Movie Recommendation: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Mr. Smith Goes to WashingtonI had heard that Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) is a great movie, but I had never seen it because I assumed it was out-of-date and probably very superficial (the first half was).

We watched it last night on TCM and saw a well-directed (the great Frank Capra) and well-acted film — James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, and Edward Arnold give excellent performances. I was surprised at the light it shined on dirty politics — how a powerful political machine can use media and innuendo to affect public opinion. Lots of lessons here that should never be forgotten.

The Big Buy – Movie Reviews

FYI: I went to elementary and high school with John Bryant, who composed the soundtrack for this film.

"The Big Buy" presents its evidence clearly and with a welcome sense of humor.
– New York Times

“In tone and texture, the film suggests a hard-boiled mystery of the 1950s with a brassy film noir soundtrack and a Raymond Chandler feel.”
– Wayne Slater, Dallas Morning News (Bush’s Brain)

“Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck methodically assemble a damning case against U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay”
– DAILY VARIETY

“The filmmakers capture a battle for the soul of a state and country”
– Village Voice

Birnbaum and Schermbeck create a film noir atmosphere. The stylistic choice seem appropriate given the dark, disturbing subject matter and the chilling presence of anti-hero DeLay.
– Film Journal

Full Intensity Of Hendrix’s Genius Burns Bright On Fiery ‘Live At Woodstock’ DVD

MTV reviews the Live at Woodstock DVD Jimi below. I can’t wait to see it.

Source: MTV.com – Movies – News – Full Intensity Of Hendrix’s Genius Burns Bright On Fiery ‘Live At Woodstock’ DVD.

Thirty-five years after his death, Jimi Hendrix is still The Man. The howling winds of his talent — his breathtaking guitar technique, his eloquent melodic gift, his astral songcraft and his wrangling of raw feedback into a revolutionary new kind of music — still surge and roar through the four studio albums he managed to record in the course of a solo career that lasted little more than three years.

The iconic Hendrix performance, of course, is his bombs-away rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" at the 1969 Woodstock Festival. But Hendrix played a full set at Woodstock; in the famous 1970 documentary of the event, "The Star Spangled Banner" is all that remains (with a bit of lyrical, minor-key improvisation edited on at the end). What happened to the rest of it? Well, the missing footage turned up on an overseas-only DVD in 1999, and now it’s finally been released here, in a two-disc set called "Jimi Hendrix Live at Woodstock," with the music remixed into Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound. What took so long? And has it been worth the wait? Let’s see.

Hendrix was supposed to close the three-day Woodstock Festival at midnight on Sunday, August 17. However, the event was so chaotically disorganized, and running so late, that he didn’t actually walk out on stage until 9 a.m. the following morning, by which time much of the crowd of 400,000 people had departed, leaving behind a vast, blasted landscape of mud and garbage, and a much smaller contingent of blitzed fans clumped up around the front of the stage.

Hendrix and his group were announced as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but in fact only drummer Mitch Mitchell remained from that classic trio, which had erupted out of London just two years earlier. Now Mitchell was joined by not one, but two other percussionists (essentially conga players) and two of Hendrix’s old Army buddies: Billy Cox, a bare-bones bassist, and Larry Lee, who had the thankless job of rhythm guitarist. The new band had only been rehearsing for about 10 days, and Mitchell says that when he arrived for the gig they were still pretty sloppy. Hendrix called them Gypsy Sun & Rainbows, and it’s a blessing from the gods of musical history that they are audible here in only the most elementary way. It’s all about Jimi, and his guitar.

"I see that we meet again," he says, stepping up to the microphone in that flamboyantly fringed white-suede shirt and blue velvet bell-bottoms. Then he cranks up the famous white Strat and takes off, starting with "Message to Love," a blazing funk exercise that was brand new at the time, and ripping on through the hits: "Purple Haze," "Foxey Lady," "Fire," "Spanish Castle Magic" and, as an encore, "Hey Joe." There’s also a pretty fabulous rendition of "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" and of course "The Star Spangled Banner," during which Hendrix manages to keep playing while repeatedly reaching up over the neck of the guitar with his picking hand to adjust string tunings. (The Fender Stratocaster of that time was a famously hard guitar to keep in tune, and the wet, cruddy weather at Woodstock no doubt exacerbated the problem.)

The material Hendrix played at Woodstock was what you’d expect — as always, it was the execution that set heads spinning. The footage here is filled with close-ups of his outsize hands, and you can see him bend screaming strings from one side of the fretboard all the way across to the other. His fingers sail up and down the neck with supreme ease, and yet his soloing never devolves into cliché — it’s put together and paced with lightning intelligence. And his rhythm playing is every bit as amazing: At one point, wailing all over the bedrock three-chord blues, "Red House," he lays back to let Larry Lee take a solo — an act of remarkable, if entirely unnecessary, generosity — and, since the camera stays riveted on Hendrix, we see him restlessly charging the song with high-flying chord inversions and rhythmic stings that are more fascinating than anything Lee could possibly be playing. (He’s barely audible.) At another juncture, Hendrix gets so carried off into the music that he simply spirals away from the band, spinning off an ever-evolving series of genius riffs embellished with beautifully elaborated Eastern-tinged melodic motifs.

All of which is to say that, as woefully inadequate as the band here may be, Hendrix himself is an astonishment — there are times when you look at what he’s doing and you truly can’t believe your eyes. Or, more to the point, your ears.

So is "Jimi Hendrix Live at Woodstock" worth owning? Absolutely. There are problems, though, the worst being the glaring daylight in which it was shot. The stage, cluttered with equipment and crowded with wiped-out, gawking onlookers, has the ambience of a car-repair shop, so that no matter how many angles we get on the action (there were 15 cameras rolling at Woodstock, but by the end of Hendrix’s set, only two were still functioning), the visual texture of the performance grows monotonous. I think we can also assume that the cameramen, after three long days of working in the most squalid and trying conditions, were exhausted, which would account for the languidly drifting pans, the sometimes shaky framing and the occasional focus problems. The filming of "Woodstock" was a pioneering enterprise, and under the circumstances, the filmmakers probably did as expert a job as was humanly possible. Only hindsight allows us the luxury of carping.

Basically, this film captures the most innovative guitarist in rock history surmounting a third-rate band and a dismal performance environment, and getting over on sheer, spectacular talent. If you’ve never seen Jimi Hendrix play before, then you’ve never seen anything like this. And chances are pretty good that you’ll never see anything like it again.

— Kurt Loder

For more on Jimi Hendrix, check out the MTV News Archive.

To Have and Have Not – A Must See for Bogart Fans

We watched Howard Hawks To Have and Have Not (1944) last night on TCM. It’s a classic Bogart film and is most notable as Lauren Bacall’s first screen appearance, as well as the first pairing of Bogart and Bacall. The chemistry between Bogart and Bacall is hot.

Other famous names associated with this film include Walter Brennan, Hoagy Carmichael, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner.

For more information, check out IMDb.

Top 25 Movies on IMDB

The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) is a website the allows members (no cost to join) rate movies on a 1 – 10 scale. Below are the top-rated movies with the average rating, name of the movie, year released, and the number of votes. I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my favorites, The Shawshank Redemption, in the number 2 spot.

The site is filled with great information and reviews of thousands of movies.

1. 9.0 Godfather, The (1972) 98,104
2. 8.9 Shawshank Redemption, The (1994) 121,085
3. 8.9 Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The (2003) 67,490
4. 8.8 Godfather: Part II, The (1974) 58,028
5. 8.7 Shichinin no samurai (1954) 24,794
6. 8.7 Schindler’s List (1993) 82,541
7. 8.7 Casablanca (1942) 55,969
8. 8.7 Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The (2002) 88,830
9. 8.7 Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The (2001) 130,998
10. 8.7 Star Wars (1977) 114,841
11. 8.7 Citizen Kane (1941) 51,830
12. 8.7 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) 58,774
13. 8.6 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) 88,332
14. 8.6 Rear Window (1954) 34,279
15. 8.6 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) 52,967
16. 8.6 Pulp Fiction (1994) 107,958
17. 8.6 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) 80,003
18. 8.6 Usual Suspects, The (1995) 87,944
19. 8.6 Memento (2000) 73,335
20. 8.5 Buono, il brutto, il cattivo, Il (1966) 22,282
21. 8.5 North by Northwest (1959) 30,247
22. 8.5 12 Angry Men (1957) 23,754
23. 8.5 Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 26,426
24. 8.5 Psycho (1960) 46,110
25. 8.5 Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain, Le (2001) 46,397

Link IMDB

Movie review ‘Full Frontal’

We rented the DVD. Don’t waste your time on this film. Even though there are many famous actors involved, it is terrible. We kept waiting for it to “get good” and it never did. I was embarassed that I selected this movie.