Thursday, December 29, 2016
With 2016 drawing to a close, I thought I would mention some noteworthy films that I saw this past year.
I found The Lobster, an uncomfortable movie to watch, to be an accomplished satire on the dehumanization of people. The characters appear to move and sometimes speak in robotic ways. They sometimes aren’t called by their given names, but instead receive nicknames, as people seem to be unable to know and relate to each other. Yet, being alone is condemned in a society that has forgotten how to be social. So, coupling with another is enforced, and if one fails, the dehumanization becomes complete, as individuals devolve, literally, into animals.
Captain Fantastic offers up excellent acting all around, headed up by the paternal figure played by Viggo Mortensen. The story explores what it would be like for a family to try to live completely off the grid, and whether that attempt is a positive choice, or if it is even possible in modern society. The premise allows for observations about the American way of living, and in particular, parenting.
Manchester by the Sea is a heartbreaking tale of a man so traumatized by a personal tragedy, that he has become completely alienated to the point that he is unable to communicate except through anger. He haunts his world like a ghost, and is unable to call any place his home, especially the town where his trauma took place. The death of his brother forces him to confront family responsibility, but his pain is a barrier to any success in this endeavor. His inability to connect with others manifests itself in other characters as well, resulting in an observation of society as a whole. It’s easy to see why Casey Affleck’s performance may be recognized at Oscar time.
An almost unseen, but excellent film, is The Confirmation. This movie, starring Clive Owen, explores the plight of the working class who were evicted from the American Dream following the recession of 2008 in the United States. Owen plays a struggling carpenter with a drinking problem as well as a cash-flow one. He also is divorced and has a shaky relationship with his son. The movie deals not only with the “confirmation” of religious beliefs, but also the ties between father and son, and with one’s own self-worth. Owen’s craftsman character tries to rebuild his life as he seeks gainful employment.
And of course, there is La La Land. This movie transcends the musical genre as it zeroes in on the struggle, the imagination, the thrill, and the heartache of success and failure in the dream factory that is Hollywood. With references to many actors and films, especially An American in Paris and Rebel Without a Cause, this wonderfully directed, scored, and photographed work celebrates and skewers the world of show business. Ryan Gosling is great, singing, dancing, and playing the piano. But, Emily Stone is transcendent. Look for this film to get the Best Picture nod at the Academy Awards.
Other films that dealt successfully with family relationships are Hell or High Water (great writing and terrific acting), a modern Western, and The Meddler, which uses symbolic elements to show people struggling to leave the past behind in an attempt to forge new bonds with estranged relatives and develop new connections to others.
If you enjoy scary, unsettling movies, check out the claustrophobic thrillers Green Room and Don’t Breathe.
And, if you’re going to make a superhero movie, make it super funny. Deadpool had more funny lines than any film in recent memory.
Have a cinematic Happy New Year.