It was March 20, 2003. The American Civil War film “Gods and Generals” had opened in only a few cities, and Manhattan was one of them. Since I lived just 20 miles north of there, I was asked to review the film. The trouble was, George Bush had issued an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein, and if Hussein did not surrender by 8 p.m. EST, the United States was going to begin its Shock and Awe campaign. Manhattan had suffered the most severe terrorist attack ever experienced in the United States, and it continued to be the prime target for retaliation. I looked at my watch and did a few quick calculations. The film started at 2:00; it would be over at 5:00. If I hurried, I could make the 5:20 train afterward and be home a little after 6:00. The war was scheduled to begin at 8:00. I had just enough time to watch my movie and write my review. Of course, nothing happened to New York that night, or any night. But we were constantly on our guard in those days. That was the first review I wrote for Liberty. The movie wasn’t very good, but the review was, and Liberty’s founder and publisher, Bill Bradford, began publishing my reviews in nearly every issue. Libertarians aren’t known for organization or synchronization, so often the movie reviews were spotty. We might not have any for a month or two, and then three of us would send reviews of the same movie at once. To ease the problem of feast or famine, I offered to take on the job of entertainment editor in 2006, and I’ve been reviewing movies, books, and Broadway shows for these pages ever since. I use the phrase “these pages” nostalgically, for this is the final issue that will appear in print. Over the years I have enjoyed my position as movie reviewer. I love having a reason to go to the movies, and a reason to do more than just watch passively. Writing for Liberty has given me a voice, and it has also given me a reason to engage intellectually with the films I watch, whether they are good or bad. I hope my reviews have been helpful to our readers, but as a libertarian, I know that helping you is not my primary goal. I write these reviews because doing so pleases me, and if in the process it pleases you too, I am so much the happier for it.
Jo Ann Skousen
Jo Ann Skousen teaches literature and composition at Chapman University. She is the founding director of the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival, where this year she has selected several films on race in America, including “What Killed Michael Brown?” directed by Eli Steele and “Better Left Unsaid,” directed by Curt Jaimungal. Join the discussion this summer at the Elks Theatre, Rapid City South Dakota, July 21–24.