Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 12/27/21 — 1/2/22


Happy New Year!

I spent most of this week visiting my sister Megan in Fort Worth.  That’s been a Bowman holiday tradition from 2008.  Pity my brother-in-law and my nephew as they had to spend a week listening to us carry on.  We watched a lot of TV, as I already mentioned.  We listened to a lot of music.  I lost track of how many times we danced along to the soundtracks of Saturday Night Fever, Boogie Nights, and Dazed and Confused.  It was a 70s type of week.

Well. I’m back home now and I’m feeing very proud of this site at the moment.  I want to say thank you to all of our writers and all of our readers.  You make all of the work worth it and I’m looking forward to seeing where 2022 takes all of us.

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

Films I Watched:

2021:

  1. After We Fell (2021)
  2. Dazed and Confused (1993)
  3. The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)
  4. The Godfather, Part III (1990)
  5. The Green Knight (2021)
  6. Monster (2003)
  7. Old (2021)
  8. Road House (1989)

2022:

  1. East of the Mountains (2021)
  2. House on Haunted Hill (1958)
  3. The Next Karate Kid (1994)
  4. Robot Monster (1953)
  5. Saved By The Bell: Hawaiian Style (1992)
  6. Stillwater (2021)

Television Shows I Watched:

  1. Allo Allo
  2. The Bold and the Beautiful
  3. California Dreams
  4. Dance Moms
  5. Days of our Lives
  6. Dexter: New Blood
  7. General Hospital
  8. Hang Time
  9. The Love Boat
  10. The Office
  11. Open All Hours
  12. Parking Wars
  13. Sabrina, The Teenage Witch
  14. Saved By The Bell
  15. Silk Stalkings
  16. The Steve Wilkos Show
  17. The Tribe
  18. The Twilight Zone
  19. The Young and the Restless

Books I Read:

  1. The Godfather (1969) by Mario Puzo
  2. Monster (1997) by John Gregory Dunne
  3. The Power Exchange (1979) by Alan R. Erwin
  4. Things I’ve Said, but Probably Shouldn’t Have : An Unrepentant Memoir (2007) by Bruce Dern

Music To Which I Listened:

  1. Above & Beyond
  2. Adi Ulmansky
  3. Alice Cooper
  4. Apollo 100
  5. Armin van Buuren
  6. Avicii
  7. Barry Adamson
  8. The Beach Boys
  9. Bee Gees
  10. Big Data
  11. Black Oak Arkansas
  12. Black Sabbath
  13. Blondie
  14. Bob Dylan
  15. Britney Spears
  16. California Dreams
  17. Calvin Harris
  18. Carly Simon
  19. Chakachas
  20. Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band
  21. Charli XCX
  22. The Chemical Brothers
  23. The Crystal Method
  24. Daft Punk
  25. David Shire
  26. Deep Purple
  27. Del Shannon
  28. Dillon Francis
  29. DJ Judaa
  30. DJ Snake
  31. Donna Summer
  32. Dr. John
  33. Edgar Winter Group
  34. Edge of Forever
  35. Electric Light Orchestra
  36. Elvin Bishop
  37. The Emotions
  38. Fatboy Slim
  39. Foghat
  40. Franka Potente
  41. George Harrison
  42. Gloria Gaynor
  43. Goblin
  44. Haim
  45. Hans Zimmer
  46. Head East
  47. Hot Chocolate
  48. The Hues Corporation
  49. Icona Pop
  50. James Brown
  51. John Carpenter
  52. Katy Perry
  53. KC and the Sunshine Band
  54. KISS
  55. The KLF
  56. Kool & The Gang
  57. Led Zeppelin
  58. Lionrock
  59. Lou Reed
  60. Lynrd Skynard
  61. M/A/R/R/S
  62. Marc Collin
  63. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
  64. Marvin Gaye
  65. Melanie
  66. McFadden and Whitehead
  67. Michael Fredo
  68. The Move
  69. MSFB
  70. Muse
  71. Nazareth
  72. Night Ranger
  73. Ohio Players
  74. Pet Shop Boys
  75. Peter Frampton
  76. Phantogram
  77. The Prodigy
  78. Public Service Broadcasting
  79. Ralph McDonald
  80. Rick Derringer
  81. Rick Springfield
  82. Rita Coolidge
  83. The Runaways
  84. Saint Motel
  85. Seals & Croft
  86. Shirley Bassey
  87. Sleigh Bells
  88. Sniff ‘n The Tears
  89. Sound Experience
  90. The Steve Miller Band
  91. Sweet
  92. Tavares
  93. Taylor Swift
  94. Ted Nugent
  95. Three Dog Night
  96. Tiesto
  97. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  98. The Trammps
  99. UPSAHL
  100. Van McCoy
  101. Walter Egan
  102. War
  103. Yvonne Elliman
  104. ZZ Top

Best of 2021:

  1. Top Ten Vintage Collections (Ryan C.)
  2. Top Ten Contemporary Collections (Ryan C)
  3. Top Ten Original Graphic Novels (Ryan C.)
  4. Top 25 Albums (Necromoonyeti)

Awards Season:

  1. Lisa Marie’s December Oscar Predictions
  2. Columbus Film Critics Association Nominations 
  3. Greater Western New York Film Critics Winners
  4. North Carolina Film Association Nominations

Trailers:

  1. 6 Classic Trailers for January 1st, 2022

News From Last Week:

  1. Betty White has died at age 99.
  2. Max Julien, Blaxploitation Icon and Star of ‘The Mack,’ Dies at 88
  3. Writer/Attorney Andrew Vachss Dies
  4. Jean-Marc Vallée Dies: Director Of ‘Dallas Buyers Club,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ & ‘Sharp Objects’ Was 58; Heart Attack Believed To Be The Cause
  5. ‘Comic Book Men’ star Robert Bruce found dead in NJ storage facility
  6. Ryan Reynolds, Ellen DeGeneres, Henry Winkler and More Remember Betty White: “She Lived the Best Life Ever”
  7. Jean-Marc Vallée Tributes Pour In: “My Heart Is Broken. My Friend. I Love You,” Reese Witherspoon Writes; Canadian PM Justin Trudeau Mourns Passing
  8. Kamala Harris: Heated Charlamagne tha God exchange was result of ‘frustration’
  9. Britney Spears says music hiatus is a ‘fuck you’ to her family
  10. ‘Karen’ who slapped Delta passenger is ex-‘Baywatch’ actress Patricia Cornwall
  11. L.A.’s Arms Race of the Affluent
  12. ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Continues Box Office Domination, Crosses $600 Million in North America

Links From Last Week:

  1. What Was Good in Tater Town in 2021
  2. RIP Max Julien…An Appreciation Of “The Mack” And Blaxploitation Cinema!
  3. December 2021 Viewing Recap + Movie(s) Of The Month
  4. Our favorite performances of 2021
  5. Critic’s Appreciation: Betty White Was as Important as She Was Beloved
  6. From Dr. Seuss to Chrissy Teigen: The stars who got canceled in 2021
  7. Life Lessons From My Aunt Joan Didion 
  8. Even if Modern Star Trek Doesn’t Think So, the World Is Getting Better
  9. A YouTube Film Critic Said Raya Was Avatar “Redux.” Then All Hell Broke Loose.
  10. Why so much Obama-era pop culture feels so cringe now
  11. ¡Hola Oscars! Don’t Forget to Consider These Latino Actors and Filmmakers From 2021
  12. The Black Neo-noirs of the ’90s
  13. Cold case murder that inspired ‘Twin Peaks’ solved 100 years later: Book

Links From The Site:

  1. Necromoonyeti shared his picks for the Top 25 albums of 2021!
  2. Ryan shared his picks for the top Vintage Collections, Contemporary Collections, and Graphic Novels of 2021!
  3. Erin shared Just A Picture of a Park in the Rain, The Education of Lydia, The Day After, Continental Touch, The Palace of Love, Worlds Beyond, The Parissienne, and Love Story!  She also reviewed Epiphany and shared The Covers of Fantastic Universe!
  4. Jeff reviewed The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean and Norwood.  He also wrote about the Jamie Kennedy New Year’s Special, Captain America punching Hitler, and a game called A Blank Page!
  5. I shared music videos from Van McCoy, Yvonne Elliman, Edge of Forever, Phantogram, Fatboy Slim, George Harrison, and Saint Motel.
  6. I reviewed the latest episode of Dexter, After We Fell. Saved By The Bell Hawaiian Style, The Next Karate Kid, Purple Noon, All The King’s Men, The Irishman, Penitentiary, The Last Don, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, And Now For Something Completely Different, The No Hope With Dope Episode of Saved By The Bell, and Lost Horizon!
  7. I read The Books of Rachel, The Lives of Rachel, Behind the Bell, and The Godfather!
  8. I shared my week in television I shared 8 shots from 8 Films You Should Watch In 2022.  I also shared an AMV of the Day and resolution encouragement from Monty Python.  I shared an educational film about making Better Use of Your Leisure Time.  I also listed 6 things that I’m looking forward to seeing in 2022!
  9. I wrote about the making of The Godfather Part II.
  10. I shared a scene from The Godfather Part II.
  11. I paid tribute to Oscar Micheaux.
  12. Doc welcome everyone to 2022!

More From Us:

  1. Ryan has a patreon!  You should subscribe!
  2. On her photography site, Erin shared Arboretum Path, Lovely Walk, Another Lovely Walk, Armadillos, Happy New Year’s Eve, Happy New Year, and The Past!
  3. At Pop Politics, Jeff shared Welcome to 2022 and Weather Report!
  4. For Horror Critic, I posted reviews of 10 Minutes to Midnight and Mulberry Street!
  5. At my dream journal, I shared: Christmas Decorations Dream, Shopping With My Sisters Dream, Beach Detective Dream, Parking Lot Dream, Dream About My Aunt, Happy New Year, and My Recurring High School Dream!
  6. At my music site, I shared songs from Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Del Shannon, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Michael Fredo, Donna Summer, James Brown, and the Hues Corporation!
  7. At SyFy Designs, I shared: Sympathy For My Brother-In-Law and Nephew, 2022: It’s In the Numbers, and A New Year’s Prayer!

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

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #219: Saved By The Bell: Hawaiian Style (dir by Don Barnhart)


Yesterday evening, I watched the 1992 made-for-TV movie, Saved By The Bell: Hawaiian Style!

Why Was I Watching It?

Eh.  It was on Netflix.  I was thinking about all of the fun that I had when I visited Hawaii.  I had just posted my review of Dustin Diamond’s Behind The Bell and I was feeling a little guilty about some of the things I wrote about him.  I saw the film was available to watch and I thought, “Why not?”

What Was It About?

The Saved By The Bell gang is spending their summer vacation in Hawaii!  Kelly’s grandfather (played by “special guest star” Dean Jones) owns a hotel but …. uh-oh!  It looks like the hotel is going to go out of business unless Zack and the gang can fool a bunch of principals (led by their principal, Mr. Belding) to check in.

Along with trying to save the hotel, each member of the Gang gets an adventure of their own!

Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) falls for a single mother (Rena Sofer), who has a rich boyfriend who owns a limo.  Zack thinks the guy is shallow and is unimpressed with his wealth.  Zack Morris, class warrior?  Whatever.

Kelly (Tiffani-Amber Theissen) falls for her grandfather’s lawyer, not knowing that he’s actually working for the rival hotel.

Jessie (Elizabeth Berkley) and Slater (Mario Lopez) try to spend the entire vacation without fighting.

Lisa (Lark Voorhies) makes a bet that Jessie and Slater can’t spend the entire vacation without fighting.

And Screech (Dustin Diamond) is mistaken for a deity by a Polynesian tribe.

Wait, what?

What Did Not Work?

It’s Saved By The Bell …. without a laugh track!

Unfortunately, Saved By The Bell was one of those shows that really needed a laugh track because, without the sound of an audience being ordered to laugh, it becomes next to impossible to ignore just how lame most of the jokes are.  Though the cast of Saved By The Bell featured a few talented actors, every single one of them still delivers their Hawaiian Style lines as if they’re waiting for the laughter that never comes.  As a result, every “laugh line” is followed by an awkward pause.

As for the show’s plot …. well, let’s put it like this.  Traditionally, I start out these posts by discussing what worked before then discussing what didn’t.  However, so little works with Saved By The Bell: Hawaiian Style that I felt like it was best to get all of the negative stuff out of the way early.  While Saved By The Bell always required a healthy suspension of disbelief, Hawaiian Style abuses the privilege.  Saved By The Bell Hawaiian Style asks us to believe the following:

  1. Kelly would be allowed to travel all the way to Hawaii without her parents.
  2. She would be allowed to take along all of her friends, who would also be traveling without parents.
  3. Screech would somehow be invited, despite the fact that no one in the group seems to like him.
  4. Somehow, their high school principal would also turn up in Hawaii at the exact same time.
  5. A single mother would dump her rich boyfriend for a high school junior.
  6. Screech would be mistaken for a Hawaiian God.

Of course, I guess some would say that we should be happy that the Gang was around to save the day but it’s hard not to notice that all of Zack’s schemes are dependent upon some terrible lie.  As well, I have to wonder if it was really worth all the trouble to save Kelly’s grandfather’s hotel.  I mean, maybe the guy just wasn’t a very good businessman.  I would probably be annoyed if I was on vacation in Hawaii with my friends and I was told that I would be spending the entire time working because some guy who was 50 years older than me couldn’t figure out how to balance the books.

This movie apparently aired on primetime television.  I wonder how viewers who didn’t know about Saved By The Bell felt when they came across it.

What Worked?

As bad as it was, it was also Saved By The Bell and, as a result, it did have some nostalgic appeal to it.  After the movie aired, Saved By The Bell: Hawaiian Style was sold into syndication as four regular episodes of Saved By The Bell and I can still remember seeing them on whatever channel Saved By The Bell was airing on at the time and thinking to myself, “What the Hell?”

The film was shot on location so, needless to say, the scenery was lovely.  Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley had a few fun moments as Slater and Jessie tried to go the entire trip without fighting.  There were small pleasures to be found.  Very small.

“OMG!  Just like me!” Moments

When I was seventeen, I spent the summer in Hawaii with my mom and my sisters.  It was a lot of fun.  Though I don’t swim, I still had a lot of fun laying out on the beach.  Hawaii is one of the most incredibly beautiful places that I’ve ever seen.  I would sneak out at the hotel at night and then marvel at the scenery during the day.  It was one of my favorite summers.  Of course, I also didn’t have to spend my vacation helping a bad businessman save his resort.  That helped.

 Lessons Learned

Apparently, I’ll watch anything.

Great Moments In Comic Book History #13: Captain America Punches Hitler


Above, we see Captain America punching out Hitler on the cover of the first issue of his new comic book.

It’s an image that we’ve all seen before.  It’s often held up as a perfect piece of wartime propaganda, as well as an answer to question of what should be done to anyone who wants to follow in Hitler’s footsteps.  However, the most important thing about this cover is often overlooked.

It was published in December of 1940.

In 1940, America was officially neutral.  Europe was at war and, while the U.S. was on the side of the Allies, the country still hadn’t entered the conflict.  Due to the trauma of World War I, many American voters and politicians were still “isolationists,” saying that it was not America’s place to get involved in a conflict taking place on the other side of the world.

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, however, disagreed.  Kirby and Simon were both first-generation Americans and they understood what was happening in Europe.  As Jews, they understood the evil that Hitler represented and, Simon later said, they both felt helpless whenever they heard reports about what was happening from the members of their family who were still in Europe.  In one of his final interviews, Joe Simon said that he and Kirby created Captain America to serve as the antithesis of Hitler.  And, with this cover, Simon and Kirby left no doubt where they and Captain America stood on the issue of neutrality.  What is often forgotten today is how much courage it took to take that stand in 1940.  At a time when comic books were viewed as being for kids and avoided taking a stand on anything beyond being anti-crime and also when there were any who still defended Hitler and shared his anti-Semitic views, Simon and Kirby took a stand and, to his credit, publisher Martin Goodman took that stand with them.

When this issue first came out, it sold a million copies.  At the time, that was an unheard of amount.  Though it would be another year before the U.S. officially entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Simon and Kirby took an early stand and created a great moment in comic book history.

Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:

  1. Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” 
  2. The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
  3. Crisis on Campus
  4. “Even in Death”
  5. The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
  6. Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
  7. Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
  8. Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe
  9. The Death of Dr. Druid
  10. To All A Good Night
  11. Zombie!
  12. The First Appearance of Ghost Rider
  13. The First Appearance of Werewolf By Night

Great Moments in Television History #10: First Night 2013 With Jamie Kennedy


Back in 2012, someone at KDOC-TV, an independent television station in Orange County, was trying to figure out a new and unique way to welcome the new year.  The major networks had their own spectaculars set up for the new year, with live shots from Times Square and big-time celebrity hosts.  What could a little independent station do to compete with that?

Two words: Jamie Kennedy.

Why not bring in stand-up comedian and occasional actor Jamie Kennedy to host the station’s New Year’s special and hopefully bring his own “unique” style of comedy to the proceedings?

Kennedy was hired and the show that he hosted went on to become infamous far beyond Los Angeles.  Featuring a myriad of technical issues, problematic humor, and even a fight that broke out on stage during the closing credits, First Night With Jamie Kennedy has since regularly been cited as one of the worst shows of all time.  Patton Oswalt talks about in his stand-up.  Nathan Rabin wrote an entire article about it.  First Night has become a legendary disaster.

What happened during First Night that made it such a surreal disaster?  Let us count the ways.

The mics often did not work when they were supposed to and the suddenly came on whenever nearby was uttering an expletive.

The crews’ walkie-talkies failed early, which meant that Kennedy was often not aware of when he was on camera and when he wasn’t.  There were frequent shots of Kennedy standing on the stage, looking miserable and obviously wondering how he had gone from Scream to hosting First Night.  At one point, when Stu Stone was interviewing Shannon Elizabeth, the camera lingered on an abject-looking Jamie Kennedy.

Along with making jokes about “Asian rappers,” Kennedy also appeared in comedy skit where he played a Mayan chief at a casino.

Macy Gray performed a song while appearing to be under the influence of something.

The countdown started late, so by 2013 had already arrived by the time the crowd hit zero.

Kennedy awkwardly hit on two drunk girls, one of whom resolved to “get rid of all my haters.”  Kennedy told two girls (who were both black) a joke about what happens when you “go white.”

As if the night could not get bad enough, there was skit featuring puppets making lewd jokes.

And, of course, A FIGHT BROKE OUT DURING THE END CREDITS!

As the legend of First Night spread, Kennedy said that it was supposed to be bad and a parody of a typical network TV new year’s special.  Sure, Jamie, we believe you.

The entirety of the show has been uploaded to YouTube.  It’s not pretty and it’s not great but it is a Moment in Television History!

Previous Great Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water
  3. Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK
  4. Frasier Meets The Candidate
  5. The Autons Terrify The UK
  6. Freedom’s Last Stand
  7. Bing Crosby and David Bowie Share A Duet
  8. Apaches Traumatizes the UK
  9. Doctor Who Begins Its 100th Serial

Interactive Fiction Review: A Blank Page (2021, Edu Sanchez)


Where to begin?

That is the question at the heart of A Blank Page, a work of interactive fiction that anyone with a creative spirit should be able to understand.  In A Blank Page, you are the writer, sitting in front of a blank screen and trying to figure out how to begin.  It seems like it should be so easy.  You’re smart.  You’re imaginative.  You have ideas.  The keyboard is right there in front of you.  

So, why is it so easy to find something else to do?

You can look out the window.  You can chat with your friends.  You can go for a walk.  You can even go through your notebook and look at all of the ideas that you’ve had, ideas that seemed good at the time but which now add up to a big pile of What Was I Thinking?  Why can you do all of that but you can’t start your masterpiece?

Trust me, I’ve been there. 

In fact, I’m there right now. 

I have been playing and reading interactive fiction like A Blank Page for years but I’ve never actually written one.  I have had ideas for a few.  I’ve even started on a few.  But I’ve never gotten past the first room description or the solution for the first puzzle.  In October, when I was playing the entries in the 2021 Interactive Fiction Competition, I decided that 2022 was going to be the year that I was not only going to  finally write a game but I was also going to let the rest of the world see it.  It’s been tough getting started, though.  I’ve played some good games and I’ve played some bad and really sloppy games and I would definitely rather be responsible for a good one.  My hope is that I’ll have something to enter into the 2022 Interactive Fiction Competition.  I don’t care if my game is ranked in top ten of the entries.  I just don’t want it to be dead last.

That’s where something like A Blank Page is helpful.  It’s a reminder that I’m not the only one who sometimes doesn’t know where to begin.  It’s good to know that I’m not the first person to have ever struggled with this.  Somewhere, someone else is also struggling to write their first game or their first story or create their first painting and they’re hoping that, whatever the final result of their efforts may be, it will be good enough to justify a second one.  As A Blank Page‘s creator says in the introduction to the game, “all arts have their own version of the ‘Blank Page Syndrome.'”

A Blank Page is a short Twine game, full of details that will resonate with any artist who has struggled.  It’s good and comforting to know that I’m not the only person who has ever spent more than one day looking at a blank page or screen and asking, Where to Begin?

Play A Blank Page.

Insomnia File #52: The Next Karate Kid (dir by Christopher Cain)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable or Netflix? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If, over the next few weeks, you find yourself having trouble getting to sleep, you might be tempted to log onto Netflix and watch the fourth season of Cobra Kai.  That’s certainly what I’m planning to do over the course of the next few days.  However, before you watch Cobra Kai, you should make sure that you’ve seen all of the earlier Karate Kid films because you never know who might show up on the show.  I mean, if Thomas Ian Griffith is coming back, anyone could be coming back!  And that includes Julie Pierce, the young karate student at the center of 1994’s The Next Karate Kid.

Julie (played by Hillary Swank) is a troubled teenager.  She lives in Boston with her grandmother.  She attends a high school that is run by a weirdly fascistic self-defense instructor named Colonel Dugan (Michael Ironside), who teaches all of the jocks to be tough, ruthless, and to show no mercy.  When Julie’s grandmother leaves to for Los Angeles so that she can relax, Julie’s new caretaker is an old family friend who turns out to be Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita).

At first, Julie wants nothing to do with Miyagi.  She’s still angry about the death of her parents in a car crash.  All she wants to do is take care of a falcon that lives on the roof of the school.  She does like a boy named Eric McGowen (Chris Conrad) but Eric is also friends with the members of Colonel Dugan’s paramilitary gang, the so-called Alpha Elite.  She needs someone who can understand her and her anger and, at first, Miyagi doesn’t seem like he’s capable of doing and of that.  But then Miyagi discovers that Julie has a natural talent for jumping on top of cars and this leads to….

Well, you know what it leads to.  It’s The Next Karate Kid!  Ralph Macchio was 33 years old when this film was first released and was a bit too old to still be playing a kid so the film’s producers tried to reboot the franchise by giving Miyagi a new student.  The Next Karate Kid pretty much hits all of the story beats from the first film, though it does change things up by not featuring a karate tournament.  Instead, it all leads to a post-prom fight between Miyagi and Dugan.  This film is your only chance to see Pat Morita face off against Michael Ironside and that’s got to be worth something.

The Next Karate Kid does not have a particularly good reputation and, watching the film, I understood why.  There’s very little of the spontaneity or the wit that made the first film memorable.  That said, I did appreciate Michael Ironside’s villainous turn.  If Hillary Swank doesn’t necessarily give the type of performance that would make you think, “Future two-time Oscar winner!,” she still does a good job of portraying the anger that’s at the heart of the character.  If nothing else, The Next Karate Kid deserves some credit for taking Julie’s anger seriously as opposed to just writing it off as being a “teen girl thing.”  The Next Karate Kid wasn’t as bad as I expected but it was still hard not shake the feeling that it was largely unnecessary.

That’s said, I still look forward to Julie’s eventual visit to Cobra Kai.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure
  40. The Spanish Prisoner
  41. Elektra
  42. Revenge
  43. Legend
  44. Cat Run
  45. The Pyramid
  46. Enter the Ninja
  47. Downhill
  48. Malice
  49. Mystery Date
  50. Zola
  51. Ira & Abby

Norwood (1970, directed by Jack Haley, Jr.)


Norwood Pratt (played by country singer Glenn Campbell) is a just a good old boy who has just returned home from serving in the Marines over in Vietnam.  After saying goodbye to his Marine buddy, Joe William Reese (played by quarterback Joe Namath), Norwood heads to his hometown of Ralph, Texas.  Norwood discovers this his sister (Leigh French) has married an idiot named Bill (Dom DeLuise!)

Norwood gets a job working at the local garage but he’s got his guitar and he’s got his dreams.  All he wants to do is play his music on the Louisiana Hayride radio program.  But with no money and no connections, how is he going to make it there?  When a shady businessman (Pat Hingles) offers to pay him fifty bucks to drive a car and prostitute (Carol Lynley) to New York City, Norwood agrees.  When Norwood discovers the car is stolen, he abandons both the vehicle and the girl but he still heads up to New York City.

Norwood has plenty of adventures and he meets plenty of people, like a hippie (Tisha Stirling) who invites him to open mike night at a coffee house in the Village.  Later, she invites him to join her in a bathtub by asking him if his guitar plays underwater.  “No, ma’m,” Norwood says, “but I do.”  He also meets a pregnant teenager (Kim Darby, Campbell’s co-star from True Grit) and a little person (Billy Curtis) who is traveling with a super intelligent chicken.

There have been a lot of very good films made about the struggle of military veterans to transition back to civilian life after their tour of duty comes to an end.  Unfortunately, Norwood is not one of those films.  Both Norwood and Joe have just returned from Vietnam but neither one of them seems to carry any lingering effects from their time overseas.  Neither of them shares any war stories or any thoughts on war in general.  (Someone does point out that Norwood has a scar.  Norwood says it’s a war wound that he got when he accidentally fell off a water truck.)  There’s no hint that the war itself was not going well for the United States in 1970 or that it wasn’t a popular war and that returning veterans often felt as if they had been rejected by the same country that asked (or forced) them to serve.  Even when Norwood meets the hippies in the Village, there’s no mention of protests.  Instead, Norwood presents 1970 as a time with no real conflicts, which is the perfect era for someone as forgettable as Norwood Pratt to become a star.

Norwood has the same basic and episodic structure as an Elvis movie, except that Elvis could actually act when he wanted to.  No one can deny Glenn Campbell’s talent as a singer but as an actor, he had very little screen presence.  In True Grit and this movie, the best that he could come up with was an amiable dullness.  In True Grit, it didn’t matter because John Wayne was in the movie.  But in Norwood, Campbell had to carry the story and his acting limitations were much more obvious.  Campbell even managed to get outacted by Joe Namath, who, as far as pro football player-turned-actors were concerned, was no Alex Karras.  Wisely, Campbell didn’t further pursue a career as an actor and instead concentrated on singing.  When Campbell died in 2017, he was praised for both his musical legacy and his honesty and courage while facing Alzheimer’s.  He may not have made it as an actor but he still touched a lot of lives.

Novel Review: The Books of Rachel and The Lives of Rachel by Joel Gross


My aunt has always been a prodigious reader and, when I was growing up, I always enjoyed looking through the stacks of books that she had sitting in the closets of her room. A few years ago, for medical reasons, my aunt had to move out of her house.  Because she wouldn’t have room for all of her books in her new place, she gave the majority of them to me.  So far, I’ve only read a few but this year, I plan to read all of them and review the ones that I like.  That’s one of my resolutions for 2022.

When I first got my aunt’s collection, one of the first books that I came across was a paperback called The Books of Rachel.  The cover featured a beautiful woman with a lovely necklace, a man fencing, and a couple kissing.  The blurb promised that Joel Gross’s The Books of Rachel was “exciting, tragic, colorful!”  That’s all I needed to see!  I read the book and I liked it so much that I went on Amazon to see what else Joel Gross had written.  That’s when I came across the prequel to The Books of Rachel, The Lives of Rachel.  Of course, I immediately ordered a copy of that book and read it as well.

The Books of Rachel was first published in 1979.  The Lives of Rachel was published in 1984.  Taken together, these two books tell the epic story of one family, following them from ancient Judea all the way to 1980s New York.  Though the family is frequently forced to relocate and each section of the book takes place in a different country and in a different century, a few things remain the same.  There is always a Rachel.  Whenever a Rachel passes, the first daughter to be born after her is given the name and becomes the heiress to centuries of strength, faith, and struggle.  They also, eventually, become the owner of a flawless, 60-carat diamond, the Cuheno Diamond.  The other thing that remains true is that, no matter where or when the individual Rachels may live, they do so under the shadow of the oldest of all prejudices and evils. From the ancient Romans to the Spanish Inquisition to the fascists and Nazis of post-World War I Europe, anti-Semitism is the one constant that every evil in the world tends to share.

There are many different Rachels.  Some are kind.  Some are innocent.  Some are less kind and some are definitely not innocent.  But what they all have in common is that they’re willing to fight, for themselves, for their family, and ultimately for their people.  For all of the sex and the melodrama (and, make no mistake, there is quite a bit and that’s definitely a good thing), The Books of Rachel and The Lives of Rachel are a tribute to survival, inner strength, and the faith and legacy of a people who would not allow themselves to be defeated.  With everything going on in the world today and so many prominent people openly embracing anti-Semitic conspiracy mongering, the lessons of these books are even more needed than ever.

Finally, another reason why I loved these books is because, as I’ve mentioned many times on the site, I am a total history nerd and these books are historical fiction at their finest.  The books are obviously very well-researched and the attention to detail makes them a wonderful read for those us who are interested in how life was once lived.

They’re good books.  I recommend them.  We can all learn from the Rachels.

Here Are The 2021 Nominees of the Columbus Film Critics Association!


The Columbus Film Critics Association have announced their nominees for the best of 2021!  The winners will be announced on January 6th.  That leaves you four days to see all of them.  Good luck!

Here are the nominees from Columbus:

Best Film
Belfast
C’mon C’mon
Dune
Licorice Pizza
Pig
The Power of the Dog
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
tick, tick…BOOM!
The Tragedy of Macbeth
West Side Story

Best Director
Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza
Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Steven Spielberg – West Side Story
Denis Villeneuve – Dune

Best Actor
Nicolas Cage – Pig
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog
Andrew Garfield – tick, tick…BOOM!
Will Smith – King Richard
Denzel Washington – The Tragedy of Macbeth

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter
Alana Haim – Licorice Pizza
Taylour Paige – Zola
Tessa Thompson – Passing

Best Supporting Actor
Colman Domingo – Zola
Ciarán Hinds – Belfast
Troy Kotsur – CODA
Jesse Plemons – The Power of the Dog
Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power of the Dog

Best Supporting Actress
Caitriona Balfe – Belfast
Jodie Comer – The Last Duel
Kirsten Dunst – The Power of the Dog
Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard
Marlee Matlin – CODA
Ruth Negga – Passing

Best Ensemble
The French Dispatch
The Harder They Fall
Licorice Pizza
The Power of the Dog
West Side Story

Actor of the Year (for an exemplary body of work)
Timothée Chalamet (Don’t Look Up, Dune, and The French Dispatch)
Bradley Cooper (Licorice Pizza and Nightmare Alley)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, The Mauritanian, The Power of the Dog, and Spider-Man: No Way Home)
Adam Driver (Annette, House of Gucci, and The Last Duel)
Andrew Garfield (The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and tick, tick…BOOM!)

Breakthrough Film Artist
Janicza Bravo – Zola (for directing and screenwriting)
Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Lost Daughter (for producing, directing, and screenwriting)
Alana Haim – Licorice Pizza (for acting)
Rebecca Hall – Passing (for producing, directing, and screenwriting)
Jude Hill – Belfast (for acting)
Woody Norman – C’mon C’mon (for acting)

Best Cinematography
Bruno Delbonnel – The Tragedy of Macbeth
Andrew Droz Palermo – The Green Knight
Greig Fraser – Dune
Dan Lautsen – Nightmare Alley
Ari Wegner – The Power of the Dog
Haris Zambarloukos – Belfast

Best Film Editing
Sarah Broshar and Michael Kahn – West Side Story
Andy Jurgensen – Licorice Pizza
Peter Sciberras – The Power of the Dog
Joe Walker – Dune
Andrew Weisblum – The French Dispatch

Best Adapted Screenplay
Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Joel Coen – The Tragedy of Macbeth
Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Lost Daughter
Siân Heder – CODA
Tony Kushner – West Side Story
Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, and Eric Roth – Dune

Best Original Screenplay
Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza
Zach Baylin – King Richard
Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Julia Ducournau – Titane
Mike Mills – C’mon C’mon
Michael Sarnoski – Pig

Best Score
Alexandre Desplat – The French Dispatch
Jonny Greenwood – The Power of the Dog
Jonny Greenwood – Spencer
Nathan Johnson – Nightmare Alley
Hans Zimmer – Dune

Best Documentary
Attica
Flee
The Rescue
The Sparks Brothers
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
The Velvet Underground

Best Foreign Language Film
Drive My Car
Flee
A Hero
Titane
The Worst Person in the World

Best Animated Film
Encanto
Flee
Luca
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Raya and the Last Dragon

Best Overlooked Film
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar
CODA
Cyrano
Nine Days

The Greater Western New York Film Critics Association Honors Pig!


The Greater Western New York Film Critics Association actually announced their picks for the best of 2021 on December 31st but, with the holidays and all, I’m only now getting a chance to share them with you.  The GWNFCA picked Pig for the best film of 2021 and that’s actually really cool.  Both Pig and Nicolas Cage’s lead performance are probably too weird for the Academy but it’s a damn good film.  One of the great things about the critics groups is that the best of them are willing to consider the films that the more mainstream Academy might overlook, films like Pig and The Green Knight.

Here are all the winners and the nominees from Western New York!

(The winners are in bold.)

BEST PICTURE
C’mon C’mon
CODA
Dune
The Green Knight
Judas and the Black Messiah
The Last Duel
Licorice Pizza
Pig
The Power of the Dog
Spencer

BEST FOREIGN FILM
Drive My Car (Japan)
Flee (Denmark)
Parallel Mothers (Spain)
Titane (France)
The Worst Person in the World (Norway)

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Flee
No Ordinary Man
Procession
The Sparks Brothers
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Belle
The Boss Baby 2: Family Business
Flee
Luca
The Mitchells vs. the Machines

BEST LEAD ACTRESS
Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter
Jodie Comer – The Last Duel
Emilia Jones – CODA
Renate Reinsve – The Worst Person in the World
Kristen Stewart – Spencer

BEST LEAD ACTOR
Nicolas Cage – Pig
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog
Andrew Garfield – tick, tick … BOOM!
Joaquin Phoenix – C’mon C’mon
Will Smith – King Richard

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jessie Buckley – The Lost Daughter
Ariana Debose – West Side Story
Ann Dowd – Mass
Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard
Ruth Negga – Passing

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Robin de Jesús – tick, tick … BOOM!
Mike Faist – West Side Story
Jason Isaacs – Mass
Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah
Troy Kotsur – CODA

BEST DIRECTOR
Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Pablo Larraín – Spencer
Ridley Scott – The Last Duel
Michael Sarnoski – Pig
Denis Villeneuve – Dune

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza
Will Berson & Shaka King and Kenneth Lucas & Keith Lucas – Judas and the Black Messiah
Julia Ducournau – Titane
Fran Kranz – Mass
Mike Mills – C’mon C’mon

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Ben Affleck, Matt Damon & Nicole Holofcener – The Last Duel
Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Lost Daughter
Rebecca Hall – Passing
Tony Kushner – West Side Story

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Bruno Delbonnel – The Tragedy of Macbeth
Andrew Droz Palermo – The Green Knight
Greig Fraser – Dune
Claire Mathon – Spencer
Ari Wegner – The Power of the Dog

BEST EDITING
Peter Sciberras – The Power of the Dog
Sebastián Sepúlveda – Spencer
Claire Simpson – The Last Duel
Joe Walker – Dune
Andrew Weisblum – The French Dispatch

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Carter Burwell – The Tragedy of Macbeth
Jonny Greenwood – The Power of the Dog
Jonny Greenwood – Spencer
Alberto Iglesias – Parallel Mothers
Hans Zimmer – Dune

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE
Mike Faist – West Side Story
Alana Haim – Licorice Pizza
Emilia Jones – CODA
Agathe Rousselle – Titane
Rachel Sennott – Shiva Baby

BREAKTHROUGH DIRECTOR
Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Lost Daughter
Rebecca Hall – Passing
Fran Kranz – Mass
Michael Sarnoski – Pig
Emma Seligman – Shiva Baby