The Very Best of NYC Film/TV

Mondays at Racine, Life According to Sam, Valentine Road The Athena Film Festival: A Celebration of Women and Leadership, The Contenders 2013

This fall, HBO launched a new series of documentaries. The thought-provoking picks include the Oscar-nominated Mondays at Racine, about two sisters who open a beauty parlor to help fight cancer; Life According to Sam, which looks at how a couple is working to save the life of their child, suffering from a rare illness; Redemption, about unemployed New Yorkers relying on the deposits from empty cans for income; and Valentine Road, in which a boy becomes the victim of a hate crime because of his gender presentation and orientation. All films are available on HBO on Demand through Jan 5—check them out while you still can.

2014 marks the fourth year of The Athena Film Festival: A Celebration of Women and Leadership. It’s a fascinating program of fictional features, documentaries and short movies. Last year, the festival attracted 4,000 viewers and screened more than 40 films. Since it began, it has become the place to go to see female-oriented films that eventually go on to be honored by the Academy: Athena’s first three festivals showcased two Academy-Award winning films, and four that were nominated, including Beasts of the Southern Wild and Winter’s Bone. The four-day fest also includes talks with directors and actors, along with workshops for those who make films. This year, Athena will be happening from February 6-9 at Barnard College. The schedule will be announced some time in January, so check for updates.

If you missed some of the most buzzed-about movies of the past year, then you can thank the film gods for The Contenders 2013. This annual series compiles some of the best films of the past 12 months, many of which are heavy favorites for the Oscar. Already the series has shown 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and The Dallas Buyers Club. Coming up will be foreign lesbian drama Blue is the Warmest Color (Jan 11); Old Dog (Jan 12); Return to Nuke ‘Em High, Volume 1 (Jan 9)—with director Lloyd Kaufman in person; and Stories We Tell, directed by actress Sarah Polley (Jan 8). The series runs at the Museum Of Modern Art through Jan 16.

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