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Every month, our correspondent Abbie Martin Greenbaum shares her insights and tips on all things cinematic. From film festivals to must-see new releases – and of course, the awards season – she’ll be our expert guide to the silver screen. In this dispatch, Greenbaum shares her list of the top films you need to see this February. These are the movies people will talking about this month.

february is the month to see all the nominated films you’ve missed

Only a couple of weeks away from the 91st Annual Academy Awards, movie theater screens are full of this year’s nominees for Best Picture.

We covered several of these last month, and there is still some time to watch them on the big screen before the awards show on February 24th.

We also recommend many of the other wonderful nominated films, such as BlackKkKlansman, Vice and Black Panther.

Of course, if you’re already caught up on the possible contenders for best picture, then this month is a great time to expand your horizons. There are incredible documentaries and foreign films in theaters right now, some of which have been honored with Oscar nominations in other categories.

the top films you need to see this february

If you’re looking to make a trip to the movie theaters this month, these are definitely the films to see! More good news? Many of these were directed by women.

1. Free Solo

Everyone is talking about Free Solo, one of the Oscar-nominated pictures for best documentary. Directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the story of rock climber Alex Honnold and his attempt to climb “El Capitan” (a 3,000 vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park) is thrilling in the way that only a documentary can be. The stakes are not only high (in this case life or death), but they are also real.

Almost like an action blockbuster, Free Solo will have you clutching the armrests of your seat, eyes glued to the screen from beginning to end. If you are looking for a movie to pump you full of adrenaline, while also telling a real man’s story, then Free Solo is the perfect movie to catch in theaters right now.

Alex Honnold, ropeless with nearly 3,000 feet of air below, nears the top of Freerider during his epic free-solo on June 3. Photo: Jimmy Chin

2. Daughter of Mine

This intimate Italian film presents a conflict that may seem familiar, and imbues it with a fresh, quiet perspective. Directed by Laura Bispuri, it was released almost a year ago in Italy, but is now available in cinemas in the US.

Set in a rural village in Sardinia, Tina and Angelica quarrel over the daughter, Vittoria, who Tina adopted from Angelica a decade before. Bispuri infuses these relationships with nuance, without pushing a specific viewpoint onto the audience. Some of the scenes are difficult to watch, but in a way that does not feel overly dramatized or predictable.

Daughter of Mine

3. Hale County This Morning, This Evening

Another Oscar nominee for best documentary, Hale County This Morning, This Evening is a stunning, unique work of cinema. It paints a cerebral portrait of Hale County: a rural town in Alabama with a predominantly black community.

RaMell Ross’s film manages to convey, in only an hour and fifteen minutes, the essence of culture and daily life for those living in Hale County. Rather than presenting a traditional narrative structure, Ross poses questions to the audience throughout the picture, and simply presents the town’s citizens as they are, over a period of time, and the audience is simply witness to their joys and tragedies. The film is beautiful to watch, and unlike any other viewing experience this winter.

Hale County This Morning, This Evening

4. Capernaum

Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, and now nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, Capernaum is an absolute must-see.

Set in Lebanon, the film begins with an unforgettable scene, of a small twelve-year-old boy in handcuffs. The film’s opening premise is enough to take your breath away: the boy, Zain, is suing his parents for giving birth to him.  Most of the story is told in flashback, showing how Zain ran away from his impoverished family after his parents married off his eleven-year-old sister.

While on the run, his story became interwoven with that of an illegal Ethiopian immigrant and her baby son, Yonas. Nadine Labaki’s grueling, devastating film does not let up at any point, showing every instant of Zain’s predicament as it grows more and more harrowing, and ultimately leads to the scene that opens the film. Though this movie is not a feel-good story, it will leave you feeling many things, and so glad you saw such an unbelievable work of cinema.


5. Minding the Gap

For those who love stories about friendship, the Oscar-nominated documentary Minding the Gap presses all of the right buttons. The film opens a window into the world of Rockford, Illinois, where a group of boys have forged a bond through their mutual love of skateboarding.

Bing Liu is not only the director of this film, but a part of this community. The two people of focus, Keire and Zack, are people he knows well. The movie pushes into the most personal corners of their lives, as they handle death, hardship, and becoming parents. Liu asks his friends hard questions: about abuse, about race and class, and about the dangers of living in their community. Though the movie seems to be about skateboarding, it is of course in fact much more about the human lives at its center. By the end of the film you truly feel as if you have spent intimate personal time with its subjects.

Minding the Gap

6. Can You Ever Forgive Me

Based on a true story, the film directed by Marianne Haller and written by Nicole Holofcener garnered its two stars, Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant, Oscar nominations for best lead actress and best supporting actor respectively.

McCarthy plays Lee Israel, who is famous for writing and selling forged letters from famous authors and Grant plays her friend and partner in crime, Jack Hock. The actors’ award nominations are extremely well deserved, as they make these otherwise difficult-to-like characters, in fact, extremely easy to like, fun to watch, and even to root for in their criminal escapades. The movie balances humor and heart perfectly, creating an extremely enjoyable watching experience.

Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

And one of our friends and Dandelion Chandelier Luminaries, Amy Nauiokas , has been nominated for an Oscar for her producing role on the film! Good luck, Amy! You rock!

Amy Nauiokas, an Oscar-nominated producer of Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Those are my recommendations for the top films you need to see this February. Have a great February!

Abbie Martin Greenbaum grew up in New York City and currently lives in Brooklyn, where she drinks a lot of coffee and matches roommates together for a living. At Oberlin College, she studied English and Cinema, which are still two of her favorite things, along with dessert and musical theater. She believes in magic.

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Abbie Martin Greenbaum

Abbie Martin Greenbaum is a writer, reader, and pop culture connoisseur, who loves storytelling, coffee, and dessert. Her work has also appeared in Playbill.