6.10.2009

100 Years 100 Movies: Simpsons Savant

Previously: Why the Long Face?

This unlikely pair of classic movies don't share any common threads... other than making select episodes of The Simpsons even funnier.

26. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

As I watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, one question preoccupied my mind. If idealistic junior senator Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart) was appalled at the government corruption back then, what would he think now? Like that other Frank Capra movie (It's A Wonderful Life), Jimmy Stewart really gets put through the ringer before he gets his happy ending. But along the way, he illuminates what it means to be an American. Seeing his wide-eyed wonder as he visits all the national monuments for the first time made me want to book a vacation to Washington DC. And the climactic filibuster scene is the stuff of Hollywood legend as Smith and Senator Paine (Claude Rains) hammer away at each other until they are hoarse. The film is not without a few head-scratching moments though. Case in point, not long after Smith first arrives in Washington, the press has some fun with his naiveté, printing all sorts of wild headlines about him. In response to this betrayal, Smith tracks down the responsible reporters and starts punching them out one by one—yet there is nary a headline about this tirade. In any case, I'm still holding out for Homer and Mel Gibson's modern day remake, as featured in The Simpsons episode "Beyond Blunderdome." All in favor... say die!
Jefferson Smith: Liberty's too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders. Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: I'm free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn't, I can, and my children will. Boys ought to grow up remembering that.

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47. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

During a hot, sticky summer in New Orleans, Stella Kowalski (Kim Hunter) takes in her mysterious older sister, Blanche (Vivien Leigh), much to the chagrin of her brutish husband, Stanley (Marlon Brando). How these three very different people deal with the difficult situation makes up the heart of the story. Even though we watched the director's cut that restored certain scenes deemed too racy for 1951 audiences, there is still a lot of dancing around certain "adult" themes that left Kristen and I guessing at what was really going on. Plus, I had a hard time knowing who to pledge my sympathies too. Stanley is surely meant to be the bad guy, but Brando gives such a powerful performance that I found myself looking past Stanley's vices and relating more to him. I mean, Blanche is so pretentious and needy, I'd want her out of my house too. He eventually does something unredeemable though, so there's no one left to root for. Perhaps that's the point. Anyway, since A Streetcar Named Desire was such a touchstone of more realistic acting in movies, it was certainly interesting to see once, but I can't say I am in a hurry to ever watch it again. I will, however, be enjoying The Simpsons episode "A Streetcar Named Marge" for years to come. This episode was moderately funny before, but seeing it with the added context of the film really elevates it. Marge as Blanche and Ned Flanders as Stanley in a community musical production, Oh, Streetcar!—that's some quality satire.
Stanley Kowalski: Hey, Stellaaaaaa!

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3 comments:

Ben said...

I have two comments:

1) "I second that motion...with a vengeance!"

2) "New Orleans! Home of pirates, drunks, and whores! New Orleans! Tacky, overpriced, souvenir stores! If you want to go to hell, you should make that trip, To the Sodom and Gomorrah on the Mississipp'! New Orleans!"

Krissy said...

Honestly, I don't remember that Mel Gibson episode. It was a little more violent than I expected. Of course, if that movie really was remade today, it would be a lot more violent than the original.

I hated Streetcar Named Desire. Blanche is so very annoying. Plus, I had no idea what happened until we read the production notes that spelled it out for me.

ScottBoomer said...

That was AWESOME!
Who dosen't depend on the kindness of stragers. That seems like a sure bet every time.