Music Video of the Day: I’m Upset by Drake (2018, dir by Karena Evans)


We’re not even halfway through 2018 yet and I’m already prepared to declare that today’s music video of the day is the best of the year!  Now, you’ll notice that I didn’t say that it’s the best song of the year but really, the song’s not that important.  What’s important is that, with this video, Drake and director Karena Evans gives us the Degrassi reunion that we’ve all been waiting for!

(Okay, maybe not everyone.  Apparently, some people aren’t as obsessed with Degrassi as the rest of us are.  But you know what?  I love Degrassi.  I’ve got almost the entire series on DVD and I’ve watched and rewatched every episode so many times that I can quote most of them from memory.)

Before he found superstardom as Drake, Aubrey Graham was best known (by people like me) for playing Jimmy Brooks.  When Degrassi first started, Jimmy was something of a random jock.  He got into fights.  He played basketball.  He dated Ashley Kerwin and dumped her after she took ecstasy and ended up making out with Sean.  He dated Hazel until she graduated.  He dated Ashley again until she betrayed him to get a recording contract.  And, of course, he ended up in a wheelchair after a mean-spirited prank led to Rick Murray shooting him in the back.  Jimmy eventually left Toronto for Amsterdam and possibly law school but, as we see in this video, he’s back and so are all of our old favorites.

Admittedly, before this video, there was a previous Degrassi reunion.  Back in 2016, the 500th episode of Degrassi featured a class reunion and several old characters did return.  Unfortunately, everyone’s favorites — like Paige, Spinner, Marco, and Emma — didn’t get much screen time.  Instead, Mo — who really shouldn’t have even been at the reunion since it had only been a year since he graduated — got most of the screen time and seriously, who ever cared about Mo?  Meanwhile, beloved graduates like Ellie, Craig, and Manny didn’t even show up.  In short, the official Degrassi reunion was a huge disappointment!

Fortunately, this video does a better job of bringing back almost all of our favorites.  I guess that’s the power of Drake.  True, it’s hard not to be disappointed that Sean Cameron, Joy Hogart, Alex, J.T. Yorke, Johnny DiMarco, and Bruce the Moose didn’t show up.  (If you ever had any doubt that Degrassi was a Canadian show, just consider the fact that a major supporting character was named Bruce The Moose.)  But check out who did return!

First off, here’s Spinner (Shane Kippel)!

Seriously, it’s not a Degrassi reunion if Spinner isn’t there.  Despite the fact that Degrassi was a four-year school, Spinner was enrolled for seven seasons.  Okay, so Spinner wasn’t that good of a student but so what?  He was the heart and soul of Degrassi!  Not only was he the drummer for Toronto’s greatest band, Downtown Sasquatch, but he was also Jimmy’s best friend, except for that time when Jimmy was angry over Spinner’s part in the prank that led to Jimmy getting shot in the back.  (Fortunately, they made up.)  I’ve seen some people online wondering why Spinner spends so much of this video throwing up.  My theory is that it’s an homage to the seventh season episode, Pass the Dutchie.  That’s the episode where Spinner, while undergoing chemotherapy, throws up on his English teacher.

(That episode also features one of the greatest lines in Degrassi history, when a stoned Spinner realizes that he’s about to fail English for the third time and exclaims, “What kind of idiot fails his own language three times!?”)

Four of my favorites all showed up together.  Getting out of the stylish white car: Paige (Lauren Collins), Ellie (Stacey Farber), Marco (Adamo Ruggiero), and Craig (Jake Epstein).  I always related to Ellie, largely because we both had red hair and always wore black to school.  I also always felt bad that Craig and Ellie could never quite seem to make things works romantically, though Ellie and Sean were actually a better couple.  But I’m just kind of rambling now…

Hey, it’s Terri (Christina Schmidt) and Hazel (Andrea Lewis)!  Terri was on the first three seasons of Degrassi, until she was put into a coma by her abusive boyfriend, Rick Murray.  (This was the same Rick who would later shoot Jimmy in the back.)  Hazel was Jimmy’s girlfriend, until she eventually realized that Jimmy was actually in love with Ellie.  It’s probably not a coincidence that Drake is rapping about his ex at the same time that Hazel shows up.

Then the teachers show up!  Ms. Kwan (Linlyn Lue) was the tyrannical English teacher who was driven to tears when Jimmy and Spinner egged her car.  As for Archie “Snake” Simpson (Stefan Brogren), he’s been the one constant over the course of all the different versions of Degrassi.  He started out as a student on Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High.  In School’s Out, he was the first character to say “fuck” on Canadian television.  Finally, Mr. Simpson taught the school’s media immersion class and eventually became principal of the school.

About halfway through the video, we learn that Mr. Simpson buys his drugs from Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith).

A longtime fan of the Degrassi franchise, Kevin Smith appeared as himself during season 4 and 5 and also in the second Degrassi movie, Degrassi Goes Hollywood.  Smith came to Degrassi to shoot his latest movie, Jay and Silent Bob Go Canadian, Eh?  Of course, he brought Mewes with him.  While Kevin Smith did end up contributing to the break-up of Caitlin and Joey, he also helped to track down Craig, who was having a manic episode and living on the streets at the time.  Later, Smith would return to Degrassi to encourage Paige to take a chance with Alex and to also help launch the acting career of Manny Santos (Cassie Steele).

Speaking of Manny, she returns for Drake’s reunion and, appropriately enough, she’s seen hanging out with Emma (Miriam McDonald).  Interestingly, in Degrassi Takes Manhattan, Emma ended up marrying Spinner in a plot twist that caused thousands of Degrassi fans (like me) to roll their eyes in unison.  (Seriously, Emma and Spinner barely spoke to each other for 9 seasons and then they suddenly got married.)  In this video, Spinner and Emma don’t even seem to acknowledge each other.  Maybe they got divorced.

Among the other former Degrassi cast members to make an appearance: Melissa McIntyre (a.k.a. the one and only Ashley Kerwin), Nina Dobrev (who played teen mom-turned-super model Mia), A.J. Saudin (a.k.a. Simpson’s autistic godson, Connor), Sarah Barrable-Tishauer (a.k.a., class President Liberty Van Zandt), Jake Goldsbie (a.k.a. adorable nerd Toby Isaacs), Marc Donato and Dalmar Abuzeid (a.k.a. dorky friends Derek and Danny), and Paula Brancati (who played Jane, the girl who Spinner probably should have married.)

And then there’s Rick Murray (Ephraim Ellis).  Despite the fact that Rick was reported to have died shortly after shooting Jimmy, he still showed up for the reunion.  Of course, not everyone was happy to see him:

So, for those of you keeping track: Jimmy regained his ability walk, Emma and Spinner are divorced, Rick Murray apparently didn’t die after all, and J.T. Yorke is still dead.  Poor J.T.

(Then again, if Rick’s still alive then you have to wonder how his ghost was able to possess Holy J in The Curse of Degrassi.  Maybe I’m overthinking this.  Anyway…)

Enjoy!

Greatest video of 2018, have no doubt

Music Video of the Day: My Window by Jake Epstein (2008, dir by ????)


Hi there!  Lisa here, recovering from my birthday and bringing you today’s music video of the day!

Today’s music video of the day comes from a Canadian show that is very close to my heart … no, not Saved By The Bell: The New Class.  That show wasn’t Canadian.  I’m talking about Degrassi!

Starting with the second season, Jake Epstein was a regular on Degrassi.  Epstein played Craig Manning, the bipolar photographer-turned-musician who, over the course of his time on the show, did everything from impregnating Manny to beating up Joey Jeremiah to eventually breaking the hearts of both Ellie Nash and Ashley Kerwin.  He even befriended Kevin Smith!

In the middle of the fifth season, Epstein left the show and Craig left Toronto.  However, even though he was no longer a regular character, Craig would occasionally return to Degrassi.  For instance, during season 6, he came back to play a show and, as a result of snorting too much cocaine before taking the stage, ended up having a massive nose bleed in the middle of his performance.  Agck!

Fortunately, Craig went to rehab and was able to return during the season 7 episode, Bust a Move.  Playing a surprise show at a Canadian college and reconnecting with two of his exes, Craig also found time to perform My Window, a song that, in real life, was written by Jake Epstein.

The video above was released around the same time that Bust a Move premiered in the States.  It’s an official video, even if it is mostly made up of clips taken from previous episodes of Degrassi.  Unfortunately, most of those scenes were lifted from his season 6 return.  I would have liked to have seen more scenes between Craig and Ellie.  (I used to think that Ellie was totally me but, while recently rewatching the show, I realized that I actually had more in common with Ashley.)

Anyway, I can hear the eyes rolling already but cut me some slack.  I love Degrassi!  Add to that, this is actually a pretty good song.  I love Jake Epstein’s voice.  Along with appearing on Degrassi and countless Lifetime films, Epstein is also a respected musical theater actor.  Among his credits: American Idiot, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

Enjoy!

 

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night: FANatic (dir by Jean-François Rivard)


Around 2 a.m. this morning, I watched the latest Lifetime Movie Network premiere, FANatic!

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Why Was I Watching It?

Okay, so technically, I didn’t watch this last night.  It premiered last night and I recorded it because I was watching the latest episode of The Walking Dead.  However, I don’t think What Lisa Recorded Last Night has quite the same ring to it.

As for why I watched it at 2 in the morning — well, I fell asleep last night around 11:00.  And then I woke up at one.  Seeing as how I had already gotten my usual two hours of sleep, I decided that I might as well watch a movie!

What Was It About?

Nikki Myers (Katy Breier) has finally landed her dream job.  She’s working as an assistant to Tess Daniels (Betsy Brandt), a highly acclaimed actress who happens to be the star of Nikki’s favorite show!  It’s an enjoyably silly sci-fi show, one on which Tess co-stars with her husband, Hunter Clay (Benjamin Arthur).  When the show started, Tess and Hunter were equals and Tess considered her role to be empowering.  But, over the past few seasons, things have changed.  Tess now finds her role to be demeaning and limiting.  While Hunter gets to play the hero, Tess’s role becomes more and more about providing fan service for the show’s male viewers.  Tess wants to leave the show…

But if Tess leaves the show, where does that leave Nikki!?  Nikki’s spent the last few weeks bragging to her two friends about her job!  If the show ends, how will Nikki be able to continue to steal props from the set?  And how will she be able to continue to lie to her friends about the imaginary affair she’s having with Hunter!?

Seriously, when you look at things from her point of view, can you blame Nikki for becoming a little bit homicidal?

What Worked?

Yay!  If nothing else, FANatic showed that the Lifetime-Degrassi conduit still exists!  Perhaps because so many Lifetime films are produced in Canada, it’s not unusual to see former Degrassi actors pop up in supporting (and, sometimes, lead) roles.  On Degrassi, Jake Epstein played the lovable, bipolar, drug addicted musician/photographer Craig Manning.  In FANatic, he plays a slightly less likable character, a misogynistic television producer.  Still, it’s always good to see Jake.

Anyway, FANatic was a lot of fun to watch, mostly because of the loving detail that was put into creating Tess and Hunter’s irresistibly silly sci-fi show.  What’s interesting is that, if that show actually was on the air, it probably would be, at the very least, a cult hit.  I knew more than a few people who would probably watch every episode.

Katy Breier did a good job playing the fanatic of the title.  A film like FANatic is only as good as its villain and Breier brought a lot of life to the role.

What Did Not Work?

Seriously, why are redheads always crazy in Lifetime movies?  Of course, that’s really not something that didn’t work.  That’s just something that I, as a member of the 2% of the world’s population who has red hair, always notice.

But back to the question — hey, it all worked!

“Oh my God!”  Just like me moments!

It’s hard for me to imagine myself ever becoming obsessed with any show to the extent that Nikki does.  Then again, if that show starred James Franco…

Lessons Learned

You can’t spell “fanatic” without “fan!”

Back to School Part II #43: Degrassi Goes Hollywood (dir by Stefan Brogren)


Before I get around to actually reviewing the 2009 made-for-Canadian-TV Degrassi Goes Hollywood, I should start out by admitting that if you’re not a Degrassi fanatic like I am, this review probably won’t make any sense.  Then again, if you’re not a Degrassi fan, you probably wouldn’t be reading this review in the first place.

I should also address a rumor that is currently circulating around the TSL offices.  Some of my fellow contributors seem to be under the impression that the only reason I announced that I would be reviewing 56 back to school films was so I would have an excuse to review the four Degrassi films.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  The reason I started this series of reviews was so that I’d have an excuse to review Andy Warhol’s Vinyl.  The Degrassi films are just a nice side benefit.

Got it?  Okay, let’s talk about Degrassi Goes Hollywood!

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Degrassi Goes Hollywood premiered on August 14th, 2009 and it served as the finale of Degrassi‘s 8th season.  As such, it also served as the conclusion for several long-running Degrassi plot lines, which I’ll get to in a minute.  For the non-Degrassi fan, Degrassi Goes Hollywood is probably most interesting because it features Jason Mewes playing himself and coming across like a surprisingly normal human being.

To really understand Degrassi Goes Hollywood, you have to understand that Kevin Smith is a long-time and very outspoken fan of Degrassi.  In fact, he even appeared, as himself, in seasons 4 and 5 of the show.  In the world of Degrassi, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes came to Canada so that they could film their latest film, Jay and Silent Bob Go Canadian, Eh?  They filmed the majority of the film at Degrassi Community School and used several Degrassi students as extras.  Kevin also served as the catalyst for the Joey/Caitlin break-up, which a lot of people have never forgiven him for.  Myself, I would just point out that when Craig Manning stopped taking his medication and ended up living on the streets of Toronto, Kevin was the one who went on television and asked Craig to come home.  So, Kevin wasn’t all bad!

(As I said, this review won’t make a damn bit of sense if you’ve never watched Degrassi.)

As Degrassi Goes Hollywood opens, we learn that Jason Mewes is about to make his directorial debut.  His film, Mewesical High, is an autobiographical film about his youth in New Jersey and his love for a girl named Trixie.  Jason wants to cast former Degrassi student Manny Santos (Cassie Steele) as his Trixie.  However, the studio demands that Jason cast Paige Michalchuck (Lauren Collins) in the role.  Believe it or not, Paige also went to Degrassi!  She was in charge of the Spirit Squad and she and Manny once got into a memorable fight.

(Actually, Manny got into a lot of fights when she was a student at Degrassi.  That was kind of her trademark.)

When she hears that Paige might be replaced in the film, Manny decides to go to California and fight for the role.  Fortunately, her ex-boyfriend, Jay (Mike Lobel), just happens to have a school bus.  So, he agrees to drive Manny to Hollywood.  Accompanying them on the bus are the members of the Studz, one of Degrassi’s many bands.  They want to convince Jason Mewes to use their music in the film.

Now, here’s where it is helpful to know your Degrassi history.  The lead singer of Studz is Peter Stone (Jamie Johnston).  When Peter first appeared on Degrassi, he was portrayed as being almost a sociopath.  He even got Manny drunk and sent a topless video of her to everyone at the school.  Manny spent two seasons hating on him but, oddly, in Degrassi Goes Hollywood, she has absolutely no trouble traveling from Canada to California with him.  Degrassi is all about forgiveness.

Speaking of forgiveness, what about Jay!?  In Degrassi Goes Hollywood, Jay is pretty much the hero of the film, the guy who convinces Manny to never give up on her dreams.  That’s quite a change from how Jay was portrayed when he was first introduced in season 3.  When Jay was first introduced, he was the local hoodlum who was always breaking into candy machines and who ordered his friends to steal everything from the school’s DVR to Mr. Simpson’s new laptop.  Jay was subsequently kicked out of school after he pulled a prank that led to a school shooting.  (If you’re wondering why Drake was in a wheelchair during his final few seasons on Degrassi, Jay was indirectly responsible.)  Jay was then at the center of an outbreak of gonorrhea and subsequently helped to turn another character into a drug dealer.  And, let’s not forget the time that he and Spinner nearly burned down the school…

Fortunately, Jay was played by Mike Lobel and he always played the role with an appealing sense of humor.  You never got the feeling that Jay was truly evil.  Instead, he was just a little hyperactive.  Somehow, it seems appropriate that he would go from being the most evil character on the series to being one of its most memorable anti-heroes.  He gets a lot of good scenes in Degrassi Goes Hollywood.  He and Cassie Steele made for a fun couple.

Speaking of couples, the best thing about Degrassi Goes Hollywood is that, after four long seasons of heartbreak, it finally gives some closure to the Craig/Ellie storyline.  Craig Manning (Jake Epstein) was the bipolar musical genius who left school to become a big star and who subsequently returned for two episodes, in which we discovered that he had developed a cocaine addiction.  (The scene where he gets a nosebleed while performing is pure Degrassi nightmare fuel.)  Ellie (Stacey Farber) was one of my favorite characters on Degrassi, mostly because we both have red hair and like to dress in black.  Sadly, Ellie spent four seasons crushing on Craig, just to watch as he dated Manny, Ashley, and then Manny again.

In Degrassi Goes Hollywood, Ellie and Marco (Adamo Ruggero) are invited to Hollywood to hang out with Paige.  And while Ellie tries to pretend that everything’s okay at home (despite the fact that her father is in the hospital, suffering from PTSD as a result of serving in Afghanistan), she just happens to go for a walk and randomly runs into Craig!  And though they have their usual issues, the movie ends with Craig and Ellie finally kissing as something more than just friends.

AWWWWWWWWWWW!

Of course, it wouldn’t be Degrassi without drama.  Paige and Marco fight over Paige’s diva attitude.  Ellie gets drunk and walks out into the ocean.  The school bus gets stolen while Jay, Manny, and Studz are visiting a redneck bar.  It’s dangerous for Canadians in California!

But what’s important is that it all works out in the end and, even if it’s never specifically stated, I imagine that Mewesical High won all sorts of Oscars.  Listen, if you’re a Degrassi fan, you’ll enjoy Degrassi Goes Hollywood.  And, if you’re not into Degrassi, you probably stopped reading this review a while ago.

Music Video of the Day: What I Know by Downtown Sasquatch (2004, dir by Stefan Scaini)


I’ll be the first to admit that it’s probably debatable whether or not today’s music video of the day is actually a music video.  The fictional Canadian band Downtown Sasquatch performed What I Know at the end of the Rock and Roll High School episode of Degrassi.  The video below is taken from the end of that episode.

But, you know what?  I think this does qualify as a music video.  It’s certainly shot like a music video and, to a large extent, it reminds me of something from the pop culture fueled imagination of Spike Jonze.  In some ways, it’s even better when viewed out of the context of the rest of the episode.  So dammit, it’s a music video!

Add to that, I love this song!

As for Downtown Sasquatch, they were the most popular band on Degrassi and they went through several lineup changes.  Fortunately, What I Know was performed with the first and best lineup.

On bass, we have Marco Del Rossi (played by Adamo Ruggiero), whose epic coming out story played out over five seasons of Degrassi.

On lead guitar, we have Jimmy Brooks (played by Aubrey Graham, though he’s now better known as Drake).  Since this took place during the third season of the show, Jimmy could still walk.  This would change during the fourth season of the show when he was shot in the back by Rick Murray.

On drums — Spinner Mason (Shane Kippel)!  How important a character was Spinner to Degrassi?  He was so important that, despite the fact that he started the show a year ahead of all the other characters, it still took him seven seasons to graduate from high school.  Seriously, some of us were wondering if Spinner was going to end up celebrating his 40th birthday in Mr. Simpson’s media immersion class.  Incidentally, just a season after Downtown Sasquatch’s performance here, Spinner would be involved in the prank that would eventually lead to Rick Murray shooting Jimmy in the back.  However, Jimmy and Spinner would eventually reconcile and start a T-shirt business called Squatchwear.

And finally, we have our lead singer and founder of Downtown Sasquatch, Craig Manning (Jake Epstein)!  A bipolar photographer and a musialc genius, Craig not only started Downtown Sasquatch but he also impregnated Manny Santos and broke the hearts of not only Ashley Kerwin but Ellie Nash as well!

Speaking of Ashley (Melissa McIntyre) and Ellie (Stacey Farber), they’re both sitting in the audience and watching Downtown Sasquatch perform.  If you look closely, you’ll notice that they’re both wearing t-shirts that depict Craig burning in Hell.

Anyway, after all that, here’s the video!

Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #39: Full Out (dir by Sean Cisterna)


(Lisa is currently in the process of trying to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing all 40 of the movies that she recorded from the start of March to the end of June.  She’s trying to get it all done by the end of July 11th!  Will she make it!?  Keep visiting the site to find out!)

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The 39th film on my DVR was Full Out, which aired on Lifetime immediately after Center Stage: On Pointe.  

I enjoyed Full Out when it first aired and I enjoyed it even more when I watched it a second time.  It’s a truly enjoyable and inspiring dance film and it’s one of the best films to have appeared on Lifetime this year.  Not only is it wonderful to watch but it’s a Canadian film, which is always a good thing.  It features not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Degrassi actors!

Full Out tells a true story and what a story it is!  Ariana Berlin (Anna Golja) is a talented gymnast who is bound for Olympic glory when she and her mother (Ramona Milano) are involved in a devastating traffic accident.  While Ariana survives the accident, she spends five days in a coma.  When she awakens, she discovers that she has two broken legs, two collapsed lungs, a broken wrist, a broken collarbone, and several cracks ribs.  A metal rod has been placed in her leg and her doctors tell her that she’ll never compete again.

At first, Ariana is bitter.  Not only does she miss the Olympics but she also has to watch as her best friend (played by Sarah Fisher) goes in her place and wins a silver medal.  Ariana lashes out at her friends and her family.  Everyone is prepared to give up on her, except for her physical therapist, Michelle (Asha Bromfield).  Michelle teaches Ariana hip hop dance and introduces Ariana to her dance troupe.  Through dance, Ariana starts to gain back her confidence.  Michelle eventually asks Araina to coach the dancers for an upcoming audition to join a famous dance team.

In fact, Ariana has become so confident that she feels ready to return to gymnastics.  She is accepted at UCLA, where her coach is the demanding Valorie Kondos Field (Jennifer Beals).  However, Ariana struggles to balance both gymnastics and dance.  Can she have both or will she be forced to make a difficult choice?

Full Out is an incredibly positive and likable film, one that made me feel good both times that I watched it.  The acting is wonderful, the story is inspiring, and the dancing is pure joy.  Watch this when you’re in a bad mood or when you’re feeling hopeless and it will immediately cheer you up, I promise!

As I’ve mentioned a few times in the past, this has been a good year for Degrassi actors appearing in Lifetime films.  Full Out sets some sort of record by featuring four Degrassi actors!  Sarah Fletcher (who played conflicted Christian Becky Baker on Degrassi and also starred in The Stepchild) plays Ariana’s best friend and occasional rival.  Jake Epstein, who played bipolar musician/photographer Craig Manning on Degrassi, appears as one of Ariana’s coaches.  Ramona Milano, who played Drew and Adam’s mom on Degrassi, plays Ariana’s mom.  (Interestingly enough, on Degrassi, Sarah Fletcher’s Becky was a potential girlfriend to both Drew and Adam.)  And finally, Anna Golja, who plays bitchy Zoe on Degrassi, gives a great and empathetic performance as Ariana Berlin.

In fact, everyone is great in Full Out.  WAY TO GO, CANADA!