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pschearer

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9 reviews in total 
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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
"A Matter of Life and Death" and "Sense of Life", 2 June 2006
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

(I am proud of the many people who have praised this movie to the highest degree. But when I read one Board comment that this wonderful film is "silly", I had to respond. After writing up my reply, I decided it was worth posting as a general comment. Here it is.)

There is much comment here about this film being a comedy, however light-weight. Yet comedies don't usually touch people as deeply as this movie has moved many of the posters here. And on the other hand, there are the few people who seem immune to the film's virtues, to say the least. There is a reason for this range of response, and it has to do with the psychological and artistic concept that the writer Ayn Rand called "sense of life".

Sense of life is a general emotional response rising from one's implicit evaluations of some of the broadest questions of philosophy. Is the universe a place where human life is possible? Is there good in the world or not? Is life worth living? Is man competent to live? Can values be achieved? Is happiness possible? Is there any such thing as justice? And so on. Few people are called on in their lives to answer such questions explicitly, let alone ask them of themselves, but everyone --EVERYONE-- has, in the course of growing up and experiencing the world, come to implicit judgments of such questions. It is unavoidable, for that is how the human mind works.

Even those who think they have no philosophic beliefs whatsoever have inevitably formed, if not explicit answers to these broad questions, then at least deeply-felt emotional equivalents to the answers. And the broadest emotional summation of one's feelings about the nature of man, life, and existence is one's sense of life.

So one can implicitly believe, for example, that the world is a horrible place where humans are doomed to failure and pain and that the prospect of happiness is a vicious fraud. Or one can believe that the universe is a place of unlimited potential for human success rewarded by happiness. Or a million shadings in between. Some people develop a doomed, pessimistic, tragic sense of life while others are fortunate enough to have a sunny, optimistic, joyful sense of life. And most people, without a consistent philosophic view of the world, develop a mixed sense of life, sometimes going one way, sometimes another. But usually, one's sense of life shows a consistent general direction.

Sense of life is the dominant issue in two crucial areas of human life: romantic attraction and artistic response. In romantic love one responds with powerful emotion to (among other things) the reflected experience of one's own sense of life as exhibited in the form, thoughts, and actions of another. In art the artist selects subjects and styles that express his sense of life for the purpose of evoking in the viewer a response according to the viewer's sense of life, with the degree of the artist's skill and the degree of agreement between the artist's and viewer's sense of life determining the type and degree of the viewer's response.

Now with this said, I believe it is this movie's almost unique achievement to unify the romantic and artist aspects of sense of life more consistently and openly than almost any other film I can think of and to come down solidly in favor of life, love, and happiness. While the movie has many light-hearted elements to it, it is definitely not a comedy because at root it is a deeply serious presentation of the idea that happiness, especially in the form of romantic love, is so central to human life that even the laws of heaven must bend to it.

One sense-of-life aspect of this movie I have always responded to is the fact that, in a reversal of "The Wizard of Oz", the real world is in color while the imaginary one is in black-and-white (or at least monochrome tints). Look at other sense-of-life aspects of this film. The movie's scope is universal, starting with opening scenes of the scientifically observable universe, the entire planet earth, as well as the metaphorical universe of heaven and earth (and not one hint of hell!).

That these "Matters of Life and Death" are universal to all humans is shown superbly by the range of heavenly souls of all nations and eras who are drawn to view the momentous trial in heaven. That these issues are central to human existence is shown over and over, by the life-and-death war setting, the fact that our poet-pilot hero should by all rights be dead but is not, and by the drama of the operating theater paralleling the heavenly trial. That human virtues are important is implicit in almost every character: the loyalty of the pilot to his crew, the skill of the surgeon, the creativity of the poet, the intelligence of so many characters, even the efficiency of the prim heavenly clerk. That justice is possible is shown by the very fact of the trial and its happy ending (and future). I could go on, but I'm not getting paid for this.

I can't know what experiences must have helped form the sense of life of someone who can't love this film. Ayn Rand's view was that the accumulated evaluations that total into a sense of life are fundamentally the result of one's own thinking (or lack thereof) and thus one's own moral responsibility. What I do know is that for everyone whose experiences in life have led to a tragic or other negative sense of life, there is someone else who has had the same kinds of experience and has still come out with a positive sense of life. Not to be harsh on anyone who does not respond positively to this wonderful movie, I think Ayn Rand might have agreed that people get the sense of life they deserve.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
"A Matter of Life and Death" and "Sense of Life", 2 June 2006
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

(I am proud of the many people who have praised this movie to the highest degree. But when I read one Board comment that this wonderful film is "silly", I had to respond. After writing up my reply, I decided it was worth posting as a general comment. Here it is.)

There is much comment here about this film being a comedy, however light-weight. Yet comedies don't usually touch people as deeply as this movie has moved many of the posters here. And on the other hand, there are the few people who seem immune to the film's virtues, to say the least. There is a reason for this range of response, and it has to do with the psychological and artistic concept that the writer Ayn Rand called "sense of life".

Sense of life is a general emotional response rising from one's implicit evaluations of some of the broadest questions of philosophy. Is the universe a place where human life is possible? Is there good in the world or not? Is life worth living? Is man competent to live? Can values be achieved? Is happiness possible? Is there any such thing as justice? And so on. Few people are called on in their lives to answer such questions explicitly, let alone ask them of themselves, but everyone --EVERYONE-- has, in the course of growing up and experiencing the world, come to implicit judgments of such questions. It is unavoidable, for that is how the human mind works.

Even those who think they have no philosophic beliefs whatsoever have inevitably formed, if not explicit answers to these broad questions, then at least deeply-felt emotional equivalents to the answers. And the broadest emotional summation of one's feelings about the nature of man, life, and existence is one's sense of life.

So one can implicitly believe, for example, that the world is a horrible place where humans are doomed to failure and pain and that the prospect of happiness is a vicious fraud. Or one can believe that the universe is a place of unlimited potential for human success rewarded by happiness. Or a million shadings in between. Some people develop a doomed, pessimistic, tragic sense of life while others are fortunate enough to have a sunny, optimistic, joyful sense of life. And most people, without a consistent philosophic view of the world, develop a mixed sense of life, sometimes going one way, sometimes another. But usually, one's sense of life shows a consistent general direction.

Sense of life is the dominant issue in two crucial areas of human life: romantic attraction and artistic response. In romantic love one responds with powerful emotion to (among other things) the reflected experience of one's own sense of life as exhibited in the form, thoughts, and actions of another. In art the artist selects subjects and styles that express his sense of life for the purpose of evoking in the viewer a response according to the viewer's sense of life, with the degree of the artist's skill and the degree of agreement between the artist's and viewer's sense of life determining the type and degree of the viewer's response.

Now with this said, I believe it is this movie's almost unique achievement to unify the romantic and artist aspects of sense of life more consistently and openly than almost any other film I can think of and to come down solidly in favor of life, love, and happiness. While the movie has many light-hearted elements to it, it is definitely not a comedy because at root it is a deeply serious presentation of the idea that happiness, especially in the form of romantic love, is so central to human life that even the laws of heaven must bend to it.

One sense-of-life aspect of this movie I have always responded to is the fact that, in a reversal of "The Wizard of Oz", the real world is in color while the imaginary one is in black-and-white (or at least monochrome tints). Look at other sense-of-life aspects of this film. The movie's scope is universal, starting with opening scenes of the scientifically observable universe, the entire planet earth, as well as the metaphorical universe of heaven and earth (and not one hint of hell!).

That these "Matters of Life and Death" are universal to all humans is shown superbly by the range of heavenly souls of all nations and eras who are drawn to view the momentous trial in heaven. That these issues are central to human existence is shown over and over, by the life-and-death war setting, the fact that our poet-pilot hero should by all rights be dead but is not, and by the drama of the operating theater paralleling the heavenly trial. That human virtues are important is implicit in almost every character: the loyalty of the pilot to his crew, the skill of the surgeon, the creativity of the poet, the intelligence of so many characters, even the efficiency of the prim heavenly clerk. That justice is possible is shown by the very fact of the trial and its happy ending (and future). I could go on, but I'm not getting paid for this.

I can't know what experiences must have helped form the sense of life of someone who can't love this film. Ayn Rand's view was that the accumulated evaluations that total into a sense of life are fundamentally the result of one's own thinking (or lack thereof) and thus one's own moral responsibility. What I do know is that for everyone whose experiences in life have led to a tragic or other negative sense of life, there is someone else who has had the same kinds of experience and has still come out with a positive sense of life. Not to be harsh on anyone who does not respond positively to this wonderful movie, I think Ayn Rand might have agreed that people get the sense of life they deserve.

16 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
A charming comedy set in the business world, 11 May 2006
9/10

I just saw this gem on TCM and was completely delighted. The story is clever and well-paced. All the supporting acting is excellent, all the way down to the tiny roles of the cook and maid. It was a treat to see Bette Davis so young and sparkling.

But the greatest pleasure for me was my first chance to closely observe George Arliss. I am glad I learned years ago to watch a really good movie at two levels: to accept the reconstructed or imagined reality of the film and simultaneously to see it as an artistic creation blending acting, set design, photography, music, etc., etc. This split focus allowed me to absolutely believe Arliss' character while at the same time marveling at the ease with which he played the part, particularly since the role involved a secret identity which he moved back and forth between. I can now understand Arliss' once nearly legendary reputation and I will look forward to every other Arliss movie I can find.

Almost as great a pleasure to me was to see a film that revolves around the business world without demonizing it. Our hero is truly "The Working Man", which title has two meanings, referring both to Arliss' character's pretended lowly identity and to his actual position as the hard-working head of a major enterprise. There is one sleazy businessman in the story, but it is clear that he is a rat and an exception and that successful businesses depend on hard-working, foresightful, intelligent, and dedicated men. (And women; I was surprised by a Bette Davis line about all the women doing great things running businesses. In 1933?). Compare this to films and TV of the last 10 or 20 years which are just as likely to show business giants as swindlers, thieves, murderers, etc., or at least as callous megalomaniacs. Arliss's character HAS character, and integrity, and intelligence, and I was glad to see a positive portrait of a great businessman, especially as depicted by a great actor.

So why didn't I give the movie a 10? I can enjoy the now antique music of that era, but I thought it was intrusive at several points. Also, I thought the cleverly interwoven plot threads resolved themselves too abruptly at the end, which strained my belief for the only time in the story. But 9 out of 10 makes it still a great little film, and I'd give George Arliss more than 10 if I could.

9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Beyond tear-jerker into deep tragedy, and all for nothing, 11 April 2006
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I don't care if no one ever finds this comment helpful, but it has to be said. This movie goes beyond 1930's ladies' matinée three-hankie weepy into the depths of unnecessary tragedy, and most people will not even realize it.

====== SPOILERS ====== The main character is Eve Appleton (played wonderfully by the beautiful and sensitive Kay Francis). Eve is a small-town woman with high aspirations as an actress and the talent to make her dreams come true. But through nothing more than bad luck, her ambitions lead to an un-premeditated killing by her decent but clueless husband, which leads to his conviction and life-sentence for murder. She vows to get him released and to devote the rest of her life to being a good little wife. She struggles for years to reach the highest levels as an actress, winning fame on both sides of the Atlantic, which finally gives her the money to pay for the lawyers and political contacts that will get her husband out of prison. The movie ends with her and her little girl walking the long, dusty road to the prison to be re-united with her husband, undoubtedly to follow through with her promise to love, honor, and obey forever and ever amen THE END.

Baloney (or worse)!! In the eight years over which the story unfolds, we see Eve's incredible strength of character and determination to achieve her goals as she struggles up the performing ranks from carnival shows to (pre-stripper) burlesque to vaudeville to Broadway and London. We see her pain as she must turn the raising of her infant daughter over to a faded starlet who really loves the child and raises her well but who keeps secret from the daughter who her real mommy and daddy are. We can be hopeful for a happy ending as we realize that not only has Eve (now known as Wilson) attained the heights of her career but now has the love of a Broadway producer who understands her better than her small-town husband--whom she no longer loves--could ever dream to.

I hoped so much that after she freed her husband, he would learn that she hadn't been a Manhattan nanny all those years, that he would realize that they were no longer right for each other, that he would absolve her of her promise, and they could finally go on their respective ways to their separate happinesses.

But no. And here comes the part where I don't care what anyone else thinks of my comments.

Whether anyone knows it or not, our lives are ruled by philosophy, dealing with answers to questions such as... Do I recognize and adhere to the facts of reality, or do I ignore them and pretend they don't matter? Or... Do I act to achieve my goals and happiness or do I give them up to serve others as if their goals matter but mine don't?

Recognizing reality would have required Eve to admit that she would be living in a fantasy world to think she could keep the truth of her past life a secret from her husband forever. She had become an internationally known beauty and would have to live in constant fear that somebody might someday recognize her and tell her husband. She must spend the rest of her life pretending to love a man and hope he never notices the lie. She must perpetually shush her daughter into silence, the daughter who by then not only knows her true mother's identity but also her mother's phenomenal success. And Eve is REALLY fantasizing if she thinks she can suppress everything in her without becoming embittered and resentful and turning into the exact opposite of the loving wife she wishes to be for her husband. All this is contrary to every fact the movie has shown us about her. So Eve will have to live as if facts are subservient to her wishes and fears, as if reality means nothing.

Worse yet philosophically is the moral lesson the movie implicitly preaches. Surrender your hopes and dreams. You made a promise and must keep it no matter how much you or your husband or the whole world have changed. But most of all, you have no right to your happiness since duty, service, sacrifice, self-denial, submission, surrender are the essence of the moral principle called altruism which unfortunately rules the world. America with its unique notion of the individual's "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" came closest to rejecting this prehistoric morality, but altruism lives on, in the world at large and in America, so I should not be surprised that it also ruled at Warner Brothers in the 1930's. But I had hoped, all the way up to the end, for a happy and MORAL ending such as Eve and the American audience deserve.

This doesn't mean don't see the movie. Kay Francis and several admirable supporting characters raise this film above mediocre. But be aware that the makers of this movie expect you to believe that Eve has done the right thing by sacrificing her ambitions. If you find yourself bothered by this ending, I hope I may have given you a clue why you are right to feel disturbed.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Superb program that ended horribly, 27 January 2006

I loved St. Elsewhere during its 1980's run. All the glowing statements here about the show are true. Few TV shows have reached the level of St. Elsewhere, and even fewer have surpassed it. But I felt insulted, even violated, by the series final episode.

****** S P O I L E R ******

For years I watched St. Elsewhere, coming to care deeply about many of the the characters, to the point of tears when the character played by Kim Miyori killed herself. Even the characters I loved to hate were important to me. The greatest creative works, from ancient Greek tragedy to the best of TV and movies, make you care about the characters. So when it was announced that St. Elsewhere was ending with a special episode that would tie up the plot lines, I was eager to learn what would happen to these people who had meant so much to me for so long.

Of the many story threads in that final show, I now remember only two. In the first, a hefty operatic soprano is brought into the ER with laryngitis before a performance. This gimmick was so obvious that it would have been barely laughable except that it signaled us in advance how we were to know that the show was over, and the anticipation made the plot trick work. When the fat lady sang, it was funny and we knew it was THE END.

Except it wasn't. The camera drew back to show the exterior of the hospital in a snowstorm, then the picture faded to the swirling interior of a snow globe containing the tiny shape of the St. Elsewhere building. We saw that the globe was being shaken by a child we recognized as the mute, autistic son of one of the hospital's doctors. But then we found that the boy's father was not a doctor at all but a blue-collar guy, and his grandfather was the "real life" version of yet another of the hospital's doctors. So the show's writers were telling us that the entire series was not just imaginary but the product of the imagination of a tragically damaged mind.

I was outraged and I am still fuming all these years later. I felt that I was being made a fool of for having cared for these characters. Of course, at one level they ARE imaginary since they are all fictional. But for the show's creators to take the characters that we were led to care about so strongly and reduce them to dreams or hallucinations was like a slap in the face to me.

I disagree with the poster who compared the St. Elsewhere ending with that of "Newhart". That series finale was one of the funniest and most imaginative events I have ever seen on television, and ending a comedy with such a huge laugh was absolutely brilliant. The fact that both series were wrenchingly revealed to have been dreams is insignificant compared to the fact that the Newhart ending was an absolute scream while the St. Elsewhere ending made me want to scream at the TV.

In all of TV I know of only one worse series ending, that of the British scifi series "Blake's Seven", when after four seasons, the writers wiped out the show's heroes in the last episode. "See? That'll teach you to care!" Don't these people have any respect for us at all?

9 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
Subtle attack on capitalism by a life-long Soviet supporter, 2 September 2005
5/10

There is no question this is a superbly made movie. (I really enjoyed Charles Dingle's sly performance.) But I cannot leave unanswered the many understated attacks on the capitalist system made by the author of both the play and screenplay, Lillian Hellman.

One example: "There must be better ways of getting rich than building sweatshops and pounding the bones of the town to make dividends for you to spend. You'll wreck the town, you and your brothers. You'll wreck the country, you and your kind, if they let you."

This is how Hellman, and all good Marxists, view capitalism. To them capitalism is a system of exploitation and despoliation (not a system of freedom and prosperity) which is eventually doomed to fail. So she depicts this family of despicable people (plus a few good ones for dramatic contrast) and implies that these repulsive characters represent the dismal future awaiting this country if they and their kind are not stopped. (How? By armed revolt maybe?)

Hellman was famous for her life-long pro-Soviet loyalty. Some say that her sympathies were merely anti-fascist. Well, Stalin was anti-fascist as well, and while many Hollywood leftists turned against the Soviet Union after Stalin's show trials in the late 30's, Hellman never had anything bad to say about the Soviets.

Much has been made about black-listing and "witch-hunting". It is true that the major studios had a long list of people to be boycotted, and why shouldn't they? Many of the studio heads were immigrants who came from poverty to rise to high status in a system that the communists and their sympathizers wanted to pull down. As for witch-hunts, the critical point is that there is no such thing as witches, while there were indeed communists in Hollywood (and Broadway, and the State Department, and the Army, and the Manhattan Project) whose hope was for eventual totalitarian rule of America.

Some people commented that they detect no leftist leanings in this film. Perhaps that is because that has been the main intellectual trend in the U.S. since the 30's (at least until lately), so they cannot see the trees for the forest. As for the person who claims that this is not Communism but Christianity, you are absolutely right. Both are united in the view that your moral duty is sacrifice to others; they just differ on details.

As well-done as this movie is, I simply cannot watch it and ignore the part, however small, it plays in the struggle between capitalism and communism. (If any of you are not clear about exactly what I mean by capitalism, read Ayn Rand's "Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal".)

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Barry Lyndon, Kubrick, exploitation and control, 16 July 2005
9/10

I am sorry that the 197 earlier comments here are just too many to read to see if anyone else has ever made this point before, but I suspect I might have an original perspective on Kubrick and on Barry Lyndon.

Kubrick directed only ten films from "Paths of Glory" in 1957 to "Eyes Wide Shut" in 1999. He had certain pet themes that he fit into his movies whenever he could. For example, telephones: the crucial call from the general to the artillery battery in "Paths or Glory"; several key phone calls in "Strangelove"; the charming video phone call from orbit to the cute little girl and the birthday call from earth to the Jupiter ship in "2001"; and the telephone on the back of the tank in "Full Metal Jacket".

But the dominant theme in all Kubrick's major films is one form or another of domination, manipulation, control, exploitation. Some of the examples are obvious: ultra-violence and brainwashing in "Clockwork Orange", slavery in "Spartacus". Others are more implicit: supernaturally induced madness in "Shining"; boot camp and nightmarish combat in "Full Metal Jacket"; obsession and seduction in "Lolita" or "Eyes Wide Shut". And on the grandest galactic scale, the manipulation of human evolution in "2001".

So what about "Barry Lyndon"? There are all kinds of manipulations and exploitations to be found in the plot, but "Barry" goes a huge step beyond these.

-------- S P O I L E R S --------

To explain... Thackeray and/or Kubrick have an artistic problem. They are telling the tale of a generally worthless human, so rotten that his own son challenges him to a duel, and Barry's only moral act in the entire three-hour movie is to refuse to shoot his son. The problem is multiplied for Kubrick by casting bland, white-bread Ryan O'Neal. Why should we care about Barry Lyndon at all?

Yet somehow Thackeray/Kubrick make us care, if not for Barry, then at least for what happens to him. That is what great story-telling does. By the time of the father-son pistol duel, with its gut-wrenching tension, we really are concerned that one will kill the other and it might be the end of Barry Lyndon.

So when Barry falls, we don't know if the wound is mortal or not. After Barry is lifted into a carriage and is driven off, the narrator says words to the effect of "Nobody knows what became of Barry Lyndon. Some say he went to London and died in poverty, and some say he went to Paris and died a rich man. But none of it matters because they are all dead now". But WAIT! I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM!!

Then I realized how silly that was of me. Barry and all the others in the story are fictional characters; none of them had ever been alive to begin with. The ultimate manipulation here is the storyteller's manipulation of his audience. I don't know if the role of puppet-master belongs to Thackeray or Kubrick or both in what proportion, but someone pulled a fast one on me and I loved it.

27 out of 39 people found the following review useful:
It's not paranoia when you know they really are out to get you., 15 March 2005

In my childhood Richard Carlson was perhaps my favorite actor because of his many appearances in '50s sci-fi movies (Magnetic Monster, It Came from Outer Space, Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc.). In these and similar movies he consistently portrayed a model of calm, intelligent, thoughtful bravery in the face of strange new dangers, and he continued in this vein in the TV series "I Led Three Lives".

As a child I had no reason to disbelieve the show's portrayals of subversive Communist activities in the United States. Later I read Herbert Philbrick's book that served as the source of the name and background for the series, and it too had the ring of truth.

Yet as other comments here about this show reveal, the idea that America was the target of conspiracy and espionage is derided as paranoid. The investigations of the House Un-American Activities Committee are described as a witch hunt, on the implicit premise that since there are no witches, there must not have been Communists either. We still hear laments for the Hollywood writers, directors, etc., who found it difficult to find work after being blacklisted for refusing to admit to their membership in the Communist Party.

Well, folks, the cat is out of the bag. As if the world was not already full of enough evidence of the evil of Communism, the fall of the Soviet Union led to the opening of the KGB archives in Moscow to researchers, and guess what... At the direction of the Soviet Union, there were Communist agents and sympathizers in the US Army, the Manhattan Project, the State Department, many labor unions, and other strategic targets. The archives show that the Communist Party USA received millions of dollars each year from the Soviet Union for purposes of undermining America, with Hollywood being specifically targeted for infiltration.

In that atmosphere I think it is remarkable that "I Led Three Lives" ever got produced. I whole-heartedly hope that this show does get re-released. However much it may have been dramatized, "I Led Three Lives" shows how America was in fact endangered by its enemies, foreign and domestic.

4 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Well-done, intriguing pro-Soviet propaganda, 1 March 2005
5/10

This movie has much to commend it: a slice of history that Americans often don't encounter; tense wartime drama and excitement; Gregory Peck's heroic strength; Tamara Toumanova's sensitive beauty; a slice-of-life mix of supporting characters. A standard I apply to movies is that they should show me things I have never seen before, and "Days of Glory" fully satisfies that requirement.

However, this should not make the viewer forget what the movie was intended to be -- World War II pro-Soviet propaganda. Much Hollywood output in the early '40s was aimed at supporting the war effort (consider all the combat and home-front movies from that time), and for a nation at war this is totally understandable.

But this film, like some others of that era (e.g., "Mission to Moscow", "The North Star", "Song of Russia") was explicitly intended to generate sympathy for and solidarity with our then Soviet allies. This too would be understandable if it did not also attempt to obliterate the historical fact that these "allies" were no less evil and murderous than the Nazis.

This does not mean a modern viewer should not watch this film (just as the propaganda should not keep the movie fan away from "Alexander Nevsky" or "Potemkin"), but when watching this otherwise entertaining film the viewer should keep in mind its role in supporting the system that would become an even greater threat to life and freedom in the 20th Century than the enemy we were fighting.