The theme for this month – In Praise of Older Women

Theatrical Release

RBG (2018)

Directed by Betsy West, Julie Cohen
Starring: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Gloria Steinhem, and Nina Totenberg

“She’s an unlikely 21st-century icon. Or is she? Unlikely, that is. Shy, serious, intellectual Ruth Bader Ginsberg, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, 85 years old. She was ranked as pretty centrist, politically, during her early years on America’s highest bench.” MaryAnn Johanson, Flick Filosopher

“A lot of people want to make Ruth Bader Ginsburg a rock star — indeed, that may be the only way a culture addicted to entertainment can understand her — but, thankfully, she lacks the outsize charisma and need for the spotlight. Instead, Ginsburg possesses something far more important: a groundbreaking legal mind.

“Using a combination of archival sifting and interviews with friends, family, and associates — and with generous amounts of sit-down time with the lady herself — “RBG” assembles a portrait of a decorous, studious Brooklyn girl, the daughter of Jewish immigrants, who learned two lessons from her beloved mother: be a lady and be independent. In carving inroads into the male citadels of Harvard and Columbia Law schools during the 1950s, Ginsburg let hard work define her; if the dean of Harvard Law was going to tell her that she was taking a space from a deserving man, her response was to simply become more deserving.” Ty Burr, Boston Globe

Even long Ginsburg stans may learn something from the film’s most interesting section, a primer on the women’s rights movement of the 1970s. [Betsy] Cohen and [Julie] West unpack the major cases Ginsburg worked on, talking with the plaintiffs and sometimes the opposing counsel, and the cumulative effect is that we take her hard work for granted. Another parallel story is about her family – she was married for over fifty years, with children and grandchildren – and their reverence is a good entry point into what makes her unique.

“Women would not have equal pay without Ginsburg, nor would they be able to enroll in Virginia Military Institute, while men would not be able to collect Social Security after the death of a spouse. She did not convince judges in these cases with bluster or rhetoric, and instead made her case with forceful elegance. All of RBG’s talking heads, including Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, speak of her with admiration.” Alan Zilberman, Brightest Young Things

“Aside from an opening cacophony of off-screen voices calling her ‘this witch,’ ‘this evil-doer,’ ‘this monster’ (also, ‘vile’ and ‘anti-American,’), the movie has no interest in a dissenting opinion.  And it can verge on the cloying when it dwells on either Ginsburg’s millennial-based celebrity or cutesy footage of her working out (Hey, even Stephen Colbert succumbed to that joke).

“Mostly, RBG just wants to tell us about this remarkable woman who calmly and with impressive clarity laid out some of the most basic tenets of gender equality.  And she did so in the face of a system that all but screamed, ‘Nice girls don’t file lawsuits’ or ‘What does she want??’ (Well, to be treated like everyone else, says one client).

“And if RBG is a love letter to Justice Ginsburg, it is also an unabashed celebration of her 56-year marriage to a man who loved her both wisely and well.  You sense that, perhaps, here is why this otherwise reclusive woman would agree to RBG in the first place.  Marty Ginsburg is as much of an ahead-of-his-time hero as his wife

“And here’s a bit of sexist observation: it’s surprising to see how the gnome-ish ‘little old lady’ we now recognize as Ginsburg was once a rather lovely blue-eyed brunette whose mother advised her to be both a lady and independent.” Eleanor Ringel Carter, Saporta Report

“RBG is ostensibly a documentary about 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but it feels more like a love letter. Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen trace Ginsburg’s life and career from girlhood through marriage and law school to her current position as perhaps America’s least likely pop icon – the Notorious RBG, as she is affectionately nicknamed by a vast legion of youthful progressives.

“The film makes clear that the soft-spoken, diminutive Ginsburg fought early and hard for gender equality in the courts in her own steadfastly clearsighted way.” Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor


Archival films

Sunset Boulevard  (1950)

Written by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder and D.M. Marshman Jr. Directed by Wilder (The Apartment, Double Indemnity.) Cinematography by John F. Seitz (Double Indemnity, Sullivan’s Travels.)
Starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Cecil B. DeMille and Buster Keaton.

“The association segues into an affair, he as a not-too-resisting captive and she as a woman as decadent as her life, trying to seize a last whiff of romance.

“Plot moves relentlessly toward the climax when the aged star shoots down her young paramour as he seeks to escape from her idiopathic demands. There is scant relief from tragedy in any of the footage, and the futile note is driven home when the dead writer continues his narration after his body has been hauled from the pool and tagged for the morgue.

“Brackett, Wilder and Marshman Jr. have made their story extremely ‘trade-y,’ and the film industry family circle will appreciate the exposure of studio foibles. Picture bares with considerable sting a lot of half-truths that are generally accepted as fact, plus adding quite a few glib cracks of its own.

“Performances by the entire cast, and particularly William Holden and Gloria Swanson, are exceptionally fine. Holden’s stock within the industry should mount after there has been a general viewing of his standout job as the young writer, enmeshed with an old woman.” William Brogdon, Variety

“Hardly anyone remembers Joe’s next line: ‘I knew there was something wrong with them.’

“The plot has supplied Joe with a lot of reasons to accept Norma’s offer of a private screenwriting job. He’s broke and behind on his rent, his car is about to be repossessed, and he doesn’t want to go back to his job as a newspaperman in Dayton. He is also not entirely unwilling to prostitute himself; Holden projects subtle weakness and self-loathing into the role. He goes through the forms of saying he doesn’t want Norma’s gifts, but he takes them–the gold cigarette cases, the platinum watch, the suits, the shirts, the shoes. He claims to be surprised on New Year’s Eve when she throws a party just for the two of them, but surely he has known from the first that she wants not only a writer, but a young man to reassure her that she is still attractive.

“The thing about Norma is that life with her isn’t all bad.” Roger Ebert

Harold and Maude (1971)

Written by Colin Higgins (9 to 5, Out on a Limb.)

Directed by Hal Ashby (Being There, The Last Detail.) Cinematography by John A. Alonzo (Chinatown, Scarface.)
Starring Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Vivian Pickles, Cyril Cusack, Charles Tyner and Ellen Geer.

“Cort and Gordon play the coolest oddballs on the planet in a movie that captured the Zeitgeist of America’s counter-culture movement during the Viet Nam war. Death-obsessed Harold Chasen is barely out of his teens. He has a weird proclivity for staging fake suicides to get a rise from his maternally inept but filthy rich mother (Pickles). Harold’s dramatic suicide-by-hanging in the family mansion establishes the picture’s wonderfully deadpan tone. The audience is let in in of the joke, but where can all this macabre humor lead? Harold’s blasé mother dismisses her son’s desperate pleas for attention as merely sharing in his deceased father’s ‘sense of the absurd.’ Regular therapy sessions provide no relief [for] the distraught Harold.” Cole Smithey

“She signs him up with a computer dating service, but the girls are sort of put off when he sets himself afire on their date, and things like that. Maude, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to mind. As played by Gordon, she is the same wise-cracking operator out of the side of the mouth that we met in ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’ When a traffic cop stops her for being in possession of a stolen truck, a stolen car, and a stolen shovel, she apologizes and then drives away. When he catches up with her again, she steals his motorcycle. You see what an indomitable sort she is.” Roger Ebert

“Mr. Cort’s baby face and teen‐age build look grotesque alongside Miss Gordon’s tiny, weazened frame. Yet, as performers, they both are so aggressive, so creepy and off‐putting, that Harold and Maude are obviously made for each other, a point the movie itself refuses to recognize with a twist ending that betrays, I think, its life‐affirming pre tensions.” Vincent Canby, New York Times


RBG is at The Grand Cinema. (Also in Olympia at OFS/Capitol Theater through May 31)
Sunset Boulevard will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, June 1 in the Center for Spiritual Living (206 N. J St).
Harold and Maude will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, June 8 in the CSL.

The TFC Discussion Night for these three films is Wednesday, June 13th in the CSL.

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