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A masterwork for all time...
There is a scene about halfway through the movie Casablanca that has become commonly known as 'The Battle of the Anthems' throughout the film's long history. A group of German soldiers has come into Rick's Café American and are drunkenly singing the German National Anthem at the top of their voice. Victor Lazlo, the leader of the French Resistance, cannot stand this act and while the rest of the club stares appalled at the Germans, Lazlo orders the band to play 'Le Marseilles (sic?)' the French National Anthem. With a nod from Rick, the band begins playing, with Victor singing at the top of HIS voice. This in turn, inspires the whole club to begin singing and the Germans are forced to surrender and sit down at their table, humbled by the crowd's dedication. This scene is a turning point in the movie, for reasons that I leave to you to discover.
As I watched this movie again tonight for what must be the 100th time, I noticed there was a much smaller scene wrapped inside the bigger scene that, unless you look for it, you may never notice. Yvonne, a minor character who is hurt by Rick emotionally, falls into the company of a German soldier. In a land occupied by the Germans, but populated by the French, this is an unforgivable sin. She comes into the bar desperately seeking happiness in the club's wine, song, and gambling. Later, as the Germans begin singing we catch a glimpse of Yvonne sitting dejectedly at a table alone and in this brief glimpse, it is conveyed that she has discovered that this is not her path to fulfillment and she has no idea where to go from there. As the singing progresses, we see Yvonne slowly become inspired by Lazlo's act of defiance and by the end of the song, tears streaming down her face, she is singing at the top of her voice too. She has found her redemption. She has found something that will make her life never the same again from that point on.
Basically, this is Casablanca in a nutshell. On the surface, you may see it as a romance, or as a story of intrigue, but that is only partially correct.
The thing that makes Casablanca great is that it speaks to that place in each of us that seeks some kind of inspiration or redemption. On some level, every character in the story receives the same kind of catharsis and their lives are irrevocably changed. Rick's is the most obvious in that he learns to live again, instead of hiding from a lost love. He is reminded that there are things in the world more noble and important than he is and he wants to be a part of them. Louis, the scoundrel, gets his redemption by seeing the sacrifice Rick makes and is inspired to choose a side, where he had maintained careful neutrality. The stoic Lazlo gets his redemption by being shown that while thousands may need him to be a hero, there is someone he can rely upon when he needs inspiration in the form of his wife, who was ready to sacrifice her happiness for the chance that he would go on living. Even Ferrai, the local organized crime leader gets a measure of redemption by pointing Ilsa and Lazlo to Rick as a source of escape even though there is nothing in it for him.
This is the beauty of this movie. Every time I see it (and I have seen it a lot) it never fails that I see some subtle nuance that I have never seen before. Considering that the director would put that much meaning into what is basically a throw away moment (not the entire scene, but Yvonne's portion) speaks bundles about the quality of the film. My wife and I watched this movie on our first date, and since that first time over 12 years ago, it has grown to be, in my mind, the greatest movie ever made.
Boyhood Daze (1957)
Best cartoon ever!
I remember sitting and waiting for hours on end on a Saturday morning just hoping this cartoon would come on. There is something innocent and sweet about all of it, even if some of the language would seem a bit sinister by today's standard. This is exactly what every kid feels when he is sent to his room. I wonder if Watterson got his inspiration for Calvin and Hobbes from this show?
Com Ralph to HQ, Com Ralph to HQ, over...
Ralphie makes one previous appearance in 1954's "From A to Z-z-z-z"
Ground Control (1998)
Not very realistic, but good.
If any airport in the US were this badly maintained, it would be shut down before you could say 'Thrust Reverser'. The number of thing that go wrong here and the jury-rigged way this tower is put together is almost comical.
Having said that, Keifer's acting is rock solid as always. Kelly McGillis is not so bad, and Buffy takes an unusual turn as a nerd. Not anything I would go out of my way to see, but not bad if you come across it on TV either...
Note: The steering by way of using the thrust on the engines was a real life incident. Unfortunately, the results were not quite so good.
BTW, why didn't Fonzie just bang his fist on the computers to fix them? Ayyyy!!!
Definitely doesn't suck...
Wow! This is by far the greatest of the three films and anyone expecting to be disappointed going in should have a hard time coming out with their expectations met. By some strange coincidence ROTK is the most faithful to the book AND the best of his three Rings films. Almost everything here happens exactly as in the book, with minor exceptions for plot points such as the exact method of Denethor's demise. I was slightly disappointed by Gandalf's out of hand dismissal of Pippin's attempt to swear loyalty to Denethor in honor of Boromir. It always seemed a well done thing and a very emotional point in the book.
I will say that while Sean Astin has grated on me from the first, especially with the cheesy speeches, here he redeems himself totally without reserve. Even though I have never liked the way the character was scripted, I can't think of anyone who would be better placed as Sam. I didn't like that Frodo was allowed to be swayed so easily into abandoning Sam by Gollum, but it was well acted even if not 'in the book.' Sean Astin IS Sam, the same way I can't think of anyone else who could have played Frodo.
All in all, one really fantastic film!
The Godfather (1972)
I cannot add anything about this movie that hasn't already been said by people a lot more experienced about movies than I am.
I can say this though. Few movies have ever grabbed my attention and not let go like this one has. Look at the expression on Al Pacino's face when he tells his brother never to take sides against the family again. There is no doubt about the enormous anger he is fighting to control or about what the results will be if he ever loses that control. Look at Marlon Brando as the reserved dignified old Don spending his last moments playing like a child with his grandson in the garden. And look at Robert Duval when Sal pleads for the favor of his life after he has turned traitor to Michael. And last, look at Dianne Keaton in the last scene when she realizes the her husband IS the Godfather.
These are the things that make a movie great. Standout moments of acting by those who define acting. These are the moments that elevate acting to an art form (and film is just as much an art form as painting or music or poetry). This movie is FILLED with just such moments.
Airplane II: The Sequel (1982)
What went wrong?
I find it hard to understand how someone can take a classic like 'Airplane!' and follow it up with this crap. Basically a rehash of the first genius film, 'Airplane II' recycles the same old jokes over and the few new ones that are there fall flat on their face. If you don't want to taint your enjoyment of Airplane! then skip this turkey.
A Masterwork that will be hard to equal...
I had never seen a movie by Miyazaki before this one, although I consider myself a fan of Japanese cinema. This movie has made me a fan though, and I do not feel the need to see more. I will see them, but I don't forsee anything topping this. It's kind of like seeing Spielberg's Schindler's List then seeing 'Raiders' films. Or better yet, it's like seeing a Monet's 'Water Lillies' and then seeing his preliminary sketches. I cannot say enough about this film, I know it will be with me near the top of my list for a long time...
BTW, for a kick, watch it in Japanes with English subtutles and hear it the way Miyazaki wanted it heard instead of John Lassiter. There is nothing wrong with the English version, but I like to watch foreign films in their original language.
Lake Placid (1999)
An 80's throwback...
This is not a good movie. I try not to say that a lot, but there it is. I'm not surprised to see Bridget Fonda here, only a little surprised to see Bill Pullman, and really surprised to see Oliver Platt (who usually has better taste in his roles than this). I'm certain this stinker is at the top of all their resumes. Good God, this is so bad, I actually would put anything from the 80's above this... STAY AWAY AT ALL COSTS!!!
Rock Concert (1973)
What great memories!
Growing up in the pre-MTV era, there was a slew of music video shows including "Rock Concert", "Night Flight", and others who wanted to transfer music to TV. This kind of show is what MTV and VH1 should have been. Every week Kirschner would give a little history of the band and the performance you were about to see then sit back and let the music roll. Some of my best Friday nights were spent watching this show... ;-)
Grand Canyon (1991)
Screenwriting at it's best...
This highly underrated film is (to me) what good writing in a movie should be all about. Kasdan takes the search for meaning in our lives and lays it out for all to see and wonder at. The movie is about the divides people create to insulate themselves from the violence and hatred and bigotry of everyday life.
Along the way we are asked question after question about life. Davis (Steve Martin with a great beard) asks himself 'Is my making a violent movie (and by extension our enjoyment of it) causing the violence in society?' Claire asks "What kind of world throws away something as precious as a human life?' Mack is not immune as he asks 'Is it possible to pass beyond the bounds of race and (an even harder step) finance? These are of course not quoted from the film, but generalities. Others ask their questions too, and to be honest it raises more than it answers.
But that is the nature of life. We strive all our lives to find answers to questions we will never totally answer, and in certain cases have to make answers fit to our own needs and desires. As humans we thrive on questions we cannot answer. Some answers are real. Claire and Mack come to realize that even though they could take the easy road and let the state take the baby, their finding it placed the responsibility for her life in their hands. Some answers are not. Davis `Sees the Light' and decides not to make violent films, but the next day turns around and dismisses his epiphany as subordinate to his art.
We all seek answers. This movie does not answer them for; it simply reminds you to keep looking for the answers.