RIP Tom Spurgeon

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

The comics world has been understandably and justifiably reeling since news broke of the untimely death of Tom Spurgeon on Nov. 13th, 2019 at the far-too-young age of 50. The tributes that have been pouring in on twitter and facebook have run the gamut, with everyone from indie luminaries to guys who inked a few pages for Marvel or DC once upon a time paying their respects, and taken in total all of them show the remarkable reach Mr. Spurgeon had in every corner of the industry. I don’t have any personal anecdotes about him to share, never having met him in face to face, but we did correspond online occasionally and I found him to be more than helpful and encouraging in my early days of comics criticism, as well as sharp and insightful in his plainly-stated suggestions for improvement. He called it like he saw it at all…

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Lifetime Film Review: My Wife’s Secret Life (dir by Jason Bourque)

So, let’s say that your husband has cheated on you.

Now, obviously, the easiest thing to say is that you should just dump his ass but reality is always a bit more complicated.  The fact of the matter is that you’ve got two kids with him.  You two share a big suburban home.  He’s got a successful career as an attorney.  You’ve got a successful career of your own.  And he says that he’s sorry.  He says that he’ll never stray again.  Even if you’re not sure that you’ll ever be able to trust him again, you do love him.  So, you say that you forgive him.  You say that you’re giving him a second chance.  But the doubt and the pain still lingers.

What do you do?

How about having a one night stand with a near-stranger?

That’s what Laurel Briggs (Kate Villanova) does at the beginning of My Wife’s Secret Life.  She’s at a business conference.  Oddly, the hotel somehow screwed up her reservation and, as a result, she’s been separated from her colleagues.  She meets a handsome and charming man (Matthew McCaull).  One thing leads to another and Laurel ends up spending the night with this man.  (If you’re wondering why I’m not telling you the man’s name, that’s because he uses several over the course of the film).  That morning, when she leaves his hotel room, she makes it clear that she doesn’t want to see him again.  Laurel just wants to return home to her husband, James (Jason Cermak), and move on with her life.

Of course, this is a Lifetime movie so it’s not going to be that simple.  At first, Laurel’s one night stand doesn’t seem like he’s capable of taking the hint.  He’s the type of guy who shows up at your office unannounced and tries to guilt you into spending the day with him.  Then, eventually, he become the type of stalker who breaks into houses and leaves behind roses and poems by Lord Byron.  Soon, he’s not only stalking Laurel but he’s also pursuing a relationship with Laurel’s sister (Marnie Mahannah).

It turns out that our Lord Byron-obsessed stalker is more than just the typical type of obsessive who regularly shows up in Lifetime movies.  He’s got his own reasons for specifically targeting Laurel and her husband and it turns out that he’ll stop at nothing to accomplish his sinister goals….

Sounds pretty melodramatic, right?  Well, I supposed it is but that’s kind of the point.  I mean, that’s why we watch Lifetime films.  We watch them for the infidelity and the dangerous men who have secrets and the women who make one mistake and then have to spend the entire movie dealing with the consequences.  Enjoying a Lifetime film is all about embracing the melodrama and this is a film that cries out for a hug.  This is a film that celebrates everything that we love about Lifetime.  Director Jason Bourque keeps the action moving at an enjoyably quick pace and he’s aided by a cast who keeps the action grounded in reality.  Villanova and Cermak have exactly the right chemistry to be believable as a couple struggling to keep their marriage alive and Matthew McCaull is a wonderfully magnetic force of chaos and destruction.  It’s an enjoyable film and, since it’s a Lifetime film, it will probably be aired multiple times between now and 2021.  So, keep an eye out for it!

Music Video of the Day: Code Zero by French 79 (2019, dir by Vincent Desrousseaux)

I like today’s music video of the day because it’s simple but atmospheric.  This video really is the dream of being an artist.  Spend your afternoon creating and editing and making your imagination come to life.  And, in between creating, watch a movie.  That was what I always dreamed my life would be like when I became an adult and …. well, I don’t really feel like an adult but still, I’ve got a nice little building in the back yard that I use as a personal office, I spend a lot of time writing, and I’ve always got a movie playing in the background.  It’s a good life.


Lifetime Film Review: Amish Abduction (dir by Ali Liebert)

Amish Abduction tells the story of Annie (Sara Canning) and Jacob (Steve Byers).

As you may have guessed from the title (and the trailer, if you watched it), Annie and Jacob are Amish.  They live in a simple home.  They dress modestly.  They ride around in a buggy.  Annie talks about how little she trusts “the English.”  They spend a lot of time working in the fields.  They appaear to be about as Amish as Amish can be.  However, it quickly becomes obvious that Jacob has grown disillusioned with Amish life.  He wants to leave the community and live with the English.  He’s even purchased a phone!  “Look at everything that it can do!” he says in amazement as he stares down at the screen in his palm.  He tries to give Annie a phone as well but Annie has no use for it.  Not yet, anyways….

However, it turns out that Jacob is not merely suffering from a second Rumspringa.  Jacob’s gotten into some serious trouble.  He’s been buying whiskey from one of the English, a redneck who likes to wander around in the Pennsylvania wilderness.  When the redneck starts acting like a jackass, Jacob kills him.  When the police show up at the village and start asking questions, the Amish keep quiet.  They want nothing to do with the outside world.

One morning, Annie wakes up and discovers that Jacob has left during the night.  He’s abandoned his culture, his religion, and his wife.  However, Jacob has taken their son with him.  Jacob is willing to go to court and demand custody.  Annie will have to leave the village and enter the world of the English in order to save her son from his increasingly demented father.

Ah, the Amish.  I have actually lost track of the number of movies that I’ve seen about the Amish.  Films about the Amish always emphasize the idea that the Amish are simple people who reject modern technology and still live the way that their ancestors lived back in the very distant past.  Inevitably, these movies always have at least one scene where an Amish person is amazed by a television or a radio or a phone.

Of course, the truth is far more complicated.  There’s a fascinating documentary called Devil’s Playground, that follows several Amish teens as they go through Rumspringa, which is a time when they can take part in the modern world and decide for themselves whether or not to be baptized into the Amish church or to leave the community.  As that documentary demonstrated, just because the Amish don’t take part in much of modern society, that doesn’t mean that they’re ignorant of it.  Unfortunately, most films take a far more simplistic (and rather condescending) approach to portraying the Amish.

That said, Amish Abduction is one of the better “Amish” films that I’ve seen recently.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that its a 100% accurate but it does mean that, at the very least, it treats its characters as something more than just outsiders to be gawked at.  Sara Canning, in particular, gives a good and heartfelt performance as Annie and the film presents her character and her concerns in a fair and even-handed manner.  She was particularly strong during one scene in which Annie has a nightmare about what it would like to become one of the English.  Amish Abduction may be about the Amish but it’s also about a woman trying to protect the most important thing in her life and who can’t relate to that?