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The Year My Parents Went on Vacation

Netflix summary

When his parents’ political leanings force them to flee Brazil in haste, 12-year-old Mauro (Michel Joelsas) is left behind to live with his grandfather on the outskirts of São Paulo in the city’s Jewish community. But what his parents didn’t realize is that Mauro’s grandfather has recently died, and the only person left to care for the boy is his grandfather’s next-door neighbor, Shlomo (Germano Haiut).

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Paranoid Park

4 stars

Netflix summary

Late one night in a Portland skate park, 16-year-old Alex (Gabe Nevins) accidentally kills a security guard and chooses to keep it a secret. Guilt begins to take its toll on his relationships with his friend Macy (Lauren McKinney), his girlfriend (Taylor Momsen) and eventually his sanity. Filmmaker Gus Van Sant directs this Cannes Film Festival 60th Anniversary Prize winner, based on the novel by Blake Nelson.

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Manhattan, Kansas

Netflix summary

Filmmaker Tara Wray returns to rural Kansas to chronicle an unlikely reunion with her mother, Evie, who just five years earlier suffered a nervous breakdown and threatened to kill Tara. What she finds is a parent still in torment, but Tara’s efforts to reconnect with Evie may prove to be the best medicine. This emotional and highly personal documentary won the audience award at the 2006 South by Southwest Film Festival.

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Frozen River

Netflix summary

On a Mohawk reservation on the Canadian border, Ray (Melissa Leo, in an Oscar-nominated role) teams with widowed tribe member Lila (Misty Upham) to smuggle illegal immigrants into the United States. Although the work provides the women with much-needed money, each trip puts them in danger. How long will their luck hold before the authorities close in? Charlie McDermott co-stars in this drama nominated for multiple Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature.

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Synecdoche, New York

Netflix summary

After his painter wife (Catherine Keener) leaves him and takes their daughter to Berlin, theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) stages a new autobiographical play in a massive warehouse amid a life-size replica of Manhattan. Meanwhile, Caden must contend with the many women in his life — including a box-office worker, an actress and a shrink — in this beguiling directorial debut (winner of a Best First Feature Independent Spirit Award) by ace screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.

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Slumdog Millionaire

Netflix summary

After coming within one question of winning 20 million rupees on the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” 18-year-old Mumbai “slumdog” Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is arrested on suspicion of cheating. While in custody, Jamal regales a jaded police inspector (Irfan Khan) with remarkable tales of his life on the streets, as well as the story of Latika (Freida Pinto), the woman he loved and lost. Danny Boyle’s film won a Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Picture.

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The Dark Knight

Netflix summary

Batman (Christian Bale) teams with Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to continue dismantling Gotham City’s criminal organizations in this sequel to Batman Begins. But a psychotic new villain known as the Joker (Heath Ledger, in a Golden Globe- and Oscar-winning role) threatens to undo all their good work. The star-studded cast includes Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, Anthony Michael Hall, Michael Caine and Eric Roberts.

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Milk

5 stars

Netflix summary

Sean Penn (in an Oscar-winning role) stars in this fact-based drama about Harvey Milk, the openly gay activist and San Francisco politician who was murdered along with mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber) by disgruntled city employee Dan White (Josh Brolin, in an Oscar-nominated role) in 1978. Director Gus Van Sant’s compelling biopic (nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award) co-stars Emile Hirsch, James Franco and Diego Luna.

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Rachel Getting Married

Netflix summary

When drama queen Kym (Anne Hathaway, in her first Oscar-nominated role), a former model who’s been in and out of rehab for 10 years, returns to her parents’ home just before the wedding of her sister, Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt), long-standing family conflicts begin to resurface. Directed by Jonathan Demme, this touching and humorous drama co-stars Debra Winger and was nominated for a Best Feature Independent Spirit Award, among others.

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Young @ Heart

Netflix summary

Coldplay, the Clash and Jimi Hendrix will never sound the same once you’ve heard the Young@Heart chorus, a group of Massachusetts senior citizens who thrill audiences worldwide with their unusual — and unusually poignant — covers of rock songs. Stephen Walker’s humane and heartwarming documentary, which premiered at Sundance in 2008, follows the elderly ensemble as they prepare their new show.

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Religulous

Netflix summary

Politically provocative talk show host Bill Maher skewers the current state of organized religion in this documentary that derives its title from a blend of the words “religion” and “ridiculous.” Making stops in Jerusalem, the Vatican and other holy destinations, Maher travels the world to talk to believers from a variety of faiths to find out why they’re so sure their religion is right — and why they’re so certain others are wrong.

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Man on Wire

Netflix summary

Philippe Petit captured the world’s attention in 1974 when he successfully walked across a high wire between New York’s Twin Towers. This Oscar winner for Best Documentary explores the preparations that went into the stunt as well as the event and its aftermath. Obsessed with the towers even before they were fully constructed, Petit sneaked into the buildings several times to determine the equipment he needed to accomplish his daring feat.

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Burn After Reading

4 stars

Netflix summary

In this dark comedy from Joel and Ethan Coen, ousted CIA official Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) loses his recently penned memoir into the hands of a pair of moronic gym employees (Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand, in a Golden Globe-nominated role) who use it to try to turn a profit. George Clooney and Tilda Swinton round out the cast of this irreverent farce, which was nominated for a Best Picture (Comedy) Golden Globe.

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The Wire: Season 3: Disc 5

4 stars

Netflix summary

This disc contains the episodes “Middle Ground” and “Mission Accomplished.”

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