2017: Turmoil, Natural Disasters, and a Glimmer of Hope

As 2016 came to a close, everyone was ready to start fresh in 2017.  However, 2017 did not seem fresh and clean, instead it was a fresh start to a new brand of turmoil and vocal defiance.  Violence and unrest was at the forefront for most of 2017.  Trump continued his unique, antagonistic version of political and social interaction.  Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston and hurricanes Irma and Maria decimated Florida and Puerto Rico.  The United States, and specifically the film industry and political figures, saw a gender revolution in terms of women speaking out about sexual assault.  On a personal level, I saw the birth of my son, which created a shining and distracting light through the turbulence of the year.  It also limited my movie watching time, and so I am a little behind on films this year.

The violence and the death that was on spotlight in 2016 continued through 2017.  Almost everyday had a mass shooting last year, according to massshootingtracker.org.  The continued prevalence of mass shootings did not seem to slow down at all, in fact its prevalence seemed to increase.  In many ways America is becoming complacent when it comes to school shootings and other hate-fueled violent attacks.  They seem to continue and continue, yet the debate remains the same with the focus being on gun politics on both the right and the left.  While everyone argues about the role of guns in modern American society, the death tolls continue to rise.  Republicans and Democrats are just strengthening their sides, when we should be working on unifying and finding a common ground to make progress.  My knowledge of politics is minimal, so I can’t offer any solution.  However, it is clear that there needs to be a shift in the current paradigm controlled by the gun industry.

Continuing briefly with politics, it is impossible to look back on 2017 and not discuss Trump.  It is hard to imagine a group of Americans that earnestly support Trump and at the same time do not directly benefit financially, or politically, from his actions as President.  At the same time I get the feeling that there is still a large number of individuals that believe America is finally getting back on track, whatever that means for them…  It seems like Trump has not done much more than establish himself as an embarrassing and bullheaded face of a country that has been synonymous with arrogance and disrespect.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love America.  Right now it is just harder to not be embarrassed by the barrage of newsworthy blunders that flow out of the White House.  It seems like every other day there is some ridiculous statement released on Trump’s twitter that is later contradicted by official White House press releases and vice versa.  I cannot imagine the frustrating state of affairs that must exist within the White House.  Trump is definitely succeeding in mixing up politics in D.C.

The United States saw a large progressive movement in women’s rights throughout the year, from the women’s march in January to revelations about sexual misconduct throughout the year.  The beginning of the year had many consecutive weeks of protests around the United States, but the biggest was the women’s march on January 21st.  Millions marched worldwide to promote women’s rights, healthcare reform, reproductive health rights, and several other civil issues.  Above all, it was an effort to stand up against the recklessly misogynist statements made by candidate and President Trump.

In October of last year, a New York Times exposé revealed Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse.  This enormous story sent ripples through the film industry and the political arena.  Many actors, filmmakers, Congressmen, and the President, were under fire for their misconduct.  Many saw devastating blows to their careers.  Once the floodgates opened up, some accusations seemed to be more retaliatory and less genuine.  That is bound to happen, though, when a movement grows as large and fast as this one did.  The amount of publicity and action that resulted from this movement was a powerful force.

Harvey Weinstein was not the only massive force to reshape the United States.  Other major players were hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma.  Harvey caused serious damage to Houston through mid to late August.  The flooding that took place devastated Houston in a way that no one was expecting.  Apparently, one of the reasons that the massive flooding took place was due to the expansive concrete and paving that spans throughout Houston.  Without proper drainage, the water had nowhere to go and exacerbated an already terrible situation.  Perhaps this was a common thread going through most of the turmoil throughout the year, an exacerbation of an already terrible situation.

Harvey was not the only major hurricane to ravage the U.S.  There were also hurricanes Irma and Maria that hit the south east corner of the states.  Irma plowed through the western coast of Florida after ravaging the northern Caribbean islands.  Irma’s destructive path was led by mass exodus of Florida.  As people fled via the crowded roadways, they were hit by a large spike in gasoline prices.  Nothing says America more than gouging American consumers at their most desperate hour.  Soon After Irma passed through the Caribbean, hurricane Maria came back through and hit Puerto Rico.  This second hurricane to pass through Puerto Rico was a devastating blow. Six months later  Puerto Rico is still only just starting to recover from the damage.

All of this, seemingly, non-stop flow of terrible news and natural disasters made it difficult to call 2017 a good year.  The only shining light was the birth of my son.  So far, watching him grow has been a reminder that growth has its ups and downs and great strides are made over time.  Considering the way the women’s rights movement advocated for a change in the current paradigm (as a response to the chaos and turmoil from decades of abuse nationwide and highly publicized and misogynistic statements from the president) it becomes much easier to say that I am hopeful of the future.  However, with all of this going on throughout the year, it was hard to stay up on the movies.  So I am still catching up on some of the releases from last year.

As I have been catching up on movies so far, I have noticed that none of the movies really stood out as much as some did in 2016.  There were definitely some great films, like: Get OutMother!DetroitGod’s Own Country, Wind River, to name a few.  There were also a lot of movies that left me feeling neutral.  I have yet to see several of the highly talked about films, like: Shape of Water; Ladybird; 3 billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Florida Project, among others.  So I am hopeful that the overall average will go up once I finish some of those, supposed, heavy hitters.

It is difficult to pin down any major themes or consistencies between the films last year.  There was a good blend of genres and styles among the critically acclaimed and noteworthy films.  The novel concepts like Jordan Peele’s Get Out, David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, and Darren Aronofksy’s  Mother!, brought refreshing existential and thought-provoking ideas to life.

Christopher Nolan’s  Dunkirk and Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit focused on intense historical moments.  These films had a realistic quality that made you feel as though you were there.  They captured the emotional impact on the subjects, whether it be British soldiers trapped on enemy land or black American citizens fighting for their lives at the hands of the police that should be the ones protecting them, as well as illustrating the ripple effect these events had on a grander scale.

In terms of cinematography, director Dee Rees and cinematographer Rachel Morrison  captured the tone of post World War II Mississippi farm life through the beautifully lit landscape shots juxtaposed with violent and rampant racism in their film, Mudbound.  The great cinematographer Roger Deakins, who has famously worked with the Coen brothers on films like:  The Big Lebowski, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, as well as other great films, such as: The Shawshank Redemption, A Beautiful Mind, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, the list goes on and on.  Deakins’ work on on Blade Runner 2049 was incredible.  The futuristic nature of the Blade Runner franchise allows for a tremendous amount of creativity and visually striking concepts.  Deakins and director Denis Villeuneve, created a film that both brought interesting visual techniques to life, like this scene where actors Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoeks are superimposed in a way that almost seamlessly blends them together.

There are many different aspects of Blade Runner 2049 that make it stand out visually.  The entire film is aesthetically pleasing and is successful as a sequel to a classic.  The film does not match the original on an existential level, but it does an excellent job at progressing the world on its inevitable trajectory and maintains the same tone and feel of the original.

I am excited to catch up on all of the movies that I missed last year.  There are still several major films that I have yet to see and I am trying not to let them get too hyped before I get a chance to see them.  It will be interesting to see how the fallout in the film industry will affect film making in the coming years.  Hopefully this shift in the paradigm will allow for new players to step in and help push towards a healthier environment and open the doors to some new ideas and concepts.

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