Movie: Trouble with the Curve

Clint Eastwood’s bizarre GOP convention appearance has likely hurt his stature as a cinematic quantity with Leftists, but not quite with me. I imagine my brief interview with the man years ago on a press junket, in which he was quite the charming gent, has some influence on my continuing interest in his films. But in the end one just cannot deny his skill and legacy as a director and potent on-screen presence as an actor. In this tale of an aging baseball scout with a distant and at times conflicted relationship with his daughter, he plays what has become a near cliché for Eastwood in recent years now – the mature man grumpily and testily struggling with decline and a changing world. Yet it works as a source of dramatic tension. Due credit here must go to the plucky charm of Amy Adams as his high-power lawyer daughter who’d rather be in the stands for a high school ball game with her Dad. And the consistently impressive Justin Timberlake epitomizes “supporting actor” as a young rival scout who gets sweet with Adams. It’s an engaging small scope film as well as perfect flip side to “Moneyball” (for a great baseball film double feature night) that charms ... if you can set aside Eastwood’s politics.

Documentary Film: Saint Misbehavin: The Wavy Gravy Movie

I spent the 15th anniversary of the Woodstock festival with Wavy Gravy aka Hugh Romney and fest promoter Michael Lang doing the network morning TV talk show rounds in New York City during my days as a publicist, and came away convinced that he’s the last of the true hippies and the exemplar of the 1960s counterculture values. This loving and winsome look at the man, his life and accomplishments underscores my impression. Romney traveled from the 1950s Beat Generation movement to alongside the Merry Pranksters to being the “Chief of Please” as his Hog Farm commune redefined concert security at Woodstock. Along the way right up to today he has put his values into action that betters the lives of others, and he continues to make a compelling case for the power of what I’d call “informed innocence,” playfulness, good nature and humor. He’s a very special soul, and this movie captures his essence in ways both delightful and informative while reasserting the notion that hippie values were not simply a pipe dream.

TV Documentary: The Abolitionists

This three-hour “American Experience” historical overview of the run-up to the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation follows both the big tides of social and political conflict and change alongside the powerfully dedicated individuals like Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Brown and Angelina Grimké who transformed a fringe movement that was reviled and dismissed both south and north into the great moral movement of 19th Century America. Its historical recreations deftly convey the tenor of the times and the personalities of the prominent figures whose agitation for the fruition of the Constitutional notion of freedom transformed the nation.

From The Progressive Populist, April 1, 2013



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