Category Archives: Film essays

Critics Classics: Casablanca 80th Anniversary Review

The 1942 Michael Curtiz classic Casablanca is one of the most influential and compelling classics in the history of cinema. I have watched Casablanca in various formats over the years. The first was VHS, the second was DVD, the third was laser disc, the fourth was Blu-ray, and my fifth time was on the big screen. Although I enjoyed all the different formats, seeing this amazing filmon the big screen is simply the best. Casablanca immerses its audience in cinema appreciation mode to the fullest.

To recap the plot of Casablanca, the film takes place in Casablanca, Morocco in the WWII era. Humphrey Bogart is Rick Blaine, a café owner, an ex-patriot with drinking problems and emotional issues. Rick’s Café starts to receive letters regarding refugees with instructions for how to escape during the uncharted times depicted in the film. The other struggle in Rick’s life is his former lover, Ilsa, played by Ingrid Bergman. Her husband is Victor Laszlo, and he is played by Paul Henreid. In the film, Rick finds himself in a position where he needs to make hard choices involving his café and Ilsa that may have damaging consequences. Casablanca is all about connection, and what one man will do for those he truly loves. Rick loves Ilsa, but does he want to take risks for her?

With the relationship between Ilsa and Rick revisited in the movie, Casablanca’s directing, and writing are still inspiring. Some would label the film “noir.” The story, however, is a drama. The plot involves Rick finally coming to a decision about his café and Ilsa with the politics of WWII playing out around him. There are difficult choices for Rick, but it is hard to make the correct ones.

Bogart’s performance is exceptional, and it continues with Ilsa throughout the film’s journey of love and danger. Powerful elements are captured in the cinematography and the lighting. The dialogue is also enticing as thoughts, connection, and confusion are expressed. As one of the most famous quotes from Bogart goes, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” that moment continues to be invigorating and heartfelt. Bogart’s performance is the hero of Casablanca’s many years of brilliance and appreciation.

The nostalgia of Casablanca still lives on. Many decades later, it is still a masterpiece. The love between Rick and Ilsa is a gem.  Many aspects of this classic will continue to be appreciated through the years which is why I plan to revisit it in the future and savor even more nuances as I view this unforgettable film. Four stars.

Cache Revisited in 35 MM Projection

Cache is a film that demonstrates artistic filmmaking at its finest. It also makes me appreciate the vision of Director Michael Haneke. I revisited Cache in the 50/50 Film Series that is held at the Gene Siskel Film center in downtown Chicago. The presentation in 35 MM projection is how the film should be experienced because of the layers of realism it creates for its diverse audience. Cache is a thriller filled with tension that is thought-provoking and intriguing.

The movie was released in 2005 and takes place in France. The film centers on Georges (played by Daniel Auteuil) and his wife, Anne (played by Juliette Binoche). Georges is a TV Literary reviewer and Ann is a publisher. They seem to be a couple with a normal life and successful careers, along with one young son. However, their life sees a shift in patterns as they begin to receive videotapes at their doorstep. The tapes contain footage of themselves, and this means there is a stalker out there surveilling them somewhere. As the situation begins to heighten the family’s anxiety, and with authorities being of no help, Georges decides he must address the problem. He feels he must take risks to piece together why someone is surveilling them.There are reasons but the reasons are hidden, hence the title Cache.

If fans know Haneke’s background, they will better understand his approach to creating tension in his films.  Haneke is faithful to testing the waters of characterization and playing out situations that seem life-threatening. Cache is scary in part because Haneke knows how to add layers which contribute to understanding the stalking behavior that Georges and Anna are encountering. During the film, my mind kept wondering who has secrets to hide since even the secrets are Cache.

As the more hidden gems of footage cause increased anxiety and  paranoia becomes the central theme of the film. Georges loses his cool with work, and Anne has her own moments as well. Their young son starts to feel like he is not important to his parents due to their distractions. The challenge is to figure out who is watching them, but can they still be a strong family? Even the element of a happy family is Cache.

The trail of questions that Cache leaves viewers with is mind-boggling. Along the way, there are more shocking discoveriesand issues at hand with the careers of Georges and Anne. Haneke is filling a bucket of harsh waters and waiting for it to spill in Cache. I kept wondering when the resolution would finally come.

Despite the tension, Cache is a representation of brilliant directing. The actors do an excellent job portraying their characters as they make their discoveries. During the film, the audience gets a clear picture of what it would be like to deal with threats that seem real and unavoidable. Haneke knows how to find the realism and make his audience keep asking what they would do if faced with the situations explored in his film. The authenticity in 35 MM was purely and visually audacious. Four stars.


E.T. the Extra Terrestrial the IMAX experience

In 1982, director Steven Spielberg brought the world one of the most beloved tails that spans four decades now. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. The film’s success to this day has an estimated earning of 792.9 million dollars, and it was one of the film’s to be in the cinemas for a long time of over a year. My first experience of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial was in year 2002, when it was re-released for its twenty-year anniversary. That is one of the most memorable cinematic experiences I have ever had in my childhood era of growing to love movies. In IMAX I felt more in-depth than ever before with my love for E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. That is because I felt I was coming face-to-face with the reality of the film, the connection between Elliot and E.T., but above all I felt I was more face-to-face with E.T. himself.

Spielberg’s use of directing throughout most of the film was shot at eye-level. This is because he wanted to create a more empathetic and connecting experience for his audience with the film. In IMAX, the eye-level footage is grandeur of sympathy and empathy. It is a mind-bending experience of many positive emotions. As Elliott breaks the ice in growing to love E.T., I felt I was feeling that connection of feeling connected again. Connected in terms of Spielberg’s use of directing to create a loving tail of one boy and the creature he be-friends and hopes to protect. Not only protect, but eventually help him find his way home.

In the film Henry Thomas is Elliott. A young boy who is troubled and introverted in his suburban California home with his single mother Mary. Mary is played by Dee Wallace. Then there is Elliot’s brother Michael (played by Robert MacNaughton) and then there is his younger sister Gertie (played by Drew Barrymore). Barrymore’s young performance still lives to this day of her brilliant performance at such a young age. Elliot’s life comes to a change when he comes across an alien who is stranded around his home. With Elliot scared at first, he begins to realize that this alien is not dangerous, that is someone just trying to get home. Elliot names the alien E.T., and then he soon has Michael and Gertie by his side to keep him a secret from his mom and hide him from the outside world. The issue that Elliot faces though, is all the press and government officials that are in search for Elliot’s new friend. However, as E.T.’s stay lasts longer than expected Elliott feels that E.T. is his new friend and that he is new responsibility. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial still lives to this day to be one of the most inspiring and loving films that the world loves including myself.

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial in IMAX is grasping. Fans will feel they are on the bicycle chases with Elliott and E.T., and they will feel they are flying as E.T. is bound to make it home. The bicycle chases and flying sequences have always been a monumental moment in cinema history, and the IMAX experience with the imagery being even sharper feels it is more enhanced with greater detail of beloved sequencing. Fans can even feel the sound of the excitement in both the suspense sequences and the connection sequences. As E.T. tells Elliott, “I’ll be right here,” I never felt more connected to this film. The giant IMAX screen made that cinematic moment of my life even more special.

Though, I felt like I was Elliott in the IMAX experience. I felt I was at the eye-level tune of Spielberg’s directing. I also felt that the environment around the habitats of Elliott made the world of the film a much bigger and vibrant place. A place of beloved cinematic moments bound to be revisited on new levels of excitement. Take the ride and experience E.T. the extra Terrestrial in the breathtaking IMAX experience.

E.T. the Extra Terrestrial remains to be a true classic. It still holds its specialty in being brilliant forty years later. It must be experienced in IMAX. Even if it is someone’s first time, they have got to see it in IMAX. The moments are even more special than ever before. Get on your bicycles, take the ride, and join Elliott in helping E.T. find his way home in IMAX. Four stars.