Lisa’s Week In Review: 1/13/20 — 1/19/20

It was a good week.  It was kind of cold.  It rained a lot.  The Oscars are coming closer.  I went back to my day job and I didn’t get to watch as many movies as I did over the first two weeks of 2020.

Here’s what I watched, read, and listened to this week!

Films I Watched:

  1. Ghost Town (1988)
  2. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
  3. Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)
  4. Imposter (2001)
  5. Inner Sanctum (1948)
  6. The Lighthouse (2019)
  7. Once Upon A Time In America (1984)
  8. The Perfection (2018)
  9. Sideways (2004)
  10. Stolen By My Mother (2020)
  11. The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)

Television Shows I Watched:

(As some of our more experienced readers may notice, I spent a good deal of last week watching the old TV shows on Antenna TV.  It was kind of fun to see what people used to be into.)

  1. 9-1-1
  2. 60 Days In
  3. Alice
  4. Archie Bunker’s Place
  5. The Bachelor 24
  6. Barney Miller
  7. Benson
  8. Beverly Hills 90210
  9. Bewitched
  10. The Circle
  11. Curb Your Enthusiasm
  12. Denis the Menace
  13. Diff’rent Strokes
  14. The Facts of Life
  15. Father Knows Best
  16. Flirty Dancing
  17. Ghost Whisperer
  18. Hazel
  19. I Dream of Jeannie
  20. It’s a Living
  21. The Love Boat
  22. Romper Stomper
  23. Saved By The Bell
  24. That Girl
  25. Three’s Company

Books I Read:

  1. Omerta (2000) by Mario Puzo

Music To Which I Listened:

  1. Alvin Risk
  2. Armin van Buuren
  3. Best Coast
  4. Big Data
  5. Billie Eilish
  6. Blanck Mass
  7. Cage the Elephant
  8. Calvin Harris
  9. The Chemical Brothers
  10. Coldplay
  11. Dillon Francis
  12. Elle King
  13. Ennio Morricone
  14. John Carpenter
  15. Joywave
  16. Muse
  17. Nine Inch Nails
  18. Phantogram
  19. Saint Motel
  20. Selena Gomez
  21. Skrillex
  22. Sly Toe Hand
  23. Tove Lo

Awards Season Links:

  1. Critics Choice Awards
  2. Oscar Nominations
  3. Denver Film Critics
  4. North Dakota Film Critics Society
  5. The Eddie Awards
  6. The PGA Awards
  7. The SAG Awards

News From Last Week:

  1. ‘The View’ is ‘a big mess’ and ABC News ‘the most vicious swamp in the business,’ sources say
  2. ‘Primer’ and ‘Upstream Color’ Director Shane Carruth Retiring After Next Film
  3. HBO won’t pursue second season of ‘Watchmen’ after creator bows out
  4. Bloomberg Campaign To El Bloombito Parody Account: Make Me Look Cool…Por Favor
  5. Hank Azaria Will No Longer Voice Apu on ‘The Simpsons’
  6. Oscar-Voter Stephen King Criticized For Saying He Champions Films Based on Quality and Not Diversity
  7. Here’s why Billie Eilish’s Bond theme commission has hit a sour note

Links From Last Week:

  1. The media horror at Joker’s Oscar nods is deeply predictable

Links From The Site:

  1. Erin shared the Covers of Jungle Stories and Ex-Mistress, Diana, The Hucksters, Complete Detective, Carnival Girl, Basement Gang, and The Smiling Rebel!
  2. Leonard shared the Morbius trailer!
  3. Ryan reviewed Crystal Bone Drive and Dimensional Flats!
  4. Jeff reviewed Behind Enemy Lines III, Birds of Prey, The Biggest Bundle of Them All, Escape from New York, Jailbait, In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco, and Hijack!  He shared music videos from Leonard Cohen, R.E.M., U2, and Robert Palmer!  He paid tribute to Julie Strain, Steven Soderbergh, Donald Cammell, John Boorman, and Richard Lester!
  5. I shared music videos from Sly Toe Hand, Skrillex, and John Carpenter!   I reviewed Marriage Story, The Crowd, In the Heat of the Night, Lady for A Day, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Sideways, and The Wolf of Wall Street!  I wished a happy birthday to John Carpenter, James Earl Jones, and Cary Grant!

More From Us:

  1. Ryan has a patreon!  Please consider subscribing!
  2. On Pop Politics, Jeff shared: Cory Booker Is Out!
  3. On Days Without Incident, Leonard wrote about the Foo Fighters!
  4. On my music site, I shared songs from The Chemical Brothers, Selena Gomez, Skrillex, John Carpenter, Ennio Morricone, Saint Motel, and Joywave!
  5. On her photography site, Erin shared Path Away, Pipeline, Rain on Leaves, Safety Convention, Sanctuary, Shelter, and Designated Smoking Area!

Want to see what I did last week?  Click here!


The SAG Honors Parasite and All The Usuals.

The SAG Awards were held tonight.  I did not bother to watch them but apparently, a good time was had by all.  Parasite won the award for Best Ensemble, which is the SAG equivalent for Best Picture.  (1917, which won at the PGA  Awards earlier this week, was not nominated for the Ensemble award.)  This might mean that Parasite is the new front runner for Best Picture or it might not.  Do you remember what won last year?  Black Panther.

(I’m a little bit surprised that SAG didn’t go for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, which is is a film about actors.  I mean, Birdman won a prize it didn’t deserve by appealing to the ego of actors.  Then again, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood centers on an actor whose career is going downhill so maybe it hits too close to home.)

Joaquin Phoenix, Renee Zellweger, Brad Pitt, and Laura Dern won the acting prizes and I imagine that they’ll repeat at the Oscars.  To be honest, it’s hard for me to remember who else is nominated in any of those categories.

Avengers: Endgame won for Best Stunt Ensemble.  Why isn’t their an Oscar category for Best Stunts?  Seriously, that’s messed up.

Anyway, here’s your list of film winners.  They also gave out some TV awards but, to be honest, who cares about that in January?  The Emmys are over!  If you want to see a full list of winners, click here or do a google search.  Whatever works for you.

Best Ensemble — Parasite

Best Actor — Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Best Actress — Renee Zellweger, Judy

Best Supporting Actor — Brad Pitt, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress — Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Best Stunt Ensemble — Avengers: Endgame

Hijack! (1973, directed by Leonard Horn)

Jake (David Janssen) is a down-on-his-luck trucker who is offered job by a mysterious man named Kleiner (WIlliam Schallert).  If Jake agrees to transport a cargo across the country, he will get not only $6,000 but Kleiner will also pull some strings get Jake back in the good graces of the trucking company.  If Jake takes the job, he will be given a slip of paper with a phone number on it and, according to Kleiner, that piece of paper will get him out of any trouble that he runs into along the way.  The only condition is that Jake is not allowed to know what he’ll be transporting.  Jake agrees and soon, he and his partner Donny (Keenan Wynn) are driving the truck through the desert.  They are also being followed by a group of men who will stop at nothing to steal the cargo.

This made-for-TV movie is called Hijack! but no one ever gets hijacked.  Instead, with the exception of a brief romantic interlude between Jake and a truck stop waitress (Lee Purcell), this is a nonstop chase movie but the chase itself is never exciting enough to justify that exclamation mark in the title.  It was probably made to capitalize on the success of Steven Spielberg’s made-for-TV classic, Duel, but it never come close to capturing the nerve or intensity of that film.  There’s one good scene where the bad guys come after the truck in a helicopter but otherwise, this is a pretty anemic stuff.  Even the eventual reveal of what Jake and Donny are hauling across the desert is a let down.

David Janssen specialized in playing grizzled loners and Keenan Wynn specialized in playing eccentric old coots so both of them are adequate in the main roles.  The bad guys are largely forgettable and, as she did in so many other TV movies in the 70s, Lee Purcell brings what life that she can to an underwritten role.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: The Wolf of Wall Street (dir by Martin Scorsese)

Suck it, The Big Short The Wolf of Wall Street is the best film to be made about Wall Street this century.

Martin Scorsese’s 2013 financial epic tells the true story of a group of rather sleazy people who got rich and who basically, to quote Robert De Niro from an earlier Scorsese film, “fucked it all up.”  Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio, giving what I still consider to be the best performance of his career) is the son of an accountant named Max (Rob Reiner).  Fresh out of college, Jordan gets a job on Wall Street.  Under the mentorship of the eccentric (but rich) Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), Jordan discovers that the job of a stock broker is to dupe people into buying stock that they might not need while, at the same time, making a ton of money for himself.  With the money comes the cocaine and the prostitutes and everything else that fuels the absurdly aggressive and hyper-masculine world of Wall Street.  Jordan is intrigued but, after the stock market crashes in 1987, he’s also out of a job.

Fortunately, Jordan is never one to give up.  He may no longer be employed on Wall Street but that doesn’t mean that he can’t sell stocks.  He gets a job pushing “penny stocks,” which are low-priced stocks for very small companies.  Because the price of the stock is so low, the brokers get a 50% commission on everything they sell.  Because Jordan is such an aggressive salesman, he manages to make a fortune by convincing people to buy stock in otherwise worthless companies.  As Jordan’s boss (played, in an amusing cameo, by Spike Jonze) explains it, what they’re doing isn’t exactly regulated by the government, which just means more money for everyone!  Yay!

Working with his neighbor, Donny Azoff (Jonah Hill, at his most eccentric), Jordan starts his own brokerage company.  Recruiting all of his friends (the majority of whom are weed dealers who never graduated from high school), Jordan starts Stratton Oakmont.  Using high-pressure sales tactics and a whole lot of other unethical and occasionally illegal techniques, Jordan soon makes a fortune.  When Forbes Magazine publishes an expose that portrays Jordan as being little more than a greedy con man, Stratton Oakmont is flooded by aspiring stock brokers who all want to work for “the wolf of Wall Street.”

And, for a while, Jordan has everything that he wants.  While the Stratton Oakmont offices become a den of nonstop drugs and sex, Jordan buys a huge mansion, a nice car, and marries a model named Naomi (Margot Robbie).  His employees literally worship Jordan as he begins and ends every working day with inspirational (and often hilariously profane) sermons, encouraging his people to get out there and sell no matter what.  Of course, making that much money, Jordan has to find a way to hide it from the IRS.  Soon, with the help of Naomi’s aunt (Joanna Lumley), he is smuggling millions of dollars into Switzerland where a banker (Jean Dujardin, who is both hilariously suave and hilariously sleazy a the time) helps him hide it all.

When Jordan learns that the FBI and SEC are looking into his dealings, Jordan invites Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) to come visit him on his yacht and, in a scene that launched a thousand memes, the two of them have a friendly conversation that’s largely made up of passive aggressive insults.  Jordan taunts Denham over the fact that Denham washed out when he tried to get a job on Wall Street.  Denham laughingly asks Jordan to repeat something that sounded like it may have been a bribe.  When Denham leaves the boat, Jordan taunts him by tossing a wad of hundred dollars bills into the wind….

And here’s the thing.  Yes, the media and our political class tells us that we’re supposed to hate that Jordan Belforts of the world.  One can imagine Bernie Sanders having a fit while watching Jordan brag about how he cheated the IRS.  If Adam McKay or Jay Roach had directed this film, one can imagine that they would have used the yacht scene to portray Jordan Belfort as pure evil.  (McKay probably would have tossed in Alfred Molina as a waiter, asking Belfort if he wants to feast on the lost future of the children of America.)  But the truth of the matter is that most viewers, even if they aren’t willing to admit it, will secretly be cheering for Jordan when he throws away that money.  DiCaprio is so flamboyantly charismatic and Scorsese, as director, so perfectly captures the adrenaline high of Jordan’s lifestyle that you can’t help but be sucked in.  He may be greedy and unethical but he just seems to be having so much fun!  Just as how Goodfellas and Casino portrayed life in the mafia as being an intoxicating high (as well as being more than a little bit dangerous), The Wolf of Wall Street refrains from passing easy judgment and it steadfastly refuses to climb onto a moral high horse.  Jordan narrates his own story, often talking directly to the camera and almost always defending his actions.  As a director, Scorsese is smart enough to let us make up own minds about how we feel about Jordan and his story.

Of course, when Jordan falls, it’s a dramatic fall.  That said, it’s not quite as dramatic of a fall as what happened to Ray Liotta in Goodfellas or Robert De Niro in Casino.  No one gets blown up, for instance.  But Jordan does lose everything that gave his life meaning.  By the end of the film, he’s been reduced to giving seminars and challenging attendees to sell him a pen.  (“Well,” one hapless gentleman begins, “it’s a very nice pen…..”)  During the film’s final scenes, it’s not so much a question of whether Jordan has learned anything from his fall.  Instead, the movie leaves you wondering if he’s even capable of learning.  At heart, he’s the wolf of Wall Street.  That’s his nature and it’s really the only thing that he knows how to do.  He’s a bit like Ray Liotta living in the suburbs at the end of Goodfellas.  He’s alive.  He has his freedom and a future.  But he’s still doesn’t quite fit in.  Much like Moses being denied the opportunity to physically enter the Promised Land, Jordan’s punishment for his hubris is to spend his life in exile from where he truly belongs.  And yet, you know that Jordan — much like Henry Hill — probably wouldn’t change a thing if he had the chance to live it all over again.  He’d just hope that he could somehow get a better ending while making the same decisions.

Unlike something like The Big Short, which got bogged down in Adam McKay’s vapid Marxism, The Wolf of Wall Street works precisely because it refuses to pass judgment.  It refuses to tell us what to think.  I imagine that a lot of people watched The Wolf of Wall Street and were outraged by the way Jordan Belfort made his money.  I imagine that an equal number of people watched the film and started thinking about how much they would love to be Jordan Belfort.  The Wolf of Wall Street is a big, long, and sometimes excessive film that dares the audience to think of themselves.  That’s one reason why it’ll be remembered after so many other Wall Street films are forgotten.

The Wolf of Wall Street was nominated for best picture of the year.  It lost to 12 Years A Slave.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Happy Birthday, Richard Lester!

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, retired director Richard Lester is 88.  Richard Lester made films about everyone from The Beatles and the Three Musketeers to Robin Hood and Superman and, along the way, he changed the face of pop culture forever.

Despite being forever associated with the swinging London of the 60s, Richard Lester was born in Philadelphia and started his career directing episodes of a western television series called Action in the Afternoon.  After moving to London in the 50s, Lester went to work for the BBC and directed episodes of The Goon Show.  In 1959, he directed the Oscar-nominated short film, The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film.  One huge fan of that short film was John Lennon and, when the Beatles were looking for someone to direct their first movie, it was Lennon who suggested Richard Lester for the job.

And the rest is history.

4 Shots From 4 Films

A Hard Day’s Night (1964, directed by Richard Lester)

Petulia (1968, directed by Richard Lester)

Robin and Marian (1976, directed by Richard Lester)

Superman III (1983, directed by Richard Lester)


The Producers Guild of America Honors 1917

Last night, I heard that the PGA had honored 1917 as the best film of 2019 and I thought to myself, “Well, that’s good for the golfers but since when did they become film experts?”

This morning, I woke up and I realized that the PGA was the Producer’s Guild of America, which means that 1917‘s victory is now officially a big deal.  If Sam Mendes wins at the DGA, I would imagine that would mean that 1917 is officially unstoppable as far as the Oscars are concerned.  Of course, just yesterday, I was saying that the Eddie Awards had made Parasite into an unstoppable Oscar winner.

So, maybe I know what I’m talking about and maybe I don’t.

Anyway, the PGA gave out a lot of awards last night but here are the three that you need to know while making your Oscar predictions:

Best Feature Film — 1917

Best Animated Film — Toy Story 4

Best Documentary Film — Apollo 11

(Apollo 11 was, incredibly, not nominated for Best Documentary.)

For a full list of the PGA winners, click here.

Music Video of the Day: I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On by Robert Palmer (1986, directed by Terence Donovan)

Today’s music video of the day is for Robert Palmer’s cover of I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On, a song that was originally recorded by Cherelle in 1984.  Palmer, whose songs epitomized the 80s, would have been 71 years old today.

If this video looks familiar, that may be because it shares the same concept behind Palmer’s videos for Addicted To Love and Simply Irresistible, both of which were also directed by photographer Terence Donavon.  Once again, Palmer, looking like he should be trading commodities on Wall Street, performed while a group of statuesque models “played” his band behind him.   The video, however, added another group of models, dressed in white, who danced to the music and who had better rhythm than the models who made up Palmer’s band.