Ribbon of Memes

It's been over a century and a quarter since the first moving picture was committed to celluloid - the "ribbon of dreams", as Orson Welles mellifluously intoned.

And so, welcome, one and all, to Ribbon of Memes, a new podcast in which Roger Bell_West and Nick Marsh supply grateful listeners hot takes about films considered masterpieces by critics or filmgoers in general.

The rules: we choose one "masterpiece" from every year from the earliest days of cinema to our dreadful modern dystopia. Do we agree these films are classics? Are we entertained? Did we even understand what the film was trying to say? The questions are endless!*

We start in 1973 (for reasons explained in the first podcast) and progress vaguely chronologically (unless we think of another film that makes an interesting comparison to the one we have just seen, or are otherwise distracted by shiny new things).

Yes, that's right, we decided that what the world really needed was two more uninformed middle-aged white guys telling the world about media largely produced by similar people. Find out whether we were right or not herein!

*Actually, no, that's most of them.

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Casablanca (1942) 31 December 2022

Roger, Nick and Jon discuss Casablanca (1942).


  1. Posted by Robert at 05:42am on 04 January 2023

    It’s not just that Casablanca is a movie I like watching every time I watch it. It’s also that Casablanca is a movie I like talking about every chance I get.

    I think one aspect that makes it sing is that it seems to me to be about the need for connection during crisis. Part of why the joke about the form for Ugarte’s killing works for me is it’s not at Ugarte’s expense and it doesn’t ignore the awful situation, it acknowledges the absurdity and feels like a bid for connection with another person in their own absurd situation. There’s a tension there with the “problems don’t amount to a hill of beans” as an acknowledgment that they actually do and it’s only in putting them next to the world crisis that they can lose scope and be managed.

    We see Rick so connected throughout the community around Rick’s by his actions even though he’s in his cynical mode. Like the cynical side is about the loftier parts and the causes but the human problems do still matter to him. I think the weakness in why he was so affected by Ilsa was hoped to be glossed over in the same way why he’s not welcome back in the USA is glossed over. I think that stands out more to us now because we are looking harder for signs of Ilsa’s agency than the film allows to be present as it was made and I suspect the answer at the time would have been “look at her she’s Ingrid Bergman” which just isn’t a solid answer but was what the studio saw as sufficient effort at the time.

    I’ve also wondered somewhat if the expert way Casablanca presents people in a situation of crisis makes watching this a way to feel like connecting with that time of crisis. I wonder if some of the reason for the staying power of the film is it can feel at times like a live connection to the time it was made. I think I attribute that to the expat cast’s performances, Bogart’s performed raw emotions, and Rains matter of fact way of performing a collaborators performance required to live with collaborating.

    Fabulous movie with almost too many good aspects to discuss and fun to hear this discussion of it. Glad ya’ll put the expanded time to it.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 03:10pm on 04 January 2023

    Although I'd argue it's not the main thing the film is about, there's definitely a strong undercurrent of America/Rick needing to get off its/his backside and get involved in the war, not just helping under the table (Lend/Lease) but actually openly fighting. That would clearly have resonated with the original audience, and would have provided a reason for the film to be resurrected in the late 1950s in a less happy era.

    Agreed, the lack of sexual agency cuts both ways - think of the cartoons in which a pretty woman causes all male characters instantly to lose control of themselves. Well, er, no, but it's a good excuse as long as they fall for it.

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