(these films are not coming to a theatre near you)

This list is a response to repeated student requests for quality films to watch. Be forewarned: Unless you are multilingual, prepare for subtitles and not all these films are for everyone (just move on down the list!). I list films in the order that I imagine the non-film buff will find most accessible.

Cache, Haneke

Wings of Desire, Wenders

The Third Man, Reed (Welles)

Spring. Summer, Fall, and Spring  Ki-duk

Shadows, Cassavettes

Citizen Kane, Welles

To Live, Zhang Yimou

Ripley’s Game, Scott

Touch of Evil, Welles

The Lives of Others, von Donnersmarck

Talk to Her, Almodóvar

Repulsion, Polanski

Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Herzog

La Strada, Fellini

Amour, Haneke

The Bicycle Thief, De Sica

The Rules of the Game, Renoir

The Turin Horse, Tarr (not for those with ADD)

Touch of Evil, Welles

Wild Strawberries, Bergman

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Fassbinder

M, Lang

White Ribbon, Handeke

Raise the Red Lantern, Yimou Zhang

Dead Man, Jim Jarmusch

The Killing of Chinese Bookie, Cassavettes

Solaris, Tarvosky

Stroszek, Herzog

Farewell My Concubine, Kaige Chen

Jules and Jim, Trufffaut

Umberto D. De Sica

Belle de Jour, Buñuel

The Complete Metropolis, Lang

Breathless, Godard

Bad Education, Almodóvar

Ikiru, Kurosowa

Grand Illusion, Renoir

Werckmeister Harmonies, Tarr

The Three Colors Trilogy, Kieslowski

400 Blows, Truffaut

Mirror, Tarvosky

Seventh Seal, Bergman

The Stalker, Tarvosky

Last Year at Marienbad, Godard

Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight), Welles

The Marriage of Maria Braun, Fassbinder

Rashomon, Kurosawa


Addams, Jane.1999 [1910]. Twenty Years at Hull-House. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.
Buber, Martin. 2002 [1947]. Between Man and Man 2nd ed. New York: Routledge
Clark, Septima. 1990. Ready from Within. Trenton, NJ: African World Press.
Gardner, Howard. 1999. The Disciplined Mind: What All Students Should Understand. New York: Simon &
Highet, Gilbert 1977 [1950]. The Art of Teaching. New York: Vintage.
Horton, Myles. 1997. The Long Haul: An Autobiography. New York: Teachers College Press.
James, Williams. 2001 [1899].Talks to Teachers on Psychology and to Students on Some of Life’s Ideals. Mineola, NY: Prometheus Books.
Lemert, Charles and Esme Bhan, Eds. 1998. The Voice of Anna Julia Cooper. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Palmer, Parker J. 1997. The Courage to Teach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Rose, Mike. 1989. Lives on the Boundaries. New York: Penguin Books.

Strict conformity of opinion is the enemy of intellectual liberty — and both conservatives and liberals fall into this trap. 

By Monte Bute


Regardless of one’s belief system, political creed or group affiliation, we are all susceptible to an intellectual short circuit — groupthink. Groupthink seeks conformity by stamping out dissent. The stronger an in-group’s loyalty, Irving Janis writes, “the greater the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions directed against outgroups.”

Nothing demonstrates this like presidential elections. Mark Twain’s 19th-century quip remains true today: “Men think they think upon the great political questions, and they do; but they think with their party, not independently; they read its literature, but not that of the other side.”

Devout conservatives religiously digest the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard, and watch Fox News; doctrinaire liberals faithfully consume the New York Times and Talking Points Memo, and watch MSNBC. Few in either camp are ecumenically inclined.

Stereotyping and scapegoating flow from groupthink. Reactionaries pummel the poor, immigrants and women. Progressives torch Wall Street capitalists, fundamentalist Christians and white males. The irony is that while both factions astutely call out their antagonists’ faulty generalizations, each remains oblivious to its own.

What’s the remedy? First, one must recognize having fallen prey to group thinking. This insight often occurs with the disturbing experience of cognitive dissonance — the mental discomfort caused by holding two contradictory ideas at the same time. Perhaps F. Scott Fitzgerald put it best, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

In the last half of the 20th century, the eminent economist Albert Hirschman best exemplified Fitzgerald’s definition of “a first-rate intelligence.” In the midst of the Reagan counterrevolution, liberals sought to grasp the conservative mind. Hirschman, himself a liberal, did not limit his inquiry to the contemporary scene. Instead, in “The Rhetoric of Reaction,” he returns to the French Revolution and examines 200 years of conservative rhetoric opposing social change.

Hirschman discovered three perennial rhetorical strategies pursued by reactionaries.

  • The Perversity Thesis— radical social change will result in outcomes that only worsen the condition that progressives seek to alleviate.
  • The Futility Thesis— pursuing social transformation is futile because the laws of social order are immutable.
  • The Jeopardy Thesis— as desirable as a reform is “in principle,” the practical cost or consequence will endanger previous accomplishments.

Had Hirschman ended his book there, he would have won universal applause from his liberal allies for exposing conservative groupthink. Fortunately, he had a “propensity for self-subversion.” He explained: “Skepticism toward other people’s claims … is, of course, not a particularly noteworthy characteristic. It is, however, more unusual to develop this sort of reaction to one’s own generalizations or theoretical constructs.”

To the chagrin of his liberal colleagues, Hirschman had a moment of self-subversion as he was finishing the book — reactionaries have no monopoly on this sort of intransigent rhetoric. He realized that he and his friends inhabit a parallel universe of groupthink and added a chapter on the symmetrical theses of progressive rhetoric.

  • The Desperate Predicament Thesis— the old order is irreparable and a new order must replace it, regardless of possible unintended consequences.
  • The History Is on Our Side Thesis— inevitable historical forces, which are futile to oppose, justify progressive action.
  • The Imminent Danger Thesis— inaction will result in disastrous consequences.

I contend that the most significant obstacles to independent thought are not the usual suspects, such as governments and corporations. The danger is closer to home. Our friends are often the enemies of our free thought. People suppress contrary perceptions and opinions when they must take a public stance in the presence of fellow group members.

There is one liberty that no group (libertarians included) really wants its members taking to heart — intellectual liberty. Intellectual liberty is not free. On the contrary, freedom of thought is like a sown seed, requiring a citizen to nurture it.

Monte Bute teaches sociology at Metropolitan State University.



No one who knows Monte Bute, a firebrand of a sociology professor, would say he’s afraid of speaking his mind. In just the past year, he has accused his employer, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU), of pandering to corporate interests and turning its relationship with faculty into a “Greek tragedy.”

But now Bute, 70, is stepping away from his official role as a faculty union leader so he can REALLY let his opinions fly.

“I have never been known for being appropriately politic,” says Bute, a onetime antiwar activist who once served time in the Red Wing boys’ reformatory. But, he admits that he’s been asked to tone it down on occasion during his past four years as state action coordinator for the Inter Faculty Organization (IFO), the union representing thousands of Minnesota state university instructors.

Last week, he notified union officials that he would not seek another term, after his last one expires today, “in order to write and speak without restraint.” He signed the e-mail: “Your crazy uncle, Monte.”

As action coordinator, his main job was to mobilize the members behind important issues — “Sort of an agitator in chief,” he says. But his sometimes blunt talk wasn’t always appreciated, especially about MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone. (Bute has referred to him as “the archbishop of MnSCU.” Rosenstone has declined to comment).

“He’s been exceptionally valuable to the union,” says Jim Grabowska, the IFO president. But he suspects that Bute chafed against the internal constraints. “That’s Monte,” he said.

Bute says he has no plans to retire as a professor at Metropolitan State University. And he’ll continue to crusade against what he calls the “corporate takeover of higher education” — turning colleges into training grounds for private businesses.

 “Eventually, if unchecked, [it] will destroy the meaning of higher education in Minnesota,” he said. “It will be little more than a hiring hall.”

After writing several novels, in 1832 Balzac conceived the idea for an enormous series of books that would paint a panoramic portrait of “all aspects of society.” . . . Although he originally called it Etudes des Mœurs (Study of Mores), it eventually became known as La Comédie Humaine, and he included in it all the fiction that he had published in his lifetime. (Wikipedia)

Pere Goriot

Balzac transposes the story of King Lear to 1820s Paris in order to rage at a society bereft of all love save the love of money. This example of the French realist novel contrasts the social progress of an impoverished but ambitious aristocrat with the tale of a father, whose obsessive love for his daughters leads to his personal and financial ruin. (Amazon)

Eugenie Grandet 

In a gloomy house in provincial Saumur, the miser Grandet lives with his wife and daughter, Eugénie, whose lives are stifled and overshadowed by his obsession with gold. Guarding his piles of glittering treasures and his only child equally closely, he will let no one near themHere Grandet embodies both the passionate pursuit of money, and the human cost of avarice. (Amazon)

The Human Comedy: Selected Stories

Characters from every corner of society and all walks of life—lords and ladies, businessmen and military men, poor clerks,  unforgiving moneylenders, aspiring politicians, artists, actresses, swindlers, misers, parasites, sexual adventurers, crackpots,  and more—move through the pages of The Human Comedy. (Amazon)


Six police officers to be criminally charged in Freddie Gray’s death

“I heard your call for no justice, no peace,” the state’s attorney said.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/05/freddie-gray-death-homicide-baltimore-117551.html#ixzz3Yu7mwxN9

My Dear Friend,

The Baltimore uprising has prompted you to ask, “How is rioting and looting going to solve the problem?” My colleague Jeff Langstraat offers a concise answer: “No, burning down a CVS won’t solve the problem. Neither does focusing solely on the folks burning down the CVS, to the exclusion of other protesters, or to the simmering issues of economic disinvestment and ongoing police brutality.”

“A riot is the language of the unheard,” Martin Luther King.

Many public officials and a majority of Americans still think that African Americans themselves are the problem. You argue that riots and looting “are an insult to human intelligence and dignity.” That assertion is one that only privileged bystanders have the luxury of making. Perhaps you need to re-examine your idea of what is an insult to dignity. For those who are murdered, brutalized, humiliated, exploited, and segregated by American Apartheid, riots are the terrifying scream of a people living in 21st-century bondage. Think of these actions as latter-day slave revolts.

You speak of “human rights.” In these times, that concept is an empty abstraction. In occupied and oppressed urban neighborhoods, mere survival is the first order of business. These riots are the visceral voices of a long-silenced people. Remember, you cannot solve a problem until the majority population and public officials recognize what the problem really is—and it ain’t rioting.

The last time this centuries-old problem was officially acknowledged was during the 1965-68 riots in Watts, Chicago, Detroit, Newark, Tampa, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Washington D.C., Baltimore, etc. In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson appointed the Kerner Commission. Its report was scathing: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”

What Martin Luther King said in a 1968 speech, “The Other America,” still echoes true today.

“Now I wanted to say something about the fact that we have lived over these last two or three summers with agony and we have seen our cities going up in flames. And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non-violence . . . But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society.

“These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

Make no mistake, I neither condone nor condemn the Ferguson and Baltimore riots. I seek only to awaken the sleepwalkers among us. As the Old Testament’s Jeremiah admonishes us, “Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people, Who have eyes but do not see; Who have ears but do not hear.” When called upon to seek justice, all too many of us have a self-satisfied response—I am not my brother’s keeper.

Your steadfast friend, Monte


Six police officers to be criminally charged in Freddy Gray’s death

“I heard your call for no justice, no peace,” the state’s attorney said.”


Historic street battles took place for four days during the May 1972 antiwar protests at the U of Minnesota. Britt Aamodt of KFAI interviews two who were there: A reporter, Bill Huntziker and an activist, Monte Bute. Her outstanding 27-minute radio show has great stories of riot police, helicopter tear gassing, National Guard troops and, most importantly, 5-6,000 determined antiwar activists. Save it to listen later.



The year is 1970 and the disastrous Vietnam War keeps escalating. Protests are erupting all over U.S. campuses. But in Minneapolis, word that the national Red Barn Restaurant chain wants to erect a new fast-food franchise in old, venerable Dinkytown, the “war at home”  takes a different turn. This stunning documentary chronicles the unprecedented 40-day, 40-night continuous Dinkytown “Occupation” to prevent construction of an unwanted hamburger joint.

From film programmer-turned-filmmaker Al Milgrom, the story is recounted by seven participants whose varied reminiscences about defending the neighborhood becomes a microcosm of the memorable ‘70’s Generation. Music featured in the film by Bob Dylan, Willie Murphy.

March 20. 2015

Monte Bute

At age 16, I stood outside my local high school and extended my left arm, displaying my middle finger in salute — I was dropping out. That act of defiance, coupled with a history of petty crime, led to my being sentenced me to a juvenile prison.

After graduating high school at the prison, the state paroled me early. While I was working in the Twin Cities at a couple of mind-numbing jobs, someone suggested to me the harebrained scheme of going to college.

I called up my father and told him of my latest delusion of grandeur. He was unimpressed; college was not on my family’s radar screen. I asked if I could temporarily live at home to earn some tuition money. He was skeptical: “Do you remember how badly things went when you last lived with us?”

Eventually, he relented. When I arrived home, there was only one job opening, and I soon discovered why. The job was at the local turkey factory. My job was to pull the live turkeys out of the delivery truck, lift them upside down and hang them eye-high by their feet as they went in on the conveyor belt for the kill.

I persevered, and within a couple of months I landed at Austin Junior College. Even for a longshot like me, it was a bet worth taking. They had open admissions, and tuition was the semester equivalent of $7.50 per credit hour. I had enough of a bankroll to pay tuition, rent a $7-a-week room and find a part-time job.

It was, at best, a mediocre school with maybe 250-300 students and 15 faculty members. Perhaps appropriately, the college occupied the third floor of the local high school.

Nonetheless, it was a college — something that had seemed unattainable just six months before.

Even here, I was badly overmatched. I always had a textbook balanced on one knee and a college dictionary draped over the other, as I navigated a rudimentary understanding of American and European history, literature, psychology, and humanities. At the end of my first term, I received a B- and two Cs. Truth be told, it was close to Christmas and those two C grades were gifts.

Despite that early lack of promise, I soon became the reclamation project of Rod Keller, an erudite sage with contrarian impulses. He saw in me a potential that had escaped the notice of my parents, my K-12 teachers and, most importantly, myself.

He prodded, he cajoled, and he flattered: after a couple of years, the liberal arts awoke me from my slumber. I came to realize that for my first 18 years, I had been little more than a sleepwalker: The lights had been on, but nobody was home.

Looking back, that junior college experience reminds me of the cataract surgery I had at age 60. Suddenly the gray, speckled fog that hung over the world metamorphosed into a brilliant, and almost blinding, array of vivid color.

After a long circuitous journey, I eventually became a professor at a public university. Today my students work far too many hours, usually at low wages, face conflicting family obligations, take more credits than they can handle and, given the hyper-inflation of tuition, end up with debt that seems as insurmountable as that of Greece.

A good share of these students fit Saul Alinsky’s social category of the “Have-a-Little, Want Mores.” Even though the odds are against them, most will get through and some will flourish. However, America also has millions of “Have-Nots.” Many in this lowest stratum will never get the chance for a post-secondary education.

Income inequality in the United States today is the greatest since 1928. Given that the “haves” dominate policy debates, legislation redistributing income is hardly possible today. The only politically feasible means of reducing inequality is making higher education more accessible and affordable. That said, the have-nots need skin in the game as well. Increased educational opportunity is meaningless unless the students are also all in.

Fifty years ago, I was hardly college material. Rock-bottom tuition rates gave me a chance to develop my aptitude. That was true for many in my generation. We made it because our government made an investment in us. In turn, we made significant personal investments in our own education. The dividends of that joint venture were substantial — both for ourselves and our communities.

We should do no less for our children and our children’s children. In America, higher education should not be limited to the more fortunate. We need to believe, once again, in the redemptive power of community colleges.

Monte Bute teaches sociology and social science at Metropolitan State University