Lisa’s Week In Review: 5/11/20 — 5/17/20

This week, I finished binging The Sopranos and then, as the result of an ill-advised twitter poll, I followed that up by watching all 6 seasons of the HBO prison drama, Oz.  To be honest, Oz wasn’t really for me but twitter polls are legally binding so I was obligated to watch the whole series.  I’ve now started in on Deadwood, which I should be able to knock out in about 3 days.

As far as our quarantine is going, we are currently in the process of reopening down here in Texas.  Myself, I’m still working at home at least through June.

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

Films I Watched:

  1. The American Dreamer (1971)
  2. City of the Dead (1960)
  3. Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark (2014)
  4. Mission Impossible (1996)

Television Shows I Watched:

  1. Bar Rescue
  2. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
  3. Deadwood
  4. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
  5. Oz
  6. The Sopranos
  7. Survivor 40

Books I Read:

  1. Romancing the Duke (2014) by Tessa Dare
  2. Say Yes to the Marquess (2014) by Tessa Dare

Music To Which I Listened:

  1. Alabama 3
  2. Bloc Party
  3. Britney Spears
  4. Cake
  5. The Chemical Brothers
  6. Chromatics
  7. Desire
  8. Fever Ray
  9. Garbage
  10. Haim
  11. Jessica Simpson
  12. Material
  13. Purity Ring
  14. Saint Motel
  15. Sharon van Etten
  16. Taylor Swift
  17. Train
  18. UPSAHL

Links From Last Week:

  1. A Year Without Cannes: Why It Hurts to Lose a Festival That Can’t Be Replaced
  2. Ace in the Hole Digs Up Modern Journalism’s Dirty Secret

News From Last Week:

  1. Political Consultant Suggests Rallying Dems With Giant, Fortnite-Style Holographic Biden
  2. Jack Mathews dies: Dean of Oscar Experts helped to launch Gold Derby
  3. Horror Producer Adam Donaghey Charged with Sexual Assault of Minor
  4. The making of Prince Andrew — from a spoiled bully to an obnoxious womanizer

Links From The Site:

  1. Leonard reviewed Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
  2. Erin profiled artist Wes Wilson and shared: Even the Wicked, The Loved and the Lost, The Case of the Seven Murders, True Gang Life, Murder Mysteries, I Like Danger, and Film Fun!
  3. Jeff said goodbye to Fred Willard and reviewed Made in Britain, Natural Enemy, The Firm, Women in Chains, Student Affairs, Frame of Mind, and One Tough Bastard!  He also paid tribute to Joseph Cotten!
  4. Ryan reviewed Old Growth, Disillusioned Illusions, and Hercules and the Orbs of Woad!
  5. I shared music videos from Sharon van Etten, Garbage, Alabama 3, Fever Ray, Desire, Train, and Bloc Party!  I paid tribute to Jess Franco, Katharine Hepburn, Harvey Keitel, Sofia Coppola, Henry Fonda, and Bill Paxton.  I reviewed The American Dreamer and episodes 3 and 4 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina!

More From Us:

  1. Ryan has a patreon and you should consider subscribing!
  2. For Reality TV Chat Blog, I reviewed the finale of Survivor!
  3. At SyFyDesigns, I shared Quarantine Binging, Disillusionment, Shelter In Place Binge Continues, and The Problem With The World Today!
  4. At my music site, I shared songs from Cake, Material, Desire, Chromatics, Fever Ray, Bloc Party, and Purity Ring!
  5. On Pop Politics, Jeff wrote about Jerry Stiller, George Carlin, and a special election in California!
  6. On her photography site, Erin shared: Blissful Kitty, Fence in a Dream, Stop Again, Comfort, Not Taken, Another Door, and Sinking!

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

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (dir. by Robert Zemeckis)

WhoFramedRogerRabbitPosterI can’t quite remember how I found out about 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Growing up, most of my movie news came from four major sources – Entertainment Tonight, Siskel & Ebert, the occasional movie poster you’d see at a bus stop or cinema. If you were really lucky, the production company would sometimes create a “Behind the Scenes”/”Making of” showcase a little after the movie premiered. If possible, I would read the billing block of a poster to see if I could recognize anyone familiar, Just seeing Amblin Entertainment meant you’d have Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall involved. Nothing new there. I knew Robert Zemeckis and Alan Silvestri from Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future. Movies have had mixes of animation and live action – Bedrooms & Broomsticks, Mary Poppins, etc., but the big buzz here was the film planned to somehow involve both the Disney and Warner Bros. animation studios. It was an alien concept for me, because they couldn’t be more different from each other. Historically, animation on the WB side of things were edgy and almost dared to be even raunchy if they could get away with it. Disney, on the other hand, was pristine and extremely  kid friendly. Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse? Daffy Duck vs. Donald Duck, all on the same screen? It was the 1980’s equivalent of asking Marvel (which ironically, is owned by Disney now) and DC (which the WB has owned for decades) to write a single Justice League / Avengers crossover story.

At the time, Steven Spielberg was already well known for blockbusters like the Indiana Jones films and E.T., but did he really have enough clout to bring two major companies together like that? It blew my 13 year old mind and I became completely obsessed.

Around the time Who Framed Roger Rabbit came out, I picked up anything I could find about it. I had Alan Silvestri’s soundtrack, a poster, a stuffed Roger doll, and the video game when it came out. I even read Gary Wolf’s novel. I begged my parents to let me see it, and it was one of the rare times where my Mom took my sis and I to the movies instead of my dad (the major movie buff, who took us to see Robocop twice the year before). I think she went in part to shut me up, and to give herself a break from my nearly 2 year old brother. It remains one of the two best movie related memories I have of her.

In the world of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, humans and cartoons share the same space in Los Angeles. Cartoons live in Toontown, owned by Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye). It’s the story of Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins – Hook, Mermaids), a Los Angeles Private Eye with a bit of a grudge against toons. For a quick buck, Valiant is hired by R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern – Firefox, Little Shop of Horrors) to snoop on Acme. Valiant’s work puts him in the path of Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer, Back to the Future Part II), after Eddie takes some racy pictures of Acme playing patty cake with Roger’s wife, Jessica (Kathleen Turner, Romancing the Stone). Roger angrily swears they’re still a happy couple and that Acme somehow coerced her before running off into the night. The next morning, Eddie is informed that the Marvin Acme’s been killed overnight. To make things worse, Acme’s Will is missing, leaving the fate of Toontown up in the air. All of the evidence points to Roger, but Roger asks for Eddie’s assistance in clearing his name. Can Eddie save Roger before Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future) and his pack of weasels get their hands on him?

The production for the film required jumping over a number of hurdles. Zemeckis, himself a cartoon fan, wanted to bring some of the Warner Bros. characters along with Disney characters. Even better, he also wanted to add some of Tex Avery’s classic style to the film. Similar to what he did with Ready Player One, Spielberg negotiated with some of the studios, and while he couldn’t get everyone, he did manage to get Disney, WB and a few others to commit. With this in place, they had to somehow merge animation with live-action in a way that made it look like the cartoons were interacting with their environment.

This would require one really huge magic trick, made up from an assortment of parts.

Since it was around 1986-1987, there really was no CG, yet.. James Cameron made 6 stuntmen in Alien suits look like 600 through the use of Oscar Winning Editing, and the technology that gave us the paradigm shifting dinosaurs of Jurassic Park wouldn’t occur for another 3 or 4 years. For Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the approach was a mix of robotics, puppetry, sleight of hand gadgetry, and a lot of imagination.

The art was handled by Richard Williams and his team, who would go on to win a Special Achievement Oscar for his contribution to the film. They had to draw every cell/frame by hand, on paper and then have them inked. These would then go to Industrial Light & Magic, who would add shadow, highlights and special effects To make things harder, the artists had to work around Zemeckis’ filming style and figure out how to fit the characters into each scene.

Take Jessica Rabbit’s performance of “Why Don’t You Do Right?”, sung by Amy Irving (Carrie, The Fury). At first glance, it seems a really easy shot. Girl steps on the stage, performs and leaves, right? However, there are so many things happening here on an effects level that I still don’t fully understand how they did it after all these years. ILM handled the lighting, from the sparkles in the dress, the use of the handkerchief and the great moment where Jessica blocks the spotlight in her walk from Acme to Valiant. I had to later explain to my mom that the “Wow” I whispered in the theatre during that scene had little or nothing to do with puberty. It was because I hadn’t seen anything like that before with a cartoon, and I’d hate the Academy forever if the movie didn’t win an Oscar for that.

Having cartoons on screen is one thing, but making it feel like they were interacting with people is another. Hoskins was the anchor that tied most of it all together. Having to work with nearly nothing – not even a green screen – and perform the physical actions required of the role was quite a feat compared to what some actors do with the motion capture rooms and digital walls we use today. Near lifesize models of Roger were created to help Hoskins handle some of the physical “grab and move” sequences, and actor Charles Fleischer actually spent time dressed as Roger on set (but off camera, of course) to feed his side of the conversation to Hoskins when filming a scene.

Puppeteers were brought on for moments were toon characters needed to hold objects, such as guns or knives. There is a moment of the movie where you can see one of the holes for the guns that the weasels, but it’s a pretty minute hiccup with all of the great work that was done. For the car sequences with Benny the Cab (also Fleischer), they used a special mini-car with a driver in the back. The car and driver were painted over (still, frame for frame) by the animators.

And ff course, it wouldn’t be a Zemeckis film without Alan Silvestri at the helm, musically speaking. Silvestri’s score for was a mix of detective noir and cartoony antics, which made for a perfect fit for the film. Overall, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of those films I cherished growing up, and it’s almost impossible for me to avoid recommending it.



One Tough Bastard (1996, directed by Kurt Wimmer)

When the wife and the daughter of John North (Brian “The Boz” Bosworth) are gunned down by a mysterious gunman (Jeff Kober), North refuses to accept that they were just the victims of a robbery gone wrong.  Working with a tough street kid (DeJuan Guy) who needs a mentor to show him that violence is not the solution to all of the world’s problem, North sets out to discover the truth and get revenge in the most violent ways possible.  What North discovers is that the gunman who killed his family works for a corrupt FBI agent named Karl Slavak (Bruce Payne) and that Slavak is selling guns to a drug lord named Dexter Kane (played by … wait for it … MC HAMMER!)

You would think that any movie featuring M.C. Hammer as a drug lord would be worth seeing but the man who brainwashed a generation into making “U Can’t Touch This” jokes is actually pretty forgettable as Dexter.  This movie was made when Hammer had dropped the M.C. from his name and he was trying to reinvent himself as a harder-edged rapper.  That reinvention didn’t work because there’s absolutely nothing edgy about M.C. Hammer (much like Will Smith, he was the rapper whose music wouldn’t cause your parents to have an aneurysm) and One Tough Bastard proves it.

Instead, One Tough Bastard is worth seeing because of the epic meeting between two action stars who epitomized everything great about straight-to-video movies in the 90s, Brian Bosworth and Bruce Payne!  The Boz may have been a bust as a football player but he was a good action star, delivering one-liners and viscous beat downs with aplomb and, unlike some action stars (*cough* Seagal *cough*), he could play the dramatic scenes without embarrassing himself.  With his long hair and his nosering, Bruce Payne may be an unlikely FBI agent but he’s a great villain and he has no fear of shouting almost all of his dialogue.  Add in Jeff Kober and you’ve got a dumb but fun movie that’s enlivened by three actors who know how to be convincingly tough on camera.

One Tough Bastard lives up to the promise of its title.

Film Review: The American Dreamer (dir by Lawrence Schiller and L.M. Kit Carson)

Since today would have been Dennis Hopper’s 84th birthday, I decided to watch the 1971 documentary, The American Dreamer.

Filmed in 1970, between the success of Easy Rider and the release of Hopper’s infamous follow-up to that film, The Last Movie, The American Dreamer is a cinematic portrait of a very specific time in both Dennis Hopper’s life and American film history.  Dennis Hopper was 34 years old at the time The American Dreamer was shot and he was at the top of his career.  As a result of the success of Easy Rider, he was regularly touted as being the future of American film.  He was a self-styled revolutionary who specialized in spacey yet compelling monologues about how American movies were about to enter into a new age.  Eager to try to capture the same audience that had made Easy Rider a success, Universal Pictures gave Dennis Hopper a million dollars and allowed him to take the money to South America, where he used it to film The Last Movie, a film that was designed to show who Hopper truly was as a filmmaker.  The American Dreamer was filmed while The Last Movie was in post-production and we do see a few scenes of Hopper editing the film.

That said, Hopper doesn’t really seem to be too interested in talking about the specifics of The Last Movie.  He does talk a lot about how he’s leading a revolution that’s going to forever alter the American cultural scene but again, Hopper doesn’t really go into too many specifics when it comes to his artistic vision.  He’s more into slogans than details.  Fortunately, Hopper was a compelling speaker so he holds your attention regardless of how incoherent his frequent monologues are.  The American Dreamer may not convince you that Dennis Hopper was a great director but it does prove that he was a good actor.  In this film, he’s acting the role of being an outlaw and a visionary.

As vague as he is about his artistic vision, Hopper gets a bit more specific whenever he’s talking about his love of weed, sex, and guns.  In between leading encounter groups with all of the women who are living with him in New Mexico, Hopper brags about being such a considerate love that he’s a “male lesbian.”  In another scene, Hopper talks to three giggling girl in a bathtub.  He explains that free love is a part of the revolution and that he’s helping people get over their hang-ups.  It’s impossible not to cringe as Hopper comes across less like a lovable eccentric and more like one of those cult leaders who ends up living in a compound in Nevada and getting into a stand-off with the government.

Hopper’s a bit more likable when he’s filmed rolling a joint.  Watching the film, you can tell that he was a man who truly loved getting stoned and he actually lets down his guard a bit and grins once he’s ready to light up.  However, Hopper is probably at his most natural and likable when he’s shooting a gun in the desert.  Hopper spends a good deal of the film talking about his love for guns.  On the one hand, it’s a bit alarming as Hopper doesn’t exactly come across as being the most stable person on the planet.  On the other hand, Hopper appears to be having such a good time that it’s hard not to be happy for him.  Hopper explains that, when you’re an outlaw and you’ve living in New Mexico, you have to have guns for your own protection and he makes a pretty good argument.  One of the frequent misconceptions about Hopper is that he was a hippie.  (This despite the fact that Easy Rider more or less ridiculed the hippies.)  The American Dreamer, with its emphasis on individual freedom and the right to protect yourself, shows that, even during the height of the Hollywood counterculture, Hopper’s outlook was essentially libertarian.  Watching The American Dreamer, it’s easier to understand how Hopper went from directing Easy Rider to becoming one of the few Republicans in Hollywood.  Indeed, whenever the bearded and often unwashed Hopper is seen walking through the desert or firing a gun at a cross, he comes across less like the revolutionary visionary that he’s trying to be and more like an old soul in a new world.

With its frequent use of freeze frames and its intentionally ragged editing, The American Dreamer is very much a film of its era.  That’s actually the main appeal of The American Dreamer.  It captures a very unique and very specific point of time.  It captures an artist during the brief period between his biggest success and his greatest failure and while the film may be frustrating on a narrative level, it’s fascinating as a time capsule.  The film is probably more poignant when viewed today than it would have been back in 1971 because, today, we know that The Last Movie bombed and that Hopper’s revolution ended as quickly as it began.  It was not Dennis Hopper who determined the future of American film but instead Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.  Hopper struggled, both professionally and personally, through the rest of the 70s and the early 80s before finally kicking drugs and emerging as not just as an in-demand character actor but also something of a pop cultural icon.  Watching The American Dreamer, it’s fascinating to compare the older Hopper — the one who gave witty interviews and who joked about his past excesses — with the pretentious and self-serious Hopper of the early 70s.

Still, The American Dreamer shows that Dennis Hopper was always a compelling figure.  It’s impossible not to roll your eyes while watching and listening to the youngish Dennis Hopper but, nonetheless, you do continue to watch and listen.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Bill Paxton Edition

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!

Bill Paxton would have been 65 years old today.  One of the greatest of the modern character actors, Bill Paxton passed away three years ago and the loss is still felt.  Paxton was one of those actors who was often taken for granted but who was capable of bring almost any character to life.  He was an exciting actor to watch, not to mention being one of the best actor to ever come out of Ft. Worth, Texas.  He is definitely missed.

Today, we pay tribute to the great Bill Paxton with….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Near Dark (1987, dir by Kathryn Bigelow)

Pass the Ammo (1988, dir by David Beaird)

A Simple Plan (1998, dir by Sam Raimi)

Frailty (2001, dir by Bill Paxton)