May Positivity: Fenced Off (dir by Brad Wise)

2011’s Fenced Off tells the story of Josh (Joshua Zirger) and George (Reggie Willis).

Josh is a young white social worker who has just moved onto a street where all of his neighbors are black.  His mother worries that Josh and his wife, Anne, are going to become crime statistics.  All of Josh’s friends tend to say things like, “Isn’t that neighborhood a little urban for you?”  Josh’s dumbass brother thinks that it would be a good idea to show up at Josh’s house wearing a durag and pouring a bottle of wine out on the driveway.  Josh is a nice guy but he sure does know a lot of dumb people.

Meanwhile, George (Reggie Willis) has lived on the block for 17 years.  He’s not at all happy when Josh shows up and he goes out of his way to avoid talking to his new white neighbors.  George’s best friend suggests that George might be a “bigot” but George denies it.  He says that he has a lot of reasons to not want to talk to Josh.  The fact that Josh is a dorky white guy is just one of them.

One week, while his wife is out of town, Josh’s life falls apart.  He offends a group of teenagers when he assumes that they’re approaching him because they want to mug him.  (Instead, they just want to return the $4.00 that he dropped while running.)  He freaks out when he hears a gunshot in the distance and, when George makes a joke about gangs in the area, Josh briefly worries that George might be a gang member.  Josh finds a white package on his property and automatically assumes that some drug dealers dropped a package of cocaine on his front lawn.  George grabs the package and reveals that it just a bag of  diapers.

It’s certainly a well-intentioned film and Josh and George are both portrayed as being complex characters who are sometimes right and sometimes wrong.  There’s actually a rather insightful scene in which Josh attempts to soothe things over with George by talking about how his family struggled financially when he was a kid just for George to call him out for assuming that George must be from a poor background.  When Josh argues that his best childhood friend was black, George wonders why every white guy claims to have had a black best friend who moved away in the 8th grade.  George has a point with both comments.  “I didn’t grow up rich” and “my best friend was/is black” are two of the most regularly repeated claims in white America today.

But, that said, Fenced Off doesn’t really work. Due to a lot of unnecesssary padding, the otherwise slight story unfolds a bit too slowly and the acting is often amateurish.  The actor who played Josh’s brother especially tended to overact.  (I’ve noticed that, when it comes to indie films like this one, it seems like there’s always at least one former theater kid who gets cast as a sidekick who proceeds to shout out all of his lines.)  Fenced Off has good intentions but the film is ultimately left down by its execution.

Lisa Marie’s Week In Television: 5/14/23 — 5/20/23

Barry (Sunday Night, HBO)

The latest episode of Barry scared the Hell out of me.  I literally screamed when that person dressed in all black appeared behind Sally.  That said, I also laughed at Monroe “The Raven” Fuches and his first few days of freedom.  NoHo Hank has apparently made himself into quite a successful businessman but he’s still in denial about the role he played in Cristobal’s death.  And, of course, Gene Cousineau remains Gene Cousineau.  I just can’t shake the feeling that none of these characters are going to survive the series finale.

Beavis and Butt-Head (Paramount Plus)

Beavis and Butt-Head discovered that the secret to being popular was acting depressed.  And then they probably rendered themselves sterile with shock treatment.  After that, Beavis got rabies.  That was kind of disturbing.  I’m going to guess that Butt-Head eventually got rabies as well.  Oh well.

Black Bird (Apple TV+)

I watched the first four episodes of this true crime miniseries this week.  It’s a fascinating show that I’ll write about more after I finish it.  Paul Walter Hauser is extremely unsettling as Larry.  Taron Egerton has the charisma of an old school movie star.  This show also showcases the late Ray Liotta in the role of Egerton’s loving father.  The role allows Liotta to show his kind side, along with the tough side that he was best known for.  Along with everything else that makes this show memorable, it serves as a tribute to Liotta’s skill as an actor.

Forgive or Forget (YouTube)

Laurie Sue appeared on the show to confess to her husband that she had cheated on him with her first cousin and that she had subsequently danced and stripped at a laundry mat.  He forgave her.  Personally, I suspect that they were both lying about what happened and just wanted a chance to appear on television.  Laurie Sue’s story was followed by two men who cheated on their pregnant fiancées.  Mother Love helped everyone work out their problems.  “Never underestimate the power of forgiveness!” Mother Love declared while the audience applauded.  I suspect Mother Love may have been a cult leader.

On Monday, I watched an episode featuring a teenage moron named Andrew who trashed the house while his father was in the hospital, having his toe amputated.  His father forgave him, even though Andrew definitely did not deserve it.

I Remember Gorgeous George (YouTube)

This was a 1980s documentary about pro-wrestling.  I watched it on Sunday morning.  I’m not really a wrestling fan but, that said, I can appreciate it as a unique example of Americana.

Law & Order (Thursday Night, NBC)

This uneven season came to an end with a heavy-handed look at gun control.  Basically, the message of this week’s episode was that it’s okay to kill someone as long as you have the right political beliefs.  Once again, justice was pushed to the side because of Price’s PTSD.  Seriously, what a disappointing way to end the season.

The Master (Tubi)

I wrote about The Master here!

Night Flight (Night Flight Plus)

On Saturday morning, I watched a 30-minute profile of the band Bananarama.

Sally Jessy Raphael (YouTube)

“I can’t believe my kid’s a skinhead!” was the title of the episode that I watched on Sunday and indeed, the parents were shocked.  Sally lost control of the audience early on.  I followed this up with an episode called “Serial Killer Fan Vs. Victims Families.”  Yikes!

On Tuesday, I was in a bad mood so I watched an episode called “My Teen Is Going To End Up A Criminal.”  Wow, those teens had some issues!  And I bet they did all end up as criminals.

Survivor (Wednesday Night, CBS)

I wrote about Survivor here!

Take Off To Comedy IX (Night Flight Plus)

I watched this 90s special on Friday night.  It was a collection of comedy clips, including a stand-up comedian talking about why he gave up cocaine.  Just from his manic delivery, I don’t think he ever gave up cocaine.

Waco: The Aftermath (Showtime)

I watched the remaining episodes of Waco: The Aftermath this week.  I understand that the show has apparently not been well-received by critics.  I’m going to guess that’s because the show was ultimately as a critical of the government as it was of its enemies.  To me, the show provided a look at how the efforts to combat the monster often make the monster even stronger.

Yellowjackets (Sunday Night, Showtime)

I’m now caught up with Yellowjackets.  Of course, I knew that Shauna’s baby was not going to survive but that didn’t make the episode any less powerful or sad or unsettling.  This season has definitely been a bit more uneven than the first season but it’s still a very intriguing show.

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 5.12 “Graduation” and 5.13 “A Band Divided”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Saturdays, I will be reviewing California Dreams, which ran on NBC from 1992 to 1996.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

This week, the Dreams graduate!

Episode 5.12 “Graduation”

(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 22nd, 1996)

Graduation approaches and Mark is freaking out because he’s never had the courage to ask out Sarah (Tara Reid …. yes, that Tara Reid).  When he finally works up the courage to ask her if she might want to go out with him, she says maybe and asks what he has in mind.

“Well, the school’s hosting a clean-and-sober graduation party….” Mark starts.

“I want beer!” Sarah replies.

And you know what?  Mark’s a nice guy but that invitation seriously was kind of dorky.  I don’t even drink and I would have totally rolled my eyes in high school if anyone had invited me to “a clean-and-sober graduation party.”

Sarah’s reaction should have been enough to let Mark know that they wouldn’t make a good couple but poor Mark.  Over the course of three seasons, he has yet to have a real girlfriend.  He’s desperate!  He invites Sarah to the graduation party that he’s decided to throw at Lorena’s loft.  And he’s also decided that there will be beer at the party!  This despite the fact that Mark and the Dreams have just attended a school assembly where Principal Blumford (Earl Boen) warned against the dangers of teenage drinking.  Someone is definitely not mature enough to leave high school yet!

And Mark’s proves that he’s not mature enough by getting drunk at the party, trying to drive to the beach with Sarah, and crashing into a ditch.  Mark gets arrested, loses his license for a year, and — as he explains at graduation — he’ll have to do community service, attends alcohol classes, and pay a fine.  Sarah ends up in the hospital and misses graduation.  Mark explains that she has two broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a concussion.  HOW DEEP WAS THAT DITCH!?  At the ceremony, Principal Blumford announces that “to say I’m disappointed in some of you for what happened last night would be an understatement….”  Dude, everyone knows you’re talking about Mark.  Way to make him feel bad at his own high school graduation!  Sam forgoes giving her valedictorian speech so that Mark can take to the stage and apologize.  Way to make graduation awkward for everyone!

Oh well.  At least graduation works out for everyone else.  Jake and Tiffani make a model castle so that they can pass their history class and avoid summer school.

Anyway, this was a depressing episode but I support any show that tries to keep people from drinking and driving.  Plus, the Dreams finally graduated!  Yay!

Episode 5.13 “A Band Divided”

(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 30th, 1996)

Again, yay!  This episode opens with the He’s So Funky song!

Unfortunately, the song is so great that it proves to be too powerful for the band’s amp, which explodes on stage.  It’s going to cost the Dreams a thousand dollars to get a new amp.  Lorena offers to loan them the money, in return for the band making her co-manager with her boyfriend Sly.  Sly is actually okay with the idea.  “A lot of great couple have worked together,” he says, “Sonny and Cher …. Bonnie and Clyde….”

Sly and Lorena’s first task is to convince the head of the School Dance committee to hire the  Dreams to play at the next school dance and….


Once again, when it came to maintaining continuity by showing the episodes in the proper order, NBC just didn’t care.

Anyway, to the surprise of no one, Lorena and Sly struggle to figure out how to work together and soon, the Dreams have absolutely no gigs!  Jake tells them a story about two brothers who both became king and who had to learn how to rule together.  This leads to a lengthy fantasy sequence in which everyone gets to wear Renaissance Faire costumes that cause the studio audience to go crazy with each entrance.  Unfortunately, the story doesn’t do much good because, rather than learning to compromise, Sly and Lorena demand that the Dreams pick only one of them to be the manager.

To me, Lorena is the obvious choice because she has the best hair.  Mark says that he can’t choose because “Sly and Lorena are both our friends.”  Uhmm, Mark …. Sly is also your cousin.  (This is one of those facts that the show often seemed to forget about.)  Tiffani suggests that they let some old surfer dude make the selection.  It’s kind of amazing that the Dreams have stayed together as long as they have because none of them appear to be that smart.

Anyway, the old surfer names Lorena as manager and then says that, since he did her a favor, she should do him a favor and have the Dreams play his party for free.  Lorena says that’s not a fair arrangement and then Sly jumps up and says it’s not a fair arrangement and the old surfer explains that it was all a trick to make them realize how much they loved the band and he rules that they should both be co-managers.  I’m glad that worked out!

This was a silly episode but I enjoyed it.  Sly and Lorena are a fun couple and there was a funny B-plot in which Jake tried to rewire Lorena’s house in order to make the new amp work.  Jay Anthony Franke was always at his best when the show gave him a chance to balance Jake’s innate coolness with Jake’s general incompetence.

Next week, we have the final two episodes!  I’m going to miss the Dreams.

The Spicy Covers of Bedtime Stories

by Earle Bergey

From 1934 to 1939, Bedtime Stories featured spicy stories and risqué covers that were done by some of the best pin-up artist in the pulp industry.  Here is a sampling of just some of the playful covers of Bedtime Stories!

1933, by Enoch Bolles

1934, by Enoch Bolles

1934, by Enoch Bolles

1935, by Earle Bergey

1935, by Earle Bergey

1935, by Hugh Joseph Ward

1936, by Hugh Joseph Ward

1937, by Hugh Joseph Ward

1937, by Hugh Joseph Ward

1938, by Peter Driben

1938, by Peter Driben

1939, by Peter Driben

Live Tweet Alert: Watch Cloverfield with #ScarySocial

As some of our regular readers undoubtedly know, I am involved in a few weekly live tweets on twitter.  I host #FridayNightFlix every Friday, I co-host #ScarySocial on Saturday, and I am one of the five hosts of #MondayActionMovie!  Every week, we get together.  We watch a movie.  We tweet our way through it.

Tonight, for #ScarySocial, Deanna Dawn will be hosting 2008’s Cloverfield!

If you want to join us on Saturday night, just hop onto twitter, start the film at 9 pm et, and use the #ScarySocial hashtag!  The film is available on Prime.  I’ll probably be there and I imagine some other members of the TSL Crew will be there as well.  It’s a friendly group and welcoming of newcomers so don’t be shy.

Scenes I Love: James Stewart Explains The Four Ways To Defend Murder In Anatomy of a Murder

On this date, in 1908, James Stewart was born in Pennsylvania.  Over the course of a long career that saw him become a favorite of every director from Frank Capra to John Ford to Alfred Hitchcock to Anthony Mann, Jimmy Stewart gave a series of amazing performances.  My favorite Stewart film is, of course, It’s A Wonderful Life.  But I also love Stewart’s performance in 1959’s Anatomy of a Murder.  Playing a somewhat cynical attorney, Stewart received his final Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his work in this classic and influential film.

In today’s scene that I love, James Stewart explains to his client (played by Ben Gazzara) that there are four ways that he can defend a murder charge.  The contrast between Stewart’s classic style and Gazzara’s intense method style makes for an intense scene between two very talented and unique actors.