State of the Union (1948) starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, & Angela Lansbury

Introduction

This classic film’s screenplay was adapted from a Broadway play which opened in NOV  1945 and ran for almost 2 yrs. The play won the Pulitzer Prize in 1946. The themes present w/in this tale are a perfect fit for optimistic, first gen Italian-American director, Frank Capra, though I consider it more sophisticated than some of his (more famous) films. The first choices for the leads were Gary Cooper and Claudette Colbert, BUT those actors didn’t work out, so Capra brought in Spencer Tracy. Once Colbert was fired (for refusing to work nights), Tracy suggested Hepburn (who has some of the best lines). For ALL of who realize that politics is personal, this is the movie for you

Synopsis

The only heir to a publishing house, Kay Thorndyke (Angela Lansbury- then ONLY 24 y.o.), desperately wants to fulfill her dying father’s ambition of putting a man in the White House. So what if the one who may fit the bill, successful airplane manufacturer Grant Matthews (Spencer Tracy), is VERY reluctant? Kay convinces political strategist Jim Conover (Adolphe Menjou) to groom Matthews for their (Republican) party’s bid. A wise-cracking writer, Spike McManus (Van Johnson), comes along on the trail. It turns out that Grant and his wife, Mary (Katharine Hepburn), have been separated for some time; this is something that the public must NOT know. Mary is more than willing to play the supportive wife, IF this is truly what will help Grant. Does Mary still love Grant? Does Grant  love Kay (their behavior is far from platonic) or Mary? Will Grant accept the party’s nomination? 

Review of the Film

He’s beginning to wonder if there is any difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. -Kay reveals to Jim (seriously) / Now that’s a fine question for a presidential candidate to ask. There’s all the difference in the world. They’re in and we’re out! -Jim replies (w/ exasperation)

This is the type of film you need to see twice to get all the jokes, looks, and little moments (which make it a fine piece of cinema). The straight-shooting Grant is “a man of the people” who is hesitant to water-down his message to fit into the mold of a typical politician. Jim comes to realize that some of Grant’s ideas are too liberal for the party. Mary is NOT only hoping to reconnect w/ her husband, she is disappointed when he gives in to pressure from Jim. 

Kay probably has respect and affection for Grant, BUT what she truly loves is the power that she can yield on a national stage. Lansbury admitted that no special aging makeup was placed on her; she “simple had an air of sophistication” which makes her believable as a confident, strong, middle-aged woman. (She also has the best outfits in the film.) Notice the way Kay orders around her (all-male) editors? Of course, she has to be tough in typically male worlds- publishing and politics. Mary comments that men first admire Kay, then start following her around, and eventually fall in love w/ her. 

You politicians have stayed professionals only because the voters have remained amateurs. -Mary comments to a group of political strategists (during the radio broadcast at the Matthews’ home)

Grant and Mary share a special spark, though disappointed w/ how their relationship turned out. (They have two cute school-aged kids, BUT we don’t hear/see much of them until the big climax scene.) The way that Mary talks about Grant, you realize that she is still crazy about him! She admits to Jim (a cynical old bachelor) that she set up fake dates to make Grant jealous. Jim reminded me a BIT of Tobey from The West Wing. Mary finds a sympathetic ear in Spike, who gains a lot of respect for her, and ends up rooting for the couple to end up together. Spike is an youthful man who likes to act nonchalant, flirting and cracking jokes, BUT also has a good heart (something you see in Capra films). 

Real-Life Politics Behind the Film

At the time the film was released, President Truman had NOT made his political comeback and was considered a sure loser in the 1948 election by many, which is why both the Republican presidential nomination is considered so valuable in the movie. It’s also why Spike McManus is amused when a young secretary tells him (at the start of the film) that she thinks Truman will be elected President in his own right in November.

Menjou was an ultra-right-wing political conservative who had co-operated with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), named names of persons he considered to be Communists and was a strong proponent of “blacklisting.” Hepburn was decidedly more liberal and had been an outspoken critic of the blacklist. Menjou had made several comments accusing Hepburn of being a Communist sympathizer, and possibly a Communist herself, which angered Hepburn and her co-star/romantic partner Tracy. Capra was so concerned about the tension that he closed the set to the press.

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Viceroy’s House (2017) starring Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Simon Callow, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, & Huma Qureshi

SPOILERS: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from this movie (now showing in wide release in the US).

[1] If you saw something similar in a high school world history class it would be interesting and effective. As a theatrical movie it misses the mark.

[2] ...as history, it is inevitably selective. Most glaring is the benign portrait of a compassionate departing colonial power.

[3] It’s interesting to see, but it’s by no means a cinematic masterclass.

[4] What could have been an epic, ends up being too pedestrian. It is this failure in character development which pulls the film down harder than all the other negative factors combined.

[5] A special mention needs to go to Gillian Anderson. Her performance as Lady Mountbatten is wonderful. The received pronunciation was perfect. Her character adds heart, she adds a moral core, to both Lord Mountbatten, and in my eyes, to the film in general.

-Excerpts from reviews on IMDB

I saw this movie (ONLY available in SD- ugh) last night on FIOS On Demand. I had been anticipating it for almost 3 mos, so was VERY excited. (American actor Manish Dayal was posting bits about it on his social media.) I was a big fan of Bend it Like Beckham, British director Gurinder Chadha’s breakout indie hit. I thought her Thanksgiving-themed film (What’s Cooking?) was pretty good. The posters didn’t appeal to me- TOO slick and stereotypical of a historical drama. I liked the trailers that I saw; the high production value was evident (which viewers expect from this caliber of film).

Sadly, Viceroy’s House was NOT what I expected. After it ended, I wondered: “There MUST have been MORE to this film!” It seems edited down (to a mere 1 hr 46 mins); however, it seems longer b/c of it’s plodding nature (at least in the first half). Maybe it needs to be seen on the big screen (for its sheer scope and spectacle)? Or maybe it would’ve been better as a miniseries or movie on HBO (where directors and writers have more creative control)? MANY critics/viewers felt that Hugh Bonneville was miscast as Lord Louis Mountbatten. Hmmm… maybe it’s TOO close to his role as head of Downton Abbey? Gillian Anderson (who plays Lady Edwina) is given some of the best lines in the movie; she does well w/ in her role. (You should check Anderson out in British work, incl. The Fall on Netflix.)

The veteran actors who play Nehru (Tanveer Ghani), Jinnah (Denzil Smith), and Gandhi (Neeraj Kabi) do what they can w/ what they are given. Basically, they sit around and debate w/ the Brits on if and how to divide India and the new Muslim majority nation- Pakistan. Some of you know that Gandhi didn’t want India divided; he imagined a land where ALL religions live together in peace (as before the Brits arrived and used their “divide and conquer” strategy to rule). Some Pakistanis were NOT pleased w/ the portrayal of Jinnah, who comes off as duplicitous.

Michael Gambon plays Gen. Ismay, a cold/intimidating man who doesn’t care what happens to the Indian people. He wants to get the boundaries created ASAP and get back to England. Simon Callow ‘s overwhelmed character, Radcliffe, says that it’s impossible to make these decisions in such a short time frame. Ismay finally shows him a plan from 1945 which already lays out exactly how India and Pakistan should be divided (NOT sure how accurate this is in reality)!

The recently deceased international Indian actor, Om Puri, has a small, yet effective/touching role. (He played Dayal’s father in The Hundred-Foot Journey). In this film, Puri plays Ali Rahim Noor, the blind/elderly father of Aalia (Pakistani actress Huma Qureshi), the Muslim woman who has captured the heart of Dayal’s character, Jeet Kumar. Ali Rahim was a political prisoner in the jail where Jeet worked for 2 yrs as a guard. Now, Jeet is a manservant (alongside his Sikh friend, Duleep Singh) for Mountbatten. As Dayal has said, Jeet represents the Hindu perspective in the film. He is an earnest/optimistic young man who feels that his destiny is to marry Aalia.

One of the servants (among 500+ in the viceroy’s household) who stirs up trouble is Mohsin (Samrat Chakraborti, an American actor/musician whose career I’ve been following since 2005). He also has a crucial role in Midnight’s Children (check Netflix to see if it’s still available). Another pleasant surprise is the original music by A.R. Rahman, an internationally recognized composer. I thought he did a esp. fine job in the last section of the film, when we see large crowds of refugees streaming into the palatial estate.

Related Videos

Two (differing) reviews of the film

BBC interview w/ Chadha (12:16)

BUILD Series interview w/ Chadha & Ghani (34:29)

Game of Thrones: Season 7 – Thoughts & Questions

SPOILERS: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from Season 7 of Game of Thrones.

My initial thought was that Arya and Sansa were plotting this eventuality all along, which is why they went along with Littlefinger’s scheme just long enough to put him in a position where they could kill him. But if that’s the case, why were there so many scenes featuring just the two sisters, scenes that Littlefinger couldn’t plausibly know about? And if going along with Littlefinger wasn’t an act, then the storytelling is even stranger, because Sansa and Arya spent a lot of time fighting about things that seemed largely out of character, as opposed to all of the things they really did have to fight about. Todd VanDerWorff (Vox)

Of course, while it was Arya who actually did the executing, and it was Bran who provided some key intel, the bulk of the credit for Littlefinger’s death can go to Sansa. She was the one smart enough to see through Littlefinger’s machinations, and also the only one with enough sparkle to make him crawl on the ground while weeping and begging for mercy. -Joanna Robinson (Vanity Fair)

MANY viewers polled (on Amazon) considered Sansa the MVP of the finale. She had such a crazy journey over the the oast 7 yrs, BUT survived to become Lady of Winterfell, and FINALLY defeat Littlefinger (YAY)! We get a rundown of the “chaos” that Lord Petyr Baelish caused over the years; w/o him, there would be no story. It was he who had Catelyn Stark’s younger sister, Lysa (crazy in love w/ him) poison her husband, Jon Arryn (Hand to King Robert Baratheon). Robert needed a man who knew, as well as someone he could trust, so he trekked North w/ most of his family.

King Robert convinced his oldest/closest friend, Ned Stark, to move to King’s Landing and take over the role of Hand. (Robert had loved Ned’s long-dead sister, Lyanna, BUT that’s another part of the tale.) To sweeten the job offer, Robert betrothed his son/heir, Joffrey, to Ned’s eldest daughter, Sansa (who had dreamed of living in the big city and being married to a handsome prince). In time, Ned discovered that Joffrey (and all Robert’s supposed children w/ his wife, Cersei Lannister) were fathered by her twin brother, Jaime. The common people of realm thought that their king was killed by a boar during a hunt; he was actually poisoned by his cupbearer, Lancel, a young cousin/lover to Cersei. The plot to kill Robert was Cersei’s plan (and Littlefinger was allied w/ her); they had never loved (or even liked) each other. After Ned (kind/honorable/artless) revealed what he knew re: Prince Joffrey’s illegitimacy to (clever/power-hungry/ruthless) Cersei, it ALL went downhill for the Stark clan! 

This obsessive analysis of every line of dialogue and scene scene was possible because the series established and followed a distinct set of rules that kept the chaos in check. 

The patterned logic made it possible to hypothesize outcomes, for any viewer to wax poetically on Twitter about the theoretical fate of their favorite characters. It made a close reading worth it… 

…Season 7 shed these rules in order to sprint towards the story’s conclusion. And in doing so it became a very different series, one that has left the old Game of Thrones in the dust. -Kelly Lawler (USA Today)

“We” (English majors) analyze nearly everything (things we read, listen to, and see in media). That’s why GoT is such a treat; I haven’t been a “superfan” of any other show before (though I have followed MANY TV series in the past). There is SO much going on w/ the action, costumes, sets/locations, music, and (most importantly, IMO) characters and dialogue! This series has some of the MOST complicated characters and quotable lines we’ve encountered in recent years on TV. No wonder we get disappointed when the show doesn’t live up to its potential!  

Let’s not mince words: The Loot Train Battle was a masterpiece. Director Matt Shakman’s first Thrones episode [“The Spoils of War”] featured one of the single greatest battle sequences in the show’s entire history… The pacing and choreography involved in the imaginative battle, not to mention the sheer sight of dragon fire scorching the soil of the Seven Kingdoms, launch this episode into elite status. -Josh Wigler (The Hollywood Reporter)

There were some great moments in S7; the best action scenes happened in E4 (check out the behind-the-scenes segment from HBO, if you haven’t done so yet). This was the first time that Jaime (commander of the Lannister forces) saw a dragon- whoa! He lived (thanks Bronn) to tell Cersei, BUT she didn’t realize the gravity of their situation (until the finale).  As Jaime was riding away from the city, Winter (snow) came to King’s Landing for the first time in the series. 

QUESTIONS: (I hope these get addressed in Season 8!)

  • Why was Tyrion creeping around outside Dany’s cabin on the boat? 
    • I think he feels that these two rulers hooking up  (or “personal alliance” as Peter Segal called it) before the end of the war is a bad idea. 
    • Some YouTube reviewers think that Tyrion MAY have betrayed Dany, so is feeling guilty about it (a la Jorah w/ the poisoned wine murder plot). 
    • I don’t think this is the case, BUT wanted to share this theory also: Most likely, Tyrion goofed up and secretly fell in love with his queen. Game of Thrones has pretty much set this scenario up as an inevitability. Tyrion pretty much told her as much, right before they shipped out from Meereen: “He wasn’t the first to love you,” he said, referring to Daario, “and he won’t be the last.” -Vinnie Mancuso (Collider)
    • Will the fact that Jon—not Daenerys—is technically the rightful heir to the Targaryen throne put a damper on their burgeoning romance? -Joanna Robinson (Vanity Fair)
  • Is Tormund alive? If so, then will he ever be able to win over Brienne (hmmm). 
  • Is Beric alive? (He’s on his 7th life, having been killed and revived 6 times, as The Hound explains in E6.) I just LOVE this actor’s voice, and he has that cool flaming sword. Maybe Melisandre can revive him? 
  • Is Cersei actually pregnant? This has turned out to be one of the MOST discussed issue by fans online! Some even think that the baby could be Euron’s (after all, he is still loyal to Cersei).
  • What’s next for Jaime? Finally, he has escaped Cersei’s power (YAY)! I’m sure he will ally himself w/ Dany, BUT it may take him some time. Will he reconnect w/ Brienne? They has great chemistry together.
  • Will Theon be able to rescue Yaara from Euron?
  • What’s next for Euron? Related issue: Can The Golden Company (sellswords) stand up to Dany’s army?
  • Who will end up on the Iron Throne?
    • One could assume someone has to end the series on The Iron Throne, but there’s an equal possibility there won’t even be an Iron Throne. Or any people left alive, for that matter. -Vinnie Mancuso (Collider)