THE BACKLOG: Casablanca


Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.

When I watch an old movie, I don’t get why people consider it a classic. Often films from the 40s, 50s, or 60s are held up as essential viewing because they were the first to do something. The first to try a new film technique, tell a story in a new way. I think of films like Roman Holiday, or North by Northwest. By the time I see them, they feel tired because all the innovation to them has been built upon over decades. Watching them isn’t as enjoyable since they feel more like History Lessons. 

Casablanca is not one of those movies. It’s a timeless story that is relatable across generations. These types of stories always hit with me. The lovers trying to reconnect. The person learning to “stick their neck out” for someone, for a bigger cause. 

If you’ve found this blog, you probably don’t need me to repeat all the ways in which Casablanca is  a masterpiece of cinema. The lighting of scenes, the blocking of actors, the dialogue between characters, it’s all amazing. Then the masterpiece is brought to a new level because of Bergman and Bogart giving magnetic performances. I find it hard to closely watch both of them in a scene simply because I never want to stop looking at one of them. 

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca // Courtesy of

Enough praise that I am sure you have read and heard before. That is nothing new. 

Personally, Casablanca sticks in my heart because it has so many layers (like a parfait). The film posits the city as a purgatory: people stuck between hell (Europe) and heaven (America). It conveys that atmosphere directly through Rick, a reluctant man who escaped to Casablanca because he is shackled by his past and can’t move into the future. 

It’s equally valid to view the film as an allegory for the War, too. Rick as the reluctant America, unwilling or not ready to enter the fray. There’s Laszlo as the moral center of the conflict: the attack on human nature and human rights, and he’s the best version of us. Then there is Ilsa, begging for Rick’s help as the Europeans pled to the Americans to help. 

Or you can stick to the barebones version of the story: one man learning to break free from his cynical prison to selflessly help others to achieve a greater good and to find peace with himself. 

Watching the film through so many lenses makes for a classic movie that will age just fine. And Casablanca has aged excellently. 

Movies are truly excellent.


Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.

For a movie seriously built up for being Pacino vs De Niro, both on screen at the same time in the same scenes, this really rises to that challenge. It’s wonderful to watch a movie that holds up to expectations. 

Heat is a top tier heist movie, no doubts about it. Not for the actors. It’s for the actual heist and chase itself. There are no serious fuckups that are unbelievable. Both sides are total professionals in a chess game until the end, they slip a little bit a few times, though they recover. 

It is a fascinating watch primarily because of the backstories to each main character, too. Pacino devoting himself to the case while trying to hold together a family. His struggle to achieve that was refreshing because so often detective movies treat the cop as either the perfect school kid in his uniform or the other spectrum where they are a loose cannon or near a criminal themselves. 

Heat doesn’t do that. It portrays a more three-dimensional character. One who cares for a daughter, yet isn’t around enough to put in the leg work to love her every day. And even though it’s cut from the movie, he clearly has a cocaine problem. Not that I’m complaining, it makes the “Great Ass” scene so much more surreal and hilarious.  

In the other coroner is De Niro doing excellent work with the “one last job” cliche, and trying so hard to escape with the girl. And of course the turn when you know that he loses is when he breaks his own rule. He was 30 seconds away from freedom, and instead he turns back.  

This is not to say Heat is a perfect movie. It’s 20 minutes too long, or about 6 hours too short one way or another. Many of the subplots are undercooked, like Natalie Portman’s. Eady’s motivations for getting with Neal are shaky at best, I mean, the man had no furniture. Come on. 

It’s still a hell of a good movie.