Mardi Gras Film Review: Lady Behave! (dir by Lloyd Corrigan)


The 1938 film, Lady Behave!, begins with a woman named Clarice (Patricia Farr) getting ready to go out and celebrate Mardi Gras.  Even though Clarice invites her older sister, Paula (Sally Eilers), to come with her, Paula refuses.  Paula has work to do at home.  It’s pretty obvious that this is the way that it’s always been between the two sisters.  Clarice has fun while Paula stays home and waits for her to return.

Fortunately, Clarice does return in the morning.  As she tells Paula, she had a great time during Mardi Gras.  In fact, she had such a great time that she ended up getting married!  She married a wealthy northerner named Stephen Cormack (Neil Hamilton).  The only problem is that Clarice is already married!  She’s totally forgotten that she only recently became the wife of a dissolute playboy named Michael Andrews (Joseph Schildkraut).  By getting married a second time, Clarice has committed bigamy!  She could go to prison for 10 years!

Whatever is Paula to do?

Well, what if she arranges for Clarice to leave the country?

What if she tries to bribe Michael into accepting an annulment?

What if Paula goes up to New York and pretends to be Clarice (because, after all, Stephen was pretty drunk when he married her)?

What is she does all three!?

Of course, when Paula goes up to New York, she discovers that Stephen is out of the country.  She moves into his mansion, where she discovers that his two children — Patricia (Marcia Mae Jones) and Hank (George Ernest) — are convinced that she’s just a gold digger who only wants to steal their father’s money (and, it should be noted, also their inheritance).  When Michael shows up at Stephen’s mansion, he explains to Paula that he needs $10,000 for a horse and he’ll only agree to an annulment if he gets the money.  However, when he meets Patricia and Hank, he tells them that if they pay him $30,000, he’ll help to break up the marriage between Stephen and Paula (who, of course, everyone but Michael thinks is actually Clarice).

Eventually, Stephen shows up and he assumes that Paula actually is Clarice.  Paula and Stephen quickly fall in love and it turns out that Stephen is very serious about his new marriage.  He even wants to take Paula on a honeymoon.  Of course, he thinks Paula is Clarice and Paula is freaking out because they’re not actually married but she wishes that they were.  But, if they did actually get married, Stephen would be guilty of bigamy and then he’d have to leave the country like Clarice and….

Yes, this is one of those somewhat busy screwball comedies where almost every action is motivated by a misunderstanding and where all of the dialogue is extremely snappy.  To be honest, it’s all a bit too hyper.  Though the film originally had a running time of 70 minutes, most of the existing prints are only 57 minutes long.  This film has a lot of plot for only 57 minutes and it’s often difficult to keep track of what’s happening from one scene to the next.  That wouldn’t be a problem if this film starred someone like William Powell and Carole Lombard (or, for that matter, Cary Grant and Myrna Loy) but instead, this film features Sally Eilers and Neil Hamilton, who are likable performers but not quite likable enough to carry the film over it’s rough edges.

On the plus side, Joseph Schildkraut has some very funny scenes as the flamboyant Michael.  And Marcia Mae Jones and George Ernest both do a great work as Stephen’s paranoid children.  They consistently made me laugh.  Otherwise, Lady Behave! is a bit too frantic for its own good.

Comedy’s Dirtiest Dozen (1988, directed by Lenny Wong)


If you ever wanted to see Tim Allen snap, “Fuck you!” at a room full of yuppies, Comedy’s Dirtiest Dozen might be for you.

Comedy’s Dirtiest Dozen was a stand-up comedy concert film, featuring 12 comedians who all “worked blue.”  In the 80s, that meant a lot of cursing and a lot of jokes about oral sex and setting farts on fire.  Some of the jokes are funny but, as far as being dirty, not a single comic on the stage comes anywhere as close to being as filthy as Bob Saget was in The Aristocrats.  Today, Comedy’s Dirtiest Dozen is best-known for featuring early appearances from not only Tim Allen but also Chris Rock, Jackie Martling, and Bill Hicks.  The audience goes crazy when Hicks is introduced and Hicks does his trademark act, pacing the stage while smoking a cigarette and encouraging everyone to not shoot the John Lennons of the world but instead the assholes who sit at a stoplight with their right turn signal blinking.  At the time that this film was shot, Chris Rock was all of 21 but he already knew how to take over and control a stage.  Rock effortlessly goes from talking about little old white ladies dialing 9-1 whenever they see him on the street to the Jesse Jackson presidential campaign to the difficulty of living at home with a mother who regularly throws away his dirty magazines.

Some of the jokes are funnier than others.  When you’re watching 12 comedians making jokes from the vantage point of 32 years in the future, it is to be expected that the end results might seem uneven.  Since this was filmed in 1988, there’s a lot of dated jokes about cocaine, AIDS, the Olympics, and Ronald Reagan.  The jokes that seem to work the best are the ones about men being immature and women getting sick of them, which just proves that universal truths never go out of fashion.

It seems like whenever you watch a comedy concert film from the 80s, you have to ask yourself whether or not these comedians would be able to perform on a college campus today.  (Chris Rock, for instance, has said that he refuses to perform on campus because students are too sensitive.)  Bill Hicks would get kicked off stage for daring to light up a cigarette and Jackie Martling would probably cause a riot.  As for the rest of the performers, their acts in this film are frequently more profane than controversial.  For the most part, though, they’re still funny and that’s the important thing.

Love On The Shattered Lens: No Lost Cause (dir by Ashley Raymer-Brown and Rachael Yeager)


I’d like to start this review by quoting one of my favorite episode of King of the Hill.

Church Hopping, which aired during King of the Hill‘s 10th season, found Hank and his family searching for a new church after the reverend of their old church blows off Hank’s suggestion that seating should be assigned.  Peggy wants the family to start attending the new mega-church but Hank worries that it might be too big for him.  However, after the Hills have tried out every other church in town and found them to be not quite right for their needs, Peggy tells Hanks that they only have two options — go to the new megachurch or “live the empty barren existence of secular humanism.”  Hank finally agrees to give the megachurch a try.

At first, Hank loves the place.  He appreciates that the church broadcasts Cowboys games on Sunday.  He gets along with all of the members.  But, quickly, the church starts to dominate every aspect of his life.  As he feared, it is simply too big for him.  As he tells his nephew-in-law, Lucky, “My old church wouldn’t pay attention to me and my new church won’t leave me alone.”  When Hank announces that he will no longer be attending church and will instead look for some other way to worship, Peggy brings the church’s pastor to the house to counsel him.

After struggling for a bit to explain why he’s not comfortable at the megachurch, Hank finally exclaims, “No offense, but your church just keeps coming at you.”

Luckily, things work out in the end.  The Hills return to their old church and are spared from secular humanism.  It’s heart-warming in the way that the best episodes of King of Hill often were.  And that line about the church has always stuck with me.

I have to admit that, as I watched the 2011 film No Lost Cause, I found myself thinking about Hank’s lament.  No Lost Cause is about a young college student named Beth Ann Collins (Caitlyn Waltermire) who is paralyzed as the result of a car accident.  Making matters even worse for Beth Ann is that, after her accident, she finds herself living with her father, a farmer named Billy (Brian Douglas Baker).

Billy is an outspoken Christian.

Beth Ann is a bitter agnostic.  (This is one of those films where it’s pretty much taken for granted that all nonbelievers are bitter about something.)

Together …. THEY SOLVE CRIMES!

No, actually, they fight a lot.  Beth Ann does not want Billy in her life and she’s not amused when he keeps insisting that she comes to church with him.  Billy is not happy when Beth Ann announces that she just wants to stay in her bedroom and work on vaguely defined college work.  I know that the film expected us to automatically sympathize with Billy but I have to admit that I was on Beth Ann’s side the entire time.  It’s not just that Beth Ann had every right to be angry about her situation.  It’s also that Billy’s church just keeps coming at her.

Billy tells Beth Ann that they’re going to the church potluck.  While everyone else eats, Beth Ann sits in a corner and does some ill-defined term paper work.  Nick (Nils Hamilton) approaches her and asks why she’s at the potluck if she’s not going to eat.  And I’m just like, “BECAUSE HER DAD MADE HER COME!  Now leave her alone and let her write her paper!”

(I also have to admit that, by the end of the whole potluck scene, I was yelling at the characters in the film, “Say ‘potluck’ one more time!  GO ON, I DARE YOU!”  Seriously, potluck is just an annoying word.)

Later, at the house, Beth Ann is again trying to get work on her paper done when Billy shows up and announces that he’s invited the entire church over for dinner.  Suddenly, the house is full of people and while Beth Ann sits in a corner and tries to do her work, people keep sitting down at the table with her and talking to her.  Beth Ann has no desire to speak to anyone and actually does have some important work to do but that doesn’t matter to the members of Billy’s church.  They just keep coming at her.

“Seriously,” I found myself yelling at the screen, “leave Beth Ann alone!  She doesn’t want to talk to you!”

(I may have been projecting because it seems like whenever I’m in the middle of doing something important, I get interrupted.)

Anyway, the film gets off to a pretty rough start but it does get better.  Beth Ann does eventually grow comfortable about living with Billy and she even falls in love with Nick.  It’s predictable but occasionally sweet and Caitlyn Watermire gives a good and sympathetic performance as Beth Ann.  Unfortunately, the film also has Beth Ann suddenly regain the ability to walk, with the suggestion being that it’s all due to her newly found faith but that only forces the audience to wonder about all of the faithful who have a better attitude than Beth Ann but still don’t get healed.  It’s hard not to feel that the film would have been more effective if it had focused on Beth Ann coming to terms with being in the wheelchair as opposed to falling back on a miracle.

As a love story, No Lost Cause works a bit better than you might expect.  Caitlyn Watermire and Nils Hamilton have a likable chemistry and you do hope find yourself hoping the best for them, even if Nick does come across as a bit pushy about the whole potluck thing.  This is one of those film’s that will probably be best appreciated by people who already share the film’s view of the world but, as far as religious-themed films are concerned, No Lost Cause is better acted than most and it features some nice shots of the countryside.  That said, it’s still hard to watch the film without feeling that Beth Ann occasionally deserves some time to herself.

4 Shots From 4 Luis Buñuel Films: Illusions Travels By Streetcar, The Exterminating Angel, Simon of the Desert, Belle de Jour


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 is the 120th birthday of the great Spanish surrealist filmmaker, Luis Bunuel!  Continuing the tradition that we’ve just started here at the Shattered Lens, that means that it is now time for….

4 Shots From 4 Luis Buñuel Films

(This post, I should add, was a true pleasure to put together because Luis Buñuel is truly one of the most visually inspiring directors of all time.  If you haven’t seen a Luis Buñuel film, 2020 is the perfect year to discover him!)

Illusion Travels By Streetcar (1954, dir by Luis Buñuel)

The Exterminating Angel (1962, dir by Luis Buñuel)

Simon of the Desert (1965, dir by Luis Buñuel)

Belle de Jour (1967, dir by Luis Buñuel)

The Things You Find On Netflix: The Last Thing He Wanted (dir by Dee Rees)


As I watched The Last Thing He Wanted on Netflix, it occurred to me that smoking cigarettes and slamming down phones is no substitute for a personality.

The Last Thing He Wanted stars Anne Hathaway as Elena McMahon and, over the course of the movie, she smokes a lot of cigarettes and slams down a lot of phones.  That’s because Elena is supposed to be a veteran D.C. journalist.  She works for The Atlantic Post, which is an awkward name for a newspaper.  (In the novel on which this film was based, Elena worked for The Washington Post but I assume that plot point was changed to avoid upsetting Jeff Bezos.  That’s the sort of thing that gets this film off to a bad start.)  Hathaway is never exactly believable as a hard-boiled journalist who is known for uncovering government scandals and reporting from war zones.  She is, however, believable as a talented but miscast actress who watched a lot of old journalism movies before showing up on the set of The Last Thing He Wanted.  The end result is a performance that feels like cosplay.

Anyway, the film itself is a mess.  It takes place in 1984 and starts out with Elena getting yanked off of her usual Central America beat and assigned to instead cover the presidential campaign.  This leads to a lot of scenes of Elena lighting cigarettes and slamming down phones while talking about how difficult it is to be a journalist when you’re working for a spineless organization like the Atlantic Post.

Elena is estranged from her father, a dissolute drunk named Dick.  Dick is played by Willem DaFoe, who deals with the fact that he really doesn’t have much of a character to play by chewing up every piece of scenery that he can get his hands on.  (At times, it seems like Willem DaFoe has been replaced by someone doing a poorly conceived Willem DaFoe impersonation.)  Dick is suffering from dementia and he keeps forgetting that his wife is dead.  Dick needs Elena to do something for him.  It turns out that Dick has set up a “huge deal.”  Elena assumes that it must be a drug deal but it turns out that Dick is actually a small-time arms dealer.  So now, Elena is transporting weaponry through Central America and — surprise! — it all links back to the very story that her editors at the Atlantic Post didn’t want her to cover in the first place.

Soon, Elena is flying all over the place and meeting a rogue’s gallery of anti-communist rebels and arms dealers.  In a different film, they would all be fascinating characters but, in this one, it just comes across as being more cosplay.  Ben Affleck shows up a few times, playing some sort of Washington D.C. fixer and he’s absolutely the worst actor to cast in a film like this because the film’s vaguely-defined liberalism brings out his worst instincts as a performer.  The character’s written to be an enigmatic rogue but Affleck appears to be incapable of playing him as being anything other than just a one-note Republican.  (Whenever Affleck is cast in a role like this, you can see him thinking, “How would Matt Damon play this scene?”)  Toby Jones also makes an appearance and you’re excited to see him until you realize that he’s just going to be recycling his Truman Capote imitation from Infamous to no great effect.  There’s a lot of good performers in The Last Thing He Wanted but they’re left stranded by a script that doesn’t seem to know why any of them are there.  It all leads to an absolutely terrible ending, one that proves that combining voice over narration with slow motion is not always the brilliant narrative technique that some directors believe it to be.

The Last Thing He Wanted was directed and co-written by Dee Rees and it has all of the flaws but none of the strengths of Rees’s previous Netflix film, MudboundMudbound was frequently ponderous and predictable but it was redeemed by some beautiful images and some unexpectedly nuanced performances.  The Last Thing He Wanted is ponderous without being much else.

Scenes That I Love: Cooper Says Goodbye In Twin Peaks: The Return (Happy Birthday, Kyle MacLachlan!)


Happy birthday, Kyle MacLachlan!

Kyle MacLachlan is 61 years old today.  While MacLachlan has appeared in a lot of different movies and tv shows and he’s also played a lot of different characters, he will probably always be best known for playing FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper on Twin Peaks.  MacLachlan, with his combination of earnestness and darkness, was the prefect choice to play Cooper and it’s impossible to imagine Twin Peaks without him.

Of course, MacLachlan didn’t just play Dale Cooper during the third season of Twin Peaks.  He also played Cooper’s evil Doppelganger and, for the majority of Twin Peaks: The Return, he played Dougie.  Dougie could barely speak and usually had no idea what was happening around him but he still thrived in Las Vegas.  MacLachlan’s performance as Dougie was both funny and poignant.  At the same time, I do think that every fan of Twin Peaks breathed a sigh of relief when Cooper finally woke up from that coma, stopped acting like Dougie, and started acting like himself.

Today’s scene that I love comes from Part 16 of Twin Peaks: The Return.  In this David Lynch-directed scene, Cooper — who has only recently reclaimed his identity — says goodbye to Dougie’s wife and son.  Like so much of Twin Peaks; The Return, this is a scene that could be unbelievably mawkish in the hands of another actor.  However, Kyle MacLachlan plays the scene with such sincerity that it’s actually very touching.

In honor of Kyle MacLachlan’s birthday, enjoy today’s scene that I love:

 

Music Video of the Day: Lord of the Flies by Iron Maiden (1995, directed by ????)


Lord of the Flies is based on William Golding’s famous book about a group of school children who get stranded on a deserted island and turn into savages.  The lyrics are a literal interpretation of the book’s plot:

I don’t care for this world anymore
I just want to live my own fantasy
Fate has brought us to these shores
What was meant to be is now happening

I’ve found that I like this living in danger
Living on edge it makes feel as one
Who cares now what’s right or wrong,
it’s reality
Killing so we survive
Wherever we may roam
Wherever we may hide
We’ve got to get away

I don’t want existence to end
We must prepare ourselves for the elements
I just want to feel like we’re strong
We don’t need a code of morality

I like all the mixed emotion and anger
It brings out the animal the power you can feel
And feeling so high on this much adrenalin
Excited but scary to believe what we’ve become

Saints and sinners
Something within us
We are lord of flies

Saints and sinners
Something willing us
To be lord of the flies

The video was shot while Iron Maiden was touring the Holy Land and it’s a typical no frills Iron Maiden production.  One thing that I’ve respected about bands like Iron Maiden is that the majority of their music videos are just clips of the band performing.  They don’t need to do anything fancy to hold your attention.  They just get out there on stage and play the Hell out of every song.

Enjoy!