I loved the comic in the '70s. It was great to see him come to the screen this year. Though his costume has been modified to the point that he seems to be just another Iron Man, I had to roll with it and accept the changes since I had read the book. A cool soundtrack and a group of strong women just as powerful as the titular hero made for a satisfying debut. I was caught up in giving the Wakanda forever salute as well.
Avengers: Infinity War
Someone asked me how I felt about this film, and my response was, "I'm just glad I was alive to see it." Sounds grandiose, I know, but it juggled so many of my childhood heroes with such a deft touch. It also subverted the usual supervillain trope by making Thanos's aim something that is an unresolved, and seemingly unresolvable, problem in the real world. I felt sympathy stirring in my heart for the big guy. It all ends with a truly epic battle and a lump in the throat.
Leave No Trace
A dad with PTSD and his daughter choose life off the grid, and struggle when they are caught and forced by society to rejoin the mainstream. The daughter warms to it, but the dad has trouble adjusting. The film shows us that there are pitfalls on either side, and that maybe the choice is not so clear. By the end, I wasn't sure who had it better. Good performances by Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie.
A tale of Argentina during the colonial era. Zama is a magistrate in a small village who yearns for an assignment in a larger town with more opportunities. Promises to send his request to the King are always delayed. He assaults a colleague and is exiled to a remote area among the native population, with one of whom he has had a child. To escape this situation, he joins a party that is sent out to the countryside to find a notorious bandit, who apparently was not executed as originally thought. There he meets with the consequences of colonial abuse and oppression. The incessant bird calls serve as the main soundtrack, almost to the point of distraction, but the atmosphere is palpable. The air is haunted by a dark history, not to mention the spirits of the oppressed.
My favorite film of the year. Spike Lee's adaptation of a true story about a black law officer who penetrates a Colorado chapter of the KKK, with the help of one of his white colleagues. The story takes place in the early '70s, when it was difficult enough for a black person to lead an everyday life without being pushed down. The payoff at the end, with Ron Stallworth telling off David Duke over the phone, was one of the most satisfying moments of the year.
In This Corner of the World
My favorite anime this year. A tale of Japan during World War II on the home front. Suzu, ayoung woman with artistic talent, loses her drawing hand to an American bomb. She struggles with the loss, and the increasing bombing raids by B-29s as the progresses. We get a real feel for what it was like to be on the receiving end of such power. In the end, the film shows us that our enemy is as human as we are, and that war is ultimately a human failure. Though one side may win, it's a life of peace that loses, and war just continues.
The Florida Project
The days of a resilient young girl and her flawed mother as they find shelter in a somewhat run down hotel. The child roams the area with her friends, begging money for ice cream and getting into trouble. Her mother doesn't have a steady job and resorts to selling perfume at first, then her body. It's all set in the fever dream of tourist Florida, with its Disney-inspired flights of commerce and its lush green spaces behind the artificial facade. You get lost in this atmosphere until Brooklynn's luck runs out. The final scene represents Brooklynn's ultimate escape.
Michael Moore strikes again. Yes, it's about the election, but it's also about how we got there. Clinton and Obama are not spared in his film, she for her ignorance during the campaign of swing states Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (which all went to Trump), and he for his bungled response to the Flint water crisis. I was particularly shocked at how Flint was used by the US military for simulated urban war games. Buildings were bombed from above, and troops and tanks flooded the city. You can hardly believe it's happening here, but Mr. Moore shows us again why we need him, and why he's the true American populist.