Saturday, May 29, 2010

My favorite movie: Casablanca

There are so many things I love about this movie--the acting, the casting, the dialogue, the dueling anthem scene--I'm not sure where to start. So I'll start with what I don't like about the movie.

Captain Renault is a rapist. I know many will argue with this characterization. There is no indication that Renault uses physical force, but damn we know what is going on. He is forcing women to have sex with him--women who are desperate to get out of Casablanca. Remember the Bulgarian refugee? She appeals to Rick, asking if Renault will keep his word and if the girl does a bad thing and keeps it locked it inside her heart--it would be all right wouldn't it? Rick helps her but how many weren't helped? Renault already has a breathtaking blonde lined up for his next conquest.

Despite this, I love Captain Renault. I attribute this to the charm and brilliant acting of Claude Rains. When he tosses the Vichy Water in the trash, I see this a symbol that he is also tossing away his previous existence as a poor, corrupt official and rapist.

Now that I've got that out of the way, on to the things I love.

The cast is incredible, from Bogart and Bergman down to the uncredited pickpocket victim. As I already mentioned, Claude Rains is brilliant--his is the best performance in a stellar cast. Bogart nails the jaded cynic, the hopeful romantic and the patriot. Bergman is luminous as a woman torn between two different kinds of love. Paul Henreid is very good--I believe that he will save the world.

My favorite scene is the dueling anthems. It still gives me chills to watch it. Earlier this year, I was suprised to find a similar scene in the 1939 film, Dodge City. Saloon entertainer Ann Sheridan sings "Marching Through Georgia" and part of the crowd joins in. A bar patron responds with "Dixie" and the Southern sympathizers join him. Michael Curtiz directed both films. The dueling anthem scene in Dodge City is interesting mainly in comparison with Casablanca's, but it isn't integral to the film's plot. Casablanca's dueling anthem scene, however, is key to the plot. It demonstrates Lazlo's leadership, the free France patriotism simmering just below the surface in Casablanca, Ilsa's admiration for her husband and Renault's disdain for the Nazi regime. I personally was impressed that a Czechoslovakian knew all the words to France's national anthem.

I also love the look of the film--the black and white photography, the rotating globe, map and narration in the opening scene, Ingrid Bergman's clothes when she visits Renault and when she takes off for Lisbon, (I especially love the hats.)

The film has many memorable lines. My favorite is the last line, "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," as Rick and Renault go off to fight the Nazis.

A great film--I want to watch it again.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My five favorite movies

My first full time job had some slow, boring periods. One of my co-workers used to write memorial quizes for celebrities who died. We also made lots of lists: favorite movies, people we'd take with us to a desert island, dead people we'd take with us to a desert island (if they were alive--no zombies for us.)

My favorite movie list has changed since then, but number one and two remain the same. I'll discuss the top five in future posts.

1. Casablanca
2. Citizen Kane
3. Fargo
4. Bringing Up Baby
5. The Letter

Why A blog? Part Two

In my first post, I talked about having something to say and being discovered. Being discovered is a long time fantasy of mine. On a trip to California with relatives when I was about 13, I joked that I would be discovered and made a star, a la Lana Turner sipping a soda at a Hollywood drug store.

Years later I fantasized that my beagle, Spike would be discovered in a visit to New York City, allowing me to quit my job to become his manager. My latest fantasy is being discovered as a great writer via this blog. (FYI, the most realistic of these fantasies was the discovery of Spike. Just look how cute he is in my profile picture and that is far from his best photo.)

But back to this blog. I started it to force myself to write every day. I'm not there yet. I do journal every day; specifically I write morning pages But morning pages are not real writing--Julia Cameron characterizes then as brain drain. Morning pages can jump start writing. I've also won Nanowrimo, writing 50,000 words in 30 days. That proves to me that I'm capable of serious output, but even then I skipped a day or two.

This blog will be a record of how well I meet the goal of writing every day--not just for a month but for a continuing mission.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

After I woke up Sunday and brewed some coffee, I checked out what was on TV. I wanted to see what time the Mets were playing and check out what movies were on TCM. I love old movies, especially Warner Brothers films and most especially Bette Davis movies.

I found a Jersey Shore marathon. Last year, I was intrigued by a promo for the first episode when I realized that the action takes place in Seaside Heights, NJ. My cousin owns a house in Ortley Beach, within walking distance of the Seaside boardwalk. I spent many summer days in that house. I had to check the show out. But I didn't just watch the first episode; I was sucked in. I watched every show, multiple times.

I don't know what kept me glued to the screen. I'd be lying if I said I was studying the show to learn about the guido subculture. I was just fascinated. And I was obviously not alone as Jersey Shore mania swept the country.

What is it that makes something a guilty pleasure? Is it just the idea that if I didn't watch Jersey Shore, I'd be doing something worthwhile? Would I be volunteering with the homeless, reading Proust or writing the next great American novel? Who decides what is a worthwhile use of time? (Full disclosure here: I'm the woman who won Nanowrimo, writing a mystery novel using VH1 reality stars as my characters.)

I don't have any answers. But I will be watching Season 2 in July.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Why a blog?

I can't resist answering, "why a no chicken?" a reference to the famous "Why a duck?" routine from the Marx Brothers 1929 film, "The Cocoanuts".

The Cocoanuts is far from my favorite Marx Brothers film; I prefer Monkey Business, Horsefeathers and of course, A Night at the Opera, but Cocoanuts has its moments. Besides why a duck, there's Groucho's "romantic" line to Margaret Dumont--sorry I haven't found it on youtube. It goes something like, "you, me and moonlight. Wear a necktie so I can recognize you."

But back to the question, why a blog? I've been thinking about this for a long time. I started reading blogs in 2005 after reading a New York Times article on Stephanie Klein's Greek Tragedy, at Following comments and links, I found blogs that made me laugh, made me think and intrigued me. Some, such as The Happy Feminist, are gone. Others are still going strong. My favorite is

Five years later, here I am. In a fantasy world, I'll be discovered and get a multi-book deal. Okay, so I really don't think that will happen. Maybe the world doesn't really need another blog. But to paraphrase Pete Townsend in “Guitar and Pen”, I think I've got something to write. I hope you agree.