lee_eisenberg

IMDb member since March 2005
    Highlights
    2020 Oscars
    Highlights
    2018 Oscars
    Highlights
    2013 Oscars
    Highlights
    2011 Oscars
    Highlights
    2006 Oscars
    Lifetime Total
    7,500+
    Lifetime Filmo
    1+
    Lifetime Plot
    1+
    Lifetime Bio
    250+
    Lifetime Trivia
    1,000+
    Lifetime Title
    1+
    Top Reviewer
     
    Poll Taker
    500x
    IMDb Member
    16 years

Reviews

The Woman on the Beach
(1947)

the end of Renoir's US career
Jean Renoir's last movie in the US casts Robert Ryan as a coast guard officer suffering from PTSD who befriends the wife (Joan Bennett) of a blind artist (Charles Bickford). This leads the three of them down a precarious road as the coast guard officer decides to test the artist's blindness.

It's too bad that the movie failed to find an audience during its initial run. Renoir makes clever use of the coastline and scenery, while getting the best out of the cast members. He manages to create one of the most intense plots with minimal violence. This is one of the most underappreciated works of old Hollywood. Definitely see it.

The Spiral Staircase
(1946)

climb on up
One of Dorothy McGuire's greatest performances came about in "The Spiral Staircase". She plays a caretaker for an elderly woman (Ethel Barrymore in an Academy Award-nominated role) amid a series of murders. Director Robert Siodmak uses the sets and camera angles to create a feeling of suspense rarely seen outside a Hitchcock movie. This is probably one of the most disturbing movies that you'll ever see.

The 1975 remake is also worth seeing.

Objective, Burma!
(1945)

What's the matter with Burma?
Obviously, Raoul Walsh's Academy Award-nominated "Objective, Burma!" is a little hard to take seriously nowadays. The hyper-patriotism and the casual use of the derogatory term for the Japanese makes the movie a little unpleasant. And of course, every time that George Tobias was on screen, I could only think "Gladys, stop spying on the Stephenses!"

But there's something else: the setting in Burma. At the time, Burma was a British colony. Following independence, it started out as a democracy, but the 1962 coup installed a series of repressive governments. Even when pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi finally came to power, she defended the army's attacks on the Muslim minority, insisting that both sides were equally guilty (much like Trump's defense of the Charlottesville neo-Nazis).

OK, that was all tangential. My point is that we in the 21st century are going to view this movie quite differently from how people in 1945 did. Worth seeing, just as long as you know what you're watching.

If Anything Happens I Love You
(2020)

memories and loss
The Academy Award-winning "If Anything Happens I Love You" focuses on a tragic occurrence that repeatedly happens in the US. It's the only country where this happens.

It's one of the most gut-wrenching animated shorts that I've seen, but I recommend it.

End Game
(2018)

the only guarantee in life
Over the years, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have made documentaries usually focusing on LGBT topics (Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, The Celluloid Closet, State of Pride, etc)*. With the Academy Award-nominated "End Game", they look at a different topic: death. This production focuses on palliative care, forcing the viewer to think differently about death. After all, it's a topic that we try to avoid, but it will eventually happen to every one of us.

Serious but calm, the documentary is one that every person should see.

*Without Friedman, Epstein directed "The Times of Harvey Milk", a documentary about the assassinated gay politician.

Closer
(2004)

Mike Nichols returns to awkward relationships
Mike Nichols had been directing plays on Broadway - and had made a comedy album with Elaine May - when he made his big screen directorial debut with "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", about an unhappy marriage. He followed it up with "The Graduate", which worked like a karate chop on the image of adulthood that the baby boom generation had gotten fed for two decades. Following the anti-war comedy "Catch-22", Nichols directed "Carnal Knowledge", about screwed-up sexuality.

In 2004, Nichols returned to the topic of relationships with "Closer". This look at the interactions of four people may seem like a romcom, but it quickly turns out to be quite the opposite. All manner of unpleasant things come about, smoothly portrayed by Nichols's expert direction, and the fine performances from Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen (the latter two nominated for Academy Awards for their roles).

It wasn't 2004's best movie by any measure, but the plot's and characters' complexity make it one that you should see.

The Heiress
(1949)

I bet things were really like this
William Wyler's 1949 period piece "The Heiress" is a real gut punch. Olivia de Havilland won an Oscar for her role as an emotionally abused rich woman in 1800s New York. She finds a suitor (Montgomery Clift), but things won't be easy. I have no doubt that the movie accurately reflects the harshness of 19th century high society just like "The Age of Innocence" does.

The movie is based on Henry James's "Washington Square" by way of a stage adaptation. Given how powerful the movie is, I'd like to read the book. In the meantime, I highly recommend the movie (but be forewarned, it's like "Mystic River" in terms of how much it hits you, not least because of what de Havilland's character does at the end).

Panic in the Streets
(1950)

Please vax up!
I suspect that when Elia Kazan's Oscar-winning "Panic in the Streets" got filmed, it got seen merely as a thriller. In the COVID era, it comes across as a warning. The protagonist warns about the potential for an infected person to escape the city and start spreading the disease nationwide. In addition to that, it is certainly one intense movie.

So, if there's a group of movies that a person should watch as a warning about the spread of diseases, I recommend this one plus "The Cassandra Crossing", "Outbreak", "28 Days Later" and "Contagion". I suspect that there will eventually be a movie about the coronavirus.

I Love Lucy
(1951)

What's not to love about Lucy?
I spent much of my free time in undergrad watching a lot of reruns on TVLand, learning many of the classic sitcoms in the process. "I Love Lucy" was one example. Lucy's mishaps always made for great comedy. I suspect that Ricky's presence was the main exposure that a lot of people in the US had to Cuba prior to the revolution.

As to the argument that Lucy simply reinforced the image of a 1950s housewife, I say that she put a spin on it. Moreover, this series set the stage for all future sitcoms. "Gilligan's Island", "All in the Family", "The Simpsons" and others all owe a debt to this show.

You're sure to love it!

The Star
(1952)

I bet that this happens more than we think
Having played an aging star whose career is threatened by the younger generation in "All About Eve", Bette Davis played a similar role in "The Star". She received an Oscar nod for her role as an actress who has trouble acknowledging that her best days are behind her. Following a run-in with the law, she hopes to restart her career, but it won't be easy.

Davis does a perfect job playing a Norma Desmond type. She makes you feel sorry for the character but also find her less than pleasant. Fine support from Sterling Hayden and Natalie Wood make this a real classic. It's a pity that not many people know about it.

Crip Camp
(2020)

it shouldn't have to affect you for you to care about it
The rights of the disabled have come onto the public's radar more ever since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. However, as shown by the Academy Award-nominated "Crip Camp", it was a long battle to get there. It may have taken decades, but it happened. It's good to know that the people with disabilities had a place where they could congregate back in the day.

You owe it to all disabled people worldwide to watch this documentary.

The Living End
(1992)

not what I interpreted
Gay? Definitely. Thelma and Louise? I didn't get that vibe. To me, "The Living End" seemed more like a stream-of-consciousness story. It also seemed to me that the movie should've had more, given what all they were putting into it. Not a bad movie, but it could've been more coherent.

Gregg Araki's dedication at the end was on the nose.

No Time to Die
(2021)

the franchise should've ended decades ago
These new James Bond movies have no real connection to the original novels. Just like "Goldeneye", "Die Another Die" and "Casino Royale", "No Time to Die" is an excuse for nonstop gimmicks.

People will say that Daniel Craig's James Bond is more like how Ian Fleming envisioned the character, but seriously, hasn't the franchise overstayed its welcome mat? The original novels dealt with the Cold War, and the original movies maintained that (along with Sean Connery's coolness, of course). Never mind that the gender relations look particularly questionable in the MeToo era. But most importantly, having a license to kill amounts to executing people without trial.

My point is, stick with the Sean Connery movies and 1967's "Casino Royale".

Julius Caesar
(1953)

C (I mean A+) section
In 7th grade, my language arts class put on productions of scenes from Shakespeare plays. My group did the most famous part of "Julius Caesar". I played Caesar and got (mock) stabbed, falling in horror at Brutus's betrayal.

So, I've finally gotten around to watching Joseph Mankiewicz's 1953 adaptation of the play. Quite a show! I haven't seen the entire play, but I understand that this version does follow the play closely, with a minor change or two. Not surprisingly, the cast - Marlon Brando, James Mason, Louis Calhern, John Gielgud, Deborah Kerr and others - put on excellent performances.

While Caesar's statement upon realizing Brutus's betrayal remains the most famous line, probably the most important is "The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings." Indeed, the oppressed will stay oppressed only so long as they accept their lot.

Basically, any cinephile should see this movie at least once. True, it won't tell you anything about the rest of Caesar's life, but this small set of events makes for one compelling story.

Among the supporting cast are Alan Napier (Alfred on the 1960s "Batman") and Michael Ansara (Barbara Eden's former husband).

PS: In the book "Non Campus Mentis: World History According to College Students", it says "Caesar was assinated on the Yikes of March when he is reported to have said 'Me too, Brutus!'"

Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson
(2015)

Edith's and Jane's work deserves to get known
I had never heard of Edith Lake Wilkinson before now. What a story! And such vibrant paintings! But, because of the era, she got considered mentally ill due to her sexual orientation and her work got forgotten.

"Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson", directed by Wilkinson's grandniece Jane Anderson, focuses on the effort to bring Wilkinson's work to the public eye. Anderson compares Wilkinson's gay awakening to her own gay awakening.

It's definitely a story that more people should know. If it ever gets made into a movie, I think that Holly Hunter and Susan Sarandon should play Jane and Tess, respectively (I don't know who would play Edith).

La vita davanti a sé
(2020)

Romain Gary's novel in 21st century Italy
A few years ago I saw the 1977 movie "Madame Rosa", starring Simone Signoret as a Holocaust survivor in Paris looking after a Muslim boy. I read that it was based on Romain Gary's novel "The Life Before Us". We now have a new adaptation. "La vita davanti a sé" ("The Life Ahead" in English) casts Sophia Loren as the elderly Rosa, assigned a troubled boy to take care of. Loren's son Edoardo directs the movie.

Powerful performances carry the movie. There are some scenes that make you feel as if you're walking on eggshells, especially seeing the environment from which Momo comes. While I wouldn't call it a masterpiece, I like how it drew a connection between Rosa's experiences and the plight of immigrants in Europe. If the movie has any downside, it's that some of the characters could've gotten more developed. But maybe they didn't need to be. Overall I found it worth seeing.

The song "Io sì (Seen)" (a power ballad against racism) received an Academy Award nomination.

The Barefoot Contessa
(1954)

the Hollywood spotlight wrings you out
Joseph L. Mankiewicz had previously focused on the world of the glitterati with the Oscar-winning "All About Eve", about the stage. With "The Barefoot Contessa", he turned his attention to Hollywood. The movie's focus is a Spanish dancer hired by a group of execs as an actress. Sure enough, life in the fast lane begins to take its toll on her.

Ava Gardner plays the Iberian starlet as a reluctant gal eventually entranced by the celebrity world. Humphrey Bogart plays a director narrating the movie. In a supporting role is Edmond O'Brien in an Oscar-winning performance as an insufferable publicist.

One could make the argument that these are celebrity problems, and thus unimportant. Maybe they are; we could debate that forever. What I noticed were the pronounced gender roles, and the dated gender relations (not that I would expect otherwise in a '50s movie). The main point is that this movie shows some shocking stuff. No telling how many actresses got subjected to this (or even worse).

In the end, I found it a good movie. I recommend it.

Don't Look Up
(2021)

this is what happens when you have an incompetent government and corporate control of everything
The negative reviews of Adam McKay's "Don't Look Up" probably come from fossil fuel shills. David Sirota (the screenwriter) considers the plot less satire and more tragedy. It's all too realistic.

God afton, Herr Wallenberg
(1990)

one of the great moral giants of the 20th century
Raoul Wallenberg might not be one of the most recognizable names, but he was responsible for one of the noblest acts in the 20th century. He saved thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary.

Kjell Grede's "God afton, Herr Wallenberg" ("Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg") focuses on this, with Stellan Skarsgård playing the Swedish diplomat. The movie - Sweden's submission to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign-Language Film that year - casts him as someone who initially didn't take much in the events across Europe but soon realized that he had to take a moral stand. As the recently deceased Desmond Tutu said, neutrality helps the oppressor.

Excellent movie. Definitely see it.

Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi
(2001)

What happens when you do nothing but consume?
Hayao Miyazaki's "Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi" ("Spirited Away" in English) is one of the most mystifying movies that I've ever seen. This story of a girl's quest to rescue her parents from an ugly fate is not like any animated feature that you've ever seen. As beautiful as it is horrifying, this movie is a true sui generis.

Miyazaki noted that consumerism's effects on Japan is a theme. After all, Japan adopted a western diet and started seeing new kinds of health problems. What happens to Chihiro's parents is just an example of this.

Anyway, an outstanding piece of work. I'm sure that it makes more sense to Japanese viewers, but foreign viewers will find plenty to like about it. The movie won a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (Hayao Miyazaki declined to attend in protest of the US invasion of Iraq).

Frankie
(2019)

interesting plot but the scenes linger too long
Ira Sachs's "Frankie" could've been a good movie, but they let the scenes run too long, leaving the whole thing dull (just like Terrence Malick's crummy movies).

The Rose Tattoo
(1955)

The Subject Was Roses (and other things too)
When one watches Tennessee Williams's works, one gets the feeling that the women on whom he focuses - whether in "A Streetcar Named Desire", "Baby Doll" or "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" - are the women who he wanted to be. Another example is "The Rose Tattoo". The protagonist is Serafina, an Italian immigrant in the southeast US. Distraught at her husband's death three years earlier, Serafina starts up a relationship with a truck driver while her daughter is in a relationship with a sailor.

Anna Magnani won an Oscar for her role as the fiery Serafina. Her repressed passions often come to the surface, resulting in intense scenes throughout the whole movie. Whether it's the late husband's infidelity or a pair of women who ask Serafina to mend their bandanas but then turn hostile, there's a lot to anger this woman.

In addition to Magnani, Burt Lancaster provides fine support as Serafina's new lover. His easygoing attitude is a pronounced contrast to her pent-up emotions boiling over. It all adds up to one fine movie. Definitely one that I recommend.

West Side Story
(2021)

Stephen Sondheim, RIP
It was ironic that Stephen Sondheim died around the time of the release of this new version of a musical to which he contributed. Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story" expands on the original story, still addressing racism but also addressing gentrification.

I wasn't sure what to think of Ansel Elgort as Tony, but newcomer Rachel Zegler is positively divine as Maria. Great support comes from Ariana DeBose as Anita (her rendition of a certain song about the benefits and downsides of life as an immigrant in the United States lets her and the guys face the issues head on). And then of course, we get Rita Moreno as Valentina (Doc's widow). Is there any way for her not to put on a great performance?

I should admit that I've never seen a stage production of WSS, so I can't compare any movie version to it. What I can say is that this movie is one of the year's finest. You're sure to love it. Thank you, Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner!

Anastasia
(1956)

Ilsa meets the King of Siam meets Mrs. Howell
I should admit that it was a little hard for me to take Anatole Litvak's "Anastasia" seriously. Not just because it took so much artistic license, or because we now have more info about the czar's family's fate. The fact remains that Russia had a revolution in 1917 for the same reason that France did in 1789: the monarchy and aristocracy were living in splendor while the people were starving. Quite frankly I would've liked to see any of Russia's rich emigres living in Paris have to face any peasant from Russia and profess to be on the peasant's side. While watching the movie, I occasionally threw out snarky comments MST3K-style. For example, when someone said "You eat like a pig," I said "That boy is a P-I-G pig!" (I assume you know what that's from)

All that aside, the movie's performances are top-notch. Ingrid Bergman won an Oscar for her role as the homeless woman groomed by an exiled general to pose as the czar's daughter, rumored to have survived the execution. It was sort of weird looking at the characters' names and seeing the French renderings of Russian; to us anglophones, Bounine would be Bunin.

Basically, it's not a masterpiece, but it's enjoyable enough. In addition to Ingrid Bergman, Yul Brynner and Helen Hayes, a cast member whom I noticed was Natalie Schafer, better known as Mrs. Howell on "Gilligan's Island". I couldn't watch her character here without picturing Gilligan entering the scene and making a mess of everything. So that's my take on all this.

I wonder if the descendants of the aristocrats who fled Russia ever got into any of the popular culture from the '60s and '70s. No doubt the aristocrats would've freaked had they seen their descendants turning into hippies and disco fans.

"Stuck around St. Petersburg/When I saw it was time for a change/Killed the czar and his ministers/Anastasia screamed in vain" - Sympathy for the Devil

PS: Anastasia in Greek means "of the resurrection", often alluded to in stories of the grand duchess's rumored survival.

Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt
(1989)

Who ever would've guessed that another celebrity would get elected and ignore a pandemic?
I first learned of Rob Epstein's "Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt" about a quarter of a century ago when reading a list of Academy Award-winners. I've finally gotten around to seeing it. What an impressive story. It's so sad that millions of people worldwide succumbed to AIDS while governments ignored it (in fact, interviewee Vito Russo died the year after the documentary's release). Part of what we can do is keep alive the memory of those who sought to raise the public's awareness. This documentary is part of that. Definitely see it.

To think that decades later, another authoritarian-minded celebrity-turned-demagogue used racism to get elected president and then ignored a pandemic.

See all reviews