Day By Day

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Where's Our Casablanca?

The blogosphere is all abuzz about the boxoffice failure of this season's anti-war films. Likeks comments on the commentators:

As many have noted elsewhere at great length, anti-war movies are unpopular. The theories vary: the public is tired of the war, the movies are lousy, the public doesn’t want to see Uncle Sam portrayed as the sort of guy who can’t wait to hook up a Diehard to the harbls of an innocent exchange student rounded up in the Bushilter Mandatory Scoop-Up-The-Dusky Initiative. Both sides will probably come to rest on the last answer, but for different reasons. One side takes cruel comfort in the fact that Americans CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH, as another Cruise movie so memorably accused, and the other side is convinced that Hollywood is so besotted by the vapors in its ideological pleasure-dome it cannot conceive of making a war movie that isn’t a glass of warm spinach juice – or, if it’s slam-bang rah-rah in concept, is laden down with hints and tics and cues designed to insulate the producers from the inevitable protests from all corners. You can almost hear the sighs of a producer looking at an incredible script about the drive to Baghdad, a straight-forward story that complete with straight-ahead, matter-of-fact drama: it’s a great script, but my wife’s all hooked up with Code Pink. Not that I care; they’re a bunch of nuts. But I can’t stand the people who think they’re a bunch of nuts for reasons different than mine. Also I’m going to get CAIR writing letters to the editor, and my kid reads that paper. Well, she reads it online. Maybe. I don’t know. It would probably show up on MySpacebook or something. But no one’s going to get hard looks if Tom Cruise comes out against torture, right? I mean, who’s gonna boo that at Cannes?

(Thank you, Mr. Strawman! Thank you for stating so succinctly what I suspect and believe. Remarkable.)

It’s an old subject, and I was moaning about this years ago. And I probably said the same thing: where’s our “Casablanca”?

Read it here.

My feelings exactly.

Actually, the closest thing we have had in recent years to Casablanca is Tony Minghella's The English Patient, which contains numerous references to America's most beloved film. Nearly all the critics compared it to David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, but the more pertinent comparison is to the Bogart/Bergman film. Patient answers the question, "What if Rick and Ilsa had decided to stay together rather than sacrifice their happiness for the greater good?" At its heart it is a very conservative film. I wonder why so few critics picked up on that. It seemed so obvious, even to the point of recreating specific scenes from the Rick/Ilsa saga, when I saw it.


Google turned me on to David Aaron Murray's review in First Things that makes explicit the ways in which English Patient references Casablanca. Murray, for one, understands what he was seeing. It's appropriate that he writes for a serious conservative religious magazine. I do, however, disagree with his main conclusion. He argues that Minghella's film celebrates today's narcissistic culture. I think it repudiates it. Read the review here and come to your own conclusion.

And, read the correspondents section here where readers agree with me that the film is critical of, rather than celebrating today's culture.

I could not recommend any magazine more enthusiastically than First Things. It is a serious, informed, and profoundly intelligent religiously-oriented comment on American life and culture. It's contributors include some real heavyweights. Check it out here.