Silver Linings Playbook (2012) Written & Directed by David O. Russell
Pat Solitano’s mom picks him up from a mental hospital in Baltimore, despite the doctors saying he’s not ready yet. Eight months earlier, Pat came home to find his wife in the shower with a co-worker which sent Pat into a frenzy. He’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but believes he doesn’t need meds or a psychiatrist; Pat requires positive thinking. His dad, Pat Sr. shows all the signs of OCD and likely has some undiagnosed issues himself, and he thinks the time he devoted to the elder sibling is what led to his younger son becoming so volatile. Through an acquaintance, Pat meets Tiffany, a widow who has very similar challenges with social cues as Pat does. The duo verbally spars, and there is the spark of an attraction, but Pat is convinced he can get his wife back if he stays on his path of self-improvement. Tiffany sees his wife regularly and promises she’ll deliver a letter to her if Pat pledges to be her dance partner in an upcoming competition. This was an event her late husband would never do with her, and it has become Tiffany’s primary focus. Pat hesitantly agrees with hopes he’ll end up reunited with his former bride.
The Hunt (2012) Written by Tobias Lindholm & Thomas Vinterberg Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Lucas has ended up at preschool after budget cuts to the high school. Despite the significant shift in students’ ages, Lucas has made the transition fairly smoothly, looking after the young children of many of his friends. One of those children is Klara, a five-year-old who develops a crush on the man. During playtime at the school, Klara kisses Lucas on the lips which stuns him. He quietly admonishes her and moves on. That evening Klara sits waiting for her mother to pick her up she strikes up a conversation with the headmistress of preschool. Jumbling together her embarrassment over Lucas and pornography she saw her brother and his friend looking at earlier she rattles off a story about Lucas showing her his genitals. This snowballs until multiple children in the town are also claiming to have been abused by Lucas, caught up in a mob mentality. Lucas’ standing in the community quickly crumbles to pieces as does his sanity.
Frances Ha (2012) Written by Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach Directed by Noah Baumbach
Frances is an apprentice in a New York dance company waiting for the day she’s given a place on the touring company. She spends her days cavorting through the city with her best friend Sophie, enjoying their youth and lack of serious adult responsibilities. Frances’ life is thrown into disarray when Sophie announces she’ll be moving to Tribeca for her dream apartment with someone else. What follows are a series of vignettes with Frances bouncing from place to place, finding herself losing the progress she’d felt that she had made. Never giving up her awkward and eclectic sensibilities, Frances keeps going, despite finding herself taking so many steps back, she ends up living in the dorms of her former college, pouring drinks for visiting donors.
Zero Dark Thirty (2012) Written by Mark Boal Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
The September 11th attacks are without question of the most significant moments in the history of our current century and the scope of post-Cold War foreign policy. Osama bin Laden is also one of the most notorious historical figures of our age. Zero Dark Thirty creates a fictional tableau to explain how bin Laden was found and ultimately executed. Of course, because of the safety of the people involved and in an effort not to compromise the intelligence gathering apparatus we will never know the names of anyone directly involved, from the CIA agents to the members of Seal Team Six. Instead, we’re given the story of fictional analyst Maya who follows a winding path trying to discover the whereabouts of a messenger who would deliver directives from Al-Qaeda leadership to cells on the ground. Without realizing what she has stumbled upon she is shocked to discover the journey has led her to a walled compound where bin Laden is hiding out.
Killing Them Softly (2012) Written & Directed by Andrew Dominik
In the fall of 2008, with the presidential election and the financial crisis playing out in the background, Frankie and Russell carry out the robbery of a Mafia-run poker game. Planned by their friend Johnny “The Squirrel” they target a competition run by Markie, a man who once held up his own game and so now suspicion surrounds him. They figure everyone will think Markie did it again and he’ll feel the brunt of the mob. However, the Mafia calls in Jackie, a well-known hitman who immediately knows Markie isn’t this stupid. It’s only a matter of time until all parties involved in the heist are found and Jackie has to deliver his revenge. From there, things get dodgy as the film meanders off, focusing on side characters and slowing the momentum of the story way down.
The Master (2012) Written & Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a veteran adrift after the close of World War II, caught up in his trauma, psychoses, and macho posturing to heal himself. He bounces around from job to job until, by sheer chance, ending up onboard a private yacht populated by Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and the followers of his philosophical movement “The Cause.” Lancaster takes a liking to Freddie and brings him into the fold slowly introducing his ideas and practices to the man. Freddie provides “The Master,” as his followers call him, with his moonshine and in turn, Lancaster begins taking Freddie through his process. Skeptics await The Cause on the East Coast, and Lancaster finds himself being swallowed by the movement, less sure of what his aim is anymore. Freddie struggles against his wild, animal nature and the hope that he can be free from the past and forge a better future.
Lawless (2012) Written by Nick Cave Directed by John Hillcoat
In 1931, among the foothills of Virginia, the Bondurant brothers were successful moonshine runners. Forrest (Tom Hardy) runs the operations with a cool even hand making sure to reign in wild man Howard (Jason Clarke) the youngest and greenest brother Jack (Shia LeBeouf). They also have the local law under their thumb by sharing some of the product from time to time. Things change when U.S. Marshall Charley Rakes (Guy Pearce) is assigned to the region and works alongside the state’s attorney to pressure the Bondurants into handing over a more significant percentage of their profits. Meanwhile, Jack becomes obsessed with courting the preacher’s daughter (Mia Wasikowska) while Forrest strikes up a growing intimacy with city girl on the run Maggie (Jessica Chastain). Oh yeah, Gary Oldman plays a Chicago gangster who has moved into the area. Movie crowded enough yet?