Lisa’s Week In Review: 1/1/18 — 1/7/18


What’s This?

Hi there!  Welcome to Lisa’s Week In Review.  This year, on Monday, I’m going to post everything that I watched, read, and listened to during the previous week.  Since I love to make lists, I’m hoping that this will encourage me to see more, read more, and listen to more this year than I did last year!

I’m happy that 2017 started on Monday, which is also the start of the week.  I like it when things are neat and orderly like that.  For the first three days of 2018, the temperatures in DFW were below freezing though, unlike the rest of the country, we didn’t get any snow or ice.  Around Wednesday, the temperature got up above 32 degrees and the last few days have actually been wonderfully pleasant.  Of course, I spent most of the week lying on the couch with a cold.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s my week in review!

Movies I Watched:

  1. The Bachelor Next Door (2017)
  2. Blood, Sweat, and Lies (2018)
  3. Cast A Deadly Spell (1991)
  4. Cradle Swapping (2017)
  5. Dazed and Confused (1993)
  6. Deadly Exchange (2017)
  7. Dr. No (1962)
  8. From Russia With Love (1963)
  9. Goldfinger (1964)
  10. Honey 3: Dare to Dance (2016)
  11. Insidious: The Last Key (2018)
  12. The Love-Ins (1967)
  13. Neverknock (2017)
  14. Psycho Brother-in-Law (2017)
  15. Psycho In-Law (2017)
  16. Psycho Wedding Crasher (2017)
  17. Riot on the Sunset Strip (1967)
  18. The Sandman (2017)
  19. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (2008)
  20. Stage Fright (2017)
  21. Stickman (2017)
  22. A Tale of Two Coreys (2018)
  23. Tiny House of Terror (2017)
  24. Thunderball (1965)
  25. What a Girl Wants (2004)
  26. The Wrong Mother (2017)

TV Shows I Watched

(For whatever reason, I watched a lot of true crime last week.)

  1. 2018 Winter Olympic Trials
  2. 60 Days In
  3. The 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards
  4. The Amazing Race 30
  5. American Justice
  6. American Monster
  7. The Bachelor 22 — I usually stop watching The Bachelor once all the crazy people get kicked off the show.
  8. Betrayed
  9. Cheaters
  10. Dance Moms
  11. Dead Silent
  12. Degrassi
  13. Dr. Phil
  14. Evil Lives Here
  15. Full House
  16. Hell’s Kitchen 17
  17. Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda
  18. House Hunters
  19. Intervention
  20. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia — For the record, I laughed so hard at the episode where Frank and Dee got a job selling knives door-to-door that I literally fell off of my couch.
  21. King of the Hill
  22. Last Call With Carson Daly
  23. Model Killers
  24. Murder in the Heartland
  25. My Evil Sister — I had to make Erin watch this with me.
  26. The Office — The Prison Mike episode.
  27. People Magazine Investigates
  28. Project Runway All-Stars
  29. Saved By The Bell
  30. Shattered
  31. The Twilight Zone — SyFy always does a Twilight Zone marathon on January 1st.
  32. Twin Peaks: The Return
  33. U.S. Figure Skating Championships
  34. The X-Files
  35. Your Worst Nightmare

Books I Read

(I’m ashamed to say that, over the course of last week, I watched over 60 different movies and TV shows but I only read two books.  This will change in the future.)

  1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953) — I found a copy of this at Half-Price Books last week.  The copy that I found once belonged to a student named Ashley and she filled the margins with notes about her friends Taylor and Sidney.  At the start of the book, they were best friends.  About halfway through, she suddenly hated both of them but, by the end of the book, they were friends again.  Yay!
  2. You’re Ok, Your Cat’s Ok: How to Establish A Meaningful Relationship With Your Cat by Marcus Schenk and Jill Caravan (1992) — This book is full of helpful hints on how to get along with your cat.  Of course, it’s also full of pictures of cute kitties, which is the main reason we own it.

Music I Listened To

  1. Amy Winehouse
  2. Anders Nilsen
  3. Armin van Buuren
  4. Avicii
  5. Big Data
  6. Blanck Mass
  7. Bob Dylan
  8. Britney Spears
  9. Calvin Harris
  10. Chappell Roan
  11. Charli XCX
  12. The Chemical Brothers
  13. Cindy Alma
  14. Coldplay
  15. Daft Punk
  16. Dillon Francis
  17. Donots
  18. Elle King
  19. Fitz and the Tantrums
  20. Ghastly
  21. Gerry Rafferty
  22. Icona Pop
  23. Jakalope
  24. Jeff Buckley
  25. Lindsay Cardy
  26. Lindey Stirling
  27. Martin Garrix
  28. Nghtmre
  29. P!nk
  30. Rebecca & Fiona
  31. The Shelters
  32. Steve Aoki
  33. Superorganism
  34. Taylor Swift
  35. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs
  36. The White Stripes

 

Links From Last Week

(These are blog posts that I saw last week that I’m recommending you check out.)

  1. In honor of National Take A Poet To Lunch Day, I shared my favorite poem at SyFyDesigns.
  2. From the Ferguson Theater, Derrick Ferguson shares his picks for the best films of 2017.
  3. From Musings Of A Classic Film Addict, a tribute to the late Peggy Cummins.
  4. On the World’s Common Tater, Tater shared his year in reading for 2017.
  5. On Film Grimoire, Anna shared her top ten songs of 2017, something I’ll be doing on this site during the upcoming week.
  6. On Ted Book, Ted shares a story about how Amy Winehouse inspired him to reopen his site.
  7. From the Daily Grindhouse, here’s a review of a book about Christmas horrors on tv and in the movies.
  8. Janika, a member of the Late Night Movie Gang, writes about watching Cast A Deadly Spell with us and several other things.
  9. Here’s a poem from John Coyote.
  10. On the Immortal Jukebox, Thom Hickey goes on the radio.
  11. Over on her photography site, my sister Erin shared a picture of a squirrel getting ready for 2018.

On this site, be sure to check out:

  1. Patrick’s reviews of Driving While Black and House of Salem,
  2. Val’s picks for the 25 Best and Worst Things she saw last year,
  3. Erin’s picture for the New Year,
  4. Gary’s reviews of The Wild Angels, The Poseidon Adventure, and Willard,
  5. Jeff’s tribute to Isaac Asimov,
  6. Necromoonyeti’s Top 15 albums of 2017,
  7. Ryan’s thoughts on Cut Away Comics, Crust, and everything else he read last week!
  8. If I may brag on myself, check out my history of the men might have been Bond.

Have a great week everyone!

 

Playing Catch-Up With Four Biopics From 2017: All Eyez On Me, Maudie, A Quiet Passion, and Victoria and Abdul


Continuing with my efforts to get caught up on the major films that I saw in 2017, here are my reviews of four biopics!  Two of them are very good.  One of them is so-so.  And the other one … well, let’s just get to it…

All Eyez on Me (dir by Benny Boon)

All Eyez On Me is a movie that I think a lot of people had high hopes for.  It was a biopic about Tupac Shakur, who died over 20 years ago but remains one of the most influential artists of all time.  Starring Demetrius Shipp, Jr. (who, if nothing else, bore a strong physical resemblance to Tupac), All Eyez on Me followed Shakur from his youth as the son of activist Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira), through his early stardom, his political awakening, his time in prison, his eventual association with Suge Knight (Dominic L. Santana), and his still unsolved murder in Las Vegas.  Along the way all of the expected people pop up.  Kat Graham plays Jada Pinkett and tells Tupac that he’s wasting his talent.  Someone who looks nothing like Dr. Dre is introduced as being Dr. Dre.  Another actor wanders through a scene and says his name is Snoop Dogg.  The film last 2 hours and 20 minutes, with some scenes feeling oddly rushed while other drag on interminably.

The main reason why All Eyez On Me fails is that, unlike Straight Outta Compton, All Eyez on Me never figures out how translate Tupac’s legacy into cinematic form.  For instance, when I watched Straight Outta Compton, I probably knew less about NWA than I knew about Tupac Shakur when I watched All Eyez On Me.  But then there was that scene where NWA performed “Fuck That Police” while surrounded by the police and, at that moment, I understood why NWA deserved their own movie.  There’s no comparable scene in All Eyez On Me, which gets so bogged down in going through the usual biopic motions that it never really comes to grips with why Tupac is such an iconic figure.  Combine that with some less than stellar performances and some amazingly awkward dialogue and the end result is a film that is massively disappointing.

Maudie (dir by Aisling Walsh)

Maudie tells the story of Maud Lewis, a Canadian woman who found fame as a painter despite suffering from crippling arthritis.  Working and living in a one-room house with her husband, a fisherman named Everett (Ethan Hawke), Maud Lewis’s paintings of flowers and birds eventually became so popular that one was even purchased by then-Vice President Richard Nixon.

Maudie is a very special movie, largely because of the incredibly moving performance of Sally Hawkins in the role of Maud.  As played by Hawkins, Maud may occasionally be meek but she never surrenders her dream to create something beautiful out the often harsh circumstances of her life.  Hawkins not only captures Maud’s physical struggles but she also captures (and makes compelling) the inner strength of this remarkable artist.  Ethan Hawke also gives a remarkable performance as the gruff Everett.  When you Everett first appears, you hate him.  But, as the film progresses, Hawke starts to show hints of a sensitive soul that’d hiding underneath all of his gruffnes.  In the end, Everett is as saved by Maud’s art as is Maud.

Directed by Aisling Walsh, this is a low-key but all together remarkable and touching film.  If Sally Hawkins wasn’t already certain to get an Oscar nomination for Shape of the Water, she would definitely deserve one for Maudie.

A Quiet Passion (dir by Terrence Davies)

You would be totally justified in assuming that this film, a biopic of poet Emily Dickinson, would have absolutely nothing in common with The Last Jedi.  However, believe it or not, they actually do have something very much in common.  They are both films that, on Rotten Tomatoes, scored high with critics and not so high with audiences.  When last I checked, it had a 93% critical score and a 51% audience score.

Well, you know what?  Who cares?  The idea that you can judge a film’s worth based on an arbitrary number is pure evil, anyway.

Personally, I’m not surprised to hear that audiences struggled with A Quiet Passion.  It’s a very challenging film, one that is more concerned with mood than with traditional narrative.  The film is much like Dickinson herself: dark, uncompromising, sharply funny, and, on the surface, unconcerned with what people might think.  Much as how Dickinson retreated into her Amherst home, the film retreats into Dickinson’s head.  It’s not always the most pleasant place to hide out but, at the same time, it’s so alive with creativity and filled with such a sharp wit that it’s tempting never to leave.

In the role of Emily, Cynthia Nixon gave one of the best performance of the year, bringing Emily to uncompromising life.  Neither the film not Nixon ever make the mistake of sentimentalizing Dickinson.  Her pain is just as real as her genius.  Ultimately, though, both Nixon’s performance and A Quiet Passion stands as a tribute to Emily’s own quiet passion.

Much like Emily Dickinson’s poetry, A Quiet Passion will be appreciated with time.

Victoria & Abdul (dir by Stephen Frears)

If there’s ever been a film that deserves to be known as “generic Oscar bait,” it’s Victoria & Abdul.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not a bad movie or anything like that.  Instead, it’s a very respectable film about Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and her servant, Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), an Indian Muslim.  While the rest of the royal court is scandalized by Victoria’s close relationship with the foreigner, Karim teaches the Queen about the Koran and encourages her to enjoy life.  The royal court is played by the usual collection of distinguished actors who always appear in movies like this: Simon Callow, Tom Pigott-Smith, and Michael Gambon.  Victoria’s heir is played by Eddie Izzard, which should tell you all you need to know about how the future Edward VII is portrayed.

As I said, it’s not a bad movie as much as it’s just not a very interesting one.  You know that Abdul and Victoria are going to become close.  You know that the Royal Court is going to be a bunch of snobs.  You know that Victoria is going to get a chance to express anti-colonial sentiments that she must surely never actually possessed.  Indeed, whenever the film tries to make any sort of larger statement, all of the characters suddenly start talking as if they’re from 2017 as opposed to the late 1800s.

This is the second time that Judi Dench has played Victoria.  Previously, she played the Queen in a film called Mrs. Brown, which was about Victoria’s friendship with a Scottish servant.  Apparently, Victoria got along well with servants.

 

 

Here’s What Won At The Golden Globes!


Check out the nominations here and the winners below!

Best Picture (Drama) — Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Picture (Comedy) — Lady Bird

Best Director — Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

Best Screenplay — Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Best Actor (Drama) — Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Best Actor (Comedy) — James Franco, The Disaster Artist

Best Actress (Drama) — Frances McDormand, Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Actress (Comedy) — Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Best Supporting Actor — Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Supporting Actress — Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Best Animated Feature Film — Coco

Best Foreign Language Film — In the Fade

Best Original Song — “The Is Me” from The Greatest Showman

Best Original Score — Alexandre Desplat, The Shape of Water

 

Cleaning Out The DVR: The Love-Ins (dir by Arthur Dreifuss)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 179 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on February 1st, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded the 1967 film, The Love-Ins, off of TCM on September 28th, 2017!)

“We now enter Haight Ashbury.  The promised land of the love movement.  The utopia of LSD…and now we take you to Golden Gate Park for a hippie love-in!”

— A San Francisco Tour Guide in The Love-Ins (1967)

I doubt I could ever be a hippie.  I don’t mind the drugs, the free love, or the music but the whole lack of showers and underwear would be too much for me.  Add to that, from what I’ve seen, it appears that whenever there was a hippie gathering, it would inevitably lead to the arrival of mimes and who wants to deal with that?  That said, I certainly do enjoy watching movies about hippies.

Take The Love-Ins for instance!

This 1967 film is all about hippies, or at the very least the popular perception of hippies.  There’s even a lengthy sequence that takes place at a hippie gathering in San Francisco.  While the hippies plays bongo drums, blow bubbles, dance, and stare at multi-colored umbrellas with stoned eyes, they’re watched by Jonathan Barnett (Richard Todd).  Barnett used to be a respected philosophy professor but then he resigned his teaching position in protest after two students were expelled for publishing an underground newspaper.  This led to Barnett appearing on a right-wing talk show where the antagonistic host told him that, if he loved the hippies so much, maybe he should got to Haight Ashbury and see how they really live.  Barnett does just that and it blows his mind!

Soon, Barnett has re-invented himself.  He’s now a psychedelic prophet, living in a commune with the expelled students and encouraging everyone to “Be more.  Sense more.  Love more.”  That doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “Tune in.  Turn On.  Drop out,” but it’s the same basic idea.  Soon, hippies from all over the country are flocking to Prof. Barnett, dropping LSD, and doing interpretive dances.  Not even the local outlaw bikers can stop Barnett from spreading his message.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for his newfound fame to go to Barnett’s head.  He soon stops listening to Larry (James MacArthur), the student whose expulsion started the whole movement, and instead surrounds himself with sycophants like Elliott (Mark Goddard).  Barnett goes from being an idealist to a messianic cult leader.  Soon, hippies are fighting in the streets, setting fired to newspaper they don’t like, and jumping out of windows.  (“LSD told him he could fly.  Gravity had different plans.”  No one actually said that in the movie but I wish they had.)  After discovering that his girlfriend (Susan Oliver) has been impregnated by Barnett, Larry realizes that he has to stop his former professor, one way or the other.

The Love-Ins was made by the same people responsible for Riot on Sunset Strip but, whereas Sunset Strip at least pretended to take an even-handed, documentary-like approach, The Love-Ins is a psychedelic freakout.  Whereas Sunset Strip features Mimsy Farmer taking LSD and then staring at her hand, The Love-Ins features Susan Oliver taking LSD, transforming into Alice in Wonderland, and then dancing with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.  And whereas Sunset Strip tried to be on the side of both the young and the old, The Love-Ins leaves little doubt that those hippies are no good!  (While Larry may be a the film’s hero, he looks like he would be more comfortable in the ROTC than at Woodstock.)  Barnett’s love-ins are revealed to be as choreographed as any political rally and, if there’s any doubt that he’s become a really bad guy, he even starts to perform impromptu wedding ceremonies.  “How dare you make a mockery of marriage!?”  an outraged observer shouts.

Seen today, the main value of The Love-Ins is a chance to see how many adults viewed the counter-culture and its leaders in 1967.  (Director Arthur Dreifuss was 60 when he directed this film and the film often views its young characters with the detachment of someone not sure of how close he can really get before being attacked.)  Of course, the main reason I liked The Love-Ins was because of the psychedelic dance scenes.  (Though no one’s going to mistake this film for another Face in the Crowd, I also enjoyed some of the film’s satiric jabs at the cult of celebrity, which was apparently just as big in 1967 as it is in 2018.)  It’s definitely a film of its time, though whether or not the people involved with the movie actually understood their time is another issue all together.

Cleaning Out The DVR: Riot on Sunset Strip (dir Arthur Dreifuss)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 180 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on February 1st, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded the 1967 film, Riot on Sunset Strip, off of TCM on September 28th, 2017!)

“Dig that scene!”

That’s a line that’s heard more than once in Riot on Sunset Strip, a film that’s all about digging that scene.

In this case, the scene is Hollywood’s Sunset Strip in 1966.  All the kids are going to the clubs and dancing to that strange rock and roll music.  Protesters are walking up and down the sidewalk, carrying signs that carry radical messages like: “Be Nice” and “Make Peace.”  (As far as I could tell, no one had a “Join the Conversation” sign.)  Some of the so-called “long hairs” are wearing red armbands to show that they are a member of the counter-culture police force, determined to keep peace on the Strip.  Meanwhile, the real police are a constant presence.  There’s a 10 o’clock curfew for anyone under the age of 18 and if the cops catch you, you’re going to the station where your parents will be called and your mom will probably freak out over the length of your skirt.  The kids want the police to change their attitude.  The local business owners — the ones who don’t own a club and who all look like they might be related to Dwight Eisenhower — want the police to get even more aggressive.

Stuck in the middle of it all is the local police captain, Walt Lormier (Aldo Ray).  Sure, Walt might be a member of the establishment, with his neckties and his J. Edgar Hoover haircut.  But Walt knows that the kids aren’t all bad.  Sure, their music sounds like noise to him.  And some of the boys may wear their hair a little bit longer than Walt thinks they should.  (In some scenes, it’s easy to imagine Walt thinking, “That haircut would have gotten you shot if you’d been in my unit in Korea…”)  But mostly, Walt wants to keep peace.  He’s even willing to meet with one of the protesters and listen to his concerns.

“Are you in college?” Walt asks the protester.

“Third year,” the protester replies, “Straight A’s.”

Of course, what Walt doesn’t realize is that his own daughter, Andy (Mismy Farmer, before she relocated to Italy), is one of the kids who is hanging out on the strip!  Of course, it’s been a while since he’s seen Andy.  Walt is divorced from Andy’s mother and says he really isn’t even sure where either Andy or his ex-wife lives now.  Of course, we know that they’re living in a shack, one that has only one room and where wet clothes are hung from the ceiling so that they can dry.  Andy’s mom is always drunk.  Can you blame Andy for wanting to spend all of her time on the Strip?

Of course, not everyone on the Strip is as reasonable as a third year college student.  Some of the kids actually are bad.  One of them slips Andy LSD, which leads to Andy staring at her hand and then doing an interpretive dance at a house party.  After discovering that his drugged daughter has been raped, Walt attacks her three rapists, which leads to the riot promised by the title.  Being a good middle-of-the-road liberal, Walt realizes that he now has to make amends with the good kids but can he stop things before they get out of control?  After all, those protesters are already passing out signs…

Based on an actual event. Riot on Sunset Strip is a real time capsule of a film.  Regardless of whether the film itself is any good or not, it’s worth watching as just a reflection of the time in which it was made.  Like a lot of the “social problem” films made in the mid-60s, it deals with a very real issue and then resolutely refuses to come down on either side.  Older viewers could watch Mimsy Farmer freaking out on LSD and say, “See, that’s why we need a curfew!”  Younger viewers could look at Andy’s drunk mother and the parents picking up their children at the station and say, “See, that’s why we need to burn down the establishment and move to Cuba!”  In the end, the film declares that the kids are all right except for the ones that aren’t.  Ultimately, it’s all the parents’ fault except for the parents who aren’t at fault.

(That said, I imagine that any truly committed 60s revolutionary would have rolled their eyes at the way they were portrayed in the film.  The protesters and their signs automatically made me think about the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial.)

Seen today, the main thing that I noticed about Riot on Sunset Strip is that all of the wild kids on the Strip looked more like missionaries than revolutionaries.  One of Andy’s friend’s did occasionally let his hair fall in his eyes but otherwise, they were an amazingly clean-cut group of delinquents, the type who, today, would probably get blocked by every member of Resistance Twitter because everyone would assume that they were actually undercover Russian bots.

(At the end of the film, a narrators informs us, “Soon, half the world’s population will be under 25 years of age.  What will happen to them?  Where will they go?”  The answer, of course, is that most of them will go to the suburbs.)

Today, it’s easy to roll your eyes at something like Riot on the Sunset Strip.  Our modern culture of snark almost demands that you do.  But, honestly, I enjoyed this film.  Watching it was like having my own little time machine.

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 12/31/2017 – 01/06/2018


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Happy New Year everyone, hope your 2018 got off to a rousing start, certainly the comic-book world seems primed to have a good year if the way things have started off is any indication —

It’s no secret to anyone following my writing, here or elsewhere, that DC’s line of licensed Hanna-Barbera comics has been something I’ve been singing the praises of pretty much since they made their debut nearly two years back, and trust me when I say that no one’s more surprised about that than I am given that most of these cartoons hold precisely zero nostalgic value for me and the overwhelming majority of DC’s publishing output is creatively worthless. Still, the free reign they’ve been giving to some of their best freelancers to “re-imagine” these moribund properties has paid off big time, and to date the absolute cream of the crop has been Mark Russell and…

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