Film Review: Britney Ever After (dir by Leslie Libman) #FreeBritney


britney-ever-after-trailer

Earlier tonight, I watched the latest Lifetime celebrity biopic, Britney Ever After.

Ever since that ill-fated Aaliyah movie, Lifetime biopics have had a reputation for being hot messes and I’m sure that a lot of people will say the same thing about Britney Ever After.  Britney Ever After is about Britney Spears, following her from her first tour with *NSYNC through her relationship with Justin Timberlake through her marriages to both Jason Alexander and Kevin Federline and finally concluding with her well-publicized breakdown in 2008.  As usually seems to happen with these biopics, the whole story is framed by interviews with a documentary crew.  From what I saw, the twitter reaction was pretty savage and I’m sure that there will be all sorts of snarky reviews tomorrow.

But you know what?

As far as Lifetime celebrity biopics go, Britney Ever After was not that bad.

It suffered from some obvious problems.  Since neither Britney nor her management had anything to do with the making of the film, none of Britney’s original music was heard.  That means there was no Oops! I did it again!  There was no Baby One More Time.  No Toxic.  No If U Seek Amy.  There was no Work Bitch, which incidentally is both the greatest song that Britney’s ever done and my favorite song to sing while stuck in traffic.  I think it was mentioned, at one point, that Britney was working on a song called Womanizer but I may have misheard.  When the actress playing Britney sang, it was only to cover songs by other artists.  In the film, Britney performed I Love Rock and Roll and a bit of Walking After Midnight.

For what I presume are legal reasons, the film had to be circumspect.  Yes, Justin Timberlake (played by Nathan Keyes) was a character in the movie but he was portrayed so blandly that he could have been any hyperactive teenager with good hair.  Jason Allen Alexander (Kelly McCabe) shows up just long enough to marry Britney and then be told that the marriage is going to be annulled.  Amazingly, Britney’s entire marriage to Kevin Federline (Clayton Chitty) takes place over less than 10 minutes of screen time.  Adnan Ghalib (Serge Jaswal) and Sam Lufti (Benjamin Arce) get more attention that Kevin but both of them are portrayed so negatively that they probably wish they hadn’t.

(Adnan and Sam both made the mistake of testifying about Britney in court, meaning that their douchebaggery was a part of the public record and free for Britney Ever After to portray.)

As for Britney’s “rivalry” with Christina Aguilera (which, early in their careers, pretty much defined both of their public personas), it goes unmentioned.  Christina is only briefly seen in a long shot.  For those of you hoping for any details about the dark side of life at the Mickey Mouse Club, Britney Ever After is not for you.  Really, the film’s main problem was one of logistics.  Britney Ever After had only 90 minutes to tell the story of a very dramatic and complicated life.  If the film felt rushed, that’s because it had a lot to show and not much time to do it.

But, even with all that in mind, Britney Ever After was not the disaster that some seem to believe that it was.  In the role of Britney, Natasha Bassett did far better than I was expecting.  There were some issues, of course.  Her attempt to duplicate Britney’s Southern accent led to her sounding more like Jessica Simpson than Britney Spears.  During the film’s early scenes, she seemed almost too innocent to be believed but it quickly became apparent that this was intentional on the film’s part.  One of the themes running through the film was how Britney’s image was continually shaped by her parents, her management, and her boyfriends.  In the end, Britney is portrayed as having no control over her own life.  When Britney suffers a break down in 2007, she’s at least trying to live her own life.  When everyone around her panics, are they concerned about her health or are they concerned about her image and their investment in her career?  This unanswered question hangs over the final 30 minutes of Britney Ever After.  If Natasha Bassett never quite seemed to be Britney, she was still very believable as a character living the exact same life and dealing with the exact same issues.

Plus, there was an enjoyably silly scene where Britney ran into Justin in a club and they had an epic dance off.  If only all relationship issues could be solved by a dance off!

That said, I was a bit disappointed that, at no point, was Crossroads mentioned.

(Seriously, a Britney movie with no mention of Crossroads!?)

But give the film some credit.  It did a good job of capturing the suffocating experience of being hounded by paparazzi.  And the film was even-handed and compassionate when it came to portraying Britney’s 2007 breakdown.  Like Britney, I’m bipolar and I’ve always felt that I could understand what she was going through while the rest of the world was finding so much entertainment in her very public struggle.  Since 2008, Britney’s father has had conservatorship over her life and control of all of her assets.  For nearly ten years, Britney Spears has not been allowed to stand on her own and has essentially made a lot of money for everyone but her.  During the documentary segments that provide a wrap-around to the film’s story, Britney Ever After obliquely hints at this sad reality.  In those sequences, there’s a sadness to Bassett’s performance, an acknowledgement that Britney has paid a price for public stability.

Britney Ever After was on Britney’s side, which is more than can be said of many other biopics.

#FreeBitney!

 

 

2016 In Review: Lisa Marie’s 14 Favorite Songs of 2016


Every January, I list my fourteen favorite songs of the previous year and, every January, I include the same disclaimer.  My fourteen favorite songs are not necessarily the fourteen favorite songs of any of the other writers here at the Shattered Lens.  We are a large and diverse group of people and, as such, we all have our own individual tastes.

If you ever visited the TSL Bunker, you would be shocked by the different music coming out of each office.  You would hear everything from opera to death metal to the best of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.  And then, of course, you would reach my office and you would discover that my taste in music pretty much runs the gamut from EDM to More EDM.

Now, usually, I do try to listen to a variety of music.  You can go to my Song of the Day site — Lisa Marie’s Song of the Day — and see that I do occasionally listen to other types of music.  But, I have to be honest.  2016 was not a year that inspired me to really leave me comfort zone.  If anything, music provided me with some much needed consistency in an otherwise chaotic year.  2016 was a year that made me want to dance until it was all over and, for the most part, my favorite songs of the year reflect that fact.

Before I list my 14 songs, I should make something else very clear.  These are my 14 favorite songs of 2016.  I’m not saying that they’re necessarily the best songs of 2016.  I’ll leave that debate for others.  Instead, there are the songs that I found myself listening to over and over again.  These are the songs made me dance.  These are the songs that made me sing.  A few of these songs relaxed me when I needed to be relaxed.  One of the songs made me cry but I’m not going to say which one.

It might make you cry too.

Or it might not.

That’s the beautiful thing about art.  Everyone experiences it in their own individual way.

Here are my 14 favorite songs of 2016:

14) David Bowie — Lazarus

13) Afrojack & Hardwell — Hollywood

12) Cedric Gervais (ft. Juanes) — Este Amor

11) Matoma (ft. Becky Hall) — False Alarm

10) Radiohead — Burn the Witch

9) Gorgon City (feat Vaults) — All Four Walls

8) Penthox — Give It Away

7) Britney Spears — Clumsy

6) Martin Garrix (feat Mesto) — WIEE

5) Tiesto, Oliver Heldens (feat Natalie LaRose) — The Right Song

4) The Weekend (feat Daft Punk) — Starboy

3) Radiohead — Daydreaming

2) Coldplay — Up&Up

1) The Chemical Brothers — C-h-e-m-i-c-a-l

For my previous picks, check out 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015!

Tomorrow, I will be posting some of my favorite things that I saw on television in 2016!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2016:

  1. TFG’s 2016 Comics Year In Review : Top Tens, Worsts, And Everything In Between
  2. Anime of the Year: 2016
  3. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2016
  4. 2016 in Review: The Best of SyFy
  5. 2016 in Review: The Best of Lifetime
  6. 2016 in Review: Lisa Picks the 16 Worst Films of 2016!
  7. Necromoonyeti’s Top Ten Albums of 2016

Back to School Part II #40: Crossroads (dir by Tamra Davis)


crossroads_poster

Last year, I started a new blog called Lisa Marie’s Song of the Day.  It’s nothing big.  It’s just a place where, on a daily basis, I share music that I happen to like.  Ever since I started the site, certain people have been giving me a hard time over the fact that they have discovered that I am a total Britney Spears fangirl.

Well, I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I love Britney Spears.  I always have.  Even when I was going through my whole “wearing black and writing dark poetry” phase, I still loved Britney.  Her songs are great to dance to and they’re even more fun to sing off-key and at the top of your lungs when you’re taking a shower or driving to or from work.  Even better is when you have a family member in the car and she has no choice but to listen as you sing Work Bitch in your thickest rural accent.

(Whenever I sing, I unleash my inner country girl.)

Of course, it’s never just been Britney’s music to which I’ve paid attention.  I was jealous of her when she dated Justin Timberlake.  I was worried for her when she married Kevin Federline.  I was scared for her when she went through her period of public instability.  When she shaved her head, lost custody of her children, and was placed under the conservatorship of her father and attorney, it angered me to watch as the media treated her pain as entertainment.  When she was diagnosed as being bipolar, I related to her because I knew exactly what she was going through.  I even still use the #FreeBritney hashtag on twitter.

So, in short, I’m definitely a fan.  But I have to admit that I prefer Later Britney, the one who uses bitch as a term of empowerment, to Early Britney, the one who used to lie about being a virgin.

The 2002 film Crossroads is definitely all about Early Britney.

Crossroads was Britney’s feature film debut and it was also pretty much her exit.  The film did well at the box office (and I’ll admit that I paid money to see it … well, actually, I got someone else to pay for me to see it but you get the point…) but the critics absolutely hated it and it still regularly appears on lists of the worst films ever made.  For the record, I do not think that Crossroads is one of the worst films ever made.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not exactly a good film but it’s definitely something of a guilty pleasure.  Whenever I watch it, I go on a nostalgia trip and that’s always a little bit fun.

In Crossroads, Britney plays Lucy.  Lucy has just graduated from high school.  Lucy is supersmart and, the film is quick to tell us, a super virgin as well.  (There’s something rather icky about how much media emphasis was put on Britney’s claimed virginity.  Especially since even her biggest fans suspected there was no way she was still a virgin if she was dating Justin Timerblake…)  Lucy was her school’s valedictorian and now her father is looking forward to Lucy going to medical school and becoming a doctor.  Lucy’s father is played by Dan Aykroyd.  Though Aykroyd is playing a Georgia auto mechanic, he makes no attempt to hide his thick Canadian accent.  Good for you, Dan!

Anyway, Lucy is preparing to do what her father wants but then she gets an opportunity to drive across the country with two childhood friends and a complete stranger.  In high school, Lucy had little to do with snobby Kit (Zoe Saldana) and pregnant Mimi (Taryn Manning) but, when they were all 10 years-old, they were all BFFs.  In fact, they were so close that they even buried a time capsule.  Digging up the capsule inspires these three frenemies to hop into a car with Ben (Anson Mount) and hit the road!

Ben, it turns out, has just gotten out of prison but he’s hot and he’s musically talented.  The girls are a little bit scared because they think Ben might have been in prison for murder but seriously, Ben is way too cute to be a murderer.  Plus, when he reads Lucy’s poetry, he sets it to music.

AND SERIOUSLY, HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THAT!?  I mean, c’mon — every girl who has ever written a poem has, at some point, fantasized about a boy who would put that poem to music and tell her that her words were almost as beautiful as she was.

I mean, there’s a lot of negative things that could be said about Crossroads.  I’m not a fan of the way Mimi was portrayed and, towards the end of the film, it almost feels as if the movie is suggesting that she’s being karmically punished for getting pregnant without being married.  The film’s emphasis on Lucy’s (and, by implication, Britney’s) chastity feels dangerously reactionary.  And, while Britney doesn’t really give a bad performance, she’s still not quite believable as someone who was so busy studying that she didn’t even go to one single party during high school.

But ultimately, this will always be the film where a hot guy took a girl’s poem and spontaneously set it to music.

There’s something to be said for that!

#FreeBritney

Music Video of the Day: …Baby One More Time by Britney Spears (1998, dir. Nigel Dick)


I would usually try to write something here. Something like that she represented the worst of the late 90s. Maybe that she has grown on me since that time. Just about anything along those lines would normally fill this post. But I can’t do that because I really can’t get over that the director of Wonderwall by Oasis, Paradise City by Guns N’ Roses, and Everybody Wants To Rule The World by Tears For Fears made this music video. Then again, he has worked on some 300-400 music videos, so why not?

Speaking of why not. Why not a death metal cover of this song?

Page Buckner worked in the art department for this music video. There is an IMDb page for that name, but I’m not sure if someone born in 1979 would have been working on this music video. Assuming it is, then he has worked on numerous major projects such as Django Unchained (2012).

Watching this music video is very nostalgic, but I am so glad this period of music is over. Enjoy this time capsule.

10 Of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Songs of 2013


Continuing my series on the best of 2013, here are ten of my favorite songs from 2013. Now, I’m not necessarily saying that these were the best songs of 2013. Some of them aren’t. But these are ten songs that, in the future, will define 2013 for me personally. Again, these are my picks and my picks only. So, if you think my taste in music sucks (and, admittedly, quite a few people do), direct your scorn at me and not at anyone else who writes for the Shattered Lens.

I’ve occasionally been asked what my criteria for a good song us. Honestly, the main things I look for in a song is 1) can I dance to it, 2) can I write to it, and 3) can I get all into singing it while I’m stuck in traffic or in the shower?

Anyway, at the risk of revealing just how much of a dork I truly am, here are ten of my favorite songs of 2013.

10) A Low and Swelling Sound Gradually Swelling (composed by Shane Carruth)

This atmospheric instrumental piece comes from the soundtrack of the best film of 2013, Upstream Color.  This is great writing music.

9) Giorgio By Moroder (performed by Daft Punk and Giorgio Moroder)

From Random Access Memories.

8) Saturday (performed by Rebecca Black and Dave Days)

I make no apologies.  Much like Friday, this is a fun song to sing when you’re driving to and from work.  Plus, I think the video’s clever.

7) Brave (performed by Sara Bareilles)

I have to admit that I loved this song more before it started showing up in Nokia Lumia commercials.

6) Feel This Moment (performed by Pitbull, feat. Christina Aguilera)

5) Haunted (performed by ROB)

This is from the Maniac soundtrack.  Much like the Carruth song, this is great writing music.

4) Work Bitch (performed by Britney Spears)

Not a day goes by that I don’t find an excuse to say, “You gotta work, bitch.”

3) A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got) (performed by Fergie, feat. Q-Tip and Goon Rock)

From The Great Gatsby soundtrack.

2) Just Give Me A Reason (performed by Pink and Nate Ruess)

1) Lose Yourself to Dance (performed by Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams)

What else needs to be said?

Finally, here are two honorable mentions.  These are two songs that helped define 2013 for me but, for various reasons, could not be included in my top ten.

First off, Alison Gold’s Chinese Food is technically a terrible song but it’s so terrible that it becomes oddly fascinating.  Thanks to the presence of Patrice Wilson, the video is probably one of the most unintentionally creepy music videos ever made.

(I should admit that I happen to love Chinese food myself and therefore, this song is one that I’ve sung a lot over the past few years.)

The second honorable mention is a far better song than Chinese Food: Icona Pop’s I Love It.  I Love It was released in 2012 but it’s the song that I listened to nonstop last year..  So, even if it was released a year earlier, I Love It is still my favorite song of 2013.

Tomorrow, I will continue my look back at 2013 with 10 good things that I saw on television last year.

Other Entries In TSL’s Look Back At 2013:

  1. Lisa Marie’s 16 Worst Films of 2013
  2. Necromoonyeti’s Top 10 Metal Albums of 2013
  3. Things That Dork Geekus Dug In 2013
  4. Lisa Marie’s Best of 2o13 SyFy

Song of the Day: Scream & Shout (performed by will.i.am feat. Britney Spears)


Much as with yesterday’s song of the day, there’s no great or secret reason why I selected Scream & Shout.  It’s a fun song and great to dance to and what more can you really ask?

When I’m at work, I’m always tempted to answer the phone with, “It’s Lisa, bitch.”

Lisa Marie’s 10 Favorite Songs of 2011


Continuing my series on the best of 2011, here are ten of my favorite songs from 2011.  Now, I’m not necessarily saying that these were the best songs of 2011.  Some of them aren’t.  But these are ten songs that, in the future, will define 2011 for me personally.  Again, these are my picks and my picks only.  So, if you think my taste in music sucks (and, admittedly, quite a few people do), direct your scorn at me and not at anyone else who writes for the Shattered Lens.

By the way, I was recently asked what my criteria for a good song was.  Honestly, the main thing I look for in a song is 1) can I dance to it and 2) can I get all into singing it while I’m stuck in traffic or in the shower? 

Anyway, at the risk of revealing just how much of a dork I truly am, here are ten of my favorite songs of 2011.

1) What The Water Gave Me (performed by Florence + The Machine)

Musically, 2011 was a good year for me because it’s the year that I first discovered Florence + The Machine.

2) Only In My Double Mind (performed by Centro-Matic)

This is a great song from one of the best bands to come out of North Texas.

3) Man or Muppet (performed by Jason Segal and Walter)

Featuring lyrics from the brilliant Bret McKenzie.  This song makes me cry every time.

4) Immigrant Song (performed by Karen O, Trent Reznor, and Atticus Ross)

Say what you will about David Fincher’s rehash of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, it had a good soundtrack.  This cover of Immigrant Song made the film’s first trailer bearable.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t really featured in subsequent trailers, being replaced by Daniel Craig going, “I want YOU to HELP ME catch a KILLER of WOMEN.”

5) Friday (performed by Rebecca Black)

Yeah, yeah, I know.  It’s a terrible song and you know what?  That’s why I can’t help but love it.  Listen, there are thousands of terrible song released every year but there are none quite as a terrible as Friday.  The genius of Friday is that it took everything that we associate with terrible music — nonsensical lyrics, insane autotune, a socially irresponsible message, creepy rappers who show up out of nowhere and for no good reason — and then just smashed it all together into the YouTube video that refused to die.  Add to that, a few months ago, me and my BFF Evelyn got like totally drunk and then wandered around the streets of Dallas singing this song at the top of our lungs and I swear, every guy who passed by yelled words of encouragement at us. 

(And, by the way, if you’re going to hate someone, hate on Fred Phelps.  Leave Rebecca Black alone.  Life’s too short.)

6) Hold it Against Me (performed by Britney Spears)

Yeah, yeah, I know.  Everyone loves to hate on Britney blah blah blah.  This song is fun to sing in the shower and you can dance to it.  And, quite frankly, that’s all I need.

7) Beard (performed by Burning Hotels)

This is from another North Texas band.

8) Fucking Perfect (performed by Pink)

An anthem.  (Yes, I know this song came out in 2010 but it was important to me in 2011 so I’m listing it here now.  So there.)

9) Love Is The Drug (performed by Oscar Isaac and Carla Gugino)

From the Sucker Punch soundtrack comes this sneakily subversive cover.

10) No Light, No Light (performed by Florence + The Machine)

Finally, what better way to end this list than with some more of Florence + The Machine.

Finally, I want to close this list with a song that came out long before 2011 but it’s an important song to me and it was sung by someone who we lost far too early this year.

Coming tomorrow: ten of the best things I saw on television in 2011.