Small pieces of big movies

With the forthcoming Academy Awards, it might be fun to select small funny pieces or vignettes from movies that had some level of acclaim.

Annie Hall: Two small scenes that must be paired stand out. In an earlier scene Woody Allen’s character is speaking with Annie Hall’s brother. The brother notes that sometimes when he is driving at night, he briefly considers veering into an oncoming set of headlights to end it all. A few scenes later the expression on Allen’s face is priceless as guess who is driving them to the airport at night?

Forrest Gump: Two priceless scenes stand out. One is when Bubba finishes telling Forrest the many ways to cook shrimp. They are using toothbrushes to clean bathroom tile and Bubba’s says “Well, that’s about it.” Forrest pauses and then goes back to scrubbing. The other is when Lieutenant Dan shows up at the Bayou and Forrest just leaps into the water, while the now pilotless boat is still running.

Casablanca: There are countless scenes in this most quoted movie of all time. One that I love is just after Inspector Renault is forced to close “Rick’s” because he is shocked there is gambling going on, the pit boss hands the Inspector his winnings. The other is when Rick tells the Nazi Major Strasser that he came to Casablanca for the waters. When the Major replies there are no waters here, Rick says “So, I was misinformed,” with a very wry grin.

Jaws: The running gag line echoed by Roy Scheider, the land preferring lawman, is “We gotta get a bigger boat.” The other eerily funny scene is when the grizzled sea captain played by Robert Shaw got the attention of a talkative town council by slowly scraping his finger nails on a chalkboard. Yikes. Another funny scene is on the boat, after much drinking, the guys are comparing scars. At the end, Richard Dreyfus’ character points at his heart and notes the name of the girl who first broke it.

Rocky: A couple of character names for the pets gives me a chuckle. The bulldog was called “Butkus” in homage to the tough linebacker for the Chicago Bears. The two pet turtles of Rocky were humorously named “Cuff” and “Link.” As Rocky heads to the ring to fight Apollo Creed, he is wearing a robe with advertising on the back. When his manager asks him what he gets out of the deal, Rocky said he gets to keep the robe. “Shrewd,” the manager replies.

Gone with the Wind: A humorous set up occurs when Scarlett is about to get a visit from Rhett Butler in Atlanta and does not want to reveal she is on hard times. So, she has a dress made from the draperies. By itself, this is a humorous scene when the audience recognizes what she is wearing. But the funniest parody of this scene is courtesy of comedienne Carol Burnett, when she comes down the stairs with a dress made out of the drapes, including the curtain rod.

Please share with me your memorable scenes from award-winning movies. They can be funny, impactful, romantic, sensual or sensuous. Tell me who you think will take home best picture.

Casablanca quotes resonate in real life

One of my favorite movies is “Casablanca” and, from its ranking on the list of greatest movies, I am not alone in my admiration. A love triangle is set in the context of the outset of World War II after Germany took possession of France. But, it is also filled with an interesting plot and characters played by marvelous actors who say some wonderfully written lines primarily written by Julius and Philip Epstein.

In another list of the 100 greatest movie quotes, lines from “Casablanca” appears six times. These and other lines from the movie still resonate today as a reflection of our times. Here are a few from memory, so I will likely misquote them.

We will always have Paris – Rick (Humphrey Bogart) says this a couple of times to Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) as a reminder of their relationship where they met. To me, this reminds us of our own special places that mean so much, whether it is a love interest or a special time in our lives.

Louie, I think this is the beginning of beautiful friendship – A key subplot is the relationship between Rick and Captain Louie Renault (Claude Rains), which is friendly, but with some distance. When they come together at the end to go fight the Germans, it lifts your spirits to see the two walk off together with a mission and true bond of kinship.

I am shocked, shocked there is gambling going on here – Captain Renault is asked to close Rick’s (a bar) at the behest of Nazi Major Heinrich Strasser (Conradt Veight) and used gambling as the reason, even though it is routine. The line is followed by the pit boss handing him his winnings. This reminds me of politicians, who know or allow a problem to occur, and then act shocked when the problem does occur.

Human life is cheap – This evil line is uttered by Major Strasser and gives me chills. People traveled to Casablanca to get transport to America, but must wait to bribe or pay heavily for papers to get out. This reminds me of the refugees who are being exploited by opportunist to sell them unsafe passage to Europe. Whether they get there is irrelevant.

Round up the usual suspects – This is a key line in the movie that is used often. Captain Renault uses it several times to convey that he is doing something about a crime, but actually is doing nothing. It is also how the writers figured out the ending, which they were struggling with. I find this line is also indicative of politicians who are good at pretending to do something, when they are actually doing nothing. Over 50 repeal votes of Obamacare is too easy an example.

Here’s looking at you kid – Rick, who is older than Ilsa, uses this line to show great affection, usually touching her chin lightly to look into her eyes. It plays an important part in Rick’s journey back. It reminds me of lines we use with each other that mean more than the words themselves. In the movie “Ghost” the line “Ditto” had huge meaning in the plot, e.g.

Play it for me Sam. Play “As Time Goes By” – I probably misquoted this misquoted line from Ilsa, which usually is seen as “play it again Sam.” Sam (Dooley Wilson), who has a velvet voice sings this melancholic song which lilts often through the movie. Like Paris, it reminds the two lovers of better times, as Sam who has always accompanied Rick when he sets up a bar, would play it for the two of them. We each have milestone songs that take us back in time. This may be music’s greatest gift.

Play it. Play La Marseillaise – To me, this is the most powerful moment in the movie. You see first hand the leadership and bravery of Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) as he asks the band to play the French national anthem to drown out the Nazi bar singers. In an interview, the Jewish writers said it gave them chill bumps as they wrote it. Leaders like this are few and far between and are much needed, as their quiet fortitude speaks louder than any bombastic chest beater.

Welcome back to the fight – This line is uttered by Victor to Rick as they say goodbye. It is a major moment of recognition of the noble efforts of Rick that are not unnoticed by one who does them all of the time. Today, we need more folks who are willing to speak their mind against tyranny, bigotry, disenfranchisement and hatred.

I realize I left off several key lines for space reasons. I also recognize I left off the contributions of Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet who added so much color to the movie. Let me know what you think and please share your favorites. As time goes by….

 

 

 

 

Movies I cannot get enough of

My wife will walk through the room where I am watching television, observe and ask “how many times have you seen that?” The correct response is “not enough.” I have always enjoyed movies, but not all movies. I like plot and dialogue above all, but like action as well as conflict. I tend to shy away from the movies where the actors are dwarfed by these computer generated things, but that does not necessarily mean those movies are bad.

There are some movies I have seen over ten times. And, if it is on, unless there is a better option elsewhere, I will take a peek. The nice thing about movies you have seen is you can leave them at any time. Sometimes, I have seen the final two-thirds of a movie more than the start, so I will watch the starting one third and then stop. Yes, I know I am weird.

Top of mind, a few that fall into this category include:

  • The Dirty Dozen, a great movie with great actors like Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland, Clint Walker, John Cassavettes, et al.
  • Casablanca, a movie that was not supposed to do well, but stands the test of time. It also has the most movie quotes in the top 100 list with six.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, is a must see anytime, and is one of the few I own. Atticus Finch is such a hero to many and the father-children talks are wonderful.
  • Apollo 13, the tense movie about a successful failure with Tom Hanks, Ed Harris, and, of course, six degrees of Kevin Bacon, who is in many ensemble movies.
  • Diner, about young adults finding themselves in Baltimore, with Mickey Rourke, that Kevin guy again, Ellen Barkin, Daniel Stern and others.
  • The Last of the Mohicans, whose scenery, plot and action are matched by one of the best soundtracks ever made. Daniel-Day Lewis and Madelaine Stowe star, the latter of whom is breathtaking to me.
  • Witness for the Prosecution, a terrific English court movie with Charles Laughton playing the crusty old defense lawyer, also with Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power, where Dietrich steals the show.
  • Ben Hur, the best biblical based movie, starring Charleton Heston and some of the best actions scenes, that are well filmed and play a key role.
  • True Grit, the one with John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall and Kim Darby. Wayne is a crusty old drunk of a marshall, but the movie is about his relationship with the Darby who has as much grit.
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral, I love this movie about good friends as the movie tracks them through these five events. Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell star, but the movie is more about all of the friends.

I have left off many from my list, but would love to hear your thoughts and movies that you must see over and over again. I tried to pick a eclectic mix of movies to start some conversation.

The stuff dreams are made of

While this is the pivotal quote from the movie “Maltese Falcon,” this movie will not be mentioned further. The quote is germane as I am remembering various beautiful actresses in movie roles in which they looked most appealing, at least to me.

Michelle Pfeiffer in “The Fabulous Baker Boys” who is a favorite actress of mine

Nicole Kidman in “Cold Mountain” where she would take your breath away

Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca” whose beautiful sadness made you pine for her

Isabella Rossellini in “Cousins” as she reminds me of how beautiful her mother was in “Casablanca”

Jean Seberg in “Paint your Wagon” who looked and sang better than her two husbands

Jane Seymour in “Somewhere in Time”  for whom you would also want to travel back in time

Katherine Ross in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” especially during one of the most sensuous foreplay movie scenes

Teri Hatcher in “Tomorrow Never Dies” as my favorite Bond actress who I became infatuated with as Lois Lane on TV

Kathleen Turner in “Body Heat” where the verbal foreplay when she and William Hurt’s character first meet is scintillating – of course the other foreplay is memorable

Jacqueline Bissett in “The Deep” where the wet T-shirt contest may have been born and was very impactful on this teen boy

Jessica Lange in the remake of “The Postman Always Rings a Twice” where need and want become the same thing

Catherine McCormack in “Braveheart” where you mourn her loss as did William Wallace

I am leaving so many actresses out, so I would love to hear your favorites. Also, commenters are welcome to mention actors that float your boat.

Are you watching Casablanca again?

When my wife has caught me stopping while channel surfing on a showing of “Casablanca” as I did Friday night, she invariably asks “How many times have you seen that?” I usually answer “Not enough” depending on her mood. I was encouraged to write about my favorite movie when I stopped by a blog yesterday called www.jasminekylesings.wordpress.com who did a wonderful job of talking about her favorite movie ‘Pride and Prejudice.” I should note my wife will do the same with “Somewhere in Time,” but since I appreciate the story and seeing Jane Seymour’s classic beauty it is a more than a fair trade – she of course has a thing for Christopher Reeve, but that is another story.

To me, Casablanca takes me to another place in time. It is a great story told well, set at a crucial time with a backdrop of Nazi antagonism, and played by great actors under great direction. You can go to Wikipedia and see the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay Academy Awards and the numerous nominations, so it is acknowledged for its surprisingly unexpected brilliance. Also, the fact that the movie is included as one of the all-time best movies confirms it is a classic. Yet, to me it is the dialogue and interaction between the starring roles, supporting roles and the many smaller roles, that make it worthwhile.

I enjoy the banter between Carl and Sasha, the head waiter and bartender, and their patrons as much as the dialogue between the lead roles. And, the most moving part of the movie includes only the third star – Paul Heinreid as Victor Lazlo with a brief nod from Humphrey Bogart as Rick – as Lazlo directs the band to play “La Marseillaise” to drown out the Nazi sing along in Rick’s Americain Cafe. This scene never ceases to give me chills as it shows what a heroic figure Lazlo is and why people look to him to lead and why the Nazis are so wary of him.

Setting aside this emphatic moment, it is the dialogue and story that deserve the credit more so than anything. The movie is a compilation of conversations leading us to the inevitable climax. You have little reason to like Rick at first, so the dialogue helps paint a better picture of this gray character – why he is bitter and how he was not always this way. At the same time, we see the grayness of Claude Rains’ Captain Louis Renault’s character evolve into someone who gives a damn at the end. Even Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa Lund is not perfect, as she is torn between Rick and her devotional love to Victor Lazlo. So, the grayness of these characters and others (such as Sydney Greenstreet’s Ferrari) shows how imperfect we all are in our daily struggles between survival and doing the right thing. In fact, the only true hero and villain are Victor Lazlo and Major Strasser with others having many shades of gray in-between.

The writers, primarily Julius and Phillip Epstein with help from Howard Koch, deserve the Best Screenplay award. The dialogue reveals the characters in this struggle. The movie is remembered for its six classic quotes being included among the 100 Best Movie Quotes, but those quotes should not overshadow the dialogue that give them meaning. The classic “round-up the usual suspects” after Major Strasser has been shot is based on earlier dialogue. It has extra meaning to me as the writers initially did not know how the movie should end even after filming began. When one of the Epsteins blurted out “round-up the usual suspects” they knew Strasser had to be killed and that led them to Lazlo getting on the plane with Ilsa as Rick had to be the one who shot him.

Greenstreet, Dooley Wilson as Sam, Peter Lorre as Ugarte and Conradt Veidt as the villainous Strasser all are ideally cast in their roles. Plus, the many dialogues and scenes expose us to Rick’s handling of the essential sub-story of the Bulgarian couple trying to win their way to America while the young wife considers sleeping with Renault and Rick’s relationship with his casino boss, Sam, Sasha, Carl, Ferrari and Ugarte among others.

Yet, we should not forget the role of Michael Curtiz and his other directors who helped him when the Academy Award (he was not the only director used on the film). Focusing on the sadness and beauty of Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa shows that much can be said without a word even in this movie of words. And, it doesn’t stop with her as the facial expressions of the people listening to other people is very telling. There is a brief moment when the guitar playing female singer cannot hide a glimpse of her disgust over Major Strasser; note it is not overtly apparent, as in real life, he may have noticed it and said something to her. There are also classic scenes where the camera catches the silhouette of one of the actors in a dialogue, to let us see the other party. There are some very effective scenes like this in Rick’s office.

So, I watch again and again. Note, I do not stop every time, but I do enjoy parts of the movie so much, that I will at least catch a taste before I move on. If you have not seen it, I would encourage you to do so. I have seen it in a theatre and it is even more special as you can see more facial expressions than on a TV screen.  If you have not watched it in a while, please check it out again and look at the facial expressions and listen to the dialogue. And, if you love it like I do, “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Please feel free to share your favorite moments, characters, etc.