Starring a naive and indignant James Stewart alongside the wisecracking Jean Arthur, Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), written by Sidney Buchman and an uncredited Myles Connolly, constructs compelling drama out of institutional procedures and political machinations (literally, the political machine). One would think that it would therefore make great pedagogical material for a civics class or something, especially given how it celebrates Smith’s (Stewart) patriotic idealism, but it goes too far and reveals a seldom mentioned truth of democratic politics: Everything is subjective.
Editor’s note: This piece is part of a series on the 2018 Taipei Film Festival.
After a 20-year hiatus, Terrence Malick came roaring back onto the scene with The Thin Red Line (1998), a transitional film in terms of style between his early, more conventional work and his later, more experimental films. He takes the WWII Battle of Guadalcanal as the basis for musings on all facets of war, battle, and soldiery. I was fortunate to see a digitally restored version on the big screen, and the colors and images were nothing short of awe-inspiring.
It’s been fifteen years since Ron Shelton’s Hollywood Homicide (2003) was released to pretty bad reviews. A buddy-cop action-comedy starring Harrison Ford (after the classic Air Force One (1997) but before he got dragged back into franchises with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)) and Josh Hartnett (fresh off a box office hot streak with Pearl Harbor (2001), Black Hawk Down (2001), and 40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)), the film was faulted for its loose pace, unwieldy and confusing plot, lack of chemistry between the leads, and clichéd action sequences. On the whole, the critics weren’t wrong. But those faults only matter if you think you’re walking into a certain kind of film, when in fact, Hollywood Homicide is a whole other kettle of fish. Roger Ebert is one of the few critics who got it. Let’s take a look at what everyone else missed.