The Big Sick - I probably enjoyed this film most of all the 2017 ones I watched. It is not easy to fashion a story that combines serious and funny elements, but this movie does so successfully. There is very funny dialogue along with great observations of families of different backgrounds, particularly an Islamic one which shows the clash between the older and younger generations. I thought Ray Romano was particularly funny here, along with Kumail Nanjiani (who wrote the script).
The Florida Project - This was a heart-wrencher. The story smartly tells its tale from the viewpoint, mostly, of some children living in a rundown apartment complex just outside Walt Disney World. Although some of their behavior is questionable, and dangerous at times, the youngsters mainly do what kids who come from any social class do - they use their imaginations to help them enjoy playing together. Unfortunately, some adults have found that the only way to survive is through prostitution and thievery, which threatens the quality of life of the children. Willem Dafoe is moving in an understated performance as the beleaguered apartment superintendent who tries to run the place at the same time as he protects the children from outside predators and their own parents. The ending is great, showing the resilience of children who use their desire for imaginative playfulness to escape the negative aspects of their environment.
Get Out - Basically this is a horror story, and an effective one as it escalates the creepiness in the situation surrounding the visit of a young white woman and her African American boyfriend to the community where her parents live. The movie satirizes that segment of the liberal population that tries too hard to show praise for minorities, while actually embracing stereotypical aspects of the black population to the point, here, of instituting a kind of forced biological integration that amounts to a new kind of slavery. Funny and scary at the same time.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri - Here is a film that is subversive as it first sets the audience up to sympathize with an establishment-fighting mother, played by Frances McDormand, who is angry because the local police have not found the perpetrator who sexually assaulted and killed her daughter. She uses the billboards to publicize her disdain for the local authorities. We also initially hate the violent, intimidating deputy played by Sam Rockwell. But, the film then rounds out these characters as the story unfolds, and we start to be repulsed by the mother’s anger and actions, and begin to understand how the deputy became who he is. The movie becomes a metaphor for the angry partisanship that has torn our country apart, and suggests that finding a meeting ground is the only way to move forward.
The Zookeeper’s Wife - A difficult film to watch if you are an animal lover, as I am. However, Jessica Chastain’s performance draws one into this story about the Nazi invasion into Poland which almost destroys Chastain’s beloved animals in her Warsaw zoo. She must manipulate a Nazi zoologist so that she and her husband can turn the animal sanctuary into a human one as they help Jews escape persecution. The zoologist stretches the scary Nazi desire to create a master race beyond the human element as he tries to breed a German super animal population. A lesser achievement than Schindler’s List, but still a thoughtful film worth watching.
The Shape of Water - This fairy tale for adults has a lot going on in it. The story has elements of Beauty and the Beast, Splash, and Moby Dick (with Michael Shannon’s character as a sort of Ahab). Water is used as a symbol for life, crying associated with sadness, and sex. It especially deals with how a prejudicial society marginalizes outsiders (in this case a mute woman, African Americans, and gays in America in the early 1960’s). As I exited the theater, couples commented on the movie, with the men calling it weird, and the women saying it was romantic. I had to side with the women. A marvelous movie.
The next film to be analyzed is Gallipoli.