Wednesday, March 31, 2010

FotM: Best Pictures of the Past - Casablanca

Casablanca, 1943
Originally uploaded by thefoxling
When we decided to look at best pictures from the past I knew I had to rewatch Casablanca. It’s been years since I’ve seen it and it’s one of those films that deserves every bit of praise it’s gotten since the year it was released. Casablanca has more than endured the test of time and will continue to be a great film even when it celebrates its hundredth anniversary.

For those that aren’t familiar with the history of Casablanca I’ll fill you in now. The film was released in 1942, and while I am sure it was partly intended to be a propaganda film to encourage Americans to support the war and those in Europe that were fighting the tyranny of the Germans it managed to be a film that instead captured the American & human spirit which is why it’s lasted so long in the hearts and minds of its viewers.

Casablanca was nominated for eight Academy Awards, taking home three: best director, best screenplay and best picture. The best picture award was quite an achievement as that year there were ten nominees for best picture including For Whom the Bell Tolls, Heaven Can Wait and In Which We Serve. I’m actually quite impressed with the list of films that Casablanca was nominated against, but I strongly feel that Casablanca deserved the win.

Like many films of the 1940’s part of what makes Casablanca so special is the writing. Outside of a film noir there is no sharper, quick, masterfully done dialogue in than in Casablanca. In Casablanca it’s better to deliver a quick remark that will be lost on you opposition than to threaten them with a weapon – with a weapon they can arrest you, but by outwitting them with your attitude and speech they can do nothing other than show their anger.

The world of the film is one of con men, innocent bystanders, law men, soldiers and thieves. No one is innocent or out for much more than what serves their interest but the single thing that unites the residents & refugees of Casablanca is a distrust of the Germans and a desire to see them overthrown & not to give up. It’s a spirit that captivated most of Europe and propelled us into the war and Michael Curtiz captured this perfectly in Casablanca.

I cannot say enough about this movie, and because of that I am going to force myself to stop or you will end up reading a ten page academic essay on the merits of Casablanca and not only do I not have time to write that, but most of you probably don’t want to read it. So I’ll finish with this. I was a fan this year of having ten best picture nominees because of films like Casablanca. This film not only pulled off beating nine other great films to win the top honor from The Academy, but it has proven the award was not marginilazed due to the number of nominees or a fluke; it’s been sixty-seven years since Casablanca won best picture and you will be hard pressed to find a film scholar, critic or fan that thinks this film isn’t a work of art.

I implore you to find a local video store or use your Netflix account to dig back into the best pictures from long before you were born and watch them. You will be surprised at the gems you will find.


Chris W said...

CASABLANCA also deserves special mention because it was the inspiration for a movie that I know Megan and I think is one of the greatest ever made, THE USUAL SUSPECTS.

Adam said...

You know, for some reason, I'm just not a huge fan of Casablanca's and never really have been. I'll have to watch it again on my own without people around to try and take it in on its own merits.

Chris W said...

Yes, you seriously should. At one point this film was deemed to be the single best screenplay ever written. While I think there may be a VERY few others that are at least on par, if not a little better, that statement isn't far off either. Watch it again and I'd be real surprised if you didn't develop a new appreciation for it.