BREAKING NEWS Huntsville City Schools plan for new year includes masks for students, more Full Story

Obama team bids wistful farewell in 'The Final Year'

Designed to make President Obama's supporters wistful and seemingly to irritate President Trump, "The Final Year" is ...

Posted: Jan 18, 2018 7:57 AM
Updated: Jan 18, 2018 7:57 AM

Designed to make President Obama's supporters wistful and seemingly to irritate President Trump, "The Final Year" is an intriguing if overtly nostalgic fly-on-the-wall glimpse into the last year of the former's presidency, chronicled through the perspective of his national-security team.

Theatrically releasing this HBO-bound documentary almost a year to the day of Trump's inauguration, obviously, isn't an accident, any more than the throwback credits, which introduce the key players in big bold letters as "starring" in the documentary, as if this were a 1970s drama.

Director Greg Barker's feature-length film is nevertheless an illuminating if somewhat soft-focused look at the brinkmanship and delicacy associated with international relations, one that clearly contrasts the diplomatic efforts of these wonk-ish Obama insiders -- principally former Secretary of State John Kerry, U.N. ambassador Samantha Power, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and deputy adviser Ben Rhodes -- with the Trump administration's proverbial bull-in-the-china-shop approach.

The project also highlights the personal toll that such positions exact, from the travel to the time away from family, with Power and Rhodes shown in quieter moments with their young children when they're not crisscrossing the globe.

"We're all just passing through these jobs," Power says, although the principals interviewed talk about consciously making decisions that they hope will be "hard to dismantle," keeping a watchful eye -- while the film's being shot -- on the presidential race unfolding as a backdrop to their endeavors.

What the future might hold is an underlying focus of the film, yet merely one aspect of a broader message -- namely, how even for those operating the levels of power, events often spin off beyond their control.

For those who share their liberal views, Barker's backstage access to their election-night reactions is clearly the sobering heart of the film. Rhodes, for example, having dismissed the prospect of a Trump victory, is struck speechless. Power looks crestfallen over what the outcome might mean -- both for the country, and the relationships and policies that they have painstakingly cultivated.

Obama, too, is a presence here, although a limited and peripheral one, dropping in and out of the meetings shown, and talking calmly about the country's resilience, whatever setbacks his party and agenda might experience.

What comes across is how Obama's attempt to bring nuance to U.S. diplomacy sometimes struggled within the current media landscape, with Rhodes, for one, chafing at being pressed to make statements that can subsequently be funneled into pro-con debates on cable news. In that context, he also addresses a New York Times profile in which he derided reporters' knowledge of such matters, statements that forced him into damage-control mode.

"The pendulum will swing back," Rhodes says, almost sounding as if he's trying to reassure himself. But it's hard to escape a lingering sense of pessimism that permeates "The Final Year," especially when comparing Obama's final U.N. speech with the chaotic, dizzying nature of 2017.

For its target audience, "The Final Year" can't help but have a melancholy feel, any more than it can be separated from the prism of politics. But it's worth seeing, if only to gain greater appreciation for the nature of these jobs and their highs and lows -- even for occupants who are, as Power says, just passing through.

"The Final Year" premieres Jan. 19 in selected theaters.

Huntsville
Few Clouds
88° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 94°
Florence
Broken Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 98°
Fayetteville
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 108°
Decatur
Clear
89° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 97°
Scottsboro
Broken Clouds
86° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 97°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 48588

Reported Deaths: 1042
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5687161
Mobile4315136
Montgomery4275109
Tuscaloosa238248
Marshall181511
Madison16208
Lee146337
Shelby141424
Morgan11575
Baldwin10399
Walker101825
Elmore97519
Dallas9189
Franklin90616
Etowah83413
DeKalb7905
Chambers64727
Autauga64312
Butler63728
Tallapoosa60669
Russell5890
Unassigned53826
Houston5366
Limestone5251
Lauderdale5146
Cullman4905
Lowndes47922
Pike4525
Colbert4426
St. Clair4402
Escambia4358
Calhoun4035
Coffee3923
Covington38110
Bullock36910
Barbour3622
Jackson3432
Talladega3337
Dale3261
Marengo32011
Hale31722
Wilcox2958
Clarke2876
Sumter28512
Winston2773
Chilton2762
Blount2581
Monroe2442
Pickens2446
Marion24114
Randolph2289
Conecuh2187
Macon2029
Choctaw19912
Bibb1981
Greene1888
Perry1791
Henry1403
Crenshaw1253
Washington1217
Lawrence1130
Cherokee1117
Geneva860
Lamar801
Fayette721
Clay692
Coosa601
Cleburne391
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 55986

Reported Deaths: 685
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby12549208
Davidson12234132
Rutherford323437
Hamilton300736
Sumner172755
Williamson151515
Trousdale15035
Knox13929
Out of TN12307
Wilson106017
Putnam9267
Robertson87511
Bradley8744
Sevier8573
Unassigned8302
Lake6960
Tipton6625
Bledsoe6241
Montgomery6207
Bedford5898
Macon5114
Maury4063
Hamblen3974
Hardeman3744
Fayette3443
Madison3392
Loudon3021
Rhea2930
Blount2723
Dyer2703
McMinn25518
Cheatham2432
Dickson2310
Washington1970
Cumberland1934
Lawrence1926
Anderson1662
Lauderdale1643
Sullivan1592
Jefferson1481
Gibson1471
Monroe1416
Smith1362
Coffee1320
Greene1222
Hardin1197
Obion1172
Cocke1160
Haywood1082
Franklin1013
Marshall1011
Warren1000
Hickman950
Wayne900
Marion874
McNairy841
Lincoln780
Giles771
White773
Carter751
Roane710
DeKalb700
Overton671
Weakley671
Hawkins662
Grundy652
Campbell621
Claiborne590
Henderson560
Unicoi560
Carroll491
Chester480
Grainger480
Polk480
Henry470
Crockett443
Johnson440
Sequatchie420
Cannon410
Humphreys352
Perry350
Meigs340
Jackson330
Morgan291
Fentress250
Stewart250
Decatur240
Scott210
Union190
Clay180
Moore170
Houston160
Benton131
Hancock90
Lewis70
Van Buren70
Pickett60

 

 

Community Events