I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Casablanca, 1943

Not Rated (although my DVD says PG)

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”… that’s how I would describe my new relationship with old black and white films. I had seen this timeless masterpiece once before in 2003 and I have a new admiration for it this time around. Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen a number of black and white films now thanks to this Oscar challenge, but I’ve begun to see and appreciate its appeal. Possibly the most famous romantic drama ever, this film never leaves the top ten of all-time best films lists. 

The city of Casablanca, considered unoccupied France, is the home of Rick, a café owner who is resentfully living out the rest of his life after having been stood up at a train station by his new (but true) love, Ilsa until….. she walks into his bar with her husband, a wanted escapee and leader of the Resistance. They are looking for the hard-to-come-by exit-visas for safe passage back to the States. It’s obvious the second Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) see each other that they have a history together, but the audience does not know the details until a flashback to their brief but passionate romance. Although this is a melodrama, it has clever comedic lines sprinkled throughout. It takes place in the height of the Second World War, so you’ll see anti-Nazi propaganda throughout making it a patriotic film about war in addition to a romance. The film was based on an unproduced script entitled “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” but I personally think “Casablanca” sounds more exotic.

If the film had a happy and romantic ending for Rick and Isla, it probably would have been a forgotten film by now. The fact that he sadly and self-sacrificially takes a higher road and ships off his true love with her husband to the States, makes it all that more memorable. Then, of course, throw in a couple more brilliantly-written lines at the end, and it’s bound to leave an impression on audiences.

This was Bogart’s first role as a romantic lead and I think it’s kind of obvious, but in an appropriately fitting way for this film. He looks almost awkward during the flashbacks to Paris where he and Ilsa are wrapped up in their whirlwind romantic affair. He smiles occasionally, but I think he looks much more himself as a cynical hard-shelled café owner in Morocco. He did such a superb job as that character with a severe chip on his shoulder, that his Best Actor nomination was well deserved. A little trivia for you: Mr. Bogart used to let his cigarette dangle from his mouth for far too long that it coined a new phrase, meaning:  don’t hog, steal, or monopolize something. In the 60’s, it was used more when referring to a joint that wasn’t being passed around fairly. Now, one can use it (as I often do) for practically anything that needs sharing, ie. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to Bogart the cookies”, or as evidenced in an episode of “Sex in the City” where Samantha tells Carrie not to “Bogart the [banana] split”.

I was a little surprised the beautiful Ingrid Bergman wasn’t nominated for her role of Ilsa. Interestingly, she was nominated for Best Actress for a different film this year (and still lost).

“Casablanca” holds the record for most recognizable movie quotes including the inaccurately quoted: “Play it again, Sam”; (Neither of them ever actually says “again”). In addition to the one at the start of this post, other popular lines include: “Here’s looking at you, kid” (several times), “We’ll always have Paris”, and “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine”. I’d reckon even people who haven’t seen this film could finish any of those lines because they are immortalized in cinema speak. In fact, many movies and TV shows have referenced them too.

Technically, this film came out in 1942 and should’ve been up against “Mrs. Miniver”, but it was only a limited release in New York and came out in Los Angeles in 1943. Therefore, it was up against “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, “Heaven Can Wait”, “The Human Comedy”, “In Which We Serve”, “Madame Curie”, “The More the Merrier”, “The Ox-Bow Incident”, “Watch on the Rhine”,  and “The Song of Bernadette”, none of which I’ve seen, although I’m interested in seeing that last one since the lead actress won the Best Actress award for playing young Bernadette from Lourdes in the story of her life. “Casablanca” also won the awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay. It was nominated for Best Score by the same genius who brought us “Gone with the Wind”. The popular song from 1931 “As Time Goes By” is played (and heard, instrumentally (a little incessantly)) throughout the film, thus reigniting its popularity.


The last scene is suspenseful and the most memorable. (Another bit of trivia: this last scene was filmed in a studio with fog machines, a small cut out of a plane, and little people in order to give the illusion that the plane and its crew was farther away than it was.)


Love is not selfish. We can learn this from I Corinthians 13 and from “Casablanca”.

Resentment can eat you alive. Try to relieve yourself of guilt or hurt feelings with forgiveness. No one wants to hang out with someone who’s bitter and you’ll feel happier too without a load of misery and self-pity.

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