I quite liked it, and recommend it if you have any interest in civil liberties. It’s a montage of clips about a diversity of subjects, centered on Glasser’s work with the famous Skokie case of 1977, when the American Nazi party challenged the suburb of Skokie’s denial of their demand to march through the town (Skokie was largely Jewish). The ACLU, defending the Nazis, won, but the brownshirts didn’t march there, doing so in Chicago instead. The footage of these pathetic bigots is entertaining, especially when their Big March in Chicago is drowned out by shouting opponents exercising their right of counter-speech.
What’s worth noticing is that nearly everyone involved with the ACLU back then, including those who defended Nazis, were Jews. They had no love for National Socialism, but they loved civil liberties, and the articulation by Glasser and others of why they felt they had to defend the Nazis by itself makes the movie worth watching. Glasser and most of his ACLU colleagues were really in the organization to defend the civil liberties of blacks, and it’s sad to remember that the blacks and the Jews used to be friends.
But there’s a lot more. The intellectual clashes between William Buckley and Glasser are epic, especially when you realize that they liked each other (you can see Glasser taking the patrician Buckley on his first NYC subway ride). Likewise, Glasser becomes pals with Ben Stern, a concentration-camp survivor who adamantly fought against the Nazis coming into Skokie. The final scene, in which Stern tells Glasser that he loves him anyway, is a weepy moment. There are bits about the recent trouble in Charlottesville, and a lot about baseball, for Glasser was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan—because of Jackie Robinson. It wasn’t that Robinson was the first black man to play major-league ball, but simply because he was a world-class player who energized the team and made its fans go nuts. When they moved to Los Angeles, Glasser was bereft.
Anyway, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this movie to everyone, as there are no chase scenes or superheroes, but if you’re into civil liberties and free speech, and want to meet an icon who promulgated those values for many years, watch “Mighty Ira”.
“Mank” is the nickname of the protagonist, Herman Mankiewicz, the screenwriter who shared an Oscar with Orson Welles for the script of “Citizen Kane”. As the trailer below shows, it was filmed in black and white (we need more movies like that), and the cinematography and style hearken back to the Forties.
The topic is about Mank’s struggles to produce a script on short notice, and his battles with Welles for credit. But there’s a lot of narrative about the studio system in Hollywood, and so we also get to see Mank’s battles with Irving Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer (like the movie above, most of the big players were Jewish), as well as his schmoozing (and falling out) with William Randolph Hearst, who of course was one of the inspirations for “Citizen Kane”.
There are two excellent performances here: Gary Oldman’s, who plays Mank (often drunk), and Amanda Seyfried’s, who plays Marion Davies, Hearst’s mistress who was the hostess at San Simeon. It’s a testament to Oldman’s versatility that he can transform from Winston Churchill (he won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance as Winnie in “Darkest Hour”) to a sarcastic and alcoholic screenwriter, completely believable. Do see this movie, and if you don’t believe me, go look at the critics’ reviews at Rotten Tomatoes.
I didn’t know that Sarah Silverman did a serious movie, and of course, being smitten with her, I had to see it. Sure enough, the movie, “I Smile Back“, is five years old, and I hadn’t heard of it. Perhaps that’s for a good reason, for while it was a watchable movie, it wasn’t a great one. It chronicles the degeneration of a seemingly perfect marriage between Silverman and her tolerant husband (they have two kids), with the degeneration due entirely to Silverman’s problems with alcohol, drugs, and depression. Here’s the trailer:
While the plot is no great shakes, I have to say—and this isn’t because I love her—Silverman gives a really good performance. Perhaps it’s because The Divine Sarah has had her own lifelong struggles with depression, but her portrayal of the misery and malaise of the ailment is absolutely convincing. If you’re a Silvermanophile like me, I’d recommend the movie, but don’t expect something Oscar-worthy.
Of course all of this is also to induce you to list and say a few words of the movies you’ve seen lately. It’s been a tough year for film, and the last time I was in a theater was to see Ford V. Ferrari (also a good movie). If you’ve seen something good (or bad, and want to warn us off), please comment below.