Monday, July 27, 2009

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Frank Capra, 1939, bw (9.1*)
The perfect film for an inauguration and new era of optimism, Mr. Smith is Frank Capra’s idealistic tribute to the spirit of democracy. Jimmy Stewart is a populist Senate candidate, one who vows to bring government back to the citizens and fight for what’s right, even standing up to his own party in Congress. He is appointed to office, and his political naivity is tested by the corruption he uncovers.
Naturally he becomes hated in Washington by those in power but at the same time he’s also a hero of the people, and especially his girlfriend, played by Jean Arthur, who helps him legally in his fight. We need more films like this, and Capra was the master of this type of optimistic Americana. Sadly, Capra's Magic Town, about a town used by pollsters to predict elections, is not available on dvd, but it's another political satire as well as a great look at small town America, self-awareness, and the nature of voters and the media. Mr. Smith is #128 on our top ranked films survey.

Note: according to Robert Osborne on Turner Classic Movies, the US Congress saw an advanced showing of this film and tried to ban it by offering Columbia 30% over the cost for the movie so they could destroy it, as it attacks political corruption in the Senate. Capra talked Columbia into showing it, that this was exactly the type of corruption the film was about, politicians who answer to special interests for money and not to the welfare of the citizens. Ironically, the movie was banned after release in Nazi Germany and communist USSR, so the US Congress was trying to side with those fascist governments re censorship! Live and learn people, our 'enemies' ideas are alive and well in the minds of those easily bought out for money, the same type of fascism prevails in all those that would censor individual expression and call it 'national security' or 'treason' or some such nonsense. They forget we were founded by 'treasonous revolutionaries' who risked death for our version of liberty, seven million laws and all, regulating everything we eat, drink, think, take as medicine, see in the media, or are allowed to say at work, school, or in public. Did I miss anything? Oh yeah: all travel is controlled by 'papers' (visas, passports, etc), and enforced by armed guards at all borders, and then inside those borders as well. It's a giant prison planet - where does freedom exist nowdays?
[Updated: 7.28.09]

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.



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