Sunday, 23 September 2012

Week 39: Pennsylvania

"It started in Scranton, it's now Number 1;
 It's bound to entertain ya,
 Everybody has a mania
 To do the polka from Pennsylvania..."
 - 'The Pennsylvania Polka',
 The Andrews Sisters

Ah, Pennsylvania, sweet mother of liberty, the Keystone State. As a British colony it was founded by the Quaker William Penn as a haven of religious freedom. It then, along with Massachusetts, played one of the largest roles in the fight for American liberty. But whereas the Boston mobs were firebrands and demagogues, Pennsylvania produced individuals like all-round clever-dick Benjamin Franklin. The Continental Conventions held in Philadelphia were high-minded affairs that produced first the Declaration of Independence, and later the Constitution of the United States.
I have been to Philadelphia. Very nice it is too! It makes great play of its central role in the march towards independence. Despite being a big city I felt that it was a cultured, nice, approachable, friendly city. I regretted having only booked two nights in the city en route between New York and Washington D.C. I would happily go back. It has the historic Independence Hall (a UNESCO World Heritage Site!). It has the first home of Congress. And it has the legendary Liberty Bell (which is just a bell with a crack in it if you want to know).
Philadelphia has this fame for high-minded ideals and intelligence (a fame not entirely borne out by the stereotype of the slippery 'Philadelphia Lawyer'). But there is more to the state than just Philly and its famous cheesesteaks. Second city Pittsburgh has a reputation as a tough, brawling, blue-collar industrial city. It does have its own claims to artistic merit however: Andy Warhol hailed from Pittsburgh. The Allegheny Mountains part the two. Elsewhere the state sprawls from the Delaware River in the south-east to the shores of Lake Erie in the north-west. In between there are the famous 'Pennsylvania Dutch', known more commonly as the Amish. These strict Christians shun modern technology in their quest to live a simple existence. Until the reality TV shows come calling anyway. Democratic political consultant James Carville once described Pennsylvania as "Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west and Alabama in the middle."
So the challenge for this week's films is to try and find ones that reflect this diversity - Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Alabama. My three choices are:
  • The Deer Hunter (1978)
  • Philadelphia (1993)
  • Witness (1985)
So load up on pretzels from Reading Terminal Market, stick the shoofly pie in the oven and come join me by the TV!

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