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.
Le Havre (2011) Written & Directed by Aki Kaurismäki
Marcel Marx is a shoe shiner in the French port city of Le Havre who lives a simple life with his wife, Arletty. Once long ago in his youth, Marcel had ambitions to be a writer and bohemian but time and a need for money put an end to that. Arletty becomes suddenly ill with a dire prognosis that Marcel is kept unaware of. Around this time, a crate of immigrants from Gabon is discovered on the docks and one of them, Idrissa, a young boy escapes the police. Marcel and Idrissa cross paths and the old man decides to house the refugee without question while trying to locate the boy’s family so they can reunite. Inspector Monet is out in the neighborhoods searching for the boy and knows Marcel by reputation as being a scoundrel and liar.
Shame (2011) Written by Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan Directed by Steve McQueen
Brandon is an executive and bachelor living in New York City. He is a sex addict in the same way alcoholics regularly drink yet find creative ways to hide their addiction from the people around them. Brandon’s life is an empty shell of one-night stands, encounters with sex workers, and a near constant consumption of internet porn. The one thing that could pull him into a moment of self-realization is his younger sister, Sissy, a lounge singer who aimlessly travels without ever planting roots. Sissy is similarly in relationships that go nowhere and seems to want closure with Brandon over some unexplained events in their past. Brandon is obsessed with proving to people that their intimacy and commitments are meaningless, but this pursuit is leading him down a dark and broken path.
Big Little Lies – Season 1 (HBO) Written by David E. Kelly Directed Jean-Marc Vallée
Madeline Mackenzie is a wealthy woman living in Monterrey, California where she spends her time shuttling her youngest daughter to school and playdates while helping produce a local production of Avenue Q. On the first day of school, Madeline meets Jane, a single mom who has just moved to town. During pick up, the daughter of Renata Klein, a fellow power mom, accuses Jane’s son of choking her during class. This moment sets off a series of conflicts between Renata and Madeline, who stands up for Jane. Meanwhile, Madeline’s friend Celeste is dealing with an increasingly abusive husband, trying to hide her bruises and wounds when going out for coffee with friends. Throughout the series, we’re given flash-forwards to the night of a murder that happens at a school fundraiser, slowly learning the details and which of our female leads was involved.
Gravity (2013) Written by Alfonso and Juan Cuarón Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Dr. Ryan Stone is on her first space mission, helping to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope’s capabilities. Matt Kowalski is on his final mission, commanding this one. Everything is going smoothly until a defunct Russian satellite is shot down, creating an ever-building cloud of fast-moving debris, more and more satellites getting caught up in the wave. Stone and Kowalski are sent hurtling through space and have to master control of their will and stifle panic in an attempt to survive. With the clock counting down until the debris makes its next pass, the two astronauts must make their way to the International Space Station to have even a chance of making it back to earth.
Oslo, August 31st (2011) Written & Directed by Joachim Trier
Anders is recovering from years of drug addiction. He’s two weeks out from finishing treatment and then having to leave the rehab center. To help him make this transition, he’s granted a trip out for the night which ends with him hooking up with an old flame. On the way back to the center he unsuccessfully tries to drown himself. In the light of the new day, he prepares to head into Oslo for a job interview. Before succumbing to drugs, Anders was a writer for newspapers and magazines but doesn’t feel a strong desire to return to that. He stops by the house of some old friends before the interview, ends up calling a lost love’s phone only to get voicemail, and is ghosted by his sister when she sends her girlfriend to talk with him at a cafe. Despite the strides he’s made, Anders feels the past traps him.
Shoplifters (2018) Written & Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Osamu is the patriarch of a makeshift family living in the shadow of poverty in Tokyo. His partner Nobuyo is the mother with adopted son Shota, half-sister Aki, and grandmother Hatsue. Osamu and Shota routinely shoplift food from neighborhood grocery stores, having developed a system of signals and distractions. On their way home after a recent venture, they find Yuri, a little girl they have talked to before alone on her parent’s apartment balcony. Feeling sorry for her level of neglect they bring her home for dinner. Nobuyo helps Osamu bring her back after and they overhear Yuri’s parents fighting, her father hitting her mother, and the admission that they never wanted the child in the first place. Nobuyo decides to make Yuri a part of the family and from their life goes on as it always has. Until one day a news report announces that Yuri’s parents have filed a missing person report.