Monday, June 15, 2020

Quarantine Movies I

I know the riots have been going on and of course I considered that perhaps I ought to say something about them, but I don't see any good in trying to write some earnest commentary about this at the moment, especially as I don't perceive that anyone is looking to me for any, so I am going to write about what I want to and presumably whatever I think about these important societal matters will be expressed therein.

I did have a dream the other night that one of my middle aged female social media friends and former top ten crushes, who is now seems to be in the vanguard of the revolution, had an appointment to come to my house to help me de-colonize my bookshelves--it's looking like putting up those pictures in the last post might not have been a great idea. I was genuinely apprehensive in the dream that she was going to just set them on fire when she arrived, even though she is a St John's graduate, because she is so ferocious now, at least online. But she was actually very polite when she arrived and we had a nice adult discussion about the de-colonization process like real adults rather than her telling me to sit down and shut up so she, or somebody else, could educate me, or, even worse, tell me to educate myself. She was also of course only about thirty years old in my dream, so she looked like her lovely old self. So the culture war and its effects are clearly making some impression on me.

Now, to the post in progress...

I haven't seen many movies lately. I have too much to do, there are too many people in my house, and they are older now so someone is up late watching TV pretty much every night (and none of them share my taste, or my lists' taste, in entertainment). Also between what my system is generating lately and what is available I've going through a stretch of movies of the sort that I don't like that much, so I haven't been in a hurry to get around to watching them.

Goodbye, Christopher Robin (2017)

This actually is a kind of movie I do like, and now that I am fifty and have accepted that I am never going to ingratiate myself with any kind of real film-connoisseur crowd, do not even feel guilty or ashamed about liking anymore. It is a slickly produced, emotionally manipulative, middlebrow film set in a (no doubt) impossibly glorious-looking past, in this case England between the wars. Everything in it is beautiful, the language is literate if not ingeniously inventive (at this point I'll take it), and the plot is easy to follow, not devoid of interest, and I would assume must be somewhat historically accurate, since it is not entirely flattering to its subjects. I watched it a second time with the whole family, with the exception of the youngest, and all of the children (ages 8-17) found it comprehensible and/or tolerable, and several of them even claimed they enjoyed it. This is not easy for us to pull off these days.

Every chance to lay on some classic cliched Englishness is seemingly taken. Tea-drinking, cricket-playing, and rose-planting take up much screen time. Young Christopher Robin loves his nanny more than he loves his mother, in keeping with the popular idea of the period. When he goes to his posh public school he is immediately set upon by cruel bullies who continue to torment him for the ensuing ten years.  All of it is highly stylized. Still, take me back to English in 1926 any day (when I say this sort of thing, I mean as a tourist. I would like to visit it for a couple of weeks, ride the trains and drink in the pubs and see classic plays on their early runs and that sort of thing, and then return to my own time).

I don't think the Pooh books are holding up too well in the current age (they certainly aren't showing up on any of the suggested reading lists currently being promoted by the "educate yourself" crowd), even more than other older children's classics. We tried reading some of them with our older children-- sadly, we are so overwhelmed now that we don't do, or at least never finish any, literary reading with the younger ones--and they didn't really take to them, though they liked the Pooh Disney movies, which I remember thinking at the time were not that bad either. I had not known much about the life of A. A. Milne, had not realized that he was a veteran of the First World War, had been at the Somme and so on, and according to the movie he seems to have suffered a pretty severe case of PTSD and become rather withdrawn. He only had the one child. His wife, who was played by a very beautiful actress (Margot Robbie, who is actually Australian), was depicted as rather spoiled, status-seeking, unsympathetic and not especially maternal person for much of the film.

I remember reading once that the murder rate in England sank to historic and almost incredible lows during the 1920s--something like 12 in the entire calendar year of 1928--but I don't remember the book I read that in and I am not finding anything to corroborate that number in a quick internet search. But my impression from the many books I have read set in and about that time over the years is that it was an unusually tranquil era.

Tidy Endings (1988)

This was a made for TV film (HBO) about the AIDS crisis. It was written by and stars Harvey Fierstein, a longtime New York theater person and actor, who was in his 30s at the time. It is more like a play, and may have originally been written as such. I think it would work a lot better as a play in a very intimate (100 people or less) setting, because most of it is two characters in a New York apartment talking through their pain and anger following the death by AIDS of a character with whom both of the leads knew as lovers, one as the deceased's ex-wife, the other as the same sex partner he later moved on to when he embraced his dominant inclination, the intensity of which would be much more vivid in a live setting. On TV it's easier for someone like me who never had any visceral connection to the AIDS catastrophe--in truth at the time I was barely aware that it was even going on--to get distracted and find fault with the writing and what strikes me from my vantage as a grouchy middle-aged man with a lot of children as immaturity and selfishness in the gay lover character. But I do think it would be good as a play.

Conflict (1973) 

A.K.A The Catholics. Another made for TV movie, British I think. This belongs to a fairly extensive genre I didn't know existed until recently, Martin Sheen Catholic movies. This is set in a remote monastery in Ireland where the day to day life of the monks is, certainly compared to our time, pretty pre-modern, though they do have electricity, I think. I am reminded of how old-fashioned and civilized life in Europe comes across to well into my own lifetime. Anybody you run across in a school or religious institution or other profession requiring a formal course of education actually has a quite solid educational foundation and can call on it readily when talking to other adults of the same background. It's incredible. That was the main pleasure of this movie, the plot of which concerned the monastery's rebellious act of reverting to the Latin mass against the dictates of Vatican IV and the envoy sent from Rome to impose discipline on the order. Vatican IV is not a misprint, the story is nominally set in the future, roughly around the year 2000, but the cars, the clothes, the televisions, the telephones, the hair, the roads, and everything else are exactly as they were in Ireland in 1973, so imagining that this is taking place anywhere remotely proximate even to the 1990s is pretty much impossible to anybody who was alive at that time.

The Ghost in the Darkness (1996)

Not much to say about this, I thought it was completely boring and without interest. It's set sometime in the late Victorian age in colonial Africa and is about an Englishman trying to build a railroad bridge but the project was disrupted by some vicious and practically unkillable who kept breaking into the camp and mauling and eating the workers. No spark about it whatsoever. Didn't like it.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Bookshelf Pictures

I have noticed a number of people during the quarantine are posting pictures of their bookshelves. This seemed like something I could do, and I psyched myself up for the task by saying that if other people's bookshelves are of interest to the internet reading public, surely mine must be to someone. My bookcases are scattered over several rooms throughout the house and are not terribly organized, but there are some basic themes running through them.

1 & 2. This is the main bookcase of the house, and the largest, in what is now something of a front sitting room, where the children practice their musical instruments and there is a round table in the middle where people could read books and newspapers if anyone did such things anymore. The first photo is the left side of this bookcase. It has a number of St. John's books in it, including a set of the Great Books itself across the top. You can see a few Harvard Classics, though I don't make an especial point of collecting those, next to the Anthony Powells on the third shelf from the bottom. There are also a few Norton Anthologies and Foreign Language dictionaries and other reference books here. The bottom two shelves are for kind of small books with ugly covers that can fit on them.

The right side of this bookcase. On the top is the set of I.W.E. encyclopedias whose reading list forms the basis of my other blog. Just below that is the eclectic "World's Greatest Literature" set from the 30s which I have had since I was a teenager (I am still missing 2 of the set of 20 though). The bottom shelf contains a bunch of atlases and large art and travel picture books that no one looks at anymore, including me, though most of these I have had since my childhood/young adulthood and I used to look at them all the time. The third row from the top is where I stick all of my clunky clothbound 900 page 1950s era books.

3. This is in the living room. The television (not visible) sits on top of this. This bookcase was in my grandparents' basement forever, and it appears in family pictures going back at least to the 1940s, before they moved to the house they lived in when I knew them. When they had it it was full of bestsellers and book of the month club selections, which I didn't keep. I preserve it exclusively for hardcover books, mostly literature, printed, if not necessarily written, from the 20s to the 50s. There are a lot of my Modern Library books in here, including most of the "Giants", though I don't on the whole make a point of keeping all of those together.

4. Also in the living room, though in somewhat of a dark corner. This is probably the nicest bookcase I have, as a piece of furniture. This holds mostly smaller Modern Library books with one shelf of Loeb Classics and a few other old similarly shaped classic type books, small blue Oxford editions and the like. The radio on top was my grandfather's, AM only. He used to listen to it in his basement in the 70s, and presumably had been doing so for years before that, in the afternoons when he drank beer. Sometime in the early 80s he got cable TV down there and didn't listen to the radio as much in the afternoons anymore. At some point within the last decade I plugged it in to listen to the baseball games before I gave in and paid for my sons to be able to watch them on TV, and it stilled worked. It's very loud and clear actually, and the static had that whirligig 1950s time capsule quality.

5. The whatnot. This is a pretty starchy set of literary classics that my wife found set out in a box by the side of a woodland road some years back. Most of the volumes are things I either already have or am probably never going to read, though there are a couple that I might use someday. In truth at the time I think she likely got them with this piece of furniture in mind, and they do contribute something to the dignity of the room.

6. This cabinet is built into the wall in the corner of the dining room, and was probably intended to display cups and dishes. I keep a lot of my newer paperbacks in here, Penguin Classics and the like, as well as other newer (post-1990) sets, the Oxford Illustrated Dickens and Jane Austen sets are here, and newer Modern Library and Everyman's. The first four volumes of Knausgaard are here. I liked those enough that I would like to get around to finishing the series, which I have now had a several years' hiatus from, someday. There are a number of late 90s/early 2000s era tourist guidebooks here as well which I am not quite ready to get rid of yet, though it might be a substantial step forward in my development to do so.

7. This is kind of an extra shelf of my wife's in the front hallway. Her Greek and Latin collection is here along with a bunch of her occupational binders and notebooks.

8. On the staircase landing. Mostly old children's books on the top two shelves that none of my children have ever read, but that I am holding onto just in case either of my daughters, now 5 and 8, should take an interest in them. The third shelf has a motley collection of serious books (I see Ulysses, and a Euclid, and The Great Gatsby and maybe Hemingway) that are either second copies or couldn't be fit in anywhere else. The bottom shelf are photo albums, which we stubbornly kept up making with film prints up to about 2010, after which we succumbed to modernity. 

9. Another extra shelf in the ill-lit, narrow upstairs hallway. I had to reach out my hand against the opposite wall just to get a blurry partial picture. This has a lot of second copies of St John's books, gift books I've never read, gifts I've gotten my children that they've never read, a Smiths biography, a circa-2000 guide to literary agents that I have no idea why I am still keeping. The most disorderly shelf in the house.

10. A small shelf in my bedroom that contains movie/entertainment books, sports books, school yearbooks, travel guidebooks that even predate the ones downstairs, notebooks with my manuscripts from when I used to write, my wife's St. John's manuals--even I did not keep those.

11 & 12. These are boxes piled up in the sitting room with books I have no shelf space for. A lot of them are full of children's books that people have gleefully dumped on us over the books and that frankly I think we are going to have to get rid of, though around three or four of them are the books I got in New York last summer and that I need to be able to see because I cannot remember what is there, and I have already ordered one book this spring from the internet that I had forgotten I had on hand because I couldn't see it. 

The new shelf is going to be in this corner. It is supposed to be one of our quarantine projects. My wife has great plans for the design and paint scheme. I honestly just want to be able to see the books. I don't care what color the shelves are.

I am of course having a lot of mixed, inconsistent, what have you, opinions regarding the ongoing pandemic lockdown, though if I were to try to write about them tonight I wouldn't be able to get this posted, so I won't do it tonight. I am as usual unable to be in complete lockstep agreement, not least emotionally, with the educated east coast people, though God knows I would be so much happier if I could think and feel as intensely and clearly and rightly as they do, and go to bed every night knowing I was one of those lucky guys that the angry liberal women I have always loved were not angry at, but held up as a one in a thousand example of righteous progressive virtue. "That Bourgeois Surrender...he gets it," they would sigh with perhaps a barely perceptible heaving of the bosom as they lifted the wine glass to...yes, well I had better stop and explain myself more clearly in a future post...

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Tourism Nostalgia Part 2

There was going to be a series of these posts. I was going to include all of my favorite pictures, and make some kind of personal claim on the places in them, and make some reference to the overcrowding and other vulgar changes brought about in them by our modern age, if I could not quite join in on the lamenting of them. Now of course the crowds are gone from all of these places, perhaps never to return in the numbers that had become common in recent years, which of course would be a positive development, other that it may further decrease the chance of my ever going to any of them again. The photos in this group are from the second volume of the Catholic history survey, which covers the Western story from 1600 to about 1960, so the sites are more modern. They loaded from my phone somewhat out of order, but that does not matter enough that I am going to bother fixing it. 

The scene around the Arch of Triumph doesn't look that different from the old days, at least from the air, though the Elysian Fields I guess has been effectively Times Square for at least forty years now. It's still too iconic a site to leave out of the post.

Brilon, Westphalia, Germany

I admit that I don't know anything about this place, but the old scene at least reminds me of the kind of town in the Czech Republic that we would ride into on our bicycles and drink beer and eat soup and wiener schnitzel in. Which I loved.

Church of St Peter and St Paul, St. Petersburg

Everything looks so clean and restored nowadays. So many experts and culture lovers swarming over and caring for everything. I think I miss the days when everything was neglected and run down and I could imagine I, and a few other earnest and sexy but not especially enterprising people, were the only ones who really cared about all of this stuff.

The view from the other side still has some trees in the picture, but all of the ones I've been able to find aren't allowing me to steal them.

Such a big deal was made of the U.N. in all of my childhood reference books, and it seems so comparatively passe and not a big part of where the world is going now, that I have always kind of wanted to go visit it, especially while it is still an active organization. However I haven't gotten around to doing it yet.

I should note here that this was the very last photograph in the book, the most up-to-date representation of Western Civilization as it appeared in 1962. 

Wall Street, 1929. Probably more crowded then than now.

I can remember walking past Wall Street but I don't think I have ever been on it. It is one place I definitely don't belong anyway, but at the time (I was still in my 20s) I'm sure I felt like I couldn't go there, that somehow I would be exposing myself to existential danger (my upbringing to that point had instilled in me an idea that Wall Street was one of the vortexes of evil in all the world to a would-be artist or serious thinker).

Osnabruck. Another one of these German places from the Thirty Years' War that I do not know that much about but would probably be interested in

That's the place. It is one of my weaknesses, and probably the major real cause of my dissatisfaction thus far with the whole coronavirus episode, that there is all this fun to be had out there in the world that I have largely missed out on, or that I am constantly being prevented from taking part in, in which European and big city traveling plays an outsized part, especially now that I am too old to go partying in places like Ibiza or Thailand or the more decadent Greek Islands. While it is true, as my wife would argue, that spending all your afternoons and evenings lounging around drinking beer even in the most picturesque setting would be a waste of your life, it is also true that some of the happier memories of my life involved doing just this. And as it's been over 20 years now since I have been able to indulge myself in this way I do have a hankering to do it again (as I have a hankering to see a real classic or good adult movie in an actual cinema, or even an auditorium again, which I haven't done in 20 years either). 

In 1990, on my first trip abroad, I did go up in the Eiffel Tower like a typical chump, however I did manage to strike up a conversation with a couple of really beautiful Israeli girls on this occasion. They were in truth such a leap up in glamor from anyone who had ever talked to me on a friendly basis up to that time that I unfortunately was not quite ready to follow through with laying out some appealing post-Eiffel Tower plans that might interest them, as I didn't haven't any, though they did give me an opening to bring the subject up. At the time I thought, well, I was caught off-guard this time, but the next time I find myself chatting up such babes at one of these tourist attractions, I'll prepared. Of course I never would find myself chatting up any such babes at any tourist attraction or anywhere else ever again.   

How it really is.

How we imagine it (below)

League of Nations Building, Geneva. The idea of international organizations, provided they were Western-dominated, had a hold on the imagination of leaders and educated men in the decades following World War II, even when they were epic failures.

This building still exists, and looks about the same as it did in past days. The inside of it looks to have something of an old European grandeur that the present U.N. lacks (though I also have a certain weakness, entirely rooted in nostalgia, for 1950s American modernism).

Admittedly, this place was built to hold crowds, and attract even the dregs of humanity (to some extent). I love it there, and the whole area around it. A lot of excitement.

Red Square, long view.

I know I have no place to be a snob, but Red Square isn't quite the same now that people who shop at Whole Foods can go there (and come back again to their office park jobs a few days later).

Modern cameras, or perhaps modernity itself, seems to have diminished the effect that many of these monuments have in these old photos.

Maison Lafitte, France

French castles are not one of my particular areas of expertise. 

May Day Parade, Red Square Again!

These epic events did end after 1991 (there is still a military parade on May 9 every year to commemorate the end of World War II), but there was an (apparently?) one-time revival in 2014 that drew 10,000 people.

This Catholic history textbook I got all these pictures from unabashedly hated the International Communist Party and all that they stood for and didn't skip any opportunity to excoriate them in print.

Palace of Versailles

I haven't actually been here. When the crowd is this big, we're all tourist scum, unless maybe you are really good-looking. I hope there is some time of year when it isn't like this. 

St Martin's-in-the-Fields, London. 

This is the church that is right off Trafalgar Square, across the street from the National Gallery, so I have seen it, but I haven't visited it. Due to its location and the fortune of its not having been bombed out during World War II (which fate befell a great many of the 17th and 18th century London churches recognizable to students of English literature) it is one of the most prominent 18th century buildings remaining in the city.

Belvedere Palace, Vienna. 

I have been to a number of the secondary palaces of the Hapsburg family, including Franz Ferdinand's cottage at Konopiste in Bohemia, and Franz Joseph's hunting lodge in Bad Ischl, but I have never made it to Vienna. The treeless, relatively unadorned approach to the gigantic Viennese palaces (Schonbrunn presents similarly in photos) has always struck me as strange, but perhaps the effect is different in person. 

I don't know how to end these kinds of posts, so I'm just going to say "This is the end."

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Another Diary Entry

Judging from people's social media feeds, a lot of Educated Parents (one of my favorite contemporary demographics) are having a tough go of it in the early stages of the great online learning experiment. Granted, their expectations with regard to results are probably higher than mine are, but having six children at home, five of whom are supposed to be doing online school in various degrees, which is more than I have the energy to oversee in every detail, I will tell you what my approach is with each.

1. 17 year old, 12th grade. I count on him to do his own work, besides which, he has already been accepted to college, and I doubt they are going to rescind his admission over whatever assignments he has to do during this coronavirus time. I am more worried at this point about him finishing his Eagle Scout project, which he has until May to complete. He is still going out to the woods to work on it a few days a week, and I think he is coming up to the end, but the suspension of the meetings and everything has come at an inconvenient time.

2. 16 yr old, 10th grade. I'm trusting him to do his own work too. He did approach me with an Algebra II question the other day, which I was a little apprehensive of being able to answer, but fortunately it was about the graphing of functions, which I can do.

3. 13 yr old, 7th grade. He goes to school online regularly anyway, so I am used to having to oversee him, though he does not maintain quite the pace or workload I would like him to carry. I do most of his math with him. The other classes I mostly let him try to do on his own, and only intervene when he gets a 50 or 60 on an assignment and has to do it over. In my humbled state I take some mild pride in being able to work English compositions that he has gotten a 40 on up to a 90 or even sometimes a 100, despite the rather clunky directions on the grading rubric ("in the conclusion paragraph, I clearly included a reflection that reveals what the protagonist learned or how the protagonist changed"). My kid may not have any instinctive idea of the shape an essay is supposed to take, but by gosh, I do!

4. 10 yr old, 5th grade. The elementary school teachers have taken a two week hiatus to try to figure how they are going to this distance learning, though a few general admonitions have been sent home (read 20 minutes a day! Review the spelling lists! Math worksheets!) This kid is actually pretty conscientious about keeping up. He did come to me for help on one of the math exercises.

5. 8 yr old, 3rd grade. The school is still working on the plan. I am having her read me a chapter of Charlotte's Web (which I had never read before) every day. I would have her read more, as I enjoy this, but I am actually rather busy during the day. There is a lot of housework (laundry, dishes) to do with everyone being home, I have to make something in the pot for dinner, and I am still going to work every afternoon, though for how long remains to be seen. I am also still trying to get out and take a thirty minute walk every day, which I am supposed to be doing as part of my heart rehab. When I get home from work I midnight I read a little of my current book (Bleak House, which I thought might be long enough to outlast the quarantine, but now I'm not so sure), and watch about a half hour of whatever movie I happen to be on. I can sleep in the morning until 9 or so now, as opposed to having to get up at seven when regular school is in session.

6. 5 yr old, pre-school. I'm supposed to be teaching her how to read, but it isn't going too well so far. She has a pretty good on the letters and a few very short words, but working all the way through to a second consonant remains a bit of a challenge. She is also probably watching too much TV. I am sending them out into the yard a little bit, though it isn't quite warm enough to play outside calmly for an extended period. Everybody needs more attention. I'm probably taking it too much for granted that no one is going to get sick.

I doubtless am writing all of these posts out of some amount of anxiety and dread (and also boredom, and disbelief, and other more excusable reactions), though I do not feel as depressed (yet) as I have at times in the past. Whatever difficulties are looming, it is not quite clear to me at least what form they are exactly going to take, and it certainly appears that they are going to be broadly shared. Maybe they will be very terrible indeed, of course. Sometimes in these kinds of crises it becomes clear to people what their role is and what exactly they are supposed to do (right now a lot of people seem to be auditioning for a role as Leader in the Crisis in various ways who are not quite however suited for it), though this is not characteristically how thinks go with me. The main thing I am worried about at the moment, for whatever reason, is that my oldest son isn't going to make it to college in the fall, and maybe won't end up being able to go. It is entirely possible that circumstances will force him to have to do something else which ultimately would do him just as much good, somehow, but as I am not able to envision what that might be I cannot be easy about it.

A couple of years back when I was very depressed something that cheered me up in the dark winter evenings was that out the window of my office I could see, in the distance, the twinkling lights and ski trails of a mountain in the distance where, that particular year, one of my children would go on Friday nights with a group from his school. Since that time I have always taken note of it in remembrance of that difficult winter. Of course, for the past two weeks, it has gone dark, which is obviously not a great tragedy in comparison with all that is going on, but it is something palpably melancholy that has made an impression on me. I find myself looking in the direction of the mountain quite a lot now and wondering when it will be lit again, and even if I will be around to see it...That is enough for today.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Stepping back from crisis-posting--I'm going to try to not do much of that unless I have something I really need to write down--I managed to see this over the weekend. I think I had seen it, or at least part of it, once before, some years ago, certainly before I was twenty-five, when I had seen far fewer classic movies to compare notes against, and of course I had forgotten much of it. If nothing terrible is happening to me either imminently or in the immediate moment, I do not have too much difficulty when reading or watching a movie in forgetting about worldly concerns. And for now, at least, I am still able to do this.

One of the things that struck me, and in fact has often struck me in recent years, is that these movies from the 1930s have gotten to be quite far from us in time now. They did not feel thus in the 80s and 90s, not only since many of the stars and other figures of the era were still alive (Jean Arthur and Frank Capra lived until 1991, for example, and Jimmy Stewart until 1997), but also many contemporary movies and TV sitcoms in that era still retained something of the, for lack of a better word, optimistic goofiness of classic-era Hollywood in their DNA. The personality of these kinds of entertainments since around 2000 seems to me to have finally shed this for the most part and operate from a more sober and realistic worldview, which makes films of this type especially feel more remote to me (from the present age; not from my own sensibility) than they used to.

Many serious commentators consider this to be the best Frank Capra film over the (today) much better-known It's a Wonderful Life, though others prefer Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, and still others It Happened One Night, though I have not seen this last. I am not able to concur in this. Mr. Deeds I came to with much anticipation and found disappointing. This one was an improvement on that effort and contains much that is memorable and different and well done though the resolution ultimately is a little too far-fetched for me to find satisfying. The exaggerated hokiness does not bother me, since it is the source of the tension in the story, and Jimmy Stewart is of course very good in carrying it off. I found myself wondering in some of the scenes where he is challenged or mocked by the more hardened operators how he was going to respond creditably, and in several places he pulls it off, though not always. I don't think this is one of Claude Rains's great roles, though he is as always a great actor--having him play a compromised but somewhat conflicted person in authority does not play to his strengths. He is arrogant and devilish, but not in what I would consider a Claude Rains way. He isn't humorous in this, nor is he particularly sympathetic. Jean Arthur is starting to grow on me a little, though she has not traditionally been a particular favorite of mine. She is very well-liked by what I would loosely call the Gen-X classic film blogger community, and she does, in her roles at least, seem like someone who would not be completely out of place if she were transported to our time. She's not a simp, she is capable, her inner emotional life seems like it might be interesting without being the central motivator of everything she does. I like her small figure--she is listed as having been 5 foot 3 and 110 pounds, which is in accordance with my taste--and I like a lot of the dresses she wears in this as well. Probably my favorite role I've seen her in so far here (Mr Deeds, The Plainsman, Shane).

This is the dress I really liked.

The sets in this movie are top notch. It is very pleasurable to look at. I love giant 1930s era offices with high ceilings and heavy desks and bookcases, and this movie is full of them. I like the montages showing the sights and monuments of Washington as well, as there seem to be few cinematic depictions of that city, which I have spent a decent amount of time in, before the 90s at all.

The movie contains a commentary by Frank Capra, Jr which is so-so. He does have a lot of old Hollywood/studio lore which is probably of interest to some people, but it doesn't tend to be the kind of tidbits that grab me. He is not the most engaging talker, and what he is talking about frequently is not related to what happens to be going on in the film at the time. I would prefer either a more academic commentary on the film or a personality spinning entertaining yards with the occasional insight, but there is not really either here.