The best movies of the year seemed to fit perfectly in line with the volcanic first year under President Trump, speaking to the brutality and oddness of late capitalism as much as that thing that has come to be known as “The Resistance.” As the recent GOP tax bill came to its frenzied conclusion in the Senate, I found myself connecting to the confusion, horror, and madness of Good Time and mother!. There was also comfort to be found in Agnes Varda’s sublime Faces Places, which brought the quiet emotions of everyday people in rural France booming into the forefront. In another year, Varda’s film might have merely come off as a routine delight from a legendary director but as the stories of those living around the poverty line began to surface amidst debates over basic human rights, the 89-minute masterwork reiterated the importance of workers, neighbors, and friends, and their heartbreaking, often hilarious stories.
Another documentary, Frederick Wiseman’s majestic Ex Libris, more directly confronted and rebuked Trump’s baseless attacks on government institutions and the good of public works. In detailing the life of New York’s legendary library system, and those who utilize the myriad locations or use the space for lectures, interviews, and classes, Wiseman ingeniously highlighted the vast ocean of opportunities and knowledge that can be gained through state and governmental projects, while also studying how such a intricate institute functions day in and day out. Emerging from Wiseman’s three-hour-plus film, I felt rejuvenated and realigned, stunned and fully aware of what could be if the government was run by dedicated, fairly paid individuals with stake in the country rather than a legion of white old men looking to one-up each other and let children die for money.
As you may have picked up, the feeling I had after Ex Libris didn’t keep me warm into the winter, but the importance of ideas and emotional insight that the very best movies offer was never more clear than it was this year.