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10 Films to See In December

Written by on December 2, 2014 

5. Zero Motivation (Talya Lavie; Dec. 3rd)

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Synopsis: Female Israeli soldiers are posted to a remote desert base and spend their time pushing paper until they can return to civilian life.

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Why You Should See It: Delicately shifting from laugh-out-loud comedy to dealing with complicated issues such as suicide and rape, this debut from Israeli director Talya Lavie is one of the year’s most accomplished. Our review claimed that “Lavie for all intents and purposes gives us American cubicle humor as transplanted to the Israeli warfront. A hilarious analogy for us, it’s a head-smacking expose of absurdity for those who’ve lived it there.”

4. Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev; Dec. 31st)

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Synopsis: In a Russian coastal town, Dmitri is forced to fight the corrupt mayor when he is told that his house will be demolished. He recruits a lawyer friend to help, but the man’s arrival brings further misfortune for Dmitri and his family.

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Why You Should See It: Chances are slim one will be able to see this by year’s end, considering its New Year’s Eve release, but when January rolls around, Leviathan comes with a high recommendation. In reviewing what’s been selected as Russia’s Oscar entry, we said that “Zvyagintsev has crafted Leviathan with the most sublimated of directing, letting each scene play out with a quiet, methodical use of pace and performance. In one way, his style could remind some of the overused conception of “slow cinema,” but each shot takes on a methodical economy — each line of dialogue and image (mostly master shots, but occasionally done in shot-reverse shot) answers the last, building an environment of paranoia.”

3. Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan; Dec. 19th)

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Synopsis: Aydin, a former actor, runs a small hotel in central Anatolia with his young wife Nihal with whom he has a stormy relationship and his sister Necla who is suffering from her recent divorce. In winter as the snow begins to fall, the hotel turns into a shelter but also an inescapable place that fuels their animosities…

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Why You Should See It: Even if it didn’t hold the distinction of being this year’s Palme d’Or winner, anticipation would be high for the latest film from Nuri Bilge Ceylan. We said in our Cannes review, “Winter Sleep progresses Ceylan’s ever-evolving narrative and aesthetic strategy into what proves his most emotional and dramatic work, one that makes numerous references to, as well as rivaling, Shakespeare.”

2. Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne; Dec. 24th)

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Synopsis: Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.

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Why You Should See It: Few performances this year exceed Marion Cotillard‘s in the latest work from Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Back at Cannes, we said, “If one must necessarily ask what is ‘new’ here, it’s that the Dardennes are becoming filmmakers who are abandoning some of their rough-and-tumble style for a cleaner, more elegant form of storytelling, aesthetics, and performance, most notably as this latest masterwork stars Marion Cotillard.”

1. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson; Dec. 12th)

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Synopsis: In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.

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Why You Should See It: It’s been two long months since I twice took in Paul Thomas Anderson‘s latest feature, and there’s rarely a day that goes by where I can’t wait to jump into this world again. With the year’s best ensemble — from break-out star Katherine Waterston to Josh Brolin further proving his comedic chops — Inherent Vice is a deeply rich ode to a passing era. It’ll arrive in limited release next week, then expand wide come early January. It’s not to be missed.

What are you watching this month?

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