Two New Movies That I Liked A Lot: “American Animals” And “RBG”

As I’ve mentioned a few times before on this publication’s pages, I go out pretty often to the movies. So far this year I’ve caught 20 of ’em. Maybe early in 2019 I’ll do a nice, big writeup on the flicks that passed before my eyes and ears during this, our current year. But for now I’m going to limit my focus and write briefly about only two. I saw both very recently and they agreed deliciously with my delicate system. Okay, away we go.

By the time you read this essay, American Animals may be gone from the theaters. If it remains in one near you, however, I urge you to drop whatever you’re doing and go to see it. Or do likewise in the comfort of your home whenever it materializes on Netflix or HBO or whatever. (But note the caveat several paragraphs below).

What we have here is an indie effort that struck me as near-perfect filmmaking. The movie is entertaining as hell. Its plot unravels tantalizingly. Its screenplay nails the way that people talk. The acting is excellent. And you’ll be sweating bullets when the going gets rough. Hey, you get the idea. I’m an American Animals fan!

American Animals tells the story of four college-age guys who, in 2004, attempted to steal rare and valuable books (including an early edition of John James Audubon’s The Birds Of America) from the special collections department of Transylvania University’s library. Believe it or not, there really is a Transylvania University. That institution is located in Lexington, Kentucky. And believe it or not once again, the story that plays out in American Animals really did happen. Writer and director Bart Layton constructed the movie by cutting between reenactments of the crazy story lines, using professional actors, and interviews with the real-life perpetrators. The latter offer fascinating commentaries on what was going through their minds at various points in the heist’s planning and execution.

It would be wrong, wrong, wrong for me to spill any more beans about American Animals. You’ll thank me, should you view the movie, for not being a spoiler kind of individual. And so I’ll end my discussion of Animals by noting that anyone who wilts and/or takes shelter from barrages of F-bombs should stay away. As for everyone else, I believe that this one’s for you.

Oh wait. There is another thing or two: I’d never heard of Bart Layton before, and knew but one member of Animal’s cast (Blake Jenner), but so what? The movie proved to me, as numerous others have, that the world is awash with very talented though hardly famous individuals. I’m totally down with that.

RBG, a hit documentary that entered a sizeable number of American cinemas in May, and is still in quite a few, was not on my to-be-seen list. I don’t know why, but I decided that I wasn’t all that interested in learning about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the oldest (age 85) of the nine justices who comprise the USA’s Supreme Court, the highest federal court in the land. But my wife Sandy badly wanted to see it and, peerless spouse that I am, I capitulated. Off we went on a miserably hot day to watch the film in downtown Philadelphia.

I’m here to report that I was wrong. RBG (directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West) is really good. Justice Ginsburg has led a remarkable life, one devoted to her family, to the advancement of human rights and to the intricacies and necessity of the law.

This movie might not be up the alley of those who, like The Donald, are narrow-minded, mean-spirited and eager to restrict and oppress. But if you believe in respect and equality, then I imagine you’ll become an admirer of Ruth. Hell, you probably already are. Unbeknownst to me, without trying in the least she became a cultural icon and a judicial rock star over the last 10 or so years. This was quite an unexpected phenomenon, since Ginsburg is a quiet, unassuming sort. But millions of Americans have become captivated by her steadfastness, by her support of abortion rights and of gender rights. And by the slight twinkle in her eye and shy smile on her face that she often wears. She’s endearing. No other justice on the high court has a devoted fan base like hers.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is smart as a whip. She graduated from law school in 1959 and began to make her name in the legal world in the 1970s, co-founding The Women’s Rights Project and ultimately arguing six gender-rights cases before the Supreme Court. Little did she know that she herself would become a member of that court in 1993, after Bill Clinton nominated her for the job.

Now, I’m anything but a jurisprudence expert, but I’m being more than decently accurate, I think, by describing Ginsburg’s philosophy on the high court as liberal but cautious, common-sensical and mindful of people’s needs. She has taken her job extremely seriously, as well she should, working enormous numbers of hours. And she has no plans to retire. As she says in the film, she won’t step down until she feels that she is unable to keep up her full-steam-ahead pace. She’s a source of hope and pride for many in these right-wing crazy, Trumpian times.

(As I always say: Don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this essay on good ol’ social media.)

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58 thoughts on “Two New Movies That I Liked A Lot: “American Animals” And “RBG”

  1. Cindy July 17, 2018 / 12:27 am

    Two thumbs up on your reviews, Neil! Those are two excellent movies about the lives of totally opposite, yet equally fascinating, kinds of Americans.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 17, 2018 / 1:18 pm

      I think you’ll like them, Andrew. And if you end up seeing only one of them, make it American Animals. It’s top-notch.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 17, 2018 / 1:20 pm

      Hello there. Of the movies that I’ve seen this year so far, I think that American Animals is my favorite. Another good one is The Insult. And another that I liked a lot is The Rider.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. joyce hamilton July 17, 2018 / 7:59 am

    Thanks for the reviews….always appreciated !

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Robert Parker July 17, 2018 / 8:38 am

    “Animals” was a blast. I’ve seen other movies that intersect real people and the actors portraying them, but this one managed to drop in the “real life” interviews, while maintaining momentum and tension.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Laurie Graves July 17, 2018 / 9:50 am

    Didn’t see “American Animals” when it but will definitely add it to my”To Be Watched” list. As for RBG…saw it and loved it. She is my hero, that’s for sure. Wouldn’t surprise me if it wins the academy for best doc. It is, however, up against “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” So we shall see.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 17, 2018 / 1:23 pm

      Everybody seems to love the Mr. Rogers doc, but so far I’m holding out against seeing it. I’m probably wrong about it, though.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Laurie Graves July 22, 2018 / 1:04 am

        Very much worth seeing.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. cincinnatibabyhead July 17, 2018 / 4:06 pm

    You have me putting both on the list. I also like actors I’m not familiar with (hence a lot of foreign films in my watching). The Ruth will be behind the other doc you recommended (Lee Morgan. Up soon). You have a good batting average with me. On the small Indie film note. A friend of mine was in one that fits the bill. ‘Sollers Point’. Filmed in Baltimore and getting pretty good press. Our fellow balcony god liked it. Looking forward to more of the flicks you’ve taken in. Later. Oh yeah going for a run instead of a stroll, see if I can tempt heat stroke.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Ann Coleman July 17, 2018 / 5:53 pm

    I’ve been wanting to see RBG, thanks for reminding me why! As for American Animals, that one wasn’t on my radar, but you make it sound worth seeing. I think I just might…

    Liked by 3 people

  7. JT Twissel July 17, 2018 / 8:26 pm

    I’d never heard of the first movie but it does sound interesting. Thank you for the intro.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Alyson July 18, 2018 / 6:27 am

    I tend you agree with your verdict on movies so thanks for the heads up. I’m all for watching anything set in a University named Transylvania!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Still the Lucky Few July 18, 2018 / 10:07 am

    They both go on my list. I’m always happy to see recommended movies, rather than devote two or more hours to something that at worst, horrifies me, or at best, disappoints me! See how completely I respect and trust your judgement? Thanks, Neil!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 18, 2018 / 10:37 am

      Thanks, Diane.
      Please keep in mind that there’s a lot of cursing in American Animals.

      Have a great rest of the week. As always, I appreciate your stopping by.

      Like

  10. tanjabrittonwriter July 18, 2018 / 8:30 pm

    You have convinced me to watch movie #2, Neil. Thank you for your endorsement.
    #1, not so much. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  11. C C Cedras July 18, 2018 / 10:32 pm

    I have been waiting for β€œRBG” with eager wriggling. I expect it will eventually come to our local artsy movie theatre. I. Can’t. Wait. πŸ‘©β€βš–οΈ

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 18, 2018 / 11:06 pm

      Hi C C. I’m always glad to hear from you. You are going to love RBG. No doubt about it.

      Like

  12. K E Garland July 19, 2018 / 4:31 pm

    These sound like really great movies Neil! There’s another coming out about RGB (On the Basis of Sex) so I’m wondering what the difference will be.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. SpiritualJourney17 July 19, 2018 / 9:37 pm

    I just made a note to self to watch American Animals. I checked it out and it’s still playing in a theatre in Manhattan. Thanks for the reco.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 21, 2018 / 6:01 pm

      Hi. RBG has been out for 11 weeks and has been doing really well at the American box office. Maybe that’s a heartening sign. I hope so!
      Thanks for stopping by, Benn. See you —

      Like

  14. alhenry July 21, 2018 / 11:33 pm

    “American Animals” sounds like good, interesting fun. And I’m not afraid of f-bombs, only of xenophobic, homophobic, racist, women-bashing SCOTUS judges like …Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh! Or Kavana-UGH as I refer to him. Which brings me to your second film. RBG. I love, love, love Bader Ginsburg. I’m a fan of many years and hope she will last at least as long as that guy Methuselah. I haven’t seen the film yet–too much summer company and general warm weather craziness–but plan to.

    May I also suggest to you a film another blogger friend of mine recommended. “Good-bye Christopher Robin.” It’s NOT a story for children. It’s about A.A. Milne, really, and it’s gripping and heartbreaking and full of complicated characters. Ed and I loved it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 22, 2018 / 7:14 am

      Hello there. I’ve seen a trailer for the Milne movie. I guess it will open in my area soon. Based on your recommendation I’ll see it.
      And, getting back to Kavanaugh: Trump’s the worst.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 23, 2018 / 7:38 am

      Hi. Thanks very much for letting me know. It’s a fine doc, and seems to have found a pretty large audience. Take care —
      Neil S.

      Like

  15. Christy B July 25, 2018 / 5:15 pm

    RBG is on my to-see list! Now it’s one I want to see even more after reading this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 25, 2018 / 6:14 pm

      She’s a great person. This documentary clearly shows this.

      Enjoy the evening, Christy. And many thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. jeanleesworld August 1, 2018 / 9:19 am

    Both of these films sound quite fascinating, though considering my limited film-watching, I’d probably see American Animals first. Such bizarre goings-on in reality always intrigue me. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Silver Screenings August 1, 2018 / 10:29 am

    I’d never heard of either of these films, and they both sound terrific. Thanks for the introductions! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  18. janetsm August 7, 2018 / 1:35 pm

    I enjoyed reading your reviews of these two movies. I’m a huge fan of Justice Ginsburg, but I haven’t had a chance to see the movie yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger August 7, 2018 / 2:30 pm

      Hi Janet. If it isn’t in the theaters anymore, then it will be (or maybe already is) available via Netflix or HBO or whatever. You’ll love RBG. Thanks a lot for adding your thoughts to this story. Have a great rest of the week.

      Like

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