30 Movies in 30 Days: Casablanca

Had I seen it before: No. And I’m like 57% ashamed that it took me as it long as it did.

What IMDb says: A cynical nightclub owner protects an old flame and her husband from Nazis in Morocco.

Requirements fulfilled: 

– At least one Best Picture Academy Award Winner

Why I picked it: It’s the last day of the project and I HAD to watch a Best Picture Winner to fulfill my last requirement. As I thought about all the movies I have watched over the course of the month, I couldn’t help but think about how I had yet to watch something that was a true classic in the purest sense of the word. And since the spirit of the project is to challenge myself to watch some of those always-meant-to-watch-films, Casablanca seemed like the perfect conclusion. Plus it’s only 1 hour and 42 minutes. Gone With the Wind… isn’t.

What I liked: This film somehow takes a crapton of life’s eternal tensions and distills it into one movie:

  • The tension between “the greater good” and doing what makes yourself/that one person you love happy
  • The tension between staying emotionally unavailable/being unhappy forever and taking a risk to love someone who could hurt you
  • The tension between society’s views of morality and what your own conscience tells you
  • The tension between Nazis and people who are not Nazis

The story plays with all of these different tensions wonderfully, increasing them as the story progresses. Prior to watching this I had always thought of it more as a love story than anything else so I was pleasantly surprised to see just how intricate the story gets. It is so much more than a romance and I implore you to watch the movie ESPECIALLY if you were under this misguided impression the way I was.

I also love Rick because he’s a smartass with a sense of humor as dry as the Moroccan dessert he lives in. Let’s just say I can relate.

The ending is just the right amount of bittersweet and I commend the writers for not taking the stereotypical Hollywood route. (Which maybe this was typical for 1942, I’m not really sure. Either way I liked it).

What I didn’t like: It was a little unclear to me why the Nazis didn’t just throw Laszlo back in a concentration camp as soon as they found him. If it’s French Morocco and the Nazis occupy France wouldn’t it stand to reason that the Nazis in Casablanca also have control over that region? Also they’re bloody Nazis for crying out loud, why would they respect rules that were there? Now I know they were hoping to coerce Laszlo into turning in other activists helping the Jews but as soon as Laszlo makes it clear that he won’t, I don’t see why the Nazis don’t just take him into custody right there.

Now this is by no means enough to significantly impact my opinion of the movie, but it was something I noticed. And I also give them a bit of a pass as the film was made in 1942 and I’m quite confident a 1942 audience would have a firmer grasp on wartime politics than I do. It’s easy to believe that something I don’t really understand now would’ve totally made sense at the time. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

I’m also SLIGHTLY annoyed that we never get a great explanation as to why an American would be in Casablanca in the first place. But once again, not enough to significantly hinder my viewing experience.

Will I watch it again: Yes!! It’s a classic that 100% deserves its legacy and I look forward to watching it again.

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