films seen
average score
Italy - 94 years old
R.I.P. (1897 - 1991)
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When I think Capra, I think James Stewart. And when I think Stewart, I think forced and stiff sentimentality. Capra's war documentaries a bit better, and he did direct some veritable classics, but his feature films just aren't for me.


The Nazis Strike

1943 / 41m - USA
Documentary, War
The Nazis Strike poster

One of the many short docs the USA made to "inform" the people about World War II. Some of them are extremely patriotic, others even cross over into pure propaganda, but a few of them also offer a more factual take on the war. The Nazis Strike is the latter, which is the approach I personally prefer.

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There have been countless war docs since, what I appreciate about Capra's take is that it's very short and to the point. It's one of the best recaps detailing the start of World War II I've come across, which makes it an excellent introduction for people unfamiliar with the details of the war.

On the other hand, for someone my age, who has seen more than his fair share of WWII documentaries, there isn't that much here. Some cute animations, clear language and solid pacing make sure it's watchable, but content-wise it's all very basic. Not bad, but hard to recommend unless you're clueless about WWII.

Here Comes the Groom

1951 / 113m - USA
Comedy, Romance, Musical
Here Comes the Groom poster

The Battle of Britain

1944 / 54m - USA
Documentary, War
The Battle of Britain poster

One of the infamous war propaganda films directed by Frank Capra. Best known for his light-hearted feelgood dramas, the US army asked Capra to direct some uplifting and energizing documentaries that would bring hope to all those fighting the Nazi armies (from home and/or in the trenches).

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This episode focuses on the Battle of Britain (duh), Hitler's first big defeat that would put a big dent into the air of invincibility that the Nazi army had created for itself. No doubt the broad lines of this documentary are accurate enough, but I wouldn't pay too much attention to any particular details.

It's quite clear that this was a film with a specific mission. Because it's so energetic it's actually quite fun to watch, pretty different from most war documentaries, but that doesn't change the fact that this is little more than a piece of dedicated propaganda, meant to raise the spirit of all those fighting in the war. A fun curiosity, but nothing more.

Prelude to War

1943 / 52m - USA
Documentary, War
Prelude to War poster

Know Your Enemy: Japan

1945 / 63m - USA
Documentary, War
Know Your Enemy: Japan poster

Arsenic and Old Lace

1944 / 113m - USA
Comedy, Crime
Arsenic and Old Lace poster

An old Capra. I'm not his biggest fan, and I can't really stand Cary Grant either. Both are incredibly stiff in their own way, so I guess in some way they do make a good match. Sadly, that never seemed to lead to good cinema. Arsenic and Old Lace is no exception, it's an incredibly crusty comedy that greatly overstays its welcome.

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Mortimer is a well-known writer who is known for being skeptical about marriage. But even he can't escape love, and not much later he ties the knot. He drives home to inform his aunts, but when he gets there, he finds a body hidden in the cupboard. Wanting to save his aunts, Mortimer will learn that nothing is what it seems.

Grant is an enormous miscast, the jokes are lame and outdated and the runtime is excessive, though that's probably because the comedy fell completely flat for me. At least the film doesn't try to do anything else but to be funny, so the mood is light at all times. It's not much, but it's something.

Tunisian Victory

1944 / 75m - USA
Documentary, War
Tunisian Victory poster

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

1939 / 129m - USA
Comedy, Drama
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington poster

You Can't Take It with You

1938 / 126m - USA
Comedy, Romance
You Can't Take It with You poster

It's been quite a while since I last watched a Capra/Stewart collaboration. I'd forgotten how indifferent I was to their films, this turned out to be a good reminder. I can't really stand Stewart, and I find Capra's style to be utterly bland and forgettable. The runtime is the final nail in the coffin.

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Alice and Tony fell in love with each other, but they come from very different backgrounds and when their families meet, things become a bit tricky. Tony comes from a wealthy, close-minded family that cares only about money, whereas Alice's family is very open and friendly, and puts a stronger emphasis on human bonds.

The romance is dry, the families are pure caricatures, the comedy is cheesy and whatever drama there was fell completely flat. And all of that is stretched to pass the 2-hour mark. The light tone keeps it somewhat watchable, but that's of little comfort. A perfect Oscar winner I guess.

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

1936 / 115m - USA
Drama, Romance
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town poster

Early Capra. While I think sound is one of the most undervalued and disregarded areas of cinema, I'm really not a fan of the early talkies. It seems they did their very best to catch up with years of silence, dumping as much dialogue into 90-120 minutes as they could muster. Not my kind of cinema.

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Mr. Deeds is a simple man who enjoys the smaller things in life. When he inherits a big sum of money, he is urged to go to the city with the lawyers to complete all the paper work. Once there, he is overwhelmed by all the people wanting to take a piece of his fortune, becoming increasingly disappointed with people's greed.

At almost two hours, the film drags on for way too long. Characters can't stop chatting, almost everyone is a caricature and Capra's tendency to makes thing overly cheesy and sentimental don't improve the film either. It's quite a chore to sit through, I haven't really found the big appeal of Capra's work yet.

It Happened One Night

1934 / 105m - USA
Comedy, Romance
It Happened One Night poster

It's a Wonderful Life

1946 / 130m - USA
Drama, Fantasy
It's a Wonderful Life poster