Daily Archives: September 16, 2016

LBJ, Director — Rob Reiner


I was not sure what to expect from this movie and it really surprised me. Woody Harrelson plays Lyndon Johnson and its an academy award performance. He sure has come a long way from the days of Cheers. The film I am not Your Negro was critical of the white leadership of the day including JFK and Johnson and with some justification. Still it was Kennedy who conceived of the Civil Rights bill and it was Johnson (previously opposed to any civil rights legislation) who pushed it through congress and who introduced the voting rights act and medicare and other similar legislation. Reiner’s film paints a picture of a complex time and a complex person. For all his positive acts he was also the president who took the US into the Vietnam War and left it to others to resolve. The film is however very fair while sympathetic to the man. It covers his time from losing the Democratic nomination to JFK, becoming a reluctant and not very popular VP and then tragically president when Kennedy is assassinated. It focuses on the successful passing of the Civil Rights act as his first act and ends in 1964 prior to his running for president and his defeat of Barry Goldwater. Harrelson is perfect in the role, evoking the very human side of Johnson, his frailties, his strengths and his sense of humour. A very moving portrait of a very interesting leader. Reiner’s Q and A was great. He noted his age and that he opposed Johnson as a young man when he might well have been drafted and sent to fight a war he disagreed with. Still after all these years he has come to recognize both the good and bad sides of the man. The film will not be released until next year, long after the horrendous election in the US is over. This is too bad because the film might well remind American voters of some of its more intelligent and sophisticated leaders.

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary — John Scheinfeld


Loved this movie. It is a straight forward documentary about one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. The story takes us from birth to his very untimely death of cancer at the age of only 40. In the course of this brief life he took jazz in new directions and played with and inspired and was inspired by the best including Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk. Using old film footage and a great sound track the story is enhanced with interviews with Sonny Rollins, Wynton Marsalis, Bill Clinton and Carlos Santana among others. They gave a great perspective. Not much to be said about the movie. As one of the interviewers said when asked to describe the music “words fail me you just have to listen.” If you like jazz and like Coltrane this is a must see.

Black Code, Director — Nicholas de Pencier


Black Code is a Canadian documentary about the Internet and mass surveillance. The film makes it clear that it is not all bad but it is definitely not all good either. The Internet and access through multiple devices including phones, tablets and PC’s has changed how much we know about what is happening in the world. The film takes images from exiled Tibetans and riots and protests in Brazil. Police brutality and spreading the truth about oppression in Tibet are quickly available around the world. At the same time however, those who want to hide from their crimes: police and oppressive regimes, use the same technology to find and arrest or do much worse to the protesters. The spread of this kind of surveillance has of course spread to the whole world as revealed by Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. The film being Canadian focuses on Ron Deibert the director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. This small group of hacktivists has been responsible for monitoring the use and abuse of the Internet. I liked the movie very much and learned a great deal. When I compare it to Werner Herzog’s empty and pointless Lo and Behold there is nothing to say. This film is just far far superior, far far more intelligent, far far more insightful, just far far better. There – got another dig in at one of the world’s most overrated directors. So if you want to learn about the Internet and its impact on society see this good Canadian Doc when it is released later this year.