Four Lions (2010) Written by Chris Morris, Sam Bain, Jesse Armstrong, & Simon Blackwell Directed by Chris Morris
Nine years after the events of 9/11, with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq raging on, as ISIS was growing in power, four radicalized British Muslims want in on the jihad. They aspire to be suicide bombers but want to do it legit so that they end up as kick-ass martyrs. Two of the men, Omar and Waj, fly to Pakistan to train with al-Qaeda but end up using a rocket launcher the wrong way round and blow up part of the training camp. Meanwhile, Anglo convert to Islam Barry recruits Hassan, a young Arabic rapper who wants to create a “jihad of the mind.” When Omar returns the group devolves into arguments about what exactly to bomb: a mosque and pretend they were Jews, a pharmacy because they sell birth control or some as to be determined target.
This year I committed myself to read three books at a time: One comic book collection, one fiction book, and one non-fiction book. As a result, I read some very informative books, filling in my knowledge on subjects I realized I only understood tangentially. Here were my favorites, in no particular order, expect the last book which is my favorite.
The Second Amendment: A Biography – Michael Waldman After the shooting at Majorie Stoneman Douglas High School in February was moved emotionally in a way that none of America’s previous school shooting tragedies had hit me. I think I’d chosen to be numb to what had gone before, notably Sandy Hook, despite being an elementary school teacher out of pure psychological survival. I knew I had issues with the proliferation of guns in the United States but was unable to articulate my views and wanted to clarify facts so that I could clarify or possibly change my understanding. Author Waldman does an excellent job of giving in-depth explorations of gun ownership from colonial America to the most recent Supreme Court cases surrounding the issue. I walked away having a firmer, never final, viewpoint on an issue and was able to navigate past my emotional response to holding a much more reasoned one, while not eschewing the humanity involved.
Dick Cheney served under three of America’s presidents before getting to sit as vice president during George W. Bush’s administration. His path to power was made possible by his wife Lynne who spurred Dick on despite his proximity to many political scandals in Washington. When he finally reaches the highest levels of power in America, he calls in a series of friends and associates to help him commandeer control of the executive branch. President Bush doesn’t seem to mind and happily hands off the reins power leaving Cheney to mastermind the whole of foreign and energy policy for the next eight years. This is the story of the shadow president who transformed our nation forever and increased the reach of the office of the President for generations to come.
Written by Doris Kearns Goodwin and Tony Kushner
Directed by Steven Spielberg
The American Civil War has been slogging on for four years. Hundreds of thousands are dead, and many in the North want it to end. President Abraham Lincoln has been elected to a second term by a landslide and has one thing he wants to spend his political capital on The 13th Amendment. Members of his cabinet and the Republican party are highly skeptical of betting all their chips on this risky Constitutional move. Lincoln is steadfast and works every angle possible to garner the votes. Meanwhile, a peace commission has been sent by Confederate leader Jefferson Davis to end things, but Lincoln knows if peace without the freedom of slaves is on the table the legislators will likely go with peace and nothing else. Time is running out, more than even the President realizes.
The Ides of March (2011)
Written by George Clooney, Beau Willimon, and Grant Heslov
Directed by George Clooney
The Democratic presidential primary has reached Ohio with sights on North Carolina afterward. Governor Mike Morris is neck in neck with his rival Ted Pullman, senator from Arkansas. Stephen Meyers is the junior campaign manager working to help Morris pull ahead and secure the win. He is invited to an informal meeting with the opponent’s campaign manager, Tom Duffy. Meyers weighs what to do, thinking about informing Morris’ senior campaign manager, then deciding against it and going in secret. At the same time, Meyers starts up with a relationship with Molly, an intern with the campaign. Through his involvement with Molly, he learns about a secret that his candidate has been keeping. Meyers is faced with the struggle of pushing forward for a candidate he believes will bring the change that is needed or adhering to his principles and bringing light to these secrets.
In the Loop (2009)
Written by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, & Tony Roche
Directed by Armando Iannucci
In the UK Minister for International Development Simon Forster makes an off the cuff remark that “war is unforeseeable” when questioned during a radio interview about the Middle East. This does not mesh with the company line coming out of Downing Street and the Prime Minister’s communications head Malcolm Tucker is more than happy to ream Forster out over this. Toby is new to Forster’s staff and, to make a good impression, he gets a spot in a meeting between the UK’s foreign office and a US delegation from the state department. This leads to another verbal flub from Forster and Tucker’s eventual solution to send him to Washington D.C. on a “fact-finding” mission. Problems snowball until all parties, those for and against war end up in a race to head each other off.
Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Mike Nichols
In 1980, Democratic Congressman Charlie Wilson of Texas was known as a hard-drinking, hard-partying, womanizing member of the House Appropriations Committee. Wilson was a man quite deft at securing favors from his fellow congressmen and infamous for his office staff of “angels,” young and fit women that ran his day to day operations. Despite a mind very focused on the material and carnal, Wilson was deeply moved by the footage he saw of Afghan refugees. A fact-finding mission to Pakistan found him walking among a camp comprised of a one-fifth of the Afghan population that had fled in the wake of the Soviet invasion. Wilson, pushed by Texan socialite Joanne Herring and CIA agent Gust Avrakotos, was one of the figures responsible for getting weapons into the hands of the Afghan freedom fighters who ultimately repelled the Soviets.