Casablanca, and Other Drugs (6 Films Into the National Film Registry)

Basically by starting my list with an All-American classic I have tainted the blood of my movie-loving eyes with film gold, therefore I have a thirst for rich romantic cinema made to tear my heart out and throw it on the floor. I guess it’s appropriate to comment on my thoughts and experiences through the course of these seven selections. SO I’ll do that. 

Casablanca: Of course I have been pre-exposed to this film through the means of television and countless film references. That fateful mist night where Rick embraces Lisa in his arms for the last time. The line: “Here’s looking at you kid.” And of course the song “As Time Goes By” constantly being referenced to in the score of the film. All of these very cliche references were not completely new to me, still, even though I knew I wasn’t going in completely blind I still had never seen the damned American classic. I MEAN IT’S CASABLANCA! This is the film I always pretend that I’ve seen at parities or in class when my professor mentions the convictions of Bogart.

But let’s move on to the actual film. So the movie opens. Immediately I am drawn in because of how much the film reminds me of Indiana Jones. Which of course completely characterizes my generation. The scenes created are something beautiful and almost beyond the constraints of time. The close ups on all the actors, and the fast paced action in every bar, restaurant, and street corner make this movie so much more alive than anything I’ve seen from the forties. Like I thought that the only piece of realistic cinema from this era was It’s a Wonderful Life. But Bogart rules this film. I mean Bergman is great too, but Bogart gives off a sense of cynically that almost seems completely reserved to those who suffer from heart break. This film isn’t as famous for the theme of forbidden love as it is for the representation of heart break. We root for Bogart because every one of us have been disappointed by someone so deeply that we loose a sense of our own identity. Bogart isn’t the only one who makes this film fly. Claude Rains who plays Captain Renault is basically used to progress the plot forward, but in an almost cartoon Nazi way. The humor and conviction in his role loosens the tight rope that is brought upon with the presence of the Nazis. I would love to play him on stage or something. All in all I can’t spend this entire blog post going in and out of every little button I loved in the movie, but I need to say that this movie must have been something astonishing and explosive when it came out in World War II – America.

All the President’s Men: Robert Redford has surprised me recently. I used to think of him as just a yellow Hollywood brick on the road to money. But then I saw the movie Ordinary People and everything changed. It seems that I found a light in older movies made before 1990 that I had not thought about in quite some time. There were moments and sighs and basically everything that should be there in a movie. I was won over. Redford was from then on considered a cinema god in my mind.

SO when I saw that All the President’s Men was on the list I immediately wanted to watch it. (Also because I love The Graduate, but that’s a whole other blog post written in intercollegiate writing style.) Bernstein and Woodward are characterized so accurately and realistically. Things as small as Redford brushing ash from Bernstein’s cigarette off a couch make the scenes feel real and authentic. Simplicity in the acting is the heart of the movie. It’s the small details that these characters enact upon that make the bigger things like Deep Throat and death threats seem all the more real. The opening scene showing the break-in at Watergate is extremely impressionable and easily recognizable in many director’s future work. David Fincher’s Zodiac was the first film that came to mind in the opening scene and followed up with every scene after. It’s that kind of quiet stillness of the night lit by unbiased florescent light that makes the actions feel real and sinister at the same time. (It also reminded me a lot of House of Cards, the Netflix series)

The chemistry between Redford and Hoffman is off the wall as the show progresses. They aren’t exactly best friends, but more like brothers. They play off of each other’s strengths but never stop to just enjoy one another’s company. Neither does the film. It just wants to move on with the plot and never give a moment to let us see some real background of the characters. Maybe this is why this film seems so progressive in the timeline of cinema, because it let’s go of the stage-like dialogue and just focuses on the things that could be accounted for within the offices of The Washington Post or in the living room of one of the members of The President’s Council. BUT, I got a little restless from constantly being thrown on this conspiracy trail, but then again maybe the fact that this happened forty years ago affects my interest in the overall subject. Anyway it was a real kick-ass movie, and I enjoyed the overall film plus the style of it.

Blade Runner: To be honest I’d started this movie four years ago at the age of 16 but found little interest in it and well fell asleep before finishing it (which only happens if I’m just really really bored with the movie). I returned the movie to the library and never revisited it. SO when I saw this movie on the list I thought that it’d be a great idea to revisit the “neo-noire” film. OVERALL, I was semi-impressed. From a design standpoint, this film is the bee’s knees. Like seriously, every little chair, crumb, and fingernail is styled to the point of disgust in this film. The absence of any nature in the film that isn’t animatronic or human makes me feel hollow and gross. Scum and grime are visible attributes to the hyper electronic 2019 Earth. Seriously I think that Star Wars even looses to the overall design of the costumes and sets in Blade Runner.

Now that being said, storyline and dialogue are not really strong points of the movie. It felt very redundant and melodramatic to the point of ridiculousness at times. And I know! It emulated film noire and the whole silhouette majesty which in which noire employed. It just was a bit out of place and made the movie seem like it didn’t fully understand the message it was trying to communicate to the world. There was a bit of an identity crisis of whether or not it should be a sic-fi or detective film. If only Watchmen, the graphic novel, had come out earlier it could have pointed out that a personal narrative of the main character immediately brings in the audience to the front of the action, and give the main character more credit. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not like I was trying to find fault, but there were so many points when I felt bored and/or tired when I knew I shouldn’t have been. Harrison Ford was also probably not the most ideal person cast in the role though. Like he was stale, boring, and stubborn. Like there was almost no scene where I wasn’t wishing that the blonde villain would appear. Rutger Hauer made the movie worth it. His last scene where he talks about slavery hits really hard. Maybe more so because I’m an American.This is a great movie. I’m just a little disappointed with Harrison.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: Ok, now this was my type of pick-me-up movie. Let me first confess that I am an extremely huge Krubrick fan. His one shot method with fast and slow close ups, and his extreme-extreme-extremely amazing eye for aesthetics puts himself as my current Favorite Director. So it was a bit shocking to realize at first that I had not already see what is considered by some, his best movie. Thankfully I realized after it ended that it is not his, per say, “best” movie, but damn. It gave me both hoots and hollers. From start to finish I was in love with this film. Peter Sellers is a genius and anyone who says otherwise is… well not a genius like Peter Sellers is. Also this is coming from someone like me who adored Airplane II: The Sequel at the age of ten. I was thoroughly impressed by the use of conviction from both the camera and the actors. The character “Buck” was defiantly my favorite. He reminds me of so many Texas gentlemen that I have encountered in my life. His use of definite phrases is applaudable, and credit should mostly be given to the writing which is both sharp and inventive. Finally a script that made me laugh 10 seconds after every joke, because every joke left a subconscious punch with it. Like by the end of the film I found myself wanting to find a poster of the War Room on Amazon.

Favorite line: “Gentlemen. You can’t fight in here. This is the War Room!” I only wish that the Simpson’s hadn’t ruined the end by referencing it in one of their episodes. Otherwise I was throughly entertained.

OK just to let you, the reader, know: I watched these last four over the course of two days with two movies on each day. I’m kind of trying to work out a system of how I am going to spit up all of the movies so that I find time to watch all of them, but well, I like to do things by the seam of my pants. Seeing though that I have a lot more time on my hands now than I usually do, I think it is appropriate to have this blog and watch as much as I possibly can and blog as much as I possibly can or want to. SO the next three films (which for your own time and eye’s sake) will be included in my next post.

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P.S.         IMDB was forged from the fires of Mount Doom.

One thought on “Casablanca, and Other Drugs (6 Films Into the National Film Registry)

  1. like your blog Mason. A few comments, if I may…and you have to remember I’m a generation older than you and these movies were viewed during a different time period so…
    I have never failed to be impressed by Robert Redford, an actor/director I first came to know from ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’. His direction of ‘Ordinary People’, however put him up with actor/directors like Clint Eastwood. I have seen almost all of his films, past and present. Always does solid work.
    Blade Runner has been one of my favorite films since I first saw it shortly after it’s release in ’82. Not only because it was directed by the man who did ‘Alien’ (another favorite) but because it was an adaptation of a novel from Philip K. Dick, an author I love. It’s not a perfect film but, as you pointed out, the design is something to behold. Also, you may not realize this but between it and ‘Alien’ (1979) Ridley Scott set the standard for the look and feel of science fiction films (for better or worse) for decades to come. Take a look at films before and after and you will see many of the same sights and sounds repeated over and over in MANY films. You still see it today.
    Dr. Strangelove is a nearly flawless film. Kubrick was one of the last decade’s best, if not one of it’s least prolific, film makers. A lot of critics found his films cold because of the way he used his camera but not me. You will find many of his films on your list I’m sure. Many of those jokes you liked most likely came from a man named Terry Southern who was commissioned by Kubrick to help with rewrites. He wrote, or co-wrote, a lot of funny stuff during his career including a really odd Peter Sellers / Ringo Starr movie called ‘The Magic Christian’ you should check out.

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