Five Movies to Kindle Your Travel Spirit

  • Let’s get moving again.  Stagnation isn’t good.
  • Motivation needs to be maintained and renewed.
  • Time to break through the barriers to see new things… or visit old friends.

Happy Friday!

I hope you’ve had a great week.

We’ve been busy with the bureaucratically imposed obligations we need to meet before we head out.

But there’s a lot to be said for getting that stuff out of the way.  But I’m pretty sure the relief of getting it done doesn’t outweigh the stress of doing it.

But do it we must, so that’s that.

With that in mind, I’m ready to go.  Sure, I’ve got another 2.5 months here.  But that doesn’t mean my mind isn’t already out the door.

And with yesterday’s Rude tackling an unwelcome specter from our political past, I thought we’d go light on this Friday.

But before I do, just a gentle warning: some of these are Oscar-winning classics.  Some are just good popcorn movies.  Being from Joisey, I don’t like getting hoity-toity all the time.

With that out of the way, grab your cup of java and let’s get started.

Casablanca

My father was big on Bogie, but I never had really taken to him.

I loved Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone, but not Bogie and Cagney.

I still don’t know why that is.

But while I was in London, the DVD for Casablanca was on sale, so I thought I’d break down and get it.

Since that evening, it’s been my all-time favorite movie.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched it.

First, the screenplay: it’s simply the tautest of any movie I’ve ever watched.

There’s not a word wasted, and the dialogue is perhaps the cleverest in Hollywood history.

But it’s not condescending, nor is it unintelligible.

The script hit that sweet spot where the viewer is rapt, yet curious, but not confused.

The big three actors in this are all excellent. 

Humphrey Bogart is the heartbroken yet tough Rick, running his gin joint in Morocco.

Paul Henreid is Victor Laszlo, the freedom fighter seeking passage to America.

And Ingrid Bergman plays the mysterious Elsa Lund, caught between the two men.

The supporting cast is also a who’s who of 1940s Hollywood.  Claude Rains as the fickle Captain Renault is brilliantly funny.

Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Dooley Wilson, and the rest light up each scene they’re in.

Of course, the film’s resolution is bittersweet and brilliant, marking a departure from the rather saccharine endings of wartime movies.

Out of Africa

I just watched this last night for the first time in years.

Though Robert Redford was hopelessly miscast as Denys Finch-Hatton, his performance is still great.

(The real Finch-Hatton was as English as clotted cream and jam and as bald as a cue ball.)  

Redford gives the mid-Atlantic accent his all, but the rugged manliness comes naturally.

Meryl Streep, of course, got an Oscar nomination for her performance, which she did for nearly all her movies back in the 1980s.

Though her accent is all over the place, it doesn’t detract from a robust performance as Karen, the woman who wanted a title but wound up losing everything.

Klaus Maria Brandauer, one of my favorite actors and one who’s not nearly as famous as you’d expect, plays Bror, Karen’s philandering husband.

Sydney Pollack’s direction and production gives us some amazing scenes in East Africa.

That’s the one part of Africa I haven’t been to.  And every time I watch this movie, it reminds me that I haven’t seen it all.

To Catch a Thief

Cary Grant is perhaps the most handsome man ever to grace the big screen.

He’s one actor where it’s perfectly acceptable to think, “I’ll never look like that in a month of Sundays.”

But he’s also likable and seemingly accessible in this film, where his former cat burglar John Robie has been framed.  So, he needs to catch the thief impersonating him.

Assisting him is the impossibly gorgeous Grace Kelly, fresh off her Oscar win.

Princess Grace died when I was a boy, so I didn’t know much about her.  But this film is where it all started.  Monaco was a European backwater until she showed up and Prince Rainier fell in love with her.

And who could blame him?

She was intelligent, charming, and beautiful.

Alfred Hitchcock gives us some great shots of the French Riviera, while directing us through a plot with many twists and turns.

The Merchant of Venice

I wrote earlier about how I loved Robert DeNiro in Ronin, but no American had seen his performance.

Let me add Al Pacino to my “his best role isn’t as a gangster list.”

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen or read the play.

You’ll be transported to the Venice of old, back when it was one of the largest trading and naval power of the world.

There, you’ll meet Shylock, a Jewish moneylender from whom Jeremy Irons’s Antonio borrows money.  

Bassanio, Antonio’s poor friend needs the money to marry Portia.

If Antonio doesn’t pay the money back, Shylock gets a pound of flesh.

Pacino’s performance blew me away.  I thought he was fabulous in the role and didn’t get enough credit for it.

Perhaps that’s because I’m not used to Americans playing Shakespearean roles.

I’m sure old Billy Wigglestick would have applauded.

The Saint

This last film is a favorite from the 90s when I was young and silly.

But I still enjoy this movie whenever it’s on, and I think Val Kilmer should’ve done some sequels.  

His chemistry with Elisabeth Shue was off the charts.

As she’s a Harvard graduate, I don’t think she was miscast as an Oxford physics professor.  The only thing one could hold against her is her beauty, I suppose.

(Denise Richards playing a nuclear physicist in The World is Not Enough is another matter entirely.)

Radie Serbedzija, who plays the evil Tretiak, is a real treat.

I love how this movie moves from Russia to London to Oxford and then back to Russia and England for the finale.

It’s a popcorn movie of the highest order, so you can check your brain at the door and blissfully watch the scenery.

Wrap Up

I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

You’ve got some movies to watch if you fancy it.  Whatever you do, enjoy it.

You’ve earned it.

All the best,

Sean

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