Jar City, Lost, "The Constant," Dan in Real Life
What: Icelandic murder mystery.
Why: "You make one mistake," says a rueful older woman, "and it haunts you the rest of your life." That's the brooding tone of this existential drama from Iceland, which starts like a CSI investigation, then widens to hidden crimes, old mistakes and tragic daughters. No one can escape the past--from pregnancy to bad genes to buried secrets and bodies. The moody pessimism in sea-swept settings barely keeps a lid on the raw emotions of these villagers, who are all trying to break out of their literal and metaphoric solitary confinements.
What: Season-best hour of Lost.
Why: You knew it was coming, right? They had to get to time travel, since it--along with purgatory, hallucination and outer space--is one of the best theories of what it's all about. This memorable episode found a new way in, reawakening a show mired in confusing rivalries and enigmatic flashforwards. Now that a few weeks have gone by, you can see how well it holds up alongside other classics of time travel and fractured time, from Last Year at Marienbad and La Jetee to Memento and Donnie Darko.
What: Steve Carell romance.
Why: Steve Carell wants you to take him seriously. Writer/director Peter Hedges even calls him "Chekhovian" on the commentary track--which is a nice way of saying he's a little too low-key for this modest family drama. What he's got is likability--even as The Office's smarmy Michael Scott--and his melancholy vibe works well for this affecting down-to-earth story of a widowed advice columnist with three daughters, who unexpectedly finds love with his brother's girlfriend (Juliette Binoche, drastically miscast).