CASABLANCA – BEST MOVIE DIALOGUE

Last night, we watched Casablanca. We watch a lot of old movies, but last night, it was Casablanca, arguably the best of breed. The greatest of the great.

There are other, more exciting movies, more thrilling movies, though I find Casablanca pretty thrilling. What Casablanca gives us is immersion into the war where the passionately dedicated French underground is fighting for freedom and the world is full of the anti-Nazi heroism of ordinary people, willing to put their lives on the line for the greater good.

“What if you killed all of us? From every corner of Europe, hundreds, thousands would rise up to take our places. Even Nazis can’t kill that fast.”

Not the way it was, but the way we wanted (maybe needed) it to be. Even now, we want the grandeur of people at their finest. Truth be damned.

And love. Undying love that lasts through war and loss, no matter what the world brings. As we watched — and we know the movie well enough to hear the line coming — Garry looked at me and I grinned back. Wait for it … wait for it … Ah, there..

“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine…”

There’s the first of many great lines, There are many more. We went to the movies to see Casablanca on The Big Screen when TCM sponsored a release of the 1943 Oscar-winning classic a few years ago.

“We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.”

The filming of the movie was a crazy time. The script was written — and it’s a great script — page by page. The actors didn’t know what they’d be doing any day until the pages arrived. The set was chaotic and Ingrid Bergman wasn’t happy. Bogie was underpaid — a bad contract with Warner’s he had signed before he was a big star. Casablanca went a long way to fix that. Claude Rains earned more than Bogie —  arguably worth it.

(Standing in front of the plane in the fog.) “I’m saying this because it’s true. Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You’re part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”

“…But what about us?”

However it happened, Casablanca is movie magic. Brilliant, witty script that plays even better on the big screen than it does at home.

“…When I said I would never leave you…”

“And you never will. But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.”

(Ilsa lowers her head and begins to cry.)

“Now, now…”

(Rick gently places his hand under her chin and raises it so their eyes meet, and he repeats–)

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Maybe it’s something about how differently we focus when we watch it in a theater than when we see it at home, with the dogs, the refrigerator, and a “pause” button. A difference in the “presence” of the film. The clarity of the visual presentation.

“Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

I’m sure it was and somewhere, it still is.

ANOTHER MIND-BLOWING DOCUMENTARY FROM MICHAEL MOORE – PART 2 by ELLIN CURLEY

This is part two about Michael Moore’s newest documentary, “Where To Invade Next.” In the movie, Moore travels around the world and reports about something wonderful from each country he visits. Last week, I wrote about the great working conditions for middle class Italians and Germans. Here I’m going to talk about some elements of the educational systems in Finland and France.

Michael M poster2

Apparently Finland had a mediocre education system in the 1970’s. It ranked 29th in the world along with the United States. The Finns decided to make some extreme changes in their K-12 system and over the years they have worked their way up to Number 1 in the world in quality of education. We are still Number 29.

What did Finland do that worked so well? For one, they cut school hours and days back and now they have the shortest school week and school year. Yet they are Number 1 in performance. They also cut some other things – homework and standardized tests. This would be anathema in the U.S. But in Finland, the education system is now based on the premise that the best way to educate kids is to let them be kids. It is believed that kids need plenty of down time to exercise their imaginations as well as their bodies.

They also need to spend time playing with others to learn social skills and coöperation. Experimenting with music and art, baking, sports, carpentry, etc. are considered important parts of the curriculum. Why? Because they help kids discover what they like to do and what makes them happy. And that is the primary goal of Finnish teachers – to produce well-rounded and well-adjusted kids who have the ability to make themselves and others happy in life. It seems to be working. Remember, these kids tested highest of any country in the world.

Michael M FInland

Another amazing fact about the Finnish school system is that every school in the country is the same. There is no shopping around for good school districts. Private schools are prohibited so the wealthy have to make sure that every single public school is up to the standards they want for THEIR children. I understand that this is possible to achieve in a small, relatively homogenous population like Finland but is probably impossible to achieve in America. Nevertheless, the achievement is life changing for the Finns and truly enviable.

The French also have something awesome in their curriculum that made my jaw drop. Lunch. For all French children, even in the poorest school districts, lunch is a gourmet affair and a big part of the school day. Teachers and kids eat together around large tables set with actual china and glassware. Lunch is a full hour and consists of four courses – an appetizer, an entrée, a cheese course fit for a fancy restaurant and a dessert. Water is served with the meal (French kids rarely drink Coke.) The food is served at the tables to the children by the cafeteria staff. The dishes are all well-balanced and look and sound like they are from Michelin Star restaurants. Yet the food budgets in French schools are similar to school lunch budgets here. They do not spend more money than we do.

Michael M France

The faculty talked about the importance of teaching children what a balanced diet is and to be particular about what they put in their mouths. What a concept! No wonder the French have lower obesity levels, heart disease and diabetes than we do. No wonder they grow up into discerning foodies who see food as a sensual and enjoyable, as well as a necessary part of life. I don’t blame the average American as much now for being a food troglodyte – where are they supposed to learn anything about nutrition, vegetables or balanced meals? Certainly not in American schools. Good food is a major part of French culture. Fast Food is a major part of ours. Why should our schools be different than the rest of the society?

Michael Moore’s documentary gave me great hope for the world. Problems that we see as insurmountable, someone else has solved. Things that we think can’t be changed, have been changed for the better somewhere else. Moore shows that humans are capable of great things when the climate is right.

Opening minds is the salvation for the world – one issue at a time, one country at a time.

MILLION-DOLLAR MEMORIES

Garry and I both grew up in New York in the 1950s. That was before cable. It even proceeded UHF. Television was black and white. We had seven channels: 2 (CBS), 4 (NBC), and 7 (ABC), the network flagship stations. They remain the network flagship stations and of course, New York’s network affiliates.

Also playing was channel 5 (Dumont) which showed lots of old movies and channel 13. Today, 13 is PBS, but then, it was stuff so bad no one else would run it. Johnny Mack Brown westerns. Movies John Wayne wished he could forget having made.

Then, there was channel 9 (WOR RKO-General). It was the premium rerun and old monster movie channel along with channel 11 (WPIX). But channel 9 won my heart because it had Million Dollar Movie.

Ah, the memories. You could say the Million Dollar Movie was an educational channel, if you consider movies educational. Which I do. Old movies, all in black and white because television was all black and white. I was, later in life, surprised to discover how many of these movies are actually in color. Who knew?

My mother did not allow my brother and I to watch television on school nights. Nor were we allowed to watch television during the day, even on weekends. She believed in fresh air, sports, and reading. What it really meant was I had to go to a friend’s house to catch the Saturday morning cartoons and great shows like “My Friend Flicka.”

Eventually, TV won and we all watched whenever and whatever we liked, but that was years in the future. Even early on, there were exceptions to the rules. The main exception was if we were home sick from school, we got to watch television all day. Upstairs in my parent’s bedroom … and out of my mother’s hair.

72-Antique-Marilyn-Matthew-1952

That was when Million Dollar Movie came into its own. They showed one movie a week, but they showed it all day until midnight. For seven days in a row. The theme for Million Dollar Movie was the Tara’s Theme from Gone With the Wind. The first time I saw Gone With the Wind, I practically leapt from my seat shouting “Hey, that’s the Million Dollar Movie theme.”

I got tonsillitis with boring regularity and it came with a full week at home. Antibiotics and whatever was showing on (you guessed it) Million Dollar Movie. Which is how come I saw Yankee Doodle Dandy several hundred times. My bouts of tonsillitis coincided with their showings of Jimmy Cagney’s finest performance.

I didn’t know he made any other movies until I was an adult. That was when I discovered he had played gangsters. I was surprised. I thought all he did was dance and sing.

Why am I writing about this? Because we are watching Yankee Doodle Dandy. After all these years, I can still sing along with every song, know every dance move, and each piece of dialogue. Remarkably, unlike so many other movies, it has remained black and white.

Does anyone know why the movie is in black and white? It screams for color. Just saying.

DOWN THE ROAD WITH FANATICISM AND IGNORANCE

Fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding … and we are feeding it well. 

I originally posted this four years ago. Horribly enough, it’s even more relevant now than it was then.

Inherit the Wind” (1960) was directed by Stanley KramerNot merely based on actual events, the script is substantially drawn from transcripts of the 1925 Scopes’ “Monkey Trial” in Dayton, Tennessee, where teaching evolution had been banned by the Butler Act.

You would think that we would have come a long way since then … and we did. We passed some good legislation. Civil rights and all that. We eliminated the legalized part of our national evil. But then, we started doubling back.

We’re heading down a bleak, dark road. Again. Apparently we lack a national memory of having been here before and it ending badly. It always ends badly. A nation led by hatred, ignorance, and fear is not headed for a happy ending.

MOORE BOND

The Roger Moore Years, Part 1

RICH PASCHALL


After five films the original James Bond, Sean Connery, left the series, but when George Lazenby only stuck around for one film despite an original offer of seven, Connery returned for Diamonds Are Forever.  The franchise rebounded nicely from the weak showing with Lazenby, but Connery was tired of 007 and thought he was a bit too old for the part. He said he would never play Bond again, but Never Say Never Again was in his future.

never say never again

If Connery was feeling a bit old for the part, then it would seem a bit surprising that the next actor to play Commander Bond was almost 3 years older.  Roger Moore, however, had all the qualities the producers wanted in James Bond.  He was handsome and charming and had experience as a super sleuth. Moore was Simon Templar in the long running television series, The Saint.  In a bit of irony, in an early episode of The Saint, Templar is confused for Bond.

First up for Roger Moore was Live And Let Die (1973).  The eighth Bond film was of the second Ian Fleming novel.  The series made no attempt to film the books in order.  While some novels actually continued elements of previous stories, it was not a series in the same sense as Harry Potter, for example.

The film brings back Guy Hamilton as director.  He not only directed Diamonds Are Forever, but also the critically acclaimed Goldfinger.  Sir Paul McCartney contributed the Academy Award nominated theme song. Roger Moore was the suave and engaging secret agent the producers had hoped.

The film does not stand up well to the test of time.  The cliché ridden antics of 1970s era films are on full display.  The chase scenes are incredibly long and the introduction of a stereotypical southern sheriff into the chases is a bit on the absurd side.  Nevertheless, the Bond franchise is now moving ahead again, with a full shaker of vodka martinis.

Next for Moore was Man With The Golden Gun (1974).  It was supposed to be the second Lazenby film, but when he refused to do the project, it was put on the shelf for Connery’s return in a different story.  Even though it was the thirteenth Ian Fleming novel, the movie found a way to incorporate elements from the previous film based on the second Ian Fleming novel.  With more over blown and lengthy chases, the film even finds a way to include the southern sheriff from the previous film.  Yes, he is on vacation in southeast Asia with his wife and finds himself in the midst of the chase.  An incredible jump with a car by Bond looks a lot like one done by Pierce Brosnan as Bond decades later.

man with the golden gun

Guy Hamilton directed Golden Gun as well.  After two long films with improbable and lengthy chase scenes, he was done. While the films did well as the box office, Man With the Golden Gun was not well received by critics.  It was time to move on

The third Roger Moore film finds the hero hitting his stride, in my humble opinion, with The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).  An American and a Soviet submarine disappear and Bond is sent to investigate along with a beautiful Soviet agent, who would prefer to kill Bond for the death of a Soviet agent who once tried to kill Bond.  The chase scene on skis is more exciting than the car and boat chase scenes of the previous two movies.  The intrigue is there, the Bond girl is beautiful, the scenery is great and the Bond devices and tricks supplied by “Q” are up to par.  This film finally has the charm of the Connery films, something that has been lacking despite the box office success.

The fourth Roger Moore film, Moonraker (1979), bears almost no resemblance to the 1955 novel from which it takes its name.  Nothing in the Fleming story could have suggested this.  The film moves full speed ahead into the realm of science fiction, retaining some of the traditional Bond elements before Roger blasts off into space with the latest “Bond girl.”

Instead of preventing a nuclear missile from destroying London, the film has Bond on a quest to find a missing space shuttle.  You will recall the previous film had him looking for missing submarines.  Now it is not just London that Bond must save, but the entire world.  Who knew so many space shuttles were at the ready of the villain and NASA.  Yes, we have a battle and a chase in outer space.

In the novel, the villain is an ex-Nazi.  Remember the book is from 1955 so the ex-Nazi and Soviet connection is plausible.  In the updated story, the villain is attempting to set up a scenario where he can establish a master race.  I won’t go into exactly how he intends to pull this off, put it requires space ships, satellites, a space station and lots of lasers.

These films were not made in the rapid succession of the early Bond films.  After the fourth film, Moore was 52 years old, but continued to be a popular Bond.  Moonraker was the top grossing Bond film at that point and Moore would be in demand for more films.  Yes, the Roger Moore era was nowhere near the finish.

The Roger Moore Years, Part two next week.

 

MOSES, MEL, AND ME

Before I put a finger on the keyboard, I admit this is probably heresy, at least to some people. On this day of days, one simply doesn’t make fun of religious movies.

But I do.

Last night, Marilyn and I had our traditional viewing of “The Ten Commandments.” Cecil B was, again, going for life-altering moments. But really, he gave us much-needed laughter. It isn’t a movie that has stood up well to the years. Time tested it — and found it wanting.

Heston-Charlton-Ten-Commandments

Today’s lineup of movies on our favorite cable station includes almost all of the familiar biblical movies. Few stand the test of time. Some are really well intended like George Stevens’, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. But the man who gave us classics like “Shane”, “A Place In The Sun” and “Giant”, wound up with a ponderous and static film in “The Greatest Story”. It’s biggest sin? Boring.

As I write, we are watching Mel Brooks’, “History of the World-Part One” which is the perfect antidote to historical films that have become parodies or that were really never good. We probably have a greater appreciation of history because of Mel’s equal opportunity insults rather than the cardboard epics which play fast and loose with facts.

Mel Brooks last supper

I must admit I love watching gladiator movies. It’s a guy thing like war films.  I also enjoy seeing semi clad (or even less clad) young women engaging us in erotic dances before evil monarchs who are not playing with a full deck. But we’re not talking about great cinema here.

Charlton “call me Chuck” Heston was really honest when he talked about playing Moses. He told me it was a good gig. Working with Cecil B. DeMille (for a second time) was nice for his résumé. It actually gave him a boost for a religious film he really wanted to do.

“Ben Hur” is one of the best religious films out of Hollywood. It stands the test of time because of William Wyler’s fine direction. And, yes, the chariot race alone is still worth the price of admission.

history-of-the-world--part-1

This is obviously subjective stuff. If you love Cecil B’s heavy-handed narration of his version of the Old Testament, so let it be written. So let it be done,

We’re back with Mel. Now, it’s the French Revolution and those generously endowed girls are displaying their charms. It’s good to be the king!

OH MOSES, MOSES!

Tonight was our annual viewing of Demille’s “The Ten Commandments.” It’s one of those epic movies that hasn’t held up well to time.

10 commandments

That being said, it’s always fun to watch. We know the lines. Our favorite moment of the evening was when Moses is coming back from seeing God as The Burning Bush on Mt. Sinai. Precisely as I was commenting that God had taken Chuck’s nice hair and given him a bad rug — at the same moment, his wife sees him and cries out: “OH MOSES! Your HAIR!”

Garry and I haven’t had such a good laugh in a while.

Oh Moses, Moses. In their cruelty, they made you wear a bad rug and always say your name twice. Oh Moses, Moses …

So shall it be written. So shall it be done.