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86. Mister Smith Goes to Washington – Independence Day 2018 (#147)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, an Independence Day treat. Frank Capra’s Mister Smith Goes to Washington.

Local activist and unlikely politician Jefferson Smith finds himself appointed to represent his great state in the United States Senate. However, while trying to ensure a fair deal for his constituents, Smith soon finds his faith in democracy threatened as he figures out how the institutions actually work.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 147th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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The X-Files – Terma (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

Tunguska and Terma borrows the structure that made the show’s early mythology episodes so effective. Tunguska is full of intriguing and compelling questions, implications that would seem to broaden or deepen the mythology. However, instead of resolving any of the major threads, Terma simply turns itself into a roller-coaster thrill ride. A cynical observer might compare the weaker mythology episodes to a shell-game: the potential of an interesting premise, lost in a shuffle designed to disorientate and catch the viewer off-guard.

It is an approach that has served the show well. Ascension avoided answering too many of the questions posed by Duane Barry, barrelling along with the momentum of a runaway freight train. Similarly, End Game did not dwell too heavily on the questions posed by Colony, instead serving as a series of high-momentum chase sequences with Mulder following the Alien Bounty Hunter to the ends of the Earth. Paper Clip moved so quickly that the viewers never wondered why the documents recovered in Anasazi were no longer earth-shattering, but merely macguffins.

Things are really heating up...

Things are really heating up…

The X-Files is very good at this sort of dynamic mile-a-minute plotting. The production team are very good at what they do. There is a sleek professionalism to these episodes that makes them easy to watch. Although filmed in Vancouver, there were few shows in the nineties ambitious enough to send their character to a Russian gulag for human experimentation. However, the cracks are starting to show. Herrenvolk demonstrated how frustrating a lack of answers could become. Terma struggles to balance a number of potentially interesting plot threads.

There are a lot of elements of Terma that might have worked well, if they had been given more room to breath. Sadly, the episode spends most of its run time trying to build up momentum towards the inevitable scene where proof narrow slips through Mulder’s fingers one more time.

Evil oil...

Evil oil…

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The X-Files – Fresh Bones (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

Written by Howard Gordon and directed by Rob Bowman, Fresh Bones is a superbly constructed piece of television. Indeed, there’s an argument to be made that Fresh Bones is the best “traditional” episode of The X-Files produced since Scully returned to the fold. While episodes like Irresistible and Die Hand Die Verletzt have been bold and adventurous in their attempts to expand the show’s comfort zone, Fresh Bones is perhaps the best example of what the show was missing while Gillian Anderson was unavailable – proof the familiar formula still works.

It’s a great example of what might be termed “the standard X-Files episode” – a demonstration of how all the moving parts come together to produce an episode of the show, offering an example of the series’ standard operating practice. If you were to pick an episode of the second season to demonstrate how a “standard” episode of The X-Files should work, Fresh Bones would be perhaps the most appropriate example. (Aubrey and Our Town are perhaps the only two other examples.)

Grave danger...

Grave danger…

In keeping with Bowman’s approach to the series, Fresh Bones feels like a forty-five minute movie. The show atmospherically shot with some wonderful kinetic sequences – such as Mulder’s pursuit of Chester on the pier or Scully’s attack in the car. The Voodoo subject matter lends Fresh Bones a wonderfully pulpy atmosphere, although it seems like Howard Gordon has done his homework. The script to Fresh Bones averts many of the awkward stereotypes you’d expect in a show about Voodoo starring two white leads produced in Vancouver.

The result is a superb piece of television, an example of what The X-Files is capable of.

A bone to pick...

A bone to pick…

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My 12 for ’13: Lincoln & Lawyering

This is my annual countdown of the 12 movies that really stuck with me this year. It only counts the movies released in Ireland in 2013, so quite a few of this year’s Oscar contenders aren’t eligible, though some of last year’s are.

This is number 11…

At its best, Lincoln manages to capture that beautiful conflict at the heart of democracy – the question of the difference that exists between democracy as a form of government and simple majoritarianism. Is it possible to preserve these fine and noble institutions and structures while constantly working around them?

lincoln11

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The Beastly Side: The Beast Below

Remember last week how I was said I was going to wait until the end of the year to post up one big post-season analysis of Matt Smith’s first season as the Doctor? Yeah, well I’m still gonna do that. But while the episodes still give us food for thought, I might want to post my thought on a given hour (or, in this case, the first episode of the show under an hour long in about two years). Maybe next week I’ll have nothing more to post than simply the fact that spitfires in space represent the coolest concept ever.

The belly of the beast...

Note: This post contains spoilers for The Beast Below, the second episode of the fifth season of Doctor Who (and if you’re going to argue about the given season number, you know exactly which season I’m talking about). I’ll flag them in the article below before I reach them, but consider yourself warned.

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Pleasing All of the People Some of the Time – Oscar Voting for Dummies…

You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

John Lydgate

The above quote is frequently attributed to Abraham Lincoln (though Lincoln actually substituted ‘fool’ for ‘please’, in a bit of West Wing-style trivia for you, say what you will of “Honest Abe”), and applies to many things in life. Since this is a movie blog, and the Oscars changed the practice of counting votes for the Best Picture, today it applies to the practice of counting votes for the Best Picture. The Academy used to adopt both approaches – favouring all in the selection of nominees, but only some (as little as 18%) in its selection of winners – but now it looks like the academy is shifting towards adjusting the selection of winners to allow all (well, a lot more than before) members some say in the matter.

Anyway, we’ve put together a little maths guide to how the new system will work in practice.

If I have three Oscar statuettes, and Meryll Streep moves in with her thirteen Oscar statuettes, how inferior am I going to feel?

If I have one Oscar statuettes, and Jack Nicholson stands next to mewith his three Oscar statuettes, how inferior am I going to feel?

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