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Hammerle Reviews: 'The Butler' and 'In a World...'

Robert Hammerle
September 11, 2013
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bob hammerle movie reviews“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels would not recommend “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” as it relives recent American history as it happened, not as many political sycophants want to remember. In a nutshell, it tells the life story of Cecil Gaines, a butler who served eight American presidents. Beginning with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1957, it brings the racial tensions of this country into full focus.

Forest Whitaker is perfect playing Mr. Gaines, a butler whose primary focus is to be seen and not heard. Oprah Winfrey excels beyond her personal reputation as his wife and the mother of his two young boys, a woman who finds comfort through alcohol and cigarettes as she confronts the many hours where her husband is away. She is splendid as a woman torn between her loving husband’s role as the functional equivalent of an old South’s “house n----r” and her teenage son’s rebelliousness.

David Banner plays Mr. Gaines’ son as he reaches his college years, soon finding himself participating as a freedom rider in the South. As he drifts from a supporter of Martin Luther King Jr. to a member of the Black Panthers, he is repeatedly incarcerated to the dismay of his parents. The other son enlists in the service and is sent to Vietnam where tragedy awaits.

Director Daniels succeeds in combining the interactions taking place in the White House with that occurring in the streets of America. In many parts of the country black people are treated like second-class citizens, forced to eat in designated restaurant areas as well as use only identifiable restrooms. Young people m

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arching in the name of equality are brutally beaten and sometimes killed, and chaos looms with the death of Mr. King in April of 1968.

But while you see our country’s anguish, you also get an invitation into the White House. Robin Williams is surprisingly effective as President Eisenhower, a chief executive forced to confront the ugliness taking place in Selma and Montgomery.

James Marsden is spot on as a young John F. Kennedy, and Liev Schreiber nails Lyndon B. Johnson right down to his tendency to address his aides with no shame or embarrassment while seated on a toilet. Finally, John Cusack perfectly reincarnates Richard Nixon, a man who wallowed in an alcohol-infused haze of paranoia to the bitter end.

“The Butler” is a reminder that our country should focus on our own weaknesses before trying to impose our will on other nations. As I left the theater with my Saudi exchange student, Thamer, I noted how his own country, Saudi Arabia, was our ally despite the fact that it was not a democracy. Noting what the young people in his country were struggling to attain, he responded that I, as a criminal defense lawyer, should be happy to live in the United States and not his country. When I asked why, he smiled saying, “You’d die of boredom, as we have no crime.”

Shouldn’t we pay more attention to Cairo, Ill., rather than Cairo, Egypt?

“In a World…”

I have noted in earlier reviews that 2013 has been a breakthrough year for women on the screen. The most recent is by writer/director Lake Bell in her beguiling movie “In a World... .” She stars as Carol, a young woman trying to establish a foothold in the male-dominated voice-over world. Put another way, discrimination against women has not gone away in this country, including in the entertainment industry.

In this film, Carol is the daughter of Sam, a recognized legend in the voice-over world. Fred Melamed is sensational in his role as an arrogant, aging icon, and he even finds the need to toss his daughter on the street in order to make room for his new 30-year old girlfriend.

Sam’s heir apparent is Gustav, played by an equally arrogant Ken Marino. These men view their occupation as a males-only club, and they are the kings of this jungle.

When Carol is forced to live with her sister Jamie and Jamie’s husband Moe, played splendidly by Alexandra Holden and Rob Corddry, a subplot develops when Gustav attempts to seduce Ms. Holden. It may sound a bit tacky, but the movie never loses energy as the sisters wrestle with their plight.

What makes “In a World…” so charming is your gradual attachment to Carol. In a sense, she’s almost like an alter ego to Greta Gerwig’s lovable character in “Frances Ha.”rating2.gif

Both Carol and Frances are fighting to get ahead professionally in an unwelcoming world as they wrestle with the peaks and valleys of their personal lives. I found both of them to be devoid of any fake pretense, and these are two characters that all viewers, particularly young professional women, are going to find immensely appealing.

While Ms. Bell is asking a meaningful question as to why talented women are not allowed into the lucrative voice-over industry of film and radio, that same question could be asked in many areas. For example, why is our medical profession overwhelmingly dominated by doctors who are men and nurses who are women? Despite the fact that this problem is being addressed here in Indianapolis as I write this, why has the panel of federal conflict lawyers over the past 20 years been dominated by middle-aged white guys?

The importance of “In a World...” transcends Carol’s ability behind the mike. There is a great scene near the end where she bumps into the woman (Geena Davis) who made the decision to hire her over more well-known competitors. As Carol attempts to thank her patriarch, she was politely told that she was not selected because she was the most talented. To the contrary, her selection reflected the fact that it would be most meaningful to other young women aching to find a way through their own professional glass ceiling.

In the end, Carol’s triumph is every young woman’s hope and aspiration. I can’t help but believe that as the movie ends, many young women in the theater will be heard aggressively saying “Yes!” under their breath.•

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Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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