Documentary Film: “Hot Coffee”

This alarming examination of the concerted efforts on the part of corporate interests to limit and even destroy the rights of citizens to sue for redress and damages in our civil courts is a call to action worth heeding.

The movie takes its name from the 1994 liability suit by 79-year-old Stella Liebeck who was injured on spilling her McDonald’s coffee in her lap.

It has been wrongly cited by the “tort reform” movement as an example of a frivolous suit with excessive damages that makes such “reform” needed when it is anything but, as the film shows.

And from that best-known and widely misunderstood case, it then details how limits on damages and fine-print arbitration clauses are weakening citizen and consumer protection and ability to sue for fair damages, with an assist by legislators and judges elected thanks to big business funding. This matter is a key battleground in the corporate pillaging of America and a movie not to be missed.

TV Series: “Whale Wars”

I’ve tuned in at the start of season three of this Animal Planet show about the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s efforts to disrupt Japanese whaling in the Antarctic waters of the far South Pacific. Yeah, it suffers from a number of annoying reality show conventions — worst of all, summarizing what happened before the commercial break after every break — that if abandoned might make it better TV and agitprop. But the commitment and bravery of the Sea Shepherds as well as their radical action approach makes them the one cause among so many likely to get my next contribution.

Movie: “Certifiably Jonathan”

Comedian Jonathan Winters holds a special place in my heart beyond being the most ingenious comic of my youth, as my mother grew up with him in Dayton, Ohio. And yes, even in grade school he was already that certifiably crazy in the best ways as an entertainer and comedic thinker.

This film that calls itself a “documentary/mockumentary” as it traces his efforts to get his work as a painter into the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The movie itself may stumble, but Winters even in his late 70s is still a whirlwind of genius as a comic, head and shoulders above the many who came later who cameo here. Except for Robin Williams. A brazen Williams acolyte, Winters doubles the brilliance when paired with his icon.

Even as the premise and structure of the movie stumbles, Winters is utterly compelling. And the film also succeeds in making a good case for the brilliance of his artwork.

From The Progressive Populist, September 15, 2011


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