- brilliant, in-depth examination of Nader and his societal interactions 1/9/2007 12:00:00 AM by wdelp
Henriette Mantel and Steve Skrovan's An Unreasonable Man insightfully and objectively chronicles the life of Ralph Nader and his interactions with society. It is filled with fascinating, carefully chosen, artfully constructed sequences which replay beautiful and dark moments of the past 60 plus years and puts them into context. Many of Nader's most ardent critics and supporters are interviewed in this balanced and educational documentary which focuses on facts and mixes them with speculation and opinion. I was riveted to the preview screening I saw on a large TV. Its so fast-paced, information packed, emotional, exciting, engaging, enRaging, and occasionally hilarious that when seeing it in a movie theater you should buckle your seatbelts! Keep your cell phones turned off and your mind open when watching this critically important film. It reminds me of 2 of my favorite Akira Kurosawa films, High and Low and Ikiru in the ways it makes me think about the pursuit of justice, equality, hard work, investigation, society, corporate ruthlessness, governmental bureaucracy, and the power of an individual to make a difference (for good or ill). An Unreasonable Man also reminds me of these 2 Kurosawa masterpieces because of its attention to detail, mastery of the subject, and mastery of the documentary format. It gives you powerfully organized information in chronological order and copious amounts of vintage footage which has been fascinatingly and cleverly edited and lets you make up your mind about this powerful, fascinating, multi-faceted, and controversial subject, Ralph Nader.
- The challenge to a debate 3/5/2007 12:00:00 AM by Chris Knipp
A paradox: here is one of the most significant and controversial men of recent American history, and yet the media rarely mention him. Once a hero, he has become a pariah. This new documentary is a good record of the achievement and the controversy. While it's friendly to the man, it also lets some of his most vitriolic political opponents (Gitlin, Alterman) speak out loud and clear. It's hard to leave the theater without entering into a debate over the final issue the film raises: Was Nader right or wrong to run as a third party candidate against George W. Bush? Did his campaign really cause Al Gore to lose? Is Nader responsible for the Iraq war? The huge deficit? The post-Katrina debacle? The film takes us back to Nader's origins: he was one of four siblings born into a Lebanese Christian immigrant family in Winstead, Connecticut, whose town meetings he came to consider an example of true direct democracy. His mother was a political activist and his father a restaurant owner who encouraged, if not required, political debate with customers and at home at the dinner table. "What did you learn at school today"? his father would ask young Ralph: "Did you learn to think, or did you learn to believe?" Clearly the man, his brother, and his two sisters, learned leadership from these origins. Each became outstanding in their own field. Nader went to Princeton and Harvard Law, then after a brief stint in the Army and time as a lawyer and teacher of government, he went to Washington, and the rest is history.
What is it about Ralph Nader? Surely there is no one like him in public life. The crusader, the Knight in Shining Armor. One thinks of the lean face, the uniform of dark suit and plain tie, the calm, piercing, often ironic voice. One thinks of the man's dedication, his frugality. He has never married, a conscious choice: work comes first; there's no room for family. It's been written in Current Biography that before leaving his six-month stint in the Army in 1959 Nader acquired four dozen cheap, sturdy military socks from the PX that by the mid-Eighties he still hadn't worn out. Thoreau would have liked that. The man hears a different drummer indeed. In his glory days of major accomplishments as a consumer advocate -- a legacy so pervasive we're barely aware of it, though it has saved many lives -- Nader worked stolidly through the system right at the time -- the Sixties -- when the Counterculture was at its peak The Crusader, the Idealist, Nader is a stubborn man whose stands have won battles and infuriated many. His rigidity, his nerdiness: rising to prominence in the Sixties and Seventies, he never adopted the looser, more florid style of the time but always kept to the monastic suit and tie and short hair.
Spurred by a good friend's becoming handicapped after a car accident, Nader first came to national and international prominence by fighting Detroit for safer cars, the Chevrolet Corvair being a famous target. This was to be an epic battle in which the auto manufacturers tried to dig up dirt against him and bait him with prostitutes; he fought back with lawsuits and won. Nader has tackled government agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration. In his battles to keep the air and water clean, provide safe food and decent nursing homes, protect forests and many other things, Nader has founded literally dozens of non-profit organizations. The list is so long the film can't quite keep up; it's best on the early period of advocacy for auto safety. "Nader's Raiders" -- the popular name for the hundreds of young activists who came to Washington to work with Nader in suited, hard-working teams -- provide some of the many talking heads who reminisce, besides the angry opponents. (Largely missing: corporate critics.) Jimmy Carter's presidency was a turning point. Nader felt betrayed by Carter, who seemed so friendly at first, and by some of his former associates who went to work in government agencies. Nader will not compromise. People in government have to. For Nader, that was unacceptable.
Some other points: Nader is a "consumer advocate," but that doesn't mean he's pro-consumption (remember the socks). Perhaps Nader's attitude toward the democrats goes back to his issues with Carter. It's not difficult to point out the many ways that Clinton as president was pro-business, anti-welfare; that he did not keep the promise of a national health service. With a different fa?ade, Nader points out, Clinton continued many of the pro-corporate, neo-liberal policies of Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Nader's defies the two-party system. Nader holds, as the film shows, that any independent candidate who knuckles under when the final push to election time begins and throws in his support to the democratic candidate is telling the Republicans and Democrats that they can do whatever they want. It's essential to have a third party that's a real threat. And the reason why this is so is that there is not a big difference between the two parties. Still: George W. Bush no worse than Al Gore? One critic says Nader is a Leninist: he implicitly wants things to get worse to force a change. Not quite true -- he's just fed up with the principle of the "least worst" -- but few of us who live in these United States can be so uncompromising, so maddeningly self-righteous and rigid -- and often so surprisingly right despite everyone else saying otherwise. In short, few of us are like Ralph Nader. If those who voted for him in 2000 had foreseen the disaster that is the current administration have done so? But would the world not be measurably worse without him? That's what this fascinating film challenges us to consider. Don't we need more, not fewer, such people?
- But More Reasonable than Republicans and Democrats? 2/25/2007 12:00:00 AM by Kakueke
This documentary is a chronicle of Ralph Nader's life and times, with an above-average dose of commentators. They are many: Nader's associates and many journalists, and others ranging from Phil Donahue to Pat Buchanan, but the latter is there for additional perspective on Nader, not debating points. Indeed, while the commentators support the documentary narrative on Nader's background, activities (including Nader's Raiders), and accomplishments, the biggest debate is on whether Nader did the right thing in not abandoning his independent Presidential bid in 2000 and perhaps costing Al Gore the election.
Some material on Nader's background is included, from his birth in Winsted, Ct. His parents were Lebanese immigrants. His mother was a political activist, and his father ran a restaurant and a bakery, helping shape Nader's lifelong affection for the marketplace and the consumer, as well as political discourse, for the restaurant was a haven for political discussion. The town-meeting-type government, in which Nader's family participated, with citizens voting on laws, was seen by Nader as pure democracy at work. Nader was bright and went to Harvard Law School, and he had a friend become paraplegic because of an auto accident.
Nader has championed many consumer issues. Auto safety, Nader's first claim to fame, is focused on most early and prominently and is a recurring theme, perhaps most appropriately. He took on GM, Ford, and Chrysler on seat belts to pollution control to steering mechanisms, and this is covered well, along with their twisted efforts to discredit him (even by extremely sleazy methods invading his privacy).
As for Nader's candidacy for President in 2000, the commentators debate extensively and, at some moments, venomously. He arguably cost Gore the election versus a reactionary President, and was his staying in until the end justified? But Nader ran because of what he believed in, thinking Democrats had become too much like Republicans. As the documentary covers at length, this had been a theme of Nader's political existence since the time of Nixon and Ford. Jimmy Carter turned out to be undependable in Nader's eyes, but the big problem really arose with the election of Reagan, the force of whose personality made people forget the difference between right and wrong, including on consumer issues. Regulations with their roots in Nader were opposed and sometimes successfully thrown out. Nader saw a lack of sympathy and agreement with his concerns continue through Democratic President Bill Clinton, whose Vice President was Gore. All in all, Nader's stubbornness in 2000 can be attributed to long-time frustration, not just recent events. Hence, the title of the movie, based on George Bernard Shaw's quote.
Nader's contribution on environmental (clean water and air) and safety matters outside of autos could have been discussed a little more. Another possible item for inclusion might have been some specifics on some laws and regulations, enacted and recommended; then, it might have been interesting to hear debate on whether he was right or was going too far, etc. However, this documentary ran more than two hours as is, and it is very well done; it will be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone interested in the subject matter.
- an Unreasonable Man in an Absurd World 12/20/2008 12:00:00 AM by Tachikoma-2
I'm going to keep this very short.
The first time I heard of Ralph Nader was through a friend, eight years a go. Eight years a go when Gore was running against Bush. My friend told me to find information on Ralph Nader, he told me that Nader was something different and something special.
I am not an American, so I had very little interest in American politics those days. Regardless I decided to check out this "Nader creature". Well my friend was right. Nader was something different. I felt there was something odd, weird about him. Nader had this monotonous voice and he didn't give these easy to digest political speeches. He didn't promise "change" or talk about "no child left behind" acts. In fact Nader talked about facts.
It was then that it dawned me. The reason why I found Naders message to be so weird, was because he was telling the truth! In a messed up, corporate controlled world, what are the odds that the consumer activist actually knows what is going on? Nader is a consumer activist and people all around the world owe Ralph Nader a great deal. Look at what you wear, what you eat, what you drive, where you work, the computer you own and tell me that corporations don't have power over you. Don't tell me that corporations aren't interested in politics. Corporations invest in political personalities.
Nader is a man who has fought for the consumer all his life, and that's what we are in the west. We are consumers. So when Ralph Nader speaks, we should listen instead of throwing cakes at him.
- How will Ralph Nader be remembered? 6/2/2006 12:00:00 AM by nancyf-1
For many people Ralph Nader's entry into partisan politics has given them their first view of this man. The film gives a much richer view reaching back to his family and college days, and shows his quest for rights of the individual member of the public and for consumer advocacy in general have been a lifelong mission. Former coworkers and colleagues - many Nader's Raiders - are featured along with commentators who have followed him over the years.
The filmmakers are sympathetic to all aspects of Ralph, but (in the early cut I saw at Sundance '06) advocates for the original Ralph, champion of Everyman, the guy whom I thank daily as I reach for my mandated seat belt.