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Staff & contributors

Nebraska is a poem distilled into a film. Peter Travers from Rolling Stone says "is it a comedy or a drama? Both at the same time, as life itself." Everything about it is perfect: the acting, the photography, the story. In case that's not enough and you need to know the plot to get convinced, I'll tell you that it's a road movie about a senile old man and his son. If you still want more information, you can Google it, but come on! You'll just be wasting time that would be better spent on watching this masterpiece.

Genre: Adventure, Drama

Actor: Angela McEwan, Anthony G. Schmidt, Bob Nelson, Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Dern, Devin Ratray, Franklin Dennis Jones, June Squibb, Mary Louise Wilson, Missy Doty, Rance Howard, Stacy Keach, Tim Driscoll, Will Forte

Director: Alexander Payne

Rating: R

Of all the Christmas-set films to have come out over the last couple of months that were, inexplicably, about grief and regret (you'd be surprised by how many there are), The Holdovers easily outdoes its contemporaries by being confident enough to just sit with its characters. Like the best of director Alexander Payne's other films, there are no melodramatic crescendos or overcomplicated metaphors; there are only flawed individuals going about their lives, occasionally noticing the things that bind them together. Payne's gentle touch means the characters (and the audience) aren't forced to "solve" their grief, but allowed to come to terms with it in their own way, with each other.

Payne evokes the film's 1970s setting through a muted color palette and analog—almost tactile—sound design, giving warmth to this New England despite all its snow and chilly interiors. It's understandable that these characters are similarly cold to each other on the surface at first, but they manage to thaw the ice simply by taking the chance to listen to each other's pain. It's the kind of film in which relationships develop so gradually, that you hardly notice until the end how much mutual respect has formed between them when they return from their dark nights of the soul back to their status quo.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexander Cook, Andrew Garman, Bill Mootos, Brady Hepner, Carrie Preston, Carter Shimp, Cole Tristan Murphy, Colleen Clinton, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Dakota Lustick, Dan Aid, Darby Lee-Stack, David J. Curtis, Dominic Sessa, Dustin Tucker, Gillian Vigman, Ian Dolley, Ian Lyons, Jim Kaplan, Joe Howell, Jonathan von Mering, Kelly AuCoin, Kevin Daigneault, Kevin Fennessy, Melissa McMeekin, Michael Malvesti, Michael Provost, Naheem Garcia, Oscar Wahlberg, Osmani Rodriguez, Pamela Jayne Morgan, Paul Giamatti, Rena Maliszewski, Stephen Thorne, Tate Donovan

Director: Alexander Payne

Rating: R

Starring Matthew Broderick and a young Reese Witherspoon as, respectively, Jim McAllister, a high school teacher and Tracy Flick, a notorious 'that girl' in his class. When Tracy decides to run for class president, we see the floodgates open as all sorts of bizarre and insane behavior pours out of the two. Quickly, it becomes clear that Tracy will do nearly anything to win, and as circumstances spiral out of control, madness descends - along with hilarity!

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery, Romance

Actor: B.J. Tobin, Chris Klein, Colleen Camp, Delaney Driscoll, Frankie Ingrassia, Holmes Osborne, Jason Paige, Jeanine Jackson, Jessica Campbell, Jillian Crane, John Ponzio, Kaitlin Ferrell, Marilyn Tipp, Mark Harelik, Matt Golden, Matt Malloy, Matthew Broderick, Molly Hagan, Nicholas D'Agosto, Phil Reeves, Reese Witherspoon, Rohan Quine

Director: Alexander Payne

Rating: R

This buddies-on-the-road drama was the highest-grossing independent film of 2019, which tells you everything you need to know about it: it’s familiar, but it’s not overblown.

A fisherman (Shia LaBeouf) has to flee after vandalizing the property of a rival fishing group who bully him. On the way, he meets a man with Down syndrome, who, unexpectedly, is on a journey to become a pro wrestler.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ann Owens, Aurelian Smith Jr., Bruce Dern, Dakota Johnson, Deja Dee, John Hawkes, Jon Bernthal, Lee Spencer, Mick Foley, Rob Thomas, Shia LaBeouf, Susan McPhail, Thomas Haden Church, Tim Zajaros, Wayne Dehart, Yelawolf, Zachary Gottsagen, Zack Gottsagen

Director: Michael Schwartz, Tyler Nilson

Rating: PG-13

Best friends Miles and Jack are off to wine country to celebrate Jack's last week of freedom before he gets married. They drop white lies about themselves, with Miles pretending to be a successful writer and Jack not mentioning his impending wedding, and soon meet two beautiful women whom they spend the rest of their stay with. What sounds like a dreamy bachelor's celebration, however, soon unravels into a messy tangle of tall tales. Miles and Jack contemplate their situation in smart, sad, and silly turns, delivering excellent performances and an overall hard-hitting road movie. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex Kalognomos, Alysia Reiner, Cesar Ramos, Jessica Hecht, Joe Marinelli, Lee Brooks, M.C. Gainey, Marylouise Burke, Mikael Sharafyan, Missy Doty, Patrick Gallagher, Paul Giamatti, Peter Dennis, Phil Reeves, Robert Covarrubias, Sandra Oh, Shake Tukhmanyan, Shaun Duke, Stephanie Faracy, Thomas Haden Church, Toni Howard, Virginia Madsen

Director: Alexander Payne

Rating: R

I watch many movies and the great majority of them leave little impression on me. They are fun and entertaining, but quickly forgettable. Not Disconnect, though. This is a powerful and provocative film that not only keeps you pinned to your seat but also makes you think about the consequences of your actions. It should certainly be a required viewing not only for young people but also for any one who uses social media or communicates via the Internet. Disconnect is a timely, well-written, well-acted, and well-paced movie that stays with you long after you finish watching it. I was also pleased by the fact that the director and writer did not take the easy way out. No glib, predictable solutions here, which is one reason why the film's events linger in your mind.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alexander Skarsgård, Andrea Riseborough, Antonella Lentini, Cole Mohr, Colin Ford, Ella Lentini, Erin Wilhelmi, Frank Grillo, Haley Ramm, Hope Davis, Jason Bateman, John Sharian, Jonah Bobo, Kasi Lemmons, Kevin Csolak, Marc Jacobs, Max Thieriot, Michael Nyqvist, Norbert Leo Butz, Paula Patton, Tessa Albertson

Director: Henry Alex Rubin

Rating: R