Monday, August 25, 2014

Movie of the Week – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

This week’s movie: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Jefferson Smith is a naïve man who is appointed to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate by those in power in his state, thinking that he will not cause any trouble. Washington politics prove to be a rude awakening for Smith, as he decides to go head-to-head with political corruption, refusing to back down.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is one of American auteur Frank Capra’s greatest films. Capra promoted the ideals of American life with his films – a sense of morality and sentimentality. His best include: It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, You Can’t Take It with You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Arsenic and Old Lace, and It’s a Wonderful Life. On this film, he worked with composer Dimitri Tiomkin, cinematographer Joseph Walker, and art director Lionel Banks.

The cast is fantastic. The film stars James Stewart, and features Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold, Thomas Mitchell, and Harry Carey in support.

To some, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is sentimental nonsense. The film believes in moral people willing to stand up for what is right against seemingly insurmountable odds. Jefferson Smith is a man who cares deeply about what America means (freedom and so on) and wants to leave the country in better hands than he found it. The film may seem sentimental now because it is abundantly clear that Washington (and really government at almost every level) is completely corrupt and not filled with those looking to make the country or their states better (in almost all cases). Rather, our government has become a cesspool of special interest groups and powerful lobbyists who bog down and mare everything in their filth, as politicians now serve at the pleasure of those willing to fund their campaigns and give them jobs, speaking engagements, and other perks (these groups usually representing large corporate interests and religious groups – both of which put profit/ideology ahead of what is best for the country in the long run). We all know the system is desperately broken and completely disgustingly corrupt, but no one really cares. Today, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is nonsense because apathy has put us all in a deadly malaise. It is also poignant, however, because it showcases a man willing to fight against the system for something better. We should be so lucky to actually have men and women like that today. This film is just as powerful today because America is on the precipice of disaster. We were the leader in the world in almost every area. Now we fear progress, technology, freedom, immigrants, those who are different, knowledge – we champion ignorance, stupidity, lies, and fear. Apathy is easy when the system is so far gone that actually trying to do anything to make a difference just seems like a waste of time – and, our own lives consume all our time anyway. Again, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is just as important and powerful today. The smallest can make a difference, if only he or she would try and believe.

Trailer: Here
Available on: DVD and Video On-Demand

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