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Archive for January, 2009

Review: Casablanca (1942)

Favorite Quote
Rick: And remember, this gun is pointed right at your heart.
Captain Renault: That is my least vulnerable spot.
 
Casablanca is one of those movies that is truly deserving of the label "classic".
 
The film opens in the French Morrocan city of Casablanca some time after the German occupation of Paris in June of 1940.  Casablanca swells with refugees attempting to secure passage to countries safe from the war in Europe.  German and Vichy-French influence permeates the ostensibly free-French territory and the market for travel papers is dictated by high demand.  Money is no longer a commodity that can guarantee passage and morality is becoming the new cost scale.
 
The wealthier refugees while away their time awaiting depature from Casablanca with Vichy-French, Nazis, and other unsavory characters at Rick’s Cafe Americain, a high class saloon owned and managed by American expatriate Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart).  Rick is a successful businessman who knows how to avoid rocking the boat in the politically charged city of Casablanca.  Yet he is also a man of principle who shows no love for the Nazis.  Still, Rick’s relationship with police captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) and his aloof discretion ("I stick my neck out for nobody!") give him mastery of his own domain.  That is, until Czech resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) shows up at the club with a woman from Rick’s past, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman).  What follows is a darkly suspenseful drama involving love, loyalty, and sacrifice as Rick finally realizes that he too is a refuge and secures his own costly departure from Casablanca.
 
While some qualities of Casablanca clearly date it – the film is in black and white with very brisk dialogue and poor special effects by today’s standard – there are many that resonate regardless of its age.  Some I suspect must have raised eyebrows when the film was released – the man is the spurned lover of a married woman!  The abuse of power and the depth to which desperate people will sink are brilliantly illustrated by the creepy subplot of Captain Renault providing authorized travel papers to young women (married or not) in exchange for sex.  With the possible exception of Laszlo, the major characters are complicated and nuanced, neither good nor bad, just people – even Renault who "just blow[s] with the wind".  All of this, combined with an absence of the melodramatic overacting that often punctuated movies from this era, results in a timeless classic elegant in its simplicity and subtlety.
 
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Timeout called by Baltimore…wasteful in a sense.  Joe Flacco needs to be paying attention.  Heads up by Harbaugh who has really had his head in the game today with two successful challenges.  There is a point when your principles need to take a backseat to practicality, though.  Will the expended timeout come back to bite Baltimore in the ass?
 

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Terrible Roughing the Kicker call against Baltimore.
 
But wow…23 seconds left in the half…REALLLY heads up play by Roethlisberger and awesome block/hit by Limas Sweed.  I love the way Pittsburgh plays football.
 

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0-13
 
Roethlisberger has such pocket presence…But this touchdown throw was a really toss-up and shows the trust Big Ben has for Santonio Holmes.  AWESOME play on the ball by Holmes.
 

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Baltimore @ Pittsburgh

Phillip Rivers is head and shoulders above Joe Flacco.  Rivers was unphased by the Steelers defense this week and had a reasonably good game.  Flacco seems to not be intimidated by the pressure of the playoffs or the rivalry between these two AFC North Rivals.  Pittsburgh is going to give him hell next weekend and we’ll see how the combination of team rivalry and the pressure of the AFC Championship game affects him.
 
Both quarterbacks were merely serviceable in their first meeting.  Pittsburgh barely won at home in week four.  But Willie Parker was sitting on the sideline.  Ben Roethlisberger does a lot better with a balanced attack.  If you ask him to win the game on his own, he seems to be much more iffy.  The Steelers pulled out a second win in week 15, albeit with a favorable call on the Santonio Holmes touchdown catch.  Flacco had a much worse performance in the second game with the division crown on the line.
 
We’ll have the number one and number two defenses facing off against each other.  Pittsburgh is hard to beat at home.  But it’s really hard to perform a three-game sweep over an opponent in the NFL.  Still Baltimore has exceeded expectations at this point.  Pittsburgh has the post-season experience where it counts and should be able to pull out the win pitting them against Philadelphia.
 

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San Diego 24, Pittsburgh 35

Finally!  Last game of the weekend the home team finally wins.
 
Again a positive turn-over differential favored the winner.  It looked like Pittsburgh was keying Darren Sproles early and as a consequence got burned deep on the Phillip Rivers to Vincent Jackson touchdown in the first quarter.  The Steelers seemed to figure out how to contain Sproles and backed off, not allowing any other big plays until garbage time.  Poor little man Sproles only had 15 yards on 11 carries and four receptions for 29 yards (discounting the garbage time 62 yarder).  I think SD poorly used the quick back.  I saw more than one Sproles run up the middle and shook my head sadly.  The Chargers would have been better served running pitches, counters, and stretches with Sproles who needs a second to find the hole.  Once he does, he’s gone.  He just was not given the opportunity today.
 
Of course, Pittsburgh held onto the football for a ridculous 22:59 in the second half.  San Diego’s defense must have been exhausted.  This made it easier for Pittsburgh to run the ball, which setup play-action passing.  Ben Roethlisberger had a few errant throws but Pittsburgh otherwise played near flawlessly up until it looked in the bag.  Even the Jackson touchdown was against decent coverage.  Jackson just outmuscled the defender for the ball.  Pittsburgh will have to play a similar game to have a hope of beating Baltimore next weekend.
 

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Unbelievable.
 
Pittsburgh had possession of the ball for all but 17 seconds of the 3rd quarter.  The Chargers defense has to be gassed.  Nice goal line stop, though it looks like a bumbled hand-off.
 

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