1 The World War I-era Bedouins of "Theeb," a breathtaking coming of age/survival drama filmed in Jordan, live at the same isolated, unforgiving place and time as those in "Lawrence of Arabia." The film debut by British-born writer/director Naji Abu Nowar follows two young orphans fending for themselves at an isolated encampment after the death of their father, an esteemed sheikh. Nowar directs his suspenseful saga, which he calls "the first Bedouin western," with muscular, no-nonsense style. The film, nominated for best foreign language film at the Academy Awards, feels like a rare blast of poetic realism, part fable and part docudrama. It's phenomenal.
2 Instinct Gallery's "Humanly Possible" is a show about empathy — and videographer and performance artist Peter B. Nelson addresses it directly in his "Nine Monologues." Nelson asked women and girls about their aspirations, experiences and ideas about feminine and masculine roles. Then he video-taped himself lip-syncing their comments. It's disconcerting and fascinating to hear their feminine voices and ideas apparently emerging from his stubbled face. An extraordinarily subtle actor, he has intuitively and successfully internalized their feminine — and sometimes feminist — psychology. (Ends Jan. 16; instinctmpls.com.)
3 The setting of the novel "House of Thieves" is New York City in the mid-1880s. When rising architect John Cross is forced by a gang to help them rob mansions, he discovers he's adept at being a thief. This multi-layered tale is masterfully spun by Charles Belfoure, an architect himself. It grabs you quickly and builds to a dramatic end.
4 While the more established networks spent 2015 sticking to a better-safe-than-sorry policy, the CW sought absolution with "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." The ratings-challenged series got 15 minutes of attention for daring to break into song in each episode, but it earned its groundbreaker status with so much more, including Stephen Sondheim-inspired numbers — "Feeling Kinda Naughty" makes Katy Perry's fantasy about kissing a girl seem like a forced playdate — and eye candy that happens to be male and Asian-American, almost unheard of on TV. (7 p.m. Mondays.)
5 The dizzying comic thriller "The Big Short" joins the class of "follow the money" classics including "Ocean's Eleven," "Wall Street" and "The Wolf of Wall Street." It's a dazzling, muckraking story about financially corrupt banksters committing the biggest fraud in U.S. history — the 2008 mortgage bubble. The heroes of the tale — sort of — are Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt, all doing standout work. Adam McKay's film balances sardonic character sketches with sober mockery of a culture gone mad with market mania.