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Degree in physics from Brooklyn College, 1951.
Retired government employee mafter 34 years of service
Passion for movies since I saw "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in 1938.
48 Hours: Lottery Fever (1989)
A balanced look at the pros and cons of state-run lotteries and how they affect various people
I recorded this CBS program when it aired in 1989 only because my brother is in it. He's the mathematics professor who debunks systems which supposedly helps people win a lottery.. The program tries to be fair giving people who believe their winning systems will work a chance to explain, but all pretty much skirt the issue. One came across as odd; he photographs the "aura' emitted by fingers and says numbers appear on the prints when developed. Another hems and haws when asked how much money her system has won. A third uses astrology to get winning numbers. It's no wonder that one reporter concludes you can make money with a system you are comfortable with, not by using it, but by selling it. Indeed, one woman reported she sold half a million copies of her book.
The program also interviews a few lucky people who won millions in a lottery, but I found more interesting stories of people who were adversely affected by addiction to gambling. One resorted to stealing to satisfy a $200-a-day gambling habit. A reporter notes that 4% of gamblers are addicted, and that is a lot of people. Arguments are given by pro-lottery and anti-lottery proponents. At the time, 11 states ran lotteries with the proceeds used to minimize taxes, fund education, etc. The antis say simply it is immoral, or against God, or the state shouldn't be in the lottery business.
Overall, I found this to be a balanced, informative and entertaining documentary.
Joel Grey hosts a survey of Chaplin films between 1914 and 1917 with clips of poor quality.
This film covers Chaplin's early life with stills, as there is no movie record of it, and his meteoric rise to fame in 1914 to about 1917, with clips of "Auto Races in Venice (1914)" (where he first used his 'little tramp' getup), followed by clips of 13 other shorts in the period, including "The Floorwalker," "The Rink" and "The Immigrant." It was fairly well written and nicely hosted by Joel Grey, but it could have been much better. I was disappointed in the quality of many of the clips. They were not only scratchy, but also overblown with heads often cut off. And they were run at sound speed giving it that jerky motion which gives silents a bad name. Even in 1980, better clips were available and should have been used.
A fascinating political advertisement of the type shown these days on television.
The commissioner of schools himself urges voters to vote "yes" on all 7 bond issues, presumably to help education in San Francisco, California. Students are shown rushing to catch streetcars to take them to their next class, often 2 miles away. And they do this all day long 5 days a week for the entire term. I suppose the bond issue was for building a junior high school to alleviate that problem, but we are never told its purpose; probably the residents knew without any further explanation. When shown on the Turner Classic Movies channel, Robert Osborne's co-host, Annette Melville, mentioned many such political ads were made in the period, but few survive. In that context, I found the film fascinating. Ms. Melville also mentioned it was very effective, since the bond issue passed with 70% of the votes.
Off On (1972)
Too long, even at 9 minutes.
Nine minutes of psychedelic, pulsating, often symmetric abstract images, are enough to drive anyone crazy. I did spot a full-frame eye at the start, and later some birds silhouetted against other colors. It was just not my cup of tea. It's about 8½ minutes too long.
Rose Hobart (1936)
Absolutely dreadful and hardly art.
I hate to pan a film that has been selected for placement on the National Film Registry, and I must confess my distaste for avant-garde films in general, which perhaps biased me towards a pan. But I got nothing from this film and couldn't wait for it to end. What did Joseph Cornell do merit any praise? None of the images were his. He re-edited portions of the film East of Borneo (1931) destroying any semblance of story. He projected it through blue-tinted glass. And he selected some samba music as background, again not his (although it's the best part of the movie). The result is a mishmash of meaningless images unconnected to itself or to the music. As bad as the movie East of Borneo was, I'd rather watch it than sit through this one again.
Beautiful Japan (1918)
A typical home movie, but by an ambassador in Japan with some interesting scenes and facts.
The film is nicely presented with intertitles explaining the scenes that follow, beginning first with a map of Japan and someone tracing out the route Ambassador Brodsky would take. Since the film shown on Turner Classic Movies was an excerpt lasting only 15 minutes, I presume only the highlights were shown: the Yokohama shipyards, the tea farms at Shidzuoka, a cherry-blossom festival, and an annual ritual at an Ainus village. It is the latter that was most interesting by far. The Ainus are the aborigines of Japan, and they still followed (in 1918) an annual ritual of strangling a pet bear. Fascinating, to say the least. It reminded me of my own experience in 1977 of witnessing and filming a goat sacrifice in Nepal. It would have been nice to see the whole film to see what other items would have turned up.
My one serious complaint was that the movie was shown at the sound speed so that movement was often noticeably too fast.
Rural Life in Maine (1930)
Competent filmmaking, but it might be better appreciated many years from now.
I can't really say the film was bad, but I wondered why it was chosen to be preserved. It is basically shows a summer day at a farm in Maine. People tending to chores, clearing a field, including a massive rock, repairing a house and generally very mundane items involved in farming. There was also a birthday celebration for (probably) grandma who blows out the candles on a cake and a violinist (fiddler) playing music which obviously was dubbed. Just as I would love to see an actual documentary filmed by a caveman, people might enjoy this film many years from now. But viewed today, everything looked like something you or I might be doing. There was a nice touch: the movie starts with the raising of a flag and ends with the lowering of that flag, with a final very short winter scene I'll leave to your imagination. Still, the film is really not worth seeing.
George Dumpson's Place (1965)
Amateurish photography left me confused.
I assume Ed Emshwiller did the photography since there was no credit for it, but it struck me as very amateurish. Closeups were often panned so quickly it was impossible to digest or even discern what was being filmed. Such closeups wind up as a jumble difficult to comprehend. So it was in this film. Occasionally the camera slowed but some closeups were still so extreme I couldn't comprehend the image. I gathered George Dumpson's place had a garden filled with junk art. Inside, the house was poorly lit, so I had the same trouble. After one minute I was totally confused and somewhat frustrated, but I stuck it through. A second viewing did not help much. Perhaps it may be clearer if projected in a theater rather than viewed on a large screen TV from a video print, where it is definitely not recommended despite some rather nice music.
Moving abstract art isn't for everyone.
If you like abstract art, you may appreciate Dwinell Grant's idea to set it in motion by stop-action animation. He takes mostly colorful geometric figures (circles, squares and rectangles) and intermingles them with twirling motions, each often interacting with others. For me, it was mercifully short at 3:38 minutes.
Curtain Call (1940)
A not-as-funny variation of Producers, The (1968).
I wondered if Mel Brooks saw this film and got the idea for Producers, The (1968) from it. Both movies involve producers looking for the worst possible play - in this case for revenge, not for money. Helen Vinson is under contract to do one more play for Donald MacBride, but then plans to sign with another producer. So he and director Alan Mowbray decide to get her a bad play, and the one which naive would-be playwright Barbara Read has just sent them fits the bill. The problem is that Vinson adores the play and thinks it is a work of art. The movie bogs down a bit as Mowbray tries to get Read's permission to make changes in her play, and I didn't think much of the romance between Read and John Archer. Nonetheless, there's enough cute comedy throughout to enjoy, although the ending is a bit predictable.