Grind for February 21st, 2019
“Never leave a rhinestone unturned.”
– Dolly Parton
Documentaries are more popular than ever
In the age of Netflix, the term “documentary” is no longer synonymous with the words “boring” and “educational.”
“For a long time, there was a bit of a stigma around documentaries that, you know, it was going to be educational, or it was going to be a bummer, or it was definitely not going to be a date-night movie,” says Thom Powers, host of podcast Pure Nonfiction.
According to Powers, streaming platforms like Netflix and iTunes have created a sort of “golden age” for documentaries.
“That ability to reach such a large audience is a dream for most filmmakers…However, you know, another big dream for most filmmakers is to see their work on a big screen – not to be watched on someone’s smartphone during a commute.”
That dream will soon come true for director Todd Douglas Miller, whose documentary Apollo 11 will hit IMAX theaters in March.
The film, which Miller describes as an “all-archival experience,” tells the story of the 1969 moon landing using never-before-seen footage obtained directly from NASA.
Last month at the Sundance Film Festival, the 2019 documentary Knock Down the House broke records in its category with earnings of $10 million on Netflix.
“It was a real hot year for films making money,” says Sheila Nevins, who ran HBO Documentary Films for 36 years. “I mean, money, money.”
Knock Down the House follows the primary campaigns of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and three other progressive female candidates who ran for Congress in 2018.
Other docus performing better than expected include the National Geographic film Free Solo (which has pulled in nearly $16 million) and the biographical film RBG (which has earned $14 million).
“People actually, it turns out, will sit down for an hour and a half and really get engrossed in a true story film,” says RBG director Julie Cohen.
“We’re very excited about that, especially the opportunity to tell stories that really have been ignored over the years,” adds fellow RBG director Betsy West.
RBG, which presents the story of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and how her early legal battles changed the world for women, has been nominated for an Oscar alongside docus Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Minding the Gap, and Of Fathers and Sons.
16 States sue Trump over national emergency declaration
The attorneys general of 16 states filed a lawsuit Monday over the national emergency President Trump declared last week.
The emergency was declared Friday as Trump signed a spending deal that includes nearly $1 billion for enhanced medical care and transportation for illegal immigrants, but offers just $1.4 billion for the construction of 55 miles of “barrier.”
The figure falls far short of the $5.7 billion Trump had originally proposed.
The spending deal also blocks Trump from using allocated funds to build the wall. By declaring a national emergency over the “invasion” at the border, he hopes to redirect $8 billion without Congressional approval.
“This is plainly a power grab by a disappointed President, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process,” argues House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who during the shutdown refused to consider border wall funding even in exchange for DACA and TPS guarantees.
States involved in the lawsuit are: California, Maine, New York, Delaware, Hawaii, Oregon, Colorado, Illinois, Connecticut, Michigan, Maryland, Virginia, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, and New Mexico.
All 16 states have Democratic AGs, and all but Maryland have Democratic governors.
The lawsuit, led by California AG Xavier Becerra, insists Trump’s actions represent a “flagrant disregard for the separation of powers” and specifically aims to block him from obtaining wall funds without Congressional approval.
The lawsuit also demands Trump consider the potential environmental effects of the wall before starting construction.
“Declaring a national emergency when one does not exist is immoral and illegal,” says New York AG Letitia James. “Diverting necessary funds from real emergencies, crime-fighting activities, and military construction projects usurps Congressional power and will hurt Americans across the country. We will not stand for this abuse of power and will fight using every tool at our disposal.”
Becerra insists the states have the right to challenge Trump on the declaration because some of the money he is trying to use for the border wall would have gone to states’ defense budgets.
“If the president is essentially stealing money that’s been allocated to go to the various states for various purposes but no longer will, we’re being harmed, our people are being harmed,” he said.
Meanwhile, Alaska’s Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy has offered his state’s National Guard to patrol the border.
The lawsuit is partisan and completely expected and almost guaranteed to succeed in the notoriously liberal Ninth Circuit Court, where it will first be tried.
Like other Trump proposals defeated by liberal courts, the issue will likely go to the Supreme Court, whose conservative majority will support Trump.
The legal fight is expected to continue into the 2020 election.
GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
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