Out of print for more than 30 years, now available for the first time as an eBook, this is the controversial story of John Wooden's first 25 years and first 8 NCAA Championships as UCLA Head Basketball Coach. This is the only book that gives a true picture of the character of John Wooden and the influence of his assistant, Jerry Norman, whose contributions Wooden  ignored and tried to bury.

Compiled with more than 40 hours of interviews with Coach Wooden, learn about the man behind the coach. The players tell their their stories in their own words.

Click the book to read the first chapter and for ordering information. Also available on Kindle.

The Company You Keep (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 125 minutes.

OK for children.

What’s with Robert Redford, anyway? The last movie he directed, The Conspirator (2010), tried to make Mary Surratt, a woman who could stand as the most notorious villain in American history, into a misunderstood hero. Surratt was the mother of one of the conspirators who were involved in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. She could have stopped it. Instead, she helped the conspirators, was caught, tried, and hung, and properly so because the evidence against her was overwhelming. Redford’s movie cooked the books by ignoring the evidence against her and presented her as a sympathetic figure.

Now he bases this film on the case of Kathleen Ann Soliah, who was a member of the notorious Symbioneze Liberation Army (SLA) and participated in a bank robbery that resulted in the death of 42-year-old Myrna Opsahl, a mother of four who was in the bank depositing money for her church. Soliah immediately went underground, marrying, having children and living a quiet life in Minnesota before she was caught decades after the robbery and rightfully sentenced to prison.

Redford changes her name to Susan Solarz (leftwing icon Susan Sarandon), makes her a member of the Weather Underground (of which the equally notorious Bill Ayers was a leader) and the result is this sympathetic movie about people who bombed the Pentagon and other government offices decades ago.

Redford’s idea here is to put a human face on these violent ideologues. His theme seems to be that if something happened a long time ago and people have been in hiding and leading exemplary lives, let’s just forget the bombings and violent deeds for which they were responsible. Naturally, the nature of the crimes they committed is minimized so that their crimes seem to not to be anything other than memories. Redford apparently feels there should be no responsibility or punishment for what they did. (In fact, very few Weather Underground people were prosecuted for two reasons: illegal government wiretaps and amnesty granted by President Carter.)

Redford plays one of the members of the group who has also been living underground. Journalist Shia LaBeouf becomes suspicious and when Redford goes on the run, LaBeouf tracks him. Even though the basis of the film is offensive to lots of people who aren’t sympathetic to people who bomb government buildings, it is still a very entertaining film if you can suppress your opinion of the people who are pictured with such empathy by fellow-traveler Redford.

The cast is A-list, Chris Cooper, Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins, Terrence Howard, Julie Christie, Stanley Tucci, and Anna Kendrick, all of whom are a pleasure to watch. But better than that is the presence of Sam Ellliott, who has spent much of the past 30 years as a voice for commercials and animated films. Elliott has been a favorite of mine for a long time. His Lifeguard (1976) is one of history’s most underrated and underappreciated films.

There are dialogues that seem intended to picture these people as repentive, and originally misguided in their methods but are now basically harmless if not irrelevant. These scenes reminded me of the line from West Side Story when the Jets are justifying their violent behavior by telling Officer Krupke, “We’re depraved because we’re deprived.” I kept thinking of Myrna Opshahl and her children and couldn’t muster much sympathy for Redford and Christie and the rest of their compatriots.

Redford is a talented director and this movie epitomizes that talent. The point of the film irritated me, but I also enjoyed it, unlike Redford’s The Conspirator.

March 25, 2013