Screening Room: ‘RBG’

(Courtesy of CNN Films)

For anybody who hasn’t read The Notorious RBG or hasn’t been keeping up on their social media updates for the past couple years, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the most buzzy octogenarian Supreme Court justice in the land. The new documentary RBG helps explains why. It opens this week.

My review is at PopMatters:

Here’s a fun fact to be gleaned from Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s breathlessly laudatory documentary RBG: According to her children, Ginsburg doesn’t know how to turn on her TV. This is a lifelong overachiever, a woman who made Law Review at Harvard in the ’50s when the number of the school’s female law students could be counted on two hands. Ginsburg is busy working out, attending the opera, and staying up until four in the morning working on cases and writing opinions. This is not a woman given to flipping channels looking for a Friends rerun…

Here’s the trailer:

Weekend Reading: April 29, 2016


Rewind: The Real Anita Hill Story

anita-poster1Tonight, HBO is premiering Confirmation, their fictional take on the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991. It was the first of the decades televised scandal melodramas, not least for the spectacle of the Senate’s hostile grilling of Anita Hill about her accusations of sexual harassment by Thomas.

Freida Lee Mock’s documentary Anita (2014) is an instructive take on Hill’s experience under the spotlight and how the resulting controversy changed the country.

My review is at Film Racket.

Here’s the trailer:

Writer’s Desk: Writing Advice from Antonin Scalia


Although the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was best known for his strident dissents from not only his fellow liberal judges on the bench but even occasionally his conservative allies, he always prided himself on not just the slashing wit contained in his decisions but on his readable and provocative style.

A few years back, Scalia co-authored a book, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges. Some of its advice on presentation — dress to impress, and “Maintain a dignified and respectful countenance”— is not too helpful for the average writer, who we can probably agree are a (albeit proudly so) slouchy and indifferently attired lot.

But the tips from Scalia (a grammar nerd who bonded with his co-author over a David Foster Wallace essay titled “Tense Present”) on writing presentation are worth heeding:

There’s a myth abroad that you should never begin a sentence with a conjunction. But look at any species of reputable writing—whether it’s a good newspaper, journal, novel or nonfiction work—and you’re likely to find several sentences per page beginning with one of those little connectives. You can hardly achieve a flowing narrative or argument without them…

Banish jargon, hackneyed expressions and needless Latin…

People tend not to start reading what they cannot readily finish…

Remember, many lawyers write for a living. The better ones do it well.

Weekend Reading: February 19, 2016


Department of Holiday Reading: July 3, 2014