“How Democracies Die”: our divisions started long before Trump and the Russians (an unintended consequence of Civil Rights?)

How Democracies Die”, authored by two government professors at Harvard – Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, has drawn a lot of mainstream media attention recently for the warning it has for American democracy. Almost immediately I remember a conservative group, the Center for the American Experiment from my days in Minneapolis almost two decades ago.  The book tagline is “A bracing, revelatory look at the demise of liberal democracies around the world – and a road map for rescuing our own.”

The authors give a lot of comparative case histories (with charts) of democracies that failed in Europe and then Latin America (and places like Turkey), related in some way in most cases to what we call populism.  Comparisons may be incomplete: Europeans generally have more than two major parties, and generally have Parliamentary rather than presidential governments.  We should add that commentators like Fareed Zakaria and Vox’s Ezra Klein have often written about the advantages of parliamentary systems for stability.

The authors do spend most of this relatively brief book on analyzing the US.  No, our problems didn’t start with Donald Trump, or even Richard Nixon.   The authors note that in the US two-party system, generally there was some crossover of ideologies and some limit on the cultural homogeneity of both parties that made bipartisan compromise possible.  Two “unwritten rules” were always followed: mutual toleration, and forbearance. The latter comes up particularly in the way the Senate can use the filibuster.

The authors note that until the 1960s, southern segregationists were often Democrats.  Overcoming them was indeed a challenge for Lyndon Johnson as he pushed the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.  But after the gradual success of the Civil Rights movement in breaking down segregation and creating a culture where employment and housing discrimination (for starters) could no longer be acceptable, the old “coalition” within the Democratic party started to break down.  By the time of Reagan, they had moved to the Republicans, especially in the South, and tended to comprise white evangelical Christians with traditional, multi-child families.

The authors don’t go into gay rights, which would follow, but it seems that the same ideas would follow.  Consider, for example, that in World War II, we fought effectively with a segregated military. Truman ended that in 1948, and six decades later we could to the same for gay people when ending DADT (and now we have a skirmish over transgender).

It was the economic and technology changes that would accompany Reaganism (almost a pre-libertarianism in some ways) that would help set up the divide.  The overall standard of living rose, and personal computers and soon the Internet developed.  But employment became more captive to short term corporate profits and (for public companies) stock prices.  A “winner take all” culture developed.  That was very good for talented people, who in the beginning were mostly white men, but soon included many women.  But less well-educated people were relatively less well off and less competitive personally.  That gradually helped to drive political polarization.  In particular, evangelical Christians, especially away from the two coasts and from university secular intellectual culture, felt that they were losing ground and began to see themselves as a “group”.  I think the evolution of gay rights may have polarized them further (with the final legalization of gay marriage in 2015, after ending sodomy laws in 2003, both at the Supreme Court), making traditional family life and biological lineage less meaningful and more “private” in nature, as if a personal afterthought. At philosophical levels, life was unsettling:  everything had to be “rational”, simple faith was demeaned, and existentialism grew.

The country united after 9/11, but then seemed to fracture again, as “The Cheating Culture” (David Callahan’s 2004 book), with the excesses that led to 2008.  But once Barack Obama became president, partisanship really went into full boil, although Obama was allowed to guide the country out of the immediate financial crisis (Bush had started to do so).  The idea that white evangelicals were forced to sacrifice for blacks (and maybe gays) in a zero-sum world was taking hold.  But 2011, hardliners almost blew up the economy with partisan bickering over the debt ceiling. Other unprecedented behavior occurred, as the unwillingness of Republicans to allow Obama to confirm a moderate Supreme Court judge.

The authors explain that the polarization is more pronounced in the Republican Party (and the embedded Tea Party).  By early 2016, furthermore, the “pre-primary” vetting of presidential candidates by party elites had been undermined by the asymmetry of the Internet.  The authors put out the book before the scope of Russian hacking in stoking divisions further was fully understood.

I have been personally shocked by the “zombie” like tribal behavior of some Trump supporters – the “lock her up” chants, and outrageous social media trolling and conspiracy theories.  I had no idea that a credible white supremacist movement could even be organized until Charlottesville happened in August 2017.  The idea of white nationalism makes no sense to me, but that’s for another discussion of tribalism.

Trump’s threats to jail political opponents (“Crooked Hillary”) and journalists have not really come to pass.  He is more afraid of the established media rather than individual bloggers (if anything, he seems to like some of my tweets, like on national security).  But I think Trump sees journalists as “spectators” who don’t put their own skin in the game.  But then ask Bob Woodruff, or even Anderson Cooper (who paid his dues in southeast Asia as a young man).

Zakaria has often said, we have weak parties and strong partisanship.  Parties have to be repaired structurally because tribalism is in the genes of most of us (but not me).

Author: Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt
Title, Subtitle: How Democracies Die
publication date 2018
ISBN 978-1-5247-6293-3
Publication: Crown, 312 pages, hardcover, heavily endnotes, indexed
Link: official

(Posted: Friday, February 23, 2018 at 1 PM EST)

“Black Panther”: one of the most impressive “magic kingdoms” ever presented in film (even the Metro)

I waited a few days to see “Black Panther” (directed by Ryan Coolger, written with Joe Robert Cole), and saw it at a Regal in Alexandria mid-day Wednesday before a moderate crowd in a large Imax auditorium in 3D.  The film is still selling even during the week.

First, it seems honorable to name a superhero after a cat. And it shouldn’t seem so novel to introduce an African-American superhero.

That person is the Black Panther (T’Challa) himself, a young king of Wakanda, a secret small African nation where with advanced technology and personal powers related to a fictitious rare earth element called vibranium, found in a meteorite.  The character has a history of connections to other Marvel characters as from Captain America.  Maybe it is a Shangri La, or may it is as reclusive as North Korea.  But it seems to be a prosperous place, with policies of isolationism.  But BP (Chadwick Boseman) seems to be a rather establishment king (or God King), until he is challenged by a rival N’Jakarka (Michael B. Jordan), with radical ideas.  Should this rich kingdom welcome refugees and be expected to share its wealth with the poor?

The makeup on Jordan’s body, of a matrix of keloids, is remarkable, and adds to the impression of combativeness. That idea presumes no body hair.

The city that is shown is one of the most fascinating sci-fi cities on film, with a layer of street shops overlaid above with a bizarre array of skyscrapers.  There is a fascinating subway system in the caverns or catacombs below, where the tunnel dynamically surrounds the train. The track may be a kind of Mobius strip; you wonder if that can even work electrically. (Regal Theaters has a short film introduction to its corporate brand in animation with a similar roller-coaster subway which is well done;  remember also the subway in the Matrix movies.)

The film starts out with the backstory about the meteor, and then presents the characters as youths in Oakland CA, before Marvel presents its proud musical trademark.  I’ve never seen a movie studio introduce itself with a delayed fuse this way.

The film was shot in Australia (for the desert scenes), Busan South Korea (as far away from North Korea as possible) for a subplot, and indoor scenes in Georgia.

Geographically, the closest county would be Rwanda.  I recall the film “Hotel Rwanda” (2004) which was presented in high school English when I worked as a sub (even with video quizzes).

I don’t personally make a big deal of racial representation in the movies, all the more superheroes.  It is true, however, that, for example, the teen superman in Smallville, as played by Tom Welling, must have seemed like a fantasy of white perfection to some viewers.

Oakland neighborhood (wiki).

Busan (wiki).

Rwanda lake scene (wiki).

Name:  “Black Panther”
Director, writer:  Ryan Coogler. Joe Robert Cole
Released:  2018
Format:  2.35:1  Imax 3-D
When and how viewed:  2018/2/21 Regal Potomac Yards
Length:  134
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Pictures
Link:  official
Stars:  3/5   ***–

(Posted: Thursday. February 22. 2018 at 11 AM EST)


“Tell Them We Are Rising”: documentary about “black” colleges turns into survey course on Civil Rights history

Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities”, directed by Stanley Nelson and written by Marcia Smith, is really more a documentary about the effectiveness of the early infrastructure of black colleges in supporting the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s through the 1970s. It fits well into Black History Month and was aired Presidents’ Day on PBS stations.

The lack of access to education was a handicap for African-Americans even more pervasive that segregation itself.  But in time, starting in the 1920s, the development of black colleges and universities helped turn this around.  Actually, the earliest colleges go back to Reconstruction:  Howard University in Washington DC (now near the booming U-Street corridor in Shaw) was founded in 1867.

The film traces some detail about the sit-ins in Greensboro, NC in 1960 (the restaurant is replicated today in the Smithsonian in the National Museum of American History).  Each day, more people showed up, and the lunch counter would be shut down for “public safety”. The ability of activists to recruit so many additional people in successive days was critical, and it is a critical concept in activism today since not all people will participate in single-issue public protests.

The film moves through the 60s (use of federal troops in Arkansas, Birmingham, Selma, the 1964 slayings of three activists doing voter registration in Mississippi which I remember well, etc) and then focuses on a 1972 incident, the shooting of two students at Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA (story).

Greensboro location (wiki).

Southern University picture (wiki).

Name: Tell Then We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities
Director, writer:  Stanley Nelson, Marcia Smith
Released:  2017
Format:  digital video
When and how viewed:  PBS, replay from website, 2018/2/20, aired 2/19
Length:  82
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Fireside, PBS Independent Lens
Link:  official
Stars:  3-1/2 out of 5

(Posted: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 at 10 AM).

Local concert in Alexandria Virginia features Chinese and American composers, including a composition contest

The Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association performed some relatively infrequently heard music, “A Season of Masterpieces from Near and Far”, at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, VA on Sunday, February 18, 2018 at 3 PM, with Ulysses S. James conducting, in a stadium-like auditorium.


The first work comprised the first, second and fifth movements from the 5-movement Symphonic Suite called “Broken Ink”, by Chinese-American composer Zhou Tian, b. 1981 in Hangzhou, China.  The work had been declared the WMPA Composition Competition Winning Entry.  It would have been nice to hear all five movements, then; however the entire concert took over two hours.  The movements played took about twenty minutes.

The notes indicate that Tian likes melodic surprises.  I didn’t detect that so much. The music had somewhat the feel of Copland.  The three movements played were “Hearing the Sound of the Rain and the Bell”, “Watching the Tidal Bore”, and “Listening to the Land”. Much of the music is said to deal with the history of ancient China as it moves from one dynasty to the next – so this is program music. The conclusion the last movement reminded me a bit of Leonard Bernstein’s “Age of Anxiety” (Jan. 12).

The concert continued with the Symphony #4 (1947, 30 minutes), by African American composer William Grant Still, subtitled “Autochthonous”, which means “indigenous”. Still is known for quasi-programmatic symphonies that reflect the identities of various North American peoples, so there is a hint of tribalism in the concept.  Still uses English titles for his speed markings: “Moderately Fast, Slowly, Moderately Fast, Slowly and Reverently”.  The last movement, however, does not seem like a slow movement even though it starts out that way. It uses a theme that resembles the closing hymn of Mahler’s Symphony #8 which blends with another tune that I have heard in the movies but could not identify.  My “ear” wanted the same Mahler conclusion. The ending is triumphant, and quite diatonic; it sounds like C Major. The style of the music as a whole is neo-romantic.  Perhaps Howard Hanson makes a good comparison.

Still is known for scores for some major films: “Lost Horizon”, “Stormy Weather”, and particularly “Pennies from Heaven”.

After the intermission the concert concluded with the Piano Concerto by Mark Edwards Wilson, now a music professor at the University of Maryland (30 minutes) with Thomas Pandolfi, Piano. It’s a little unusual for a concert to conclude with a piano concerto.  The style is a bit neo-classical. At times it resembles Arthur Bliss, perhaps; but the conclusion reminds me of how the Prokofiev Third Piano concerto ends.

The work also uses progressive tonality. The first movement is in A Minor, the second in E, and the finale is in C.  (That’s the relative rather than Picardy major key to a minor).  The titles of the movements are “Gigues: Allegro oscuro”; “A Ring of Bells: Andante”; “Fireworks: Vivo”.

Pandolfi played a long encore, a medley on theses from Andrew Llyod Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera”.

There was more commentary (and a raffle) than is usual for orchestra concerts.

(Posted: Tuesday, February 20, 2018, at 11:15 AM)

Oscar nominated documentary shorts for 2018: about racial profiling, disability, drug addiction, and compassion

The 2018 Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts are playing at the Landmark West End in Washington DC this week, and so far this weekend shows have sold out.  I attended the 4 PM screening yesterday, exiting to find two inches of snow even in Foggy Bottom. There was a brief five-minute intermission after the first three films, and the presentation ended at about 7:10 PM.

The most important film in my view was the last one, “Knife Skills”, by Thomas Lennon, 39 minutes. This film chronicles the training of the staff and opening of one of the nation’s proudest French restaurants, in Cleveland, Ohio: Edwins, on Shaker Square. What is so remarkable is that the owner, Brandon Chrostowski, is eager to staff his restaurants with people who have gotten out of prison.  He sends 120 people after release through his cooking school (the Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute), but only a fraction make the cut.  How many entrepreneurs want to do this?   All the more, his wife has a new baby. In one scene, he cries.

The film resonated with me personally somewhat.  I spent summers as a boy near Oberlin, and often went into Cleveland in the 50s and 60s, particularly to Indians’s baseball games in the old stadium (especially when the Senators were in town).   Today my own relational ties are in the middle part of the state, and I have some knowledge of “small” business there.  I can also remember an announced field trip to a French restaurant (in Washington) for French class in ninth grade.

The longest film has a curious title “Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405”, by Frank Stiefel (40 min), shown third.  The film starts out as if to be about Carmageddon, or maybe the recent wildfires, and in 2012 I stayed in the Angelino on the 405.  But soon the film moves indoors, to tell us the story of a sculptor, Mindy Alper, who has a lifelong mental health struggle, and who speaks very slowly.  She talks about her meds early on, and says she often throws up. But once we get into seeing her work, with the fascinating paper mache objects – animals and aliens – the film picks up.

Another film concerning medications is “Heroin(e)”, by Elaine McMillion Sheldon (39 minutes, shown fourth), from Netflix. It is set in Huntington, W Va, on the Ohio river, a town in which I spent a night myself in August 2016.  It starts out by telling us that this is a blue collar town, where people have “real jobs” and get hurt at work. That’s where the opioid problem gets started.  The film focuses on a sympathetic but firm lady judge in drug court – and she does send some people back to jail or to the general criminal court system – and to an EMS worker helping rescue people from overdoes, a mission of compassion.

The second film was “Edith+Eddie”, (Laura Checkoway and Thomas Lee Wright, 29 minutes, Kartemquin Films).  At age 95, Eddie, a widower and white, marries a black woman, Edith, also 95, who has lived in the same house in Alexandria, Virginia for years. Unfortunately, Edith, who may have mild dementia, has been placed into conservatorship by her adult kids, and the guardian seems unsympathetic to “Loving”.  She is forced to move to Florida, and in grief, Eddie soon collapses and passes away in intensive care. The film was interesting to me due to the long-winded experience I had with my own mother, who passed away (in Arlington) at the end of 2010 at age 97 after a two-year decline.

The first film, “Traffic Stop”, from HBO, directed by Kate Davis. An African-American math teacher Breaion King gets pulled over in a routine speeding stop in Austin, TX and winds up getting brutally handcuffed and arrested after a series of mistakes by both sides.  The film contrasts her classroom grade school teaching scenes with her panic at the arrest, reconstructed from police videocam. This does seem like an argument about police profiling.

I’ll share also the 2-minute “Traffic Jam” by Reid Ewing (2012), that looks like it may gave been filmed near the 405 and 110.  I’d love to see some of Reid’s other short films (“It’s Free”, etc) re-appear.

(Pictures: Kentucky, but near Huntington, mine, Aug 2018; Cleveland, mine, Aug. 2012)

(Posted: Sunday, February 18, 2018 at 11:15 PM EST)







“Something Like Summer”: an LGB version of “Terms of Endearment” and even “Love Story”?

Something Like Summer” (2017), directed by David Berry, is another film from Blue Seraph Productions with appealing young adult cis gay male characters (following “Judas Kiss” and “The Dark Place”). It is based on an interesting source, a novel by Jay Bell, a screenplay adapted by Carlos Pedrazza. Bell’s novel is said to be one of a series of related novels with a closed group of characters and has certain popularity.

But this film, set around Austin, TX, longer (115 minutes), seems kindler and gentler than the other two, as presents itself in the beginning as a musical, as the lead character Benjamin Bentley (Grant Davis) sings at a stage event, framing his own life.  One day he gets into a bike collision with old friend Tim Wyman (Davi Santos), who is in the process of coming out, while raised by a strict, Mexican-American (but “European” ancestry) Catholic family.  After a very minor injury to Tim, they become closer and are on the verge of starting a relationship, which gets challenged by Tim’s family.  Tim is a promising artist, and is starting to develop a following for his paintings.

Then Tim meets an airline flight attendant Jace Holden (Ben Baur), who draws him into another competing relationship, with Jace living in a nicely furnished mobile home with a cuddly feline, Sam.

Think now, the inevitable possibilities for jealousy exist. Furthermore, there can be a wedding ceremony.

The film starts to span time, which amounts to twelve years (communicated through various little signs). There’s a hint of the passage of time (and growing a little older) in the first airplane scene where it appears that Ben now has minimal chest hair.

And there can be unexpected medical tragedy, which is sudden and shocking, and which has nothing to do with HIV.  Cerebral aneurysm is a very bad scene;  it has happened twice in workplaces in my career.

The plot of the film reminds me of James L. Brooks “Terms of Endearment” (1983), where the plot takes a shocking medical turn two-thirds the way through the movie, or even the classic “Love Story” (1970) with Ryan O’Neal.

There was a QA, with Rayceen Parvis hosting (and with a mandatory love-in).  Producer Tom Ly and actor Ben Baur were there.  Ly spoke about the challenges of crowdfunding independent LGBT film.

QA 1

QA 2


Name:  “Something Like Summer
Director, writer:  David Berry, Jay Bell (novel)
Released:  2017
Format:  1.78:1  Digital video
When and how viewed:  HRC Washington DC Reel Affirmations event, sold out
Length:  115
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Blue Seraph
Link:  official
Stars:  3-1/2 out of 5  ***&_

(Posted: Saturday, February 17, 2018 at 9 Am EST)

Picture:  downtown Austin TX, Nov. 2011, my trip.

“I, Tonya”, black comedy about a sports scandal in the 1990s

I, Tonya”, 2017, by Craig Gillespie, gives us a witty biography of figure-skating star Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie), set up as kind of black comedy with Mafia overtones. The filmmaking style reminds me of the Coen Brothers.

The film sets up the stories with interviews of the various players, shot in minimal aspect 1.37:1, where as the entire biography as acted unfolds in fill wide screen.  Funniest is Tonya’s mother(Allison Janey) interviewed in present day on oxygen with a pet parrot pecking her.

But mom strong-armed a local rink in Portland OR to getting her 4 year old skating lessons in 1977. Tonya grew up as an aggressive lady getting what she wanted, and married an equally combative young man  Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan).  Despite some rather stark domestic violence (with some warning foreshadowing of what would follow) Tonya and Jeff become an effective tag team.  Jeff fantasizes he can help Tonya get the recognition she craves in Olympics and other events and smooches with Mafia types.  At first, they talk about a pre-Internet mail fraud scheme for returning threats.

We know the rest. Competitor skater Nancy Kerrigan is “kneecapped” in a locker are at a Detroit rink in January 1994.  Kerrigan would amazingly recover in time to compete.  Tonya would be prosecuted along with her husband and wind up banned from skating for life, an existential end. So she would do something else, become a female boxer.

I remember the media hype in early 1994, “Why me?  Why anybody?”  But at the time my own public policy attention was tuned to gays in the military.  A new Pentagon policy would be announced under Bill Clinton’s new rules.  I was paying attention at the time to Keith Meinhold, Tracy Thorne and Joe Steffan, not to people like Tonya.

There was other funky stuff in the media then, like, well, Lorena Bobbitt (whose marital relationship was wilder than Tonya’s and could make for Coen Brothers stuff).

Toward the end the film makes a brief allusion to the beginnings of the O.J. trial.

The female boxing scenes reminds of the fact that my first ISP (in 1997), called virtualnetspace, had a big client from Britain showcasing female bodybuilders.

Portland, OR sports scene (wiki).

Name:  “I, Tonya”
Director, writer:  Craig Gillespie
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1 (interviews 1.37:1)
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, Fairfax, 2018/2/15 late
Length:  120
Rating:  R
Companies:  Clubhouse, Neon Films (DVD is from Universal Focus)
Link:  official
Stars:  4/5  ****-   3 Oscar nominations

(Posted: Friday, February 16, 2018 at 11 AM)

“Seeing Allred”: Gloria Allred fights for women and then gays, and she may have someting on Trump

Seeing Allred”, directed by Roberta Grossman and Sophie Sartain, gives us a complete history, a lot it in Gloria Allred’s own words (she is now 75, two years older than me) of her activism for women and sometimes other groups.

Much of the film focuses on the litigation against Bill Cosby, where she represents many plaintiffs. Sje also helped represent the Goldman family in the O. J. Simpson case in the 1990s.

But the film also traces the culture of intimidation, where women are silenced from speaking about rape.

Allred tells the story of her own rape, before Roe v. Wade, and her illegal abortion, from which she almost died.

Gradually, the film starts taking up LGBT rights. The early 1993 battle over gays in the military is mentioned, along with the early versions of the fights over gay marriage and adoption. Gloria seems to believe that homophobia is and indirect part of the way straight men control women and assert a claim to have a right to children by them anytime they demand.

Gloria assists clients in testifying before both Nevada and California legislatures on removing statues of limitations on rape prosecutions. “The privilege of being listened to” becomes an issue in one hearing. She also demands that a college become an activist as a way of giving back.

The last part of the film traces the 2016 election, through watching Election Night returns, and then the Inauguration protests and the Women’s March the next day. At one point at the March Allred turns back a fundamentalist homophobe (with a free speech meme) who doesn’t even realize that Trump has no specific objection to gay marriage. She has pointed out, however, that Donald Trump rejected a transgender Miss Universe contestant.

The last part of the film also deals with women who accuse Donald Trump of sexual harassment. The film makes it look like these cases could blow the presidency wide open.

Women’s March 2017/1/21 scene (wiki).

Name:  “Seeing Allred”
Director, writer:  Roberta Grossman, Sophie Saltrain
Released:  2018
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed: Netflix instant, 2018/2/14
Length:  96
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Netflix
Link:  LA Times
Stars:  4-1/2 out of 5

(Posted: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 11:30 PM EST)

“Do Not Resist”: the militarization of civilian police departments

On Monday night, at a late hour (11:00 PM), giving me time to rewatch Shaun in a compelling episode of “The Good Doctor”, PBS POV aired the 2016 documentary “Do Not Resist”, by Craig Atkinson, concerning the gradual militarization of local police departments, despite the Posse Comitatus rule.

The film’s beginning and end shows up close the energetic and sometimes violent demonstrations in Ferguson MO, the second segment after prosecutors said that white police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the shooting of Michael Brown.  In the film’s middle, there is a live enactment of major police action in the rural black community in Richland County, S.C.

A major centerpiece of the film shows James Comey lecturing a meeting of the International Federation of Police Officers in Orlando, FL.   At one point he says, “Violence is your tool, master it.” Dave Grossman also speaks, and police officers are expected to read his books on the psychology of violence.

Grossman at one point says that parents have to comfort their kids that monsters in the closet aren’t real. (This came up in the “Slender Man” trial, which ABC recently covered on 20-20, “Out of the Woods”).  But “We’ve all lied. Monsters are real.”   Rand Paul and Claire McCaskill also speak.

There is examination of the weapons police departments get.  Why do they need bayonets?  I remember “Fix bayonets” in drill and ceremony in my own Army Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, S.C.

And there are plenty of peaceful demonstration scenes.  “Hands up, don’t shoot”.

There is also a sequence where a female police officer drives a patrol car in Marina Del Ray CA and show how facial recognition works.  There was mention of the concept of pre-crime profiling, with mothers being told that their male sons had a 50% chance of becoming criminals. The film “Minority Report” (2002) comes to mind, but was not explicitly mentioned; but “Terminator” was named. “I’ll be back.”

After the 72 minute film, the director, who is quite handsome, did a brief QA.

Then PBS showed two short films:

One is “A Conversation with My Black Son” (5 min) by Geeta Gambhir and Blair Foster. The parents warn their small child not to question police officers when approached and indicate the color of his skin will matter.

The second is “Mother’s Day”,  7 min., going to visit mom in a Corona CA prison.

Name: Do Not Resist
Director, writer:  Craig Atkinson
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  2018/2/12 PBS POV
Length:  72
Rating:  NA
Companies:  PBS POV, Passion River Films
Link:  official PBS
Stars:  4/5   ****_

(Posted: Tuesday, February 13, 2017 at 12:30 PM EST)

“A Fantastic Woman” makes the heroine’s transgender experience almost incidental to the tragic love story

Sebastian Lelio’s dramatic mystery “A Fantastic Woman” (2017, “Una mujer fantastica”, Chile, in Spanish with subtitles) is up for best foreign language film, and indeed it will keep you from lounging back into your seat.  The story works even if Maria is a cis female woman.  This time, we’ll, maybe “he’s a boy” still.

Orlando (Francisco Reyes), owner of a clothing company (although not of the “Phantom Thread” couture) and apparently separated from his wife, meets the singer Maria (Daniela Vega) at a nightclub. Soon she is moving in.

You’re not quite sure what Orlando likes. They undress, and the film is ambiguous as to what Orlando “knows” before sex.  But in the middle of the night, with her in bed, he becomes ill. He tries to walk and falls down the stairs. Marina drives him to the hospital, where he soon dies of an aneurysm (not clear if it is brain or aortic). The hospital staff and then detectives treat her badly, as is she might be a suspect for his going down the stairs. And his family doesn’t want her around, like for the funeral. Only the dog, Diabla, understands her and she scheme to keep her. Animals (and this include cats) know a lot more about us than we realize.

There is a scene where the police force her to undergo a physical examination. Her chest is more muscle than breast, and there is a faint visual hint of past waxing or laser work in the middle. You don’t really see if the sexual reassignment is complete. But you come away with thinking Orlando must have been passionate about her, even if he didn’t “know” when he took her home. He seems to have remained fully heterosexual.

The film opens with a shot of Iguazu Falls, between Brazil and Argentina; but the possibility of a honeymoon there plays only a minor role in the story.

The film is shot widescreen and is extremely well photographed, with many impressive shots of Santiago as well as the Falls.

The music score, composed by Nani Garcia and Matthew Herbert, offered a lot of feathery impressionistic passage work for a chamber group. In a final scene, Marina returns to singing, this time the moving Largo from Handel’s Xerxes.

There was an episode in the ABC series “Mistresses” in 2016 where a woman says to a transgender man, “I would never date a trans person” and the man orders her out.

Santiago scene, wiki

Iguazu Falls, wiki.

Name:  “A Fantastic Woman”
Director, writer:  Sebastian Lelio
Released:  2017   (Spanish)
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Alamo Drafthouse, One Loudoun, 2019/2/11
Length:  100
Rating:  R
Companies:  Sony Pictures Classics
Link:  official 
Stars:  4/5  ****-

(Posted: Monday, February 12, 2018 at 9:30 PM EST)