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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Five Best: Non-President D.C. Movies

courtesy of

Instead of going with the typical "Patriotic Movies" for the day after Independence Day, I'm taking a different route and looking at our nation's capital, but in a non-presidential sense. All these films take place at least partly in Washington, D.C., but none of them focus on our commander in chief or anything he does. This list is harder to put together than you think.  So, I hope you all enjoyed your Fourth of July celebration and enjoy this list. Here they are, in chronological order.

Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" courtesy of

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

The only one on our list that deals directly with politics, Frank Capra's uplifting film circles around Jeffrson Smith (Stewart, left), a replacement senator meant to serve as a lame duck while in office. When Smith proposes a bill that directly conflicts with another senator's plans, it takes sheer will and determination to see his noble efforts through to the end. It was nominated for 11 Oscars, but only won for best writing (it was up against Gone with the Wind, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, and Ninotchka). It's still a wonderful film and a great performances from the ever-engaging Stewart.

Linda Blair in "The Exorcist" courtesy of

The Exorcist (1973)

Directed by William Friedkin, this still terrifying story of a young girl possessed is one of the great landmarks of American cinema. Filming near Georgetown University, actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) notices her daughter Regan (Blair, left) showing unnatural changes in behavior. MacNeil turns to conflicted Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) and the good vs. evil battle begins. The film's original release caused an uproar, and the film's production was said to be cursed. Either way, it still remains as one of the scariest things to ever hit the silver screen. It was nominated for ten Oscars (including Best Picture), winning two for Adapted Screenplay and Sound.

William Hurt and Holly Hunter in "Broadcast News" courtesy of

Broadcast News (1987)

Television news is a weird business and director James L. Brooks shows shy in this funny, quirky film. The story revolves around producer Jane Craig (Hunter, left) and her love triangle with her writer Aaron (Albert Brooks) and new reporter Tom (Hurt, left). It's an interesting take on the way personal life and news co-exist and how difficult it is to separate the two in the production room. Few movies about the business of making television have been as accurate as this one. The performances are stellar - the film was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture.

Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, and Kevin Pollack in "A Few Good Men" Courtesy of

A Few Good Men (1992)

A courtroom drama in every sense of the word, the film was adapted for the screen by the great Aaron Sorkin from his play of the same name. Lieutenant Kaffee (Cruise, left) is the Judge Advocate General Corps lawyer brought in to defend two Marines accused of murdering a fellow Marine at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. With his team (Moore and Pollack, left), he intends to prove that they were simply following orders from above. It's gripping, intelligent, and skillfully acted and directed (by Rob Reiner). Though it didn't win anything, it was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture. Most importantly, it was the movie I watched with my groomsmen the afternoon of my wedding.

Benicio Del Toro in "Traffic" courtesy of

Traffic (2000)

An adaptation of the British television series "Traffik," Stephen Soderbergh's 2000 crime drama explores the drug trade from various points of view. It takes place in three places - Mexico, Washington, D.C., and San Diego, each showing a very different pespective. Standout performances from Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, and, specifically, Del Toro (left), make this three hour film worth the watch. Nominated for four Oscars, it went home with the Supporting trophy for Del Toro, but deserved really Best Picture (Gladiator? Really?)

So, again, Happy Independence Day to everyone who resides in this great country of ours. Hope it was a safe and happy holiday.

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