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Movie Reviews for 20 Somethings Intro

Hey there audience! This is a new movie blog where I talk about old and new movies. The goal is to get my fellow 20 somethings interested in all types of films. I’ll cover old films, newest arrivals, black and white, technicolor, international, animated, and every other film in between. I’ve been an active movie fan since I can even remember. I’ve always loved watching and talking about all sorts of films with friends and family. And now, thanks to the internet, and a need to talk about what I love online, I’ve created this blog series to get younger people interested in film.

I feel like a lot of people my age, specifically in their 20’s, are not really into films anymore. Many people watch the latest films and never think about them once they end. Or at least, that’s what many critics and older people say about my generation. But I don’t think that’s true. I think 20 somethings love film, they just don’t know what’s really good. That’s why I’m here: to help you know the good, bad, and the boring. Every week I’ll post about movies that I think you guys would love and movies that I think you should stay away from. I’m here to tell you guys it’s ok to watch movies that are older than a decade and not be seen as a snob. I’m just here, writing reviews on all types of movies, hoping you will become as in love with them as I am.

King Kong 1933: Sympathy for a Giant Ape

King Kong 1933 US Reprint Version 2 | Etsy
King Kong (1933)

King Kong has been remade and reimagined many times throughout the decades. It had a sequel made in the same year with Kong’s child, it was remade in 1976 and 2005, King Kong and Godzilla fought each other in 1962 and in 2021, and there was a pseudo sequel in 2017 that took place during the Vietnam War. This is a very odd film franchise. But why is the story of a giant ape so popular that we still make movies about it to this day? The short answer: it’s a fun and dramatic story that anyone can understand. The original movie has been engrained into popular culture and has persisted for decades. The simplicity of the film has inspired generations of film fans and filmmakers.

The movie is set during the Great Depression in New York City. Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), a director, is set to go to an ancient island to make a film. He comes across Ann Darrow (Fay Wray), an out-of-work actress, and hires her to be the star of his movie. On the ship Ann comes across First Mate John Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) and they fall in love with each other. When they get to the island, they come into contact with the natives who end up kidnapping Ann to sacrifice to their god, Kong. Sure enough, Kong shows up and takes Ann. Driscoll wants to go after Kong to save Ann, while Denham wants to go after Kong so he can capture him and show him off to the world. Either way, someone has to save Ann before the islands dinosaurs and monsters try to kill her. Or is she safer in Kong’s hands?

I doubt no one doesn’t know this story by now. But why is this story so popular to tell? Well, there are many reasons. For one, it’s a fun adventure movie that’s very unique. There had never been a film like this before. Most action/adventure films in the early days were westerns or stories based on biblical/historical events (see Cecil B. DeMille’s movies for that). This was the first mainstream movie to have giant monsters fighting, taking place in dangerous environments, and people getting eaten by said monsters. It created a surreal, but fun world that the characters inhabited. It’s an island of dinosaurs and giant apes which was crazy to think of back then. There’s also a sense of great danger as anyone could die at any moment. Several members of the crew are eaten by lake monsters or crushed by dinosaurs in very brutal ways. Even the fights between Kong and several dinosaurs are pretty violent as Kong rips open the mouth of a T-Rex to kill it. The action is quick, the fights are brutal, and the scenes can even be intense for our leading characters. You’re never really sure who will survive on this island.

What makes these creatures like Kong and the dinosaurs so fun to watch is how they were animated. Back in the 1930s there were no computers or CGI to make the monsters. So how they made the monsters move is through stop motion animation. This is when an animator creates a small puppet that has a metal skeleton that can move in any direction. The animator would take one photo of the puppet, move the puppet an inch, then take another picture. This would create the idea of motion for these puppets. This was a long and intensive process, but when it was done right it looked amazing for the time. This was the only way to make Kong and the other creatures move. And it’s really amazing to look at in a technical sense. You see how the animators spent so much time on the puppets to make them look as real as possible (for the time). Kong is especially well animated. You can see the effort being put into the fight scenes and even in smaller moments. When Driscoll stabs Kong in the hand, Kong recoils in pain and looks at his wound. There’s a lot of confusion and pain in his facial expressions that you don’t see even today with the help of computers. The puppets look fake today, but back then this was cutting edge technology like with Star Wars (1977) and Avatar (2009). The effects are still fun to look at because they add to the films bizarre tone. It makes you feel like a kid again playing with your toys and creating new worlds with your imagination.

But if the film relied on its special effects and world building alone then this story wouldn’t be so popular. The biggest thing that people remember about the movie is Kong himself. Kong is the reason why people love this film today. Hell, he could be considered the main character if it wasn’t for the humans. Kong is introduced as a mystery. People talk about him as if he were a legend and the natives of the island worship him. When we first see him, he looks big and mean as he carries Ann away. However, we see through his actions and facial expressions that he’s a good guy. He kills dinosaurs that try to hurt Ann and he tries to kill Driscoll and his men for getting too close. This is all because he has fallen in love with Ann, though Ann is not very fond of him. At the climax of the movie Kong is captured and taken back to New York to be put on display. This doesn’t go over so well as Kong breaks free and wreaks havoc across the city. The most famous image of the film is Kong climbing to the top of the newly built Empire State building with Ann while trying to fend off planes shooting at him. I won’t spoil what happens at the end for the people who haven’t seen it, but let’s just say that you’ll need some tissues handy.

Kong goes from being a savage animal, to becoming a sympathetic character. He’s the real star of the film as he has the most character development and even has an arc that’s completed. This is the real reason why King Kong is so fondly remembered and reinterpreted over the years as the movie creates a memorable character. Even if that character is a giant ape, he has a giant heart.

2021 Oscar Nominees: Ranked and Reviewed

93rd Academy Awards - Wikipedia

I did it! I got through all the best picture Oscar nominations. I know no one else is bragging about this, but I feel like I’ve accomplished something. After not being able to go to a movie theater in over a year, it honestly felt good that I set a goal for myself to find and watch all the best picture nominees. And, I have to say, the nominees this year are really varied and interesting (for the most part). So, I’ve decided to rank all the nominees from best to worst and give short reviews on them. Almost all these films, except for one, were all really good in their own different ways. Keep in mind this is my personal list and I’m not going to go over what will win or who should win. This is for both my benefit and the benefit of people who haven’t seen these movies to see if it’s worth their time. So here’s my list:

  1. Mank: I reviewed this movie when it came out a few months back and my opinion has not changed. I still find this to be an engaging film on so many levels. This behind the scenes look at the making of Citizen Kane and the man who wrote it was really great. It’s made to look and sound like a film from the 1940s, it’s a character study of a broken man, and it let’s us peak into the behind the scenes of old Hollywood. All of that is like catnip to me, so I was going to like it either way. But what really sold me on it was the writing, structure, and acting. The dialogue, while a little hard to follow on the first watch, is so engaging and witty that I couldn’t help but go back to watch it again to pick up on what I missed. The way the film uses flashbacks and flashforwards in order to tell it’s story is reminiscent of Citizen Kane itself. All the actors are great and keep up with fast paced script. I’ve already talked about this in my review, so if you want to know more then go find that. I adore this movie.
  2. Sound of Metal: This was one of the more unique experiences I had watching the nominations because I honestly didn’t know what this movie was until I watched it. At first I thought it was a documentary on this real metal drummer who lost his hearing. But then I learned it was a real movie and I felt stupid for not looking up what this was earlier. But, because of that, I went in blind and had a really good time with the film. It’s an interesting story of a drummer who looses his hearing and has to learn how to live without sound. The sound design is the best part about the movie as the muffled sounds put us into the characters head. It made me feel uneasy and stressed because I would feel the same way as this character. What would you do if you were a musician who lost their hearing? But this is a film about healing and trying to see the bigger picture in life. The writing feels naturalistic, the direction is solid, and Riz Ahmed’s performance is great. And this movie has my favorite ending out of all the nominees. I won’t spoil it, but I was really happy with the conclusion. This was a pleasant surprise of a movie.
  3. Judas and the Black Messiah: This is probably the bleakest film on the list since this is all based on a true story. But, I do love bleak looks into American history and how messed up we are, so this movie really stuck with me. The true story of a criminal recruited by the FBI to infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther’s to gather intel on their leader Fred Hampton is an intense and thrilling story. And what sells the film for me is how it humanizes everyone. We see how Hampton was so influential and wanted a better country than the one he was living in. Daniel Kaluuya’s performance really humanizes him while also making him look powerful in his speeches. The man who infiltrates the party, William O’Neal, has a fantastic character arc. He goes from taking the job just to make money, to really caring about the Black Panther’s and Hampton. Which makes his eventual betrayal so much more heart breaking and the FBI’s motives more insidious. I’ve seen it three times now and each time I’ve liked it more and more.
  4. Promising Young Woman: I’ve also already reviewed this film so this will be short. But yeah, this film is fun as hell. It’s got a dark sense of humor, it has a really interesting lead character, the acting is great, especially from Carey Mulligan, and it’s a great revenge movie. I usually love a simple, yet effective revenge story that gets you into the mind of the main character. But even then this story takes some twists and turns and you find out this is not a simple revenge thriller. There’s a lot more going on here and our leading lady is finding it harder and harder to keep up with her revenge plot. And this probably has the best climax out of any film on this list. I won’t spoil anything because you need to go in blind to get the full experience. All I will say is that this has my second favorite ending of the nominees. This movie is just a fun, dark time.
  5. Minari: This was a nice, family movie. I could just end the review there as not too much happens in the film. The story revolves around a Korean family moving to the south to start a farm. We see their struggles trying to make it on their own and living so far away from any city. The father wants a piece of land to call his own so that he doesn’t have to work at a low paying job. The mother is hesitant as the farm is so far away from everywhere and she’s not sure if her husband is up for the task of starting a farm. The main kid is trying to have fun in his new environment, while also seeing how this new life might be tearing apart his parents. And then the grandmother comes in and this becomes an even better movie. She’s honestly the funniest and best actor in the whole cast, which is saying a lot because all the actors are really good. But I love a sassy old grandma who doesn’t fit the typical grandmother stereotype in every other film. And I also like how they’re not racially profiled at all in the film. In typical Hollywood movies this family would be seen as the “other” and treated differently from the locals. But the locals are really nice and accept them. That’s a nice twist that you don’t see too often. And that’s what this movie is: a really nice family drama.
  6. The Father: This movie probably has the best and most unique direction and story structure. The story is that of an older man who has dementia and his daughter who has to take care of him. The story is simple, but the way the film is structed is not. The movie is from the perspective of the old man and, given that he has a disease that takes away his memory and sense of time, we see all of that through his eyes. We see time skips, characters change appearances but not names, the location is the same but there are small changes to the scenery, scenes are placed out of order so we don’t know what’s going on, and their is just a sense of anxiety from not knowing what is real and what is not real. It’s such an interesting way to make the audience feel what the main character is feeling. Anthony Hopkins is fantastic at playing someone with this disease and how awful it is. Olivia Colman is also fantastic as we see from her perspective how hard it is to care for her sick father. The only thing that bothers me about the film is the ending. I won’t spoil it, but it feels a little too tacked on. Other than that, this is an interestingly directed and structured movie that really messes with your head.
  7. The Trial of the Chicago 7: Another true story film about a group of protesters who are charged with conspiracy during the riots of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. I’ve seen this story told in countless documentaries, but this film version is intense, intriguing, funny at times, and serious about its plot and characters. Aaron Sorkin’s best written movies are usually courtroom dramas like A Few Good Men (1992) and The Social Network (2010), so the script is great. All the actors are great as well as they all sell these characters and their motivations for why they are at this trial. Sacha Baron Cohen is my personal favorite as he’s the comic relief who isn’t afraid to speak what’s on his mind. I’m a sucker for a well written story with fun dialogue and inventive characters. Even though I knew the story, I still found it to be very intense and insane. Again, like with The Father, I think the ending is the weakest point. No spoilers, but the ending feels like a cheesy 1990s sports movie ending (what with it’s slow claps and authority figures getting mad). But the ending doesn’t ruin what came before it.
  8. Nomadland: So when I said I liked almost every nominee except one, this was the one. I hated this movie more than anything. I hated the main character, the story, the message, and I just found it to be so boring. Nothing of substance was going on because our main character doesn’t change. The story of a woman who has lost her home and husband and who tries to find herself through traveling could have been great. But nothing really happens in the film. The main character works a little bit, lives in her van, eats, shits in a bucket, and all this repeats itself throughout the run time. She’s a miserable character who doesn’t want to change, so why should I care about her? It’s also really insulting as this woman doesn’t even have to live in her van. We know she’s fallen on hard times, but numerous people like her love interest, friends, and sister offer her a place to stay. But she doesn’t want to because… I genuinely don’t know! I don’t know why she’s so miserable towards others. It just makes your audience just as miserable, which is odd considering this movie seems to be promoting this lifestyle of hers as a good thing. We see this big camp of people living in vans and we are supposed to assume that this is a freeing and fun thing to do. Like how in Easy Rider (1969) you’re supposed to look at that lifestyle and think that’s cool. But at least in that movie they show the dangers of being on the road and the characters are punished for it. Here, not only is the lead not punished for her stupid choices, but not once do we see the dangers of a woman being alone in a van with a commune of others who could easily do something bad to her. The story sucks, the lead sucks, and the message sucks. I honestly don’t know why people love this piece of shit.

Mildred Pierce, Motherhood, and Melodrama

Mildred Pierce (1945) | The Criterion Collection
Mildred Pierce (1945)

The term melodrama is often seen as a bad term when it comes to storytelling. Melodrama’s have often been associated with dramatic stories with exaggerated characters that deal in emotion rather than logic. A bad melodrama is when a film is so over-exaggerated that it has unrealistic characters and situations that no one can take seriously, making the film more laughable than dramatic. But sometimes melodrama’s can be used so effectively in capturing your emotions that it sucks you into the story. Mildred Pierce is one such a movie that’s so melodramatic that it’s actually really effective based solely on how it makes you feel.

The film starts with a murder seemingly committed by Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford). She’s questioned by the police and she tells them her life story, the majority of the films plot. We see Mildred being left by her husband for another woman. But this doesn’t deter her as she decides to become a single mother and raise her two daughters. As the movie goes on, we see her claw her way from being a poor waitress to eventually owning her own chain of successful restaurants. During this time, she meets her second husband Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott), who happens to be the man shot at the beginning of the movie. But even with all her success she’s still resented by her daughter Veda (Ann Blyth) who constantly is at odds with her mother because she wants more social status and money. Mildred must deal with her daughters’ missteps and her own during this murder investigation.  

The movie relies heavily on emotion in order to tell its story. Many of the big events are driven by a character’s emotional choice and how it affects them and other people. One of the turning points for Mildred is when her youngest daughter dies from illness. Instead of lying around and thinking about it, Mildred goes back to working and is able to expand her restaurant into a bigger business. It’s an important scene as it demonstrates how Mildred processes such a huge loss and decides she needs to move on from it. The biggest strength of the film is its focus on developing Mildred. Mildred is such a complex character. The first thing we see her do is standing on a pier contemplating suicide. This is intriguing and makes us want to know more about this woman. In fact, the movies thrilling tone and mysterious story telling is similar to that of a film noir. But the movie is smart enough to give us flashbacks of who this woman is. So, when we see important events in her life like her getting divorced, becoming a powerful businesswoman, and getting remarried, we can connect the pieces and figure out what is really going on in the story.

What the film does best though is portraying Mildred as an extremely interesting character. It’s rare to see movies about strong women building their lives up from nothing. After her divorce and the death of a child, one would think that would be the end of her story. Most films during the 1940s did not focus on these types of female centered stories. But Mildred does what she can to support her and her remaining family. She’s independent, is great at running a business, works her way up from rags to riches, yet is always humble and isn’t corrupted by her success. She’s been through such hardships, yet always comes out a better woman. She’s probably one of the best female characters in film as she’s such a well-rounded character. Major props have to be given to Crawford for pulling off this type of character. A lesser actress could have played the character as too soft or not forceful enough. But Crawford gives a powerful performance and makes Mildred a stronger woman through her acting. This performance shows just how great she was as an actress and she won the Academy Award for her performance. Crawford sells both the relatable and the tough side of the character so well that her performance alone is enough to carry this movie.

The other great aspect of her character is her relationship to her daughter, Veda. Veda is a bitch… plain and simple! At the beginning of the film she’s pretty timid and doesn’t have a lot to do in the story. But once Mildred starts to make money Veda is at odds with her constantly. She hates her mother for working a “low-class” job and hates being poor. However, even after Mildred’s restaurants take off and she makes money, her daughter is still not satisfied. She wants everything the rich have. She constantly is upset with her mother and treats her like trash. You just want to smack this character in the face, and I don’t say that lightly. At one point the two have an argument and Veda slaps Mildred so hard that she falls down. When Mildred gets back up, she doesn’t hit or yell at her; she just glares and tells her to leave her house or she’ll kill her. It’s a great scene that shows off both the actresses’ abilities and the bad relationship these two have. Blyth really sells the mean and bitter parts of her character making Veda a snobby little girl.

But Mildred, being a mother, can’t ever be that mad at her daughter. She makes all of her decisions for the sake of her daughter and Veda never thanks her. This is the rare mother/daughter movie where it really explores such a toxic relationship. We know that Veda is never going to be satisfied with her mother, but Mildred is never mad at her because Veda is all the family she has left. This all builds to the ending of the film where all of this is put to the test. There’s no way that I’m spoiling the ending because it’s so perfect that no one will see it coming. All you need to know is that Mildred Pierce is the best example of what a great melodrama looks like.

Jessica Walter Saves Play Misty for Me

Play Misty For Me (1971) Italian movie poster
Play Misty for Me (1971)

I haven’t seen Play Misty for Me in many, many years. And I forgot a lot of it, so it was like a new experience watching it. I decided to rewatch the film for several reasons. The first is because recently Jessica Walter passed away and I wanted to watch one of her movies. The second is that this is the 50th anniversary and that seems crazy to me. And third, I wanted to see if Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut was any good. And to see about that last question I had… it doesn’t hold up. This movie is really only saved by Walter’s performance as she’s the only one who knows what kind of movie she’s in.

But before I get into her performance, let’s take a look at the story. The movie centers around a popular radio show DJ named Dave Garner (Clint Eastwood). Every night he gets a request from a mysterious woman to play the song “Misty” for her. After work he goes to a bar and picks up a woman to go home with. However, the woman, Evelyn Draper (Jessica Walter), was intentionally there and tells him she’s the one who calls the station every night. Now, to anyone else, this would set off some major red flags. But Dave is so dumb that after hearing she has basically been stalking him, he has sex with her. This comes to bite him in the ass as now Evelyn won’t leave him alone. She finds out where he lives, she goes from happy to angry in an instant, she stalks him while he sees another woman with him, and eventually she tries to ruin his life. He tries to break off the relationship between them but it’s too late for that now.

You could say this film was the first to depict the female stalker character. While there were plenty of movies before this with crazy woman characters, this was the first one that plays into the fear of a vengeful, psychopathic, obsessive, female stalkers. Evelyn, at first, seems like the dream girl. She’s beautiful, smart, has a kind personality, and wants to be with the main character. But as she grows closer to him she reveals her true, demented self. Not only do we know that she’s been stalking him for, who knows how long, but she also flips her emotions whenever he tries to break it off with her. She barges into his house when he doesn’t want her to, she interrupts an important meeting he has with another woman because she thinks he’s cheating on her, and she goes from one extreme emotion to the other. Evelyn is the template for later female characters like this in other films such as Fatal Attraction (1987), Misery (1990), and Basic Instinct (1992).

And Jessica Walter’s sells the hell out of this character and how insane she is. Not only does she play up the feme fatal part in the first act so well, but she plays crazy really well too. Probably my favorite moment from her is when she, out of nowhere, visits Dave at his usual hang out spot. She tries to steal his car keys in order to get his attention. By this point in the film Dave is starting to get fed up with her obsessive behavior and tries to forcefully get his keys back. Two men interrupt the two and ask if everything is alright. To which Evelyn, who was playful a moment ago, yells angerly “Yeah, get lost asshole!” Dave, shocked, looks at her and she goes from angry to smiling again. It’s such a great moment as Walter is having so much fun with this character. And she only gets more nutty as she does some crazy shit like nearly killing Dave’s housekeeper and tries to kill herself to get his attention. Walter sells every emotion on display and I love her for it.

That being said the rest of the film is really uninteresting. Whenever Walter is not on screen, I kind of get bored by the movie because the other characters are dull. Dave has a love interest but she has no character or real agency outside of the climax. Dave is also a boring character as he has no personality outside of his job or his relationships with women. He’s also really stupid as he makes some of the worst decisions in any movie. Like, if someone told you they were stalking you, why would you sleep with them? Why wouldn’t you tell your girlfriend that this woman won’t leave you alone and that she might hurt you? Why doesn’t he file a restraining order against Evelyn? And why, after seeing that she is clearly insane, why does he continue to sleep with her? Dave is just a moron who should know not to have sex with crazy women. All of his decisions are ridiculously convoluted in order to keep the story going.

It also doesn’t help that Eastwood is an awful actor. The man could never act and he’s only good when he doesn’t talk a lot. That’s why he works in those Spaghetti Westerns, because he doesn’t talk a lot. And he’s really bad here as, being the lead, he has the most dialogue. But his line delivery and acting ability is so bad. The film isn’t directed very well either. I know this is Eastwood’s first film, and as he got older he got a lot better at directing. But this movie looks like it could have been shot by anyone from that era. There’s also a lot of filler and pacing problems. A good 40% of the film is Dave walking around the beach or the woods spouting out exposition of things we already know. And towards the end of the second act we cut to a jazz concert that plays out and it feels like the movie is stalling for time. By the end you feel like you’ve just wasted time in order to get to the climax which, I won’t spoil, but is also really stupid and slowly paced.

As an overall cohesive whole, Play Misty for Me is not a good film. It’s boring, has pacing issues, has a stupid main character, and a lot of it is too much explaining to the audience about things we know. But, if you want a reason to watch it, that reason would be Jessica Walter. She absolutely carries this film on her shoulders. She’s the best actor and whenever she’s on screen the movie picks up the pace and is enjoyable. Walter knows exactly what kind of trashy movie she’s in and she embraces it. She saves this movie from being a forgotten mess and her character would later create the crazy female stalker we see in most thriller or horror films today. Play Misty for Me sucks, but Jessica Walter does not.

Promising Young Woman: Twisting the Revenge Story

Amazon.com: Promising Young Woman Movie Poster 18 X 28 Inches: Posters &  Prints
Promising Young Woman (2020)

So because I’m a creature of habit, I’ve been slowly working my way through all the Oscar nominees for best picture. So far the only ones I have not seen are The Father and Minari, but I am going to get to them (eventually). But a movie that surprised me with its nomination was Promising Young Woman. I’m not surprised because it was good, I’m more surprised the Academy Awards picked it because it’s a little too good for them. The Oscars don’t have the best track record when it comes to their nominees and winners. So I’m shocked that out of all the nominees this year they picked one of the few movies that is super accessible, darkly humorous, colorful, and is a great and twisted revenge story. I know it won’t win because of that description, but it’s the thought that counts.

The film introduces us to our main character Cassie (Carey Mulligan) in a bar seemingly so drunk she can barely stand. A strange man takes her back to his apartment and is about to have sex with her when she shows us that she is completely sober. Turns out that she does this every week because she’s kind of a loose cannon. We learn she dropped out of medical school, works in a small coffee shop, still lives with her parents, and is generally a miserable person. Throughout the course of the movie we learn that she’s like this because her best friend, Nina, was sexually assaulted in college. The experience of trying to find help and no one believing her was so traumatizing that she dropped out of school and eventually killed herself. Cassie blames herself for all of this and decides to trust no one. But when she finds out that the man who assaulted Nina is getting married, Cassie decides to launch a revenge plot against all those who didn’t help her best friend. And she slowly works her way up to the man who started all of this.

I’ve gone on and on about deep, meaningful movies and how themes and sub-text are important to understanding a thought provoking story. But, at heart, I’m a simple woman who loves me a good revenge film. Films like Carrie (1976), Oldboy (2003), Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 (2003, 2004), and Gone Girl (2014) are just a few of some of my favorite within the revenge subgenre. There’s something so simple, yet satisfying about these types of stories that always keep me entertained. And this movie is no exception as it’s revenge story is smart, slick, and fun as hell. The revenge plot comes pretty early on in the film as Cassie seems to have been planning this for a long time. She has a lot of emotional baggage that she channels into her vengeance plot. While she does seem to hate most men, since she pretends to be drunk and every single one of them tries to take advantage of her in some way, her hatred is more targeted at people who don’t think sexual assault is a big deal. The first two people she targets are two women. One was a friend from college who thought Nina was lying about the assault, and the other is the dean of the college who ignored the problem and let her assailant off the hook. Cassie gets them both in satisfying, yet despicable ways. She gets her old friend drunk and makes her believe she was taken advantage of by the first man we see in the beginning of the film. And she scares the shit out of the dean by insinuating that her daughter is in one of the college dorms with older men, which isn’t true, but that’s insane to insinuate.

But Cassie is never really detestable in these moments. We understand early on that she is doing this because her life was ruined by the systems that let this happen. While she didn’t go through what Nina did, she still had to watch her best friend fall into despair, which ended in death. Cassie was a smart, happy woman at one point. But because she lost the most important person in her life due to people who didn’t care for her and an incompetent system that didn’t help her, she feels betrayed by the world. If the world isn’t going to help out people who need it the most, why should she care about anyone? You are on her side because, while what she does to others isn’t healthy or normal, it feels justified to her and to us because we understand where she’s coming from.

It helps that Mulligan plays Cassie as darkly humorous and even sympathetic at times. I say darkly humorous because while the subject matter is dark, the movie does have a sense of humor. And all the humor is in Cassie’s character and Mulligan’s deadpan performance. The first time we meet Cassie’s love interest, she spits in his coffee in front of him and she doesn’t even feel bad about it. In the hands of a lesser actress this character would have come off as too bitchy or felt more like a teenage girl. But Mulligan plays a woman who looks and sounds beaten down by life and herself. She comes across as unhinged, yet sympathetic because of all the shit she’s been through. And Mulligan comes to life when she enacts her revenge plan as she becomes scary, but fun to watch. But she is never so malicious that we hate her.

One of the best moments that demonstrate this is after Cassie scares the dean to death. She’s so emotionally drained that she stops in the middle of the street as she’s driving home. While she wants her revenge, it’s taking it’s toll on her on an emotional level. Usually this type of character is so focused on revenge that they stay emotionless. But Cassie actually acts like a human would and feels drained in this instance. Of course, stopping in the middle of the road she gets a guy in a truck mad and he starts to yell at her. Then, as if not even thinking, she gets out, takes out a crowbar, and smashes the mans car up. He drives off and immediately after she feels bad and gets upset with herself. This is a great moment for different reasons. We get some catharsis as Cassie smashes this assholes car up in the moment. But it’s a great character moment as we can see how this revenge plot is turning her into a worse person than she was before. And she knows this as she regrets doing what she did. You rarely see that in many revenge movies as this act would be depicted as heroic and we would see her in a positive light. But this film flips that notion on its head and shows the emotional consequences it has for our lead. Mulligan really sells this moment as she goes from emotionally drained, to angry, to upset with herself in the span of less than two minutes. It’s a great moment and a great performance that only gets better as the film goes on.

And I can’t really go on about the rest of the movie because then I would get into spoilers. The film really takes a dark and real turn in the third act that I would dare not spoil. In fact, I feel like I’ve said a little too much in this review. Promising Young Woman is a film you need to kind of go blind into to enjoy it. I know that’s saying a lot because I know a lot of people who either love or hate the ending. I personally love it and think it’s an awesome twist in a story full of them. And I also think it fits with the rest of the film because it is so dark, yet still keeps its sense of humor throughout. But if you do want to see this movie, which I recommend you do if you don’t mind the dark subject matter, then be prepared for the last 20 minutes or so. This is a movie that takes the revenge story and twists it into its own, unique thing.

Discovering Laurel and Hardy through Sons of the Desert

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Sons of the Desert (1933)

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were a comedy team from the late 1920s to the early 1940s. During their run they made dozens of films and were one of the most popular comic duos of early Hollywood. Their brand of comedy had its own unique style that separated them from other comedians at the time. Their comedy was based on their characters. Laurel plays a clumsy, man-child who’s overly emotional. Hardy plays the dumb bully who always gets in trouble for his idiotic ideas. The two of them together made an unlikely pair who were always the butt of the joke. And Sons of the Desert is not only one of their most famous movies, it’s also a perfect introduction to their comedic style.

The story of the movie is very simple. Stanley and Ollie (yes, they both use their real names in almost all of their movies) are a part of a fraternal club, Sons of the Desert. They decide to hold one of their annual conventions in Chicago. The two men want to go but are afraid that their wives will keep them home. The two of them try to trick their wives into letting them go. Stanley pretends to be sick, saying he needs to go to Honolulu for rest, and Laurel pretends to be his chaperone. The two think they pulled a fast one on their wives, but they find out about what their husbands really did, via seeing them on a news reel, and are extremely pissed. The two men try to explain their side of the story, but, well, let’s just say it’s not a pretty ending for them.

The film basically has no plot, just the bare minimum of one. This isn’t a problem though as the strength of the movie is its slapstick comedy. There’s a lot of funny, fast, over-the-top, and pretty violent slapstick throughout the film. Towards the end of the film when the two wives discover their husbands lied to them, Hardy’s wife starts to throw dishes, buckets, and pretty much everything in the kitchen at his head. Even without the slapstick the dialogue and character reactions are very funny. Laurel’s wife knows he’s a pushover and is afraid of her. When she lightly pressures him into telling her what they did, he immediately burst into tears and tells her everything. It’s so hilarious because she’s so calm in her voice, yet she turns him into a baby. A lot of the comedy in the movie is so fast because it’s such a short movie, with it being barely over an hour. Many comedies made during the early 1930s were short as they were usually double features with other films. So, the jokes had to be fast and easy to understand so that the next film could be played on time.

The slapstick isn’t the only thing holding the movie together. One of the reasons why Laurel and Hardy were successful was because audiences liked the characters they played. The two of them had great chemistry with their different personalities bouncing off each other. Hardy plays a jerk who thinks he’s smarter than everyone, but he’s really a hot-headed idiot. He’s the one who comes up with the idea to trick the wives and thinks he pulled a fast one on them. Even when his feet are burned by boiling water or when he gets hit on the head, he still feels he’s the smart one. Laurel’s character, on the other hand, is naïve, clumsy, an airhead, and very emotional. He goes from crying one minute, then cuddles up to his wife the next when she praises him. They were also the first comedians to break the “fourth wall”. This is a term that means they break character by looking at the camera or addressing the audience head on. This creates the sense that the characters are in on the joke and find the film just as silly as you do. This happens a lot in the movie as Hardy, usually after a bad joke or when Laurel is acting like a dummy, gives a sarcastic look in the camera. You could say they were ahead of their time in terms of having meta, or self-referential, humor.

Probably one of the funniest aspects of the film, outside of the two leads, are the wives. While Laurel and Hardy are the men of their households, they’re not the ones wearing the pants in the family, so to speak. The wives are smarter and more cleaver than either of them. And it’s hilarious! Hardy’s wife has a violent temper, with her throwing dishes at him all the time. She also sees right through his crap. When she learns that Hardy lied to her, she plays along with him in order to make him look more foolish just to spite him. Laurel’s wife is literally introduced with a shotgun and a rope of dead ducks on her shoulder, so she’s not a woman to be messed with. She also knows that she can easily manipulate her husband into doing anything and she uses it to her advantage, as explained earlier. Both Mae Busch and Dorothy Christy are very funny as these characters, and their comedic timing is on par with Laurel and Hardy’s.

Today Laurel and Hardy aren’t very well known. While other comedians like the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges are still remembered, Laurel and Hardy are starting to become forgotten. I feel this is unfair as they are just as funny today as they were in their day. It’s hard to say why some acts fade into obscurity and some survive. But I think everyone should take a look at Sons of the Desert and discover why these two were so big for their time.

Every Best Picture Winner from Best to Worst

All of the Oscar Best Picture winners | Oscar movies, Best picture winners, Oscar  winning movies

So the Oscar nominations for 2021 came out and, thanks to the pandemic, I’ve only seen about four of them. But I’ve been slowly trying to watch every nominee, or at least the best picture nominees. Despite me believing that the Academy Awards don’t matter and are used to sell a film more than it is to really reward the best films that came out the year before, I have a love-hate relationship with it. Hate in the sense that I think only 20% of the best picture winners deserved their wins and the other 80% are wrong. But also love in the sense that because I love film, I feel obligated to at least give every nominee a try. So, after a super long binge-watch, I’ve decided to rank every Oscar winning film from best to worst. All this is super personal and these movies ranked are some of my personal favorites and my personal demons that I want to destroy. Beside each movie listed I’ll sum up my thoughts on it in a quick, sarcastic, and honest way. This is my personal list of the best to the worst the Oscars have given use over the past 92 years.

  1. The Godfather (1972)- Do I need to say why it’s great?
  2. The Godfather Part II (1974)- Do I need to say why it’s great? Part II.
  3. The Sound of Music (1965)- Music, beautiful scenery, and Nazis. Fun!
  4. Schindler’s List (1993)- The seriousness of the Holocaust. Glad it’s in black and white.
  5. Amadeus (1984)- Mozart and mystery.
  6. Parasite (2019)- I can’t and won’t spoil this one.
  7. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)- Long take: the movie.
  8. Ben-Hur (1959)- Chariot races are messy and bloody.
  9. All About Eve (1950)- Backstage drama is fun.
  10. All Quiet on the Western Front (1929-1930)- Best anti-war movie ever.
  11. No Country for Old Men (2007)- But what does that dream mean?
  12. The Sting (1973)- Twists for days.
  13. In the Heat of the Night (1967)- Buddy cop movie about racism. It’s more fun than it sounds.
  14. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)- That damn bridge!
  15. The Lost Weekend (1945)- Alcoholism is bad.
  16. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)- F@$K Nurse Ratched!
  17. On the Warterfront (1954)- Who to trust? Who to turn to?
  18. An American in Paris (1951)- Ballet and French art at its finest.
  19. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)- The costs of war at home.
  20. The Apartment (1960)- Funny until it isn’t.
  21. The Departed (2006)- Martin Scorsese tossed an Oscar. Still a good movie though.
  22. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)- Scary good.
  23. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)- Charles Laughton can do no wrong!
  24. It Happened One Night (1934)- I don’t know why, but I find this movie funny.
  25. Chicago (2002)- Murder, jazz, and dancing. Yes please.
  26. Rocky (1976)- The Italian Stallion punches his way to an Oscar.
  27. Titanic (1997)- Yes. It’s great. Shut up.
  28. Casablanca (1943)- Less romance, more bromance!
  29. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)- An epic in the desert.
  30. Unforgiven (1992)- A bleak, depressing western. Perfect for me.
  31. Forrest Gump (1994)- Fun, but more depressing then I remember it being.
  32. 12 Years a Slave (2013)- Hard to watch, but needs to be seen.
  33. The Artist (2011)- I’ve grown to like it. But Hugo did it better.
  34. The Shape of Water (2017)- Fishman saves the girl.
  35. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)- Didn’t need 12 endings, but still good.
  36. The French Connection (1971)- Coolest car chase in a movie.
  37. Midnight Cowboy (1969)- Cowboy sex-worker: the movie
  38. Grand Hotel (1931-1932)- Too many stars to count.
  39. How Green Was My Valley (1941)- Better than Citizen Kane? No, but still good.
  40. Wings (1927-1928)- War, women, and flying.
  41. Hamlet (1948)- Shakespeare done right.
  42. West Side Story (1961)- A dated Shakespeare inspired musical.
  43. Platoon (1986)- Vietnam is sad and angry.
  44. A Man for All Seasons (1966)- Shakespeare-ish.
  45. Patton (1970)- Man slaps soldier. Mischief ensues.
  46. Gentlemen’s Agreement (1947)- Anti-Semitism and romance don’t mix well.
  47. Rain Man (1988)- Depressing, yet quotable.
  48. Argo (2012)- Good the first time, but forgettable on the rewatch.
  49. Million Dollar Baby (2004)- Clint Eastwood’s endless fascination with the bleakness of humanity.
  50. Gandhi (1982)- Long, but pretty informative if you’re too lazy to read up on him.
  51. Ordinary People (1980)- Won over Raging Bull. That’s all I’ll say.
  52. You Can’t Take It With You (1938)- Frank Capra at his cheesiest.
  53. Annie Hall (1977)- Uh… let’s move on now.
  54. Moonlight (2016)- Pretty good. Still bitter over La La Land. Sorry.
  55. The Hurt Locker (2009)- I’d hate to have his job.
  56. From Here to Eternity (1953)- Apparently everyone in the navy is drunk and lovestruck constantly. Also, Pearl Harbor happens.
  57. The Last Emperor (1987)- He’s the last emperor. That sums it up.
  58. Marty (1955)- A comedy I don’t find funny.
  59. The Life of Emile Zola (1937)- I forgot I saw this.
  60. Braveheart (1995)- So violent that it got boring really fast.
  61. Cavalcade (1932-1933)- Another movie I forgot I saw.
  62. Spotlight (2015)- Painfully average.
  63. Gigi (1958)- Creepy.
  64. Gladiator (2000)- A movie about people fighting to the death should not be this boring.
  65. Tom Jones (1963)- British, long, dull. Not my favorite.
  66. All the Kings Men (1949)- I almost fell asleep. Almost.
  67. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)- The circus sucks!
  68. Rebecca (1940)- Alfred Hitchcock’s only movie to win. But not for director. Sad.
  69. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)- Does not hold up anymore.
  70. American Beauty (1999)- Boy, this aged poorly.
  71. Chariots of Fire (1981)- Only the music is memorable.
  72. The Deer Hunter (1978)- Beautiful but too goddamn long.
  73. Oliver! (1968)- Bad music, bad adaptation, bad everything.
  74. My Fair Lady (1964)- Looks and sounds fake as hell.
  75. Around the World in 80 Days (1956)- Super long travel log.
  76. Mrs. Miniver (1942)- Boring war propaganda.
  77. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)- Not based on a true story in any way.
  78. Out of Africa (1985)- I don’t have many adjectives for boring.
  79. Going My Way (1944)- Bing Crosby sucks!
  80. A Beautiful Mind (2001)- Ron Howard sucks!
  81. Green Book (2018)- Safest Oscar pick ever.
  82. Shakespeare in Love (1998)- Really Oscars? Really!?
  83. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)- Another safe pick, but super sappy.
  84. Cimarron (1930-1931)- An epic of its time. Now no one knows of its existence.
  85. The Broadway Melody (1928-1929)- Not a real movie.
  86. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)- All That Jazz is my favorite movie. You do the math.
  87. Dances with Wolves (1990)- Kevin Costner really sucks!
  88. Gone with the Wind (1939)- Long, boring, racist, and has the worst leading lady ever.
  89. The English Patient (1996)- Words cannot express how dull this is!
  90. Terms of Endearment (1983)- Couldn’t even finish it.
  91. The King’s Speech (2010)- Literally any movie from 2010 should have won over this.
  92. Crash (2005)- Do I really need to say why this is the worst Oscar winner ever?

Ran: Akira Kurosawa’s Last Masterpiece

Movie poster of the Week - El Ideario | Sprits
Ran (1985)

Akira Kurosawa is rapidly becoming one of my favorite directors. Almost every movie of his that I’ve seen is fantastic, with a few exceptions since there’s no director with a perfect filmography. But when your filmography does have Seven Samurai (1954), Ikiru (1952), Throne of Blood (1957), High and Low (1963), and The Bad Sleep Well (1960), you might as well have an almost perfect track record. This man was even directing into his 70’s, which is how we got his last great work Ran. I don’t want to say it’s his best samurai film, since he made so many and most of them are considered classics. But… no I’m totally saying it’s his best samurai film. It’s a film of epic proportions in both its filmmaking and story telling. Kurosawa kind of hit a ruff patch in the late 1960s and 1970s. But with this movie he pulled out all the stops and created a visually stunning and bleak experience. And I am all in on bleak but beautiful films.

Ran, which roughly translates to “chaos”, follows the story of an elderly warlord named Hidetora Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai). In his old age he decides to divide his kingdom among his three sons. The eldest son, Taro (Akira Terao) is chosen to rule over the land, while the second son Jiro (Jinpachi Nezu) and third son Saburo (Daisuke Ryu) are told to support their older brother. Saburo is not pleased with this and tells his father he’s wrong. But Hidetaro won’t hear of it and banishes him. But that was a mistake as once Taro is given the title of Great Lord, he kicks his father out. Hidetora tries to appeal to Jiro, but he has his own plans of starting a war with his older brother for the throne. Eventually Hidetaro has nowhere to go and starts to go insane.

The plot is pretty similar to that of William Shakespeare’s King Lear, which is the story about a king who divides his land among his children who turn against him. Kurosawa has adapted Shakespeare before for a Japanese audience. Throne of Blood is based on Macbeth and The Bad Sleep Well is based on Hamlet. But the difference with these stories is that King Lear is about a king who is punished for no reason, and by the end a good king is put on the throne. Ran is about bad people being punished in a world with seemingly no God to help them. Hidetaro is a cruel warlord who has no problems banishing his family, killing people, and we even learn that the castles he has he stole from other families and killed them all too. One of the victims is married to Taro named Kaede (Mieko Harada), and all she wants is revenge and schemes her way to getting that vengeance. The other victims are Jiro’s wife Sue (Yoshiko Miyazaki) and her brother Tsurumaru (Mansai Nomura), whose eyes were gouged out by Hidetora’s army. And because of the many sins Hidetaro has committed, he pays for them in the cruelest way as it’s his own sons that try to take advantage of him and eventually try to kill him.

Probably the best sequence in the whole movie is when both Taro and Jiro team up their armies to kill their father in one of the castles he hides in. Since Taro doesn’t want his father’s personal army to rebel against him, he decides to kill all of them in a bloody battle. When the battle starts the sound cuts out and only the beautiful music can be heard. We don’t need any sound in this moment as we can see the destruction of this battle. Both armies have bright red and yellow banners and armor so that we can see the chaos better. We see people getting chopped up, shot by arrows, women being mowed down by guns, flaming arrows being shot at the castle, and so much blood that it pours down into Hidetora’s room. All the while Hidetora sits in horror as his sons try to kill him. He suffers for his past sins and for that he walks out of the flaming castle, in a depressed state, and just walks into the wilderness. This whole sequence is so fantastic that I would recommend the film just because of this scene.

But there is more to the film as this is a very dark story. Hidetora suffers a lot as everyone and everything in his life is taken from him. But he’s not the only one to suffer. I’ve mentioned how Hidetora’s victims have suffered and, except for Sue who is devoted to God, takes their suffering out on his family. But the ones who really suffer are the sons themselves. Taro, when he becomes the Great Lord, immediately gets too cocky and tries to kill his dad. But he gets punished as during the big battle, one of Jiro’s men shoots him in the back and he becomes the next leader. Jiro is then immediately smitten by Kaede and she takes advantage of this by telling him to start another war with Saburo, which she knows will destroy his kingdom. Like in most Shakespearian tragedies, almost all the main characters die horribly and here it’s no exception. I won’t spoil more than that as the death scenes for each character are so cruel and violent that you need to see them for yourself. This is a very unforgiving movie as the story punishes everyone.

Honestly, Ran is such a beautifully made film that it’s hard to highlight what’s so great about it. I could go on about the Noh inspired acting, the costume design, the music, the cinematography, the big set pieces, the themes of vengeance and how it creates monsters out of men, and even the debate over whether God has given up on humanity as we see bloody battles being waged for no good reason. There’s a lot to unpack in this film and I think that’s a good thing as it keeps you thinking about it long after you’ve seen it. Kurosawa made a few more films after this, but none of them match the same scale and scope that this film does. It’s everything I love about Kurosawa’s directing and I think it’s his last great work.

Fail Safe: The Intense Version of Dr. Strangelove

Fail-Safe (1964) - Rotten Tomatoes
Fail Safe (1964)

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) is a classic comedy about nuclear war and the incompetency of the government. Trust me when I say it’s a lot funnier than it sounds and most people consider it a classic for it. But if you’re wondering what Dr. Strangelove would look like as a serious movie, then Fail Safe is it. It has the same story, same types of characters, and was even released the exact same year. However, this film was released a little later than Dr. Strangelove was. Because that movie came out first audiences didn’t pay much attention to this movie. It tanked at the box office even though it was a critical success. So why am I talking about this version over the comedic one? Well, because it’s so much more intense and realistic. That’s not to say that Dr. Strangelove shouldn’t be ignored, but that film was a satire of the political climate at the time and was a welcome distraction from what was going on. This movie is more of the hard-crushing reality of what would happen if we entered into a nuclear war. Thus, this film has more of an impact because it hits you harder.

The film takes place during the Cold War. We are told about how the U.S. military uses fail safe boxes in bomber jets to instruct the piolets on where and when to attack if the U.S. is threatened. The military experts say this is an air-tight system. However, a malfunction in the system accidentally sends out the attack signal to several bomber jets. The governments of both the United States and Russia are able to stop most of them, except for one that is heading to Moscow. The President (Henry Fonda) now has to race against the clock to prevent a nuclear war by trying to get in touch with the bombers. But the problem is that once the attack is initiated, the bombers can’t stop their attack and can’t listen to anyone, not even the President.

This movie plays out more like a suspenseful thriller than a typical war movie. The entire plot of the film is a race against time as the government tries to stop one of their own bomber jets. The film builds tension by trying to find ways to stop this attack from happening. The government tries to stop them by sending jets to take them down, they ask the Russians for help by asking them to destroy the jet, and the President tries to call it off several times while dealing with trying to protect two countries. It’s very intense and keeps you on the edge of your seat. It helps that Sidney Lumet’s direction makes every scene tense. He instills a sense of realism in the direction, making the movie feel scarier. Many of the shots are close-ups to indicate a sense of dreed and claustrophobia. There’s not even a musical score so these scenes become more intense. It’s supposed to make you feel uncomfortable because the situation is so scary.

This sense of uneasiness if further intensified with the spectacular acting. Everyone does their part in making the story feel real as they take it very seriously. It’s a star-studded cast filled with stars and character actors that bring a sense of authenticity to it. Walter Matthau, Dan O’Henlihy, Frank Overton, Larry Hagman, and a smattering of other actors bring their A game. They all act as though they’re trying to prevent the world from getting destroyed, which they are within the story. But the star of the film is Fonda as the President. Fonda is one of the greatest actors of all time and has given many great performances like in The Ox-Bow Incident (1949), 12 Angry Men (1957), and The Grapes of Wrath (1940). His performance is a lot more subdued here. If another actor went too over-the-top then this character could have been poorly handled. But because Fonda is so subtle, he makes you afraid of what’s going to happen before it happens. The most intense scene in the film is when he has the chance to talk to one of the jet piolets. He tries his hardest to convince him that he’s the President and that he needs them to turn back. But because the piolet has been trained not to respond to anyone, their logic being that they could be lied to or tricked, he hangs up on him. His character is put in the worst possible situation and you feel worried for him every time he’s on that damn phone. In fact, you feel worried for most of the characters because they’re all in the same position.

So, this begs the question of which movie did this story better? Well the better question is what movie will stay with you longer? Dr. Strangelove tells the exact same story but from a comedic side. It paints all the characters like they are cartoons and makes fun of the political situation. Fail Safe does the complete opposite. It asks the very serious question of what would happen if this “fail safe” system failed. People believed back then, and even today, that such advanced technology couldn’t fail and that we would be safe. But, as history shows, our technology fails us because humans aren’t perfect. We build the machines, so they inherit our flaws. The movie shows us how unprepared we could be in this situation. And the films ending is one of the scariest endings because it feels too real. I won’t spoil it, but if you saw Dr. Strangelove’s ending, then imagine this films version to be deathly serious. It’s an ending that will make you question how safe you feel in a world with nuclear bombs. At any moment, something, no matter how small, can change the world for the worst. I think Fail Safe is the better of the two because it makes you think about your own mortality. It’s a film that scares you by showing how one slip-up could mean the end of the world. That’s some strong words to say about a movie, but this is probably one of the few movies I’ve ever seeen that will make you question life itself.

Does Casablanca Still Hold Up?

CASABLANCA (1942) FIRST FRENCH RELEASE POSTER, 1947 | Original Film Posters  Online2020 | Sotheby's
Casablanca (1942)

Casablanca is considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made. It has received overwhelmingly positive reviews over the years, is considered to be a historically important part of film history, received several Academy Awards including best picture, and is seen as the greatest romance movie ever made. So why do I think it’s just ok? This film is loved by critics and audiences alike and is, on all accounts, a very important film. My problem with the movie is the one thing everyone loves about it: the romance and lead characters. I believe these and several other elements drag the movie down to the status of being pretty damn good. But there are still things about the film that really work. I wouldn’t recommend it if I thought it was completely overrated. However, I will do my best to point out its strengths and its flaws, in order to give you an honest opinion about the film.

Casablanca is the story of… Casablanca. It takes place in World War II German occupied Casablanca, Morocco. The citizens, tourist, and French occupants are desperately trying to flee the city. But it’s nearly impossible as German and French soldiers have an eye on everyone in town. One of the places that is a safe haven is Rick’s Café, owned by Rick Blaine (Humphry Bogart). Patrons of his establishment can drink, gamble, listen to music, and do backdoor deals with rebels to get them out of the city. So naturally this is a busy place with civilians and the German and French soldiers who constantly hound him for information. One of them being a French captain named Louis Renault (Claude Rains), who goes back and forth between helping Rick and helping the Germans, seeing as how the German’s occupied France in 1940. One patron is Rick’s ex-lover Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman). She has come to him to ask for his help as she’s now married to a rebel. Rick, remembering better times when they were together in Paris, has to think about helping the woman who ran away from him. But he’d better hurry with that decision as the German’s are becoming more suspicious of his café and patrons.

So, I’m going to start with the things I don’t think hold up well. First are the two leads: Bogart and Bergman. Bogart and Bergman are two of the great actors from the “Golden Age” of Hollywood. They’ve both done amazing work in other films. In this film they’re only ok. Bogart plays a world-weary man who’s cool and relatable, and Bergman plays a woman who’s charming and caring. Probably the best scene these two have is when they first lay eyes on each other in the café. We don’t know their history as this happens in the beginning of the movie. But the way they look at each other conveys that they have a past and deeply care about each other. All of this is done through a simple look, which is rare to find in a film from 1942. However, the characters themselves are not all that interesting. They had a past together, but due to the war they were forced to be separated and live different lives. They have no personality outside of this and are pretty dull. During the second half when Ilsa threatens Rick to try to help her husband, the two talk about how they still love each other. The problem I have is that the dialogue is nothing special and these two don’t have enough chemistry to carry their supposed love story. But the real reason why the characters are so dull is because of the main story, which is the other big problem with the movie. The main story is your typical romance where all the characters talk about is their love for each other. This takes up over half of the films run time and the romance is not developed enough to take an interest in. This is the weakest aspect of the movie, yet this is what most people remember about it.

I don’t buy this movie as a love story for two reasons. One is that the romance is typical of B films at the time. And this was a B film when it came out, contrary to popular belief. The romance of the movie isn’t very interesting and pretty boring for today’s audiences. The second reason is that the love story is too long and takes away from the more interesting themes and characters. There are really interesting themes about revolution and war. One of the best scenes in the movie is when German soldiers are singing a German song in Rick’s Café, but the French start to sing a French song even louder. It’s a powerful scene as the French people, who were taken over by the German’s, still believe in their country and want to rebel against the tyrannical powers of the Axis forces. It shows a sense of rebellion and patriotism for one’s cultural identity in the face of evil. In fact, the themes of revolution are more relevant today than the main love story, which I think modern audiences will gravitate towards more.

While I do take an issue with the main story and characters, there’s actually a lot of good stuff. The sub-text of anti-war and revolution is conveyed through the movies great dialogue. There’s some really funny, witty, and smart dialogue in the movie, making it one of the best written films of its time. What sells the dialogue are the supporting characters and their actors. The piano player Sam is a loyal friend of Rick’s. Him playing Ilsa and Rick’s song is a powerful moment that shows his devotion to his friend. Signor Ugarte is a desperate man trying to get out of town like everyone else. He’s the one who starts the story proper with him getting arrested in Rick’s place. But he makes a lasting impression as he’s a major creep. Heinrich Strasser of the German army is a great villain who you don’t want to mess with and is very intimidating. But the best character in the film is Captain Louis Renault, played by Rains. Louis is supposed to be a French captain who’s forced to work with the German’s, but his allegiance constantly changes as he tries to do what’s right. But he’s not a sinless man as he gambles and takes bribes from Rick all the time. In fact, him and Rick have the most chemistry together. Hell, I would have loved it if the movie was about Rick and Louis relationship and how they outsmarted the German army. It helps that Rains is really good and seems to understand the character. He plays Louis as a man who switches from following his duties as a captain, to trying do what is right for his people, and to try to make a profit off of his gambling habit.

These are the reasons why I think Casablanca still holds up. Even though I have problems with it, it still has a lot of charm and inspiring moments. For me the love story and main characters don’t work, but maybe they might work for you. I just find the side characters and subplots more interesting and entertaining. I know everyone and their mother has talked about this movie, but if you haven’t seen it then I would recommend doing so.