One of my Christmas presents for TYG was the special edition of CASABLANCA (1941), in which embittered saloon-owner and former anti-fascist Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) finds himself reluctantly involved when former lover Ingrid Berman and her husband Paul Henreid show up in Casablanca looking for exit visas that only Rick can provide … A wonderful film, with terrific supporting performances from Claude Rains as the amoral police chief and Conrad Veidt as a Nazi officer, and many memorable lines of dialog (it’s amazing how many, such as “This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” and “I’m shocked, shocked that gambling is going on.” have made their way into general parlance). I look forward to catching the special features eventually. “If we stop breathing, we die. If we stop fighting, the world will die.”
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A Game of Shadows (2011) doesn’t live up to the first movie–the witty banter with Rachel McAdams at the start is very forced and so is a lot of the subsequent humor (like Holmes invisibility suit)–but it picks up steam as Holmes probes Moriarty’s scheme to become the world’s biggest military contractor, then start a war to turn a profit, and the final confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty (Jared Harris) is worth a ticket in itself. “You’re not just fighting me, you’re fighting underlying human nature.”
THE CIVIL WAR OF 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels & Indian Allies by Alan Taylor justifies its title by showing that in addition to being part of British North America until the revolution, Canada and the United States were both heavily populated with each other’s former inhabitants (loyalists fleeing North for Canada and Canadians lured South by better wages, for example) leading to fears on each side about how trustworthy the immigrants were (especially since this was seen on both sides as the American Revolution Part II). Taylor recounts the breathtaking ineptness of the American combat efforts, ranging from poor performance in the field to lack of money to politics (one of the government’s main creditors didn’t want the war anywhere near his property, which prevented cutting a vital British supply line) and an inability to win hearts and minds of Canadians from British monarchy (the American fondness for looting undercutting their claim to be in Canada as liberators). Despite all that, the Republican Party spun the war as a victory after the Battle of New Orleans, partly by redefining the goals from conquering Canada to preserving the republic, and partly because they got most of what they wanted after the war (most significantly, Britain abandoned its Indian allies, which Taylor argues made the US conquering and dispossessing them inevitable). An outstanding job on this part of the war, though Taylor ignores other aspects such as the East Coast naval battles.
THE ANNOTATED PETER PAN: The Centennial Edition by J.M. Barrie, Edited with an Introduction and notes by Maria Tatar does a good job showing how much creepier Peter the perpetual child is than in movies and stage, his charm and adventurousness being countered by his complete narcissism and heartlessness toward everyone else (as the ending shows, he’s forgotten everyone from Hook to the Lost Boys to Wendy herself). This also points up things I’m less aware of, such as Barrie’s constant narration shifts from third to second to first person and his willingness to breach the fourth wall. It also has added features such as a filmography, a breakdown of the differences between stage, book and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, Barrie’s own proposed film treatment and a copy of The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island, which has some proto-Peter Pan elements. Excellent, though Tatar should really have read Wizard of Oz before trying to compare the books (she quotes several lines from the movie that aren’t in the Baum novel).