4 Best Movies to Watch by Scott Wilson

Staff & contributors
In 2009, Departures surprised everybody by winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, instead of everyone's favourite, Ari Folman's Waltz of Bashir. This is even more surprising since this Japanese comedy almost never saw the light of day because many distributors refused to release it at first for its humorous treatment of a very human, but weirdly taboo subject: what happens when you die. Daigo Kobayashi (played by former boyband member Masahiro Motoki) just bought an expensive cello when he learns that his Tokyo-based symphony orchestra is going bankrupt. Daigo and his wife Mika, played by Ryôko Hirosue, decide to move back to his hometown, where he applies for an opening at what he thinks is a travel agency, hence the departures. You might have guessed by now that what he was applying for was, in fact, the job of an undertaker—a profession considered unclean in Japan. It's one of those rare movies that will make you laugh, to making you cry, and laugh again. It's dead-on!
Monster is a biographical depiction of Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron), a prostitute and serial killer who murdered seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990. The film follows the burgeoning relationship between Wuornos and young Selby Wall (Christina Ricci, in a role based on Wuornos' real-life girlfriend Tyria Moore), as she grows increasingly desperate to provide for her young companion financially. Her desperation and her rage against men, brought on by years of both childhood and adult abuse, leads her down a dark path of murder and theft, even as she struggles to shield Selby from the horror of her crimes. The overwhelming highlight of the film is Theron’s mesmerizing performance as Wuornos—a role that won her a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Actress in 2004. She’s almost unrecognizable and altogether phenomenal as the volatile and increasingly unstable Wuornos, whose ferocity is interwoven with surprising affection for young Selby. This unexpected tenderness lends the film an air of tragic poignancy, and provides a bittersweet portrayal of a severely troubled woman. Very much intended for mature audiences only, Monster is a fascinating recreation of a disturbing yet compelling chapter in the annals of true crime in America.

The work of two people stand out here: the actor Christian Bale and the cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi (Silver Linings Playbook, Warrior, The Grey, Spotlight, etc.) Bale plays an Army Captain who agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne war chief and his family through treacherous lands. The general and the chief, being old enemies, embark on a journey where their conflict seems the least of their worries. The cinematography is lush and reminiscent of the classics of the Western genre. It is a harshly stunning film you should watch.

Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) runs a high-brow art gallery in Chicago and has to take a trip to North Carolina to meet with an artist she wants to sign. She uses this opportunity to also meet her husband’s family, who is originally from there.

She is introduced into the small world of rural North Carolina, personified in Ashley (Amy Adams), the wife of her husband’s brother. Ashley is a wide-eyed but good-hearted person who has never left her town and who is in a bad relationship but pregnant with her first child. 

Ashley is the true main character of this movie (even if all Adams accolades were for ‘best supporting’ awards). Her joyfulness, her pregnancy, and her interactions with Madeliene are studied closely in this subtle but touching family drama.