Sunday, January 03, 2010

52 Films in 52 Weeks: Casablanca

I frequent a pop culture discussion board and some of the participants have been doing a project called "52 Films in 52 Weeks" the last few years. The idea is to list 52 movies to watch during the year. Some list films they've been meaning to watch but never got around, some list films by decade or by year, some by director. I've never participated before, so this will be my first year. For my theme I am going with best picture winners I haven't seen or barely remember watching. That only took me to 45 movies, though, so I chose seven wild card movies, classic best picture nominees. I kicked off the series last night by watching Casablanca, which I owned. I picked it up at Virgin Records' clearance sale as it was about to shut down. I've had it for a year and just never got around to watching it.

With a lot of things--movies, books, albums--that have stellar reputations, approaching them can be a bit of a disappointment. Catcher in the Rye, for example, just couldn't match the breathless adoration people had for it. It probably didn't help that I read it after college, way past the ideal age for the novel to matter. Casablanca is an undisputed classic. As Roger Ebert says, no one has said one critical thing about it. It's a film even those who hate black and white movies fall in love with. Frankly, he's right.

Casablanca lives up to its reputation. The dialogue crackles, the performances are perfect, and the story captivates. It's unabashedly romantic but moreso because it's more complex, suggesting that love isn't just about getting the girl in the end, that sometimes letting her go is an even more truer expression of love. The film's love triangle between Humphrey Bogart's Rick, Ingrid Bergman's Ilsa, and Paul Henreid's Victor works because it is not uneven. Where most film love triangles are of the scalene variety, Casablanca's is refreshingly equilateral. Victor is a noble and worthy combatant for Ilsa's heart. The film tilts in favor of Rick and Ilsa on the passion meter, but it also wisely avoids painting Victor as unworthy of Ilsa's affection. If anything, we might wonder if Ilsa is worthy of Victor's love. Isn't it also interesting that the film seems to advocate for polyamory? The film does not judge Ilsa at all and justifies her love for two men at the same time. When was the last time you saw a movie that depicted polyamory as valid?

Watching Casablanca was a great way to kick off the series. I doubt, though, that they will all be as good. In fact I'm dreading quite a few of them. I've heard nothing good about Cecil B. DeMille's Greatest Show on Earth. One down, 51 more to go. Imagine, if all goes well, in a year I can say that I've seen almost all the best picture winners (I may miss some due to availability).

Saturday, January 02, 2010

2009: The Year in Running

2009 wasn't the most eventful year in running for me, but it was still enjoyable. I think it was the year when running became a hobby and not so much a focused exercise. In a way I began to take running for granted. My workouts became less frequent and I was easily persuaded to skip runs, which sadly manifested into an expanded waistline. Part of the problem was that I didn't renew my gym membership. When I used to go to the gym I would go right after work. I'd do weights and run. Now I go home straightaway, which makes it so easy to get lazy. There's something about being at home that makes me just want to slink into a chair and not move. It may be home, sweet home, but to me it's also the place you go to get fat.

In 2009 I only ran one marathon: the Inaugural Seattle Rock n' Roll Marathon in June. In terms of training for the race, it was one of my least trained marathons. Still I managed to run my second fastest marathon at 3:53:24, but then again I fainted an hour after the race too. Not so good. To put things in perspective, I ran my fastest marathon, a 3:49 effort at San Diego, in May 2007. It has been over two years. I really ought to be improving every year, but instead I'm at a plateau. I'm glad I haven't gotten too slow and running sub four hour marathons is certainly a good showing, but I should be pushing to improve. Other than the marathon in Seattle I also ran a half marathon in Las Vegas last month, but that wasn't much of an effort. I treated it like a training run and wound up running just over two hours--the slowest half marathon I've ever run at over two hours. I've never run a half marathon more than two hours!

The only other run worth noting was the Ragnar relay. I don't know my splits exactly, but our team rocked and finished third in our division. But more importantly it was a blast. We're planning to do it again this April.

For 2010 the only race on the docket so far is the new (and improved?) Los Angeles Marathon. I'm hoping to finish under 3:45 for this race but so far my training has been haphazard. Fortunately the race isn't until late March, so I have some time to put in some quality running. I have to start now, though. I'll consider doing another race in the fall. Maybe I'll submit my name to NYC or Portland. There's also the Inaugural Los Angeles Rock n' Roll Half Marathon in October. Maybe I can finally post a sub-1:40 half marathon at that race.

So, here's to a good running year in 2010. 2009 wasn't bad, but I was definitely disappointed in my self for not putting in more of an effort. Gotta stop being lazy about running from now on. I'll start on that tomorrow.