Tag Archives: Mr Smith Goes To Washington

Films that encourage serious wanderlust

There are some films that you watch and, while you may be completely involved in the story line and the lives – or lack thereof – of the characters, at some point you stop, look at the picture, and think, ‘Damn, I want to visit that place.’ (Or, in the immortal words of Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there.”)

These are a few of the films that fuelled the wanderlust inside of me. They cover a variety of films – and destinations. If you haven’t seen them, check them out (or not. It can be detrimental to your bank account).

1. Before Sunrise

The first in Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s trilogy of films is also the one that fuels the desire to travel inside of me the most. Even though Before Sunset, the second of the three movies, uses some of the more touristy elements of Paris, and frames the city beautifully, Before Sunrise captures a romantic quality of Vienna that the other two are missing. Or, while not missing, they are not necessarily interested in capturing a burgeoning romantic atmosphere. However, this romantic quality not only draws me to the characters, it makes me want to go to Vienna and experience the city (and maybe even the romance) for myself.

2. The Lord of the Rings series

Credit: hopefuls-rph (Tumblr)

Yes, I know that it is a fantasy series, and no, I don’t really think that Rivendale or Hobbiton are real (although I would visit the hell out of them if they were, and, anyway, there’s always http://www.hobbitontours.com/). These films make me itch to visit New Zealand (and with my brother flying out there today it’s safe to say I’m pretty jealous). Say what you will about the LOTR trilogy – I love the series, by the by – it is difficult to argue with how beautiful the landscape hugging the film is. With all the mountains and rivers as the backdrop for scene after scene, anyone who sees those films and then doesn’t want to visit New Zealand afterwards is plain crazy in my opinion.

3. Mr Smith Goes to Washington

The picture above is not from Mr Smith Goes to Washington, it’s from my recent trip to the city. I was so excited upon stepping towards Lincoln’s statue in the Lincoln Memorial when I was in DC. I felt like Senator Smith walking up those steps as he closed in on the monument he’d wanted to see for his entire life. This is the film that made me want to experience Washington DC for myself. Surrounded by corruption, James Stewart’s senator is straight as an arrow and naive, and his love and admiration for the city is the best tourist advert I have ever seen for America’s capital.

4. Pride and Prejudice

Unlike the book, where the setting is rather secondary to the story, once you enter Derbyshire in the film, the place takes a leading role. It may not be the most exciting nor the most glamourous place in the world to talk about visiting with your friends and family, but P&P makes Derbyshire look like one of the most beautiful places in Britain and definitely one where you should make the effort of visiting. With incredible trees (seriously, at one point they’re sitting under one good looking tree), stunning houses and Keira Knightly standing on the edge of a cliff, dress going crazy, it makes it look like a pretty appealing place to explore. Hertfordshire and Kent look pretty too, as does Matthew Macfadyen (hello, rain scene), but to quote Miss Bennet, “What are men compared to rocks and mountains?” Derbyshire here wins the beauty contest.

5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Credit: Popscreen
Credit: Popscreen

I’m not sure if this film wants me to visit modern China, or the medieval perfection that is the setting in CTHD. Upon viewing this lovingly shot film I want to walk through a forest and see people fighting each other, balancing on leaves and the thinnest of branches that tower above me. I want to see people essentially flying around ancient cities, floating over beautiful little houses and across the roofs of palaces. The film creates an atmosphere that I would love to think China still possesses, and would hope to see if I travelled there.

6. Casablanca

Credit: Wikipedia

When in Marrakech I was told that Casablanca was nothing special, but when I watch the film that shares this city’s name (and is of course set there), I don’t believe them. Much like Before Sunrise, it may be the romance of the story that makes the city seem so interesting and inviting, as Casablanca still seems like a pretty great place to visit, despite being over run by Nazis.

Honourable mention: I don’t even know where Howl’s Moving Castle is meant to be set, I just know I want to go there.

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Review: Mr Smith Goes To Washington

About six months ago I watched this little gem of a film and fell completely in love. I am currently trying to watch all the films on IMDB’s Top 250 list, which I know is really cheesy, but it has introduced me to some wonderful films I didn’t know existed, such as this!

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It stars my favourite ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ actor James Stewart. Before anything else, I have to admit one of the reasons I enjoyed this film so much is because of him. I love James Stewart. He brought an energy to every project he worked in and is simply likeable in everything he did, whether it be a grumpy photographer avoiding committing to Grace Kelly and suspects his neighbour of murder in Rear Window, or a man who may or may not be insane as he talks to his best friend, after who the movie Harvey is named, an invisible, 6ft tall bunny rabbit. I have yet to see Vertigo (for shame!), but even a film that I am not as enamoured with as everyone else seems to be, It’s a Wonderful Life, is made enjoyable because of him.

He plays Jefferson Smith a naïve, easy-going leader of a troop of boy rangers in an unnamed state in America. He’s well liked by the community and loved by the kids he leads. He is made a senator by group of corrupt officials, including the Governor and the other state senator, Senator Paine, as well as the man who controls them, Jim Taylor. They believe they can control him. They do not, however, understand how honest and good intentioned he is. Senator Paine doesn’t want to manipulate Smith more than is necessary – as a close friend to Smith’s deceased father, he is a father figure to Jeff and cares for him. He encourages Smith to create a bill of his own, not realising how it will affect his own corrupt plans. After Jefferson discovers Taylor and Paine’s corruption they turn against him, and he realises just how powerful these people are.

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The supporting cast is fun and important, especially ‘Diz’, a journalist, and the President of the Senate. Stewart infuses Jeff Smith with a joy that is uninhibited and infectious. It permeates the film. He can’t believe how lucky he is to be in Washington, to see and discover this great city. As soon as he gets off the train he goes to see the sights, his favourite being the Lincoln Memorial. The shot of Smith standing at the foot of Lincoln’s statue looking up into the marble face, both of them captured in profile, is beautiful, as is the sequence of Smith, a little boy and his grandfather as the child reads Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

As the film progresses you can feel the loss of Smith’s joy as his enemies attack from all directions. His discovery that the man he idolised and trusted, Senator Paine, isn’t the man he thought he was hurts him and the viewer alike, and as you witness Jeff become steadily more broken, it breaks you too.

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I have not yet mentioned another major character in the film as I felt she deserved some space devoted directly to her. For if James Stewart guaranteed that I would like this film, Jean Arthur’s character Saunders made me love it. She is his secretary and knows more about Washington than he probably ever will. She’s smart and sarcastic; if this film wasn’t both made and set in the 1930’s she would have been a senator herself rather than secretary to them. Cynical due to her surroundings Saunders falls for the idealistic Jeff. (But then, who wouldn’t? Of course, my bias towards James Stewart could be blinding my judgement.) The character is wonderful. Arthur allows her steely personality to be warm and not abrasive. Even when hurt she is strong and doesn’t fall to pieces – Smith relies on her far more than she relies on him, something rare in films even now. Funny and intelligent, she is a brilliant creation and makes the film for me.

This isn’t a pure comedy. It will break your heart (at least it broke mine) and cause you to question both those who are meant to lead us as well as the character of people in general. I would guess this is a film that would hold even more meaning if one were American (not being so, I can only speculate). It is funny, but there is more here than just laughs. It is bigger than that; it longs for more than to make you simply chuckle and that’s what makes it wonderful.