4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Josef von Sternberg Edition


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More 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!

On this date, 128 years ago, the great cinematic stylist Josef von Sternberg was born in Vienna.  Von Sternberg would become one of the great directors of both the silent and the early sound era and is today best remembered for his many collaborations with Marlene Dietrich.  

It’s time for….

4 Shots From 4 Josef von Sternberg Films

Underworld (1927, dir by Josef von Sternberg, DP: Bert Glennon)


The Blue Angel (1930, dir by Josef von Sternberg, DP: Gunther Rittau)


Shanghai Express (1932, dir by Josef von Sternberg, DP: Lee Garmes and James Wong Howe)


The Scarlet Empress (1934, dir by Josef von Sternberg, DP: Bert Glennon)

Lisa Reviews A Palme d’Or Winner: Barton Fink (dir by Joel and Ethan Coen)


With the Cannes Film Festival underway in France, I decided that I would spend the next few days watching and reviewing some of the previous winners of the Palme d’Or.  Today, I got things started with the 1991 winner, Barton Fink.

Directed by the Coen Brothers and taking place in the mythological Hollywood of 1941, Barton Fink tells the story of a writer.  Played by John Turturro, Barton Fink is a playwright who has just had a big hit on Broadway.  We don’t see much of the play.  In fact, we only hear the final few lines.  “No,” one the actors says, in exaggerated “common man” accent, “it’s early.”  From what we hear of the reviews and from Barton himself, it seems obvious that the play is one of those dreary, social realist plays that were apparently all the rage in the late 30s.  Think Waiting for Lefty.  Think Hand That Rocks The Cradle.  Think of the Group Theater and all of the people that Elia Kazan would later name as having been communists.  These plays claimed to tell the stories of the people who couldn’t afford to see a Broadway production.

Barton considers himself to be the voice of the common man, an advocate for the working class.  He grandly brags that he doesn’t write for the money or the adulation.  He writes to give a voice to the voiceless.  When his agent tells him that Capitol Pictures wants to put Barton under contract, Barton resists.  His agent assures Barton that the common man will still be around when Barton returns from Hollywood.  There might even be a few common people in California!  “That’s a rationalization,” Barton argues.  “Barton,” his agent replies with very real concern, “it was a joke.”  Barton, we quickly realize, does not have a sense of humor and that’s always a huge problem for anyone who finds themselves in a Coen Brothers film.

In Hollywood, Barton meets the hilariously crass Jack Lipnik (Oscar-nominated Michael Lerner).  Lipnik is the head of Capitol Pictures and he is sure that Barton can bring that “Barton Fink feeling” to a Wallace Beery wrestling picture.  Barton has never wrestled.  He’s never even seen a film.  The great toast of Broadway finds himself sitting in a decrepit hotel room with peeling wallpaper.  He stares at his typewriter.  He writes three or four lines and then …. nothing.  He meets his idol, Faulknerish writer W.P. Mayhew (John Mahoney), and discovers that Mayhew is a violent drunk and that most his recent work was actually written by his “secretary,” Audrey (Judy Davis).  He seeks help from producer Ben Geisler (Tony Shalhoub), who cannot understand why Barton is having such a difficult time writing what should be a very simple movie.  Barton sits in his hotel room and waits for inspiration that refuses to come.

He also gets to know Charlie Meadow (John Goodman).  Charlie is Barton’s neighbor.  Charlie explains that he’s an insurance agent but he really sells is “peace of mind.”  At first, Barton seems to be annoyed with Charlie but soon, Barton finds himself looking forward to Charlie’s visits.  Charlie always brings a little bottle of whiskey and a lot of encouragement.  Charlie assures Barton that he’ll get the script written.  Barton tells Charlie that he wants to write movies and plays about “people like you.”  Charlie shows Barton a wrestling move.  Barton tells Charlie to visit his family if he’s ever in New York.  Charlie tells Barton, “I could tell you some stories” but he never really gets the chance because Barton is usually too busy talking about his ambitions to listen.  Charlie tells Barton, “Where there’s a head, there’s hope,” a phrase that takes on a disturbing double meaning as the film progresses.  Just as Barton isn’t quite the class warrior that he believes himself to be, Charlie isn’t quite what he presents himself to be either.  Still, in the end, Charlie is far more honest about who he is than Barton could ever hope to be.

When it comes to what Barton Fink is actually about, it’s easy to read too much into it.  The Coens themselves have said as much, saying that some of the film’s most debated elements don’t actually have any deeper meaning beyond the fact that they found them to be amusing at the time.  At its simplest, Barton Fink is a film about writer’s block.  Anyone who has ever found themselves struggling to come up with an opening line will be able to relate to Barton staring at that nearly blank page and they will also understand why Barton comes to look forward to Charlie visiting and giving him an excuse not to write.  It’s a film about the search for inspiration and the fear of what that inspiration could lead to.  Towards the end of the film, Barton finds himself entrusted with a box that could contain his worst fears or which could cpntain nothing at all.  There’s nothing to stop Barton from opening the box but he doesn’t and it’s easy to understand why.  To quote another Coen Brothers film, “Embrace the mystery.”

There’s plenty of other theories about what exactly is going on in Barton Fink but, as I said before, I think it’s easy to overthink things.  The Coens have always been stylists and sometimes, the style is the point.  That said, I do think that it can be argued that Barton Fink’s mistake was that he allowed himself to think that he was important than he actually was.  Self-importance is perhaps the one unforgivable sin in the world of the Coen Brothers.  Like most Coen films, Barton Fink takes place in a universe that is ruled by chaos and the random whims of fate.  Barton’s mistake was thinking that he could understand or tame that chaos through his art or his politics.  Barton’s mistake is that he tries to rationalize and understand a universe that is irrational and incapable of being explained.  He’s a self-declared storyteller who refuses to listen to the stories around him because those stories might challenge what he considers to be the “life of the mind.”

Barton Fink is a film that people either seem to love or they seem to hate.  Barton, himself, is not always a  particularly likable character and the Coens seem to take a very definite joy in finding ways to humiliate him.  Fortunately, Barton is played by John Turturro, an actor who has the ability to find humanity in even the most obnoxious of characters.  (As obnoxious as Barton can be, it’s hard not to want to embrace him when he awkwardly but energetically dances at a USO club.)  Turturro has great chemistry with John Goodman, who gives one of his best performances as Charlie.  It’s putting it lightly to say that most viewers will have mixed feelings about Charlie but the film makes such great use of Goodman’s natural likability that it’s only on a second or third viewing that you realize that all of Charlie’s secrets were pretty much out in the open from the start.  Michael Lerner deserved his Oscar nomination but certainly Goodman deserved one as well.  The rest of the cast is full of Coen Brothers regulars, including Jon Polito as Lerner’s obsequies assistant and Steve Buscemi as Chet, the very friendly front deskman.  And finally, I have to mention Christopher Murney and Richard Portnow, who play two of the worst cops ever and who deliver their hardboiled dialogue with just the right mix of menace and parody.

Barton Fink won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, defeating such films as Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever and Lars Von Trier’s Europa.  It also won awards for the Coens and for John Turturro.  It’s perhaps not a film for everyone but it’s one that holds up well and which continues to intiruge.  Don’t just watch it once.  This isn’t a film that can fully appreciated by just one viewing.  This isn’t a Wallace Beery wrestling picture.  This is Barton Fink!

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Audrey Hepburn Edition


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More 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 would have been the 93rd birthday of one of my favorite actresses, the wonderful Audrey Hepburn!

We’re all Audrey Hepburn fans here at the Shattered Lens.  How could we not be?  Long before she made her film debut, Audrey Hepburn literally risked her life as a part of the Dutch Resistance during World War II.  After she retired for regularly appearing in the movies, she devoted herself to humanitarian causes and served as a UNICEF ambassador.  She was one of the greats and, for that reason, we honor Audrey Hepburn today with….

4 Shots From 4 Audrey Hepburn Films

Roman Holiday (1953, dir by William Wyler, DP: Henri Alaken and Franz Planer)

Sabrina (1954, dir by Billy Wilder, DP: Charles Lang)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961, dir by Blake Edwards, DP: Franz Planer)

Two For The Road (1967, dir by Stanley Donen, DP: Christopher Challis)

The Range Feud (1931, directed by D. Ross Lederman)


In a frontier town, two ranching families are at war.  The Turners claim that the Waltons have been stealing and reselling their cattle.  Even an attempt to hold a peace meeting at the local church just leads to more fighting.  Complicating things is that young Clint Turner (John Wayne) is in love with Judy Walton (Susan Fleming).  When someone shoots John Walton (Edward LeSaint) through the window of his office, Clint is the number one suspect.  Not helping is that Clint had an empty round in his gun.  Clint says that he fired at a coyote but he missed.  Everyone else in town says that its time to hang Clint without a trial.

Only Sheriff Buck Gordon (Buck Jones) stands between the mob and Clint.  Buck was raised by the Turner family and considers Clint to be his brother.  However, Buck still knows that Clint might be guilty but there’s no way that Buck is going to allow mob justice to rule his town!

The Range Feud was one of the many B-programmers that were released in the 30s.  Running less than 60 minutes, it is a briskly paced western that features a theme that was present in many westerns, the battle between mob justice and the law.  The townspeople who are eager to hang Clint without a trial represent the old ways of doing things while Buck represents the new way, in which everyone is innocent until proven guilty and entitled to a fair trial.

Buck Jones was one of the best of the early western heroes.  He played tough-but-fair men who could definitely handle themselves in a fight but who preferred to try to reason their way out of conflict.  Buck Jones served in a Calvary unit, worked as a cowboy, and started in the film business as a stunt man.  He had an authenticity that set him apart from others who merely pretended to be cowboys.  That authenticity serves him well in The Range Feud.  He may feel bad about having to arrest his stepbrother but any character played by Buck Jones can be guaranteed to follow the law.  In real life, Buck Jones died a hero.  In 1942, Buck Jones was at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Boston when a fire broke out.  Though Jones initially was able to get out of the nightclub, he subsequently reentered to help other people get out.  Severely burned, he died of his injuries two days later.

Of course, the main reason that people will track down this film is for a chance to see the young John Wayne playing a key  supporting role as Clint Turner.  It’s always a little bit strange to see Wayne playing a young man.  He’s one of those actors who you always assume was always in his 40s.  Wayne is likable as the free-spirited Clint, though it is again strange to see Wayne playing someone other than an authority figure.  For once, it’s Wayne who ends up in jail and who is dependent on someone else to save him.

The Range Feud is an entertaining and fast-moving western.  Fans of the genre and of Buck Jones and John Wayne will appreciate it.

Lisa Marie’s Week In Television: 3/27/22 — 4/2/22


I spent most of this week passed out, to be honest.  Oscar Sunday took a lot out of me.  Here’s a few thoughts on what I did watch:

The Academy Awards (Sunday Night, ABC)

I wrote about the Oscars here.

Allo Allo (Sunday Night, PBS)

Could the British airmen escape from floating down a canal and meeting a submarine?  It sounds like a good idea but …. no, of course it’s not going to work.  Good moaning, indeed!

American Idol (Monday Night, ABC)

Hollywood week!  The genre challenge!  It was boring.  The indie folk group had some of the most annoying singers that I’ve ever seen.  I’m really hoping that the girl who keeps bragging about how “weird” she is will get eliminated early.  If you’re truly weird, you don’t have to beg people to notice.

Baywatch Hawaii (Hulu)

On Wednesday, I finally watched episode two of the second and final season of Baywatch Hawaii.  JD wasn’t being a team player so Sean briefly suspended him and then asked him to help with a rescue.  JD learned an important lesson about putting aside your own concerns and taking one for the team.  Bleh.  Meanwhile, the father of an injured jet skier tried to sue Baywatch Hawaii but then he met the couple who was nearly killed by his son’s carelessness and he dropped his lawsuit.  Yay!  Lessons were learned all around.

On Thursday, I watched episode three.  Jenna was determined to shut down Baywatch and sell the property to the Mafia.  Sean was determined to raise the money necessary to pay his bills.  Fortunately, Jason and Zack saved the gangsters from drowning and, as a result, Baywatch lived to see another day.  You can’t put someone out of business after they save your life.  It’s the Mafia code.

The Brady Bunch (Sunday Afternoon, MeTV)

All four of Sunday’s episodes centered around the kids playing baseball.  Greg wanted to drop out of school to pursue a career in the majors so Mike used a baseball bat to break his kneecaps.  That seems a little extreme to me but the important thing is that Greg stayed in school.

Couples Court With The Cutlers (Weekdays, OWN)

I watched two episodes on Monday afternoon.  I was too busy making jokes about Will and Jada Smith someday appearing on the show to actually pay that much attention.

The Dropout (Hulu)

I reviewed the latest episode of The Dropout here!

Full House (Sunday Afternoon, MeTV)

Personally, I don’t see what was so bad about Danny Tanner wanting to have a clean house.  In all four the episodes that aired last Sunday on MeTV, people gave him a hard time for being compulsively neat but seriously, who would want to live in a dirty house?  For instance, while I was watching Full House, I stepped outside for a few minutes and accident stepped on a rock while barefoot.  Once I came back in, I discovered that the den floor had a trail of bloody footprints on it, much like a totally horrific crime scene.  Needless to say, I was not happy about this turn of events so, once I managed to step bleeding, I spent a few hours scrubbing the floor.  It was just the right thing to do.

The Girl From Plainville (Hulu)

I wrote about the first three episodes of Hulu’s latest miniseries here!

King of the Hill (Weekday Afternoons, FXX)

I watched one episode on Monday.  Desperate to make money so that he could afford some nicer clothes, Bobby first tried to get a legitimate job but eventually, he turned to panhandling.  Hank, needless to say, did not approve of his own son being a bum for fun.  He also didn’t approve of the other panhandlers, who were all basically rich kids just pretending to need the money.  They even forced Hank’s favorite homeless man, Spongey, to move to a different spot!  Fortunately, it all worked out in the end and Spongey hopefully got the money he needed.

Last Man Standing (Sunday, Newsnation)

I swear, this show is inescapable.  It’s on at least one channel every hour of every day.  I guess it kind of makes sense.  It’s a sitcom that didn’t really require too much focus on the part of the viewer and, as a result, it makes for nicely acceptable and inoffensive background noise.  Myself, whenever I see this show, I find myself relating to the middle daughter, the one who pretends to be self-centered but is secretly nicer than everyone else.  Anyway, I watched three episodes on Sunday and I don’t remember a thing about any of them, other than one featured the mom and the older sisters trying on wedding dresses and talking about how silly the world was.  That’s just the type of show that Last Man Standing was.

The Love Boat (Sunday Afternoon, MeTV)

Debbie Reynolds boarded the ship and briefly pretended to be Dr. Bricker’s nurse.  I’m not sure it’s a good idea for a doctor to agree to allow anyone to “pretend to be a nurse.”  I mean, a nurse still has a lot of real responsibility.  I assume everything worked out in the end.  To be honest, I was busy getting ready for the Oscars so I didn’t pay much attention to the show this week.

Open All Hours (Sunday Night, PBS)

Arkwright somewhat desperately tried to convince Nurse Gladys Emmanuel that he wasn’t a monster who is holding Granville hostage.  The nurse (a real one, this time!) was too clever for him.

Saved By The Bell (Sunday Morning, MeTV)

I woke up on Sunday morning and I watched the Christmas episode!  That was the one where Zack and his mom allowed a homeless man and his daughter to move in and then they never mentioned them ever again.  Kind of a strange episode.  I’ve always been worried about what happened to the man and his daughter after the final credits.  It just seems like having two strangers living in the house is something that would have come up again in a future episode.

Survivor (Wednesday Night, ABC)

I wrote about the latest episode of Survivor here!

Talking Dead (Sunday Night, AMC)

Chris did his best to make this week’s episode of The Walking Dead more interesting than it actually was.  Good for him.

The Walking Dead (Sunday Night, AMC)

I wrote about the latest episode of The Walking Dead here!

Paddies Final Oscar Predictions!


I’m going to start with

Short Documentaries because one of these hurt me deeply!

Nominations

“Audible” (Will win and should win best picture, but that is another argument!)

“Lead Me Home”

“The Queen of Basketball”

“Three Songs for Benazir”

“When We Were Bullies”

So, onto my other big predictions:

Best Original Screen play:

Nominations:

“Belfast”

“Don’t Look Up” (probably will win)

“King Richard”

“Licorice Pizza” (would be my pick and should win!)

“The Worst Person in the World”

Best Animated Feature:

Nominations:

“Encanto” (This isn’t even close!)

"Flee

“Luca”

“The Mitchells vs. the Machines”

“Raya and the Last Dragon

Best Cinematography:

Nominations:

“Dune”

“Nightmare Alley”

“The Power of the Dog” (will win)

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” (my pick)

“West Side Story”

And now to my Final Picks!

Best Supporting Actress:

Nominated:

Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter”

Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story”

Judi Dench, “Belfast”

Kirsten Dunst, “The Power of the Dog” (Will win an should!)

Aunjanue Ellis, “King Richard

Best Supporting actor

Nominations

Ciaran Hinds, “Belfast”

Troy Kotsur, “CODA” (will win and should!)

Jesse Plemons, “The Power of the Dog”

J.K. Simmons, “Being the Ricardos”

Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog

Best Actress:

Nominated:

Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (will win)

Olivia Colman, “The Lost Daughter”

Penélope Cruz, “Parallel Mothers” (Should win)

Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos”

Kristen Stewart, “Spencer”

Best Actor:

Nominated:

 Javier Bardem, “Being the Ricardos”

Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Power of the Dog” (I would’t be surprised here!)

Andrew Garfield, “Tick, Tick … Boom!”

 Will Smith, “King Richard” (It’s his to lose, but...)

Denzel Washington, “The Tragedy of Macbeth”

Best Director :

Nominations are:

Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast”

Ryusuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car”

Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza”

 Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog” (There should be any question about this!)

Steven Spielberg, “West Side Story”

And for the movie of the year:

The nominations are:

“Belfast”

“CODA” (Will win)*

“Don’t Look Up”

“Drive My Car”

“Dune”

“King Richard”

“Licorice Pizza”

“Nightmare Alley”

“The Power of the Dog”

“West Side Story”

Like I said earlier, “Audible” Should be the movie of the year!

Happy Oscar Day and I hope you all get a well deserved trophy! We will see how my predictions (and hopes) go!

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Zack Snyder Edition


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More 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!

As I already mentioned, today is Zack Snyder’s birthday!  It’s taken a while but critics are finally starting to appreciate Zack Snyder.  All it took was seeing the Joss Whedon version of Justice League for some viewers to realize that, whether you always agree with his directorial choices or not, Zack Snyder is one of the most consistently interesting filmmakers working today.

Personally, so as not to be a hypocrite about this, I will admit that I’ve been pretty critical of Snyder’s DC films.  I make no apologies for that.  I’ll continue to make jokes about the excessive destruction of Metropolis and the “Why did you say Martha?” scene.  That said, Watchmen was a well-done film that continues to be influential.  People are finally starting to admit that Sucker Punch was pretty damn good.  Dawn of the Dead is one of the few horror remakes that pay homage to its source material while also establishing a worthwhile identity of its own.  And, even if I haven’t worked up the courage to sit through all four hours of it, Zack Snyder’s Justice League has inspired an enthusiasm that I rarely see amongst film fans.  “Release the Snyder Cut!” was one of the few twitter campaigns to actually get results.  Even the Snyder films that I dislike are unlike any other film.  Snyder has a unique artistic vision and that’s what we need more of.

So, in honor of the man’s birthday, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Zack Snyder Films

Dawn of the Dead (2004, dir by Zack Snyder, DP; Matthew F. Leonetti)

Watchmen (2009, dir by Zack Snyder, DP: Larry Fong)

Sucker Punch (2011, dir by Zack Snyder, DP; Larry Fong)

Army of the Dead (2021, dir by Zack Snyder, DP: Zack Snyder)

It’s Love, Part 8!


Happy Valentine’s Day! Today, we celebrate love! Love isn’t always easy! As we all know, Valentine’s Day can be difficult when you’re single. Everyone around you is bragging about how in love they are and you just want them to shut up and leave you alone. If you are among those who are single today, do not worry and do not despair.  You’re not the first person to find yourself in this situation and you won’t be the last.  Though you may feel like you, you are not alone.  The path to true love is never an easy one to travel but the destination makes the trip worth it.  To help you on your journey, here are some vintage romance comic covers.  Even in the 1950s and the 1960s and the 1970s, Valentine’s Day wasn’t for everyone.
And as difficult as it can be to find true love, it’s always worth it to look! So. if you’re alone or if you’re a part of a couple, if you’re single or married, in love or simply enjoying life, happy February 14th!  May it be a good day, no matter what it means to you.