Tag Archives: Jimmy Stewart

Political Movies

Like many Americans, I am watching the primary races with a keen eye. Unfortunately, that has taken much of my time that I would normally watch movies. I want to share some of my favorite political movies.

Immediately, I think of movies like V for Vendetta as well as The Last King of Scotland but if I am going to look at American politics, there are two movies that stand out head and shoulders above the rest.

pres31All the President’s Men – I referenced this movie just a few weeks ago when I looked at Spotlight because of the parallels that I saw in the two movies in terms of journalism. But All the President’s Men shows not only the journalistic side but also the political side of the Nixon Watergate scandal. It is seriously compelling and is well worth the time to watch it.

james-stewart-mr-smith-goes-to-washington-2Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – I’m surprised that Marco Rubio doesn’t use this film on his Campaign trail. If you are unfamiliar, it tells the story of a man who is set to be a senator by the spineless governor of his state. He is a naive and idealistic and he wants to change everything starting from the building of a camp for children but his plans promptly collide with political corruption and there the true fight starts.

I enjoyed this movie because it addresses what we all know but never want to believe or talk about. How political corruption influences all of us and our lives as politicians and leaders just want to earn more and more wealth and power. But, this movie also shows us the other side of the story: a decent man who believes in something, and fights for his beliefs until the end. I might just write Jefferson Smith on my ballot.

Tell me what you think. What is your favorite political movie and why?

Vertigo (1958)

Vertigo-0022Vertigo is a psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The film stars Jimmy Stewart as a former police detective John “Scottie” Ferguson, who has been forced into early retirement due to his discovery of crippling acrophobia and vertigo. Scottie is hired as a private investigator to follow a woman, Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak) who is behaving peculiarly. The film received mixed reviews upon initial release, but has garnered acclaim since and is now often cited as one of the defining works of his career. It is currently listed at #65 on the IMDb Top 250, which I think is a travesty. It shows you what type of list the IMDb Top 250 is, to see this film and others, like Citizen Kane, outside of the top 50, but The Dark Knight currently holds the #4 place. But in the 2012 British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound critics’ poll, it replaced Citizen Kane as the best film of all time and has appeared repeatedly in best film polls by the American Film Institute.

I have to confess. This is one of those movies that you hear about and want to watch because others say it is so good. I’ve had it on my watch-list for years. This was one of the many Alfred Hitchcock films that my parents owned. But for some reason, unlike North by Northwest or The Birds or Psycho, I just never got around to watching this one. But I finally tackled this one on Saturday last year and have been digesting it ever since. This draft has literally been sitting in my project pile since March 2013 and if WordPress is correct in its count, I have made 67 different revisions in that time. Well, I finally watched it again tonight with the purpose of finishing what I started.

Ebert’s Great Movies Review from 1996

*** SPOILER ALERT *** Because of the nature of this film, I must warn anyone who reads further on that the rest of this review will contain spoilers. Please take the time to watch this classic before reading any more. *** SPOILER ALERT *** Continue reading Vertigo (1958)

Day 20 – 30 Day Movie Challenge

Favorite Movie by Your Favorite Actor and Actress

I like this category so much that I am going to break it into two days and do my favorite legacy actor and actress today, and my favorite modern actor and actress tomorrow. Of course, this will turn the 30 Day Movie Challenge into a 31 Day Movie Challenge, but I don’t mind. I have no criteria to separate these except that the classic stars must no longer be making films. Tomorrow, I will get around to my favorite modern actor and actress, but in the meantime…

My favorite classic actor is Jimmy Stewart. He was a tremendously prolific studio actor who worked with all the famous actors and directors of his day. He was known for his performances as an everyman, much like Tom Hanks today. And his beautiful co-star in Rear Window just so happens to be my favorite classic actress, Grace Kelly. She only acted for five years from 1951-1956, but she made a tremendous impact in those five short years even winning an Oscar for acting alongside Bing Crosby in the 1954 film The Country Girl. Sadly, her acting career was cut short by her untimely marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco. By becoming a princess, she gave up her acting career. However, I don’t know that I have ever seen a more beautiful or talented actress grace the screen.

In Rear Window, Jimmy Stewart plays a professional photographer named L.B. Jeffries who breaks his leg while getting an action shot at an auto race. Confined to his New York apartment during a heat wave, “Jeff” spends his time looking out of the rear window observing the neighbors. He begins to suspect that a man across the courtyard may have murdered his wife. He enlists the help Grace Kelly’s character (a high society fashion-consultant girlfriend named Lisa Freemont) and his visiting nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) to investigate the situation. Rear Window is currently listed on the IMDB top 250 at #22. It is one of my favorite movies, it has comedy, suspense, and romance.

Rope (1948)

20110403-102615.jpgAre there a special few individuals to whom the laws don’t apply, perhaps because they are educated at the finest schools or because they come from families with money or influence? What makes murder such a horrifying sin? Why don’t we cringe at other sins? Are there some sins that make the sinner feel superior? These are some of the questions that Rope concerns itself with. Not that it is a movie about these things, but as I watched it, my mind went to these questions. Rope is simply an adaptation of the true story of the Leopold-Loeb murder that took place in Chicago in 1924. In said murder, two wealthy and intelligent young men, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, killed Loeb’s 14-year-old second cousin Robert Franks for no other reason than the thrill of the kill.

In Rope our murderers are two similarly wealthy and presumably intelligent young men named Brandon and Phillip. However, instead of dispatching of a 14-year-old boy in the back seat of a rented car, they strangle a peer named David in their shared apartment and stow his body in a large trunk. The signature Hitchcockian twist comes when instead of disposing of the body in a more traditional manner, these well-to-do young men host a cocktail party and use the makeshift coffin as a dinner table, and the guests of honor are the boy’s father, aunt, and fiancé. It seems like the perfect murder, but an admired professor named Rupert Cadell (James Stewart) begins to sense that something is disturbing about this party and their master plan begins to unravel.

20110403-102233.jpgMy father had amassed a nice library of Hitchcock films by the time that I was old enough to start watching them. My first venture into the world and mind of Alfred Hitchcock, and my enduring favorite of his collection was North By Northwest. But I recall watching this nearly forgotten gem after Birds had scared the pants off of me and I was thoroughly hooked on the style, humor, and suspense of the master.

I believe that I was around 12 or 13 when I first watched Rope. It was on one of the lonely afternoons I spent alone after school waiting for my parents to arrive home. It may have been a forbidden activity, that might have originally drawn me to the cabinet filled to the brim with VHS gold. But it was the quality of the selections that drew me deeper in. 20110403-102217.jpgI am so very thankful that my parents didn’t care for most of the pabulum that was churned out during the late 70s and 80s. Instead they possessed a library of classics and future classics. Forget Airplane or Karate Kid, I would get to those later, I had Young Frankenstein and Indiana Jones to keep me company.

I’m not sure why Rope caught my eye with its unassuming title, mixed reviews, no guffawing humor, bodily functions, explosions, or nudity. In fact it fails to catch the attention of the adults it was created for, but in spite of all of that, it remains one of my top 5 all time favorite Hitchcock films, even though Hitchcock himself called it a failed experiment. You can actually watch a large portion of the film in a wonderful 3 part documentary on the making of the film called “Rope Unleashed.” Continue reading Rope (1948)