The 21st Ebertfest (formerly Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival) was one of the all-time best. I was honored to be included on the panel of women critics and filmmakers discussing the opportunities and portrayals of women. It was a thrill to share the panel with so many women I admire, including “Bound” stars Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon, Alliance of Women Film Journalists founder and director Jennifer Merin, Sony Classics’ Michael Barker, Stephen Apkon, actress/critic Carla Renata (known as The Curvy Critic), and writer/director/producer Rita Coburn, who was at the festival to present her marvelous documentary about Maya Angelou.
This collection brings together original artwork, props, artifacts, and historical items from memorable moments of Popular Culture and Disneyland history. Highlights of this collection include original Drew Struzan artwork from the “Back to the Future” trilogy, original Charles Addams artwork from “Murder by Death”, two wooden Nautilus models used in the creation of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, as well as items from “Star Wars”, “The Simpsons”, “Star Trek”, “E.T.”, “Spaceballs”, “Mary Poppins”, and the over 60-year history of Disneyland.
Rated PG-13 for thematic material, racial epithets, some violence and a suggestive reference
Strong language including racist epithets
Peril and violence including racist attacks
A theme of the movie, including racial and disability issues
Date Released to Theaters:
April 5, 2019
The biggest divide in this big, divided world is not between people of different races or religions or political beliefs; it is between people who have different ideas of who is “us” and who is “them.” “The Best of Enemies” is based on the true story of C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell), a white supremacist and the Grand Exalted Cyclops (president) of the local chapter of the Klu Klux Klan, and Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson), a black woman who was a community activist working for civil rights and economic justice.
In 1971, Ellis and Atwater were appointed co-chairs of a charette, a dispute resolution mechanism used to resolve complicated community disagreements. Originally developed for land use debates among parties with multiple and varied interests, it was adapted for other kinds of issues by Bill Riddick, played in this film by Babou Ceesay.
Ellis and Atwater lived in Durham, North Carolina. Seventeen years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court that segregated schools were unconstitutional, the Durham schools were still divided. When the school attended by the black children burned down, the city had to decide whether to let them attend the school the white children were attending. The court did not want to deal with it, so they asked Bill Riddick to see if he could get the community to come to some agreement.
Ann Atwater worked for Operation Breakthrough but it was more than a profession; it was her calling. We first see her arguing on behalf of a young woman whose apartment is uninhabitable. And throughout the film we see that her entire life is one of advocacy and generosity. Everyone she meets is either someone to be protected or someone to help her protect others. Her sense of “us” encompassed the world.
C.P. Ellis ran a gas station. He loved his family, including a disabled son who lived in a residential facility. The Klan made him feel respected and important. He created an outreach program to bring teenagers into the Klan. And he organized outings like the time they shot up the home of a young white woman coming home from a date with a black man.
He agrees to co-chair the charette because he believes that anyone else who got the position would cave. And there are those in the town who would never associate with the Klan but who are glad to support them in private.
Rockwell and Henson make Ellis and Atwater into fully-developed, complex characters. There’s a world of history in the way Henson walks as Atwater, shoulders hunched, hitching her hips along. In one scene where she reprimands young black boys for tearing down a KKK hood on display, and then straightens it herself after shooing them away, the expression in her eyes speaks volumes about what she has seen. And when we see the patience and tenderness Ellis has for his disabled son, we get a sense of all he thinks has been taken from him and how much it matters to him to hold on to something that makes him feel powerful.
This is a thoughtful, sincere drama, beautifully performed with a touching conclusion, first of the story itself, and the small acts of kindness that make “thems” into “us-es,” and then with the footage of the real-life Atwater and Ellis. When she takes his arm to help him walk out of the room, our own us-es get a little larger, too.
Parents should know that this movie deals frankly with issues of bigotry and racism including attacks by the Klu Klux Klan. It includes some strong language with racist epithets and a sexual reference. Characters drink and smoke and there are violent, racially-motivated attacks.
Family discussion: What did Atwater and Ellis have in common? Why did she help his son? Why did she tell the boys not to take down the KKK hood? Who is the Ann Atwater in your community and what are the issues?
One of the 20th century’s greatest and — yes — most versatile performers is Doris Day, who celebrates her 97th birthday today. Born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff in Cincinnati, Ohio, her first dream was to be a dancer, until she was injured in an automobile accident. So, she became a singer, and her version of “Sentimental Journey” became a huge hit. By then, a bandleader told her to use the last name “Day” after the song “Day by Day.”
Songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne recommended her for a movie musical, “Romance on the High Seas,” where she played an outspoken young singer impersonating a society lady on a cruise ship. She introduced the song, “It’s Magic.”
The three comedies she made with Rock Hudson made her one of the most beloved stars of the 1960’s.
She was a fine dramatic actress, and won an Oscar for the biopic about singer Ruth Etting, “Love Me or Leave Me.”
Nobody gets mad better than Doris Day.
Her song “Secret Love” in “Calamity Jane” won that year’s Oscar.
And she is excellent as the neurotic wife in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” She sang “Que Sera Sera” in that film, and it became a huge hit.
Sometimes dismissed in the early days of the women’s equality movement as a relic of the 50’s, today we recognize her for portrayals of strong, independent, professionally successful women, even in her comedies like “Pillow Talk” and “Lover Come Back” and the musical “The Pajama Game.” An essay by Molly Haskell in an early issue of Ms. Magazine was the first to claim her as a feminist icon.
Miss Day has not made a film since 1968, but her song “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps” memorably appeared in Baz Luhrmann’s “Strictly Ballroom.”
I’m especially fond of her performances in “The Thrill of it All,” “Teacher’s Pet,” “Pajama Game,” “Lover Come Back,” and “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.” Happy birthday, Miss Day!