Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Movies

Documentary ‘RBG’ looks at whether Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a judicial ‘rock star’

The notion of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the diminutive and soft-spoken Supreme Court justice, as a judicial "rock star" - at least in the eyes of progressives who love her sharply worded dissents to opinions rendered by the increasingly conservative court - may seem a strange one. But the lively and thorough profile painted of her by the documentary "RBG," in which she is described in just those terms, makes a persuasive argument for that characterization. Now 85, Ginsburg is viewed by liberals, anxious about her advanced age and the rightward drift of the court, as a champion of the left, a bastion of resistance whose absence will be a loss for progress.

Ginsburg, for her part, says she has no immediate plans to retire. And, when asked whether she regrets not having stepped down while President Barack Obama still had the chance to nominate a replacement, she says only that she has always believed that she should stay on as long as she is able. And is she able? What about the infamous footage of her seeming to drift off during the 2015 State of the Union address?

Cue the shots of Ginsburg doing push-ups.

Directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West mark the 25th anniversary of Ginsburg’s high court confirmation hearing by including excerpts from that 1993 Senate grilling, along with snippets of a 2017 panel discussion moderated by Nina Totenberg of NPR and more recent interviews. These rather conventional documentary components are supplemented by talking-head interviews with colleagues and friends, footage of her working out with her personal trainer and, most interestingly, archival audio from some of the cases that Ginsburg argued, as an attorney, before the Supreme Court.

Madame Justice, of course, would probably politely but firmly dispute that she is, in any way, an icon of cool, as she does while watching - on camera, for the first time - Kate McKinnon’s impersonation of her on SNL. Giggling adorably at the actress’s "Weekend Update" impression as the trash-talking "Notorious RBG," Ginsburg admits to the skit being very funny, even as she takes pains to point out that she is, in real life, absolutely nothing like that.

"I tend to be rather sober," she says, with characteristic understatement, noting that her personality is in sharp contrast to the more jocular nature of her late husband, Marty (and even some of her seemingly staid colleagues). Despite her biting legal writing, she comes across, on camera, as unfailingly mild-mannered, decorous and polite, especially when the film explores her rather unlikely friendship, based on a shared love of opera, with her late conservative colleague Antonin Scalia.

Rather than focusing on personality, however, the bulk of "RBG" has to do with its subject’s lifelong fight against gender discrimination - a fight pressed over many years, many cases and, in most instances, delivering only incremental change. One of Ginsburg’s early milestones as a litigator was a 1973 appearance before the Supreme Court in which Ginsburg argued, ironically, not on behalf of a woman, but a man: Air Force Lieutenant Sharron Frontiero had sought the same spousal benefits - for her husband - as a male servicemember would get. By striking this strategic blow for men’s rights, Ginsburg helped push the door open, if only a crack, to gender-blind policies that would ultimately get women one step closer to a level playing field.

"RBG" shines a strong, clear spotlight on a female jurist who are out to change the world, one small step at a time.

Comments
‘Incredibles 2’ just might be better than the original — and a cure to superhero fatigue

‘Incredibles 2’ just might be better than the original — and a cure to superhero fatigue

It’s been 14 years since the premiere of Brad Bird’s beloved animated superhero film The Incredibles, one of the mega-hit Pixar films that cemented its reputation for film humor and heart that would satisfy both parents and children. With cool mid-ce...
Published: 06/13/18
Why is Mister Rogers making adults cry decades later?

Why is Mister Rogers making adults cry decades later?

Neighborly block party comes to downtown Tampa.
Published: 06/12/18
 ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ about Mr. Rogers is much-needed emotional tonic for troubled times

‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ about Mr. Rogers is much-needed emotional tonic for troubled times

If beloved children’s television show host Mr. Rogers were once a representation of all things milquetoast, in the summer of 2018, his message of love and tolerance is not only saintly, it’s radical. In the deftly crafted documentary Won’t You Be My ...
Published: 06/12/18
Yes, ‘Ocean’s 8’ is a heist movie, but it’s also an empowering, cheeky comedy

Yes, ‘Ocean’s 8’ is a heist movie, but it’s also an empowering, cheeky comedy

Most every successful heist movie, just like a heist itself, functions by obeying a well-defined formula.First comes the setup and backstory (typically involving the righting of a wrong, to lend the subsequent lawbreaking a veneer of moral justificat...
Published: 06/06/18
TMZ: Last surviving munchkin from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ dies at 98

TMZ: Last surviving munchkin from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ dies at 98

The last surviving munchkin in The Wizard of Oz has died.Jerry Maren, 98, died last week at a nursing home in San Diego, according to TMZ.The cause of death for the last surviving member of the famous Lollipop Guild, made famous in the 1939 classic, ...
Published: 06/06/18
‘Blind Side’ star is at Tampa Theatre for a screening this weekend

‘Blind Side’ star is at Tampa Theatre for a screening this weekend

BLIND SIDE: Summer Classic Movie SeriesAll summer long, Tampa Theatre is showing classic Hollywood movies. Sunday features not only a screening of 2009’s The Blind Side, but also actor Quinton Aaron, who played Big Mike in the film, for a Q&A. Based ...
Published: 06/06/18
In ‘Hereditary,’ Toni Collette reveals a sixth sense for icy terror

In ‘Hereditary,’ Toni Collette reveals a sixth sense for icy terror

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy noted in a sentence so right, by the time you started arguing with it Anna Karenina was off and suffering.If Tolstoy got a look at Hereditary, he might’ve added: ...
Published: 06/06/18
Jodie Foster makes ‘Hotel Artemis’ first-class experience

Jodie Foster makes ‘Hotel Artemis’ first-class experience

Hotel Artemis is a shining example of how it isn’t the amount of money spent to make a movie, but how the budget is being spent. Director/writer Drew Pearce has managed to take the money that would be the cape-pressing budget for most superhero movie...
Published: 06/06/18
Summer movie guide: All the superheroes, sequels and quirky comedies to see

Summer movie guide: All the superheroes, sequels and quirky comedies to see

Summer started early this year in Hollywood with the record-breaking release of Avengers: Infinity War, and the marquee Marvel superheroes couldn’t have come at a better time. The box office for the year is down nearly 3 percent, and the industry is ...
Published: 06/05/18
How Ybor City parties inspired the sets of Avengers: Infinity War

How Ybor City parties inspired the sets of Avengers: Infinity War

Thanos has nothing on Plant City native Charlotte Lee.For the Avengers: Infinity War baddie to alter the perception of his surroundings, he needed a Reality Stone, which, according to the Marvel movie’s lore, was a remnant of one of six singularities...
Updated one month ago