The Sunken Place

My top 10 of 2017, in alphabetical order: The Florida Project, Get Out, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, The Square, Twin Peaks: The Return, War for the Planet of the Apes, Whose Streets?, Wonder Woman and Wonderstruck.

Most of the time, 2017 was “the sunken place,” in Get Out‘s term, the zone of helplessness in which one can only observe and hope for deliverance. In some respects, director Jordan Peele’s Get Out was the most Zeitgeist-ridden movie of the year, this mousetrap of a film about horrible science-fiction skullduggery carried out by good white people. War for the Planet of the Apes and Wonder Woman were vaster and more detailed with revolutionary fervor.

Guillermo del Toro’s Shape of Water had the texture of classic cinema, from its yearning for the red-velvet-lined movie theaters of the old days to its sensational use of color. Sally Hawkins’ performance sums up one odd aspect of 2017 in film: there were so many fine mute performances, including Hawkins (the best), the delightful Millicent Simmonds as a girl of 1927 in Wonderstruck and Amiah Miller’s Nova in Apes.

The Florida Project‘s endearingly hopeful study of the ground-down poor was unique. The street kids were ingenious, hustling, sticky and mischievous in this tribute to the Our Gang series set in Florida welfare-land motels. Lady Bird could have been as facile as John Hughes’ Pretty in Pink, but there’s a difference in the way it savors the reverse angle of the hard-working, weary mom (Laurie Metcalf) driven nuts by her daughter’s fancies.

Whose Streets? a documentary made under the noses of the police in Ferguson, introduced us to people different than the rampaging thugs in the news. We need visions of heroism—real, as in the neighborhood guardians in Whose Streets?, comic-book style, as in the gallant Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) or just plain comic, like Lil Rel Howery’s TSA agent in Get Out. Peele’s faith in the TSA demonstrate we still have some trust in our institutions—but time is running out on how long we have left to understand one another.

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