Lisa Marie’s Top 10 Non-Fiction Books of 2019

  1. White by Bret Easton Ellis
  2. Best. Movie. Year. Ever.: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen by Brian Raferty
  3. Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kruger and Melanie Anderson
  4. Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
  5. The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meary
  6. Make My Day by J. Hoberman
  7. Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art by Michael Snayerson
  8. The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson
  9. Justice on Trial by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino
  10. Hollywood’s Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A. by Lili Anolik

“Floppy” — But Solid

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

As a follow-up to his breakthrough 2018 graphic novel The Winner, illustrator supreme Karl Stevens has chosen a curious project — a deliberate throwback to the “solo anthology” comics of the 1990s, his new (-ish, the first issue came out late last year) Kilgore series, Floppy, is both nostalgic on its face and self-aware in the extreme, as the cover shown above makes plain. So — are we looking at a purely tongue-in-cheek exercise here?

If you know Stevens, you already know that’s not the case, and even though this can strictly be classified as an autobio work, it ventures into the surreal with enough gusto to even call that easy categorization at least temporarily into question. Our guy Karl seems, then, to be looking to cleave more to the template and maybe even the temperament of, say, Peep Show or Yummy Fur, but without anchoring himself…

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Dilemma (1997, directed by Eric Larsen)

Delfina, a precocious ten year-old, desperately needs a bone marrow transplant.  Unfortunately, the only available donor is Rudy Salazar (Danny Trejo), a sociopath who is currently sitting on Death Row.  (We’re told that Rudy is the only possible donor because both he and Delfina are “half-Mexican, half-Greek.”  I’m not a medical expert but I imagine there’s probably more to finding a donor than just that.  And, even if it was that simple, surely Rudy and Delfina are not the only two people of Mexican-Greek ancestry living in Los Angeles.)  Lydia Cantrell (Sofia Shinas), who works for the governor, arranges for Rudy’s death sentence to be commuted to life in prison in return for him donating his marrow.  At the hospital, Rudy stages a violent escape and soon, he and his old gang are on a rampage.

It falls to renegade Detective Quin Quinlan (C. Thomas Howell) to track down Rudy and bring his rampage to an end.  The only catch is that Rudy has to be captured alive because Delfina still needs that transplant.  Complicating matters is that Quinlan really enjoys shooting the bad guys.

If the plot of Dilemma sounds familiar, you may be one of the handful of people who remember an old Michael Keaton/Andy Garcia film called Desperate MeasuresDesperate Measures may have had the same plot as Dilemma (along with a bigger budget and bigger stars in the cast) but it didn’t have Danny Trejo.  Trejo appears without his trademark mustache and he really plays up the idea that Rudy Salazar is one evil dude.  Rudy’s so evil that he even laughs at shooting people in the back.  When a member of his gang is wounded in a shootout and begs, “Don’t leave me, dawg!,” Rudy takes one look at him and says, “You’re of no use to me.”  Only Danny Trejo can make a line that work.  With the rest of the cast not making much of an effort one way or the other, Danny Trejo is the best thing about Dilemma and one of two reasons to watch the movie.  The other reason is to watch in amazement as both the police and the criminals fire thousand of bullets at each other without ever having to stop and reload their guns.  Luckily, they’re all terrible shots who only have good aim when its convenient for the plot.

There’s no dilemma about skipping this one.

The Covers of Real Western

Real Western was published from 1935 to 1960.  That’s 25 years of stories about rustlers, gunslingers, gamblers, and everything else that went on in the old west.  The covers of Real Western all featured typical western imagery, with an emphasis on guns over romance.  These were stories about manly men who did what a man had to do to keep the west wild but safe.

Below are a few of the covers of Real Western.  Where known, the artist has been credited.

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

by D.H. Moneypenny

by George Gross

by Mat Kauten

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Sounder (dir by Martin Ritt)

The 1972 film Sounder follows the Morgans, a family of black sharecroppers living in 1930s Louisiana.

When we first see Nathan Lee Morgan (Paul Winfield) and his young son, David Lee (Kevin Hooks), they’re hunting.  Accompanying them is their loyal dog, Sounder.  As they hunt, two things become very obvious.  Number one, David Lee is a good father who is doing his best to provide for his family under the most difficult circumstances possible.  Number two, the family is desperately poor.  When Nathan finally gives in to temptation and steals a ham to feed his family, the local Sheriff (James Best) shows up at the farmhouse the next day and arrests him.  Nathan is taken away to prison and one of the deputies even shoots Sounder.

Fortunately, Sounder survives and so do the Morgans.  Under the stern but loving leadership of their mother, Rebecca (Cicely Tyson), the Morgan children manage to bring in the season’s crops.  Unfortunately, having to work out in the fields doesn’t leave much time for David Lee to get an education.  When he does go to school, he and the other students listen as a middle-aged, white teacher reads to them from Huckleberry FInn.

After the wounded Sounder finally returns to the Morgan family and recovers from his wounds, David Lee decides that he wants to go to the prison and see his father.  Unfortunately, the sheriff refuses to even tell the family where Nathan has been incarcerated.  None of the white authority figures in town care that the Morgans are struggling or that they’ve managed to bring in the crops themselves.  None of them cares or seems to even understand that David Lee is missing his father.  The sheriff presents himself as being a reasonable man and is never heard to the use the n-word.  Instead, he and every other white person in town refers to David Lee as being “boy,” diminishing everything that he’s done since his father was arrested.

David Lee finally figures out the location of a prison that might (or might not) currently be housing his father.  It’s several miles away.  Accompanied by Sounder, David Lee sets out to make the long journey to the prison.  Along the way, he discovers another school and a far more empathetic teacher named Camille (Janet MacLachlan).  David Lee is forced to make a decision that will effect not only his future but also the future of his family.

Sounder is a heartfelt film.  It’s a film that’s less interested in telling a story with a traditional beginning and end as opposed to just sharing scenes of everyday life.  In this case, it’s the life of family that manages to survive despite it often seeming as if the entire world is arrayed against them.  The film was based on a book that pretty much centered around the dog.  The movie, on the other hand, is more about the family and, despite the fact that the film is still named after him, the dog is pretty much superfluous to the plot.  That said, Sounder still plays an important role because, just as Sounder survives being shot at and remains loyal to the people that he loves, the Morgans survive whatever adversity is tossed at them.  Watching the film, the viewer is very much aware that life is never going to be easy for the Morgans but, at the same time, it’s impossible not take some comfort in the fact that they have each other.  Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson both give strong performances as the resilient Nathan Lee and Rebecca and the entire film is the type of movie that’ll inspire tears even as it inspires happiness.

At the Oscars, Sounder was nominated for Best Picture, where it provided a gentle contrast to the other nominees, Cabaret, Deliverance, The Emigrants, and The Godfather.  Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson were nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress, making 1972 the first year in which black performers were nominated in both of the lead categories.  (It was also the first year in which more than one black actress was nominated for Best Actress as Tyson ended up competing with Lady Sings The Blues‘s Diana Ross.)  In the end, Tyson lost to Cabaret‘s Liza Minnelli while Winfield lost to The Godfather‘s Marlon Brando.  And, of course, The Godfather also went on to deservedly win the award for Best Picture.

Terry Jones, RIP

I just heard the incredibly sad news that Terry Jones has died.  Jones, who was one of the founders of Monty Python and a respected medieval scholar, was 77 years old.  It was announced three years ago that Jones was suffering from a rare form of dementia so his death was not unexpected but it still hurts.

When I was a kid and I was watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus for the first time, I initially did not fully appreciated Terry Jones.  I liked him because I liked every member of Monty Python and every British comedy fan grows up wishing that they could have been a member of the group.  (My favorite was Eric Idle.)  But it was sometimes easy to overlook  Terry Jones’s performance on the show because his characters were rarely as flamboyant as some of the other ones.  He was never as grumpy as John Cleese nor was he as sarcastic as Eric Idle.  Michael Palin (who was Jones’s writing partner long before the two of them become members of Monty Python) cornered the market on both unctuous hosts and passive aggressive countermen.  Meanwhile, Graham Chapman played most of the upright authority figures and Terry Gilliam provided animation.  Terry Jones, meanwhile, often played screeching women and bobbies who said, “What’s all this then?”

It was only as I got older and I came to better appreciate the hard work that goes into being funny that I came to appreciate Terry Jones and his ability to always nail the perfect reaction to whatever lunacy was occurring around him.  It was also as I got older that I started to learn about the origins of Monty Python and what went on behind the scenes.  I learned that Terry Jones was a key player.  Along with writing some of Monty Python‘s most memorable material, he also directed or co-directed their films.  On the sets of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life, Jones provided the structure that kept those films from just devolving into a collection of skits.

Unlike the other members of Monty Python, Terry Jones never really went out of his way to establish an acting career outside of the group.  Instead, he wrote screenplays and serious books on both medieval history and Geoffrey Chaucer.  Appropriately, for a member of the troupe that changed the face of comedy, Jones often challenged the conventional views of history.  Terry Jones was the only man in Britain brave enough to defend the Barbarians.

On the last day of the ninth grade, my English teacher, Mr. Davis, rewarded us for our hard work by showing us what he said was the funniest scene in film history.  The scene that he showed us came from the Terry Jones-directed Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and it featured Jones giving a literally explosive performance as Mr. Creosote.

With thanks to both Mr. Davis and Terry Jones:

Terry Jones, Rest in Peace.

Scene That I Love: Linda Blair and Jim Bray’s Roller Skate Routine From Roller Boogie

Today is not only Jim Jarmusch’s birthday.  It’s also Linda Blair’s!

Now, of course, the first film that probably comes to mind when you hear the name “Linda Blair” is The Exorcist and that makes sense.  After all, it’s probably the best film in which Blair ever appeared.  Blair even received an Oscar nomination for playing the demonically possessed Regan MacNeil and for convincingly vomiting all over Jason Miller and Max von Sydow. If not for the fact that Mercedes McCambridge provided the voice of the demon, Blair probably would have won that Oscar as well.  Instead, the Oscar went to Tatum O’Neal.

Blair’s gone on to have an active career, though none of her subsequent films ever proven to be as popular with critics or audiences as The Exorcist.  In fact, the majority of her films have been received rather dismissively by the critics.  Of course, Blair’s subsequent films haven’t exactly been in the type of genres that are usually embraced by the critics.  Instead, Linda Blair appeared in several women-in-prison films.  She also appeared in several vigilante films, including Savage Streets.  She did several low-budget horror movies, like the classic Hell Night.  Blair also appeared in two bad-but-kind-of-fun sequels, Airport 1975 and Exorcist II: The Heretic.  (Airport 1975 features Linda Blair as the most perky seriously ill person ever.  Exorcist II, of course, featured Blair trying to keep a street face.)

And here’s the thing — the movies may have occasionally been bad but Linda Blair always kicked ass. In fact, she often literally did just that.  At her best, Blair was the type of exploitation heroine who would kick the bad guy in the balls and then taunt him for crying about it afterwards.  And good for her!

Now admittedly, today’s scene of the day does not feature Linda Blair kicking anyone or exacting violent revenge on the patriarchy.  But no matter.  The 1979 film Roller Boogie is a lot of fun, precisely because it’s a mix of disco, roller skating, and the mob.  Linda Blair and Jim Bray have to protect their favorite skating rink from the mafia.  They also have to win the annual Boogie contest.  Needless to say, that’s a lot to deal with but if anyone can handle it, it’s Linda Blair.

“It’s love on wheels!” the posters proclaimed, presumably because Skatetown U.S.A. was already using, “It’s the greatest story that ever rolled.”  Roller Boogie is a thoroughly silly movie and, not surprisingly, it’s also a very 70s movie.  Every single moment of the film screams out, “1979!”  You know how Saturday Night Fever used the disco scene as the backdrop for a rather melancholy story about a young person struggling to grow up and become a better person? Well, Roller Boogie‘s not like that at all but it does feature a lot of disco and a lot of skating and how can you go wrong with that?

Anyway, here is today’s scene that I love.  Here are Linda Blair and Jim Bray competing for the top prize in Roller Boogie!

4 Shots From 4 Jim Jarmusch Films: Permanent Vacation, Stranger Than Paradise, The Limits Of Control, Only Lovers Left Alive

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!

Happy birthday, Jim Jarmusch!

4 Shots From 4 Jim Jarmusch Films

Permanent Vacation (1980, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

Stranger Than Paradise (1984, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

The Limits of Control (2009, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

Music Video Of The Day: The Lady Don’t Mind by Talking Heads (1986, directed by Jim Jarmusch)

Today is Jim Jarmusch’s birthday.  Jarmusch, who is one of the godfathers of American independent film, is 67 years old.

As a director, Jarmusch frequently casts musicians in his films.  From John Lurie, who appeared in Jarmuch’s first films (Permanent Vacation, Stranger Than Paradise) to the members of the Wu-Tang Clan and Tom Waits, Jarmusch has always shown an appreciation for musicians as actors.  It’s not surprising that, along with feature films, Jarmusch has also directed his share of music videos.  Jarmusch has done videos for everyone from Neil Young to Tom Waits but, according to his entry at the imdb, his first music video was for Talking Heads’s The Lady Don’t Mind.

The Lady Don’t Mind was the first single from Talking Heads’s sixth studio album, the best-selling Little Creatures.  This video came out two years after Jarmusch’s second film, Stranger Than Paradise.

Enjoy and happy birthday, Jim Jarmusch!