Posts Tagged ‘Best Picture’

The Song That Rallied a Nation, Won the War, Changed My Politics and Got Me the Girl

January 29, 2013

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December, 1941. French Morocco is infiltrated by Nazi Germany. It is also the last outpost for passage to America and freedom for European refugees. The Germans are met with bitter resignation by the people who long to be released from an oppressive yoke. In a night club owned by a cynical American, Rick Blaine (who “sticks his neck out for nobody”), German officers with beer steins swinging, triumphantly sing their national anthem to a full but emotionally subdued house. Then underground leader, Victor Laszlo, approaches the band demanding that they play La Marseillaise. The band members look to Rick, who silently nods his approval (and in a defining moment sheds his passive non-involvement) and they begin to play. Laszlo starts to sing alone at first, but others join in. Soon their patriotism drowns out the Germans. At song’s end, the house is crowded with cheering patrons. This scene never fails to put a lump in my throat or bring a tear to my eye.

Most of these actors/extras were real life refugees from an dictatorial regime that had spread terror throughout Europe. When singing La Marseillaise, they were not acting. They sung with conviction, determination and hope. The viewer can feel the emotion. The first time I saw it, my life changed. No longer apathetic, I saw the pivotal role America played in the hope of other nations, both then and now. Though oppression still exists in various forms…

It is said this film did more for the Allied war effort than any other piece of propaganda. American audiences saw what fascist maltreatment looked and felt like. If our efforts had been lackluster before, they gained momentum after the release of Casablanca. By the end of 1943, the war had reached a turning point in favor of the Allies. Casablanca won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Years later I would meet and marry my French-Canadian sweetheart, relocating to Ontario. Ironically, I am now an American outside of my own country with a French-speaking wife, who is of a minority here. Occasionally resentment and prejudice rears its ugly head, but La Marseillaise raised an undaunted spirit in me that we both gladly share.

I found that love, like freedom, knows no boundary. Hope lifts the downhearted and is contagious. Justice, honor, morality and heritage are things that need preserving, even in Canada.

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

Oscar Smoshcar; who won, who lost, who cares?

February 22, 2009


Well, it’s Oscar time… again.  I feel a little like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day when I say that.  Remember, he was living the same day over… and over… and over?  (a great Oscar nomination that wasn`t)  Why does it feel like we have all been here before?Groundhog_Day_(film)

Maybe the glam and glitter has been a little over sold here as of late.  I find that I really don’t care who wins or loses and would rather not have to endure another year of bad movies being acclaimed as something good, groundbreaking, redeeming or earth shattering.  The fact that Hollywood seems shielded from reality is never more apparent than on the eve of the Academy Awards.  It is a tough pill to swallow when most of the people are concerned about the economy and these people show up in limos and diamonds, but that`s entertainment, folks… you pay what you get for. 

…and the Best Picture Oscar goes to:  hmmpf!  My beautiful girl and I have made a promise that whatever film wins best picture we would make it a date to see it.  But let me look at these nominations again in no particular order, there is Slumdog Millionaire and then there is…  the rest.

Thankfully I have not seen any of the movies nominated, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader or Slumdog Millionaire so our pre-arranged date will not be re-watching a film we`ve already seen.  The odds on favorite is, of course: Slumdog Millionaire.

I have read how people are excited over this film.  They suggest that it will be a fine bridge between Eastern and Western culture.  But from the previews I have seen, it looks like an absorption of Western culture into Indian, and I find that kinda sad.  I like the thought of places that are exotic or foreign locations to be free of McDonald`s and Walmart.  I`d like for them to keep their identities and unique histories intact.  Of course, time marchs on and you can`t fight city hall.  Progress was Mayor Goldie Wilson`s middle name if you recall in Back to the Future (another great non-nominated film) Back_to_the_Future and we can`t stop it.  The future is now.  Everyone is on board the train to change. 

I like Ron Howard but I doubt that Frost/Nixon will be all that riveting, I mean… we know how it ends, right?  Brad Pitt is all that will come out of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button though the fantasy angle is pretty cool.  I don`t think  that Milk or The Reader will make it other than the possibility of Best Actor/Actress and that is okay, I`ll see either one of those at my leisure.

The Academy Awards has become more of an inner- political statement, otherwise The Dark Knight would have been inserted in there for sheer volume of dollars, but it doesn`t have the social clout of Slumdog Millionaire.  I don`t mean to be critical, but I`m still fuming over Tom Hanks not getting best actor for Cast Away. (should have been a Best Picture nomination as well.)Cast_Away

So… the Oscars are on tonight.  My selection for a date night movie rests in the votes of the Academy, which is all academic anyway.  We KNOW who is going to win, right?  But then again, everyone thought Brokeback Mountain would win a lot more than it did, including Best Picture.  Maybe Milk will make the up the difference.

But just once… I`d like to be surprised.  The time is now 6:39 pm,  Frost/Nixon anyone?