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Movie Review: “On the Basis of Sex,” Directed by Mimi Leder, 2 hours

My movie buddy and I enjoyed the biopic about Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s early days in the fight for gender equality, even though it was formulaic and predictable from the beginning to the powerful ending where the real Ginsberg mounted the Supreme Court steps.

The movie is very timely as it hit theaters just as Ginsberg was missing her very first sessions while battling lung cancer. The last report I saw said that she had beaten cancer once more and was back on the job. The documentary, “RBG,” about her had just closed a week or so before this dramatization was available. Another reason that the movie is so timely is that the Supreme Court has been making headlines for years as it cleared legalities out of the way for the ongoing power-grab of the plutocracy.

Only Ginsberg’s early legal efforts, and especially her first big trial before the Supreme Court, are covered. But the inference is that she went on to win more and more gains for women. We were pleased that the movie didn’t try to give all the credit to the legal system, but made the point that people change things before laws recognize it.

In discussions after the movie, we talked about the Equal Rights Amendment, which both of us fought for in the 1970s. It passed in Congress but, like any constitutional amendment, it had to be ratified in the states. We came close but we didn’t win, or rather we haven’t won yet.

The ERA would have overturned all the many statutes and case precedents justifying gender discrimination in America. Ginsberg’s approach, in the movie, was to tackle them one-by-one, and that’s what she and others have been doing. The movie implies that we’ve been winning all this time and will continue winning until gender equality is fully achieved.

But, so far, it hasn’t happened.

Why Not?

Women live longer and consequently outnumber men in America and on the planet. If they could get together, even vote together on women’s issues, they would win. But the truth is that they don’t.

Texas has had two outstanding women candidates for governor in the last two elections. Both were outstanding for their stands on women’s equality. Neither one of them won, and neither one of them got all of the women votes. I think that both of them, like Ruth Bader Ginsberg and maybe even like Hillary Clinton, made some progress; but so far no victory cigar!

Frederick Engels, in the 19th century, wrote that women were the first oppressed class, mostly because their oppression coincided with the birth of written history. Both written history and women’s oppression came about because surplus wealth was beginning to be produced. Men took that wealth and developed writing to account for it. They developed women’s oppression in order to make sure that their heirs were biologically theirs.

Engels said that women’s oppression would end in future society because women would be in the workforce and fully as productive as men. I think that’s been the case so far. The laws didn’t change first. What happened first was that women established their power and their rights in the workforce.

Union Women Are Far Ahead

Most American workers aren’t organized into unions, but the ones that are practice women’s equality rather thoroughly. As our working people attain more power, women’s equality will at long last attain its final goal.

Meantime, let’s keep marching!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s Workers Beat program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Movie Review: “Shoplifters,” Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, 121 minutes

A family that steals together,
feels together

This isn’t a Hollywood movie with a given gimmick, heroes, villains, and a romantic ending. It is a delicate, multi- layered garment that must be pulled back gently to reveal its true design. It earns its honors and awards without any trumpets nor fanfare.

It’s not really about theft, even though the impoverished Japanese family gets a lot of its basic necessities that way. It’s not about poverty, slums, or sex either. That’s just the setting for a story about universal themes of love, commitment, and, above all, family.

My movie buddy and I found the subtitled movie slow for the first hour and a half, even though we kept picking up nuances that intrigued us just enough to keep us in our seats. The last half hour explains everything and pushes every tiny circumstance into hard questions that challenge everything we have thought and felt about the little group of shoplifters and thieves.

I guess that’s art.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Movie Review: “Vice,” Directed by Adam McKay, 2 hours 12 minutes.

As the young Dick Cheney and the old, Christian Bale was heavy
Christian Bale was skinny in “The Machinist”

Even if you lived through the Bush-Cheney years and don’t think you need a refresher course, you will benefit from seeing “Vice.” It concretizes our understanding of the many things that are wrong today. Dick Cheney was not the first nor the last Republican to warp our laws in the service of dark money, but he is certainly in the running for the worst.

The movie credits him with paving the way for dishonest network television, tax giveaways, fraudulent wars, distortion of justice, and torture, among other things.

So many are the chronicles of Cheney’s crimes that the movie, despite its length, has little time for drama. It is almost a documentary. The time-saving method of using a narrator to hurry us through events has to be employed. Even within that hurried framework, though, the actors are magnificent. Christian Bale again shows his dedication and ability by being both the wastrel Young Dick and the overweight criminal old Dick. Amy Adams, as Dick’s Lady MacBeth, is outstanding. Several headliners take minor roles, or even cameos, to get the historical drama on the screen.

It was not completely amazing to see that Brad Pitt headed a list of film producers, especially if one also went across the movieplex to see the outstanding civil rights film, “It Happened on Beale Street,” where Pitt is again the lead producer. Pitt apparently is committed to progressive filming.

There are a lot of surreal moments in the film. They’re extremely humorous in a macabre sort of way. Some of the critics have blasted McKay for taking short breaks from serious treatment, but I think he did it the way it had to be done. When listing the crimes of Cheney, we have to laugh to keep from screaming.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM every Saturday Central time. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Movie Review: “Roma,” Written, directed, and filmed by Alfonso Cuarón. 135 minutes

“When I was little, we had this wonderful servant…”

Nearly all movies are about rich people. The women wear low-cut gowns and the men spiffy tuxedos. Every now and then, somebody walks on stage to bring them tea or take their hat. Every now and again, the servant gets one line which is often a wisecrack. They’re only props in the movie.

“Roma” begins with a servant. As soon as I saw her, I hoped the movie was going to be about her and not about the affluent people who command her every thought and motion. For once, my hope was realized!

Her peers call her “Manita,” but the employers call her “Cleo.” She has to overcome difficulties that are just as bad, probably worse, than theirs. She depends on them completely. My favorite line in the movie was “Are you going to fire me?”

When I was young, I once sat in a booth at the Hamburger King with four high school girls. They were dissing a girlfriend whose family servant had yelled at them for some bad behavior. “I’ll never forget her name,” said one of the girls that I didn’t know very well. Then she spat the name with disgust: “Evelyn!”

The one girl I did know well, who knew me, and was looking directly at me, said, “Good thing it wasn’t Gladys, wasn’t it Gene?” My mother was a scrub woman who had worked for that family. Nobody ever made a movie about her.

But, thank goodness, somebody made a movie about Cleo and it’s getting rave reviews everywhere. The few criticisms note that the story isn’t really told from Cleo’s point of view, but from that of one of the children she served. She doesn’t get to say a lot, and she doesn’t really explain anything. She endures. From the bosses’ perspective, that’s what servants do.

We loved the movie. I’m especially grateful for it. Oddly, subscribers to Netflix can watch it at home even while it’s sweeping up awards in theaters.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio program 89.3 FM every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. They podcast on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

It’s not about religion, nor about lack of religion

The Netflix Cowboy Epic, “Godless,” is spectacularly awful. The spectacular part is the truly wonderful scenes of horses and raw nature. The costumes are excellent. The blood and gore is spectacular. There may be more dead bodies created on-screen than in any movie I’ve seen. There are at least 100 murders and maybe another 50 combat deaths, all committed with gleeful abandon. 

The awful part is the stereotyped characters. Believe it or not they actually present a whore with a heart of gold and a gunfighter of great repute who wants to hang up his pistols. There’s a straight-shooting widow woman, there’s a charming child (who, believe it or not, idolizes the gunman), a sheriff trying to overcome a reputation for cowardice, a Bible-spouting unscrupulous villain, an amoral newspaperman, a native sidekick — just about every stereotype I’ve ever seen in decades of watching Westerns. Just to make sure you know that they will stoop to everything, they sprinkle it with unrelated nudity.

After the ultimately predictable carnage near the end of the series, I began to get even more uneasy with the plot. “Please God,” I remember saying, ‘Don’t let him ride off into the sunset!”

The advertisements give the impression that there’s going to be at least a nod toward feminism. After all, it’s supposed to take place in a town without men. No such luck! It’s a male-dominated shoot-em-up, just like all the others. It’s a spectacular one, though!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s Workers Beat program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcat it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Movie Review:

“Green Book,” Directed by Peter Farrelly, 2 hours, 10 minutes

The Green Book is an important part of American history. It was used to help African-American motorists locate the few places where they might rest. I think that one reason that “Green Book” has continued to sell tickets over several weeks is that people are slow in finding out what it’s about.

There are a lot more good reasons to see the film. Acting by the two main characters is outstanding. Viggo Mortensen plays a street smart nightclub bouncer from New York, while Mahershala Ali plays a delicate Leningrad-trained classical musician. Both are up for Golden Globes awards. The movie is up for best picture, and Oscar-buzz has already begun. The 1960s music is wonderful. The pacing is so good that viewers go beyond ignoring the extra length and wish it could go on longer. There are four, count ’em four, union logos in the final frame!

Few movies can claim so much authenticity. It seems to be strung together by family stories from Mortensen’s character, Tony “Lip” Vallelonga. Someone named Nick Vallelonga gets some of the screenplay and producer credit.

Tony Lip apparently drove a sensitive Black musician through a tour of the Deep South in 1962. His main qualification for the job came from his experience as a tough guy. Tony was required to stay in all-white motels, while his employer had to use the Green Book. It isn’t hard to imagine some of the problems they encountered, but you have to see the movie to realize how well this period, these problems, and these two wonderful characters can be brought to life! If your tastes run toward American history, civil rights, or just great film-making, you don’t want to miss Green Book.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

My astute movie buddy found out that Texas Women’s University was staging Bertold Brecht’s play, “Mother Courage” in nearby Denton, Texas. She bought tickets immediately, thereby providing a genuine educational experience for me.

My own experience with Brecht had never gone much further than listening to Bobby Darin’s 1960s rock song, “Mack the Knife.” But I knew he had been a communist and was a German who opposed Hitler. This play was written about the time the Nazis invaded Poland. The play doesn’t mention Hitler nor WWII, it is set in the Thirty Years’ War in Europe in the 17th century. But then,”M.A.S.H.” was set in Korea, but it was about Vietnam.

Wikipedia says, “Mother Courage is considered by some to be the greatest play of the 20th century, and perhaps also the greatest anti-war play of all time.” You should try to see it if you can, but not because you’re going to like the title character. Or not because you’re going to like anybody at all in this play. They’re not heroic nor self-sacrificing, not physically beautiful, not charming, not tremendously insightful nor clever. They are just people. In other words, this is not an American play. As far as I know, Hollywood has never shown the slightest interest in filming it.

Apparently, Bertold Brecht didn’t believe in cultivating emotional transference between his characters and the audience. He felt that nothing should get in the way of the basic art experience between audience members and the entire performance. He wanted to make his point. In this case, his point was that war is an awful thing benefiting no one, and perhaps adding that people who try to exploit war deserve help the least.

Mother Courage and her children sell food and sundries to Protestant soldiers, or sometimes to the Catholics, in the devastating religious war underway. The thing that she and others in the play dread most is the possible ending of the war. It would cut off their livelihoods. This message is more than obvious in a conversation between two Swedish soldiers in the first scene. The rest of the play enlarges the theme, like a map of battle zones, by sticking pins in it.