Friday, June 8, 2018

'Book Club' and 'R.B.G.'

Two movies we happened to catch lately provided good entertainment and RBG was a very worthwhile experience. Book Club features four actresses d'une certaine age, viz., Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton, and Mary Steenbergen, and the male component isn't bad either: Craig T. Nelson, Ed Begley Jr., Richard Dreyfuss, among them. Not a very great plot and not very well written, but the women are delightful to watch, and I didn't find myself checking my watch.

R.B.G. presents the life story, more or less, of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It's definitely well done. We see her from her Brooklyn origins, her school days at Cornell and Harvard Law, two places I have some familiarity with, and then her legal career and her ultimate appointment to the high court by Bill Clinton. Next time you're tempted to accept some derogatory remark about Bill, remember his Supreme Court appoiitnments compared with what we got from Bush II and the present incumbent.

The filmmakers gathered material from a lot of sources and they assembled it skillfully. This kind of documentary can drag but this one doesn't. I'm not sure the Justice is that fascinating in her own right but the picture presents her in a highly attractive and enjoyable manner. It also focuses on the major cases--both those she argued as a women's rights advocate and those she decided as a justice.

It cleverly presents Supreme Court arguments, which is a challenge, since they are not videotaped or otherwise recorded visually. This is the first film or TV show I've seen that actually shows you the Supreme Court courtroom as it really is, and then runs the soundtrack over those shots. The picture leaves you not only a fan of RBG's if you weren't already, but offers a fine picture of her entire career to support the highly positive image it provides.

One note on the always-mentioned surprising friendship between Justices Ginsburg and Scalia: I heard them both speak at a D.C. Circuit Judicial Conference some years ago. Both had served as judges on the circuit. Scalia was already on the Supreme Court. Both followed the standard practice of both justices and judges until quite recently: neither talk contained any content that related to pending cases, or any matter of current or past public interest. Scalia focused on one of his favorite topics: language. Ginsburg had been the chair of the conference and she spent most of her talk thanking her husband and "life partner," Martin, for his support.

Rather than feeling totally disappointed by the lack of content in these remarks, as I was then, I now appreciate that it was a really good idea for judges to stay out of involvement in current issues and controversies. It's better for them to bore you than to sacrifice at least their appearance of disinterestedness.

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