While watching Siddiq Barmak’s “Osama” (2003), I kept getting thinking about Ursula K. Le Guin’s seminal ’60s novel “The Left Hand of Darkness.”

The novel takes place on a planet named Winter where gender doesn’t exist. All of the natives are essentially hermaphrodites; they appear masculine for the majority of the time, but during kemmer (think a menstrual cycle or heat), two people mate and by luck of the draw, one will be a female and one will be male (in a curious side note, if the two reproduce, parental rights and lineage go to the mother).

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A man walks down a hallway, carrying a knife, a crazed look in his eyes. He approaches a desk, stabs the knife into the desktop, and addresses the man sitting behind the ‘throne.’ He leaves, comes back, then leaves again with a bloodied face. Within hours, he’s arrested for that man’s murder.

And that’s only the first ten minutes. I love that!

The movie is “Character,” directed by Mike van Diem, and winner of the Best Foreign Language film Oscar in 1997.

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The Official Story

In the 1970s, Argentina entered “The Dirty War” phase of its history; from 1976-1983 (roughly), the junta government arrested, tortured and disappeared (what a terrifying verb) thousands of citizens to quell descent among the populace (Source: Wikipedia; let’s hope this one is correct).

“The Official Story,” Luis Puenzo’s 1985 film that won a Best Foreign Language Oscar, picks up at the tail end of the war, in 1983, just as the power structure began to crumble. But wisely, Puenzo and fellow screenwriter Ada Bortnik chose to focus on someone on the periphery.

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Black Book

Finally, a movie to write home about.

Yes, I’ve seen some good movies this year, but none that have lit my fire, so to speak. But along comes “Black Book,” a Dutch film by Paul Verhoeven set in The Netherlands during the last year of World War II.

After some time spent in 1950s Israel, “Black Book” kicks into gear with a Jewish woman (Carice van Houten) hiding on a farm. Somewhat haphazardly, the farm is bombed and her cover is blown; she runs off with a sailor, but a man from the Resistance tells her the Gestapo knows where she is, and he can get her and her sailor to Belgium ( and safety) on a boat.

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A spunky red-head flies through the sky on a cloud and transforms into the Monkey King; a two-headed man has one head explode into a swarm of blue insects; a procession of dolls marches through a city, swallowing the souls of all it passes.

These are just some of the images that pass through “Paprika,” a Japanese animated film directed by Satoshi Kon. Being that most of the film takes place in dreamland, the images aren’t too out of place.

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