MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 28, 2020: PREMATURE

Sensitive and soulful, Rashaad Ernesto Green’s Premature is a poignant portrait of first love, from the thrill of the early days to the agony of conflict and parting. Set in Harlem, it centers on 17-year-old Ayanna (Zora Howard, who also co-wrote the script with Green), who falls for older music producer Isaiah (Joshua Boone) the summer before she’s planning to leave NYC for Bucknell University.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 14, 2020: ORDINARY LOVE

There’s a reason why more movies are about weddings than marriages. It’s easier to tie up a story with bells ringing and happy “I do”s than to accurately depict the beautifully complicated thing that is a long-term committed relationship — especially the kind of real, relatable, warts-and-all relationship many people actually live out. But Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn’s Ordinary Love accomplishes that feat with intimate grace, thanks to honest storytelling and heartbreaking performances by Liam Neeson and Leslie Manville.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 24, 2020: BEANPOLE

Settings don’t get much bleaker than 1945 Leningrad, decimated after the ravages of WWII, but even the darkest times have moments of intimacy and beauty in Kantemir Balagov’s spare, unflinching Russian drama Beanpole. The film tells the story of the intense, complicated friendship between gangly, awkward Iya — the titular Beanpole — and impulsive, yearning Masha as they struggle to find happiness in a post-war world.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK: January 10, 2020: THE WOMAN WHO LOVES GIRAFFES

What’s not to love about a passionate, confident Canadian scholar who fought her way to Africa in the 1950s to study the animals she’d loved since she was a toddler? As chronicled in Alison Reid’s engaging documentary The Woman Who Loves Giraffes, the story of Dr. Anne Innis Dagg is full of warmth, intelligence, and — above all — spunk.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 3, 2020: SPEED OF LIFE

What if, instead of being a space oddity, the infinitely creative David Bowie was actually a time and space oddity, and his passing literally ripped a hole in the universe? That’s the intriguing premise of Liz Manashil’s charming indie dramedy Speed of Life, which centers on an avid Bowie fan named June whose life takes a very unexpected twist after Bowie’s untimely death in 2016.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 20, 2019: WHAT SHE SAID: THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL

In an era in which a cacophony of critical voices competes for potential moviegoers’ time and attention — and yet not nearly enough of those voices represent the diversity of the public they’re speaking to — Pauline Kael’s iconic status seems like even more of an achievement. Her remarkable career is the subject of Rob Garver’s insightful documentary What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 13, 2019: THE BODY REMEMBERS WHEN THE WORLD BROKE OPEN

A chance encounter brings two women together for a day that neither could have anticipated in Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers’ drama The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open. Authentic in every way, from the gritty cinematography to the convincing performances, it’s documentary-like in its frank honesty.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK Dec 6, 2019: PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

A picture is worth a thousand words — and leads to a thousand longing glances — in writer/director Celine Sciamma’s passionate drama Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Set in remote mid-1700s Brittany, it follows the increasingly intense relationship between painter Marianne (Noemie Merlant) and her unknowing subject, Heloise (Adele Haenel), who has just left sheltered convent life.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 29, 2010: HALA

Just like romcoms, coming-of-age dramas often feel so familiar that it’s easy to be tempted to write them all off as trite or predictable. And then along comes a smart, engaging film like “Hala,” which brings fresh energy to the whole genre simply by reminding us how many diverse coming-of-age stories we haven’t yet heard.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 22, 2019: SHOOTING THE MAFIA

Anyone who’s ever winced at the mob violence and manipulation in The Godfather will quickly realize it has nothing on the real-life crimes of the Italian Mafia, as captured through Letitzia Battaglia’s talented eye and focused lens. The fearless photographer is the subject of Kim Longinotto’s fascinating documentary Shooting the Mafia.

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