It began in the middle of this last summer, another hotter than before, smoke drifting into our bowl shaped city from fires raging statewide. 

Then, too, the presidential race was heating up, often uncomfortably so, smoke being blown this way and that across the states.

I quickly realized that when I wasn’t outside doing summery things and was inside with not much to do, that I had to break away and ignore the most contentious of election battles in order to stay cool.

I was drawn to recent history first, and dove into The Big Short, to refresh my memory of the 2008 financial crisis. From there, I was determined to keep finding compelling films that centered around history and politics in the United States, and always people and their stories.

I continued to press the arrow on Amazon Prime and free trials of movie channels, a Hulu free trial, and finally in the dead of winter, January, slogged onto a free trial of Netflix. 

Summer into fall into winter has moved into history, like snapshots tossed into a box; of all the busy days of school and work, family and holidays and birthdays. And alongside it all, a defining moment in my country.

My list is not in any order, except by where I found the cursor and pasted, and by remembering some after I’d found others. I added a few binge worthy series at the end. I have watched more than these, and read, played music and done things that are making meaning and purpose out of the senseless to me.

All of these left a steady impression in my mind, heart and spirit. Stories well told can do that.

These are not times like any before. It has sparked a need in me to know even more, the full story of my land keenly, deep into the structure of my bones. 

 These then are a window into the politics, history, and people in this place, connected dot by dot.

 Hidden Figures;2017

As the United States raced against Russia to put a man in space, NASA found untapped talent in a group of African-American female mathematicians that served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history. Based on the unbelievably true life stories of three of these women, known as “human computers”, we follow these women as they quickly rose the ranks of NASA alongside many of history’s greatest minds specifically tasked with calculating the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, and guaranteeing his safe return. Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson crossed all gender, race, and professional lines while their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly cemented them in U.S. history as true American heroes. (Written by 20th Century Fox IMDb)

Drama/History/Biography; 2 hrs 7 mins;PG

One of the rare movies I was able to view on the big screen this January. It is immensely  gripping, satisfying, beautiful, joyous and awakening. I wonder often if history books had always told the entire, unvarnished true story our country, what would we be like now? Instead of continuing to fight for basic human rights, where could we be. Timing is everything, and we needed this movie now.

Our Brand is Crisis; 2015

In 2002, Bolivian politician Pedro Gallo hires American James Carville’spolitical consulting firm, Greenberg Carville Shrum, to help him win the 2002 Bolivian presidential election. GCS brings in Jane Bodine, (a former consultant with a past) to manage the campaign in Bolivia. Battling her arch nemesis, the opposition’s political consultant Pat Candy. (Written by Gerry Garcia IMdb)

Comedy/Drama; 1 hr 47 minutes; R for language including some sexual references

Recently with many hours to fill while sitting with our dog as he recovers from acl surgery and thought I’d give this movie a go. I’d had my eye on it for some time and I was happily surprised at its humor, pace, and the actors (especially Sandra Bullock) who nailed it. Always under the headlines and stories are people with real beating hearts. 

Mavis!; 2015

Her family gospel group, the Staple Singers, inspired millions and helped propel the civil rights movement with their music. After 60 years of performing, legendary singer Mavis Staples’ message of love and equality is needed now more than ever.(IMDb)

Documentary/Biography/Music; 1 hr 20 mins.

stumbled onto this documentary a week ago and gave it a watch. So honored to get to know the real people behind the musical genius that is the Staple Singers. I kept saying, that’s their song too? I am much richer after viewing. I ended up loving Mavis and her family, and I was so schooled in music, activism, relationships and joy. The times are always reflected in the music and art of a place and people.

Woman in Gold

Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family. Maria Altman sought to regain the world famous painting of her aunt plundered by the Nazis during World War II. She did so not just to regain what was rightfully hers, but also to obtain some measure of justice for the death, destruction, and massive art theft perpetrated by the Nazis. (Written by Elyse J. Factor- IMbD)

Biography/Drama/History; Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and brief strong language.

One of my favorite kind of stories. When someone decides to fight for justice (a striking Helen Mirren), chooses someone (an unknown lawyer, played convincingly boring by Ryan Reynolds) on instinct, and endures for the greater good. Even better, when justice prevails against the larger and more arrogant powers for the individual, and truly for humanity. This was one of those stories. But for real. It is heartbreakingly true, and it needs to be told, again and again. As do all stories of injustice and injustice overcome. The past atrocities must never seem normal if we say we stand for freedom, liberty and justice for all. 

The Candidate; 1972

Californian lawyer Bill McKay fights for the little man. His charisma and integrity get him noticed by the Democratic Party machine and he is persuaded to run for the Senate against an apparently unassailable incumbent. It’s agreed he can handle it his own way, on his own terms. But once he’s in the race and his prospects begin to improve, the deal starts to change. (Written by Jeremy Perkins IMDb) 

Drama/Comedy/Politics;1 hr 50 mins; PG

This was one of my initial watches in the summer, which I chose for Robert Redford, and that it was released in my birth year. It captures the way being a politician will grind and shape you and your life and choices. Also, awesome 70’s looks.

Good Night, and Good Luck; 2005

In the early 1950’s, the threat of Communism created an air of paranoia in the United States and exploiting those fears was Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. However, CBS reporter Edward R. Murrow and his producer Fred W. Friendly decided to take a stand and challenge McCarthy and expose him for the fear monger he was. However, their actions took a great personal toll on both men, but they stood by their convictions and helped to bring down one of the most controversial senators in American history. (Written by Brian Washington–IMbD)

History/Drama/Biography; 1 hr 33 mins; PG for mild thematic elements, brief language and historical smoking.

watched this when it came out on DVD, a decade ago. Filmed in black and white and using the vernacular of the time made for an engrossing viewing. I rewatched it this fall on a streaming site. Relevant? Wow. Just, wow.

Race;2016

In the 1930s, Jesse Owens is a young man who is the first in his family to go to college. Going to Ohio State to train under its track and field coach, Larry Snyder, the young African American athlete quickly impresses with his tremendous potential that suggests Olympic material. However, as Owens struggles both with the obligations of his life and the virulent racism against him, the question of whether America would compete at all at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany is being debated vigorously. When the American envoy finds a compromise persuasive with the Third Reich to avert a boycott, Owens has his own moral struggle about going. Upon resolving that issue, Owens and his coach travel to Berlin to participate in a competition that would mark Owens as the greatest of America’s Olympians even as the German film director, Leni Riefenstahl, locks horns with her country’s Propaganda Minister, Josef Goebbels, to film the politically embarrassing fact for posterity. (Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)IMbD)

Biography/Drama/Sport; 2 hrs 14 mins; PG-13 for thematic elements and language.

Going in knowing the basics about Owen’s story, I hope for a well done movie. I came away having an infinitely greater knowledge of and appreciation for his tenacity, endurance and courage to use his skills to combat hate. The power of sports is that it can bring disparate people together. The Olympic portion that takes place in 1936 Berlin is riveting and eye-opening. Jesse was and is a torch carrier. May that flame burn strong.

W.; 2008

Oliver Stone’s biographical take on the life of George W. Bush, one of the most controversial presidents in USA history, chronicling from his wild and carefree days in college, to his military service, to his governorship of Texas and role in the oil business, his 2000 candidacy for president, his first turbulent four years, and his 2004 re-election campaign.  (Written by Anonymous IMbD)

Biography/Drama/History;  2 hrs 9 mins; PG-13 for language including sexual references, some alcohol abuse, smoking and brief disturbing war images.

must admit that I was not a fan of George W. as president, and so at times I was pretty amused with this telling. It is a story of family as much as of politics. Truth is that I came away with some respect and empathy for George and his wife Laura, proving once again, that I cannot make broad and general judgements, there is always more to a story and a person. But I can still disagree, dislike, and lawfully protest their politics.

Confirmation; 2016

Judge Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the United States’ Supreme Court is called into question when former colleague, Anita Hill, testifies that he had sexually harassed her.

Genres: Drama/History; 1 hr 50 mins;TV: MA (I couldn’t find rating but it has manymature themes, including graphic testimony.)

Released in the past year, I chose this week to absorb this HBO movie. I remember the real time story, the players, seeing the testimonies on TV in 1991; my first semester in college. I’m thankful this movie has been made and released now, some sixteen years later. Anita Hill has a very private personality, so getting to see behind the scenes both in her story and the White House one has given me much to think and reflect on as our government currently proceeds through confirmation hearings. Her testimony gave sexual harassment a name. She was a woman who had the courage to tell the truth even though it was the hardest thing to do.

The Ides of March; 2011

Stephen Meyers is a young idealist who’s brilliant at communications, is second in command of Governor Mike Morris’s presidential campaign, and is a true believer. In the middle of the Ohio primary, the campaign manager of Morris’s opponent asks Meyers to meet; he offers him a job. At the same time, Morris’s negotiations for the endorsement of the man in third place, a North Carolina Senator, hit a snag. A young campaign intern, Molly Stearns, gets Stephen’s romantic attention. Republicans have a trick up their sleeve; Stephen may be too trusting, and Molly has a secret. What’s most important, career, victory, or virtue? (Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com> IMDb)

Drama; 1 hr 41 mins;Rated R for pervasive language.

George Clooney was enough reason to give this movie a watch; Ryan Gosling did not hurt.  It is a look into some of the darkest corners of election politics, and I was left with a sense that there is always a deep personal cost to running a campaign and running for office.

Recount;2014

In this dramatization of the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore concedes the presidency to George W. Bush, but recants when he learns of irregularities in the Florida vote count. Democratic strategists Ronald Klain and Michael Whouley race to Florida to uncover the truth, as do Republicans under James Baker III. Between faulty voting equipment and the vagaries of Florida’s Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a 36-day stalemate ensues. (Written by Jwelch5742IMDb)

Drama/History; 1 hr 56 min; TV:MA

The more things change…I recall (ha) this election quite well, the widespread disasstifaction still lingers in many minds, mine included. This is a very watchable recounting (ha) of that period. Frustrating, humorous, ridiculous and sad at every turn, just like the real story.

Chisholm ’72 Unbought and Unbossed; 2004

A documentary on Brooklyn-based Congresswoman Shirley’s Chisholm’s 1972 presidential bid.

Documentary/Biography;82 mins

woman ran a campaign to run for president the year I was born. I am a born and bred Democrat, and voted that way this past election. I assure you could I have voted for Shirley, I would have as well. This is a simple unfolding of an inspiring woman, and her fight through the maze of party politics and nominations. Unbought, Unbossed, Unequaled she was. A woman ahead of and for our time and hers. I loved it, and love her.

Bob Roberts;1992

A right-wing folk singer becomes a corrupt politician and runs a crooked election campaign. Only one independent muck-raking reporter is trying to stop him. A Documentary-style look at the fictional Senatorial campaign of Bob Roberts, an arch-conservative folk singer turned politician. This political satire includes several original songs co-written and performed by writer/director/star Tim Robbins, and cameo appearances by other stars as reporters and news anchors. (Written by Scott Renshaw <as.idc@forsythe.stanford.edu>IMDb)

Drama/Comedy/Satire;1 hr 42 mins; R

In the early 90’s I watched this on VHS. It seemed fitting to watch again this past year. Highly original film and even more current now than when it was released. Sometimes dark and sometimes laugh out loud funny, it is a clear reminder that art does imitate life, as unbelievable as it can seem.

All the Presidents Men;1976

In the run-up to the 1972 elections, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward covers what seems to be a minor break-in at the Democratic Party National headquarters. He is surprised to find top lawyers already on the defense case, and the discovery of names and addresses of Republican fund organizers on the accused further arouses his suspicions. The editor of the Post is prepared to run with the story and assigns Woodward and Carl Bernstein to it. They find the trail leading higher and higher in the Republican Party, and eventually into the White House itself. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26 IMDb )

Biography/History; 2hr 18 mins; PG

felt compelled to watch this story on Watergate this week. It was released in 1976, and based on a book by Woodward and Bernstein. The real story began unraveling in 1972, again my birth year, and the differences in the ways newspaper storytelling is researched and achieved then and now are fascinating. The thing that remains the same? A quote from near the end of the movie; Ben Bradlee, editor of The Washington Post, to his two young(ish) reporters; “Nothing’s riding on this except the First Amendment of the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country.” Weird, that seems eerily familiar.

Game Change;2012

Summer, 2008: John McCain secures the nomination, but polls behind Barack Obama. Strategist Steve Schmidt suggests a game changer: picking a conservative female with media savvy, unknown Alaska governor Sarah Palin, as vice president. She’s an immediate hit and a quick study – the gap closes. Then, Tina Fey’s impersonation, a raft of criticism, and missing her family send Palin into a near-catatonic state: she doesn’t prepare for her Katie Couric interview and bombs. Schmidt searches for an answer: don’t expect her to learn the issues, but give her a script. Palin does well in the debate with Biden; she finds her voice, goes off script, and goes rogue. A mistake? (Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>IMDb)

Biography/History/Drama; 1 hr 58 mins; TV:MA

A story from a recent political campaign that I vivedly remember. It is well done, and the roles are fleshed out enough to see them as people, not just characters. I came away feeling empathy for Sarah and John, while also feeling terrified at the (then growing) power machine that is the GOP, and the way it desperately churns out candidates with questionable knowledge and experience in US politics. That could really damage our country someday. Or like, now.

Selma; 2014

The unforgettable true story chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. Director Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” tells the story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history. (Written by Miss W J Mcdermott IMdb)

Biography/Drama/History; 2 hrs. 8 mins; PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment and brief strong language.

don’t have the words to do MLK and what he accomplished justice. And that was his mission, pure and simple, justice and equality for all. This is a powerful movie because it was a powerful event and time and movement and man. Watch it. This is the true story of our country, ugly as it is. We dare not forget.

The Big Short; 2015

Four denizens in the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight. Based on the true story of four outsiders who saw what the big banks, media and government refused to: the global collapse of the economy. A bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of banking, where everyone and everything is in question.(- Written by Jwelch5742)

Biography/Comedy/Drama/History; 2 hours 10 mins; R for pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity.

This is by far the most entertaining version of the 2008 meltdown of our financial system. So watchable and understandable, you almost forget this documents the financial collapse of our nation. Almost.

The Imitation Game;2015

Based on the real life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. (Written by Studio Canal)

Genres: Biography/ Drama/Thriller/War; 1 hr 54 mins; PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking.

Another movie I had waited a long time to see and then watched recently while my dog recovered from his acl surgery. Beautifully filmed and acted, I was drawn into the story immediately and didn’t want it to finish. The raw humanity and range of emotions from despair to victory in the main character’s life is completely compelling. His story underscores the very real and present danger of exclusion and alienation of peoples. All people are worth fighting for. Every. One.

Spotlight; 2015

When the Boston Globe’s tenacious “Spotlight” team of reporters delves into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal, and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world. (Written by Open Road-IMdB)

Crime/Biography/Drama;2 hrs. 8 mins.;R for some language including sexual references.

There are horrors that humans do to each other and we say, I would have said something! The thing is, we all turn our weary eyes from injustice and suffering every day. I am quite aware of my failings in this regard. This movie takes the true story of one such massive wrongs done and the complicity of those involved in the acts, but also the greater veil that was cast to cover it. Fantastically filmed acted, and an unflinching look at the very human newspaper journalists from a decade ago in their search for the truth. This will stay with me, forever. Thank God for the ability of the human heart to care enough about the greater good.

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry; 2014

A documentary that resurrects the buried history of the outrageous, often brilliant women who founded the modern women’s movement from 1966 to 1971.

Documentary;92 mins

For all the feminist ideals I hold, I must admit that I (and my generation) had just expected all the equality and opportunities that we grew up with to always be there, and to even improve and spread. We’ve even grown so accustomed that there are now movements of women against the women’s movement. Watching this documentary made me very aware that generations of women laid that groundwork, and even more, what it cost them. I am so grateful for the women’s movement in its’ whole scope. And even more, how they are today training up and assisting women to fight for what we many of us believe is necessary for women, children, men and all people to achieve the promise of our country.

   Page One Inside the New York Times; 2011  

During the most tumultuous time for media in generations, filmmaker Andrew Rossi gains unprecedented access to the newsroom at The New York Times. For a year (2010), he follows journalists on the paper’s Media Desk, a department created to cover the transformation of the media industry. Through this prism, a complex view emerges of a media landscape fraught with both peril and opportunity, especially at the Times itself.(Written by Anonymous IMdB)

Documentary/92 mins; R

watched this one because I have always read the paper. I am a print girl, always will be. And with the current climate in our politically charged landscape, this docu seems presient. While newspapers were flagging when this was filmed, the irony is that despite the press now being vilified by a president, or maybe because of, the NYT has gained readership significantly in the last month. It is worth watching to see what goes into reporting before printing a story. 

Carl Bernstein, Watergate reporter; of The Washington Post was interviewed at one point and clarified the purpose of the press, “The function of reporting and the press is the best attainable version of the truth. We’re not out there to bring down governments, we’re not out there to be prosecutors, we’re out there to be judicious, not judicial and that’s what really happened in Watergate.” 

Near the end, the NYT editor at the time, Bill Keller, (talking about perceptions of the media age on newspapers) said,  “News organizations that deploy resources to really gather information are essential to a functioning democracy .. it just…it just doesn’t work if people don’t know.”

Exactly. Make sure you know.

Timeless TV series 2016-17

An unlikely trio travel through time in order to battle unknown criminals and protect history as we know it.

Science fiction/History/Drama; 1 hr episodes; TV:MA

love this new addition to the sci-if realm of series. It’s part Quantum Leap, part dystopian future, part conspiracy to take over America. I love the history, (I am after all, a history nerd, though not as well versed as Lucy), and the show creates gorgeous, believable back in time framework for the story to land in. Not to the mention the ensemble of actors, I look forward every week to episodes. Talk about must see TV.

Good Girls Revolt; 2016
A look at the personal and professional lives of employees at an American news magazine in the late 1960s. Based on real events, it is centered around a group of women who work in “the pit” and how they and their lives change as they learn of the inequality of their pay and positions, for often more than equal work. 

Drama/History/Biography; 10 55 min episodesTV:MA for language, historical smoking, drug use, and graphic sexual scenes-its the 70’s!

I binge-watched this series and I loved it. Great actresses who tell the greater story of the women’s rights movement in the 70’s. Another one with fantastic seventies styles. I was greatly inspired by grit of the real life women behind this series.

Manh(a)ttan;2014-15
Set against the backdrop of the greatest clandestine race against time in the history of science with the mission to build the world’s first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Flawed scientists and their families attempt to co-exist in a world where secrets and lies infiltrate every aspect of their lives.( Written by Futon Critic-IMbD) In 1943, in Los Alamos, New Mexico, a team of government scientists is working on the top secret Manhattan Project in a race to produce an atomic bomb before the Nazis. Meanwhile, their families adjust to a life on the military base.

Drama/History/War; 23-55 min.episodes 2 seasons); TV:14 for mature themes.

This series has a lot going on. For me it was an introduction into the history of the Manhatten Project, with historical fiction stories woven in. Sometimes I tired of the subplots and relationships, but the main characters kept my interest as they told the story through a personal lens. The filming is brilliant as is the set and costuming, I loved seeing vintage propaganda posters and pieces from that time frame throughout. It has stayed with me, and nuclear power and weapons are not going away. I only fervently hope we have intelligent minds on deck in these trigger-finger areas of our government. Soon.

The Crown;2016

The Crown focuses on Queen Elizabeth II as a 25-year-old newlywed faced with the daunting prospect of leading the world’s most famous monarchy while forging a relationship with legendary Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. The British Empire is in decline, the political world is in disarray, and a young woman takes the throne….a new era is dawning. Peter Morgan’s masterfully researched scripts reveal the Queen’s private journey behind the public facade with daring frankness. Prepare to be welcomed into the coveted world of power and privilege and behind locked doors in Westminster and Buckingham Palace….the leaders of an empire await. (Written by Netflix)

Biography/History/Drama;1 hr episodes;TV:MA

Okay, so not set in America. But so well made and the historical figures in one of the U.S’s strongest ally’s (or at least hopefully still) play a part in so much of America’s story. Much of Winston Churchill’s story is shared along with WWII issues. Fascinating, enlightening and yes, gorgeous filming, settings and of course, clothing. 

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7 thoughts on “Art is witness. Art is #resistance .

  1. Great post!! Love what you said about “wondering if history books had told the entire true story of our history..” thank goodness for recent movies sharing untold stories of those who shaped our country!! And can’t wait to see Hidden Figures!!

    Liked by 1 person

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