AMV Of The Day: Miss Independent (Okami-San And Her Seven Companions)

Here’s hoping that everyone had a good and safe 4th of July!  Let us celebrate with an AMV.

Anime: Okami-San And Her Seven Companions

Song: Miss Independent by Kelly Clarkson

Creator: VermillionAMV (as always, please consider subscribing to this creator’s YouTube channel)

Past AMVs of the Day

Film Review: The Thing Called Love (dir by Peter Bogdanovich)

First released in 1993 and directed by Peter Bogdanovich, The Thing Called Love takes place in Nashville, the city that, for many people, has come to define Americana.

Of course, for those who actually love movies, it’s difficult to watch any film about Nashville and the country music scene without being reminded of Robert Altman’s American epic, Nashville.  Much like Nashville, The Thing Called Love follows a group of wannabes, stars, writers, and performers.  However, whereas Robert Altman used the city and its residents as a way to paint an acidic portrait of a nation struggling to find its way in an uncertain new world, The Thing Called Love is far less ambitious.

The Thing Called Love centers around Miranda Presley (Samantha Mathis).  Miranda is from New York but she loves country music.  She comes to Nashville to try to sell her songs and become a star.  Instead, she ends up working as a waitress at the “legendary” Bluebird Cafe.  While she waits for her big break, she meets two other aspiring writer/performers, Linda Lu (Sandra Bullock) and Kyle Davidson (Dermot Mulroney).  Kyle falls in love with Miranda but Miranda falls in love with and marries James Wright (River Phoenix, brother of Joaquin).  Unfortunately, while James is talented, he’s also a bit of a jerk.

The Thing Called Love aired on TCM last year and I can still remember checking out the #TCMParty hashtag on twitter while the film was airing.  The majority of the comments were from people who loved TCM and who couldn’t understand why the channel was showing this rather forgettable movie.  The answer, of course, is that the film was directed by Peter Bogdanovich and Bogdanovich was one of the patron saints of TCM.  Along with being responsible for some genuinely good films (Targets, The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, Saint Jack, Mask, The Cat’s Meow), Bogdanovich was also a very serious student of the history of film.  Up until he passed away in January, Bogdanovich was a familiar and welcome sight on TCM.  Listening to him talk about John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, and especially Orson Welles was always a delight.

Unfortunately, as Bogdanovich himself often admitted, the majority of his later films failed to reach the heights of his earlier work and that’s certainly the case of The Thing Called Love.  It’s not so much that The Thing Called Love is bad as it’s just really forgettable.  There’s very little about the film that suggests that it was directed by cineaste who was responsible for The Last Picture Show.  Samantha Mathis is likable but a bit bland in the role of Miranda while River Phoenix plays James as being such a jerk that you really don’t care about whether or not he finds success.  From what I’ve read, Phoenix based his performance on watching Bob Dylan in the documentary Don’t Look Back.  Dylan is notably mercurial in that documentary but, it should be noted, that Dylan eventually abandoned that persona once he realized that it was a creative dead end.

To be honest, I think the film would have worked better if Samantha Mathis had switched roles with Sandra Bullock.  This was one of Bullock’s first films and she steals every scene in which she appears, giving an energetic and likable performance as someone who never allows herself a single moment of doubt or despair.  As opposed to the self-loathing Phoenix and the bland Mathis and Mulroney, Sandra Bullock represents the hope and optimism that Nashville is meant to symbolize.  In the end, her performance is the best thing about The Thing Called Love.

The Girls From Thunder Strip (1970, directed by David L. Hewitt)

This one is pretty bad.

A group of dirty, good-for-nothing bikers roll into a Southern town.  Led by Teach (Gary Kent), the bikers are obsessed with murder and rape, the latter of which opens the film and is treated in a fashion that is meant to be comedic.  When some pointless bullying of a gas station attendant leads to the gang’s only female member getting stabbed to death, the bikers are arrested and thrown in the county jail.

Meanwhile, three sisters (Maray Ayres, Megan Timothy, and Melinda MacHarg) are making their own moonshine and selling it to the local hillbillies.  A federal agent (played by Casey Kasem, the DJ who used to countdown the Top 40 songs in America and who voiced Scooby-Doo’s stoner friend, Shaggy) comes to town and insists that the local sheriff (Jack Starrett) arrest the three sisters.  However, only one of the sisters is taken to jail while the other two escape.  The federal agent manages to accidentally blow up the still but he only ends up with a face full of soot as a result.  That Kasem can survive getting blown up without getting so much of a scratch on him would make sense if the rest of The Girls From Thunder Strip were presented as being a live-action cartoon but it’s not so the entire Kasem storyline feels like it was lifted from another, more light-hearted moonshiner movie.

With the help of the bikers, the incarcerated sister is able to break out of the county jail.  But just because they helped each other, that doesn’t mean that the sisters trust the bikers, especially after the bikers murder a deputy who happened to be a cousin to the bootleggers.  The bikers try to take over the moonshine business while the sisters (and one convenient mountain lion) take on the bikers.

The movie is all over the place.  On the one hand, you’ve got the bikers raping and killing nearly everyone they meet.  On the other hand, you’ve got Casey Kasem, playing a federal agent and pursuing the sisters with all the panache of a cartoon cat chasing a mouse.  The action scenes are lousy.  The characters have no motivation.  With one exception, the actors are terrible and no, that exception is not Casey Kasem.  Instead, the one exception is Jack Starrett, who plays the sheriff.  Starrett, with his trademark gravelly voice, was a director who had sideline playing intimidating authority figures.  In First Blood, he played Galt, the worst member of Brian Dennehy’s police force.  (He was the one who laughed when he ordered the deputies to shave Rambo with a straight razor.  Later he fell out of a helicopter and Rambo was blamed for his death.)  Starrett gives the same performance in The Girls From Thunder Strip that he later gave in First Blood and since the sheriff is not actually given a name, I’ve decided that he and Galt are the same character and Girls From Thunder Strip takes place in the Rambo Cinematic Universe.

Other than providing a look at the early life of Art Galt, there’s not much else to recommend The Girls From Thunder Strip.  Even aficionados of the biker and moonshine genres will want to look elsewhere.

Book Review: The Burning of the White House: James and Dolley Madison And The War of 1812 by Jane Hampton Cook

Despite being a huge history nerd, I did not watch a single episode of Showtime’s recent miniseries, The First Lady.  That’s largely because I think Showtime made a mistake with the three first ladies that they chose to profile.

Eleanor Roosevelt?  Everyone knows that Alice was far more interesting.

Betty Ford?  Look, I think Gerald Ford was a great and underrated President and I think the country would have been better off if he had defeated Jimmy Carter in 1976.  But we all know that Alice Roosevelt is the Republican First Lady who deserves a miniseries.

Michelle Obama?  It’s going to be another few years or so before we can even begin to seriously discuss whether or not the Obamas were successful in the White House.  Meanwhile, the legacy of Alice Roosevelt is right there.

Personally, assuming that there wasn’t a show about Alice Roosevelt airing at the time, I would rather watch a miniseries about Dolley Madison, who served as America’s First Lady from 1809 to 1817.  Madison was the fourth First Lady but she was the first to play an important role in her husband’s success.  Indeed, James Madison was said to be such an introvert that it’s doubtful he would have ever been nominated for or elected President if not for Dolley’s outgoing personality.  Along with furnishing The White House and making it into a proper residence for the head of the executive branch, Dolley also started the tradition of White House receptions and by inviting not only Madison’s allies but also his rivals, it can truly be said that Dolley Madison was the first person to promote bipartisanship in Washington.  Dolley was even the first American to ever receive a telegraph message and then send a response.  Apparently, before Dolley showed up, people would just read their messages and then toss them to the side.

James Madison was also President during the War of 1812.  Now technically, The War of 1812 was not America’s finest moment.  While the British were hardly innocent when it came to the diplomatic tensions between the two countries, the war largely escalated due to the fact that certain Americans had convinced themselves that Canada was eager to both be liberated from British rule and to become a part of the United States.  Indeed, the long tradition of the U.S. invading other countries for their own good began with the 1813 invasion of Canada.  In 1814, the British responded by sacking Washington D.C. and burning down the White House.  It was Dolley who made sure that the famous portrait of George Washington was removed from the White House wall before the building was set on fire.

That Dolley survived the burning of the White House served as a rallyingcry for the U.S. forces and what should have been a blow to morale instead only inspired the Americans to fight harder.  And while one can argue that the war was largely America’s fault, one can also acknowledge that the world was ultimately better off as a result of America’s victory in the War of the 1812.  The British gave up any hopes of reclaiming America and America was finally forced to accept that Canada didn’t necessarily want to be a part of the United States.

In fact, if anyone deserves to have a film made about her, it’s Dolley Madison.  Kate Winslet would be brilliant as Dolley Madison.  Get Sofia Coppola to direct it.  It’ll be great!

And I would suggest basing the film on a book called The Burning of the White House: James and Dolley Madison and the War of 1812.  Well-researched, well-written, and well-paced, this book was written by Jane Hampton Cook and it works as not just a history of the War of 1812 but also as a tribute to the legacy of Dolley Madison.  If you’re into history like I am, this is definitely a book that you should be reading.  It’s so informative and engaging that you really don’t need a movie to appreciate Dolley and James.

Still, someone really should make that movie….

Happy 4th of July From The Shattered Lens!

Happy Independence Day!

Obviously, this 4th of July is going to be different for a lot of people. For many people, this is probably the angriest Independence Day in my lifetime and I know there’s some people who are even saying that it’ll be our last because America’s on the verge of collapsing.  What’s funny, of course, is that I wrote the exact same words last year.  And I think that I may have written them the year before that.  In fact, I think that there hasn’t been an Independence Day since 2010 in which a large group of people were angry and saying that this one was going to be our last.

It’s gotten so predictable that I’m going to repeat exactly what I wrote last year:

Personally, I don’t think it’ll be our last and I think that, though it may not seem like it today, things will get better.  America’s been through tough times before.  If most of the people out there knew as much about history as they thought they did, they’d know that.

Now, myself, I have to admit that I love the whole ritual of fireworks.  I’m a Texan and I’m probably more of a country girl than even I’m willing to admit.  I mean, as sophisticated as I may try to be here on the Shattered Lens, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t own an American flag bikini and if I didn’t kind of get a thrill from the sight of fireworks exploding in the night sky.  Of course, if I had to choose between seeing an uncut version of Von Stroheim’s Greed or watching Fireworks, Von Stroheim would probably win out because I love cinema even more than I love fireworks.  That said, fireworks are still really cool, especially when you’ve got a bunch of stuffy government types telling you not to set them off.

Anyway, here’s my point.  There’s going to be fireworks tonight, whether they’re “legal” or not.  A lot of them will probably be set off by drunk idiots in their backyard.  People are still recovering from having been locked down for the last few years.  There’s a lot of frustration and a lot of people are going to be expressing that frustration by making as much noise as possible.  (I don’t blame the people, by the way.  I blame government officials who, instead of understanding people’s frustrations and trying to help them deal with them, instead used the entire crisis to act like a bunch of petty authoritarians.  A little empathy goes a long way to convincing people to do the right thing.)

So, please, as a favor to me — GET YOUR PETS INSIDE!  KEEP THEM INSIDE!  Seriously, they’re going to be scared to death.  Every 4th of July, our cat hides underneath a bed and refuses to come out until after the fireworks have stopped.  Erin and I usually toss one of his kitty toys under there and he’ll usually end up playing with it until he eventually decides to come out.  It’s funny.  As much as we would worry whenever we saw Doc scramble under the bed, that’s where he feels safe on the 4th of July.  I don’t know if it’s the same for dogs but cats are all about finding a safe place.  Once they do, they can handle just about anything.

Also, please remember that fireworks may be fun to you and me but they’re not fun for people who have served in war and/or who are suffering from PTSD and who might find them triggering.  So, check on your neighbors.  Keep them in mind before you go crazy trying to recreate a combat zone in their neighborhood.

“But Lisa, you just said you love fireworks….”

Yes, I do.  But I love animals and treating people with consideration even more.

Anyway, stay safe out there!  Happy Independence Day from the Shattered Lens!