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Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from documentarians Julie COhen and Betsy West. Here they give us an "all access" portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a/k/a "Notorious RBG". As I am a lawyer myself, I am of course quite aware of her, but I must admit I knew very little of her background, and how it made the person that she is today. Just 2 things that stuck with me after the movie: Ginsberg is best known as the champion of gender equality. Did you know that she was one of only 9 female students (out of a class of about 500) at Harvard Law? and that she made law review? And that upon graduating (in 1959), not a single law firm in New York, NOT ONE, offered her a job? The other striking thing is the amazing relationship between Ruth (nicknamed "Kiki" by her childhood friends) and her husband Martin, which is featured prominently in the documentary. Oh, and there is one more thing to remember: the deep friendship between (liberal) RGB and (conservative) Supreme Court justice Antonia Scalia. In these uncertain times, it is important to remember that we don't have to be indignant, disrespectful and worse to people who have a different opinion than our own. In fact, strictly on policy issues, I probably disagree with RBG more than I agree, but that doesn't mean I can't have but the greatest respect for Ginsberg the person. What an icon she is, and the day that she retires from the Supreme Court will be a sad day for this country.
"RBG" premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival to immediate acclaim. The movie opened this weekend on 2 screens at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, and I couldn't wait to see it. The early Saturday evening screening where I saw this at was attended very nicely, and I thin that with the positive word-of-mouth this movie is sure to generate that this may have long legs at the art-house theater circuit, IF you are in the mood for an excellent documentary about a remarkable women, I'd readily suggest you check out "RBG", be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray.
Justice Ginsburg proudly speaks about being born and bred in Brooklyn. In the 70s she co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the ACLU. We listen to Gloria Steinem and Nina Totenberg reveal tales of her past that make you realize how pivotal her involvement in the women's movement was. Filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West dig into the substance of this woman with a judicious zeal usually reserved for our deceased heroes. As a staunch feminist, her nomination to the Supreme Court could have been way-laid had not President Clinton been wowed by her in the first 15 minutes of her interview with him. Then, he knew that he had to put her on the Court.
The love story between Ruth and Martin Ginsburg is nothing less than awe-inspiring. I love how she tells about her undergraduate years at Cornell where there was a four to one ratio of boys to girls. "Every mother wanted to send their daughter there because, if you couldn't find a husband there, you were hopeless." She reveals that during her freshman year, she never dated the same boy twice. That is, until she met Marty, who was the first guy that recognized she had a brain. When President Carter brought her to the federal bench, Marty gave up his success career as a tax attorney in New York to move to DC to support her. He recognized Ruth for the super star that she is and later, when she was nominated to the Supreme Court, rallied on her behalf with endless enthusiasm. Also noted is that he was the cook in the family. Her children tell how they had to keep her out of the kitchen.
One thing I really like about this film is that it focuses on Justice Ginsburg's life long fight against gender discrimination. She experienced it first hand as a fresh law school graduate that could not get a job in any law office in New York City because "they didn't hire women." She has never given up the fight, and there have been many - for women in the military who were discriminated against for pay and benefits, for widowed men who couldn't get survivor benefits. She chose her plaintiffs carefully, picking a male to show that gender discrimination worked against both men and women.
Although this film may lack verve in terms of groundbreaking filmmaking, it is stunning beautiful in telling the story of a contemporary hero. 84-year-old Justice Ginsburg is an icon of our times. A woman who has weathered extremely difficult conditions and sits on the highest court in the country as someone dedicated to equality - for women, for people of different races and cultures - for all of us. She is a modern heroine and, as shy and quiet as she is - carries a big stick! I have been touting this film to all the young women and men in my universe and sending them to it. Most walk away stunned. My 20-year-old friends never even knew who she was before going to see the film. Many weep as they watch it. Now, that's something. That's important. If this film manages to get one young person's attention and give them the courage to stand up for what they believe, then these filmmakers have something to be outrageously proud of. I believe they have.
Reviewed by Ranny L., KIDS FIRST! Juror.
I thought this was really a very well put together documentary. A real effort was made to find people who have known RBG at different points in her life, from her childhood in Brooklyn to the current day. Some of the commentary is negative, especially at the opening, most of it is positive, but without fawning. Much of the movie is funny, which is a real achievement given that Ginsberg herself is not a particularly funny woman, nor is the law usually a barrel of laughs.
It does a reasonable job of explaining the development of her career as a lawyer and judge, and shows that, to a certain degree, her most important work was done before she arrived at the Supreme Court.
It keeps things moving, and never lost my attention.
It allowed conservative like Oren Hatch and Anton Scalia to express their views about her. They were both able to distinguish what they thought of her legal opinions and the respect they had for her legal mind.
A well done documentary.
The film traces Ginsburg's life from her childhood in Brooklyn, New York through her years struggling to be taken seriously as a young female law student and practicing attorney (but racking up impressive accomplishments nonetheless) and through her tenure on the highest court in the land and improbable emergence as a pop culture icon. The storyline is basically linear, but includes frequent jumps backward, forward and even sideways as it examines different aspects of her life, personality and public image.
Along the way, there's a good mix of historical photos, videos, audio clips and graphics, but the main driving force is the well-edited interviews. We hear from Ginsburg's children, her childhood friends, colleagues, admirers and even a few detractors, as well as fellow feminist hero Gloria Steinem, former President Bill Clinton and, of course, Ginsburg herself - at various public appearances, with her personal trainer and sitting down to discuss her life, even reacting to Kate McKinnon's portrayals of her on SNL.
"RBG" is a fascinating and fun documentary. It's unclear how much credit goes to the compelling subject matter vs. the skill of her documentarians, but Cohen and West do keep things moving and paint a well-balanced picture while keeping the audience's interest. Some will find it as difficult to separate their feelings about Ginsburg as a jurist from how they feel about her politics as the filmmakers probably had making their film relatively apolitical, but they did it. They manage to tell Ginsburg's story - and make clear what she believes in (even including a little bit of controversy) - while keeping the focus mainly on Ginsburg as a person and on this strong film as an interesting and entertaining historical document. "A-"
RBG is a documentary the takes a look at the life and times of Ginsberg from her growing up and attending college at a time when women weren't taken seriously through to her time now serving on the highest court of the land. Those early years put into perspective why she fought the battles she chose when it came to equality for women and provide a historical backdrop for young people to learn about what it was like at the time.
I've often said when watching movies one has to put their mindset and eyes into the times in which the movie was made rather than watching through the eyes of where we are now. The same holds true when considering history. This film demonstrates that. For some they might not comprehend what it was like for women at the time Ginsberg went to school knowing what it is like now. Her story is how things changed to become as they are today.
The movie takes a look at how she progressed from student to lawyer and her work with the ACLU for women's rights. Ginsberg appeared before the Supreme Court several times before she joined it years later. She was heavily involved in the women's rights movement of the sixties and into the seventies. While there were more familiar faces involved in that battle like Gloria Steinem for one, Ginsberg actually laid the legal groundwork for those changes.
Ginsberg went on to serves as a judge and was later nominated for a position on the Supreme Court. Her appearance before congress found her easily approved and she began serving. As times and judges changed her position on the court changed as well. The more conservative the judges became the more known for being the voice of dissent was her lot in life.
The film focuses on her time in the law it also take a look at her private life as well. This mainly consists of her long time love for her late husband Marty. Their relationship was special. In a time when most men had that overwhelming sense that they were the breadwinner and their careers came first, Marty instead supported his wife recognizing the importance of what her work meant to her. When Ruth was the serious one, Marty was the more social and outgoing one with a keen sense of humor. Their love story makes up a nice portion of the film as well.
Towards the end of the film we're presented with the idolization of Ginsberg where we stand today. She became known as the Notorious RBG, a play of the name used by rap star the Notorious BIG. Her face adorns products like a rock star, everything from mugs to T-shirts. She's been parodied on SNL and praised by various groups who have presented her with numerous awards. And she's even been given a blog that celebrates her story in essays and images.
While watching the film there were several thoughts that continued to run through my mind. The first was that the woman deserves respect for the things that she has achieved. This is not a sexist remarks claiming that it was impressive because she was a woman but that as a lawyer and advocate she has left behind and amazing amount of work.
The next thought was that while she should be celebrated for her work she shouldn't be turned into a saint. Her fans are legion and they act as if she can do no wrong and her every syllable should be held in high esteem. I may be alone in my thoughts but no justice on the court should be treated this way no matter which way they lean politically. They are human, they are interpreting law, they are not superheroes or rock stars.
Lastly the timing of this release comes as Brett Kavanaugh is being considered for appointment to the Supreme Court. In watching how Ginsberg is treated compared to the approach being taken with Kavanaugh I've been surprised. Ginsberg was treated with respect by both parties. And while Kavanaugh has been attacked for having personal beliefs Ginsberg was celebrated and praised for the exact same thing. During her testimony she admitted to her strongly held beliefs on women's rights and to me that's fine. Kavanaugh hasn't done the same but any hint of a personal belief and he's been raked over the coals and seen as unfit by those who oppose him. How different things are when the shoe is on the other foot.
In the end the movie is a fascinating look and a woman who should be admired if perhaps not canonized. The legacy that she leaves behind as a litigator and a justice are to be admired whether you agree with her or not. And in watching this film perhaps a better understanding of the woman and her behavior is on display for all. You can't ask for much more in a documentary.
The film keeps your attention because it shows her human side, her heart, and her determination -- all together in this wonderful woman. Her wonderful love story, her deep friendship with arch conservative Scalia, her enjoyment of theatre and opera, her wonderful sense of humor, her symbolism of the different collars she wears with her justice robes and, most of all, her unswerving path to fight for equality for both women and men of all races and backgrounds, all of this makes for an inspiring and interesting story.
The RBG is her nickname, Notorious R.B.G., a pun from rapper Notorious B.I.G. She has become a cultural icon but, more than that, she is a giant for our time. So much I didn't know before -- it's a really special film -- you will enjoy it and it will stay with you! Go see it and bring your friends and family.
And it's also sad to realize that the reactionary right-turn of the federal Powers wants to turn a lot of this back. When Ginsburg joined the Supreme Court she was only a bit left-of-center. Now, many years later, her stance on these kinds of issues has not changed, but the rest of the Court has, and she now finds herself a far-left dissenter. Progress is fragile and humanity still has far to go.
On a more immediate note, it's disappointing to see that the internet trolls want to kill this movie too -- see the votes of 1/10 in the bar chart of the IMdB ratings that make up almost 5% of the total (this is much larger than average for any movie, and this is the ratings bin where the trolls live). And if you look at the breakdown by gender you'll see that almost all the trolls are male -- not surprising, but still rather saddening that they want to tear down a truly inspirational figure. The real center of the ratings chart for RBG is near the median vote of 8/10, and I think that's pretty accurate.
(Let me detour just a bit here. Trolls have always been with us but oddly it's taken the internet age to assign them an appropriate group name. Someone who seems to have understood their psychology was the playwright George Bernard Shaw. In his greatest play, Saint Joan, there is a scene towards the end where Joan, being burned at the stake, is surrounded by a crowd many of whom are laughing and jeering. One of the main characters who is witnessing this utterly appalling behavior cries later, "They would have laughed at Christ!" Just so. Someone else who had an idea of how to deal with such people was Dante -- but that's an analysis for another time.)
THIS FILM IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
IN BRIEF: Well researched, but slightly biased documentary about an early pioneer of woman's rights.
JIM'S REVIEW: Move over Captain America! There has been an onslaught of superhero movies this year, but none of these comic book crusaders comes near the awesome power of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. RBG is a well-made documentary that not only lauds her super power with the law but brings a sense of order about her fierce combat skills in protecting women's rights throughout the years and fighting for minority groups in America at a time when second class status was the norm.
As any moviegoer, I become a bit skeptical of any documentary that shies away from any flaws in telling the biography of a famous individual. And this film becomes a rousing testament to a strong woman. Biased and unbalanced in its storytelling the film is nevertheless a riveting tale to tell. (And the fact that I too greatly admire this person does show some bias in this review, I am sure.)
Filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West create an informative and highly entertaining documentary which gives us the personal backstory behind this icon. Using archival footage, graphic imagery, personal photographs, and interviews with colleagues, family, and RBG herself, the film traces her happy marriage to Martin Ginsberg, a man who loved her and believed wholeheartedly in her causes and search for equality, It examines her struggle back in the sixties and seventies in becoming a lawyer in a male-chauvinistic environment to her eventual seat in the Supreme Court, appointed by President Bill Clinton. It showcases her triumphs to overturn many laws that oppressed the common people, striking out against homophobia and battling against forces that supported segregation and racism while continually advancing her mantra of equal rights for women.
The film is quite insightful and filled with interesting details. Known as Notorious RBG to a younger generation for her long hard journey fighting intolerance, the documentary follows Ms. Ginsberg's fascinating career and covers her early cases as a promising attorney representing the oppressed minorities, leading her to argue her progressive views to the Supreme Court for equal rights (and winning a record 5 out of her 6 cases). Later, she would herself become an active part of the highest Judicial branch of American government hearing many cases to render her verdict with the majority or, in most recent instances, eloquently dissent. Ironically, her closest friend on the Court became the most conservative voice of the Supreme Court, Justice Anthony Scalia, and their shared love of debate and opera adds yet another dimension to this opinionated and scholarly crusader.
RBG is a compelling dual portrait of a independent-minded woman and a changing America. Unafraid to dissent and take on any injustice that stood in her way, Justice Ginsburg became a singular consistent voice for the downtrodden and the persecuted. at a time when liberal thinking wasn't so much a curse (as it is today), but just another point of view. How refreshing! How sane!
RBG is an extraordinary film about an extraordinary life.
The film opens with some carefully selected name-calling from unseen accusers who call her a variety of pejorative words such as "vile," "wicked," "zombie," and "witch," words you would normally only see strung together in a presidential tweet. Interviewed are former President Bill Clinton, Playwright Arthur R. Miller, Finist icon Gloria Stein, and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, as well Ginsburg's children: Jane, a professor at Columbia Law School, James Steven, a music producer, and granddaughter Clara Spera, a graduate of Harvard Law School who refers to her grandmother as "Bubbie," an endearing Jewish term. The film highlights major aspects of Ginsburg's life including her confirmation hearing in 1993, her 56-year-marriage to the late New York tax attorney, Martin D. Ginsburg, her two-time battle with cancer, and her struggle for acceptance as a woman at Harvard and Columbia Law Schools, and her frustration in seeking to find employment as a law clerk after graduation.
Though the film has a serious purpose, views of Ginsburg doing push-ups at the gym, attending the opera, talking to high school students wearing Ginsburg T-shirts, and watching a spoof of her by comedian Kate McKinnon on "Saturday Night Live," provide a lighter side to her personality, one that we rarely see. She even jokes with the late arch-conservative jurist Anthony Scalia, and makes a humorous comment about her falling asleep at the State of the Union address. After her tenure as a law professor (one of only twenty female law professors in the country) at Rutgers University, Ginsburg became active in the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, and the most compelling part of the film is the discussion of some of the landmark court cases she was involved with.
In her capacity as general counsel for the Project, she argued and won five of six cases before the United States Supreme Court. When she argued her first case, she said, "I knew that I was speaking to men who didn't think there was any such thing as gender-based discrimination, and my job was to tell them it really exists." The cases include Frontiero v. Richardson (1973) which challenged a statute denying a married female Air Force lieutenant the right to receive the same housing allowance as a married man. In Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld (1975), she represented a widower denied survivor benefits under Social Security, opposing the statute that allowed widows but not widowers to collect special benefits while caring for minor children.
In one of her arguments, she quoted Sarah Grimké, 19th century abolitionist and attorney, who wrote in an 1837 letter, "I ask no favors for my sex. I surrender not our claim to equality. All I ask of our brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks." After being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, her opinion was a determining factor in allowing women to attend the Virginia Military Institute for the first time. She also authored the majority opinions in United States v. Virginia, Olmstead v. L.C., and Friends of the Earth Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc.
Though she considered herself to be cautious in her approach to the law, when the court made a sharp right turn, her dissenting opinions presented a counter argument to the majority. Among others, her voice was heard in Bush v. Gore (2000) which decided the 2000 Presidential election, and in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), a decision that found Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to be unconstitutional. It is clear from RBG that Ginsburg's appeal has gone far beyond her legal opinions and that she has now become an icon to millions of people throughout the world. Emma Goldman once famously noted that she did not want any part of any revolution that did not let her dance. Ruth Bader Ginsburg's lifetime of support for human rights has allowed many to dance, some for the first time.
As Betsy West's and Julie Cohen's "RBG" makes clear, Ginsburg had been an important figure for years before her nomination. Born to an immigrant, she was one of the first women to attend Harvard Law School. Upon becoming a lawyer, she frequently took on cases involving gender discrimination. Jimmy Carter appointed her to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980, and then Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court.
The documentary features interviews not only with Ginsburg herself, but also with a number of people in her life and people whom she influenced. We also get to see Ginsburg's cordial relationship with late fellow justice Antonin Scalia, despite their dissimilar political views.
Basically, this woman who came from humble beginnings to attain a seat in the judicial branch of government is one of the most impressive individuals of our era. I sure hope that she outlives the Trump era.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a remarkable Supreme Court justice. This is a remarkable documentary about her life as a justice and about her life as a person. This is a must-see movie for everyone, but, if you're not reasonably progressive you probably won't enjoy it.
Ginsburg stands up for truth, justice, and fairness. As the Supreme Court turns further and further to the right, Ginsburg is more and more isolated. As I write this review, President Trump is trying to force her to resign. I don't think she will.