20 Movies to Watch During Christmas Week 2014

studio_ghibli

Films on VOD and Netflix

If it’s too cold to go out, or any of a number of other reasons makes staying home seem like the best idea, there are still more choices to consider. And these are more out of the ordinary than most of the films in theaters, to boot.

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studio ghibli documentary

If you want an inside look at the working of a legendary studio: The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

Get a look inside Studio Ghibli as Hayao Miyazaki works on his final feature film, The Wind Rises, as the studio’s co-founder Isao Takahata works on his own late-career masterpiece, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Both a portrait of the men at work and a soft examination at how the animation business has changed in the past decade, this is an essential documentary for fans of animation.

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cavalry-trailer

If you’re in the mood for some blackly comic wordplay: Calvary

The Guard writer/director John Michael McDonald reteams with actor Brendan Gleeson, but goes in a different direction with this story of an Irish priest who is threatened with death thanks to the vengeful impulse of a once-molested churchgoer. It wasn’t Gleeson’s priest who did the horrible deed, but he is chosen to be the sacrificial lamb.

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Before-I-Disappear-review

If you’re ready for a surrogate father/daughter tale with a strong visual sense: Before I Disappear

Perhaps not the best choice if you’re looking for a significantly plot-driven film, Before I Disappear follows a suicidal guy (Shawn Christensen, here acting as writer/director/star in an expansion of his own short film) who must temporarily take charge of his precocious niece as they both make their way through some of New York’s seamier nighttime landscapes.

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Comet Emmy Rossum Justin Long

If you want to see an unusual but very effective romantic story: Comet

Germain has been wild about this fractured love story, which stars Emmy Rossum and Justin Long as a couple whose years-long long relationship is seen through a time-jumping structure that allows us to experience five significant periods in their life — but not always with overt indication of which part is which.

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If you want a far more entertaining take on gay culture than The Imitation Game: Pride

Relatively overlooked in the US so far, this 1984-set comedy takes place in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, and follows a group of LGBT activists in London who raise money to support families of mineworkers who are on strike. And, perhaps not surprisingly, the mining and gay communities turn out to get along pretty well, and a great cast (including Bill Nighy, Dominic West, Andrew Scott, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine and Larissa Jones) gets a chance to shine.

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Ida

If you want to see one of the year’s best films: Ida

A strong contender to win the Best Foreign Film Oscar when the awards roll around in February, this Polish film about a would-be nun who is tasked with facing up to some old family issues before taking her final vows is stunningly gorgeous and almost perfectly pitched as the young woman learns impossibly difficult things about her family past, and through them is forced to confront much bigger issues facing her country, and her own spirituality.

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We Are the Best!

If you want to see the year’s best coming of age story: We Are the Best!

We can’t highlight this one enough — the story of three girls who form a punk rock band in early ’80s Sweden is not just one of the year’s best films, but a mind-bogglingly good examination of the all-too familiar process of finding your own voice and place in a world that will only give you as much attention as you’re able to command for yourself.

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