Documentary Review: McKellen Playing the Part

I took myself out yesterday, on an Artist Date. These solo excursions are for the purpose of engaging my artistic side by doing something I really enjoy. The ultimate outcome, no matter what I choose to do, is that I return home inspired.

The choice for my outing was an easy decision. I caught a matinee showing at the indie theater, Bookhouse Cinema, of a documentary featuring one of England’s greatest actors.

McKellen Playing the Part

McKellen Playing the Part is a biographical documentary presented by director Joe A. Stephenson. Featuring footage of Sir Ian McKellen during a 14 hour interview, the documentary includes candid photos, film and stage clips, and dramatizations, weaving together an intimate look at the iconic actor’s life from childhood until the present day. Young Ian is portrayed by Milo Parker, while Scott Chambers plays the part of the actor as a young adult.

The film is unrated, and has a run time of 1 hour and 32 minutes.

McKellen Playing the Part

Beginning with his childhood, we see Ian as the younger child in his family, with an older sister, a mother who was a teacher and a father who was a lay minister. As a boy Ian had no interest in sports. His imagination was fired up by attending plays with his mother. In school he began by performing bit parts in productions and on the weekends he attended the theater, where he was allowed to interact with the performers backstage.

He recognized at an early age that all humans are playing parts that shift and change, depending on the role they must present to the world. He understood too the complex relationship between the actor on the stage and the people in the audience. After a long work day, the audience arrived with low energy, ready to be entertained but also re-energized. Ian saw that the actors conserved their energy all day so that during the evening performance they had the ability to project powerfully into the audience.

McKellen Playing the Part

McKellen Playing the Part

Moving on from dressing up as characters at home to entertain his family, young Ian began his rise to stardom, gaining admittance to Cambridge by delivering a stirring speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V. He quickly moved through part after part, in performance after performance, working through repertory and West End theatre and becoming a pioneering stage star. His first glowing review in a national publication confirmed the absolute rightness of the journey he had set out upon…acting was his passion and his gift to the world.

Taking on Shakespearean roles primarily, Ian made a name for himself. A young Maggie Smith recommended him for the prestigious Vic Theater, however Ian chose an independent theater to invest himself in, working with other upcoming actors such as Judy Dench. By the 1970s he was performing in two productions simultaneously, Edward II and Richard II. Broadway in NYC called to him.

McKellen Playing the Part

McKellen Playing the Part

During the 1980s McKellen came out as gay and worked as a leader in campaigns for equality. He speaks candidly and openly, during the film, about his sexuality, which was something he hid until he was nearly 50 years old. Suppressing who he was affected his relationship with his father to a certain extent, but it seemed to fuel his acting career. Playing a part, he could step completely into that role and pour his heart into it.

In mid life he moved into films, with a variety of parts and mainstream breakouts as Magneto in the X-Men series and the wizard Gandalf in six Middle Earth movies. However, theater always was, and always will be, his passion. Even at the respectable age of 79, McKellen is still delivering amazing stage performances, playing King Lear this summer at the Duke of York’s Theater in London’s West End.

McKellen Playing the Part

McKellen Playing the Part

I very much enjoyed this charming documentary. Close up camera work during the interview portions, capturing Ian’s rugged and still handsome face as he laughed, or grew thoughtful, or chewed on his lip, made me feel like I was right there beside him, listening to his stories.

I respect and admire this actor. My heart ached for him, and tears stung my eyes more than once, as I realized that he has lived a fairly solitary life, devoted to his craft. For sure, his has been a life well lived…and he has poured it into acting, into playing parts. When he’s not on the stage or in front of a camera, Ian visits school classrooms and talks to children about acting, about being their authentic selves, and about pursuing whatever fires up their imaginations. He loves to share a quote with them, from Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, in the form of a joke.

Ian to the kids: Do you know what will happen if you do not study? Dramatic pause and then, in Gandalf’s powerful voice…You shall not pass!!

McKellen Playing the Part

During the credits, outtakes from the film were played. In one Ian McKellen, winner of many awards over a lifetime of playing parts, was asked what he would say to his younger self. He crinkled up his bright blue-green eyes and thought for a moment.

“Id say to myself as a young man, You were attractive…you were an attractive man.”

He laughs a bit self consciously over his answer and then adds wistfully, “I didn’t know that I was. I never saw that I was attractive.”

He was. He still is. I cried over his answer.

McKellen Playing the Part

Documentary Review: RBG

When my daughter Elissa invited me to go see the documentary RBG, about the life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I was happy to go. It was an opportunity to spend time with my eldest child, in the fun and unique atmosphere of Bookhouse Cinema. And it was an opportunity to learn more about the woman behind the justice robes and collars, the occasional headline, and the artsy Notorious RBG posters.

Documentary Review RBG

RBG highlights the life and work of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The biographical documentary, directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, carries a PG rating and has a run time of 1 hour and 38 minutes.

This well done docudrama follows the life of Ruth from her childhood in Brooklyn, New York, through her years as a law student and attorney, when it was a struggle to be taken seriously because of her gender, to the current role she plays, on the Supreme Court and as an unexpected cultural icon.

Documentary Review RBG

Young Ruth was taught by her mother to be a lady, which to her meant, be your own person and be independent. This petite, reserved woman, who avoids small talk but speaks up powerfully when she has something to say, has certainly embraced her mother’s idea of a lady.

The film looks at her accomplishments, which are extraordinary and many, however the focus is on the woman. Using personal interviews with Ruth, interspersed with historical photos, videos, and audios, and candid chats with her children, granddaughter, friends, and colleagues, Cohen and West weave together a moving tribute to a life well lived.

Documentary Review RBG

Ruth married Martin Ginsburg and had her daughter Jane before enrolling in Harvard Law School, one of nine women among 500 classmates. When Martin took a job in New York City, Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School and became the first woman to be on two major law reviews: the Harvard Law Review and Columbia Law Review. In 1959, she earned her Bachelor of Law at Columbia and tied for first in her class.

When she had difficulty finding employment, she entered academia, one of fewer than 20 female law professors in the US at that time. Early in her adult life Ruth became a voice for women and a staunch supporter of equality for women, especially in the workplace. She co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1972 and, in 1973, she became the ACLU’s general counsel. The Women’s Rights Project and related ACLU projects participated in over three hundred gender discrimination cases by 1974. As the director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, she argued six gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1976, winning five.

Documentary Review RBG

She attained a reputation as a skilled oral advocate. Ruth chose her plaintiffs carefully, representing both females and males, to show that gender discrimination was harmful to women and to men. Her work led directly to the end of gender discrimination in many areas of the law.

Ruth was nominated by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Her service terminated on August 9, 1993, due to her elevation to the United States Supreme Court. Nominated by President Bill Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was only the second female appointee, after Sandra Day O’Connor.

Documentary Review RBG

One can go to Google to discover more fascinating facts about this feisty 85 year old woman. What I loved most about the documentary was getting a glimpse of Ruth’s compassionate heart and soul.

She and Martin had two children, and enjoyed a long and marvelous marriage, until his death in 2010. They complemented each other perfectly, two strong individuals who respected and appreciated and loved each other.

Ruth’s best friend was Justice Antonin Scalia. Even though they agreed to disagree on interpretations of the law, and had very different viewpoints, they shared a long and happy friendship. How inspiring, to see them attend opera performances together, travel the world as companions, and speak highly of each other. When friends of hers complained about the seating arrangement on an elephant in India (Ruth was seated behind Scalia), she pointed out, with great amusement, that it was a simple matter of weight distribution.

Documentary Review RBG

This woman makes a difference in the world, and in the lives of others, one decision, one dissent, one ruling at a time. She accepts her ascent into pop culture with a casual shrug and a smile. She laughs over Saturday Night Live portrayals of her. She spends time at her beloved opera, without her best buddy, since Antonin passed away in 2016. She receives collars from around the world, to wear over her robes. She is quietly fierce as she seeks justice.

I left the sold out showing of the documentary deeply appreciating RBG. She inspires me to see the world in a bigger way and to meet people who think differently than I do with openness and compassion. And she inspires me to make a difference in my world, in my own unique way, and to help as many people as I can along the way.

Documentary Review RBG

Documentary Review: Eating You Alive

This is a late night post. I just returned from the movie theater, where instead of watching a film, I had the opportunity to watch a documentary that is very relevant to my life. And not only that, I met up with a group of people who are making changes in their diets and reaping the benefits. It was wonderful to watch Eating You Alive with like hearted, like minded, free spirited souls who are making differences in their lives and the lives of others.

Documentary Review: Eating You Alive

Eating You Alive features a host of plant based physicians, vegan chefs, celebrities who have embraced this lifestyle and people who have healed from a variety of diseases and disorders, after changing their eating habits. Directed by Paul David Kennamer Jr, Eating You Alive has a run time of 2 hours and 2 minutes.

This documentary explores how the standard American diet is creating and contributing to the diseases and disorders that we are suffering from, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and cancers. Medical professionals across the US chime in to share their own personal experiences with a plant based diet and offer solid reasons for making changes in eating habits.

Documentary Review: Eating You Alive Magician Penn Jillette, before and after switching to a plant based lifestyle.

Interspersed among the doctor interviews were celebrities such as Penn Jillette, Samuel L. Jackson and James Cameron who shared about healing from disorders, losing weight and experiencing overall improvement of their health and well-being after going plant based. Also included were people who told their healing stories, often with great emotion. Many had been told they had months to live. They were sent home to die.

And yet, not finding help from traditional medical care, they instead took charge of their health and changed what they ate. They did not die. They reversed their diseases. Because, if the food we eat is contributing to our poor health, then changing what we eat can improve it.

Documentary Review: Eating You Alive

I appreciated this honest look at the health industry and the benefits of a plant based lifestyle. I already embrace it, however it was very good to hear so many doctors speak about how eating fruits, vegetables, legumes, healthy grains, nuts and seeds can bring such life changing goodness to the body. I know what a plant based lifestyle has done for my health. To see doctors promoting it and so many people experience healing was exciting.

There was sobering information as well. Diseases are on the increase. People are getting sicker and more obese with the current American diet. Animal cruelty is often practiced in raising livestock for food consumption. I firmly believe the stress that those animals live and die under is passed on energetically to those who eat their meat and eggs and dairy products, and drink their milk.

And perhaps most alarming of all was hearing the physicians say that in medical school they were taught very little about nutrition and the healing power of foods. Rather, they learned to treat symptoms, not the underlying causes of the diseases. Similarly, big pharmaceutical companies provide medications that ease symptoms while causing a host of equally debilitating side effects.

On the surface, it seems so simple. As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” There are many reasons why it is not simple…food addictions, lack of support, lack of knowledge, and fear of change, to name a few. The choice is our. We decide whether we want greater health and well being, or if we want to continue on with a poor diet and poor health.

I left the theater with a renewed determination to live my life as an example of one who has healed, and continues to experience deeper healing. And with the desire to help as many others as possible so that they too can enjoy long and healthy lives.

Documentary Review: Eating You Alive