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Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington  

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  1. 1. Does Mr. Smith Goes To Washington belong on the AFI list?

    • ūüĎć Guilty as charged.
      7
    • ūüĎé Guilty as FRAMED!
      2

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  • Poll closed on 11/23/18 at 08:00 AM

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4 minutes ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

 

I think if we dropped this whole Taylor/Payne corruption plot and just focused and the realities of passing Senator Smith's bill.  How his good intentions had consequences that, which may have been justified, would have made his wholesome, simple Americana idea actually more complex that have to be figured out and reckoned with - I think I would have liked this movie more.

I think one of the main points of the movie was the Taylor/Payne corruption because it gets at how government (as seen with earmarks) can be used for good like idyllic parks for boys' enrichment, or for personal enrichment. And also whether certain corrupt actions can work toward the ultimate public good, like other achievements of Payne. As it is, the movie not only gets at the legislative sausage-making, but also the corruption and personal dealings that go one, and whether the ends can justify the means. 

On a completely different note on the wild circumstances of Jefferson Smith's appointment - I think that was necessary to find someone who goes in with zero idea about politics and legislation, zero political ambitions, zero policy preferences, and positive public regard. I think Capra was playing with the idea of dropping an absolute stranger or alien, one with the most honest civic-minded intentions and ideals, and just drop him straight into the middle of things for a fresh criticism of government. 

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2 hours ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

I do just adore this movie, but the contract with the boys is concerning ;)

I think it's abundantly clear that I have a lump of pitch-black coal where my heart should be.  It was required to get that necessary vote from the representative of West Virginia.

I'm sure there are light-hearted fun movies I enjoy.  I'm sure there are sentimental movies that get to me.  I just don't know if they are any on this list though... 

I mean, besides Duck Soup.  Fwiw, I do like The Hudsucker Proxy.  There's a hoola-hoop around that lump coal, I guess.  Like a ring of Saturn.

2 hours ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

I think one of the main points of the movie was the Taylor/Payne corruption because it gets at how government (as seen with earmarks) can be used for good like idyllic parks for boys' enrichment, or for personal enrichment. And also whether certain corrupt actions can work toward the ultimate public good, like other achievements of Payne.  As it is, the movie not only gets at the legislative sausage-making, but also the corruption and personal dealings that go one, and whether the ends can justify the means. 

On the latter part, does it though?  The "certain corrupt actions can work toward the ultimate public good, like other achievements of Payne", I feel like that's presented more as a rationalization as a warning of the slippery slope of compromise.

When talking about it, Payne's choice of words I think were, "you have to do grafts to get any of your legislation passed."  Well, going back to the road to nowhere, I remember years after that whole fiasco, I remember reading an article where they interviewed people who lived in nowheresville, Alaska, and you know, for them, they could have really benefited from that road.  It also would have brought money into the state for the people who had to work on the road and would have improved the lives of those people, who presumably lived there.  Was this graft and probably a poor use of public funds even though it didn't necessarily enrich the personal life of the senator who wanted it (I can't remember if it did or didn't enrich their lives or had a Payne-like donor enrichment.  But let's say it didn't) - the answer was probably still yes.  Given the country's poorly maintained infrastructure system, the funds probably could have been better spent on that (not that not funding the road to nowhere meant those funds would go towards that); the money was just being appropriated to get a vote. Sometimes the graft is self-serving graft, sometimes the graft is constituency-serving graft (sometimes gratuitously bribing, sometimes just poor prioritization of funds), and sometimes it's just the compromise of funding someone else's also valid project (who might also be looking at your cause as also being graft or an ineffective use of funds).  And I don't think the movie really conveyed the deal-making as anything other than a whittling away of one's morals to bleak corruption.

I think there's something in the over-simplicity of the fable of the movie that really rubs me the wrong way.

I find I don't like Spielberg movies, so I never watched Lincoln, but from what I heard, that movie did portray the deal-making as an actual instrument of getting good, necessary legislation passed.

I do wonder if I were to re-watch Being There (it's been a decade), if I'd now see issues with it.  But I think it's a lot more removed from the sausage making.

 

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2 hours ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

On a completely different note on the wild circumstances of Jefferson Smith's appointment - I think that was necessary to find someone who goes in with zero idea about politics and legislation, zero political ambitions, zero policy preferences, and positive public regard. I think Capra was playing with the idea of dropping an absolute stranger or alien, one with the most honest civic-minded intentions and ideals, and just drop him straight into the middle of things for a fresh criticism of government. 

And I think that's one of the reasons why Jefferson has great chemistry with the jaded Washington insider Saunders, she of the green dollar sign eyes.  She knew Washington inside out, but I bet she's never seen someone like Jefferson in government before.  It helped that the actress herself was 8 years older than Stewart too.  

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You know, if Mr Smith Goes to Washington took place in the Scooby Doo universe, the crooked real estate developers would be exposed in a decidedly MUCH more entertaining manner.  

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Amy made a point about the lack of Girl Scouts in this movie. Girl Scouts are actually a great path toward public office. Here are some fun stats from their policy group (not updated with 2018 elections info):

  • 55% of women in the 115th Congress are Girl Scout alums
  • 73% of current female senators are Girl Scout alums
  • 51% of women in the House of Representatives are Girl Scout alums
  • 4 of 6 current female governors are Girl Scout alums
  • Every female Secretary of State has been a Girl Scout Alum

 

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1 hour ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

Amy made a point about the lack of Girl Scouts in this movie. Girl Scouts are actually a great path toward public office. Here are some fun stats from their policy group (not updated with 2018 elections info):

  • 55% of women in the 115th Congress are Girl Scout alums
  • 73% of current female senators are Girl Scout alums
  • 51% of women in the House of Representatives are Girl Scout alums
  • 4 of 6 current female governors are Girl Scout alums
  • Every female Secretary of State has been a Girl Scout Alum

 

My understanding is the girl scouts were in response to, but are not in association with the Boy Scouts.  The friend who informed me of this brought this up with the topic the GS are generally progressive (though I suspect that's always a very decentralized thing/depends on chapter). But it hasn't had associations with the LDS church at a national level that prevented them from having gay scout leaders (friend informing me of this is gay, so of general concern to them in a broader sense).

 

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2 hours ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

My understanding is the girl scouts were in response to, but are not in association with the Boy Scouts.  The friend who informed me of this brought this up with the topic the GS are generally progressive (though I suspect that's always a very decentralized thing/depends on chapter). But it hasn't had associations with the LDS church at a national level that prevented them from having gay scout leaders (friend informing me of this is gay, so of general concern to them in a broader sense).

 

I don't know a ton about GS history, I know the Boy Scouts had problems with gay and trans scout leaders. Some of my college friends who have gone into politics have also have gone on to be GS Leaders and seem to be doing some great things for girls, Some of these stats came on my radar after the midterms, so I thought it'd be fun to look into how it promotes leadership and civics in young girls. 

I was never a Girl Scout, I was a Brownie when I was really young for a couple years but didn't stick it through and moved to an area where there weren't any chapters. I have two older brothers who were Boy Scouts and my mom was their troop leader, so I got to go along with some activities, and grew up scout-adjacent, so I'm semi-familiar with at least what kinds of stuff Boy Scouts were doing in the 80's. 

On a wider note, I'm glad Amy didn't spend too much time on the fact that this was very much a male-centered movie, but so were politics back then. I didn't feel the gender politics were too bad in this one, for the time. Saunders was a great character, and Jean Arthur gave her some real life. I loved her. 

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6 hours ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

I don't know a ton about GS history, I know the Boy Scouts had problems with gay and trans scout leaders. Some of my college friends who have gone into politics have also¬†have gone on to be GS Leaders and seem to be doing some great things for girls, Some of these stats came on my radar after the midterms, so I thought it'd be fun to look into ÔĽŅhow it promotes leadership and civics in young girls.¬†

I was never a Girl Scout, I was a Brownie when I was really young for a couple years but didn't stick it through and moved to an area where there weren't any chapters. I have two older brothers who were Boy Scouts and my mom was their troop leader, so I got to go along with some activities, and grew up scout-adjacent, so I'm semi-familiar with at least what kinds of stuff Boy Scouts were doing in the 80's. 

Darn.  That makes sense, but I thought we were about to get some amusing personal anecdotes there.

I think my knowledge of GS history was just that one brief exchange with a friend where they went, "oh, the GS aren't actually affiliated with the BS."

The Church of LDS-Boy Scout relation was just something I had known at some point as an adult, though I was never clear exactly how the association worked.  I suspect it affected national policies (such as gay or trans scout leader, possibly their national Jamboree).  But I also know it had to have been a decentralized system, because at some point in the 00's I remember a news story being shared about how a BS troop in, I want to say the south, wouldn't allow either Mormons or Mormon scout leaders (can't remember which) because they felt they weren't Christians.  I'm forgetting the details, just that there was irony in it.  Anyhow, those ties have been cut officially.  I chose the wrong week/movie to quit talking about politics. 

6 hours ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

On a wider note, I'm glad Amy didn't spend too much time on the fact that this was very much a male-centered movie, but so were politics back then. I didn't feel the gender politics were too bad in this one, for the time. Saunders was a great character, and Jean Arthur gave her some real life. I loved her. 

I think Saunders being the smartest person in the room probably helped.

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20 hours ago, DannytheWall said:

You know, if Mr Smith Goes to Washington took place in the Scooby Doo universe, the crooked real estate developers would be exposed in a decidedly MUCH more entertaining manner.  

If Mr. Smith Goes to Washington took place in the Star Wars universe, the ending filibuster scene would have Taylor have had a special visitor seat right by Paine's desk, and for some reason there would have been a really, really deep well in the middle of the Senate floor.

And the ewolks, I mean boy rangers, would have found a way to defeat Paine state-wide news machine.

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On 11/16/2018 at 2:54 AM, AlmostAGhost said:

And the kids ran some sort of national media presence?¬† What is that?ÔĽŅ

Plot point, I think Taylor's news machine that he controlled was only controlling the state level.  Smith's side of the story was getting out on the national press, but it wasn't being distributed to people within his own state.  The newspaper they ran could have been just on their town level, which since this was a small midwestern state, could have been, like, I don't know, 1/3rd of the state's population.

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49 minutes ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

Plot point, I think Taylor's news machine that he controlled was only controlling the state level.  Smith's side of the story was getting out on the national press, but it wasn't being distributed to people within his own state.  The newspaper they ran could have been just on their town level, which since this was a small midwestern state, could have been, like, I don't know, 1/3rd of the state's population.

This is it exactly. He said that if the good people of his state learned what was going on, they would burst into the chamber in protest. Taylor was railroading the state press to make him look bad, so they bypassed the official press and just went with his boys. That's why what Paine does is so cruel and what ultimately causes Smith to break. He's confronted with a bunch of letters from his state - the very people he believed would be in his corner - telling him he's garbage, and it's too much. 

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I never did the list comparison stuff:

BP Status: nominated, winner -> Gone With the Wind (#7 on the list)

  • AFI Ranking (2007): 26
  • AFI Ranking (1997):¬†¬† ¬†29
  • BFI - Critics Vote Count:¬†¬† ¬†0
  • BFI - Critics Ranking:¬†¬† ¬†N/A
  • BFI - Crictics Ranking (US Filtered):¬†¬† ¬†N/A
  • BFI - Director Vote Count:¬†¬† ¬†0
  • BFI - Director Ranking:¬†¬† ¬†N/A
  • BFI - Director Ranking (US Filtered):¬†¬† ¬†N/A
  • IMDB Ranking: ¬†¬† ¬†164
  • IMDB Rating:¬†¬† ¬†8.2
  • Metascore:¬†¬† ¬†73
  • They Shoot Films:¬†¬† ¬†653
  • The Shoot Films (US Filtered):¬†¬† ¬†TBD
  • BP Status: nominated, did not win.¬†winner was¬†Gone With the Wind (#7 on the list)

The BFI results kind of stand out there, in that I think it's the first that didn't get any votes in either poll.  And Americans are in the poll.  Given the contrast with its AFI ranking, the two things that it makes me think is, lots of people like this movie, but it's just not a top 10 movie for most people*. Granted, I did come down kinda hard on this movie, so that's skewing how I'm interpreting those numbers.

*: or at least people who vote in these polls.  Unless the people selected for these two polls just have radically different tastes.

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On 11/18/2018 at 11:11 PM, Cameron H. said:

This is it exactly. He said that if the good people of his state learned what was going on, they would burst into the chamber in protest. Taylor was railroading the state press to make him look bad, so they bypassed the official press and just went¬†with his boys. That's why what Paine does is so cruel and what ultimately causes Smith to break. He's confronÔĽŅted with a bunch of letters from¬†his state - the very people he believed would be in his corner - telling him he's garbage, and it's toÔĽŅÔĽŅo much.¬†

Well, that and I think they said he was on his feet for 23 hours talking.  Which in retrospect, did I hear or remember that number wrong?  Because just staying awake for 23 hours straight can be taxing on the body.  While, yes, you get the the sense that that was what knocked his knees out from him and caused him to finally collapse, IIRC, in response to them, wasn't that when he went over to Paine and said, I guess this was just another lost cause.  It gave me the impression he was saying he was still going to fight for it (though, I guess that could have been taken as acceptance and summary as he collapsed).  i.e. It might be a lost cause, but it was one worth fighting for (callback to earlier in the movie).  Just from an execution standpoint dramatic beat point, there isn't really anything for him to do at that point except collapse (as opposed to keep fighting for another 5 hours and then collapsing).

 

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On 11/20/2018 at 10:03 AM, ol' eddy wrecks said:

Well, that and I think they said he was on his feet for 23 hours talking.  Which in retrospect, did I hear or remember that number wrong?  Because just staying awake for 23 hours straight can be taxing on the body.  While, yes, you get the the sense that that was what knocked his knees out from him and caused him to finally collapse, IIRC, in response to them, wasn't that when he went over to Paine and said, I guess this was just another lost cause.  It gave me the impression he was saying he was still going to fight for it (though, I guess that could have been taken as acceptance and summary as he collapsed).  i.e. It might be a lost cause, but it was one worth fighting for (callback to earlier in the movie).  Just from an execution standpoint dramatic beat point, there isn't really anything for him to do at that point except collapse (as opposed to keep fighting for another 5 hours and then collapsing).

 

I know we're not supposed to ask how characters go to the bathroom and stuff, but.. how did he go to the bathroom?! People can print and distribute newspapers, organize marches with neatly printed signs driven on the sides of busses, all between the time someone isn't going to the bathroom? 

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On 11/23/2018 at 10:37 AM, DannytheWall said:

I know we're not supposed to ask how characters go to the bathroom and stuff, but.. how did he go to the bathroom?! People can print and distribute newspapers, organize marches with neatly printed signs driven on the sides of busses, all between the time someone isn't going to the bathroom? 

Adult diapers.  I heard that from interviews with Senators once about the possibility of a filibuster.

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Full disclosure, I was born and raised in Canada and have lived almost half my life in Japan, so I can only offer my take on this and sure I don't speak for all non-Americans. The issue of patriotism and pro-America/American imagery in film was brought up in this episode. As a non-American I feel that there are definitely good ways and bad ways to handle the whole patriotism and national pride thing. What it mostly comes down to is pride in one own's nation vs "superiority" of one's nation. In a film like this the character of Smith loves America and what it stands for. We see these things that he loves and we are suppose to be moved by them too. Then the scene at the Lincoln monument when he sees the elderly black man and the Jewish immigrant reflects the idea that "America is a great place and have great beliefs." While some of the imagery may be a tab much and boarder on cartoon-ish like the montage of great American sights and that it doesn't offend me just make me roll my eyes a bit. However in this film it is important because we see this and are inspired like Smith or roll our eyes and think "Yes this guy is a total boy ranger rube." But what the film comes down to is a character who loves where he is from and loves the beliefs and ideals that place has. Seeing as those are beliefs and ideals the majority of the world shares is moving and effective. So if a movie wants to tell me America is great because all people sound be equal and people should fight for the rights of their fellow men and women, I can get behind that.

On the other hand some filmmakers, you know the ones, love nothing more to show American flags waving and having their country save the day not because it is the right thing to do but rather because they are the only ones that could do it. With giant speeches about the greatness of their nation and the might of their nation. If I saw this in any film, American or otherwise I would find it off putting. It just seems arrogant and sends a negative image of America and its people. Those are the kind of films when this stuff happens I feel eye rolling in disdain. Luckily since the 80s are over we don't see this as much anymore.

 

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