This Weekend, Go To The Movies

Here are 12 new releases that provide a short reprieve from Trump's election.

In times of national despair, art is a respite. As corny and reductive as that may sound in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, moral crossroads are what gave us, for better or worse, Bob Dylan’s 1960s protest songs, the AIDS epic “Angels in America,” N.W.A.’s race anthems, post-9/11 novels like The Emperor’s Children and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and the feminist undercurrents sprinkled across Beyoncé’s recent work.

On the 1963 track “I Shall Be Free,” Dylan proposed that pop culture can unite a country. He sang: “Well, my telephone rang, it would not stop / It’s President Kennedy callin’ me up / He said, ‘My friend Bob, what do we need to make the country grow?’ / I said, ‘My friend John, Brigitte Bardot, Anita Ekberg, Sophia Loren’ / Country’ll grow.” It’s a joke, of course. Three beautiful European actresses will not bridge a moral gulf. They do, however, serve as emblems of idealized aspirations, and of a harmony that is readily found in entertainment, if you know where to look.

If we’re facing a leadership with a proven record of sexism, racism, classism, homophobia and xenophobia, the least the next four years can provide is a bastion of reactionary artwork. For now, those who are crushed by Hillary Clinton’s defeat need solace. We need self-care.

Popular culture won’t erase all worries, but the experience shared in a movie theater can be therapeutic. Lights dimming around oversized screens is one of America’s finest marks of unity. The stories that unfold can prove enlightening, or they can offer much-needed escapism. For the span of a few hours, there’s nothing wrong with seeking an escape. 

Here are 12 titles to go see this weekend, depending on the mood you’re in. Share these films with your American brothers and sisters, no matter their politics. Some are currently in theaters, but I’ve also recommended a few new streaming options, in case you’re cozier on your couch. Wherever it is, use these stories to feel more connected, more spirited, more resilient. 

  • "Moonlight"
    In agony, there is silence. Endless silence. It threatens to envelop you, as it sometimes did Chiron, the protagonist of Barry Jenkins' masterpiece. "Moonlight" depicts three chapters in the life of an impoverished Miami boy realizing he has no support in a community that taunts him for being gay and black. A shattering poem patched up with delicate notes of hopefulness, this movie is a dollop of catharsis for the disenfranchised, and for anyone who sympathizes with their plight. If only that were everyone.
  • "Loving"
    Focus Features
    If this election punctures notions of a post-racial America, "Loving" confirms that the journey toward equality is fought through incremental victories. One such win came in 1967, when Richard and Mildred Loving's case prompted the Supreme Court to overturn bans on interracial marriage. The Lovings, played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, were introverts who didn't want to be public figures. Their story, as written and directed by "Midnight Special" and "Take Shelter" master Jeff Nichols, is quiet and reserved. It is a story of love.
  • "Arrival"
    Where does time go? How do we process the grief that stings us along the way? And how do we collaborate with mankind? "Arrival" uses the tinsel of a brainy sci-fi blockbuster to explore those questions. Amy Adams plays a renowned linguist recruited to figure out how to communicate with extraterrestrials that have landed in large pods across the globe. The movie's third-act twists are spellbinding, but what makes it so timely is its damning portrait of the planet's resistance to teamwork. That isolation can feel insurmountable, but buried within it is the realization that a willingness to explore new possibilities — new Others — will prevail. Adams' protagonist is the audience's surrogate, shepherding us toward that cognizance, and making us feel more understood along the journey.
  • "13th"
    Stay home and fire up Ava DuVernay's crucial synthesis of America's racial unrest. The same ills just played out on the national stage, and will continue to do so for much longer. It's time we understand their roots. Netflix's "13th" traces the timeline of our country's gross infatuation with slavery and segregation, framed through a Constitutional amendment with a loophole that has directly led to mass incarceration. It's movies like these that will wake people up, hopefully, and steer us toward a more enlightened tomorrow. (And for another searing look at racial history, catch the masterful "I Am Not Your Negro" in February.)
  • "Trolls"
    If only this were a documentary about the internet miscreants whose comment-board vitriol arguably won Donald Trump the presidency. Instead, it's a musical confection about the little wild-haired dolls from your childhood. And that's pretty appealing right about now, too. "Trolls" overflows with joyfulness, its assorted rainbow of characters working to flee a despot who threatens their boundless ability to love.
  • "Almost Christmas"
    What would the holidays be without a little dysfunction? Save your bah-humbugs for later. "Almost Christmas" follows familiar conventions, but its take on the reuniting-Yuletide-clan premise is buoyed by a bright cast that includes Mo'Nique, Danny Glover, Gabrielle Union, Romany Malco, Kimberly Elise and J.B. Smoove. There may be no time more ideal for an antics-laden comedy that ends exactly how you think it will: in a heartwarming fete of hugs and reconciliation.
  • "Queen of Katwe"
    A feel-good movie that doesn't succumb to schmaltz, "Queen of Katwe" is the story of a chess prodigy (Madina Nalwanga) realizing her talent in the slums of Uganda. Mira Nair gives her film the import of a great sports drama, but its setting -- largely unseen in Hollywood films -- elevates the piece. Starring Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo, "Queen of Katwe" is a wise, inspirational tearjerker.
  • "The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years"
    Ron Howard's new Beatles documentary, which premiered on Hulu in September, doesn't offer many insights that haven't already been storied. It does, however, plant us in the middle of Beatlemania with fond nostalgia. Incorporating high-quality concert footage and present-day interviews with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and others, "Eight Days a Week" is a toe-tapping treasure trove through the memories of your youth, or your parents' youth. The 1960s were no stranger to social unrest, and knowing that contributes to the film's resonance. It certainly makes you wish for a pop-culture entity that would invigorate us the way The Beatles did its audience.
  • "Captain Fantastic"
    Bleecker Street
    Matt Ross' sun-kissed escapade through the Pacific Northwest is, in short, life-affirming. Viggo Mortensen plays a father of six raising his kids in a blissful enclave off the grid. When his wife dies, the clan must venture to town and reacclimatize with a world whose structures they reject. Funny and moving and beautifully photographed, "Captain Fantastic," available to rent on iTunes, is a reminder that fleeing life is not a fix -- instead, embrace it on your own terms.
  • "Mascots"
    It's no "Waiting for Guffman" or "Best in Show," but Christopher Guest's latest mockumentary offers a reliable absurdity that's good for the soul. Its merry band of weirdos comprises professional sports mascots who convene in hopes of scoring the world-championship Gold Fluffy Award. In the wake of the most vicious election in American history, "Mascots" satirizes our incessant need to compete. The Netflix release presents a familiar world where everyone fancies themselves a star. Buried beneath the zaniness is an apt theme: Where it counts, passion prevails. Or so we hope.
  • "Hunt for the Wilderpeople"
    The Orchard
    A Sundance hit that deserved a wider theatrical release, "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" is an offbeat buddy comedy about a rap-obsessed New Zealand delinquent (Julian Dennison) whose cantankerous foster father (Sam Neill) is left to care for him alone when his wife dies. When the kid runs away, a manhunt ensues, and the duo team up to evade the authorities. Charming and bittersweet, "Wilderpeople" -- now available on iTunes -- is a winner.
  • "Zootopia"
    Struggling to understand the fear and bigotry that stoked Trump's candidacy? Watch "Zootopia." The Disney movie offers some of the year's most profound social commentary, inherently tackling racism, xenophobia and fascism. Our hero is the spunky Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin). She's the first rabbit police officer in Zootopia, where rabbits are stereotyped as too small for the job. Judy's prejudiced colleagues thwart her success at every turn. But a case arises that might let Judy prove her naysayers wrong, in spite of their differences. The much-needed theme? It's better to coexist in harmony, and harmony means equality. "Zootopia" is available on Netflix and iTunes.


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