A Movie A Day #99: A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer (1964, directed by Richard Beymer)


In 1964, having starred in several movies, including West Side Story, Richard Beymer put his acting career on hold and spent the summer in Mississippi, where he was one of several activists who worked to register blacks to vote and who taught at Freedom Schools.  He brought a Bolex camera with him, filmed what he saw, and later edited that footage into a 30-minute documentary called A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer.

Set to a soundtrack that is a mix of rock and roll and the blues, A Regular Bouquet is a heartfelt and often angry portrait of day-to-day life in the Jim Crow era.  Over footage of black women and children working in a cotton field, a woman explains how, every year, she picks more cotton and gets paid less money for her work.  There is positive and hopeful footage of young black children learning at a Freedom School but, at the same time, the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner hang over the documentary.  One of the documentary’s most strongest moments is a montage of still photographs that illustrate how far the authorities were willing to go to try to stop the civil right movement from reaching Mississippi.

A Regular Bouquet is available on YouTube.  If some of the footage looks familiar, that is because it has regularly been reused in other documentaries about the civil rights movement.  If you only know Richard Beymer as the evil Ben Horne on Twin Peaks, A Regular Bouquet is an eye-opening movie.

 

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TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.7 “Lonely Souls” (directed by David Lynch)


Who killed Laura Palmer?

That was the question that made Twin Peaks famous and it was also the question that proved to be the show’s undoing.   It is easy to forget that each episode of Twin Peaks only covered a day in the investigation of Laura’s murder.  On Twin Peaks, it only took two weeks for Cooper and Harry to solve the mystery.  But, in the real world, it took David Lynch and Mark Frost seven months to finally reveal the identity of Laura’s murderer.  Today, audiences take serialization for granted and even appreciate shows that take their time to tell a complex story but that was not the case in 1990.  In 1990, most television dramas still featured mysteries and plots that could easily by resolved in an hour.  Viewers were intrigued by Twin Peaks but, when it became apparent that neither Lynch nor Frost were in any hurry to provide a solution to its central mystery, the ratings started to fall.

Laura’s killer was finally revealed on October 10th, 1990, during the seventh episode of the second season.  Mark Frost wrote the episode.  David Lynch directed it.  It is an episode that nobody who has seen it will ever be able to forget.

The episode starts with Harry (Michael Ontkean), Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), Cole (David Lynch), MIKE (Al Strobel), Andy (Harry Goaz), and Hawk (Michael Horse) standing in the lobby of the sheriff’s station and drinking coffee.  Since Cole is nearly deaf, he politely yells at everyone before leaving.

At the Great Northern, all of the guests have been led into the lobby so that MIKE can look at them and try to determine whether or not they are possessed by BOB.  For some reason, half of the guests are in the Navy.  MIKE does not see BOB in any of them.  Ben (Richard Beymer) walks into the lobby and MIKE starts to have a seizure.

At Harold Smith’s house, Hawk arrives and discovers that the house has been trashed and that Harold has hung himself in his greenhouse.

At the Palmer house, Maddy (Sheryl Lee) is drinking coffee with Leland (Ray Wise) and Sarah (Grace Zabriskie) while Louis Armstrong’s haunting What a Beautiful World plays on the phonograph.  Maddy tells them that, tomorrow, she is going to go back home.  Leland and Sarah tell her that they understand and that they appreciate all of her help.  This scene is shot as if from the point of view of someone (BOB?) hiding in the room and eavesdropping on the conversation.

Back at Harold’s house, Harry and Cooper are heading up the investigation into his apparent suicide.  While Hawk comes across the secret diary of Laura Palmer in the debris of Harold’s house, Cooper and Harry discover a note pinned to Harold’s body.  “J’ai un homme solitaire,” it reads.  I’m a lonely soul.  

At the Johnson House, Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) and Shelly (Madchen Amick) discover that, after paying bills and even with the insurance money, Shelly is only going to have $42 left over for the month.  Bobby and Shelly argue while Leo (Eric Da Re) sits at the table with oatmeal on his chin.  Leo suddenly starts yells.  “He’s alive!” Shelly screams.  “New shoes,” Leo says.

At the Great Northern, Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) tells Ben that she knows all about One-Eyed Jack’s.  She tells Ben that she saw him there.  “Remember Prudence?  I wore a little white mask.”  After trying to play dumb, Ben admits that he owned One-Eyed Jack’s for five years but he denies ever encouraging Laura to work there.  Audrey also gets Ben to admit that he had an affair with Laura.

“Did you kill her?” Audrey asks.

“I loved her,” Ben replies.

At the diner, Shelly tells Norma (Peggy Lipton) that she’s going to have to quit her job so that she can take care of Leo.  Norma tells Shelly that it’s okay and that her job will still be there whenever Shelly is able to return.  They have a sweet moment, that it is ruined when Ed (Everett McGill) and Nadine (Wendy Robie) enter the diner.  Nadine still thinks that she is a teenager and Ed is supporting her delusion by telling her that her parents are in Europe and that Norma has only been working at the diner for six months.

At the Johnson house, Bobby and the other Mike (Gary Hershberger) taunt Leo.  Bobby has figured out that “new shoes” refers to Leo’s boots so he and Mike rip them apart, searching for drugs.  Instead, they find a small audio tape hidden under the sole.

At the sheriff’s department, Cooper goes through the shredded remains of Laura’s diary.  He tells “Diane” that he has found repeated references to BOB, littered throughout the diary.  Laura wrote that BOB was a friend of her father’s and, two days before death, Laura wrote, “Someday, I am going to tell the world about Ben Horne.”

At that exact moment, Audrey steps into the conference room.  She tells Cooper about her conversation with her father, revealing that Ben and Laura were having an affair and that Ben owned One-Eyed Jack’s.  Cooper tells her not to say a word about this to anyone and sends her home.  Obviously, Cooper feels that he may have just discovered the identity of Laura’s killer.  Cooper tells Harry that they need a warrant.  “A warrant for the arrest of Benjamin Horne.”

That night, at the Great Northern, Ben is talking to Mr. Tojamura and happily agreeing to accept Tojamura’s proposal to invest in the Ghostwood Development.  Just as Tojamura hands over a contract for Ben’s signature, Harry, Cooper, Hawk, and Andy enter the office.  Harry orders Ben to come with them.  He’s wanted for questioning in the murder of Laura Palmer.  When Ben tells them to leave, Hawk and Andy grab him and drag him out of the office.

Handcuffed but defiant, Ben is taken to the station and deposited in a holding cell.  As Harry and Cooper watch Ben being led off, the Log Lady (Catherine Coulson) appears behind them.

“We don’t know what will happen or when,” the Log Lady says, “but there are owls in the Roadhouse.”

At the Martell house, Mr. Tojamura meets with Pete (Jack Nance) and it is revealed, just as Lisa Marie predicted three episodes ago, that Mr. Tojamura is actually Catherine (Piper Laurie) in disguise!

At this point, there’s only 15 minutes left in this episode.  These 15 minutes are some of the most intense in the history of television.  Suffused in dread and danger, these 15 minutes constitute David Lynch at his absolute best.

At the Palmer house, Sarah crawls down the stairs, in the throes of another vision.  Lying on the floor, Sarah sees a white horse standing in the middle of the living room.  The horse vanishes and Sarah passes out.  Suddenly, Leland is standing in the living room, staring at himself in the mirror.  He ignores Sarah.

At this point, everyone watching the show says, “Oh shit, something terrible is going to happen.”

At the Roadhouse, Julee Cruise sings an upbeat song.  Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) meets with James (James Marshall).  Donna is feeling guilty over Harold’s suicide.  James says that it wasn’t anyone’s fault.  He says that Harold was a sick man.

“Everybody’s hurt inside,” James said and I’d make the obvious REM joke but, right now, I’m too worried about what is about to happen at the Palmer house.

Cooper, Harry, and the Log Lady step into the Roadhouse, searching for the owls.  They grab a table and watch Julee Cruise.

“Tell your heart, don’t let me die,” Julee sings.

There’s a shot of the dead Harold Smith (Lenny von Dohlen) bartending.  It’s such a quick shot that I had to go back and make sure that it was actually him.

Suddenly, everyone but Cooper freezes.  Julee Cruise disappears.  The Giant stands on stage and looks directly out at Cooper.

“It is happening again,” the Giant says.

Everyone watching the show says, “Oh, shit!”

At the Palmer house, Leland stares at himself in the mirror but — HOLY SHIT! — it is BOB (Frank Silva) who he sees reflected back at him.  Leland smiles.  His face turns into the laughing BOB and then transforms back into smiling Leland.

Leland looks towards the front door.  He reaches into his suit and pulls out rubber gloves.

Maddy runs downstairs, shouting that it smells like something’s burning.  She sees Sarah lying on the floor and Leland staring at her.  Leland turns into BOB and then turns back into Leland.  Maddy runs screaming from the room and Leland chases after her.

The next four minutes of this episode, in which Maddy is murdered by Leland/BOB, are among the most nightmarish that I have ever seen.  Even by the standards of 2017, it is a shocking scene and I can only imagine how people in 1990 reacted.  While attacking and killing Maddy, Leland and Bob constantly switch places.  Leland sobs while Bob laughs.  While Maddy struggles to breathe, Leland holds her body and dances in a circle with her.  “Laura,” he moans.  The BOB who Laura wrote was molesting her was never a friend of her father.  Instead, BOB was her father.  Even though I knew it was coming and what was going to happen, rewatching this scene for this recap still left me feeling emotionally drained.

Sheryl Lee, Frank Silva, and Ray Wise are all amazing in this scene.  Three version of this scene were filmed.  One featured BOB chasing Maddy while another featured Leland attacking her.  The final scene was created by editing those two scenes together.  The third version, which was filmed just as a decoy, featured Ben attacking Maddy.  According to David Lynch, Richard Beymer was relieved to later discover that he was not actually playing the murderer but Ray Wise was very upset by both what he had to do in the scene and the revelation that Leland had been a child molester.

After killing her by smashing her into a picture frame, Leland places an O underneath Maddy’s fingernail.

At the Roadhouse, the Giant still stares at Cooper.  Finally, he vanishes.  Julee Cruise is back and singing a much more somber song.

The same elderly waiter (Hank Worden) from the Great Northern approaches Cooper’s table.  “I’m so sorry,” he says.

Sitting at the bar, the previously unseen Bobby starts to cry.  At her table, Donna starts to cry.  On stage, Julee Cruise cries.  Everyone knows that it has happened again, even if they do not know what it is.

Cooper stares into the distance as the scene fades into a shot of the red drapes.

It has been nearly 27 years since this episode was originally broadcast.  It is Twin Peaks at both its best and most disturbing.

Tomorrow, Lisa will review the 8th episode of season 2, Drive With A Dead Girl.

Previous Entries in The TSL’s Look At Twin Peaks:

  1. Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland
  2. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 — The Pilot (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  3. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.2 — Traces To Nowhere (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  4. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.3 — Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  5. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) by Leonard Wilson
  6. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.5 “The One-Armed Man” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Jedadiah Leland
  7. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.6 “Cooper’s Dreams” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  8. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  9. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.8 “The Last Evening” (directed by Mark Frost) by Leonard Wilson
  10. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.1 “May the Giant Be With You” (dir by David Lynch) by Leonard Wilson
  11. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.2 “Coma” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  12. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.3 “The Man Behind The Glass” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Jedadiah Leland
  13. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.4 “Laura’s Secret Diary” (dir by Todd Holland) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  14. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.5 “The Orchid’s Curse” (dir by Graeme Clifford) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  15. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.6 “Demons” (dir by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson

 

Happy Easter! And Happy Birthday to Some Famous Stars!


cracked rear viewer

Today is Easter Sunday, a time for reflection and renewal for those in the Christian faith celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. It’s a time for family dinners and Easter egg hunts, but this year Easter also falls on the birthday of some classic film and pop culture stars.

It’s the birthday of one of the most famous and influential figures in movie history, Charlie Chaplin…

and the marvelous Peter Ustinov…

Three Stooges leading lady Christine MacIntyre…

A CHRISTMAS STORY star Peter Billingsley…

actress/singer Edie Adams…

British Invasion pop star Dusty Springfield…

Bowery Boy and perennial movie messenger boy Billy Benedict…

F TROOP’s “Wrangler Jane” Melody Patterson…

wrestling superstar George “The Animal” Steele…

New England Patriots head coach Bill Bellichick…

Oh yeah, and me, your humble Cracked Rear Viewer! Enjoy your Easter celebration, and happy birthday to all that share this birthday date with me.

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Orphan Black: Extended Trailer


orphanblackYou all know I love Orphan Black as much as anyone! And I literally just bounced up and down off my seat when I saw the new trailer during BBCA new show ClassDW!

From the Orphan Black YT page:

The clone sisterhood has been through it all together. From assassinations, detrimental illnesses, monitors and accidental murders to suburban drug fronts, kidnappings, male clones and biological warfare – there isn’t anything thBlis lot hasn’t experienced. But through it all, they’ve remained united in their love and mission to keep each other safe at all costs. They’ve sacrificed their families, the loves of their lives, and any true sense o
ors and accidental murders to suburban drug fronts, kidnappings, male clones and biological warfare – there isn’t anything thBlis lot hasn’t experienced. But through it all, they’ve remained united in their love and mission to keep each other safe at all costs. They’ve sacrificed their families, the loves of their lives, and any true sense of normalcy, all for the chance to liberate themselves from forces much bigger than any one of them. This season, they must all fight for the family they’ve chosen, for a new future and ultimately, for freedom.

Orphan Black extended trailer can be seen here!

Okay, this was a bit exciting to me! And I can not wait until #CloneClub is back on June 10th!

Film Review: Jesus Christ Superstar (dir by Norman Jewison)


The 1973 film, Jesus Christ Superstar, opens with a desert in Israel.  All is still.  All is quiet.  Suddenly, we see a cloud of dust in the distance.  A bus is speeding through the desert and the music on the soundtrack explodes with a sudden urgency.

The bus comes to a stop and we notice that there’s a big cross tied to the top of it.  The doors open and suddenly — oh my God, it’s hundreds of hippies!  American hippies In Israel!  They’re climbing off the bus, one after another.  Some of them are being tossed sub machine guns.  Another gets a whip.  One of them puts on a purple robe and looks like he is slightly disturbed.  Others are dressed in black.  Makeup is applied.  Everyone’s having a great time.  One heavy-set fellow, with frizzy hair, climbs to the top of the bus and sits down on a throne.  He watches as everyone else pulls down the cross.  One long-haired man, who was never seen leaving the bus, is suddenly among the hippies.  He’s dressed in white and everyone is suddenly bowing before him.

Well, almost everyone.  One of the bus’s passengers, a serious-looking man (Carl Anderson), has walked away from the hippies.  From a safe distance, he looks back at them and he seems to be as confused by all of this as we are.

Why is everyone in the desert?  That’s relatively easy to explain.  They’re performing a Passion Play.  Carl Anderson is playing Judas.  The man in white is Ted Neeley.  Whether he is meant to be an actor playing Jesus or Jesus himself is a question that the movie leaves for you to decide.  We never see him get off the bus and, perhaps more importantly, we don’t see him get on the bus at the end.

(Just you watch.  I’ll mention that Jesus gets crucified at the end of this movie and someone will pop up in the comments and say, “How about a spoiler alert?”)

Hmmm…religion and hippies.  Those are two things that, in the past, I have definitely had issues with.  In fact, you would totally be justified in assuming that I would hate Jesus Christ Superstar.  And yet, I don’t.  I actually rather like it.

True, there are some things that make me cringe.  The sound of all the disciples singing, “What’s the buzz, tell me what’s a happening?” always makes me shudder and say, “Oh my God, this is so 1973!”  A scene where Judas suddenly finds himself being chased through the desert by a modern tank is just a bit too on-the-nose.  Finally, I understand that Ted Neeley’s stage performance as Jesus is highly acclaimed but, to me, his performance in this film will always be known as the Screaming Jesus.  Too often, it’s obvious that Neeley is still performing as if he’s on stage and has to project to the back row.  It’s interesting to compare him to Carl Anderson, who also played Judas on stage but who, in the movie, gives a performance that is powerful specifically because it’s a cinematic performance, as opposed to a stage performance.

But, even with all that in mind, there’s so much about this movie that works.  Based on the rock opera by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jesus Christ Superstar is definitely a product of its time, serving as a time machine for amateur historians like me.  (Then again, I guess you could say that about any movie the opens with hippies driving a school bus across Israel.)  Sometimes, the lyrics are a bit obvious but the songs still stick around in your head.  And it’s not just Carl Anderson who gives a good performance.  Yvonne Elliman, Josh Mostel, Bob Bingham, Larry Marshall, Barry Dennen — they all contribute strong work, both musically and otherwise.

And then there’s the big Simon Zealotes/Poor Jerusalem production number:

There’s several reasons I love this scene but mostly it just comes down to the fact that it captures the explosive energy that comes from watching a live performance.  Larry Marshall (who plays Simon Zealotes) has one of the most fascinating faces that I’ve ever seen in a film and when he performs, he performs as if the fate of the entire world depends on it.  As previously stated, I’ve never been sold on Ted Neely’s performance as Jesus but Carl Anderson burns with charisma in the role of Judas.

Mostly, however, I just love the choreography and watching the dancers.  I guess that’s not that surprising considering just how important dance was (and still is, even if I’m now just dancing for fun) in my life but, to be honest, I’m probably one of the most hyper critical people out there when it comes to dance in film, regarding both the way that it’s often choreographed and usually filmed.  But this scene is probably about as close to perfect in both regards as I’ve ever seen.  It goes beyond the fact that the dancers obviously have a lot of energy and enthusiasm and that they all look good while dancing.  The great thing about the choreography in this scene is that it all feels so spontaneous.  There’s less emphasis on technical perfection and more emphasis on capturing emotion and thought through movement.  What I love is that the number is choreographed to make it appear as if not all of the dancers in this scene are on the exact same beat.  Some of them appear to come in a second or two late, which is something that would have made a lot of my former teachers and choreographers scream and curse because, far too often, people become so obsessed with technical perfection that they forget that passion is just as important as perfect technique.  (I’m biased, of course, because I’ve always been more passionate than perfect.)  The dancers in this scene have a lot of passion and it’s thrilling to watch.

Beyond that, there’s the insane burlesque of Josh Mostel’s performance as Herod and Barry Dennen’s neurotic interpretation of Pilate.  There’s Yvonne Elliman’s performance of I Don’t Know How To Love Him.  There’s that famous closing shot, a happy accident that was achieved when a shepherd just happened to wander past the camera.

And, of course, there’s this:

The performance above pretty much sums up the appeal of Jesus Christ Superstar.  It’s both ludicrous and powerful at the same time.

I know there’s some debate as to whether Jesus Christ Superstar is sincere or sacrilegious.  In college, there was this girl in my dorm who started the semester as a pagan, spent a month as an evangelical, and then ended the semester as a pagan again.  When she was going through her evangelical phase, she would listen to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack constantly.  Seriously.  24 hours a day.  7 days a week.  After three days, I was sick of hearing it.  I found myself wondering if anyone had ever been driven to murder over having to listen to Heaven On Their Minds one too many times.  Fortunately, something happened to cause her to once again lose her faith and she went back to listening to Fall Out Boy.

I don’t think that, as conceived by Rice and Lloyd Webber, Jesus Christ Superstar is in any way sacrilegious.  At the same time, it does have a potentially subversive streak to it.  This is especially true of the film version.  At times, director Norman Jewison seems to be almost deliberately parodying the excesses of more conventional religious films.  Instead of spending millions to recreate the ancient world, Jesus Christ Superstar uses ruins and desert.  Instead of featuring ornate costumes, Jesus Christ Superstar features Roman soldiers who wear pink tank tops.  Ultimately, Jesus Christ Superstar reveres Jesus but dismisses the conventions of both organized Christianity and epic filmmaking.  Judah Ben-Hur would not have known what to do with himself if he wandered onto the set of Jesus Christ Superstar.

It’s over the top, silly, ludicrous, and ultimately rather powerful.  Jesus Christ Superstar is a film that shouldn’t work and yet it does.