The opening montage that sort of explains where the movie is set in history is kind of cheesy. The thundering voice over, the stock footage, the (forgive me) Indiana Jones map, all of those things to a teen could be off putting. Especially when they are used to movies that grab you by the throat in the first frame.
You also forgot the “no nudity” part. Or heck, even the “no sex” part, since no sex is actually shown on screen even though its existence is strongly implied.
Casablanca is hands-down my favorite movie of all time, but it took some time for it to get to that position. As a young kid, there was Star Wars, the original series. One thing that Kevin Smith accurately captures is the impact of Star Wars on the consciousness of those who were children when the original films came out. That remains, but my tastes evolved a bit. Much as I thought wine and beer were gross as a child but enjoy them as an adult, I came to appreciate older films as I grew older.
Casablanca in particular is one film that I think requires a certain amount of living before you can really appreciate it. At the very least, I think it helps to have had your heart broken at least once to enjoy the film. Which many 18 year olds may think they’ve experienced, but probably have not.
One more young guy (I hope I am :)) for Casablanca. I saw it when I was 24, and five years later, it is still my all time fav. I haven’t seen other classics like Gone With the Wind and Citizen kane, but if they are to be better better than Casablanca, they will have to literally blow my mind off.
For me, personally, there are three main reasons why I don’t watch black and white movies:
The way people talk in them is pain to my ears. I don’t know if it’s got something to do with the audio recording devices they had back then or did all actors simply universally suck in that era, but whenever anyone says anything in an old b&w movie it sounds so incredibly fake I just want to rip my ears off.
The characters are horribly one dimensional. There’s the good guys who are on par with Mickey Mouse, always doing the right thing; and there’s the bad guys, who do mean things just because they do mean things. Sure, it isn’t much better than that in most modern movies either, but in b&w movies there seems to be some law against writing “good guy” characters who sometimes do something bad.
The stereotypical characters. In American b&w movies, the cast seems to be always, without an exception, be composed of
a) the charismatic, good-looking, goody-two-shoes American everyday superhero,
b) the simple blonde female stereotype character who is as feminine as they come,
c) the goofy sideshow male character who has a heart of gold and who most of the time is in there just for the sake of being there.
In Finnish b&w movies, there would also be a “goofy main male character who is a bit mischeuvous”, but that only makes them worse.
Basically, whenever I’ve watched a b&w movie I’ve always had this déjà vu feeling of seeing it all before. And if I’ve seen it before (and didn’t like it the first time around), why would I want to watch it again?
In my opinion, these old “classic” movies are regarded as good movies only because they’re classic movies, and hey, if it’s a classic movie it has to be good, and if it’s good old movie it has to be a classic, right? Somewhat circular reasoning.
This comment brings up another point- Casablanca has aged a lot better than a lot of other old films. It is more difficult for a first time viewer to appreciate Gone With The Wind, for example, because, well, consider the film’s opening title:
Today, most people don’t have that view of the Old South. And the film’s obvious nostalgia for that social order is an anachronism that we find hard to reconcile with modern sensibilities. (Something similar can be said about Birth of a Nation). So any technical achievments of the film are eliminated by our inability to agree with its fundamental premise, namely, that life was better in the Old South before the Civil War.
Citizen Kane fares better in this respect, but many people seeing it for the first time ask “what’s the big deal?” The innovations in filmmaking that were pioneered in Citizen Kane are now such a part of the filmmaker’s toolkit that we no longer think of them as new or innovative. Instead, we focus on the story and characters. Citizen Kane thus becomes at best a good rumination on the corrupting and isolating nature of power, and the long-term effects of the attitude that giving a child things is viewed as better than showing it love. (Rosebud was his sled, but what does that mean, exactly?) Citizen Kane has aged somewhat better than Gone With The Wind simply because its fundamental premise doesn’t really offend modern sensibilities, but it has lost some of its power because the things that were new when it was made are old hat now.
Casablanca is not a particularly flashy movie. A handful of sets, only a few characters of note, and a relatively short script that doesn’t really aim for the grandiose. And while it is well-made, there is nothing in how the film was made that was particularly innovative for its time.
So, I guess my point is, some films have aged better than others, and Casablanca is one that has aged particularly well.
Don’t make this about age. I’m 24 and I love Casablanca (I saw it in middle school), and I love Citizen Kane even more, but 90% of the films made “back in the day” were crap, just like 90% of the films today are. Being in black and white does not make a movie a classic, and it’s that snobbery that turns most young people off of giving the greats a chance. If someone says to me, “You’re nothing if you haven’t seen so-and-so,” my response is going to be “Bite me.”
Most of the great films I’ve seen, like Citizen Kane, City Lights, Vertigo, and Hate, I saw in film classes. But I took one truly awful film class in college that, if I hadn’t had other classes before it, would have turned me off for good–I’m still bitter about sitting through Singing in the Rain, Laura, and Bringing up Baby because those movies did not have themeatic styles or plots that appealed to me. I find many movies of the 1940s to be, well, shallow. I can say with reasoned scholarship they’re purposely shallow and escapist in reaction to the worry of WWII (not to mention the impact of the newly-formed witch-burning associ–I mean, MPAA), but that doesn’t make me like them, and I resent the implication that I’m a bad person because of it.
I tried looking for funny quotes to post, but I got caught up in what I really love about Casablanca–honor.
Captain Renault: In 1935, you ran guns to Ethiopia. In 1936, you fought in Spain, on the Loyalist side.
Rick: I got well paid for it on both occasions.
Captain Renault: The winning side would have paid you much better.
I first saw Casablanca when I was about nine years old. My parents were playing cards with the neighbors and I was on the floor in my pajamas and allowed to stay up until 10:00 and watched the film on the old, black and white set that was in the neighbors’ living room. Even at that age, I remember thinking it was the coolest film ever!
It is one of the few things the current me, and the nine year old me, still agree upon. It is still the coolest film ever.
But I am sure there are probably some people out there who are just as royally pissed off that we don’t appreciate the silent films anymore - and to that, I have to say I am guilty. Have never been able to get into a silent film.
Can’t help you there. I’d just say that all acting is inherently artificial, from Shakespearean elocution through Tarantino’s rapid-fire patter; to appreciate a specific style, you’ve got to go with the flow.
See this is interesting: you tell us the reasons you don’t watch b&w movies, and then you prove to us that you don’t watch b&w movies. The whole schtich of film noir is that the good guy is often kind of sleazy and morally ambiguous. Often the entire story arc traces the protagonist’s journey from selfishness to one act of self-sacrificing heroism.
No movie with Humphrey Bogart in the lead has a charismatic, good-looking, goody-two-shoes hero :). The man is sexy and a tremendous screen presence, but he’s fairly ugly at the same time, with sort of a toadlike voice. And though there’s a female stereotype in the genre it’s not the “simple blond female”; it’s the femme fatale who’s smarter than the male lead and definitely morally ambiguous. If you’re looking for the bad guy, you could do worse than to look at the love interest. The sidekick male? Occasionally, but far from omnipresent. With a stretch, Sam is a sidekick in Casablanca; I can’t think of any sidekick in The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, orThe Thin Man unless you consider the wife/secretary (not male) to be a sidekick.
Definitely wrong. I was very skeevy about B&W movies until I saw The Maltese Falcon. What I ended up loving about it (and about my other favorite films noir) was the brilliant dialogue, language that sparked and crackled between the characters. There are moments in these movies that make me laugh with delight, they’re so damn clever. They can be tremendous fun.
If I were pointing a skeptic toward just one movie, I’d point them toward The Maltese Falcon. I think it’s plot isn’t very well known, and the script is pure pleasure.
I was going to post something similar to Left Hand of Dorkness’s post but say that is why I don’t watch modern hollywood flicks.
Preview caught me in time so I didn’t repeat too much, but here is my reason for preferring B & W film to Modern Hollywood.
Every single one of his points could be applied to modern hollywood flicks & Black & White films could be shown that counter that completely.
Much of modern hollywood (there are some good indie films) seems to me to be about special effects, and getting killer action scenes - and suddenly plot, acting & story lines go by the wayside.
I am not saying Jimmy Stewart was a great actor - he was like Tom Hanks in now. Wonderful in an everyman role - but he is far more convincing that most of the actors now trying to play the same role. I hate Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan movies - I would rather watch the original the are based on because the story was forefront.
Maybe the kids who aren’t into the black & white classics aren’t quite old enough and patient enough to be into something that is devoid of special effect & actually has a story.
I disagree with you too. I liked Maltese Falcon for close to the same reasons I liked Pulp Fiction: it was a movie with morally ambiguous characters telling a weird twist on a typical crime story through the use of intelligent, funny dialogue. Sure, both movies are rooted in their own era, and the overwhelming cynicism in each movie dates it, but they’ve got a lot of thematic similarities otherwise.
I would guess that there are just as many good movies coming out of Hollywood today as there were coming out of Hollywood fifty years ago. In the last year, we’ve got Pirates of the Caribbean, a swashbuckler that Errol Flynn would have loved to have been in; Return of the King, an epic that Harryhausen would have given his eyeteeth to work on; Finding Nemo, which woulda made papa Disney proud. Dialoguewise, my favorite movie of the last year was probably Down With Love. Plenty of sparking moments there.
And that’s not even getting into the more serious movies that came out last year.
In general, I don’t like it when folks try to divide the world into Those Whippersnappers Raised On MTV and Those Old Coots Stuck In The Past. There’s plenty to appreciate in both eras, and plenty to mock in both eras, too.
I will grant that writing styles have changed. Movies in the 40s were written in a style that attempted to be elevated above every-day speech, which is probably why it sounds so “fake”. (Or it could just be the absence of profanity). This doesn’t make it bad or good; but the writing and acting in old movies (and I assume you’re using “black and white” as a shorthand for old movies regardless of film used) varies just as much as it does today. There are many examples of excellent writing and acting–and Casablanca is one of them.
You obviously haven’t seen Casablanca. The protagonist is not particularly good-looking, and not particularly noble (as he says so himself). He undergoes changes in the course of the plot – imagine that! – and finds nobility inside himself that he thought he’d lost. The heroine is complex and conflicted, confronted with an impossible choice – and she also makes the ignoble decision (and she can’t help it if she’s beautiful). The bad guys are one-dimensional; but then, there wasn’t a lot of good to be found in Nazis.
(As a matter of fact, I think the Nazis in Casablanca were probably less evil than IRL. Are there any real-life examples of people who escaped from concentration camps?)
1)You haven’t watched enough movies; this is bullshit. Try Harvey or All About Eve or Sunset Boulevard for easy-going dialogue. Those aren’t pre-eminent classics of the cinema, but they’re American classics.
You haven’t watched enough movies; this is bullshit. Try Scarface or Psycho.
Everyone comments on the lack of SFX in “old” movies. You obviously haven’t seen Metropolis or Sunrise.
You mean other than the hundreds of prisoners that revolted against the Nazis and escaped from Treblinka? No.
Most of the black and white movies I’ve seen, on which I base this statement on, are American. When you say that a movie is an American classic, it doesn’t count as a high praise.
Isn’t Scarface a color movie?
Also, it isn’t a good idea to say that someone hasn’t watched enough movies and what they say is bullshit when you do not know how many movies they have actually watched. I have seen quite a few black & white movies, American, British, Finnish: enough that these three things have struck to me as something you are more than likely to find in a movie if it’s an old black & white movie.
You miss the point; those are American movies that do not conform to your notion of a “B&W” movie. I was clarifying that they are towering monuments of world cinema.
The original 1932 Scarface was black and white.
The original Scarface (1932, or thereabouts) was b&w.
Ilsa – yeah, I thought of Treblinka after making the post. But I was thinking along the lines of what the writers’ were thinking: a one-off-over-the-wall escape, like a prison break. I don’t think the writers knew exactly how ghastly the death camps were.
Another movie-Nazi vs real-life Nazi comparison: I’m no expert on Nazi tactics, but the niceties observed by Maj. Strasser don’t ring true–that he was on ostensibly neutral Vichy territory, and was thereby restricted in how he could deal with Victor Laszlo. It somehow seems more likely that Laszlo would have a bullet in the back of the head in a dark alley within 24 hours of Strasser & co getting off the plane.
Reverse, as I and several others have said (albeit some more politely than others), your experiences with B&W classics don’t at all conform to mine. Maybe you could mention particular titles you’ve seen that have left you with this impression? Maybe you could explain whether you’ve seen the ones recommended in this thread?
As I said, my favorite B&W genre, the old films noir (especially the ones with Bogart), don’t conform to anything you said, except possibly the different style of dialogue from the style currently in vogue in movies. Hitchcock’s B&W stuff doesn’t match what you suggested, either. Have you watched a bunch of ancient cowboy flicks and overgeneralized therefore?