Re-watching Problematic Movies: Gone with the Wind (1939)

In the late ’90s, one of my history classes (in university) examined this iconic film. Our 30ish professor (like many of us) grew up watching GWTW; she considered it very problematic, yet also admired Scarlett O’Hara as an empowered woman. I recall her getting a bit emotional about the story; I’m sure there are millions of others who admired parts of this movie (and novel). Upon closer examination, we find mixed messages, not only w/ regard to history and slavery, but re: war, social codes, love, and marriage.

I’ll think about that tomorrow. -Scarlett’s motto

No doubt this movie (made for less than $4M) was a technical feat! Students of film have been studying it for decades; on recent viewing, I was esp. struck by how well light and shadow were used (production design). There are 50+ speaking roles and 2,400 extras. Out of the 1,400 actresses interviewed for the part of Scarlett, 400 were asked to do readings. Here are some of the actresses considered for the role (who screen tested): Tallulah Bankhead, Susan Hayward, Paulette Goddard, Lana Turner, Jean Arthur, and Joan Bennett. GWTW also used special effects, most notably the burning of Atlanta. Scarlett is described as having green eyes; Leigh’s eye color was corrected (post-production) from blue to green. As she could not dance, Leigh has a body double in the charity auction ball scene. One thing which amazed my mom, but it’s true- Leigh tightened her corset to 18″ (as Scarlett comments)!

Did you know GWTW went through several directors? David O. Selznick (producer) fired George Cukor as director b/c (as a gay man), Selznick though he would be unable to properly direct love scenes between Rhett and Scarlett. Cukor (who had a reputation of getting strong performances from women) continued to privately coach both Leigh and de Havilland on weekends. The scene where Mammy reprimands Scarlett for not eating is one of the few remaining in the final film shot by Cukor. Leigh wasn’t happy w/ macho director Victor Fleming’s style; when she asked for constructive advice, he said to “take the script and stick it up her royal British ass.” Of course, classic movie fans know that Leigh was involved w/ Laurence Olivier during this time; she must’ve gotten a lot of advice from him!

The Emancipation Proclamation (1863) and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution (1865), which both set slaves free, have minimal effects on the plot of GWTW. The house servants at Tara (Mammy, Pork, Prissy and Uncle Peter) continue to serve the same masters and their families. We are to assume that they don’t want to leave or have nowhere to go. Scarlett thinks to herself (in the novel): “There were qualities of loyalty and tirelessness and love in them that no strain could break, no money could buy.” If this isn’t romanticizing “the Old South” (antebellum) days, then I don’t know what is!

What gentlemen says and what they thinks is two different things, and I ain’t noticed Mr. Ashley asking for to marry you. -Mammy (telling it like it is) to Scarlett

When I watched it as a kid, I was surprised to see that Mammy was more concerned w/ propriety than Scarlett; I also saw that she was crucial to this story and has some memorable lines. After Scarlett and Rhett marry, he admits to his new wife that he wants Mammy’s good opinion. As an adult, I realized that- of course- Mammy had to know all the rules which governed the behavior of young ladies! Her life was inextricably tied w/ that of her owners, the O’Haras, and primarily Scarlett. Miss Ellen, Scarlett’s mother, seems to have been the ideal woman in Mammy’s eyes; Scarlett doesn’t quite measure up.

The fact that Hattie McDaniel would be unable to attend the premiere in (segregated) Atlanta outraged her friend Clark Gable; he threatened to boycott the premiere unless she could attend. McDaniel (in her mid-40s) became the first African-American to be nominated for, and win, an Academy Award. She was criticized by some African-Americans; she commented that she’d “rather make seven hundred dollars a week playing a maid than seven dollars being one.” Before she hit the big screen, McDaniel had a career as a singer, traveling across the South (as many black performers did in the early 1900s). Butterfly McQueen (who played Prissy) said that her stereotypical role totally put her off acting. Who could blame her!? Prissy is characterized as lazy and deceitful. In one scene, Scarlett slaps her hard on the face- ouch! McQueen went on to pursue graduate education in Political Science.

On my recent re-watch, I noticed that the field foreman from Tara, Big Sam (Everett Brown), was given two memorable scenes. Big Sam is walking through Atlanta (w/ his fellow male slaves) on the way to digging ditches for the Confederate Army. He is spotted by (a very excited) Scarlett; they catch up on news from Tara. Later on (after the Civil War), Big Sam is the one who rescues Scarlett after she is attacked by a white man while driving her buggy through the “shanty town.” He recognizes her voice, runs to the road, and beats up the would-be robber- what a heroic moment!

I’m saying very plainly that the Yankees are better equipped than we. They’ve got factories, shipyards, coalmines… and a fleet to bottle up our harbors and starve us to death. All we’ve got is cotton, and slaves and… arrogance. -Rhett comments to gentleman gathered together for the ball at Twelve Oaks

One of the main reasons to watch GWTW is Gable (then in his late 30s); he is full of charm, danger, mischief, and (after Bonnie is born)- a bit of vulnerability. As my dad commented years ago: “Why is Scarlett obsessed w/ Ashley when Rhett is around!?” Though he’s not gung-ho about the war (neither is Ashley), Rhett does eventually succeed as a “blockade runner.” Rhett is not about “the cause” (slavery), he’s in it for profit and excitement. After the burning of Atlanta, he joins “the lost cause.” Once their marriage grows sour, the troubled (and potentially violent) side of Rhett emerges. Modern audiences may cringe at the infamous (and quite disturbing) scene where he carries Scarlett up a long stairway, saying he “won’t be shut out” (of her bedroom) one night.

Author Margaret Mitchell’s first choice to play Rhett Butler was Basil Rathbone. The only four actors David O. Selznick seriously considered for the role were Gable, Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn and Ronald Colman. The chief impediment to Gable’s casting was his MGM contract; this was the era of contract players. He was not drawn to the material, didn’t see himself in a period film, and doubted that he could live up to the public’s anticipation. He was persuaded by a $50,000 bonus, which would enable him to divorce his second wife and marry actress Carole Lombard. Gable disliked his most famous film, which he called “a woman’s picture.” Leigh said she hated kissing Gable b/c of his bad breath. He was rumored to have false teeth (a result of too much smoking). Gable would sometimes eat garlic before his kissing scenes w/ Leigh- ugh!

Open your eyes and look at me. No, I don’t think I will kiss you. Although you need kissing badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed and often and by someone who knows how. -Rhett says to Scarlett (after he returns from Paris)

Selznick always wanted Leslie Howard to play Ashley Wilkes, but Howard felt that he was too old (the character was supposed to be about 21 at the start of the film). My dad agrees w/ that! Howard wore extra makeup and a hairpiece to make him appear younger. Selznick was only able to persuade him to take the part by offering him a producer credit on Intermezzo (1939). Vincent Price, Dennis Morgan, Douglass Montgomery, and Melvyn Douglas were among the actors who tested for the part of Ashley. Many viewers on Twitter (during my re-watch) were annoyed w/ the fact that Howard kept his English accent. Also, some women noted that he was a jerk for “giving Scarlett hope” and “leading her on” in several scenes. I realized that scene where Ashley and Scarlett talk re: maybe running away from Tara (and their responsibilities) was done very well- acting and the look of it.

While Scarlett is colorful/rebellious/independent, Ashley’s cousin/wife, Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland), is the epitome of a demure/calm/traditional lady. Her hairdo is simple (no curls), she dresses plainly (not seeking attention from men), and is 100% devoted to just one man- Ashley. Others (incl. elders of her society) look to her to determine what is “proper.” Melanie is selfless and giving (tending to wounded soldiers w/o complaint); Scarlett is selfish (wanting to run away from nursing, marrying her sister’s beau- Frank Kennedy- for his money, etc.)

In one memorable scene, when a Union soldier comes to rob Tara, Melanie (weak after giving birth) grabs a sword and clambers down the stairs in an effort to help Scarlett. There is a moral strength to Melanie; Scarlett (who is physically much tougher) eventually realizes that. These two women (who perhaps would be “frenemies” today) are like two sides of a coin; they have to rely on each other. In McDaniel’s pivotal scene (after the sudden death of Bonnie), Mammy cries and gently pleads: “If you can’t help us, who can? Mr. Rhett always set great store by your opinion. Please, Miss Melly.” Gable was reluctant to cry (in his following scene), but de Havilland convinced him that it would be the right thing to do for his character.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018) starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding, & Michelle Yeoh

NOTE: This post contains SPOILERS for the film (now playing widely in theaters).

…to see the clash between Asian culture and Asian-American culture on the screen makes me feel like I am finally being seen and heard. – @tinidornkutsara

I’d expected it to be meaningful, fun, joyful, but I hadn’t at all expected what amounted to a lifetime of sorrow & longing, an onslaught of feelings I hadn’t even known I was suppressing. – @rokwan

No othering or tokenization. For once, I felt we were the default. Must be how white people feel most of the time. Beauty, romance, fantasies, & laughs made for us. Wow. More please! – @jessicaunlee

A triumph for representation? Maybe for Asian-Americans but certainly not for #Singapore #CrazyRichAsiansMovie -Nicholas Yong

We can love, support AND criticize something at the same time. #CrazyRichAsians is ground-breaking for representation in Hollywood. FACT.  “Asians” does not mean ALL Asians. FACT. The movie does not cover the often oppressed brown & non-Chinese people of Singapore. FACT. – @jennyyangtv

These are some tweets from young Asian-Americans that were featured in an article on the importance of Crazy Rich Asians. 25 years after The Joy Luck Club, there is a (mainstream) Hollywood rom com w/ an all-Asian cast. Fans of indies (like myself) have also noted that Better Luck Tomorrow and The Namesake (which is focused on an Indian- American family) were predominantly Asian-American. This movie (based on the book by Kevin Kwan) is a hit w/ audiences and critics; we know that NO color means more in Hollywood than green! 

I’m so Chinese. I’m an econ professor that’s lactose intolerant. -Rachel comments 

NYU Econ professor, Rachel Chu (Constance Wu from Fresh Off the Boat), experiences culture shock (and a LOT more) when she travels w/ her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding- a British TV presenter in his debut role) to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. We can see that Nick is crazy about her; they share a love of food. Rachel discovers that Nick (who she’s been dating for 1 yr) is part of the elite of his country and heir to an empire. (In MANY Asian cultures, bringing someone to a family, or close friend’s, wedding is a huge deal.) When they reach JFK Airport, someone quickly takes their luggage, then they’re led to a spacious first class cabin on their plane. Nick’s old friends, Colin (Chris Pang) and fiancée Araminta (Sonaya Mizuno from Ex Machina), pick them up at the airport and take the couple to an outdoor food market. FYI: Food is a big part of this movie!

Let me get this straight. You both went to the same school. Yet someone came back with a degree that’s useful, and the other one came back as Asian Ellen. -Mr. Goh laments

Before Rachel meets the Youngs, she reunites w/ college roommie, Peik Lin Goh (Nora Lum, AKA Awkwafina- actress/rapper from Queens). Peik Lin sports short blond-dyed hair, dresses colorfully, and speaks like Miley Cyrus meets hip hop (as Awkawfina described it). The choice to use the black accent, or African-American vernacular (AAV), was NOT funny to everyone (as I observed from my audience- young and diverse). Peik Lin’s family lives in a huge house decorated to resemble The Palace at Versaille and Trump’s golden bathroom (LOL)! Her family includes eccentric/American-educated dad (Ken Jeong of Dr. Ken/guest star on Fresh Off the Boat).

God forbid we lose the ancient Chinese tradition of guilting your children. -Astrid comments (during the dumpling making scene)

At the welcome back party for Nick, his elegant/graceful mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), meets Rachel and sizes her up quickly. She politely disapproves of her son’s choice; Eleanor considers Americans too independent. Rachel is ethnically Chinese, speaks Mandarin fluently, BUT her heart and mind are American (as her mom pointed out). Nick’s grandma (who raised him until he was sent to a British boarding school) and his favorite cousin, Astrid (British actress Gemma Young), think differently. Astrid even shares concerns re: her marriage to Rachel at Araminta’s bachelorette weekend. The other women who grew up w/ Nick, incl. his ex, shun or try to scare away Rachel, seeing her as NOT good enough. 

Nick’s obnoxious/hard-partying cousin, Bernard (Jimmy O. Yang of Silicon Valley), flies the men out (in helicopters) to international waters. He has a surprise for Colin- the bachelor party will be on a huge cargo ship! (One reviewer considered this to be the MOST unrealistic element of the film.) When they get on board, there are beauty pageant contestants, dancing, music, bazookas, and LOTS of booze. After some time, and hearing rude comments re: his relationship from other cousins, incl. finance bro Eddie (Ronny Chieng of The Daily Show), Nick and Colin escape, thanks to Colin’s pilot’s license). They end up on a little/secluded island where Nick shows Colin the engagement ring he has picked out for Rachel. He plans to propose soon, BUT doesn’t want to draw attention away from the wedding. Colin is happy for Nick, yet also concerned; Rachel is NOT used to this type of life. (It’s NOT everyday that you get to see handsome, shirtless Asian men talking about their feelings!)

Before the wedding, Peik Lin and another of the Young cousins- Oliver (“the rainbow sheep of the family”)- help Rachel get ready. We see the typical rom com scenes of Rachel getting a facial, picking out a formal dress, etc. Though this film is breaking new ground (w/ regard to cast and setting), it’s also traditional in MANY ways. At the church, everyone looks her way when Rachel enters wearing a chic up-do and diaphanous pale blue gown (by Marchesa). There is no room in the Young family pew (no shocker), so Rachel walks up to the front of the church and sits next to a posh older woman (who is BOTH a princess and pioneer in micro-lending). Nick notices this, pleasantly surprised, and also awed by how beautiful she looks. Though the elders don’t approve of all the greenery, the wedding ceremony is unique and gorgeous. Araminta walks down an aisle (like a ballerina) flowing w/ water wearing stockings w/ gold designs. 

At the reception, Eleanor (w/ grandma by her side), reveals that Rachel will NEVER be a part of their family- she’s a liar. She hired a PI who discovered that Rachel’s father is NOT dead, BUT living in Hong Kong! Nick wonders why Rachel lied, BUT she didn’t know anything about this. She starts crying and runs away from Nick, navigating through a maze-like path (like you’d expect in a fairy tale). At the Goh’s house, Rachel is so heartbroken that she stays in bed for days, not eating or speaking. Nick keeps calling, but Rachel doesn’t speak to him. (It’s so sweet how ALL of the Goh family tries to make her feel better.)

Finally, we see that Rachel has a visitor- her mom, Kerry (Khen Hua Tan)! She consoles her daughter and explains why she hid the truth. Her husband was abusive, so an old schoolmate helped her escape, and they fell in love. Rachel asks why they NEVER went back to see her father; her mom thought it’d be too dangerous. In the US, she started fresh w/ her baby girl; she eventually became a real estate agent. This scene is quite well-acted, well-written, and VERY touching! 

There is a Hokkien phrase ‘kaki lang’. It means: our own kind of people, and you’re not our own kind. -Eleanor explains

Because I’m not rich? Because I didn’t go to a British boarding school, or wasn’t born into a wealthy family? -Rachel asks

You’re a foreigner. American – and all Americans think about is their own happiness. -Eleanor replies

Rachel decides that it’s unfair to Nick to have to choose between her and his family (esp. his mother) in the pivotal mahjong scene. (FYI: This was not in the book, BUT added as a nod to The Joy Luck Club). The 8-bamboo tile Rachel discards to give Eleanor the winning  hand also was a winning tile for Rachel; that is why Eleanor looks shocked when Rachel turns over her hand. As some critics from Slate noted, this film’s third act is even better than its first (rare for a rom com). I think that the relationships between women, incl. their conflicts, are the best things about Crazy Rich Asians.

Yes, it is a romantic comedy – but this has such intriguing social and cultural undercurrents that it tempts even the fairly observant watcher away from taking the “Cinderella” story at its glitzy face value. While the numerous characters had to have their backstories compressed to fit into just two hours, we are given enough great dialogue, effervescent or slightly evil portrayals, and sumptuous visual clues to make the friends and family members in Singapore come alive. -Excerpt from IMDB review

As Rachel and her mom board their plane (coach this time), Nick is also there; he decided to fly home w/ her. What ensues is an (expected) cute rom com scene; Nick sidesteps several people, helps stow away luggage, and… finally pulls out a little black box to propose. Rachel is surprised when the ring he offers her is the the large emerald one worn by Eleanor! This is the feel-good ending you’d expect from such a film, yet w/ an added bonus; Rachel has won BOTH Nick’s heart and the approval of his mother. For Asians (even in today’s modern/individualistic world), this MAY be an especially poignant moment. I’ve known several South Asian American women, who live in the US, who were rejected by (potential) mother-in-laws. The reasons they were rejected ranged from height/looks to having been divorced or raised in a different religion. Their boyfriends/fiances didn’t stand up for them (unlike Nick). 

Vertigo (1958) starring James Stewart & Kim Novak

Hitch was quite upset at he failure of the film when it was first released; he blamed this on James Stewart for “looking too old” (nearly 50 y.o.) to attract large audiences. Bernard Herrmann’s musical score was inspired by Wagner’s Tristan & Isolde which is also about doomed love. This film was the first to use computer graphics. The second-unit cameraman (most likely) invented the famous zoom/out and track/in shot to convey the sense of vertigo to the audience. 

Let’s not probe too deeply into these matters, Kim. It’s only a movie. -Director Alfred Hitchcock explained to actress Kim Novak (when she asked for more info on her character’s motivation during a scene)

John “Scottie” Ferguson (Stewart) is a middle-aged/retired/detective who suffers from acrophobia. He is a bachelor who is still good friends w/ his former fiance, Midge Wood (Barbara Bel Geddes), who works in fashion merchandising (being an artist). An old friend from college, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), calls Scottie to his office (in the San Francisco shipyards) and asks him to follow his wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak). Gavin explains her unusual behaviors and fears she is losing her mind, though he hasn’t discussed the matter w/ any medical professionals. Scottie is skeptical, BUT agrees after seeing the beautiful Madeleine. 

Stewart would NOT be one you would think of portraying a voyeur and a stalker, yet he pulls it off so well. As one viewer commented (see #TCMParty on Twitter): “Vertigo shows how versatile Jimmy Stewart could really be. That’s the sign of a great actor.” Another movie fan tweeted: “This is where Jimmy’s ‘nice guy’ persona becomes so effective. It’s esp. painful to see him reduced to this.” He enables viewers to sympathize w/ him, even as we cringe at his character’s actions and decisions. 

Hitchcock set his film in San Francisco, a city well known for its unique topography and hilly landscape, in order to add a further torment to Scottie’s life and emphasize the debilitating nature of his vertigo. Location shoots were done at the Big Basin Redwoods State Park and the Spanish mission at San Juan Bautista. Hitch spent a week filming a brief scene where Madeleine stares at a portrait just to get the lighting right. After Judy has been made over into Madeleine, she and Scottie kiss; the actors were on a revolving circular platform (a la Gone with the Wind). 

Vertigo is full of scenes where the colors have been saturated or changed to create a special feeling. Hitchcock even went so far as to openly dye some frames is bright unnatural colors. He played around with colors in all his color films, but never as much as in this one. -Excerpt from IMDB review

Much is done with color and light in this film; you will notice it (even upon first viewing). I noticed more tonight- my second time viewing it fully. An astute viewer noted: “Am noticing for the first time that each scene is pretty monotone – yellow, red, redder, green, blue.” The lighting changes when important events occur. Here are some examples: 1) When Scottie first sees Madeleine in the restaurant, the light around her becomes unnaturally bright. 2) While Scottie is listening to the story of Madeleine’s ancestor in the bookstore, it gets very dark; once he exits, it brightens again. 3) When Scottie first sees Judy made over as Madeleine, she is lit by a ghostly green light (the reflected light from the neon sign outside). On this point, a viewer tweeted: “Bathed in the color green… the ghost of Madeleine is wiping out Judy’s identity.”

There’s a dark sexiness to the film that lends the film an air of mature and serious art. Barbara Bel Geddes’ tragic Midge practically throws herself at Stewart’s Scottie Ferguson, while Novak’s “Madeleine Elster” seems rather matter of fact when she realized that Ferguson had completely undressed her after saving her from death. Later, as Judy Barton, her real identity, she shows a frank knowledge of pickups, sizing Ferguson up as a masher. Judy, it seems, has been around the block once or twice. Where earlier Hitchcock movies played coy with sex, here he tackles the subject head on, and it adds to the film’s mature atmosphere. -The Hitchcock Report blog

The words “power” and “freedom” are repeated three times in the movie: 1) In the beginning, Gavin longs for the old San Francisco b/c there was more power and freedom. 2) At the bookstore, the elderly history buff explains that, in Carlotta Valdes’ time, a man could just throw a woman away b/c he had more power and freedom. 3) During the climax, John suggests that after the murder was completed, Gavin left Judy b/c he had more power and freedom (w/ his wife’s fortune). 

[1] Vertigo is Alfred Hitchcock’s most discussed, dissected and critically reappraised film…

[2] This movie is so deep that you could write a thesis on it and keep adding to it from time to time… Hitchcock really gave his all in this picture… it’s about the ultimate love… wanting to achieve the ultimate love, and, as happens in life, never having love turn out to be the way we want it to be…

[3] If a flaw is to be found, I would say that the script developed for the film was probably not the most friendly for the audience. This film is certainly not for everyone, as it’s slow pace and heavy darkness in the subject may turn off people familiar with Hitchcock’s lighter films as his usual dark humor is not present here…

[4] Hitchcock is in his very best form creating hypnotic scenes and a general sense of unease and dread in even the most banal of situations. A particular favourite of mine is the extended (largely silent) segment where Stewart follows Novak for the first time. Nothing much happens, but the atmosphere of these scenes is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat!

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

 

 

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh & Angela Lansbury

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A poster for the film

…it feels as if it were made yesterday. Not a moment of “The Manchurian Candidate” lacks edge and tension and a cynical spin. And what’s even more surprising is how the film now plays as a political comedy, as well as a thriller.

-Roger Ebert

I love this movie & find it disturbing. It’s a thriller but at times it even seems a satire.

Sinatra is so great here, you hardly notice how good Laurence Harvey is.

#TCMParty (selected tweets)

I keep telling you not to think! You’re very, very good at a great many things, but thinking, hon’, just simply isn’t one of them. -Mrs. Iselin explains to her husband

There is something timeless, yet also eerily timely about this classic film (in Trump’s America). Though it was released in 1962, it is set in 1952 in New York and DC; the use of black and white makes it look older. I think the novelist (Richard Condon) was influenced by Hamlet; note Sgt. Raymond Shaw’s (Laurence Harvey) deep hatred for his stepfather, Senator John Iselin (James Greogory), who married his domineering mother, Eleanor Shaw Iselin (Angela Lansbury). We are NOT told anything re: Raymond’s birth father; I imagine that he was a wealthy/intelligent/influential man. In the youthful romance of Raymond and Jocelyn Jordan (Leslie Parrish), there is an echo of the feud between noble families as in Romeo & Juliet

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Maj. Bennett Marco and Rosie chat on the train in a mysterious manner.

Janet (Psycho) Leigh plays a shady, Robert Walker-like femme fatale whose cryptic language may or may not indicate she’s a member of the Communist Ring… The most celebrated (and widely discussed) meet-cute in film history occurs aboard a train, as Janet Leigh and Sinatra whisper sweet-somethings in the most roundabout, I’ve-never-heard-people-talk-like-this way imaginable. 

-Stanford Arts Review

Women are (in several scenes) depicted as capable, smart, and active agents in their romantic lives. Obviously, Mrs. Iselin is the power behind her loud-mouthed/dim-witted husband. A young Josie comes to Raymond’s rescue after he’s bitten by a snake. Rosie (Janet Leigh) approaches Maj. Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) during their train ride, shows him that she’s VERY interested, then tells him her address and phone number.

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Mrs. Iselin (Angela Lansbury) and Raymond (Laurence Harvey)

It’s a terrible thing to hate your mother. But I didn’t always hate her. When I was a child, I only kind of disliked her. -Raymond explains to Bennett Marco 

This is the type of film that you MUST pay attention to, or you’ll miss something! It showcases Sinatra’s acting range; many critics/classic movie fans consider this performance to be the best of his career. The Manchurian Candidate proves us just how scary Lansbury can be, if the script calls for it; I wished there was more of her performance. The way that she controlled Raymond’s life has contributed to how his life is like at that start of the story: humorless, friendless, and loveless. He attempts to get away by taking a job w/ a newspaper editor he admires, BUT alas, his life is NOT his own. 

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Mrs. Iselin (Angela Lansbury) faces off against Senator Tom Jordan (James McGiver).

There are people who think of Johnny as a clown and a buffoon, but I do not. I despise John Iselin and everything that Iselinism has come to stand for. I think, if John Iselin were a paid Soviet agent, he could not do more to harm this country than he’s doing now. -Senator Jordan says to Mrs. Iselin

Little details add to the richness of the story. There is a scene where an African-American soldier is having a nightmare/flashback (VERY similar to that of Marco), BUT we see that the ladies in the tea party are African-American. That’s b/c it’s happening w/in the context of his life, NOT that of a white man. There are two supporting East Asian characters, including Dr. Yen Lo (Khigh Dhiegh) and Korean translator-turned-cook, Chunjin (Henry Silva- of Puerto Rican heritage). In one exciting scene, Marco and Chunjin fight using karate. 

House of Cards (Netflix): Season 5

NOTE: This review contains SPOILERS for the latest season of the streaming series. Fun fact: My dad also doesn’t like “sorry” (like Claire). 

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“I will not yield!” Frank (Kevin Spacey) declares to Congress.

“You don’t want me to stand for something,” Frank states to the viewer late in season five. ‘You just want me to stand.” But, uh, reality would beg to differ. We increasingly want politicians to push back against the bland, corporatist kind of politics Frank and Claire represent, to elevate outsiders. House of Cards is a show about the ultimate insiders, and it can’t overcome that central fact. -Vox

Frank’s “war on terror” has deadly consequences for ICO-inspired Joshua Masterson. With a little help from Asst. Dir. Green (FBI), Underwood had stashed the homegrown terrorist in an underground/high-tech prison. Frank tells Green “to get rid of the asset.”So, did you think that Frank was upset re: the reaction of the Millers’ teen daughter at the funeral? It’s like that girl saw through Frank, though she was SO young and grief-stricken (b/c of her father’s murder). 

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Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire (Robin Wright) drink a toast.

…the name of Frank’s secret society can be traced back to Greek mythology. “Elysian Fields” is said to be a true paradise where gods who are gifted immortality are sent. Basically, only the most favored gods got to go to this place and live out their endless lives in bliss. This is especially fitting for a reference point because on House of Cards, Elysian Fields is essentially a place for important men (and only men) to hang out together in the woods. -Bustle

It was one of the most talked about ep of the season, as I learned from Twitter (and later on- few articles). Viewers wondered: “Is that real!?” once it was revealed that prominent men were behind the masks at the weekend retreat (or shall we call is “glamping?”)

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Marc Ursher (Campbell Scott) and Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman)

Will Conway, the Republican presidential candidate was clearly modeled on Obama (w/ a side of Kardashian-level status on social media, as we saw in S4). We learn that he has PTSD, which he keeps hidden from even Marc Usher (Campbell Scott- still slim and handsome) and retired Gen. Brockhart (Colm Feore- one of Canada’s best theater actors). The CEO from Pollyhop, also Conway’s old pal, knows about the PTSD.

Marc finds out what’s up when Conway loses his cool on a small jet, demanding that pilots let him fly (“I’m going to be the president and you’re going to flip me those motherf****ing controls!”) This rant is caught on tape, then later leaked to the Underwoods. The tall telegenic family man is a damaged individual (after serving in Afghanistan after 9/11). 

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Eric AKA Augustus Underwood (Malcolm Madera) comes to the White House.

At the peak of Frank’s unpopularity, it seems that Eric [who role plays Confederate soldier Augustus Underwood- Frank’s grandfather] is just about the only person left who truly believes that the man could make a great president… -Bustle
Eric never openly states why he thinks Frank could be a good president; I think it’s his youthful naiveté. Eric and Frank get closer over his visits; he starts working as a personal trainer (his day job). Over talking about the world and laughing about how Eric actually made up Augustus’ backstory, the two become fast friends (something rare/unexpected for Frank). Things eventually get VERY intimate (which I expected) and also a BIT scary (nope, did NOT see that).  
Secretary of State Catherine Durant (Jayne Atkinson) decides to testify to the senatorial investigation into the President’s misdeeds. She goes to the White House and delivers the news to her frenemy Frank (VERY bad idea). “You need to take a fall,” he says, before pushing Cathy down a flight of steps. She’s alive, but won’t be testifying any time soon. Poor Cathy- she was one of the FEW good characters on this series! 

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Jane Davis (Patricia Clarkson) in the Oval Office.

Something terrible always happens when I go to a party. -Jane tells Claire

…I’m more interested now, going forward, with how this murder [Tom Yates’] will wind up compromising Claire since Mark Usher knows about it and – perhaps Jane Davis too! The two people Claire’s now relying on to steer her forward have a big advantage over her, and she doesn’t fully trust them. -Mark Fowler (IGN)

Some of you on Twitter thought that Miss Davis was NOT a believable character. Is she a war profiteer?  She has created this unassuming personality, BUT under it all, is a force to be reckoned w/, no doubt.

Claire turns more to Jane over time, shutting out LeeAnn (Neve Campbell), who is worried re: her old friend Aiden Macallan (Damian Young). It took me a BIT of time to figure out what was going on w/ Mac! I felt bad for the guy, even though he was NOT the most exciting character.  

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Tom Yates (Paul Sparks) and Claire (Robin Wright)

Stamper has never made peace with killing Rachel Posner – shouldering the responsibility for Barnes’ death is his penitence. –The Telegraph

Lisa (Rachel Posner’s girlfriend) turned to drugs, and also became a threat, BUT Doug (Michael Kelly) decided NOT to kill her. The story of Anthony Moretti being bumped off the organ donor list, then dying to save Frank, is found out by Sean, Seth, and Claire. Back in S2, then VP Underwood murdered Washington Herald reporter, Zoe Barnes, by shoving her in front of a metro train. Over dinner, Claire and Frank share their plan w/ the ever-loyal Doug: “We need you to implicate yourself in the death of Zoe Barnes.” 

Tom, don’t cheat on my wife. –Frank tells Yates (after seeing photos of him w/ a White House tour guide)

Yates’ death cannot be considered a surprise. He had persisted in writing thinly-disguised accounts of the Underwood’s double-dealings and, as his ill-considered interview with a journalist early in the season confirmed, had a big mouth to boot. Applying patented Underwood logic, he had to go. -The Telegraph

Now, I was NO fan of Tom Yates (Paul Sparks), BUT I was troubled by his death. Claire poisoned him; like Lady Macbeth, there is “blood” on her hands now. Did she ever love Tom? We see that Tom became possessive over time, which she was turned off by (duh). 

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Claire (Robin Wright) as the Acting President

Hauled before young/upstart Arizona Congressman Romero (James Martinez) and his House Intelligence Committee, Underwood snaps and says he is resigning- WHOA! 

In real American politics, the Congressional Progressive Caucus is composed of 75 representatives, led by co-chairs Rep. Raúl Grijalva (a Democrat from Arizona) and Rep. Mark Pocan (a Democrat from Wisconsin). There’s a good chance Alex could be loosely based on either of the co-chairs of the caucus or any of the 75 representatives who are members, though the the House Of Cards showrunners have not indicated that there’s any real inspiration behind the character. -Bustle

What is this job? -Angela asks her boss

Not what it used to be. Tom Hammerschmidt replies

Perhaps the biggest surprise in this is that Frank has himself become a leak to Tom Hammerschmidt as the Washington Herald, revealing insider secrets to add press interest on the crumbling administration and justify monitoring of the entire White House and its staff…  –Screenrant

Frank will walk away from it all, so that Claire will step in as the new President, and pardon him for his crimes. Then, in the private sector, Underwood will become a source of power, working in tandem with his wife, to “own this house.” It turns out that Claire will NOT be pardoning him too soon!

If she doesn’t pardon me, I’ll kill her. -Frank states in his last monologue

But while he’s thought of every possibility, like the constitutional loopholes he took advantage of to get here, there’s one eventuality not accounted for; while Frank is functioning on a higher sociopathic level than seemingly anyone else in Washington D.C. and able to connive his resignation and transition of power, he doesn’t consider his wife’s fury. Screenrant

Claire also breaks the fourth wall (NOT a total surprise, as it had been hinted at before). I think MANY of you enjoyed those moments. Did you notice how Claire’s outfits became more conservative, buttoned, and (somewhat) militaristic as the season went on?