A Book With Few “Faults”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

For the past few years (at least as far as I know), cartoonist Adam Meuse has been self-publishing highly eclectic collections of single-page strips that follow no particular set course other than where his Meuse (sorry, couldn’t resist) takes him, and the results,while predictably uneven, are also predictably unpredictable — and that alone makes them worth checking out. His latest, 2019’s Faults, continues this trend, yet it ups the ante by showing him not just following his sensibilities, but trusting them more implicitly — and as a result, his work is now flirting with “must-read” status.

At least by my accounting, at any rate — and since my opinions are in this driver’s seat around these parts (if nowhere else), that’s what matters here, right? Still, there’s no doubt Meuse has earned the accolades he’s receiving from me, his existential “riffing” on life’s absurdities now casting a fairy…

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What Lisa Watched Last Night #205: Her Deadly Reflections (dir by John Lyde)


Tonight, I watched the 2nd Lifetime film of 2020, Her Deadly Reflections (a.k.a. Shattered Memories)!

Why Was I Watching It?

Well, the main reason I was watching it was because it was on the Lifetime Movie Network and, by this point, everyone should know that there’s no way I can resist a new Lifetime film.

I also really liked the title.  According to imdb, this film is also known as Shattered Memories but I prefer Her Deadly Reflections.  I mean, “Deadly” is one of those word that, when it appears in a title, you simply can’t resist.  Especially when that title happens to belong to a Lifetime film!

What Was It About?

It’s a Lifetime amnesia film!

Kelly Moore (Helena Mattsson) is an artist who has just woken up in the hospital.  Apparently, she’s been in a terrible car accident.  In fact, she’s lucky to have survived!  Unfortunately, she’s also woken up with partial amnesia.  She remembers her childhood.  She remembers growing up.  She remembers waking up in the hospital.  But almost everything in-between is a blank.  She no longer knows her husband, Dan (Corey Sevier).  She barely knows her best friend, Allison (Melanie Stone) or Allison’s husband, Logan (Jake Stormeon).

What she does know is that she keeps having vague flashes of memory that suggest that there’s more to her injuries than just being in an accident.  She sees herself falling out of a window and running from an unseen assailant.  Who tried to kill her and why?  That’s what Kelly has to try to figure out, while also putting together the clues to discover just what her life was like before the accident.

What Worked?

I always enjoy a good Lifetime amnesia film and Her Deadly Reflections contained all of the elements that you could hope for this unique cinematic genre, everything from hazy flashbacks to sudden realizations that neither Kelly’s marriage nor her friendships were quite as strong as she’s originally led to believe when she first wakes up.  It’s an interesting dynamic.  Because Kelly can’t remember anything that happened before her accident, everyone tries to pretend as if things were perfect before Kelly lost her memory.  I imagine that’s what people would do in real life, as well.

Helena Mattsson did a good job in the lead role, capturing Kelly’s confusion as she struggled to figure out who she used to be.  Melanie Stone was also well-cast as Kelly’s best friend.

What Did Not Work?

The film needed a few more suspects to really keep us guessing as to who attacked Kelly..  Once we eliminated all of the obvious the suspects, there was only one person left so the revelation of that person’s identity was not quite as shocking as it could have been.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I’m happy to say that I’ve never had amnesia, though I did once total my car.  (In fact, it flipped over and the fact that I wasn’t killed or even seriously injured was something of a miracle.)  I could relate to Kelly and Allison’s friendship.  I’ve had friends like Allison.  I think we all have.

Lessons Learned

Memories are important so don’t ever let go of them.

25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2019


Rest in peace, Gary. Thank you for all the support you provided me with over the years.

—-

This was one heck of a year. I apologize for these lists being a little late. I’ve tried on numerous occasions, but this was the first year I was able to do it. I have unofficially broken the Guinness Book of World Records for the most films seen in a single year. The current record at the time of this posting is 1,132; I got through 1,266 films. I know that others have broken this record year after year with higher numbers. As a result, it meant there were a lot of films to try and go back through to compile these lists.

If you’re curious about this, then feel free to look at my Letterboxd account. I was there from 2012 to the Fall of 2018 when I left for my own reasons. I returned a few months later with a new account and only use it to keep stats rather than to use any of the site’s social aspects. I’m done with those.

Okay, let’s get to the lists. Right, Van Damme?

No Retreat, No Surrender (1986, dir. Corey Yuen)

Here are this year’s rules:

  1. There is no particular order to the films in these lists. They either made it, or not.
  2. These lists do not necessarily have films that came out in 2019. These are films that I saw for the first time in 2019. In fact, none of these films are from 2019. That means no Joker because it came out in 2019 and Michael Dudikoff’s Joker in Fury Of The Fist And The Golden Fleece (2018) doesn’t make the film qualify for any of these lists.
  3. The gems list are films that don’t make the best list, but I want to put a spotlight on them.
  4. If you disagree with any of my choices. Good! I want people to form their own opinions and think for themselves. But if you care to share those opinions, then be nice about it, or you won’t receive a response from me.

Adele’s Dinner (1978, dir. Oldrich Lipský)

Best:

  1. The Big City (1963)
  2. The Nice Guys (2016)
  3. Boat People (1982)
  4. The Bigamist (1953)
  5. The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin (1978)
  6. Return To The 36th Chamber (1980)
  7. Romper Stomper (1992)
  8. A Man Called Ove (2015)
  9. The Handmaiden (2016)
  10. Choose Me (1984)
  11. Witchhammer (1970)
  12. Adele’s Dinner (1978)
  13. Foxfire (1996)
  14. Ginger Snaps (2000)
  15. Moonlight (2016)
  16. Run, Man, Run (1968)
  17. Land Of Mine (2015)
  18. Witchboard (1986)
  19. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)
  20. Léon: The Professional (1994)
  21. In Bruges (2008)
  22. John Wick (2014)
  23. Proof (1991)
  24. Paterson (2016)
  25. The Coca-Cola Kid (1985)

Girl (2018, dir. Lukas Dhont)

Worst:

  1. Adventures In Public School (2017)
  2. China Salesman (2017)
  3. Tarzan, The Ape Man (1981)
  4. Vaxxed: From Cover-Up To Catastrophe (2016)
  5. The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn (1955)
  6. Mr. Virgin (1984)
  7. Me Before You (2016)
  8. Girl (2018)
  9. The Babysitter (1995)
  10. Zero Days (2016)
  11. Return Of The Living Dead: Rave To The Grave (2005)
  12. She-Man: A Story Of Fixation (1967)
  13. Slender Man (2018)
  14. Top Dog (1995)
  15. The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island (2018)
  16. The Poet (2007)
  17. Last Resort (1986)
  18. The Mod Squad (1999)
  19. Marie And Bruce (2004)
  20. Freaky Friday (2018)
  21. Carrie (2002)
  22. Ringmaster (1998)
  23. Invasion U.S.A. (1985)
  24. Warhead (1977)
  25. Deadly Invasion: The Killer Bee Nightmare (1995)

Another Son Of Sam (1977, dir. Dave Adams)

Gems:

  1. Unbelievable Adventures Of Italians In Russia (1974)
  2. The Flying Guillotine (1975) & Palace Carnage (1978) & The Vengeful Beauty (1978)
  3. A Friend To Die For (1994)
  4. Made In Britain (1982)
  5. Grizzly (1976)
  6. The Apple (1980)
  7. The Ryan White Story (1989)
  8. Shadey (1985)
  9. Amanda & The Alien (1995)
  10. Longshot (1981)
  11. The Coolangatta Gold (1984)
  12. Came A Hot Friday (1985)
  13. Bells Of Rosarita (1945)
  14. Toni Erdmann (2016)
  15. Another Son Of Sam (1977)
  16. Destination Wedding (2018)
  17. Nine Deaths Of The Ninja (1985)
  18. Christine (2016) & Kate Plays Christine (2016)
  19. U.S. Seals II (2001)
  20. Honor And Glory (1993)
  21. Undefeatable (1993)
  22. No Retreat, No Surrender (1986)
  23. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)
  24. Crackerjack 2 (1997)
  25. Hawkeye (1988)

White Mile (1994, Directed by Robert Butler)


In this HBO movie, Alan Alda plays the biggest asshole in the world.

Alda is cast as Dan Cutler, an ad exec who books a corporate retreat to Canada’s White Mile.  He tells the nine men who accompany him, some of whom are clients and some of whom work for him, that it’s going to be a weekend of fishing and male bonding.  What he doesn’t reveal is that the trip is also going to require whitewater rafting.  Despite the fact that the majority of the men are out-of-shape and hardly any of them have any rafting experience, Dan insists that they all take part.  When their guide says that they’re going to need to take two boats, Dan refuses.  He wants everyone in one boat, the better so they can all work together to prove their manhood by conquering the river.

The trip starts out well but, when the raft hits a rock and turns over, five of the men end up dead.  Despite injuring his leg, Dan survives and, when he returns to work, he’s hailed as a hero.  However, one of the widows of the men who didn’t survive is now suing the company.  While Dan tries to cover his own ass, one of the survivors — Jack Robbins (Peter Gallagher) — is faced with a dilemma of his own.  As one of the few people who knows that Dan demanded that the guide only use one boat, will Jack testify to the truth at the trial or will he follow Dan’s orders and keep quiet about what really happened?

Based on a true story, White Mile features some brief but exciting (and harrowing) rafting scenes but the film is less about what happened in the wilderness and instead about what’s happening behind the closed doors of corporate America.  White Mile does a good job of taking Alda’s sensitive male persona and pushing it through the looking glass.  As played by Alda, Dan is the type of tyrannical boss who we’ve all had to deal with.  His friendly smile barely disguises a bullying streak.  Even after the accident leaves five of his colleagues dead, Dan is still convinced that the trip was a good idea and that everyone was having the best day of their lives until they hit that rock.  When the river guide initially finds Dan stranded on a rock, Dan makes a show of telling the guide to come back for him later and to find the others.  When Dan later comes across one of the dead men, he says, “He must have had a bad heart,” as he grasps at any way to avoid taking responsibility.  Though White Mile is dominated by Alda’s villainy, it also features good performances from Gallagher, Robert Loggia, Bruce Altman, and Jack Gilipin.  When Gilpin demands to know if anyone at the ad agency has shown any true remorse for what happened, he is speaking for the entire audience.

White Mile was an early HBO film and, because it was released before HBO became known for its original programming, it’s often unfairly overlooked.  When it was released on DVD, it was advertised as being an action-adventure film, which it definitely is not.  Instead, it’s a look at the type of head games that far too often act as a substitute for responsible and ethical management in corporate America.  It’s a good movie and you’ll never look at Alan Alda the same way again.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Darkest Hour (dir by Joe Wright)


The 2017 best picture nominee, Darkest Hour, opens with Europe at war.

While the United States remains officially neutral, the Nazi war machine marches across Europe.  After years of appeasement, the United Kingdom has finally declared war on Germany but the feeling in Parliament is that Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) is not strong enough to take on Hitler.  When the Opposition demands that Chamberlain resign, Chamberlain does so with the hope that he’ll be replaced by Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane).  Like Chamberlain, Halifax continues to hold out hope for some sort of negotiated peace with the Germans.  However, Halifax declines, saying that it’s not yet his time.  Instead, Chamberlain’s successor is Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman), the only Conservative that the Opposition is willing to accept as Prime Minister.

(This is a bit of invention on the part of the filmmakers.  In reality, the Opposition did demand Chamberlain’s resignation but they did not stipulate that he could only be replaced by Churchill.)

No one is particularly enthusiastic about the idea of Winston Churchill becoming prime minister.  Chamberlain and Halifax both view him as being a war monger who is so determined to prove himself as a military strategist that he’ll sacrifice thousands of British lives just for his own glory.  The King (Ben Mendelsohn) worries that Churchill is an unreliable radical and he still resents Churchill for defending the marriage of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.  Churchill is regularly described as being a buffoon and an eccentric.  He’s quick-tempered and obsessive about things that many people would consider to be of no importance.  When we first see Churchill, he’s making his new assistant (played by Lily James) cry because he’s discovered that she single-spaced a memo as opposed to double-spacing it.  The only people who seem to like Winston are the member of his family and even his loyal wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) is frequently frustrated with him.

Churchill’s enemies are not impressed by his first actions as prime minister.  They listen in disgust as he lies about the prospects of victory in France.  They are shocked by his refusal to even consider a negotiated peace.  They are horrified by his ruthless pragmatism as he willing sacrifice a thousand British soldiers in order to save several thousand more at Dunkirk.  An aristocrat who has been rejected by his peers, Churchill is betrayed by those serving in his government but beloved by the people who ride the Underground and who are being asked to potentially sacrifice everything to defeat Hitler’s war machine.

As directed by Joe Wright, Darkest Hour plays out like a dream, with 1940s Britain recreated in hues of black and gray.  The film’s visual palette is so dark that, at times, Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill appears to literally emerge out of the shadows, an almost mythical figure who symbolizes a society in transition.  In many ways, Churchill is an old-fashioned Edwardian who nostalgically remembers the glory days of the British Empire.  At the same time, Churchill is enough of a realist to see that the world is changing and, regardless of who wins the war, that it will never be the same.  Churchill is enough of an aristocrat to be unaware of what a backwards V-sign means but also enough of a commoner to laugh uproariously upon learning its meaning.

Churchill spends a good deal of the film bellowing and, at times, it’s easy to see why many initially dismissed him as being a buffoon.  Indeed, in Darkest Hour, Churchill frequently is a buffoon.  But he’s also a pragmatic leader who truly loves his country and its people.  Oldman has a lot of scenes where he’s loud but he also has other scenes in which he reveals Churchill to be a thoughtful man who loves his country and who is determined to win a war that many believe to be unwinnable.  When he’s reduced to calling the United States and has to pathetically beg President Roosevelt to honor a treaty, you feel for Churchill and you share his frustration as he tries to get the flaky FDR to understand the reality of what’s happening in Europe.  When Churchill explains why he’s willing to sacrifice a thousand in order to save 41,000 more, Oldman delivers his lines with a steely certainty.  As played by Oldman, Churchill knows what has to be done, even if no one else has any faith in him.

It’s a good film, even if it ultimately feels more like a showcase for one actor than a cohesive narrative.  The rest of the cast does a good job, especially Ronald Pickup as the haunted and dying Neville Chamberlain.  But ultimately, Darkest Hour is Gary Oldman’s show.  That’s appropriate.  Much as how Churchill dominated British politics, Gary Oldman has dominated British acting.  Not surprisingly, Gary Oldman won his first Oscar for playing Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.  The film was also nominated for best picture but it lost to Shape of Water.

 

The Houston Film Critics Society Honors Parasite!


Parasite continued it’s winning streak on Thursday, picking up the top prize from the Houston Film Critics Society.

Here’s a full list of the winners in Houston:

Best Picture
Parasite

Best Director
Bong Joon Ho, Parasite

Best Actor
Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Best Actress
Renée Zellweger, Judy

Best Supporting Actor
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress
Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell

Best Screenplay
Knives Out

Best Cinematography
1917

Best Animated Feature
Toy Story 4

Best Original Score
1917

Best Original Song
“Glasgow,” Wild Rose

Best Foreign Language Film
Parasite

Best Documentary Feature
Apollo 11

Texas Independent Film Award
Bull

Texas Independent Visionary Award
Tim Tsai, Seadrift

Outstanding Cinematic Achievement
Trey Edward Shults for KrishaIt Comes at Night and Waves. This is for a local whose contributions to cinema are impactful & deserving of notice.

Visual Effects
1917

Best Stunt Coordination Team
John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum

Best Movie Poster Art
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Music Video of the Day: Digging In The Dirt by Peter Gabriel (1992, directed by John Downer)


You will probably not be surprised to learn that Peter Gabriel was dealing with some stuff when he wrote the lyrics for Digging In The Dirt.  He was in the midst of a breakup with Rosanna Arquette, he was deep into therapy, and he was studying the lives of men who were on Death Row awaiting execution.  Gabriel was also reading a book, called Why We Kill, that suggested that all murderers share certain things in common, one of those being an uncontrollable anger that, much like the wasps in song’s video, can not be swatted away.  All of this contributed to a song that was one of Gabriel’s darkest, with the “dirt” standing in as a metaphor for his own personal issues.

The video features Peter Gabriel in a number of disturbing situations.  When he’s not being buried alive, he’s either arguing with a woman in a car or he’s being attacked by wasps.  The woman in the video was played by Francesca Gonshaw, who is probably best known for playing waitress Maria Recamier on the popular BBC sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo!  

The video features a return to the claymation and the stop motion animation that was used in the video for Gabriel’s Sledgehammer.  What was used to lighthearted effect in Gabriel’s previous videos  is used to tell a much darker story in Digging in the Dirt.