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A QualitEvolution is intended to capture positions and experiences as a participant in the evolution of the Quality profession into the 21st century. From its origins as the brainchild of Corporate Industrial Statisticians, our profession has transformed and evolved to incorporate and adapt to the demands and expectations of our modern existence.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Plan 9 from Casablanca

I enjoy watching movies with my family, and tormenting them because our tastes are not aligned.  I exposed my 10 year old son to what is allegedly the worst movie ever made, Plan 9 from Outer Space.  This Ed Wood classic combines aliens and zombies with a minimal budget on special effects to have a comical outcome.  The errors, or "Epic Fails" as his generation terms the overt mistakes, include:
- inconsistent footage which shows a police car riding at night, during the day, and arriving at night
- a replacement actor for the perished Bela Lugosi who uses a cape to cover his facial appearance in all scenes
- an airline cockpit with a shower curtain and handheld controls coming off the dashboard
- a police detective using the barrel of his pistol to scratch his head during contemplation, and point directions.

However, after being in this critical mode, I watched the movie Casablanca again.  Casablanca is one of my favorites, as I believe that each of the characters are representative of national positions during the escalation of World War Two.  The Rick Blaine character, played by the iconic Humphrey Bogart, represented the transformation of America from a neutral isolationist party to an active champion in the fight for democracy.

After viewing Plan 9 from Outer Space, I started to look for Epic Fails within Casablanca.  I found that there were three serious flaws in the casting of the supporting characters.

1. Sam, the jazz pianist, was portrayed as a loyal friend, confidante, and servant of the Bogart character.  In the context of the times, an African-American jazz musician playing in Paris and Casablanca would have been more free-spirited and independent, likely partaking in the vices (hashish, prostitution, etc.) of the region and period.

2. Victor Laszlo, the escaped freedom fighter, was played by Paul Henreid, as a dandy who wore tailored suits, drank champagne cocktails, and conducted orchestras (young version of Lawrence Welk?).  As a fugitive who had encountered the worst of Nazi torture and still not revealed any secrets, it is unlikely that he would have been so amenable to the relationship between his wife and a nightclub operator.

3. Captain Renault, the corrupt police prefect, certainly captured the charm and corruption.  However as a policeman, Claude Rains was unconvincing as someone who could effectively manage the criminal element while playing both sides of the French loyalties, to Vichy and Free France.  For a police officer, he was actually passive-aggressive, closing down Rick's cafe because he was shocked, SHOCKED, to find gambling on the premises (immediately before receiving his nightly winnings).

As a creative exercise in corrective action, I would remake Casablanca and cast with a "Dream Team" of Academy Award winners who more effectively represented the characters to avoid an Epic fail.

Rick Blaine: Nicholas Cage has the emotional range to both dominate a scene and quietly project the moodiness and internal demons of a conflicted soul.  He wouldn't just spill his drinks on the table, he would throw the bottles against the wall to express his frustration.  Nicholas Cage also has a thrill-seeking element of a daredevil that would put him willingly in harm's way to pursue dangerous and deadly missions.

Ilsa Lund: Kate Winslet may not be as beautiful as Ingrid Bergman, but she projects sufficient charm and substance to be a worthy partner and equal to both Rick Blaine and Victor Laszlo.

Sam: Forest Whittaker played Charlie Parker in the movie Bird, and could transfer that element of the tortured jazz musician to the Casablanca framework.  This could incorporate elements of drug abuse, since Casablanca is a place for hashish.  These jazz musicians were actually quite savvy and sophisticated, and would have been emancipated from, not subservient to, their Caucasian bosses.

Captain Renault: Gene Hackman won both of his Academy Awards playing tough characters in law enforcement.  Hackman projects such authority that he has played US Presidents and Cabinet Secretaries in multiple movies, and could convincingly play someone who had signing authority to legalize transfer papers.  However, his turn as the corrupt, womanizing law partner in the movie, The Firm, is convincing to entrust him with this complex and pivotal role in Casablanca.

Victor Laszlo: Russell Crowe has played characters who were principled and steadfast, and who survived and prevailed through incredible physical hardship.   However his leadership of soldiers and freedom fighters requires a combination of charisma and strategy.  Instead of drinking champagne cocktails, this version of Laszlo would be challenging authority and rousing the people to freedom, like an Eastern European Fidel Castro.

Ugarte:  This under-exposed character was the crafty terrorist who stole the transfer papers and gave them to Rick Blaine for safe-keeping.  Sean Penn would be a good fit because not only does he have the acting capabilities to effectively play the criminal, Penn, along with Nicholas Cage and Forrest Whittaker, was in the cast of Fast Times at Ridgemont High (proving that lowbrow comedy leads to high art).

Major Strasser: Robert DeNiro could capture the relentless, obsessive, thin-skinned German officer who pursues Victor Laszlo, only to be shot by "The Usual Suspects".   DeNiro has played characters who are fastidious in detail, and as a Nazi soldier, could effectively intimidate Captain Renault and Rick Blaine, not only by force, but from possession of embarrassing background information.

Signor Ferrari:  Of the main characters, this is one that could be played by the expressive Jack Nicholson.  The impression is that this character is not only a merchant and nightclub owner, he is the de facto criminal boss of Casablanca, through whom all operations must connect and pay tribute.  Jack Nicholson has owned this domain to the point where he has played the devil himself, which equates dealing with Ferrari to selling your soul for a price.

So this is my pitch, a remake of Casablanca starting Oscar winners, Nicholas Cage, Kate Winslet, Gene Hackman, and Russell Crowe, with supporting roles for Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro, Sean Penn, and Forest Whittaker.  That just leaves two special roles for Kevin Bacon (Sascha) and Anthony Hopkins (Karl) in order to ensure that we have confined the degrees of separation.

But really, are the old movies that different.  To the current generation of tweens and teens, all black and white filmed movies are the same.  Too bad being a quality person does not come with an "off" switch, as I will never view movies the same again.

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