“Nurture The Devil” : A Stroll Through The Dark Garden Of Jess Johnson’s Id

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Any comic that sticks in your brain for 23 years surely must have done something right, would you not agree?

Not that the images and ideas put forth in Jess (then Jeff) Johnson’s short-lived 1994 Fantagraphics series, Nurture The Devil, have always been a welcome guest in my brain. A heady and disorienting mix of body horror, psychosexual pathology, gender identity confusion, and barely-restrained confessional, this largely-(and sadly-) forgotten late entry into the “single-creator anthology” mini-boom that was already starting to see its ranks thinned considerably by the time these three issues expelled themselves from the darkest corners of their creator’s subconscious in 1994 leaves a stain as indelible as the deeply-saturated inks that every panel on their pages is awash — hell, drowning — in. I don’t know of other way to put it : some things you just can’t “un-see.”

Knowing what we know now about Johnson’s…

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A Movie A Day #245: The Missouri Breaks (1976, directed by Arthur Penn)

After Tom Logan (Jack Nicholson) and his gang of rustlers (played by Randy Quaid, Frederic Forrest, and Harry Dean Stanton) rob a train, Logan uses the money to buy a small ranch.  Their new neighbor is Braxton (John McLiam), a haughty land baron who considers himself to be an ambassador of culture to the west but who is not above hanging rustlers and hiring gunmen.  One such gunman is the eccentric Robert E. Lee Clayton (Marlon Brando), a “regulator” who speaks in a possibly fake Irish brogue, is a master of disguise, and uses a variety of hand-made weapons.  Braxton hires Clayton to kill Logan and his men, despite the fact that his daughter (Kathleen Lloyd) has fallen in love with Logan.

A flop that was so notorious that it would be five years before Arthur Penn got a chance to direct another film, The Missouri Breaks is best remembered for Marlon Brando’s bizarre performance.  Brando reportedly showed up on the set late and insisted on largely improvising his part, which meant speaking in a comical Irish accent, singing an impromptu love song to his horse, and disguising himself as an old woman for one key scene.  (According to Patrick McGilligan’s Jack’s Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson, co-star Harry Dean Stanton grew so incensed at Brando’s behavior that he actually tried to rip the dress off of Brando, saying that he simply would not be “killed’ by a man wearing a dress.)  Brando’s later reputation for being a disastrously weird performer largely started with the stories of his behavior on the set of The Missouri Breaks.

I had heard so many bad things about Brando and The Missouri Breaks that I was surprised when I finally watched it and discovered that it is actually a pretty good movie.  For all of his notoriety, Brando does not enter this leisurely paced and elegiac western until after half a hour.  The majority of the movie is just about Jack Nicholson and his gang, with Nicholson giving a low-key and surprisingly humorous performance that contrasts well with Brando’s more flamboyant work.  While Arthur Penn may not have been able to control Brando, he still deftly combines moments of comedy with moments of drama and he gets good performances from most of the supporting cast.  Quaid, Stanton, Forrest, and Nicholson are all just fun to watch and the rambling storyline provides plenty of time to get to know them.  Whenever Brando pushes the movie too close to self-parody, Nicholson pulls it back.   The Missouri Breaks may have been a flop when it was released but it has aged well.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #169: My Baby Is Gone! (dir by Steve Bacic)

Last Monday, I watched the Lifetime premiere movie, My Baby Is Gone!  I should have reviewed it on Tuesday but, to be honest, I spent all of last week trying to figure out if Carrie was actually Laura Palmer and if Dale Cooper ever actually escaped the Black Lodge or not.  So, this review is a week late and for that, I apologize even though I think anyone who would require an apology is kind of a jerk.

Why Was I Watching It?

Seriously, what’s been going on with Lifetime lately?  It used to be that every Saturday night saw the premiere of a new Lifetime film.  Live tweeters across the country would look forward to every new Lifetime film.  We transformed several of those films into trending topics.  We did our part.

But, for some reason, this year has seen a different Lifetime.  More often than not, Lifetime airs an old movie on Saturday and saves the premiere for Sunday.  Sorry, Lifetime.  I love you but if I have to choose between a new movie and Twin Peaks, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, The Deuce, Big Brother, and almost everything else that I can watch on Sunday night, anything that Lifetime premieres on Sunday is probably going to end up sitting on my DVR for a while before I actually watch it.

However, My Baby is Gone! did not premiere on Sunday.  It premiered on Labor Day, so, for the first time in what seemed like forever, I was actually able to watch and live tweet the movie as it aired.  Seriously, Lifetime, get it together.  Nobody wants to watch a Lifetime premiere on Sunday.

What Was It About?

Emily (Elisabeth Harnois) is 8 months pregnant.  Her husband (Ryan S Williams) seems to be a good guy but he works too hard and sometimes, he misses Emily’s checkups.  Her best friend (Nicole LaPlaca) is supportive but she also works with Emily’s husband so, of course, it’s reasonable to assume that they’re probably sleeping together.  This is a Lifetime movie, after all.  After you’ve seen enough Lifetime movies, you know there’s no way that men and women can ever just be co-workers.

(Unless, of course, they’re cops.  In that case, they’re just ineffectual and inevitably end up arresting the wrong person.)

Luckily, someone new has moved in across the street!  Kelly (Anna van Hooft) is super-friendly and helpful and — oh my God! — she’s eight months pregnant too!  Kelly says that she’s just staying in the house until her aunt returns.  What no one knows, of course, is that Kelly’s actually got her aunt tied up in the basement.

Oh, and it turns out that Kelly isn’t really pregnant, either.  She’s just wearing a fake belly.  It’s actually kind of obvious but, at first, everyone just takes Kelly at her word.

Soon, Kelly is drawing Emily away from her husband and her best friend.  She even convinces Emily to decorate the nursery with flamingos instead of butterflies!

What could Kelly’s nefarious plan be?

What Worked?

Uhmm… I’m thinking about it…

Actually, I had a lot of fun live tweeting this film.  My Baby is Gone! is one of those movies that literally brings out the best in a snarky audience.  There’s just so many implausible developments and none of the characters are likely to be mistaken for a member of Mensa.  It’s a fun movie to watch if you’re looking for an excuse to spend two hours wondering how people can be so stupid.

Anna Van Hooft did a great job as Kelly.  If you’re going to play a character who is batshit crazy in a Lifetime film, you might as well go all out.  When you’re in a movie with a title like My Baby is Gone!, the time for subtlety is over.

What Did Not Work?

Even by the standards of Lifetime, the plot was just too implausible to work.  I mean, the whole fake belly thing was a lot more convincing when it used in A Deadly Adoption.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

My favorite character was Pam (Amelia Burstyn), who was Emily’s doctor’s administrative assistant and who showed absolutely no hesitation about sharing the details of another patient’s visit.  It may not have been the best example of professional ethics but sometimes, you have to break the rules.

Lessons Learned

Butterflies are better than flamingos.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #168: A Lover Betrayed (dir by Jeff Hare)

Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime premiere movie, A Lover Betrayed!

Why Was I Watching It?

Ennui, baby!

Seriously, ennui is the best explanation that I can give you.  For the past two and a half months, my weekend has been about watching the latest episode of Twin Peaks and then trying to figure out what it all meant.  Well, Twin Peaks is over now.  Game of Thrones is over.  The Walking Dead isn’t going to be back for another week or so.   Big Brother is still on but all the other TSL writers got together, took a vote, and banned me from discussing it on this site.


Plus, A Lover Betrayed was on the Lifetime Movie Network and you know that i can never resist a good Lifetime film.

What Was It About?

It was about a lover who was betrayed.

Oh, you already figured that out just from reading the title?

Okay, more specifically, the lover is Tess (Jamie Luner).  Tess used to be a guidance counselor but then she found out that the principal at her school was a perv.  She got him fired so, of course, he showed up at her house with a gun.  He committed suicide but first, he fired the gun randomly at the ceiling, which led to Tess’s son, Mason, getting killed.

Years later, Tess is an internationally renowned blogger and author, who helps grieving parents deal with the loss of their children.  She is separated from Rodger, who has never emotionally recovered from the death of their son.  At a reading, she meets Conall, a handsome young soldier who says that her blog helped him recover after the death of his father.  Conall and Tess end up sharing one night of passion but, because this is a Lifetime movie, Rodger shows up the very next morning and says that he wants to fix their relationship.

Not surprisingly, Conall turns out to be a bit obsessive but there’s more to it than just the typical Lifetime stalking movie.  There’s all sorts of twists and turns, which I won’t spoil here…

What Worked

I was so proud of myself because, last night, I figured out the movie’s big twist after watching for about 30 minutes.  That doesn’t mean that it’s not a good twist.  It just means that I got lucky.  In fact, I thought it was actually a pretty clever twist and I appreciated the fact that the movie didn’t spring it of nowhere.  The clues were there and, for once, I actually managed to pick up on them.

Lifetime regular Jamie Luner did a good job as Tess.  She’s been in a lot of these movies and obviously knows how to sincerely deliver even the most melodramatic lines of dialogue.

What Did Not Work

Oh my God, this was a dark movie.  For a Lifetime movie, I would actually say that it was a little bit too dark.  Lifetime movies are supposed to be fun but, at times, this one was actually rather depressing.  Even when the movie reached a standard Lifetime conclusion, I was still like, “Damn …. Tess is going to be messed up for a long time….”

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Tess’s sister was a gun-toting badass.  My sister is a gun-toting badass.  Woo hoo!

Lessons Learned

Trust no one!

Music Video of the Day: I Only Want To Be With You by The Tourists (1979, dir. Brian Grant)

Did you ever want to see what Annie Lennox would look like if she wanted to join Jem and the Holograms? You can, and it’s in this video.

The Tourists was the group that both Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox were in prior to becoming Eurythmics.

I love Stewart’s mustache, and I’m so glad he grew out a full beard for Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of These) instead of keeping it.

Despite only being around for a couple of years, they released three albums and a bunch singles. This cover of Dusty Springfield’s I Only Want To Be With You being one of them.

According to Wikipedia, they broke up one year after this in 1980 after getting signed to RCA Records the same year. Apparently guitarist and bassist Peet Coombes and Eddie Chin, respectively, went off to do their own thing which fizzled out. Stewart and Lennox decided to keep their contract with RCA, and Eurythmics was born.

Aside from Stewart’s mustache and Annie looking like rainbow sherbet, my favorite part of this video is that it is directed by Brian Grant. If mvdbase is to be believed, then 9 years later he directed Samantha Fox’s cover of the same song.

I can believe it. The person who would randomly insert Eddie Chin with what looks like a whip…

seems like the kind of person who would have somebody popup out of a trash can to pull Samantha Fox in.

I Only Wanna Be With You by Samantha Fox

I Only Wanna Be With You by Samantha Fox

I’ll have to do that crazy video at some point. After playing her sexuality straight for so many videos, they decided to still put that at the forefront, but do it comically.