Week 6: “Baahubali: The Beginning” (2015)

Overview

Welcome to Week 6 of the 52-Week Movie Challenge. This week’s challenge was to watch a movie with subtitles! I feel like I could’ve interpreted this week’s challenge as either a) watch any movie you want with subtitles enabled or, b) watch a movie that must be subtitled for comprehension (aka a foreign film). I’m not one to take the easy way out, and I wanted to stretch any of you who are embarking on this journey with me out of your comfort zone a bit. So, I chose a very interesting foreign film that has been on my personal watchlist for longer than I’d like to admit: Baahubali: The Beginning. Anyway, this movie challenge is old hat by now so I’ll spare you any additional rambling and get right it into it.

Preamble

Okay, I lied. A bit more rambling ahead. Before we get started, we must address the elephant in the room: Captions. Oh, captions. Some love them and some hate them. Some people start out hating captions and then learn to love them. That’s me. I fall into that last category. So, let me speak in favor of captions a bit for any of you non-caption people out there.

I think the newly-minted Oscar-juggernaut Bong Joon Ho said it best: “Once you overcome the 1-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” Like all Bong Joon Ho films, I believe this quote has a double meaning. The first, and perhaps most obvious, meaning is that there are loads of amazing foreign films that people simply will not consider all because of subtitles. Meanwhile, there is so much talk these days about quantity of content. Everyone wants as much content as possible as cheap as possible. Well, I am here to tell you that Netflix (which most everyone has access to) has many amazing foreign films, and you could probably increase your content options by a third (total shot in the dark) if you started adding subtitled movies to your evoked set.

The second and more implicit meaning in Bong Joon Ho’s quote is that subtitles open up a level of film comprehension that is otherwise buried with captions turned off. By simply flipping on the captions option, you can ensure that you a) don’t miss any crucial pieces of dialogue, background noise, etc. and, b) that you see the language exactly as it was intended by the screenwriter. Personally, when I realized how much of impact captions could make to overall film comprehension, it was so noticeable that I never looked back.

And, as if my perfectly structured and counter-point-proof case above wasn’t enough, captions improve literacy! It might shock you but studies have shown that children who watch shows and movies with captions are 2 times as likely to become literate. That is a massive lift and one that cannot be ignored. So, while I cannot force you to adopt captions into your regular viewing habits, please accept this as my formal endorsement and strong recommendation that you do exactly that. Alright, now to the film.

Film Details

Directed by S.S Rajamouli, Baahubali: The Beginning (Bah-HOO-buh-LEE) is an 2015 Indian epic folk film inspired by family stories, mythology, and a few other sources of historical fiction. The story begins with an exiled queen who, with her dying breaths, saves a young boy from certain death. The film goes on to follow that boys life journey as he strives to fulfill his destiny. As you can probably guess, he is met with many perils and distractions that make his quest less straightforward than he intended.

The movie contains dialogue in the Telugu and Tamil languages but (and here’s the doozy) Netflix USA carries the Hindi dub. So, yeah. I definitely chose the expert difficulty level for this week. If you watch this movie you’ll be hearing Hindi, seeing Telugu and Tamil mouth movements, and reading English subtitles. Sometimes you have to walk before you can run.

Thoughts

For a movie whose subtitle is “The Beginning,” it is hard to know exactly where to begin. I guess I’ll start with what is immediately apparent in the film which is that this film is a visual accomplishment that is second to none. At a modest budget of around $25 million, this film looks like Michael Bay, Zack Snyder, and James Cameron took a vacation to India and came back with a movie. The film boasts gorgeous color arrays, unique styling, and shot after shot of slow-motion, action-packed eye candy shot at a 16:9 aspect ratio with 120 frames per second. Understandably, the film’s CGI looks unmistakably cheap at times, but the savvy camerawork and overall aesthetic of the film help those moments blend in with the rest of this surreal mythological tale. Not to mention the action sequences which are 300-esque including a final battle that rivals Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ Battle of Helms Deep in scale, duration, and epicness (if that is indeed a word). Regardless of your interest in foreign films, this film is a must-watch for any action fan.

Shifting gears to the story, Baahubali: The Beginning has plenty to enjoy! The creativity and world-building is reminiscent of some of Hollywood’s great fantasy franchises, most notably the aforementioned Lord of the Rings Trilogy. That said, it is worth keeping in mind, if the film title wasn’t a dead giveaway, that this movie is the first of a series. For the first sixty percent of the film, it really feels like the conflict is going to be tied up and resolved by the end. Then, the plot completely shifts for the final forty percent to focus on the story’s prologue (for lack of a better term). That dramatic shift is one that I probably wouldn’t recommend if I was a part of the creative process, as it sort of whiplashes the audience from focusing on one part of the story for an hour and a half to abruptly focusing on a completely different aspect for the final hour. It makes for a less fluid story-telling process that is sure to lose some viewers attention along the way. My hope is that the second film in the series makes up for this lapse in creative judgment. So, I’ll be sure to swing back with additional thoughts when I wrap up the full series.

Another friendly disclaimer, if you are not familiar with Bollywood as a genre, do some reading on the genre heading into this one. While Baahubali is not technically a Bollywood production, it does contain many of the genre hallmarks, including the multiple musical numbers. Additionally, the acting is over the top at times and the dialogue leaves something to be desired, though that could obviously be due to the language barrier

Overall

Baahubali: The Beginning has transcended its national borders for a reason. Its visual acumen and fantastical creativity are truly world-class and are reasons enough to check this film out on your next rainy day. Though the CGI is a bit bumpy and the acting is a cut below, Baahubali leaves you with plenty of motivation to jump into the second installment. A viewing I plan to schedule sooner rather than later.

Kernel Score: 7.1/10

Next Week

Onto week 7 where we’ll take on a stop-motion film. And though I was tempted to pick one of my all-time favorites, Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, I decided instead to revisit a movie I haven’t seen since I was a child: Chicken Run. Now seems as good a time as any to rewatch the Aardman Animations classic as its sequel will be coming our way next year. So, check out Chicken Run (available to stream on Hulu) over the next week, then “run” back here for another addition of the 52-Week Movie Challenge Blog.

Thanks for reading!

Cam 

 

The Old Guard Review, Star Wars, Marvel, and DC News, Schoolyard Pick of Movie Weapons

We’ve officially been around for 1 year, thank you all for listening through it all! But here at PFB, we don’t look back, we only move forward. So, rather than celebrating our anniversary, we decided to keep on movin’! On this week’s episode, we reviewed Netflix’s The Old Guard starring the incomparable Charlize Theron and Chiwetel Ejiofor. In addition to our movie review, we have two whole weeks of movie news to catch you up on in What’s Poppin’. This week we cover, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s recent relationship revelations, the new Star Wars show “The Bad Batch,” Black Widow, Fast 9, Tom Holland’s Uncharted movie, and much more. Finally, we wrap the show by paying homage to the great signature weapons of film history with our Schoolyard Pick of Signature Movie Weapons. Thanks for listening and be sure to subscribe, download, rate, review, like, comment, share, and follow!

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Week 5: ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ (1979)

Overview

Welcome to Week 5…. ish of the 52-Week Movie Challenge (Look all I am saying is please don’t count the days between these posts). This week’s challenge was to choose an early film of a famous actor. For a little bit of fun, I put the choice of actor to a vote on our Facebook page and, unsurprisingly, Meryl Streep (aka The GOAT) won in landslide fashion. With the issue of which actor squared away, I only had one decision left: The Film. For me this was easy. Kramer vs. Kramer has long been on my list despite the fact that I had zero prior knowledge of the plot or who was involved. Do you ever have that happen? Where there’s something you want to do or see and you have no idea why but still the urge persists? Just me? Okay, I digress. Anywho, I chose Kramer vs. Kramer and you can read my full thoughts (beware spoilers) below.

Film Details

Winner of five Academy Awards, Kramer vs. Kramer is a 1979 drama based on the Avery Coman novel of the same name. Starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, the film tells the story of Ted (Hoffman) and Joanna Kramer (Streep), a couple who suddenly find themselves on the brink of divorce and a lengthy and nasty custody battle over their seven-year-old son Billy (Justin Henry). Both Meryl Streep (Best Supporting Actress) and Dustin Hoffman (Best Actor) took home Oscars for their performances.

Thoughts

I feel the need to add a caveat at the beginning of this review because it is as if someone built a movie specifically for me. You know by now that I am an absolute sucker for a human story. In my opinion, nothing beats real human relationships. The depth and complexity of human relationships juxtaposed against the simplicity and routineness of everyday life is among the most beautiful narrative tools that exist. When used effectively, I believe it creates cinematic moments that are more emotionally impactful than anything outside of this genre can achieve. So, Kramer vs. Kramer already had a leg up in my book based on its subject matter alone. That said, this movie does a lot really really well. So let’s dive into it.

The first signal that Kramer vs. Kramer is in a different league comes in the first 10 minutes. In the first few moments, it is clear that this film has mastered the art of context. I cannot overstress how important context is in screenwriting. With any given scene, writers are tasked with telling their audiences just enough, not too much not too little. If they tell their audience too much (especially with dialogue), they ruin the authenticity and potentially eliminate the effectiveness of a certain plot device. If they tell them too little, they leave the audience confused and risk them losing interest altogether. Writers must trust the audience to infer (or sometimes even guess) plot points to protect the narrative. It’s an abstract concept and one that I am admittedly struggling to explain, but the best films in the drama category have mastered the art of context and Kramer vs. Kramer no different. Let’s look at an example:

Believe it or not, this is the first scene we get with Ted and Joanna. It happens within the first 10 minutes of the film. Talk about a barnburner! But look at what the writers and director have done here. We know nothing about these characters at this point other than Joanna is a mother (as evidenced by her opening scene putting Billy to bed) and Ted works at an agency of some sort. But what do we learn? We learn that Ted is a chronic workaholic, that Joanna is a career homemaker, that they have a history of arguments like this, that Ted is forgetful, that Joanna has ambitions, and on and on and on. Now, how do we learn all of this? Is it explicitly said? NO! It is implied, and masterfully so. See, these people already know each other very well. So realistically, they are not going to say all of those statements I listed above. Instead, the writers have trusted us, the audience, to infer some of the details in their relationship while keeping the authenticity of the dialogue intact. Kramer vs. Kramer is chock-full of scenes just like the one above, which keeps the movie rock-solid in terms of its realism. But it is not the only way area in which the film excels.

Somewhat surprisingly, Kramer vs. Kramer is also superb thematically. The reason I say “surprisingly” is that realism and themes don’t often naturally coincide. It is much easier to drive home central themes in more avant garde films due to the creative control you have over the delivery of those themes. In dramas like Kramer vs. Kramer, however, it can be difficult to layer in powerful themes without risking the realism of the film. This exact challenge is why a lot of films in the genre tend to be more like portrait pics in nature. But Kramer vs. Kramer tackles a lot of heavy themes. Most notably, the gender role themes are especially prominent and seemingly ahead of their time. In fact, Marriage Story (2019) just came out last year and deals with very similar themes about gender roles. Now, Marriage Story‘s gender role themes are a bit more implicit but it has been FORTY YEARS after all. Needless to say, I was impressed to see a movie from 1979 forcing people to ask themselves questions like “why are women just expected to want to be moms” and “why are men automatically assumed to worse parents?” Historical context is everything in this instance.

That said, I did find it slightly irresponsible to paint a woman and mother as the antagonist in a film at a time when gender equality was even farther away than it is now. That’s not to say that father’s rights weren’t (and still are) an issue. I’m just saying there were perhaps bigger fish to fry at that time. But maybe my biases are showing. Maybe the only reason I think Joanna was an antagonist is that I am a husband and a father and she abandons her role as a wife and a mother. I’m not sure. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

Finally, my favorite part of Kramer vs. Kramer is how beautifully it captures parenthood. To be clear once more, the film does not beautify parenthood but rather shows it in all its beauty. These parents are far from perfect. They have angry outbursts in front of their child, they forget him at school, and they even put their needs above their son’s at times. But they love their kid more than anything. As someone with two little boys, this imperfect but perfect depiction of parenthood really hit home and I would be lying if I said I didn’t cry multiple times watching this movie. It even had a scene where Ted ran his bleeding son into an ER to get stitches, something I had to do earlier this year. Again, this movie was practically made for me.

Overall

I was floored by how much I liked this movie. In many ways, it is very similar to Marriage Story from late last year but I would say that Kramer vs. Kramer ran so Marriage Story could soar. Both movies are fantastic and both earn whopping Kernel Scores from me. I cannot recommend this movie enough!

Kernel Score: 9.5/10

Next Week

We are getting in the swing of things now! Looking ahead, Week 6’s challenge is to watch a movie “With Subtitles.” If you are anything like me, every movie is a movie with subtitles (#Captions4Lyfe), but for the purposes of this exercise, I decided to choose a foreign film. Over the next week, watch the Indian epic Baahubali: The Beginning with me and come back here this time next week for the next edition of the 52-Week Movie Challenge Blog. Thanks for reading!

-Cam

 

Week 4: ‘Babe’ (1995)

Overview

Not to be forgotten under the enormous shadow of #hamilfilm, we are in week 4 of the 52-Week Movie Challenge. Okay, but in all seriousness, I did sort of forget about it with all of the #hamilfilm content we’ve been putting out. I joked on this week’s pod that I will indeed watch all 52 movies for this challenge, I may just do it over 70 weeks. But that doesn’t mean that I am not stoked about this week. In all honesty, this was the challenge I was most dreading in the early going: “A film starring an animal.” I mean, that prompt doesn’t exactly conjure up images of great films right away. And let the record show that I threw all of us, myself included, a soft ball by choosing an absolute gem of a film in ‘Babe.’ I could’ve just as easily chosen an ‘Airbud’ sequel or ‘Snow Dogs,’ but I am not that cruel. I’ve got a caffeinated beverage and the background of my 8-week old son cooing and laughing at me as I sing him songs from “Hamilton,” so I am as ready as I’ll ever be. Let’s get to it.

Film Details

Based on the 1983 children’s novel by Dick King-Smith titled The Sheep-Pig, ‘Babe’ tells the story of a young pig who is won by a sheep farmer during a “Guess the Weight” challenge at the local fair. Farmer Hogget’s initial plan was to roast the pig for Christmas dinner, but his fondness for Babe softens his heart and causes him to spare the pig. Under the guidance of Fly, a female border collie and matriarch of the Hogget animals, Babe learns the ropes of sheep herding (shepherding?). Using his kind demeanor to build relationships with the sheep and earn respect from both Fly and her mate, Rex, Babe is able to become one of the greatest “Sheep Dogs” in the country and earns a perfect score for Farmer Hogget at the world Sheep Dog challenge.

Thoughts

If you’ll indulge me, I am going to start this review with a personal note. In fact, this is my blog so I am not even sure why I am asking for your permission in the first place (MUAHAHAHA). There are two reasons why I chose ‘Babe’ for week 4. The first is that, again, it is just difficult to find a film that you could stomach in this category. The second reason, is that this movie means so much to me. I loved this movie as a child. LOVED. IT. I watched it constantly. When I was younger, I had some respiratory issues that landed me in many an uncomfortable medical situation. Finger pricks, IVs, blood work, you get the picture. Through all of that, movies were a comfort, this movie more than most. I can specifically remember being 7-years-old and in the midst of a week-long hospital stay for pneumonia. It must’ve been late because my mom was folded up in one of those terrible hospital chairs asleep but I had woken up for some reason. I would’ve probably felt completely alone at that moment if it had not been for ‘Babe.’ I suspect that is why my mom put it on before catching a quick nap in between vitals checks. I was scared and uncomfortable, but ‘Babe’ was there. And it wasn’t the first time or the last time that this movie was there for me in my time of need.

In many ways, hearing the overture and watching the opening credits roll, felt like reacquainting with an old friend. I felt guilty for not staying in touch as much as I should, but it took just a few moments to pick back up where we left off. And this time, I had my two-year-old son with me, which made the experience all the richer. To prove that I am a true OG, check out this sick dvd two-pack.

All of that said, I want to be very clear: ‘Babe’ is an incredible film. You may not remember but it was actually nominated for Best Picture at the 1995 Academy Awards. What I find amazing about that is that film was trending more cynical in the mid- to late-90s. So, for a film as wholesome and quaint as this one to capture the attention of fans and critics alike is really quite remarkable.

But when you really start to analyze the movie, it makes sense. First of all, I cannot imagine that directing a cast of animals as diverse and wide ranging as this one is an easy task. And they have these animals working OVERTIME. Not to mention, the effects they use to make the animals appear to speak holds up much better than I would’ve ever thought.

From a storytelling perspective, ‘Babe’ is the definition of “short, sweet, and to the point.” At a runtime of 92 minutes, this movie is expertly paced without losing any depth. I mean, the scene where they dig into Rex’s backstory is a perfect example of this. All in, it takes maybe 3 minutes and it deepens our understanding of Rex so much. That’s efficient!

The themes in ‘Babe,’ while familiar and not particularly groundbreaking are sharp and effective. The score is unique and memorable. The voice acting is excellent and the production design is beautifully coordinated.

Overall

If you hadn’t seen ‘Babe’ before embarking on this movie challenge, I hope you agree with me that you are better for seeing it. If there is a purer movie that’s as effective, I don’t know it. I am thankful for the movie challenge as it was nice to be reintroduced to this film. I certainly plan on making it a part of my children’s lives in hopes that it has a similar effect on them.

Kernel Score: 9.2/10

Next Week

Our next challenge is “An Early Film of an Actor.” I legitimately can’t decide so I am taking Kirk’s advice and putting it to a vote. Keep an eye on PFB social media pages for more details. Thanks for reading!

-Cam

 

Eurovision Song Contest Review, Hamilton Parody, Schoolyard Pick of 4th of July Stuff

In just a few days, our living rooms will become “The Room Where it Happens,” so the PFB guys took this opportunity to pay homage to their favorite musical with their brand new song parody, “It’s Almost Time for Hamilfilm.” Cam and Kirk then keep the musical energy flowing with their movie review of ‘Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.’ Finally, the boys wrap the show with their Schoolyard Pick of 4th of July stuff. You won’t want to miss this American musical masterpiece!

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Week 3: ‘Rocky’ (1976)

Overview

Welcome to Week 3 of the 52-Week Movie Challenge. Or, as I like to call it, Week 3 and half, since I keep missing my self-imposed deadlines. Anyway, this week’s challenge was to watch a “Low Budget, Big Box Office” Film. So, I chose the granddaddy of them all, ‘Rocky.’ This film had a production budget of $1 million and grossed in the neighborhood of $225 Million in the box office. Talk about a good investment!

It has been a long time since I’ve seen ‘Rocky’ and I can honestly say I don’t think I have ever watched it straight through in one sitting. I was excited for the chance to revisit this multi-generational phenomenon and find out what it was that captivated audiences around the country back in 1976.

Film Details

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DAH DAH duhduhduh duhduhDAH duhduhduh

I honestly considered just phonetically writing the full “Theme from Rocky” and nothing more for this week’s blog but that actually seemed harder than the alternative. I’ll spare you the nonsense this week.

‘Rocky’ is a 1976 film written by and starring Sylvester Stallone (that’s ambitious). The film follows 30-year-old Philadelphia boxer Rocky Balboa who, as his semi-professional boxing career seems to be coming to a close, is randomly selected to fight the greatest fighter in the world, Apollo Creed. Over the last 40+ years, ‘Rocky’ has become synonymous with the city of Philadelphia and an unquestionable symbol of the American spirit. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who isn’t able to sing their version of the famous fanfare from ‘Rocky’ on command. Needless to say, I was anxious to get another look at ‘Rocky’ with my critic cap on to get a better sense of why this film, and its subsequent sequels and spin-offs, still live deep within the heart of American pop culture.

Thoughts

Though ‘Rocky’ is the youngest of our challenge movies so far, weighing in at 44 years old, it is still far from “modern.” Pair that with the low production budget and you wind up with a movie that has some good aspects and some bad. We’ll start with the bad so we can end on an up note!

The “Bad”

This movie is unmercifully low-budget. From the very first scene, you can feel a difference in the sound mixing that leaves you with an empty, almost erie feeling as you watch. In some scenes, you can see the camera visibly shaking during certain shots and at times it is too severe to ignore. The screenplay is predictable and sometimes painful when it comes to the more dialogue-heavy scenes. Though, for a screenplay that was reportedly written in three days (!!), you could do much much worse. Even still, at times I found myself mentally checking out because the current scene was a bit melodramatic or not relevant to the overall plot.

Additionally, and this could probably be said with just about any 40-year-old movie, some scenes did not age well. Particularly the nature of Rocky’s first few encounters with Adrian (Talia Shires), which can only really be described as stalkerish. And this includes their first date where Rocky simply will not take “no” for an answer and all but forces Adrian to kiss him. Luckily, things between them smooth out and seem to become much more consensual for the remainder of the film but I was definitely squirming in my seat through a good portion of their scenes.

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The “Good”

What ‘Rocky’ lacks in budget and production value, it makes up for in heart. If you listen to the podcast, you know I love a passion project, and this more a passion project than anything else. Stallone clearly pours everything he has into this character. The scene where he is laying in bed with Adrian the night before the fight talking about how he just wants to “go the distance” against Creed as the camera slowly zooms in, is goosebump-inducing magic. I felt as pumped up in that moment as I did during ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ when Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) gave his famous “But it is not this day” speech.

My favorite scene in the whole film comes somewhere around the halfway mark. Upon hearing the news that Rocky will get a chance to be a world champion, the local boxing trainer, Mickey, visits Rocky at his home. Earlier in the week, Mickey told Rocky he was washed up and gave his locker away to a younger boxer who, in Mickey’s words, “is a contender.” Insulted by the hypocrisy of Mickey, Rocky tells him off. He screams, punches the walls, and orders Mickey to leave immediately, a command that Mickey reluctantly obeys. But then something magical happens. As Mickey descends the stairs leading to Rocky’s apparent with his head hanging, Rocky appears to have a realization. Without a word, Rocky follows Mickey outside, grabs him by the shoulder, says a few inaudible words to him, and shakes his hand before returning the same way he came.

It is a subtle moment but easily the most powerful in the entire film. In that moment, I believe the realization Rocky had was that he and Mickey are the same person. They are both past their prime and chasing their dream at all costs. For Mickey, reaching out to Rocky was an act of desperation. Mickey knew he wouldn’t get another chance at his dream and that Rocky is the closest he’ll ever come to training a boxer for a big fight. Rocky understands this and, in a much deeper sense, understands that dreams are hard to come by in Philadelphia’s inner city, so he agrees at that moment to put their differences aside. In that one scene, there is a socioeconomic message that far exceeds any of the other themes or messages in the film. A message that you don’t have to tear others down (no matter how much they deserve it) to be successful.

Scenes like this are everything for this movie. It is what makes this movie withstand the test of time, even though technically it is not the most well-made film. And again, this movie brings back a theme from last week, which is that simpler is oftentimes better in film. I love a layered and complex story but a simple story can be much more effective if executed properly.

Overall

If it was unclear to me before, it is clear now why ‘Rocky’ has been woven into the fabric of American pop culture. There is, perhaps, no movie that is more American than ‘Rocky’ top to bottom. I wouldn’t say that this movie is my favorite by any means, and I am not sure I would even go as far as to call it great. But I understand why ‘Rocky’ means so much to so many and why it will continue to be one of the most revered movies of all time.

Kernel Score: 7.1/10

Next Week

Our next challenge is “A Movie Starring an Animal.” Selfishly, I am choosing one of my favorite films of all time, ‘Babe.’ If you have not seen this movie, you are in for a real treat. If you have seen it, give it a rewatch and join in on the conversation this time next week. Thanks for reading!

-Cam

 

Da 5 Bloods Review, The King of Staten Island Review, Schoolyard Pick of Things You Could Be Declared the King of

We are back and coming your way with a right-left combo of two of the most interesting directors in the biz. This episode features our film review of the latest Spike Lee joint ‘Da 5 Bloods’ AND Judd Apatow’s latest ‘The King of Staten Island.’ We also get you prepped for theater (theatre?) reopenings with the latest on Warner Bros. new release dates. Finally, and as always, we wrap the show with our Schoolyard Pick which this week is “Things You Could Be Declared the King of.”

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Week 2: ‘Casablanca’ (1942)

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Overview

Ahh, week 2. Hits ya like a ton of bricks, doesn’t it? Like that second day of your New Year’s Resolution to work out every day when you realize you’ve made an enormous mistake. But that’s okay! You’re here! And I am extremely happy that you are. This week’s film is ‘Casablanca.’ For whatever reason, this is one of the films that you sort of have to see if you want to call yourself a cinephile, and it was one that I hadn’t seen before this week. Let’s get to it! 

Film Details

Filmed and set during the beginning of World War II, ‘Casablanca’ tells the story of an American named Rick Blaine (portrayed by Humphrey Bogart) who, after spending some time in France, fled to French Morrocco to escape the German occupation and start his own club. His newfound city, Casablanca, has become a hub to refugees fleeing war-torn areas in hopes of obtaining transit papers and catching a boat to the U.S. Rick, the somewhat jaded, host unto himself, finds himself in possession of some Letters of Transit, which to him have nothing more than monetary value. That is until his former lover Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) arrive in Casablanca fleeing the Germans, which leaves Rick in a pickle.

Thoughts

If you are like me anytime you dust off a really old movie, you have to mentally prepare yourself for a very different experience. Is this movie going to hold up? Or will it be one of those movies that were great for the time and sort of lives on based on name recognition alone? That especially applies when you go back as far as the 1940s. For example, I loved ‘Citizen Kane’ and I still very much feel that it holds up, whereas ‘The Maltese Falcon’ felt like a movie from a bygone era. Anyway, I often find myself in that frame of mind when I watch older movies and I think that is important to be aware of if I hope to give an honest review.

With ‘Casablanca,’ you know within the first 10 minutes that you have stumbled into something rather magnificent. The film starts with a short narrated montage to set the stage for the story. It’s well-written and takes a potentially complicated setup and smooths it out so everyone feels comfortable. From that point really until the end of the film (which is a crisp 102 minutes by the way), you are hit with plot point after plot point with very little filler. It’s very refreshing! In fact, I really tried to let myself relax and just enjoy the narrative without worrying too much about themes because it is so well-crafted. It’s a perfect example that a story doesn’t have to be complicated to be complex. You can use a story that is easy to follow and still build excellent, deep characters with rich, human emotions along the way.

And frankly, it’s the humanness of this movie that caught me off-guard. I have seen Humphrey Bogart in a few films before this (‘The Maltese Falcon’ and ‘The Big Sleep’ most memorably) and I was never really impressed. He was always typecast as the carefree, nonchalant but amazing detective type with that signature nasally voice and I was really expecting to get that Bogart once again. And don’t get me wrong, you’ll still recognize Bogie. But his performance this time around is something much more real and his chemistry with Ingrid Bergman is unbelievably powerful.

Additionally, the screenwriting is excellent, even outside of all of the famous quotes. Each joke and jab lands and still earns a snicker nearly 80 years later, which is insanely impressive when you think about it. Not to mention the film has stylish cinematography, excellent set design, and everything else that you would expect a film of this clout to have.

And, just like ‘Casablanca’ itself, my review is simple. There’s so much to love about this movie and very, very little to pick at. I could obviously sit here and gush about ‘Casablanca’ for 1000 more words but I won’t do that to you. After all, it is only week 2. Don’t want to push it too hard. 

All told, ‘Casablanca’ is the kind of movie that reminds you why cinema is so awesome. It’s beautiful in its simplicity and still one of a kind. I find it so cool to watch iconic movies and to immediately recognize parts of the movie that have inspired some of my favorites. Hopefully, you had a similar experience. There is a reason this movie is one that you have to see and I’m certainly glad I now have.

Kernel Score: 9.7/10

On to week 3’s challenge which is a “Low Budget, Big Box Office” movie. Even though, we have technically checked this box with ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ there is no double-dipping in the 52-week Movie Challenge. If you are gonna go, go all out. And the movie I have selected for us is…. ‘Rocky!’ It’s been a super long time since I’ve seen this movie and it is always the first to come to mind when you think of low-budget smash hits. So, please watch ‘Rocky’ this week and come by next week for another post that I think we can all agree…. is going to be a knockout (I’ll see myself out).

In all seriousness, thanks for reading/watching. I’ll see you next week!

-Cam