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#044. The White House

With this year’s presidential election finally wrapping up next week, I’m sure many Americans (myself included) will be glad to be done with it, regardless of the outcome. It seems like elections always bring out the worst in people, and not just the candidates. And yet, what drives people to want to be the ruler of the free world? Is it a commitment to better the country? Is it a desire for power? Is it to prove something to themselves? Whatever the reason, people will go to great lengths to get what they want, and that’s not entirely restricted to elections. How often have prisoners tried to escape prison, romantics woo the one they feel is their soul mate, underdogs stand up for a cause they know will probably fail? This week’s two films feature characters with drive to get what they want, be it to get out of the “white house” or to get into it.

Casablanca
Year: 1942
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 102 minutes / 1.7 hours

A Spanish word that translates to “white house”, Casablanca is a port town in Morocco. In fact, it is the chief port for the tiny African country. As for the film, the main theme underlying the motivation of the characters is the exporting of people. Everyone was trying to escape the “white house” to get away from the Nazis who were ruining Europe at the time. In terms of critical acclaim, Casablanca stands at the front of the pack. To many critics, Casablanca is the best film ever made. Case in point, the American Film Institute’s top 100 lists have put Casablanca in the top three films made in the last century (#2 on the original list, #3 on the 10 year anniversary list). Of course, with just a handful of Oscars to its name, the influence of this film has certainly stood the test of time, as it goes by.

On top of the Best Writing Oscar, Casablanca also won Oscars for Best Director (Michael Curtiz) and Best Picture. Set in the Moroccan town of the same name, Casablanca tells the story of World War II refugees who are trying to get to America. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) owns a nightclub in Casablanca and has just happened to come into possession of two tickets to America. Lo and behold, who should show up at his nightclub but Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), Rick’s former lover who just happens to need two tickets to America for her and her husband. Now Rick is conflicted. Should he help Ilsa escape with her resistance leader husband, or will he keep the visas to himself as a punishment to the woman who broke his heart? With lots of drama, Nazis and some comedy, Casablanca ends with “The beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

The Manchurian Candidate
Year: 1962
Rating: PG-13
Length: 126 minutes / 2.1 hours

Not to be confused with the 2004 remake of the same name (starring Denzel Washington), The Manchurian Candidate is a good example of the lengths some people will go to further their political ambitions. The fine, upstanding citizens who seek public office will start with bolstering their support from within their political party. Once they have the support of the people of like mind and beliefs, the battle for the swing voters ensues. Sure, candidates will generally devolve into mudslinging at some point during their campaign, but that’s merely character assassination. Think of the repercussions should one of these candidates resort to actual assassination.

Frank Sinatra plays Major Bennett Marco, a recent veteran who has returned from fighting in the Korean War. Now that he’s back on American soil, he’s trying to live a normal life. Unfortunately, Ben is haunted by a recurring nightmare, which some would attribute to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And yet, this dream makes him question why one of his subordinates, Raymond Shaw (Lawrence Harvey) won the Congressional Medal of Honor. That’s not to say that Shaw’s mother, Eleanor Shaw Iselin (Angela Lansbury) hasn’t taken advantage of her son’s accomplishment to strengthen her husband, Senator John Iselin’s (James Gregory) campaign. However, when Maj. Marco finds out that others from his unit are having the same dream, a conspiracy full of espionage and intrigue unfolds around everyone and only Ben can stop it.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 “White House” wonders

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5 responses to “#044. The White House

  1. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  2. Pingback: End of Act One | Cinema Connections

  3. Pingback: #109. Paris, France | Cinema Connections

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  5. Pingback: #018. Humphrey Bogart | Cinema Connections

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