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lionel-libson-1

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40 reviews in total 
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32 out of 61 people found the following review useful:
A classic example of what's wrong with Hollywood, 21 March 2015
1/10

So, it was my 78th birthday, my son had come up for the occasion, and suggested we see a movie, specifically, "Birdman". In my youth I had a deep passion for comic books. Like the cars of the 40's and 50's, the comic book characters were individual, idiosynchratic and highly enjoyable...so what went wrong with "Birdman"? Everything!.

A talented writer creates recognizable characters, people for whom we feel sympathy or empathy. In this film, if you close your eyes, you can't tell who's speaking, and like Rhett Butler, frankly you don't give a damn.The writers seemed to believe that constant, mindless profanity would create viewer interest. Instead,all that puerile use of copulative, sodomistic language numbs the brain.

I had a dental appointment the next day, and the dentist asked what I thought of the movie. My reply..."I think i just wasted two plus hours of my life." And at my age it's a helluva loss. In summary, it puzzles me that the Academy could find any redeeming qualities in this avian misadventure.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The unspeakable in pursuit of the unbearable, 29 April 2012
1/10

Another Sunday evening blunder...when will I learn? Ah, the sins of my old age! This film has everything! Bad lighting,stiff, embarrassing performances--a prancing, mincing Kojak? (Telly Savalas)...Glenn Ford with a crankcase of oil in his hair...obviously, the script had been flung in the air, and the pages re-assembled haphazardly.

The 50's diner lettering in the credits should have been a warning to me. But, fatigue,unfavorable sports results, conspired to lower my TQ(Taste Quotient) I realize this is marginally a review and more a cri de la coeur, but I cannot accurately describe a plot so contrived, so smirking, so typical of movies of that period. The Hudson/Day comedies seem like Ingmar Bergman gems in comparison.

The only surprise came at the end, when this cinematic disaster "thanked" a handful of locations, institutions who had cause for a lawsuit for injury to their reputations.

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
breathtaking, daring...and human, 30 March 2012
10/10

A few nights ago, my wife and I found ourselves talking about family problems at 3am. Sleep seemed impossible, so we went to the TV to find a more soothing mood. And there, on TCM, we found "With Byrd at the South Pole. Byrd stood nervously before the camera, stiffly, nervously trying to communicate the scope and dangers of his mission. The nervousness was in stark contrast to his absolute sure-handed, calm planning and control in the most trying circumstances.

We marveled at the thoroughness and foresight of his planning, his concern for the safety of his crew--no one died on the mission, despite blizzards, crevasses, 4 straight months of no sunlight,and icy , treacherous footing, with temperatures reaching -72 F.

Most outstanding was the Oscar-winning cinematography, unself-consciously artistic and breathtaking. We often wonder, watching adventure films, how cameramen somehow manage to be on a mountain peak before the climbers, wrestling heavy, awkward burdens of cameras, film and tripods. In this documentary, the visual thrills are endless and revelatory.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the quiet dignity, humanity and willing work of the 42 trekkers. There is no evidence of complaining,a quiet competency and absolute dedication to hard work.There is a moving episode as a lead dog, overcomes illness and infirmity in a heartbreaking attempt to stay with the sled dog teams.

This film is less "dramatic" than Flaherty's epics, but totally involving in terms of our emotional involvement.Find this film gem if you can...it's unforgettable.

1 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
inconsequential truth, 14 February 2012
4/10

February is the cruelest cinematic month for me. It is then that TCM devotes its schedule to Oscar winners. I am immediately reminded that the Oscars are essentially a vote by union members, not to be confused with the sensibilities of auteurs or cineastes.

"The Guns of Navarone" is a typical product of popularity rather than cultural contribution. Overlit, stilted, pseudo-heroic, and ultimately, somewhat nonsensical, the film tries to ignore its basic illogic.

Gregory Peck is his usual wooden self, a most unlikely mountain climber and even more unlikely to pass undetected speaking midwest American German, while posing as a Nazi officer. I kept visualising my German son-in-law looking quizzically at Peck, wondering what language he was speaking.

The climactic gun destruction scene is marred by the revelation that the triggering devices for the explosives have been destroyed. Peck then, ignoring this development, tells his crack team, "Alright men, you know what you have to do!" Monte Python might have responded, "Run away! Run away!!!" I found it difficult to grasp why Niven and Peck would not have smashed the telemetry equipment, rendering the guns unusable...but I'm just sayin'. Save us from such "epics."

Detour (1945)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A comedic delight!, 10 January 2012
1/10

It was not a dark and stormy night. My wife and I had searched NETFLIX for anything worthwhile(streaming).We came across "Detour", listed as a film noir classic...oy! And yet, truly, unintentionally hilarious. This is less a review than a list of absurdities and blunders; a film tailor-made for Mystery Science Theater.

Our hero, a poor man's Alan Ladd,is an embittered, unsuccessful cafe pianist--more of a key duster than a musician, whose girlfriend decides to take off for Hollywood, though it's obvious that she is 15 years past her starlet stage.

Neal takes off hitchhiking to Hollywood, with no money and a ratty suitcase. In a montage of pickups we realize that the film has been flipped, as he keeps climbing in the driver's side. At one point, he seems to be going back east, but there was no money for a re-shoot.

My doctor has warned me not to attempt to reprise the plot, but I must single out two highlights.His "ride" mysteriously dies, and Neal assumes his identity. Wanting to know more personal details in order to pull off the identity theft, he searches the dead man's luggage, finding a letter that had been mailed to the dead man's father! How did he do that?!!

A tough dame has blackmailed him into a state of absurd captivity. When they stop at a motel, she locks him "in" the room they share, with a key that seals them both magically into the room, ditto the window--they're on the ground floor.

The dialogue is a strange mixture of tough snarls and classical literary references. If you need an emotional pick-me-up, and a Dadaist cinema experience, grab this film! You'll laugh! You'll cry! You'll hate yourself for throwing away an hour+ of your life.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
self-imitation, 15 October 2011

I'll start by admitting I'm not a great fan of Hitchcock. There is innate artistry in his use of the camera and illustrator-like imagery,more art than technology.

I had not seen this film before, a late night arrival on TCM.There is an almost primitive quality to the plot, the actors and most of all,the staging. At one point we recognize that we're looking at a model train set with plastic figures. The black-face scene alluded to in an earlier review is more bizarre than racist; a minstrel group in an "elegant" hotel makes no sense at all.It furthers the plot, but is truly ludicrous.

Hitchcock makes his obligatory appearance in a relatively prolonged scene, staring intently while holding what looks like a cheap Kodak camera.

But, to address my "summary" statement, the real eye-opener is watching Hitchcock imitate himself with references to "39 steps" and a preview of "North By Northwest" in a dramatic attempt to save the girl from plunging to her death. There are several of these borrowings, but i think it's more fun for viewers to spot them for themselves.

Despite my generally less than admiration for Hitchcock, there is always entertainment and memorable use of the camera.The film is worth watching as a peek at a master's sketchbook.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A cinematic masterwork, 5 February 2011
10/10

When "Ryan's Daughter" first appeared, my mind was addled with leftist cant. Every entertainment had to pass a litmus test of relevance and adherence to popular political myths. Thus, when I finally saw the film on TCM last night it was a revelation.

Having retired a few years ago, to live in the craggy paradise of Maine, I was especially overwhelmed by the visuals of the gun runners facing a raging sea; incredible cinematography, music, spare, yet powerful, and the seemingly impossible scurrying of the villagers, dwarfed by thundering waves and spray. I'm not sure if the visual or audio components were more successfully realized.

We had visited Ireland 4 years ago, passing through the magnificent terrain and clustered villages near Dingle and the Cliffs of Mahre.As a photographer, I was astounded by the perfect portrayal of this startlingly beautiful region. By comparison, "The Quiet Man" looks theatrically artificial.

The story seems to have caused most of the negative criticism. For me, Lean maintained a steady balance between scenic splendor and pinched, frustrated lives. All are suitably restrained and all too human. The result is a truly timeless film, life and lives confounded by ignorance and anger, but as universal as a Greek tragedy.

"Ryan's Daughter" can be compared without embarrassment to "The Dead", my other favorite Irish cinema.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Big country, big mistake, 14 November 2010

If this beautifully-restored film were a travelogue, then I would give it a galaxy of stars. Having traveled the West-Montana, Wyoming, California, etc, I can attest to the unbelievable vastness of the land.Wyler exploits this quality to the fullest. My 32" TV doesn't do justice to the enormity of the setting. Restoration work has imbued the film with a glowing spectrum of color.

Now the bad news. Wyler may have mastered the images, but he seems to have hired marionettes to replace the principals. Peck, Heston, et al, (exception ,Burl Ives), take turns posing stiffly, Peck's favorite posture entails turning slightly sideways, and staring balefully back at the camera. I suppose that was meant to show patient disapproval, or moral rectitude, or perhaps he had a stiff neck.

An interesting aside--there is an old joke about the captive Hebrews escaping from Egypt and wandering 40 years in the desert and settling in the one place that had no oil...here, we have cattlemen who have chosen what appears to be Death Valley as a great spot to raise livestock. There is no location credit, but my photo tour of that desolate, but magnificent spot, matches my collection of images. If Wyler and John Ford chose locations for beauty over sense, who am I to complain?

8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Is silly noir a category?, 14 November 2010
2/10

As a kid in the 40's, reading comic books was a favorite avocation. But even at age 9 I knew there was a flaw in Superman--essentially horn rimmed glasses and a curled forelock were supposed to be enough to mask Clark Kent's super-identity.

Now, along comes "Kansas City Confidential", where face-covering masks make the bad guys unrecognizable...or do they? Well, if this film were anything but childish...NO! I imagine that the hired heisters decide to compensate for their "cloaks of invisibility" by behaving as suspiciously as possible. Example, hiding in a Mexican resort, they insist on wearing sleazy suits more appropriate to Times Square than a fishing ranchero. Payne assumes the identity of a weasely character noted for his chain smoking, then proceeds to play poker without so much as lighting a match.

I guess they're all in on the gag. The bad guys take turns acting as sullen and menacing as possible, and Payne, as the framed patsy is no better. Why not draw attention by snarling instead of talking? And why not skulk instead of ambling? Enough quibbling; even if I return to the quasi-innocence of my childhood, why put Kansas City in the title when almost all the action takes place in Mexico? And why would three hired henchmen settle for a torn playing card as a promise of payment? I did not need a suspension of belief so much as a suspension of credence. Oh, well, my advanced years(73+) may help me forget this film.

Mickey One (1965)
4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Oh, man!, 25 October 2010

Like I knew this was gonna be a long night when I heard the west coast jazz opening. Penn obviously confused film making with Calvin Klein commercials. So, like Warren's in a tough spot--tough because he doesn't know what he did wrong--shades of Huntz hall being smacked in the head by Leo Gorcey--"Wha'd I do? Wha'd I do?" This causes the music to get louder and the camera to move jerkily, like my uncle's home movies. The puppet actors are forced to give us slabs of bad Brando, letting us know that ultimately the whole film is a waste of time. If I wanted to show angst and psychosis, I'd have taken camera and crew to the Motor Vehicle Bureau in Yonkers, and just alternated between the waiting dead, the agonizing number change on the electronic board and the sleepy indifference of the clerks. I wouldn't need no stinking music to scare or confuse. A half hour would be enough to send the audience screaming into the streets.

I had graduated Art School five years before this film was made, and agonized over predictable, gritty shots of litter and urban decay. It was "deja vu all over again!" There's a Ray Bradbury short story about a tourist in Mexico who sees an "interesting" crack in a wall of a house and asks the dweller to pose for a shot beside the crack...which he does by urinating.! "Mickey One" had a similar effect on me.


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