Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Revisited

(Welcome to 1939: Revisited, a column dedicated to taking a look back at some of the films of one of the most highly-praised years in film history and explaining why they still matter today. In this entry: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington tells a story of political corruption that resonates 80 years later.)

So far in this series, we’ve talked about movies that were either literal fantasies, like The Wizard of Oz, or, like The Women, set in an era and class so distant from our own that it might as well be a fairy tale. However, the next film is set in a place far more real, and far scarier: Washington, D.C.. It’s a film with a clear, uncomfortable message, but it’s still hopeful at its core: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Released in October of 1939, the movie launched its star, James Stewart, into the Hollywood stratosphere, and marked a turning point for its director, Frank Capra. It not only made waves in Hollywood, it set dominoes falling in Washington that partially led to the collapse of the studio system and even foreshadowed the dark era of the Hollywood blacklist. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington told a story about everything wrong with American government. The content of the film and its reception in Washington and the greater world say a lot about how media can bring light to uncomfortable truths – and what people do when faced with them. 

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Big Little Lies Courtroom Scene

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: no one involved in Big Little Lies knows a single damn thing about how family law works.)

Now comes Jessica Mason, having served as a family law attorney for many years and being of mostly sound mind, and MOVES that Sunday’s episode of Big Little Lies be stricken from the record due to its flagrant disregard for courtroom procedure in the name of drama. In the interest of clarity and justice, petitioner will present her case going forward in lay terms in the hope of providing context and understanding of these offences for the Audience.

Also: major spoilers for the most recent episode lie ahead.

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The Women Revisited

(Welcome to 1939: Revisited, a column dedicated to taking a look back at some of the films of one of the most highly-praised years in film history and explaining why they still matter today. In this entry: The Women feels reminiscent of modern blockbusters that focus on groups that don’t often get to dominate the screen.)

In our first installment of this series, we took a deeper look at one of, if not the most iconic motion pictures of all time, The Wizard of Oz. Nowadays, Oz is the defining film of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios and their images are so entwined that the old MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas is basically a Wizard of Oz homage, with it’s emerald walls and towering gold lions. But 80 years ago, Oz was just one of dozens of films released by MGM in ’39 that helped contribute to the studio’s continued domination of the box office. It wasn’t the crown jewel. If any film made in-house by MGM were to take that title, it would be one that debuted just a week after Dorothy went over the rainbow: The Women.

Many modern audiences may not have heard of this film, but its elements and success are highly instructive to things that are still happening in cinema today. It was promoted and propelled by what we’d now call inclusion as a gimmick: a movie showing only females, down to the pets and paintings. Even so, it was a huge, if isolated, step forward for representation. Textually, it’s still all about women’s relationships with men, even if they’re not seen. But in a broader sense, it’s about how women were used, seen and portrayed – and the ways Hollywood, MGM and the world were changing. 

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The Wizard of Oz revisited

(Welcome to 1939: Revisited, a column dedicated to taking a look back at some of the films of one of the most highly-praised years in film history and explaining why they still matter today. In this inaugural entry: Jessica Mason takes a whirlwind twister ride and revisits The Wizard of Oz.)

We live in a world with more movies and television available than we could ever hope to consume. With so much media all around us, it’s easy to forget a time when television didn’t even exist and movies were an event as exciting as a Broadway show, and sometimes just as hard to see. How we see movies nowadays is so different from how they were viewed in the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood, but the films of that era still loom large over our cultural landscape.

Classic films exist as a shared iconography, their influence extending so deep into our imaginations that we may not even know how important they were until we take a deeper look. And an astonishing amount of iconic films debuted in the year 1939: The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Stagecoach, The Women, Ninotchka, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and more. Eighty years later, the films of 1939 still matter, not just because of what they achieved at the time, but how they influenced and continue to impact culture to this day. This series will explore the classics of 1939 with 80 years of perspective; how they came to be, their influence on media, and what they still have to say. Since we’re looking at iconic movies, there’s no better film we could start with than The Wizard of Oz. Read More »

The Case Against Tyrion Lannister

(Welcome to Debate of Thrones, where a panel of Citadel-trained experts explain why someone deserves, or doesn’t deserve, to sit on the Iron Throne. In this edition: Tyrion Lannister may be a clever man, but he’s the last guy you want calling the shots.)

Don’t let the quips and the flashy entourage fool you, Tyrion Lannister is wrong for Westeros. You may be thinking that Lannisters who don’t sleep with their siblings have a solid record, after all Lord Tywin (rest his soul) saved King’s Landing more than once when our destruction seemed imminent. But the youngest Lannister apple has fallen far from the tree, he may even be a completely different type of fruit if Tywin’s suspicions are to be believed. Wit and wiles can only get someone so far, so let me lay out for you why the Imp of Casterly Rock should never sit on the Iron Throne.

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