Category: Politics


March 28th, 2020 — 11:00pm

****

Crip Camp-nf

This film was recommended to us by someone who knew that we spent the summer after our wedding working in a camp for orthopedically handicapped adults and children. It is produced by  the production company formed by former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama in association with Netflix. The opening scene of this documentary film, although taking place several years later showed Camp Jened very much resembling our own unforgettable summer experience. The focus was mostly on teenagers, many in wheelchairs, some with severe speech impediments and others limping around, but all with the energy and joy as they clearly felt liberated and were having the time of their lives. Many spoke of how for the first time they did not feel different. Others spoke of the joy of swimming and playing baseball even if it was from a wheelchair. There was the first teenage sexual attraction and overall a most meaningful summer.

However, this documentary film was much more than the story of a wonderful great summer camp experience. The producers and editors put together the story of the historic civil rights movement of people with disabilities. It also became obvious that some of the participants in this and leaders of this movement had met each other during their glorious summer camp experiences. Now many of them were young adults and were emerging as the leader of this most important movement.

A group of them had landed in San Francisco where they began to demonstrate against Joseph Califano who was the Secretary of Health Education and Welfare and was not carrying out Federal Law section 504 and therefore not supporting equal opportunities for the handicapped. Curb cuts, so wheelchairs and their occupants could travel freely, elevators in all structures as well as other architectural accommodations to allow people with disabilities to lead a more normal life were their demands and expectations. The Black Panthers who originated in nearby Oakland, California, supported and joined them in their protests. This movement then reached a crescendo when the growing group of protesters arrived in Washington, D.C. and held sit-down demonstrations in front of Secretary Califano’s office outside the building and inside. This went on for a couple of weeks before finally Califano recognized the rights of the handicapped.

To think that much of this movement started in the early relationships of many young people who met at the remarkable summer camp a decade earlier. The filmmaker obviously dug up early footage from Camp Jened and focused on several people who became leaders in this most important movement. The viewers of the film were able to follow them as they emerged into adulthood and made the remarkable contributions to the civil rights of the disabled in this country. (2020)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, History, Politics

The Report

January 9th, 2020 — 8:17pm

****

The Report – nf

In this docudrama based on the true story of Daniel Jones (Adam Driver), a staffer for United States Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) is given the assignment to examine secret files and make a report on the purported enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT) that the CIA was performing on suspected terrorists after 9/11. You need to remember that this was a time of great anxiety and concern in this country after the U.S. homeland was attacked by Al Queda. The CIA felt very responsible to determine if future attacks were being planned and exactly who was involved. They were able to bring into custody suspected terrorists and would determine to extract from them as much intelligence as possible to save the homeland. At one point two seemingly credible psychologists offered to help the CIA to develop these enhanced interrogation techniques which featured the torture of the people they were interrogating with waterboarding among other methods. They had the confidence that this would extract essential intelligence data. The United States government is one of critical checks and balances and while the CIA reports to the President, the U.S. Congress has the duty to examine ethical and moral behavior of all agencies of our government. This critical and pivotal moment in modern United States history all played out in the actions and reactions of this one younger staffer Daniel Jones, who had the task of examining the most highly classified information and reports. He ultimately found himself in direct conflict with the various leaders of the CIA which included John Brennan (Ted Levine), George Tenant (Dominic Fumusa)and Denis McDonough (Jon Hamm) who was chief of staff for the President’s office.

This historical drama was written and directed by Scott Z. Burns. The movie holds the attention of the viewer as we watch this unlikely hero struggle against the powerful forces as well as his own inner conflicts as to how he should act and should he reveal the top secret information that was being hidden from the American public and from the U.S. Congress.

This movie is quite relevant today as, the headlines tell of U.S. President Trump complaining about people who are questioning the United States Intelligence Office which provided information regarding his decision to have a major Iranian military leader killed. (2020)

 

 

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama, Politics

One Child Nation

November 17th, 2019 — 10:57pm

 

***

One Child Nation-  amazon

In 1979, the Chinese government came to the conclusion that if they did not make some radical changes, the next generation’s population would grow enormously. 

They believed that the population would be in the billions and would lead to widespread starvation and be very difficult to manage. Therefore the Chinese government instituted a mandatory one child policy, which was widely publicized and became the “patriotic approach” expected from every Chinese family. Those who disobeyed this dictum and had a second child would be severely punished sometimes by having their home destroyed. Midwives not only performed numerous sterilization procedures and abortions but also at times had to kill newborns who were second children. This policy continued for 25 years before it was finally changed allowing a second child.

Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang directed this documentary film. Much of it was in Chinese with subtitles. It captures and personalizes the impact of this all encompassing social policy. Through interviews with various Chinese people, the viewer can appreciate the very personal meaning of being deprived of the ability to have a second child if one wanted one. Family dynamics are examined especially in some settings where there might be a desire to have a boy and the first child was a girl. The newborn and the very young were abandoned in the streets. There was human trafficking where children were sold to adoption agencies. Many of these children were internationally adopted and ended up in American homes where the adopted parents were not told the true story of their newly adopted child. There also is the story of the search by adopted Chinese children growing up in America who might be interested in finding their birth families.

This film deals with these complicated issues, which have political, social, as well as emotional implications. You come away from this documentary film educated and also moved by the human implications of what you have seen and experienced. (2019)

 

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1 comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Foreign, Politics

American Factory

October 20th, 2019 — 8:31pm

****

American Factory-nf

This a documentary, which allows the viewer to be a “fly on the wall” as real life unfolds in factory in Dayton, Ohio.

A wealthy Chinese businessman opens up a new factory, which makes glass for automobiles, in a closed General Motors Auto Factory in Dayton, Ohio. He brings in from China the people who will be the supervisors of the workers, who come from the local community and are thrilled at being able to get back to work, although their minimum wages are below the wages they made from the now closed auto factory.

Everybody is optimistic that this gigantic plant will rejuvenate the local community. The workers try to get used to the Chinese work culture and the Chinese try to understand the American way of thinking. A delegation of American workers is sent to China where they are wined and dined and participate in the celebration of Chinese culture. The film production team led by producers/directors Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert  have obtained very good access to both the Americans and Chinese working in the factory and they are able to film the workers and their supervisors as they discussed their personal feelings. Things come to a head when there is a movement to unionize the workers, which is opposed by the management. The tension between the two sides builds to an ultimate vote whether this unionization should take place.

This movie highlights important political and social differences between contemporary American and Chinese cultures. It is of note that one of the backers of this film is Barack and Michelle Obama’s new production company, Higher Ground (2019).

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Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Politics

Vice

January 20th, 2019 — 9:59pm

***

VICE-rm

If you remember Dick Cheney, you will have to agree that Christian Bale is a dead ringer for President George W. Bush’s vice-president in appearance, speech and mannerisms despite the fact that in real life Bale looks nothing like him. This is a great tribute to the actor and the film makers.

Depending on your political point of view, you will probably decide if the depiction of Cheney is true to life. He certainly is shown to be a power-hungry, manipulative, opportunist. Sam Rockwell does an excellent impersonation of President GW Bush who is shown to be somewhat weak and under the spell of his vice-president. Steve Carell plays Donald Rumsfeld who was a person involved in Cheney’s career early on as well as in his later years but we could not forget that it was Carell and we were expecting him to breakout into some comedy lines.

The movie highlights the importance of the influence of Cheneys’s wife, Lynne (Amy Adams) in his life. Perhaps the most moving and sympathetic moment in the film in regard to Cheney, was how he was able to accept his daughter’s coming out as gay whereas his wife seemed not to be able to do so. Otherwise, there is not much sympathy for this character who was shown to have led the country into the Iraq War as well as many other questionable decisions including favoring Halliburton, the company for which he had previously worked.

As realistic as the depiction of the main character was in this film, there were some distractions with flashbacks and other cinematic effects. Although well-done, we thought they took away from the flow of the movie. Also, you may recall that there was an incident where Cheney accidentally shot someone with a rifle. This event was briefly shown but there was no explanation of how it came about or who was the victim.

The movie was directed by Adam McKay who is known for the Big Short, Anchorman I and II and more recently Holmes & Watson. The producer team included Brad Pitt as well as Will Ferrell and there was a whopping 40 million dollar budget for it. One more thing, don’t leave the theater whenever you begin to see the credits come on the screen. Each time there is more to come. (2019)

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Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History, Politics

On The Basis of Sex

November 29th, 2018 — 6:46am

****

On the Basis Of Sex

This film follows on the heels of “RBG”, a very well-received documentary film about the iconic Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. However, this movie is a dramatization of the early life of Judge Ginsburg starting with her entry into Harvard Law School and following her as she married her lawyer husband Martin, had her two children, battled prejudice and discrimination as she tried to get her first job and then ultimately took on a game-changing case in which she established the modern legal basis for equal rights for women and foiled attempts at discrimination based on sex.

Felicity Jones is excellent as RBG as is Armie Hammer as her husband and Justin Theroux as Mel Wolf, head of the ACLU. Mimi Leder, a veteran TV director, returns to film directing which she did earlier in her career. This movie not only provides superb entertainment and an opportunity for discussion but it also gives us insight into relevant contemporary social issues. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History, Politics

Fahrenheit 11/9

September 24th, 2018 — 12:41am

****

Fahrenheit 11/9- rm

This is a documentary movie by filmmaker, Michael Moore. So, if you know anything about him, you can expect a strong political statement reflecting his views. However, we found that he took us some places we did not anticipate and we were emotionally moved by several points that were being made.

While the title (One Day After Trump’s Election) and introduction zoomed in immediately on the election of Donald Trump, which surprised most everyone, probably including Trump and his supporters. Moore did not let us forget that there was a clear majority of voters supporting Clinton and of course, the Electoral College, which allowed Trump to be elected president, is a remnant of a compromise made to appease the slave states.

As we settled in to see a further dissection of Trumpism in this country, the movie took us on a somewhat different journey than we expected. We ended up in Moore’s homeland of Flint, Michigan where we were told the story of one of the most horrendous acts of deception ever played upon American citizens. The water supply of the city was changed and then came from a new river source, which was polluted with lead and other substances that were an irreversible poison to the residents of that city, especially impacting children. The governor of Michigan, Jim Snyder, even when he knew about the facts, hid the truth from the people in order to protect corporate interests who were benefiting by the status quo. He did make some changes, so a General Motors plant would have clean water so as not to damage the cars that were being made. Apparently, even President Obama did not understand the true gravity of the situation as we see him speaking in Flint, Michigan minimizing the seriousness of this issue.

This movie also took us to West Virginia, where we met poorly-paid teachers who defied their own union and were going on strike for a 5% raise in salary for themselves, school bus drivers and kitchen workers in the schools. We saw how their brave acts of defiance were then copied by teachers in other states, giving a picture of how people can rise up for their rights.

Seen through the eyes of this documentary filmmaker, the human elements of such events can be very well conveyed. However, nothing was more moving than the depiction of the well-known story of the children of Parkland, Florida who rose up to capture the hearts of the entire country as they exposed the self-centered actions of the gun lobby in this country who have resisted changes in gun control despite the massacre of the Parkland children by a crazed killer with an assault rifle.

The ending of this film brought us back to Trump with Michael Moore’s eye-opening clear comparison of the rise of Donald Trump and the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism as seen in Germany. This documentary film pulls no punches and it will hit you in the gut, bring tears to your eyes and give you a great deal to think about. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Politics

Chappaquiddick

April 4th, 2018 — 12:28am

*****

Chappaquiddick

If you were around in July 1969 when Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon, you may or may not remember another big news story that took place at the same time. Senator Edward Kennedy, youngest brother of John and Robert Kennedy accidentally drove his car off a small bridge in Chappaquiddick, which resulted in the death of a young woman by the name of Mary Jo Kopechne. Up until that moment, many people felt that the younger Kennedy was destined to become President of the United States. The actions of Edward Kennedy on that evening and in the subsequent week are a fascinating study of a man at the crossroads of his life where his honesty and integrity were truly tested and his human frailties were exposed.

This was a very well done script, which was written by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan who were too young to have remembered or experienced this event as it unfolded in this country. They apparently reconstructed the story mainly from the voluminous record of the inquest of the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.

Jason Clarke was outstanding as Edward Kennedy and the supporting cast was excellent including Kate Mara as Mary Jo Kopechne and a superb performance by Ed Helms who played Kennedy’s cousin who was a key player in the aftermath of this tragedy. Credit must also go to director Joe Curran for recreating a very realistic depiction of the events of this tragedy as well as an in depth character study. The story also shows an insight into the dominant role that the patriarch Joe Kennedy (Bruce Dern) had on his family even in the later years ,of his life.

We had the pleasure of meeting two of the producers of this film, Mark Ciardi and Campbell McInnes who tried very hard to bring to the screen this even-handed view of the events of this major news story and historic event. It appears that they may have gotten very close to the truth, but we probably will never know for sure.

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History, Politics

Divine Order

January 28th, 2018 — 6:48am

****

The Divine Order

The suffrage movement, women’s rights and women’s liberation is one of the most dramatic and heartwarming stories of American history. It also resonates in a country such as Switzerland where women did not have the right to vote until the 1970s. Screenwriter and director Petra Volpe shows to focus on the particular process around a countrywide referendum whether women should have the right to vote. The story takes place in a small town in Switzerland and follows Nora (Marie Leuenberger), her husband Hans (Max Simonischek), her sister-in-law Theresa (Rachel Braunschweig), their family and mainly the women of this town. The story touches upon the changing traditional roles between men and women. It highlights generational differences and even puts the focus on women’s new awareness of their own bodies. The moving storyline about the interpersonal relationships as well as the emerging self-awareness of both men and women will push your buttons and touch your emotions. This has all the hallmarks   of a well done successful movie which is worth seeing now and preserving for future generations. (2017)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign, History, Politics

LBJ

October 26th, 2017 — 3:30am

*****

LBJ-sp

If you are of a certain age or a student of history and can remember Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. this movie should grab you, fascinate you and hold your attention. Johnson (magnificently played by Woody Harrelson) was a seven term United States senator from Texas who was for many years, majority leader of the U.S. Senate and was chosen by JFK to be his vice presidential candidate. He rode to victory with Kennedy in 1960. Rob Reiner, who directed this movie with the use of very realistic flashbacks, builds up the tension leading to those fateful days in Dallas in 1963 when Johnson assumed the presidency.

Much to the surprise of his former southern Democratic colleagues in the Senate, Johnson did not support their views on segregation and discrimination. This movie written by Joey Hartstone deals mainly with how LBJ pushed through JFK’s cutting-edge Civil Rights Legislation.

Harrelson is fantastic in capturing the essence of LBJ, his mannerisms, facial expressions, and speech inflections. Along with the script by Joey Hartstone and direction by Rob Reiner, in our opinion, this is one of the best pictures of the year. There also are some very fine performances by Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lady Bird, Richard Jenkins as Senator Richard Russell and Michael Stahl-David who plays Bobby Kennedy.

Much of Johnson’s presidential legacy is often tainted by his failure to end the Vietnam War which this movie did not focus on. However, the realistic depiction of Johnson’s domestic accomplishments which not only included civil rights legislation but also welfare reform and Medicare and Medicaid is often forgotten. This movie gives him the well deserved recognition and appreciation for his contribution to our country. Likewise we believe this film should receive great accolades for being a very well done and engrossing cinematic accomplishment. (2017)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Politics

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