Here’s The Teaser for Carol!


Here’s the teaser for the upcoming film, Carol!

Carol, which is based on a Patricia Highsmith novel and stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, was widely acclaimed at Cannes and it’s expected to be a major Oscar contender.

(Yes, that’s right — Rooney might finally get an Oscar nomination that she actually deserves, as opposed to the nomination she got for David Fincher’s insulting bastardization of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.)

This teaser looks pretty good.  The only thing that concerns me is that director Todd Haynes may have be acclaimed by some critics but I’m Not There was a mess that featured a handful of good scenes and a general sense of incoherent pretension.  And his version of Mildred Pierce was a total travesty, which was mostly rewarded for what it should have been as opposed to what it actually was.

So, Carol could be brilliant.  Or it could be totally overrated.  I look forward to finding out!

Val’s Movie Roundup #15: Hallmark Edition


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Citizen Jane (2009) – I was quite surprised that this was actually a Hallmark movie. The acting was strong. The story stayed focused. They actually bothered shooting in San Francisco. This almost could have been a small time B-Movie or something I would expect from Lifetime.

It begins with Jane Alexander’s (Ally Sheedy) aunt being murdered. Jane lives with a man named Tom O’Donnell (Sean Patrick Flanery) and it’s never really a mystery that he did it. The film is about how they prove it. Jane has assistance from Detective Jack Morris (Meat Loaf). I think Meat Loaf did a great job and so does Sheedy. We care, we follow, we get a decent movie. The only problem I found is the same one that was in the Lifetime movie Cleveland Abduction (2015). That movie was also based on real events. Even not knowing the true story behind it, you could tell that the film was a superficial treatment that needed much more time to properly tell the story. The same is true here. At times things will feel like they just jumped from one gear to another. Otherwise, it’s one of the most well made of the Hallmark mystery type movies. Even if there isn’t much of a mystery to it. More like mystery in the Columbo sense of the word where we know exactly what happened, but find out how the person is going to be caught.

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Garage Sale Mystery: The Wedding Dress (2015) – Again, it’s time for Jennifer (Lori Loughlin) to get involved in a mystery. This time she is at an estate sale and when she returns to her shop she discovers that among the things she has purchased is a vintage 1970’s wedding dress. Great! Except there are blood stains in a pocket. And thank god there are. I say that because this establishes a good reason for her to be investigating while the cops don’t. That’s really nice when it comes to the recent deluge of these murder mystery movies that Hallmark is producing. Usually the woman just comes across as a busybody who should just mind her own business. Here she has something that should spark her interest and the further she looks into it, the more she has a reason to bring her police officer friend into the case. It’s still heavily sanitized in the way you expect from these movies. However, for this series, I think it’s the best one I have seen so far.

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Love Under the Stars (2015) – When you boil it down to the basic plot, this is like the Hallmark movie Class (2010). Except it’s much better. It’s about a college girl played by Ashley Newbrough who needs to come up with her thesis in child psychology. Her college advisor played by Barry Bostwick has a niece that teaches a fourth grade class and has Newbrough go there for inspiration. She meets a guy played by Wes Brown who is raising a daughter as a single parent because the mother/wife has passed away. It plays out the way you expect it to and the way Class did, but it’s just better the whole way through. Especially Wes Brown. We can easily understand why she is attracted to him, but he also comes across well as a loving father who appears happy, but also has an underground river of fear and concern for his daughter constantly flowing through him. He is the real reason the film works as well as it does. Newbrough is pretty good too, but she basically walks around the film like she’s hot and horny, to put it bluntly, all the time she’s with him. It makes it difficult to take her character seriously as a real person the way we do with him. In particular, when it comes to her backstory of also losing her mother and the development of the relationship with the daughter. They should have had her dial it back a bit and act less like an infatuated teenager.

Also, the daughter (Jaeda Lily Miller) is a little annoying. I don’t think it’s the actresses fault so much as it is the way her character is written. I don’t think they give her enough credit and let her be more like a real kid with problems, then a cardboard cut out of a troubled child. A little tweaking of her character would have helped.

I really did like the use of the counting thing. When the father leaves her off at school or somewhere else, he counts down a few seconds because he knows she will turn around, usually opening a door, in order to wave to him one more time. She’s afraid he might be gone like her mother is forever. It’s a really nice touch that of course pays off in the end.

All around, this is one of the top tier Hallmark movies I have seen so far.

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Operation Cupcake (2012) – I mentioned not giving the character of the daughter enough credit in Love Under The Stars and the problem is in this film too. This is about Army Colonel Griff Carson (Dean Cain) who comes home on leave to his wife Janet (Kristy Swanson) who runs a cupcake shop. The whole thing is about Griff adjusting to civilian life while also awaiting a possible promotion to General. The problem is they don’t give this guy enough credit. Instead, they drag out his adjustment way too long. It shouldn’t have taken him so long and the change should have been more gradual rather than played for laughs as long as it could. He works at the shop with his wife, and there was at least one scene where you wonder if he actually comes from the Army. He is mobbed by a ton of people at the cupcake store that he suddenly has to service. He doesn’t really attempt to put some of his training to use in order take a bunch of unruly people and get them to act in a civilized manner. The scene doesn’t work and the movie just doesn’t really work either. I think they should have had Cain’s character transition more gradually rather than having him be essentially a brick wall that only comes down in the end. Hallmark avoided that with Recipe For Love and that’s why it is one of my favorites. I also think that Dean Cain was miscast. I have difficultly buying any kind of machismo from his character. He just doesn’t fit the part. This is one that’s fine if you wind up catching it by chance, but don’t put your lure out into the Hallmark waters explicitly to see it.

Final note: I didn’t even notice till I was looking at the credits, but Donna Pescow is in this. She was a baker at the store who has some back and forth with Cain. Of course for most people she is from Saturday Night Fever (1977), but I will always remember her as the mom on the TV Show Out Of This World. Makes me want to break out my bootleg copies of that show. To the best of my knowledge, they still haven’t released that show on DVD.

Artist Profile: Fred Charles Rodewald (1905 — 1955)


Fred Charles Rodewald was an illustrator who was active from 1926 until his death in 1955.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much biographical information about Rodewald.  He was born in Hanover, Germany but moved, with his family, to New Jersey when he was six years old.  He dropped out of school in 1920, worked in his family’s store, and apparently never had any formal artistic training before he started his career as an illustrator.  In 1954, one year before his death, he wrote and illustrated a book entitled Commercial Art As A Business, a detailed guide to the practical concerns of earning a living as a commercial artist.

A small sampling of his work can be found below.
Bed Time Girl Blood Lusting Demon Illicit Love Is Sweet But Bloody Last Fling of the Playgirl Wife Passion's Mistress Paula Has A Price Pay For My Kiss Respectable Harlot Shamed Vera Is A Tramp

The Fourth Annual Academy Awards: 1917


Lisa and I continue to reimagine the Oscar history, one year at a time. Today, we look at 1917. The U.S. enters World War I, the Pickfords take over Hollywood, and, for the first time, the entire membership of the Academy gets to vote.

Through the Shattered Lens Presents The Oscars

The host of the 4th Annual Academy Awards, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle The host of the 4th Annual Academy Awards, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle

On March 4th, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson took the oath of office and began his second term of President.  Just a few months earlier, he had run for reelection on a platform of maintaining American neutrality in the war that was ravaging Europe.  His slogan was “He Kept Us Out Of War,” and it was enough to allow him to survive one of the closest elections in U.S. History.

One month later, the U.S. declared war on Germany and entered into what would come to be called World War I.

Whereas the previous year had been dominated by films, like the Award-winning Civilization, that promoted neutrality and world peace, 1917 saw the release of several films that were designed to support the American war effort.  The pacifism of Civilization was forgotten as the box office embraced…

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A Blast From The Past: Cheating (dir by Herk Harvey)


In the past, I have occasionally shared old educational films here on the Shattered Lens.  As everyone should know by now, I love history and these short films all serve as interesting time capsule of the era in which they were made.  Seeing as how August is traditionally the time when students go back to school, I figured now would be as good a time as any to share some wisdom from the past.

The film below is from 1952.  It’s called Cheating.  It’s about what happens when John Taylor forces his friend Mary to help him cheat.  When he gets caught, it not only harms Mary’s reputation but John soon finds his own position on the student council threatened!  Oh, the horror!

Now, I have to admit that I enjoyed this short film because, as I’ve mentioned before on this site, I occasionally cheated on a few tests while I was in high school.  But, beyond that, this film is interesting because it’s shot like a living nightmare, complete with crooked camera angles, expressionistic lighting, an atmosphere of existential dread, and an extremely judgmental narrator.  Director Herk Harvey goes all out in his direction for this one.  (Harvey is probably best known for later directing Carnival of Souls, his only feature film.)

Plus, there’s always the fun of listening to all those country accents.  It may be tempting to make fun of the “actors,” all of whom seem to have picked out of a local high school drama class.  But, there’s an authenticity to them that will make most viewers reconsider the importance of cinematic authenticity.

Anyway, the ultimate message here seems to be that you should only cheat if you know you can get away with it and that is a message that I happily endorse.  It’s something that all students should keep in mind as they return to school this month.

Enjoy Cheating!

 

Insomnia File No. 3: Love is a Gun (dir by David Hartwell)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Love is a GunIf you were suffering from insomnia last night, at around 2 in the morning, you could have turned on Showtime and watched Love is a Gun, an odd little thriller from 1994.

How odd is Love Is a Gun?  It’s so odd that it stars Eric Roberts.  Roberts plays Jack, a photographer with problems.  His longtime girlfriend, Isabelle (Eliza Roberts), refuses to forgive him for cheating on her in the past and demands that he put a ring on her finger.  (Jack, for his part, has bought a ring but he keeps losing it.)  Jack is haunted by a reoccurring dream, in which he sees himself with a gun pointed at his head.  Isabelle says that the dream means that Jack needs to give her a ring.  Jack says it’s all about deja vu.

Jack gets a job working as a crime scene investigator.  He meets a detective who is so crazy that he’s played by R. Lee Ermey.  Jack takes pictures of dead bodies.  His colleagues make macabre jokes.  A local reporter offers to pay Jack for insider information.  Ermey asks Jacks to help cover up a crime.  Jack has visions of a line of well-dressed detectives shooting at him, firing squad style.  Eventually, Jack ends up sitting in a living room, an anonymous body at his feet, and watching a soap opera.  The actors on TV repeat dialogue that we’ve heard Jack and Isabelle say earlier in the film.  Jack starts to giggle and is soon laughing like a maniac.  A detective steps into the living room and asks Jack if he remembered to take a picture of the body in the bathroom.  “Oh yeah,” Jack says, “I forgot about that…”

Jack meets a model named Jean (Kelly Preston).  He takes pictures of her wearing a bridal gown and occasionally playing dead.  He realizes that he’s already seen the exact same pictures that he’s just taken.  Somebody left them in his locker at work but the images of Jean faded to black as soon as he looked at them.  He asks Jean if this is all an elaborate joke.  “Take the shot, Jack,” Jean replies.

Soon, Jean and Jack are having an affair.  Jean tells Jack that she has a strange rash.  Jack imagines that there’s a hole in Jean’s forehead.  A man claiming to be Jean’s husband shows up and wishes Jack luck because his wife is crazy.

Jack goes back to Isabelle.  Isabelle demands the ring.  Jack freaks out and returns to Jean.  Jean says she’s pregnant but then says she isn’t.  Jack giggles and then cries.  He goes back and forth between the two women, constantly begging for forgiveness as beads of sweat collect on his forehead.

Jack’s watch stops.  He tries to get it repaired.  An old man yells at him that his watch is cursed and cannot be repaired because it might infect all of the other watches in the man’s shop.

And, after all of that, the movie starts to get really weird…

Love Is A Gun does eventually offer up an explanation as to what’s going on.  It doesn’t make a bit of sense but somehow, the total incoherence of it all adds to this low-budget film’s charm.  Full of surreal images and intentionally odd dialogue, Love Is A Gun is compulsively watchable.

It also features a genuinely strange performance from Eric Roberts.  Roberts goes through the film with this goofy smile on his face, except for the scenes when Jack gets upset.  When Jack is upset, Roberts stomps his feet, jumps up and down, yells out every other line of dialogue, and contorts his body in some truly weird ways.  When he gets really angry, he grabs can after can of beer and furiously shakes them before opening, causing the beer to drench his face.  Eric Roberts’s lead performance is literally one of the oddest things that I have ever seen and it’s worth watching Love Is A Gun just to experience it.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. The Story of Mankind
  2. Stag

What Lisa Watched Last Night #135: Sorority Murder (dir by Jesse James Miller)


Last night, I watched the Lifetime original film, Sorority Murder!

SMWhy Was I Watching It?

Well, the obvious answer is that I was watching because it was on Lifetime.  However, beyond that, I had high hopes for this film because Lifetime has a pretty good track record when it comes to over-the-top melodrama about sororities.  Remember The Haunting Of Sorority Row?

What Was It About?

Jen (Scarlett Byrne) has a lot to deal with.  She has just started her first semester at college and she already has a huge design project due.  Her alcoholic mother (Sarah-Jane Redmond) keeps getting arrested and needs her daughter to bail her out.  And, on top of all that, Jen is being harassed by the apparently crazy president of her sorority.

When the president turns up dead, everyone assumes that Jen must have killed her!  However, Jen was alone in her bedroom, working on that design project, when the crime was committed!  Can Jen track down the real murderer before the semester ends?  Will Jen’s mother ever get her drinking under control?  And will Jen ever manage to finish that project!?

You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

What Worked?

The film’s title promised both a sorority and a murder and it totally delivered both of those things.  You have to appreciate a film that actually keeps its promises.  The murder mystery was enjoyable, if a little predictable.  I especially enjoyed the way the film portrayed the sorority as almost being a Scientology-style cult.  I was half-expecting someone to start talking about evil Lord Xenu.

Also, I liked the relationship between Jen and her mother.  It was sweet and touching, in the best Lifetime tradition.

What Did Not Work?

Sadly, the film never quite reached the heights of the greatest of all Lifetime sorority films, The Haunting of Sorority Row.  But, when taken on its own terms, the entire film worked.  It was a good Lifetime movie.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I have never been a member of a formal sorority (though I am a member of the unofficial sisterhood of red-headed film bloggers) and I have never killed anyone, though I have been tempted.  So, unfortunately, this was the rare Lifetime film to which I could not directly relate.

Then again, when the film is about murder, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

(Actually, I did relate to Jen’s desperate attempts to get her design project completed while dealing with all the death, lies, and cover-ups.  What’s sad is that the project itself — which showed that Jen was heavily influenced by the Bauhaus School of Design — did not look like it was that impressive.  I would have given her a C at the most.)

Lessons Learned

Stay away from sororities!  They’re murder.