I declared as one of my New Year’s resolutions that I would watch more classic old movies, so each month I’m devoting an entry to how I’m doing with it. Here are my three latest:
Casablanca (1942) (4+++ stars out of 4)
Have you ever watched a movie touted as one of the best of all time, only to conclude that it was good, but not great? That’s how I felt the first time I watched Casablanca many, many years ago, and that ho hum assessment caused me to put off watching it again until earlier this week, when PBS televised it.
Well folks, I now understand why this belongs on the short list of the greatest films of all time. I get it, I get it, I get it.
The cast, the acting, the script, the story, the location, the wartime setting, and the music…the music(!!!)…it all clicked for me. I now comprehend why Humphrey Bogart was so great. I now see why young Ingrid Bergman was one of the beauties of the era. And as for Dooley Wilson’s vocals and piano playing, let’s just say this isn’t an all-time great movie without him.
Plus, Casablanca is a historical time capsule. It was made during heart of the Second World War, when the final result was hardly assured. Rick and Ilsa’s Paris was still under Nazi occupation at that time!
October Sky (1999) (3 stars)
This is about as recent as movies in this series of posts will get, but I can say that it’s got a heartwarming, old-fashioned quality to it, with a story grounded in an actual event. Four high school boys in a 1950s West Virginia coal mining town, spurred by news of Russia’s launching of the Sputnik rocket, set out to build a rocket of their own to compete in a science fair. I kept passing on this movie and finally gave it a chance. I’m glad that I did. A young Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, and Laura Dern are fine leads. The bonus features tell more of the feel-good story that inspired the movie.
The Unconquered (1947) (2 stars)
A Cecil B. DeMille production featuring Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard in a tale about mid-18th century American colonists and Indians in what was then the Western frontier (the region around modern day Pittsburgh). Given DeMille’s reputation for producing epic pictures, I thought I’d check out one of his lesser known movies. It embraced white man vs. red man stereotypes so common in movies of the era, but I expected that. I found the story, overall, to be uneven and lacking dramatic pull.