Tag Archives: politicians

Oldies but goldies: State of the Union (1948)


Director: Frank Capra; Main Cast: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Van JohnsonAngela LansburyAdolphe Menjou;

Formidable Kay Thorndyke (Lansbury) has a mind to use her clout as important press publisher to convince the Republicans to nominate her lover, Grant Matthews (Tracy),  a principled industrialist, as the presidential candidate to the 1948 elections. After the first, small hurl of convincing Grant himself that he would be a great President, for which Kay enlists Jim Conover (Menjou), eminence grise of the party, and Spike McManus (Johnson), political journalist and campaign expert, the next big step is to obtain his wife’s support. Mary (Hepburn) should join her husband on the campaign trail for the primaries to help sell the image of wholesome family man. Up to this point, Hepburn’s character has not been seen yet, but it comes out as an outspoken and strong woman, which is fully confirmed by her sudden arrival and settling in in a whirlwind of talk and action. The perfect description of this introductory scene is the exchange between Spike and Kay while she stealthily goes out:

Kay: Has she moved in there?

Spike: She established a beachhead!

What follows is Grant’s journey, both physical and spiritual, in which he slowly compromises himself to win over the party delegates while he loses the admiration and respect of his wife and the common people. The best angels of his nature will in the end prevail (of course!) and he will regains his self-respect and the love of his wife. This is the only film in which the talents of Capra, Hepburn and Tracy are joined and it’s also the first one that tells a story about political campaigning and the complex mechanism and back room maneuvers of American power. It’s both a captivating and mordant tale that sapiently blends the tones of comedy, of satire and human drama, in Capra’s unique style. The script is simply brilliant and it’s one of the stronger points of the film: witty and touching at the same time. Clearly the cast has a lot to sink their teeth in and they all give solid performances. Tracy has three outstanding monologues, but Hepburn has amazingly sassy rejoinders that make her a scene stealer. My favorite of all is: ” No woman could ever run for President. She’d have to admit she’s over 35″. Inspiring —8.5/10

This post is my contribution to The Great Katharine Hepburn Blogathon (2015 edition, my last year entry can be found here), organised by the lovely Margaret of  margaretperry.org. Go to her site to read all the other amazing entries to this blogaton:



Filed under Oldies but goldies, Seen at home

House of Cards (season 2)

Main Cast: Kevin SpaceyRobin WrightKate MaraMichael KellyKristen ConnollySakina Jaffrey;


I have read reviews in which Frank and Claire Underwood have often been compared to Lord and Lady Macbeth but I don’t think it is enough for this second season: the Macbeths are rank amateurs! The Underwoods are more “thy mother mated with a scorpion” kind of people. Unlike season 1 (here is my review, in case you were curious), this time around their end game is very clear from the start, which takes, a little bit, the fun out of watching Frank and Claire move the pieces on the chessboard. Frank utters in the second episode what should be the tag line of this brand new 13-parts story: “Democracy is so overrated!”. He also delights the audience with his personal version of Cersei Lannister’s “when you play the game of thrones you win or you die, there is no middle ground”, in his first breaking-the-fourth-wall monologue. After swearing in as United State Vice President and moving his “war room” to the White House, we see Frank still trying to work both fronts: loyal supporter of the President and eminence grise of the Capitol. Although the writers manage to ambush the audience with a couple of sudden twists and give us scheming and backstabbing, there are also scenes that seem a little out of character for both Claire and Frank, and the “nosy journalist” plot line is resolved hastily and it feels swept under the rug, which diminishes somewhat the overall good quality of the script. This aside, the season is rather enjoyable with an excellent cast (Spacey is superb) and strong, capable directors for each episode. Crafty —8/10


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House of Cards (season 1)

Main Cast: Kevin SpaceyRobin WrightKate MaraCorey StollMichael KellyKristen ConnollySakina Jaffrey;


Kevin Spacey is Frank Underwood, devious and machiavellian Congressman of South Carolina and House Majority Whip for the Democrats. After being blind-sided by the newly elected president and denied the position of Secretary of State, he decides to seek revenge with the help and support of his equally cunning and ruthless wife Claire (Robin Wright), head of an environmental NGO. Frank is also aided in his enterprise by faithful right-hand/consiglieri Doug (Micheal Kelly) who is not afraid of doing the dirty work, and ambitious, “new-media” journalist Zoe (Kate Mara), with whom he strikes a quid-pro-quo deal. Peter Russo (Corey Stoll), the rookie Congressman from Pennsylvania, is volunteered to participate in Frank’s game, well… more a “he received an offer he couldn’t refuse” type of situation. We see the characters move in this world of political maneuvering, back-room bargains and shady compromises, quite stunning in its infinite shades of gray. I haven’t seen a show this impressive since The Wire (well… Boardwalk Empire comes very close). The acting is brilliant and Kevin Spacey reaches an incredible level of bravura, and I love his breaking-the-fourth-wall monologues! The cinematography and the directing is top-notch, I’ll just say that the first two episodes have David Fincher at the helm. Last but not least the writers, chief among them the creator of the series Beau Willimon (The Ides of March rings a bell?), don’t drop the ball for a moment and keep you wondering about Frank’s end game. So if you like political drama, gritty and dark with a healthy dose of cynicism, this is for you, if not… well, it’s your loss. —9/10


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