Watched, Read, Reviewed: January 2021

Happy February! Will try to stick to my resolution to at least post these monthly roundups (and hopefully on time) this year.

As January, the absolute dreariest & most depressing month of the year, was extra depressing this year thanks to the C word (not that C word) I watched way too many movies in an attempt to cheer up. So I’ll keep my comments on each brief.

MOVIES WATCHED IN JANUARY (ranked best to worst):

When Marnie Was There – There are very few Studio Ghibli movies I’ve not yet seen (mainly just have the non-Miyazaki ones left to watch). Desperate to see them all but also hate the thought of running out of them! So finally decided to watch this one & absolutely loved it. It just makes it into my Top Ten (which I need to update now) and is easily a favorite of the non-Miyazaki films. What I really liked was the story – there’s a bit of a mystery surrounding Marnie & I loved finding out her history. It’s a lovely, bittersweet film and was a great one to watch with my daughter, who also really enjoyed it. – 8/10

It Happened One Night – Although I’ve slowed way down on my 2013 IMDb Top 250 Challenge, I still try to watch a few Top 250 movies a year. This Frank Capra film was one I’d most been looking forward to watching & it didn’t disappoint. Clark Gable & Claudette Colbert were absolutely adorable together. I’m not exactly a girly girl & romance isn’t my favorite genre but I do seem to prefer the relationships in these older films. The couples had great chemistry in movies like these. Delightful movie! I should watch more pre-1970 films than I do. – 8/10

Black Narcissus (1947) – I thought this was some big classic but I don’t actually know anyone who has heard of it? Well, I think there’s some British TV adaptation right now that I have no interest in. I just know I’d seen images of the eerie looking building & bell high on a cliff lots in the past and have wanted to watch this movie for years based on the images alone. Well, that and the name Black Narcissus because it just sounds cool (named after a perfume if I remember correctly from the movie). Here’s the plot synopsis from IMDb for those unfamiliar with this British classic: “A group of nuns struggle to establish a convent in the Himalayas, while isolation, extreme weather, altitude, and culture clashes all conspire to drive the well-intentioned missionaries mad.

I enjoyed this one. It’s a beautiful looking film (as I was hoping from the images) and Deborah Kerr as Sister Clodagh is fascinating as the very stern nun in charge. There’s slowly building tension throughout, leading to an intense finale I’m happy had never been spoiled for me. There’s also a bit of sexual tension with a handsome Englishman. Sexual tension in old movies is the best! It’s why I love Brief Encounter. Am very glad I finally got the chance to watch this one while it was on BBC iPlayer (sorry, think it’s gone now). – 7.5/10

The Secret Of Kells – Having recently watched Tomm Moore’s gorgeous Wolfwalkers and having seen the equally beautiful Song Of The Sea a few years ago, I figured I’d finally check out his earliest animated film. For some reason, this one had appealed to me the least but I think I actually liked it the most. The animation style was of course fantastic (I’d happily put images from these films up on a wall) but I think I enjoyed the story in this one the most. Here’s the IMDb synopsis: “A young boy in a remote medieval outpost under siege from barbarian raids is beckoned to adventure when a celebrated master illuminator arrives with an ancient book, brimming with secret wisdom and powers.

If you’ve seen the others, I’d highly recommend this one as well. If you’ve seen none of these & like beautiful animation, fun characters & good folklore storytelling, these are all well worth your time. I saw this on iPlayer as well & think it’s still available. Here’s a second image from the film since there are so many great ones to choose from… – 7.5/10

Bringing Up Baby – Another movie I was happy to catch on iPlayer (it’s still available) and another one I was happy to cross off my IMDb Top 250 list. Sadly this is one that has disappeared from the Top 250 since that 2013 list I’m still working from. This was directed by Howard Hawks and stars Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. It’s one of those romantic “screwball comedies” from that era. I confess I don’t have much experience with this subgenre. I enjoyed this movie but not nearly as much as It Happened One Night. Grant & Hepburn are very cute together. Hepburn is truly the star of the film as the flighty & clumsy heiress with a leopard named Baby. It’s a sweet film & perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon. – 7/10

The Dig – This was fine. Not gonna lie – it’s not at all my type of thing but I’m absolutely desperate for current movie releases. Really missing my monthly cinema membership & seeing new releases regularly! I like Carey Mulligan, although her acting in these types of dramas is always a bit same-y, and I liked all of the characters in this (especially the Ralph Fiennes character). Speaking of cinema trips, you know what character I absolutely despised years ago?! That guy in those annoying Cineworld Unlimited adverts! Man, I still can’t believe he’s in actual movies now. I mean, he’s fine in this but he’ll forever be that jerk from those adverts to me (sorry, Johnny Flynn). Where was I? Oh yeah. This movie… The acting is fine, the true story is interesting if you like archaeology I guess, but it’s quite slow and character-driven so won’t be for everyone. I’m being generous with my rating as it’s a good enough movie but I’d never watch it again. – 6.5/10

Pieces Of A Woman – Again, this isn’t really my type of movie. If I were being honest, I’d stick my next movie above this & The Dig but it’s not nearly as “good” as these two. This one is all about the acting & Vanessa Kirby does put in a good performance. I actually preferred her performance as Margaret in The Crown, though. She’s good in this but I also didn’t feel the performance lived up to the hype. Am I allowed to say that?! I also felt that way about the thoroughly overrated (and throughly boring) Marriage Story. Are people just less picky with Netflix movies or something? Or am I just too picky? Anyway, I did feel for these characters & their terrible tragedy, although they were all very hard people to like. But everyone deals with grief differently & I can understand Kirby’s character becoming so emotionally detached. Not an easy movie to watch and certainly not one I’d watch again. Man, Ellen Burstyn knows how to pick the “I never want to watch this again” movies! Imagine this as a double bill with Requiem For A Dream… Or Surviving!! Ha! Bet none of you youngsters have seen THAT one! (I actually watched that thoroughly depressing TV movie multiple times, though. Loved it. Zach Galligan! Molly Ringwald! River Phoenix! I’m so Gen X). – 6.5/10

Escape Room – I enjoyed this, even though it was a bit f*^king ridiculous. Especially the very end, but most horror movies like these have stupid endings. I don’t know what to say about this… It’s the usual sort of shit but at least it has a fun idea & the different escape rooms the characters find themselves in are entertaining. When it comes to horror, I lower my expectations a lot as most modern horror sucks. I prefer the classics from the ’70s & ’80s. There have been some good ones in recent years, though (The Babadook, It Follows, and especially the delightfully bonkers Mandy which is very much my type of thing). But the good ones are rare so I’m happy to watch these lightweight & utterly predictable ones to pass the time in between the good ones. This was a bit like the recent Countdown and both have a Final Destination vibe (though not as good as that one, of course). Meh. I liked this. The characters were decent & the story was entertaining. I expect nothing more from this sort of thing. – 6/10

Tangerine – Not sure how to go about reviewing this one. I can’t relate to the lives of these characters in any way whatsoever but I enjoyed watching this “day in the life” film (I like those) & really liked the main characters played by Kitana Kiki Rodriguez & Mya Taylor. This is from Sean Baker, the same one who did The Florida Project. I quite liked The Florida Project but am still not sure why. Tangerine is very similar. I think I liked it? But I’m not sure why? If you like one, you’ll like the other (and if you hate one, you’ll hate the other). What an in-depth review! You’re welcome. Watch Tangerine if you like a good puke scene! (That was a lot of puke. Gross.) – 6.5/10

Sputnik – I was excited about this. Foreign sci-fi!! A Russian Alien!! Sadly, I was disappointed. I think it had a good idea (even though, yes, it’s very similar to Alien), the alien dude thing looked good, and the acting was decent. There’s even a mini twist at the very end. But… I dunno. It just didn’t quite work. I can’t explain why, though, as this is totally my type of thing. Maybe my expectations were just too high as one of my favorites last year was a foreign dystopian sci-fi film (The Platform). – 6/10

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – This was pretty crap. I think my daughter just really likes to watch movies starring The Rock (me too). You never know what you’re gonna get with these family films, though. Many are rubbish. But then you get one where they actually put some effort in & every age group is actually able to enjoy it. I’m thinking of a recent reboot with The Rock: Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle & The Next Level were loads of fun! Suppose we were hoping for something similar to those but this one was mostly just silly & had dodgy special effects. The tiny elephants were cute, though. I want one! Oh, we also read that you didn’t really need to see the first film first (2008’s Journey To The Center Of The Earth) but I’m thinking it would’ve helped. – 5/10

Movies Rewatched (lots of rewatches during lockdown! I don’t normally rewatch movies often – I’ll be even more brief):

The Jungle Book (1967) – Classic! Love this one & it’s always been one of my favorites for Disney songs. – 8.5/10

Despicable Me – I’m a Disney/Pixar/Studio Ghibli girl but I absolutely adore this Illumination film. The relationship between the adorably cheeky girls & hilariously grumpy Gru really makes these films work. AND a brilliant score from Pharrell Williams. AND, of course, the Minions. AND fluffy unicorns. “It’s so fluffy!” – 8.5/10

WarGames – Hadn’t seen this in years. It has aged better than I was expecting (except for the actual technology, obviously). But it’s still a thoroughly entertaining story and I’ll forever love the ’80s films I grew up on. – 7.5/10

Howl’s Moving Castle(Original review HERE). As I said above, I’m a huge fan of Studio Ghibli & especially love the ones directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Howl’s is as visually stunning & weird as all the rest but it’s never been an absolute favorite of mine as the story is just a bit too messy. I do love Ghibli weirdness but it just works better in Spirited Away for me. I’m still not sure what the heck is actually going on in Howl’s but do love the look & its characters (as with every Miyazaki movie). And Howl is hot with his Bowie-ness. – 7.5/10

Police Academy – I’ll always love the ’80s & its inappropriate humor. This one was even more inappropriate than I remembered! Ha! Filth. Good thing it’s not on the Disney channel – they’d have to slap a huge disclaimer on it since, you know, humans can’t be trusted to judge these things for themselves & must have history censored for them. – 7/10

National Lampoon’s Vacation – Surprisingly, I also hadn’t seen this John Hughes-written film in years either & was surprised to enjoy Police Academy slightly more. Not quite as good as I remembered but I still enjoyed it. Am just so used to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation now, which is far superior. – 7/10

Idiocracy – Again, a film that wasn’t as good as I remembered. I think with this one, I just loved (and still absolutely love) the concept. It’s scarily accurate. Especially after the last four years… We really are turning into a bunch of f*!king morons. The movie becomes more accurate with every year that goes by & for that I think this Mike Judge story is brilliant even if the execution could’ve been better. – 6.5/10

The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants – I really like this movie, even if it’s a little cheesy & “teenager”. Actually, my rating is a bit low as I probably don’t want to admit that I really like these characters & their stories. I like that we get four stories in one here (I always like movies like that – four for the price of one!). Some are better than others. I’ll rank them! The best story is definitely the Amber Tamblyn one where the cheeky young girl befriends her (that girl is the best character in the whole movie). Next is America Ferrera’s divorced family drama as I felt really bad for her (her dad & his new family were assholes & she was far too forgiving!). Next was the predictable Alexis Bledel Greece romance but Greece itself was gorgeous. Last was definitely the boring soccer romance drama (sorry, Blake Lively). Anyway, I like this movie more than I probably should & think my daughter really enjoyed it too. Much better than that Journey 2 crap! – 6.5/10

The Shallows(Original review HERE). Not sure why but I really like this Blake Lively shark attack story (more than her boring soccer romance drama – maybe this should’ve been her Sisterhood story!). It has a predictable backstory setup but, hey, the pretty blonde needs a reason to want to survive. Maybe I just like shark attack movies. I do enjoy most any kind of disaster movie… – 6.5/10

Shorts:

Pixar Popcorn – Of course we watched all of these super short Pixar shorts. For the most part, they’re not nearly as good as the longer ones we get before films (of course), but there are a few really fun ones here. Surprisingly, I liked the Ducky & Bunny ones the most (they weren’t favorite characters of mine from Toy Story 4). But the one where they argue over who is more lovable is hilarious. Here, I’ll rank them since I’m a pathetic, ranking fool!! (from best to “worst” but of course all are good):

1. Fluffy Stuff with Ducky and Bunny: Love
2. Dory Finding
3. Cookie Num Num
4. Fluffy Stuff with Ducky and Bunny: Three Heads
5. Chore Day – The Incredibles Way
6. Soul of the City
7. To Fitness and Beyond
8. Dancing with the Cars
9. A Day in the Life of the Dead
10. Unparalleled Parking

Modest Heroes (Kanini & Kanino, Life Ain’t Gonna Lose & Invisible) – Watched this collection on Netflix of three shorts from Studio Ponoc, who made the delightful Mary And The Witch’s Flower (from people previously with Studio Ghibli). These were fine but a little underwhelming. The final one, about a lonely guy no one can see, is the best. It’s still worth checking out these shorts if you like anime.

Canvas – This was a lovely short on Netflix as well about a man who loses his passion for painting after his wife dies. Not as powerful as If Anything Happens I Love You but still good.

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS IN JANUARY

BOOKS READ

Demon Seed by Dean Koontz – Am a big Dean Koontz fan (did a Top Ten list HERE). Honestly couldn’t remember if I’d read this one years ago but think I only saw the 1977 Julie Christie movie based on it. What was disappointing was that I didn’t realise the version I have is actually one that Koontz later re-wrote to update the technology in it & I assume references to specific actresses. I’m old – I can handle reading about out-dated technology. I’M out-dated technology! Anyway, this book is interesting as I’ve always been fascinated by the thought of machines taking over. (They will, you know!!). But it’s also creepy & very rape-y so not one I’d recommend easily to absolutely anyone. There’s a real “woman hating” thing going on here, but I think part of the point of the book is the dreaded “toxic masculinity”. I do wonder if that was as much a part of the original book or if Koontz put more of that in to fit more with the topics of today. – 3/5

Currently Reading Moon by James Herbert as I enjoyed that freaky deaky The Rats book.

TV SHOWS WATCHED

Cobra Kai: Season 3 – I’ve gone on about how much I adore Cobra Kai in previous posts so I won’t do that again. I’ll just say that I still love it. As expected, many shows go downhill and that’s the case with seasons 2 & 3 of Cobra Kai too but, luckily, I’d say they’re only going slightly downhill. This isn’t Stranger Things, where I couldn’t even finish Season 3. I still loved every moment of Cobra Kai Season 3 & the writing is still sharp and the characters are still strong. But, at this point, they’ve now covered most everything they can from the films and the teens have all fought each other in every way possible so I don’t see where they can easily go from here. But I’ll keep watching because I love these characters (especially Johnny – still can’t believe they turned that asshole around!).

The Crown: Season 2 & 2 episodes of Season 3: Oh man, I’m really not feeling the new cast in Season 3. Give me Claire Foy back! I hope these get better again, because I thought the first two seasons were great even though I only started watching this to get to the Diana years in Season 4…

WandaVision: Season 1 – Episodes 1-4 – I’m not a huge Marvel fan, although I’ve watched all the MCU movies and do like the characters. Am not sure what to think of this show but do love how original it feels. Being an ’80s latchkey kid who grew up watching loads of reruns of shows from the ’50s through to the late ’80s, I’ll always be fond of those shows and like that WandaVision is paying tribute to them (although the fake WandaVision shows aren’t as good as the original classic shows they’re spoofing). After episode four, I’m glad the story seems to be going in the direction I was expecting & I’m looking forward to watching the story fully unfold. But I’m hoping we get back to sitcoms next week as I want to see which ’80s one they do!

History Of Swear Words – This was fine. A fun throwaway show with lots of swearing. I love swearing, dammit. They covered a different word in each episode. Damn was one – how mild is THAT?! That’s not a swear word. Damn. Nicolas Cage was the perfect host for this. Although Samuel L. Jackson would have been better… Whoa – I have to update my Nicolas Cage Top Ten list!! Mandy would be number one now.

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

No plans besides posting these monthly updates. But I’ve been contemplating doing Top Ten lists again as I always enjoyed those…

What I’m really enjoying is trying to make the time to read movie blogs again. I miss the old days (I’ve been here 8 years) but there are some great new blogs. Have been feeling out of touch on movie releases where release dates are a nightmare thanks to the C word & I’ve not had time to read blogs to keep informed. And an old favorite blogger is back! Yay!! I mean old as in was here when I started… (I’d link him but not sure if he’s keeping a low profile). 🙂

Upcoming Movies I Want To See:

No clue. Are any movies coming out?! As I said, I’m very out of touch. I still need to catch up on 2020 films that haven’t been on U.K. streaming services yet…

As I end these posts with a music clip, I’ll go with a favorite from The Jungle Book as I mentioned loving the songs in that.

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

IMG_6156.JPG

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from MIB of MIB’s Instant Headache. He previously reviewed this film HERE. Thanks for joining in, MIB! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about It’s A Wonderful Life, IMDB rank 30 out of 250…

20140803-120817 am-497855.jpg

**WARNING: SPOILERS (but everyone has seen this, right?!) 🙂

It’s A Wonderful Life

US (1946) Dir. Frank Capra

Confession time: despite this being an all time classic that regularly appears near the top of every “Greatest Ever Films” poll and is as much a pre-requisite at Christmas as turkey and presents, this is my first time viewing this film. I know, that is regarded as heresy for a film buff but I’m sure we all have some skeletons in our film viewing closets.

As we all know the plot revolves around a man named George Bailey (James Stewart) who has reached the end of his tether on Christmas Eve after a life time of doing everything for the people of his home town of Bedford Falls. With his family business on the brink of collapse and a possible jail term staring him in the face, George decides the best thing for his family is to disappear for good. As his friends and family all pray to a higher power to give George a break, an angel named Clarence (Henry Travers), who has yet to earn his wings, is sent down to talk George out of killing himself by showing him what life in Bedford falls would have been like had he not existed.

By the time this film arrived in 1946, Frank Capra had already built himself a reputation as one of Hollywood’s top directors, having conquered Tinsel Town with such notable hits as It Happened One Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1938) which also starred James Stewart. However it is this bittersweet Christmas tale, based on the short story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern, that remains his most regarded and enduring and influential work – often imitated but never duplicated – which surprisingly was not a box office hit.

The story is actually much deeper than any synopsis suggests, with the bulk of the 130 minute run time spent looking back over George’s life, by way of an introduction for Clarence to his client. George is a good guy even from his early days, demonstrated when as young boy he lost the hearing in his left ear after saving his younger brother Harry from drowning. Later on he stops his drugstore boss Mr. Gower (H.B. Warner) from accidentally poisoning a customer. When he turned 21 George was about to go college then travel around the world but the death of his father (Samuel S. Hinds) placing him in charge of their loan business Building and Loan, putting him at odds with the majority shareholder and local moneybags Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), a grizzled and self-centred old man with a long standing grudge against the Bailey family.

Clarence doesn’t appear until the third act by which time, George has married his childhood sweetheart Mary (Donna Reed), had four kids and made many sacrifices to keep the business alive. Meanwhile everyone else has achieved the one thing that George always dreamed of: leaving Bedford Falls and seeing the world. Younger brother Harry (Todd Karns) becomes a war hero while best friend Sam Wainwright (Frank Albertson) makes his fortune in plastics, an investment opportunity George turned down! Via duplicity and pernicious manipulation Potter holds George accountable over the absence of $8000 from the company books, pushing him to his wits end. This leads to the Scrooge-esque travel to an alternate reality to help snap George out of his depressive and fatalistic funk.

Admittedly this doesn’t sound like the recipe for a feelgood Christmas movie – then again neither does A Christmas Carol – although the Christmas aspect is only pertinent for the finale rather than the plot as a whole, fundamentally making this is a film for all seasons, even though it seems to have latched onto the Christmas TV schedule (especially in the US) so it has morphed into a “Christmas film”. Everything else is universal in its themes, with the main moral of the story appearing to reinforce the old adage about nice guys finishing last. And for the most part this is the case until the final act flips the whole story on its head to deliver the now iconic happy ending to stop us from joining George from jumping off that bridge.

With years of hype behind this film prior to my seeing it, I had a concern I may not enjoy it or understand why it has become such an evergreen treasure for film buffs. Thankfully I needn’t have been concerned. Firstly the story is so incredibly well crafted, almost ahead of its time, and has a timeless core idea that it could have been set in any timeframe (but don’t tell Hollywood that – we don’t need a modern remake thank you!), making it so relatable to any generation. Secondly Frank Capra clearly has a vision beyond that of any other director of the time you care to name to make this work as a whimsical piece of comedy drama, giving equal weight to both facets rather than pandering to one over the other for commercial appeal.

Thirdly – James Stewart. Could anyone else have taken the role? Cary Grant? Spencer Tracy? Clark Gable? James Cagney? Stewart has a difficult character to inhabit with so many layers to him. Aside from expecting us to believe that the then 38 year-old Stewart was a 21 year old student in the first act (yes really!), his performance is flawless and imbued with the requisite sense of humanity and humility, attacking the role with a perceptive energy and commitment required for such a character that is rarely off screen. He is supported by some of the finest character actors of the time, headed by the legendary Lionel Barrymore, who is almost Churchillian in his portrayal as the malevolent antagonist Mr. Potter.

So, is It’s A Wonderful Life worthy of the high esteem, lofty plaudits and classic status in which it revels? Quite simply – yes! I’m just kicking myself for having waited so long to see it!

Mr Smith Goes To Washington (1939) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

20140730-074654 pm-71214845.jpg

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Ruth of Flixchatter and was originally reviewed HERE as part of the BlindSpot series. Thanks for joining in on my IMDB Challenge, Ruth! 🙂 Now let’s see what she has to say about Mr Smith Goes To Washington, IMDB rank 108 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

20140730-074914 pm-71354215.jpg

**WARNING: SOME SPOILERS

I didn’t realize that I’m doing another Frank Capra film back to back in the BlindSpot series! Well, I had initially wanted to do a James Stewart marathon after the Gregory Peck one, but I never got around to it. Well, I finally got to see it on President’s Day last weekend, what a fitting time it was and this film certainly lived up to its classic icon status. According to IMDb trivia, it’s ranked #5 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time (2006), and #26 Greatest Movie of All Time (2007) also by AFI.

It’s always wonderful to see when ‘the actor and the role meets,’ that is when a role seems to be tailor-made for an actor that it’s as he disappears into that character. I felt that was the case with Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, and here, Stewart seemed to have become Jefferson Smith despite not being the first choice for the role. The role was for Gary Cooper who’s supposed to reprise a similar one he did in Mr Deeds Goes To Town (also by Capra), but he was unavailable. Having seen this film, I can’t picture anybody else but Stewart in the role.

20140730-075005 pm-71405001.jpg

What’s interesting about this film is that even though the subject matter is about American politics, it doesn’t concern a specific party, we’re never told if Jefferson Smith was a Republican or Democrat. The state that he and Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains) come from was never mentioned, either. It’s a classic David vs Goliath story as Smith was a nobody in the grand political scheme when a governor of the unnamed western state picked him to replace a deceased senator. He’s picked because of his wholesome Boy Scout (or Boy Rangers in the film) image, the corrupt political boss Jim Taylor and his minions think Smith’s lack of experience think he’d be easy to manipulate. Of course things don’t go exactly to their plan.

The word ‘filibuster’ seems to have become a dirty word in Capitol Hill. Frankly I don’t know much about the intricate and twisted world of politics, so it was fascinating to see Smith getting lectured from his own secretary Clarissa Saunders on how to get a bill passed. It’s certainly one of my fave scenes from the entire film:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZFRP67sX8o

This is the first time I saw Jean Arthur in anything and her portrayal of Saunders is brilliant. Nice to see a smart and sassy female character, not unlike another heroine in another famous 1939 film, which took the Best Picture that year, Gone With The Wind. Now, Saunders is nowhere near as manipulative as Scarlett O’Hara of course, but she’s also beautiful and knows her way around a man’s world.

20140730-075058 pm-71458453.jpg

The whole conflict revolves around building of a dam by the Willett Creek, which is the same area of land where Smith wants to build his national boys camp. Naturally Smith is no match for the Taylor Machine in terms of money and clout, and the political Goliath is determined to crush David by any means possible. Having been *crucified* (that’s the exact word used by Rains’ character) by the Taylor Machine, Smith was ready to give it all up when Saunders persuaded him not to. That propels him to launch a filibuster to clear his name just before he’s kicked out of the Senate.

I was totally engrossed in the story from start to finish, and the third act is certainly the most rousing part. It’s certainly an inspiring story told with an unapologetic sense of virtue. A dissenting voice against this film is perhaps that it lacks subtlety. At times perhaps the audience, especially those on the cynical side might feel they’re being hit over the head with the morality lesson. But you know what, I happen to think it’s great to see a film that celebrates goodness and everything we should aspire to as a human being. I wrote in this post that people may find a hero that stands for truth, justice and the American way so darn boring. I beg to differ on that front. Smith is no superhero, he has no superpower of any kind, but he certainly has the power to inspire others to stand up for what’s right no matter what the cost. In essence, that’s what a true hero is all about.

20140730-075303 pm-71583368.jpg

As I mentioned before, Stewart is perfectly cast as Smith and he certainly makes for a protagonist worth rooting for. The supporting cast is superb all around. Speaking of GWTW earlier, well, it’s fun to see Pa O’Hara here, aka Thomas Mitchell as journalist Diz Moore who’s in love with Saunders. My favorite is Claude Rains as the Senator whom Smith looks up to but ends up betraying him. His emotional struggle throughout the film is palpable and fascinating to behold and Rains has the charisma and gravitas to own a scene. I’ve only seen him in Casablanca before this, so I’m hoping to catch more of his films.

This film is full of rousing scenes as well as humorous moments. Smith’s obvious naivete is amusing and endearing but never ludicrous. There’s a hint of romance between Saunders and Smith, but yet it never took over the story which I thought was refreshing.

The ending doesn’t end with a neat little bow as our protagonist collapsed in exhaustion after talking non-stop for 24 hours, but he remains defiant and even hopeful to the end.

Jefferson Smith: I guess this is just another lost cause Mr. Paine. All you people dont know about lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for and he fought for them once. For the only reason any man ever fights for them. Because of just one plain simple rule. Love thy neighbor. And in this world today of great hatred a man who knows that rule has a great trust. You know that rule Mr. Paine and I loved you for it just as my father did. And you know that you fight harder for the lost causes than for any others. Yes youd even die for them. Like a man we both knew Mr. Paine. You think Im licked. You all think Im licked. Well Im not licked. And Im gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause. Even if this room gets filled with lies like these. And the Taylors and all their armies come marching into this place. Somebody will listen to me.

The change of heart of the antagonist may seem abrupt here but I think Mr. Paine have been convicted that what he did was wrong long before he finally had the courage to confess it.

20140730-075346 pm-71626988.jpg

Well, this is the third film from Frank Capra and I definitely see a definite pattern in his films. There’s a timeless quality about it, as his film seems to be relatable for any era because its message and its ideals are not confined by a specific time frame. No matter what year it is, greed, oppression and exploitation are never a good thing, and we’ll always root for someone who perseveres to rise above improbable odds.

I’m so glad I finally caught Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It’s definitely enjoyable and thought-provoking. A true classic that I certainly don’t mind watching again.

4.5 out of 5 reels