Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You
Arguably the most influential creator, writer, and producer in the history of television, Norman Lear brought primetime into step with the times. Using comedy and indelible characters, his legendary 1970s shows such as All In the Family, Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons, boldly cracked open dialogue and shifted the national consciousness, injecting enlightened humanism into sociopolitical debates on race, class, creed, and feminism.
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★★★★ review by Ken Karpel on Letterboxd
Time to watch every episode of All In The Family.
★★★½ review by Ken Rudolph on Letterboxd
At age 93, Norman Lear is still active and relevant...a true cultural touchstone. This documentary examines his life with many examples of the television shows that he created, along with interviews with Lear himself and others in his productive life. It is hard to come up with a more culturally influential, groundbreaking late 20th century figure. Just as it is hard to come up with a show more culturally important than "All in the Family." Well, perhaps I'm prejudiced because his left-leaning Jewish sensibility matches my own. This particular film does attempt a certain artistry...using a young actor to metaphorically portray Lear's life in reflection. I'm not sure that this technique worked particularly well. This is a good example of a documentary with an exemplary and important subject that just doesn't quite jell as an entertainment. That is something that no Norman Lear show ever was guilty of.
★★★★★ review by thirstypup on Letterboxd
I'm still choked up as I'm writing this, minutes after watching this documentary about one of my heroes. It gives me so much joy to drive by a mural of the New Haven native son on my way to work. I absorbed so much from reruns of his landmark shows when I was growing up in the 80s. I studied his work in grad school. But I would encourage anyone who wants to get a sense of how art can fight bigotry in our turbulent times to get a whiff of this one.
★★★★ review by Ripplin on Letterboxd
I've enjoyed many of Mr. Lear's shows, especially All in the Family, but I didn't know a whole lot about the man himself. This corrects that deficiency. ;)
I enjoyed how it gave a whole picture of his life, without certain aspects being too short or long. It's a smooth transition from childhood with an Archie Bunker-like father, to TV writer amidst social upheaval, to retiree and activist.
I think my favorite part involved Good Times. New interview footage with John Amos and archival with Esther Rolle reveal how turbulent it was working on that show, partly due to difficulties with the cast not agreeing with scripts, and largely due to the way Jimmy Walker's character was portrayed. (and it's quite understandable!)
Anyone who appreciates good TV should check this out, especially considering how Lear's projects most definitely changed TV forever.
★★★½ review by Andrew F. on Letterboxd
This year's Milwaukee Film Festival secret members-only screening is this thoughtful and lovable look at a thoughtful and lovable man. I'm about a decade too young to have watched any of Lear's big hits when they were on TV, but this documentary provided an overview of his life and career, and helped me understand how he single-handedly shaped TV for about forty years, and how he made his post-TV life worthwhile.
Milwaukee Film Festival 2016
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