beyond Utopia documents the agonizing process of trying to extricate yourself — both physically and ideologically — from North Korea. As it follows a family of defectors who are trying to reunite with loved ones in South Korea and a mother who longs to bring her teenage son to safety, the film presents a stark picture of how thoroughly North Korea controls its citizens.

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