Lifetime Film Review: The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders (dir by Peter Sullivan)

When I first started high school, quite a few people told me that I needed to follow my sister Erin’s example and try out for cheerleader and I have to admit that I was occasionally tempted to do so.  I never did because I already had ballet and drama club, I wanted to establish my own identity, and Erin told me that being cheerleader meant that I had to be perky all the time and, quite frankly, I’ve always needed my time to sulk.  Add to that, I’ve always been a natural contrarian so my usual response to several people telling me that I need to do something is to do the exact opposite.  (That was perhaps even more true in high school than it is today.)

On the one hand, I can honestly say that I have never regretted not trying out for cheerleading.  On the other hand, it’s only natural to occasionally wonder, “What if?” Would I have been the nice, responsible cheerleader like the type that Kirsten Dunst played in Bring It On?  Would I have been the bitchy cheerleader who cruelly maintained the school’s status quo?  Or would I have been the one trying to make fetch happen?  Personally, I like to think that I would have been the cheerleader who dressed in all black and who came up with snarky cheers that sarcastically commented on modern culture.

That question of “What If?” is one of the reasons why I always make sure to catch all of the Lifetime cheerleading films.  The other reason is that I enjoy making Erin watch them with me so I can ask her if they’re a realistic depiction of what it was like to be a cheerleader.  For instance, earlier today, I made Erin watch The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders with me and I asked her, “Is this an accurate portrayal of cheerleading?”

“Maybe if you were a cheerleader in Hell,” she replied.

In The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders, Savannah May plays Ava.  Ava and her mother, Candice (Denise Richards), have just moved to a new town and that means that Ava is going to be starting at a new high school.  With her mother’s very strong (some might say too strong) encouragement, Ava tries out for cheerleading and makes the squad.  Soon, Ava is not only a hit with the other cheerleaders but she’s also on her way to becoming the most popular girl at school!  That doesn’t sit well with Katrina (Alexandria DeBerry), the cheer captain and homecoming queen who is all about three things: trying to control everyone’s lives, hazing the Hell out of all the new recruits, and being more popular than everyone else.  When Ava makes it clear that she’s going to date whoever she wants (even if he isn’t a starter on the football team) and that she’s not really that happy with all the hazing either, Katrina plots to take down her only potential rival.

There’s not a subtle moment to be found in The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders, which is why it’s perhaps the best Lifetime cheerleader film ever made.  From the minute that Katrina gives Ava the side eye, we know that we’re in store for an epic battle between two differing philosophies of high school popularity, with Ava representing the way we wish things could be while Katrina represents what we secretly suspect the world to be like.  The film’s signature scene is perhaps the moment when Katrina and Ava get into an impromptu dance-off on the football field.  It’s so thoroughly and unashamedly over-the-top that it’s also more than a little brilliant.

I mean, seriously, this is a Lifetime cheerleader film.  You don’t watch a film like this for a subtlety.  You watch a film like this for scenes of Katrina live-streaming a hazing and forcing her rival to stand on edge of the roof of the school.  We watch a film like this for the moment that the entire high school breaks into applause as they watch one of their classmates get led away in handcuffs.  Savannah May and Alexandria DeBerry are well-cast as the rival cheerleaders and DeBerry especially deserves credit for making Katrina the most joyfully evil cheerleader in recent memory.

Whether it’s an accurate portrayal of high school cheerleading or not, The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders is an undeniably entertaining Lifetime film.  It fully embraces the melodrama and we’re all better for it.

Pre-Code Confidential #29: Joan Blondell is BLONDIE JOHNSON (Warner Bros 1933)

cracked rear viewer

There are many contenders for the crown Queen of Pre-Code – Jean Harlow, Miriam Hopkins, Barbara Stanwyck, Mae West, and a slew of other dames – but there’s only one Joan Blondell! Rose Joan Blondell was “born in a trunk” (as they say) to vaudevillian parents on August 30, 1906, and made her stage debut at the tender age of four months. Little Joanie took to show biz like a duck to water, and worked her way up to Broadway, costarring with a young actor named James Cagney in 1930’s PENNY ARCADE; the pair went to Hollywood for the film version, retitled SINNERS’ HOLIDAY, their first of seven screen teamings.

Our Girl Joanie struck a chord with Depression Era audiences: she was a tough, wisecracking, fast-talking, been-around-the-block tomato whose tough-as-leather veneer cloaked a heart of gold. Joan and Glenda Farrell had ’em rolling in the aisles as a pair…

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Announcing Fieldmouse Press And Solrad

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Fieldmouse Press Board of Directors ​For Immediate Release Field Mouse Press 9/3/2019

Small Press Comics Critics Announce Formation Of Nonprofit Publishing House Fieldmouse Press

Grass Valley, CA:​ Today, veteran comics critics Daniel Elkin, Alex Hoffman, Rob Clough, and Ryan Carey announced the formation of a new, non-profit publishing company, Fieldmouse Press, establishing a visionary, ambitious, and dedicated multi-venue publishing initiative within the burgeoning small press comics community. The company’s first publishing project, SOLRAD (, will publish comics criticism, essays, interviews, and new comics as a part of a larger effort to serve the public good. SOLRAD will launch at the beginning of January 2020.

Fieldmouse Press will be operated by President Daniel Elkin, long-time publisher and editor at Your Chicken Enemy, with Alex Hoffman, publisher of Sequential State serving as Secretary/Treasurer. Rob Clough of High-Low Comics and Ryan Carey of Four Color Apocalypse round out the company’s initial board…

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Beyond The Avant Garde : Devon Marinac’s “Restaurant A.A.”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

A heady mix of hand-made collage, lucid channeling, stream-of-consciousness scribbles, and verbal/visual poetry, the ever-unpredictable Devon Marinac’s self-published comics ‘zine Restaurant A.A. is, if nothing else, an exercise in pushing, perhaps even demolishing, boundaries that probably never really existed in any appreciable way apart from as assumptions in our own mind.

Which makes it a worthy enough creative endeavor right there, but in truth I think there’s more going on here than that — narrative isn’t he backbone of this work, but it’s not an afterthought, either, and if you put in the work required to decipher its meaning and message, you’ll find a smart piece of commentary on excess as it relates to both the creative impulse and the practicalities of everyday existence, a mixed-media declaration of intent in regards to the inherently limiting nature of classification, and maybe even, dare I say it, a few laughs.


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Music Video Of The Day: I Wanna Go by Britney Spears (2011, dir by Chris Marrs Piliero)

“Are you having Brad Pitt’s love child?”

“Fuck you.  Fuck you.  You’re cool.  And fuck you!”

You tell them, Britney!

(Though you do have to wonder why there’s a guy wearing a Burger King hat at Britney’s press conference.  Did he just sneak in or is he a reporter who was having lunch when he got an emergency text telling him that he needed to get across town immediately?  Either way, that crown saves him from the wrath of Britney.)

With this song and this video, Britney Spears tells the paparazzi and the haters and the exploiters and the judgers to all go to Hell and it’s totally awesome.  Britney also pokes fun at her own image in this video, which is something that she never gets enough credit for.

The opening of this video also pays tribute to the press conference in Fellini’s 8 1/2.  Fellini, I think, is a filmmaker who would have appreciated Britney Spears.  Perhaps he also would have appreciated actor Guillermo Diaz, who appears as the driver of a convertible.

Be sure to keep an eye out for Crossroads 2: Cross Harder.