An Attempt at an Intelligent Discourse on Two Classic Films (Part One)

So, a few days ago another blog reminded me about the AFI Top 100 List of movies, and, curious, I pulled it up and figured out how many I had seen. (40 out of the 123 at that time)…(the 123 comes from combining the original list with revision in 2007. I figure if a movie was good enough to make the list once…). I then noticed that a couple of the movies I’ve always wanted to watch and never got around to were on the Netflix Watch Instantly. So, for the past two days I’ve watched two classics off the list: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and All About Eve.

Now, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington feels a bit like a more starry-eyed, less hard-bitten version of The West Wing (and most of the time, West Wing ain’t that hard-bitten, I gotta tell you). There are some rousing speeches on the government, and the people and all that jazz. And Capra has an extended montage where he films all the nation’s grandest monuments with the affectionate caress of soft focus usually reserved for a leading lady during a love scene.

Jimmy Stewart is just adorable with his endearing, misbehaving hair and absolute earnestness. There were some hilarious moments in the movie, like ol’Jimmy whistling in the Senate during his filibuster to see if the newspaper-reading senators “still had faces.”

Where this film really fell down for me was on two points: the ending, and the overall length. For a 2 hour plus movie there wasn’t much meat to this movie. And scenes that I wanted to see I didn’t get, to wit: the ending! Abrupt much? Jimmy Stewart faints, and the bad senator tries to shoot himself and then runs into the senate in literally the last two minutes of the movie. And then everyone screams “Yay” and that’s it. That’s all. There’s no real resolution to the romance between Stewart’s character and his secretary. We don’t get to see the “Taylor-made machine” get dismantled.

We don’t even find out whether Smith gets his boy-camp or not. (And I can’t help thinking how easy it would be for Taylor to say Jefferson Smith and Payne were in it together, so I’m not sure Payne’s confession really fixes anything). I think Capra could have cut out some of the monument montages and taken less time showing how EBIL Mr. Taylor and his cronies were (They try to run innocent boys off the road for trying to tell the truth! Oh, the humanity!) and given us a real resolution to his movie.

Next time: Why All About Eve is All Around Awesome…

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