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LBJ, Director — Rob Reiner

September 16, 2016

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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.

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