Music Video of the Day: Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson (2005, dir. by Alex de Rackoff)

Nostalgia is a powerful drug and it’s the main reason why Since U Been Gone is today’s music video of the day.  Whe I hear this song, I’m immediately zapped back to 2005 and I remember how Lisa and I got on everyone’s nerves by singing it at the top of our lungs every day during the holiday break.

I also remember really liking this video when I first saw it but now I realize that it actually doesn’t go with the song’s message.  The song is about how much happier Kelly is after getting out of a toxic relationship but in the video, Kelly’s destroying her ex’s new girlfriend’s apartment and acting like she’s got a fatal attraction going on.  She should have at least trashed her ex’s place and left the new girlfriend out of it.  This is still a good video, though, because we all have someone in our part whose apartment we would like to trash.



Music Video of the Day: People Like Us by Kelly Clarkson (2013, dir by Chris Marrs Piliero)

I’ve always loved Kelly Clarkson’s voice and this video has a good message about embracing and celebrating individuality.  If nothing else, by the time she made this video, Kelly had certainly improved as an actress since From Justin to Kelly.


Music Video of The Day: Low by Kelly Clarkson (2003, dir by Antti Jokinen)

“Oh my God, is Kelly Clarkson on shrooms!?”

No, I don’t think that’s the case.  I think she just has a lot on her mind.  She’s just broken up with her boyfriend and now she’s stolen his jeep and she’s driving around South Texas.  She has a destination in mind….

“Okay, then why does she keep seeing weird stuff?”

Hell, have you ever driven around South Texas in a jeep?  You’re going to seem some stuff that’s going to make you doubt the existence of any sort of benevolent force in the universe….

Personally, I like to think of this video as being a sequel to From Justin to Kelly.  Like maybe Kelly’s stolen Justin’s jeep and now, she’s going to kick it off a cliff.  Maybe that’s why there was never a From Justin To Kelly Part 2.

Or, maybe, the jeep itself is possessed by the devil and Kelly’s visions are part of an effort to distract her from completing her mission.  Maybe Kelly is on a mission for God.  So, maybe this video belongs in the same genre as The Car, Christine, or The Wraith.

Well, whatever the case may be, let’s just be happy that Kelly got out before the jeep went over the cliff.  Still, you do have to wonder how she’s going to get home….

I have to say that, if I ever had to deal with demonic possession, Kelly Clarkson would probably be the first person who I would call to help me out because Kelly Clarkson just kicks ass.  She’s a Texas girl like me but her singing voice is like a 100 times better than mine.  I’ve actually got  lot of respect for Kelly because she’s one of the few American Idol winners to actually make a name for herself as an independent artist.  Like you can tell that she wasn’t going to let the show prepackage her as some sort of generic, safe performer.  She got what she needed out of the show and then she struck out on her own.  That’s one reason why this video works.  As you watch it, you have no doubt that, in real life, Kelly Clarkson would probably do the same thing that she’s doing here.  Like if some rich guy in El Paso ever cheated on Kelly Clarkson?  You better bet his car’s going right over the Franklin Mountains.


Music Video of the Day: Miss Independent by Kelly Clarkson (2003, dir by Liz Friedlander)

Hearing this song transports me back to 2003, when life seemed so simple and the future seemed limitless… actually, that’s the way things still seem to me in 2018.  I guess I’m a born optimist!

Anyway, I always think of this as being a song of liberation but that’s mostly just because of the title.  The lyrics are actually about an independent woman finding the courage to let people into her life.  But, ultimately, what matters is how a song — any song — makes you feel.

As for the video, I would say it features just about the safest house party that I’ve ever seen.  Compare it to the video for Fiona Apple’s Criminal.


2017 In Review: Lisa Marie’s 14 Favorite Songs of 2017

(Originally, I was going to list my picks for the best in SyFy today.  However, I need one more day to work on that so look for that tomorrow!   For now, here are my favorite songs of 2017!)

Every January, I list my favorite songs of the previous year and, every January, I include the same disclaimer.  My favorite songs are not necessarily the 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.  2017 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.  2017 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 songs, I should make something else very clear.  These are my favorite songs of 2017.  I’m not saying that they’re necessarily the best songs of 2017.  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.  These are songs that I liked.

You might like them.

Or you might not.

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

Here are my favorite songs of 2017:

14. Shutdown by Joywave

13. Love So Soft by Kelly Clarkson

12. Rainmaker by Sleigh Bells

11. I feel It Coming by The Weeknd featuring Daft Punk

(Technically, this is a 2016 song but I listened to it a lot in 2017 and this is my list so fuck it, I’m including it.)

10. Alone by Alan Walker

9. Byte by Martin Garrix & Brooks

8. You Could Be by R3HAB featuring Khrebto

7. Mirage by Lindey Stirling featuring Raja Kumari

6. Rich Boy by Galantis

5. What About Us by P!nk

4. First Time by Kygo & Ellie Goulding

3. Escape Reality Tonight by Paul van Dyk & Emanuele Braveri ft. Rebecca Louise Burch

2. Look What You Made Me Do by Taylor Swift

  1. It Ain’t Me by Kygo, featuring Selena Gomez

For tomorrow’s look back at 2017, I will (finally) share my picks for the best of the SyFy Network!

Previous entries in the TSL’s Look Back at 2017:

  1. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Single Issues by Ryan C
  2. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Series by Ryan C
  3. 2017 In Review: Top Ten Collected Edition (Contemporary) by Ryan C
  4. 2017 In Review: Top Ten Collected Editions (Vintage) by Ryan C
  5. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Graphic Novels By Ryan C
  6. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I saw in 2017 by Valerie Troutman
  7. My Top 15 Albums of 2017 by Necromoonyeti
  8. 2017 In Review: Lisa Marie’s Picks For the 16 Worst Films of 2017
  9. 2017 In Review: Lisa Marie’s Final Post About Twin Peaks: The Return (for now)

2015 in Review: Lisa Marie’s 10 Favorite Songs!

Whenever we have visitors here at Shattered Lens HQ, the first thing that they always seem to notice is the wide variety of music being played.  Considering the number of contributors that we have working here on any given day, it makes sense.  After all, we all have our own individual tastes in music and we’re not afraid to play it loud.

Of course, I’m sure it can be somewhat jarring who is, for the first time, discovering the aural experience of walking down a hallway here at the TSL Building.  As you walk by Necromoonyeti’s office, you hear the sounds of metal thunder.  Across the hallway, Arleigh might very well be listening to The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack.  Even further down the hallway, you might hear the blogger known as Jedadiah Leland listening to anything from Nine Inch Nails to Ornette Coleman or maybe you’ll even hear my sister singing along with Beyonce.  Eventually, you’ll reach my office and, nine times out of ten, I will be blasting EDM (or occasionally Britney Spears) and dancing, only turning the music down if Leonard Wilson stops by my office to continue our debate as to whether or not Aaron Sorkin is an overrated misogynist.

(Occasionally, if I’m lucky, I can convince Valerie Troutman to come to my office and sing the Degrassi theme song with me.  Whatever it takes, I know I can make it through….)

Anyway, my point is that every writer at the Shattered Lens is an individual with her or his own taste in music, movies, and … well, everything.  So, when you look at my list of my 10 favorite songs of 2015, you should keep in mind that these are my ten favorite songs and they do not necessarily reflect the musical opinions or tastes of anyone here at the Shattered Lens but me!  And, in fact, if you want to see just how eclectic a group we here at the Shattered Lens, be sure to check out Necromoonyeti’s list of his favorite metal albums of 2015!

Anyway, here are my favorite songs of 2015.  Notice that I didn’t say “best.”  Instead, these are some of the songs that I spent the previous 12 months obsessively listening to.  When I make my autobiographical movie about my life in 2015, these are the songs that will appear on the soundtrack!

Honorable Mention: Elle King — Ex’s and Oh’s

Ex’s and Oh’s has pretty much been my song all through 2015.  However, the song itself was originally released in 2014 and this is a list of the best songs released in 2015.  That said, hardly a day in 2015 went by without my listening to and singing along with this song and there’s no way I can’t include it.

Special Bonus Track Included Because Otherwise There Would Be 11 Songs Listed And Lisa Has A Phobia About Odd Numbers: Ellie Goulding — Love Me Like You Do

And now the list:

10) Adele — When We Were Young

9) Icona Pop — Emergency

8) Kelly Clarkson — Take You High

7) The Chemical Brothers — Sometimes I Feel So Deserted

6) Public Service Broadcasting — Go!

5) Taylor Swift (featuring Kendrick Lamar) — Bad Blood

4) Purity Ring — Bodyache

3) Big Data (featuring Jamie Liddell) — Clean

2) Public Service Broadcasting — Gagarin

1) The Chemical Brothers (featuring St. Vincent) — Under Neon Lights

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

Tomorrow, I will be posting some of my favorite things that I saw on television in 2015!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2015:

  1. Valerie Troutman’s 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw in 2015
  2. Necromoonyeti’s Top 15 Metal Albums of 2015
  3. 2015 In Review: The Best of SyFy
  4. 2015 in Review: The Best of Lifetime
  5. 2015 In Review: Lisa’s Picks For The 16 Worst Films of 2015

Guilty Pleasure No. 25: From Justin to Kelly (dir by Robert Iscove)

There’s a lot of reasons why a movie might become a guilty pleasure.  Often times, it’s because the film is technically terrible and yet still, for whatever reason, it’s fun.  And then sometimes, it’s because the film was made at a different time and, as a result, our modern cultural overlords demand that we dislike it regardless of how much we may also enjoy it.

And then there are films that you literally feel guilty for owning, watching, and sometimes enjoying.  These are the films that you always find yourself making excuses for owning,  Whenever I let anyone know that I have 2003’s From Justin To Kelly on DVD, I always make sure to point out that I also own the Criterion edition of Jean Renoir’s Rules of the Game and several films directed by Werner Herzog.

“Don’t judge me!” I shout, as my guests stare down at Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini’s retouched smiles beaming at them from the cover of From Justin To Kelly, “I actually do have good taste….”

And, if worst comes to worst, I just tell them that it was a gift from an old boyfriend who, just two days after giving me the DVD, was tragically killed while doing charity work in Vermont.  “The enemy is hunger…not the hungry!” I say and, while they sagely nod in agreement, I always push the DVD to the side.


However, the fact of the matter is that I do own From Justin To Kelly and I actually have watched it more times than I’m willing to admit.  It’s difficult for me to explain why.  It’s not that From Justin To Kelly is a good film.  There’s a lot of people who claim that From Justin To Kelly is one of the worst films ever made and, while I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration, it’s hard to deny that the film really is pretty terrible.

From Justin To Kelly, of course, is the American Idol film.  By coming in first and second at the end of Idol‘s first season, Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini were contractually obligated to appear in a movie that would be written by Kim Fuller, the brother of Idol‘s producer.  From Justin To Kelly was quickly written and filmed so that it could both appear in theaters and be released on video before the start of Idol‘s second season.  If From Justin To Kelly had been a success, I imagine that all future American Idol winners and runner-ups would have been forced to appear in similar films.  And I have to admit that it’s kind of disappointing that From Justin To Kelly was not a success because I would have loved to have seen a beach movie starring Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee.

However, From Justin To Kelly was not a success.  In fact, it was such a failure that the producers of Idol decided to give up on movies and instead concentrate on doing what they’re good at — i.e., neutering otherwise interesting singers by forcing them to sing ballads written by Kara DioGuardi.  For the most part, the only time that you hear about From Justin To Kelly is when Kelly Clarkson talks about how much she hated making it.

(Reportedly, Kelly spent hours sobbing after reading the script.)

As for the film itself, it’s a romantic comedy musical beach party movie sort of thing.  Texas-born Kelly Clarkson plays Kelly, a girl from Texas.  Pennsylvania-raised Justin Guarini plays Justin, a guy who was raised in Pennsylvania.  Kelly is a waitress who gets dragged down to Florida for Spring Break by her friends, Alexa (Katharine Bailess) and Kaya (Anika Noni Rose).  (Bailess and Rose deliver their lines in the least convincing Texas accents ever.  However, since Kelly won American Idol and is very much a Texan, her movie friends had to be Texan too.)  Justin, meanwhile, is the “King of Spring Break,” which is odd since he and his friends Brandon (Greg Siff) and Eddie (Brian Dietzen) host parties that feel like they’d be more appropriate for a church camp.  (Then again, maybe Justin was meant to be the King of Bad Spring Break.  Maybe, if Idol had continued to make movies, Adam Lambert would have eventually gotten to play the King of Good Spring Break.)

Anyway, Kelly and Justin eventually meet.  Justin likes Kelly.  Kelly thinks he’s a player.  Justin’s like, “No, I’m not a player.”  Kelly’s like, “Okay, I guess we can be in love.”  But then Alexa decides that, no, Kelly and Justin should not be in love and, whenever Justin tries to text Kelly, Alexa texts back that Kelly’s not interested.  And, meanwhile, Kaya falls in love with a surly busboy (Jason Yribar), Brandon keeps getting ticketed by the same policewoman, and Eddie keeps failing to hook up with a girl that he met online.  Because, you know, the kids are so crazy with their text messages and their online dating and their … busboys.

(Seriously, did From Justin To Kelly really warrant that many subplots?)

During the whole time, everyone keeps singing songs and breaking out into choreographed dance numbers on the beach.  The film’s director, Robert Iscove, also did She’s All That and From Justin To Kelly at times feels as if it’s just a 80 minute version of She’s All That‘s prom dance-off, except in this case it’s performed by people who really can’t dance.

And yet, I’m going to take a minute to defend From Justin To Kelly.  While it’s true that the film’s songs don’t have anything to do with the film’s plot and they all lean a bit towards the vapid side, it’s also true that a few of them are catchy.  One reason why Kelly Clarkson is one of the few Idol winners to actually make a career for her outside of Idol is because she can make almost anything sound good.  For that matter, Justin Guarini is a far better singer than most people seem to remember him as being.  While it is true that, judging from their work here, neither Kelly or Justin can act, they’re both likable.  (Unfortunately, they also have next to no chemistry.  I was actually surprised to learn that Kelly and Justin apparently dated while making From Justin To Kelly because, for the most part, they both look terrified whenever they actually have to kiss on camera.)

From Justin To Kelly also has a massive nostalgia value.  After so many seasons and so many forgettable winners, it’s easy to forget about what a big deal American Idol was during that first season. I was 16 years old and I watched every episode and I got so emotionally involved in who was staying and who was going home.  Today, it seems incredibly silly that a movie would have been a part of Idol but, back then, it made total sense.  (That said, I know a lot of people who loved the first season of American Idol but I don’t know anyone who actually saw From Justin To Kelly in a theater.)

But, ultimately, I think the main reason why From Justin To Kelly remains an oddly fascinating bad film is because it takes place in a world that has absolutely nothing in common with the real world.  Nobody at Spring Break acts anything like any of the characters to be found in From Justin To Kelly.  Imagine a Spring Break where no one touched liquor, no one did drugs, and no one got laid.  Imagine a Spring Break where college students danced on the beach while wearing the most modest of bathing suits and flashing the most eager and innocent of smiles.  Even the film’s whipped cream bikini contest feels oddly chaste.  From Justin To Kelly might as well be science fiction and it’s just so odd to watch.

As you watch, you can not help but imagine how the people involved with both Idol and the film reacted to it all.  It’s actually fun to try to imagine what the cast talked in between shooting scenes.  Did they spent their time laughing at how bad the movie was going to be or did they try to fool themselves into thinking that it would all be okay?  (I’ve been involved in some bad community theater productions, which is what From Justin To Kelly resembles.  I know how darkly humorous thinks can get back stage as people try to come to terms with what’s happening.)  You watch and you ask yourself, “Did Kim Fuller actually think this is how American teenagers act when there’s no adults around?”  Even more fun, you can try to imagine what Randy, Paul and Simon said when they first saw the film.  I imagine it when something like this:

“Yo dawg, that was just alright for me, I don’t know, man, that was strange. Paula?”

“Argle bargle margle largle.  Simon?”

“It was rather like watching a small parakeet attempt to eat a 60 year-old man…”

And, as such, From Justin to Kelly remains a pleasure of mine.

It’s just one that I feel guilty about admitting to.

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame

Lisa Marie’s 10 Favorite Songs of 2012

Continuing my series on the best of 2012, here are ten of my favorite songs from 2012.  Now, I’m not necessarily saying that these were the best songs of 2012.  Some of them aren’t.  But these are ten songs that, in the future, will define 2012 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 2012.

10 and 9) Make Bullying Kill Itself and Jacking It In San Diego (Trey Parker and Matt Stone)

These two songs were featured in the classic bullying episode of South Park.  They should be required listening for anyone who thinks that a YouTube video can change human nature.

8) Big Machine (Ryan Miller)

Perhaps not surprisingly, I discovered a lot of my favorite music of 2012 in the films of 2012.  This song was written for the Safety Not Guaranteed soundtrack.

7) Abraham’s Daughter (Arcade Fire)

This is from The Hunger Games soundtrack.

6) The Poison Tree (Moby, feat. Inyang Bassey)

Technically, this song — which is featured on Destroyed —  is from 2011 but it was released, as a single, in 2012.

5) Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen)

This is just a fun song.

4) Stronger (Kelly Clarkson)

Kelly Clarkson is always going to have to deal with haters, because she won American Idol and voted for Ron Paul.  She’s one of my favorites, however.

3) Skyfall (Adele)

The minute I heard this song, I knew Skyfall was going to be great.

2) Blow Me (One Last Kiss) (P!nk)

It’s not really a year in music unless I have P!nk somewhere on the list.

1)Razor’s Out (Mike Shinoda featuring Chino Moreno)

This is from the soundtrack of The Raid: Redemption.  Quite simply put, this is a great soundtrack for writing.

Tomorrow, I’ll continue my look at 2012 with my list of 10 good things that I saw on television last year.

Film Review: Valley of the Dolls (dir. by Mark Robson)

(Photograph by Erin Nicole Bowman)

(Warning: This review contains spoilers.  A lot of them.)

Last week, I posted a poll and I asked you, the Shattered Lens readers, which film I should watch on March 20th and then subsequently review.  You voted and the winner was the classic 1967 trashfest, Valley of the Dolls.

Based on a best-selling (and trend-setting) novel by Jacqueline Susann, Valley of the Dolls starts out with a disclaimer that informs us that the story we’re about to see is totally fictional and purely imaginative.  That disclaimer is probably the funniest part of the entire film as Valley of the Dolls is notorious for being one of the first films dedicated to showing middle America just how miserable and screwed up those famous show business types truly are.  As such, the main reason for watching a movie like this is so you can sit there and compare the cinematic troubles of a character like Neely O’Hara to the true-life troubles of an actress like Lindsay Lohan.  Valley of the Dolls tells the story of three aspiring stars who, as they find fame, also find themselves dealing with heartbreak, insanity, and dolls.  No, not the type of dolls that my mom used to collect.  These “dolls” are a bunch of red pills that do everything from keeping you thin to keeping you awake and focused.  (Though the pills are never actually called anything other than “dolls,” they appear to be the same pills that I take for my ADD.)   

The least interesting of our three heroines is Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins).  Unfortunately, Anne is also pretty much the center of the rather draggy first hour of the film.  Anne is a walking cliché, a naive girl from a small town in New England who moves to New York, gets a room at the Martha Washington Hotel for Women, and a job at a local theatrical agency.  “I want to have a marriage like mom and dad…but not yet!”  Anne breathlessly tells us.  Anne eventually ends up as the mistress of Lyon Burke (played by Paul Burke), a writer-turned-theatrical-agent who you know has to be a cad because his name is Lyon Burke and he takes Anne’s virginity but then refuses to marry her afterward.  Anne eventually becomes a model and finds fame as the face of Gilligan Hairspray but she soon finds herself forced to watch as her two best friends travel down a path of self-destruction.

Anne is the film’s token “good girl” and, as such, she’s rather bland and boring.  However, her character is interesting when considered as a symbol for the confused sexual politics of the time.  Valley of the Dolls was made in 1967, at a time when Hollywood was still trying to figure out how to deal with the emerging counter-culture.  The end result? A lot of rather old-fashioned films that were full of jarringly out-of-place counter-culture moments.  By the time Valley of the Dolls came out, it was allowable to acknowledge that a single girl might actually have sex but she still had to, at the very least, feel an unbelievable amount of angst about it.  That certainly is the case with Anne.  Watching the film today, it’s hard to understand just what exactly Anne’s feeling guilty about.  Lyon isn’t married.  Anne finds success even as she pursues her relationship with him.  Up until the final half of the film (at which point the morality of the time demands that both Anne and Lyon suddenly start acting totally out-of-character), Lyon treats her with about as much respect as you could probably expect to get from a man in the 1960s.  And yet, Anne can’t feel complete simply because Lyon is hesitant about marrying her.  When she and Lyon finally do make love, they do it with the lights off so the only thing the viewer sees are two shadowy figures holding each other.  Following the film’s logic, if the lights had been left on, the character of Anne would have had to have been punished later in the film for allowing the audience to see too much of her.

When Anne first comes to New York, she befriends two actresses.  The more tragic of the two is Jennifer North (played by Sharon Tate, who would be tragically murdered two years after this film came out), an insecure blonde who is valued more for her body than her talent.  Jennifer spends her spare time doing bust exercises (“To hell with them!” she declares at one point as she glares down at her chest, “Let ’em droop!”) and dealing with phone calls from her mother, demanding that Jennifer send her money.  Jennifer eventually ends up marrying a singer named Tony (played by Tony Scotti).  Tony is a well-meaning if simple-minded guy who is married to a creepily overprotective sister (played by Lee Grant).  Eventually, it turns out that Tony has a neurological disease and he’s eventually checked into a sanitorium.  Penniless, Jennifer goes France and makes “art films.”  (In one of Valley of the Dolls’ better moments, we’re shown a clip of this “art film” and it turns out to be a pitch perfect satire of every single pretentious soft-core film to ever come out of Europe.)  Upon returning to America, Jennifer discovers that she has breast cancer and, declaring “All I’ve got is my body,” she commits suicide.

Though Sharon Tate gets considerably less screen time than her co-stars, she probably gives the strongest performance in this film.  Certainly, her story is the most emotionally effective (even if it’s hard not to feel that, as is typical of the films of both the 60s and today, Jennifer is being punished for taking off her clothes on camera).  Tate perfectly captures the insecurity that comes from being continually told that you have nothing more to offer beyond how you look.  In her first appearance, she’s wearing an outrageously large headdress.  “I feel a little top-heavy,” she says.  “You are a little top-heavy,” some guy replies while leering at her breasts.  If you doubt that Sharon Tate was a good actress, just watch her reaction.  She perfectly captures a pain that I personally know far too well.  Her subsequent suicide scene, which has the potential to be the most tasteless part of this film, is actually the most powerful and again, it’s because Tate plays the role perfectly.

(It’s been nearly four years since I lost my mom to breast cancer and I have to admit, I had a hard time watching the scenes where Jennifer discusses her diagnosis.  Tate gave a great performance here and it’s a shame that she’s been permanently linked in the public imagination with Charles Manson and the later accusations against her husband, Roman Polanski.  She had real talent.)

As poignant of Sharon Tate was in her role, the film’s fame (and infamy) ultimately rests with our third heroine, Neely O’Hara (played by Patty Duke in a performance that suggests that she was literally possessed during the filming).  Neely is a scrappy, aspiring singer who is fired from a broadway show when her singing threatens to upstage aging star Helen Lawson (played by Susan Hayward, who was brought in to replace Judy Garland).  Neely, however, refuses to let anything keep her  down and soon, she’s singing at a Cystic Fibrosis telethon and becoming a big star.  She marries her boyfriend Mel (played by Martin Milner, who grits his teeth and spits out every line) and moves to California where she soon becomes a big star and then finds herself hooked on “booze and dolls.”  (“I need a doll!” she insists on several occasions.) 

One reason the film’s 2nd hour is so much more fun than the first is because the film’s focus shifts from boring Anne to out-of-control Neely.  Increasingly temperamental and unstable, Neely soon starts to spend all of her time with dress designer Ted Casablanca (a great name, if nothing else.)  “You’re spending more time than necessary with that fag Ted Casablanca,” Mel tells her to which Neely replies, “Ted Casablanca’s no fag and I’m the dame who can prove it.”  This, of course, leads to a divorce and soon Neely is living with Mr. Casablanca who informs her, after he gets caught cheating, “You made me feel as if I was queer…that little whore makes me feel 9 feet tall.”

When Lyon and Anne attempt to force Neely to enter a sanitorium, she responds to running off to San Francisco where she enters a bar and shouts, “I’M NEELY O’HARA!” before then wandering down a sleazy street and ranting, “Boobies, boobies!  Nothing but boobies!  Who needs them!?”  Needless to say, this leads to her eventually overdosing and ending up in that sanitorium where she has a huge freak-out before singing a duet with Tony and resolving to get her life back in order.  This, naturally, leads to her getting released, having an affair with Lyon, and then returning to Broadway where, in the film’s most deliriously odd moment, she steals Helen Lawson’s wig and flushes it down a toilet.

Valley of the Dolls is, admittedly, a terrible film but it’s also a lot of fun and that’s largely because of Patty Duke’s berserk performance as Neely O’Hara.  Earlier, I said that Duke’s performance appears to suggest that she may have been possessed but, honestly, that barely begins to describe it.  Whereas Tate managed to find some truth in the film’s melodrama and Parkins gives a performance that suggests that the script put her in a coma, Duke attacks every inch of melodramatic dialogue, barking out her dialogue with all the ferocity of a yapping little chiuaua.  Duke gives a performance that is so completely and totally over-the-top that it’s hard not to respect her commitment to capturing every overheated, melodramatic moment.

I have to admit that one reason why I love this film is because I’m hoping that someday some enterprising director will remake it and cast me as Neely O’Hara.  Everytime I watch this film, I find myself thinking about how much it would be to respond to every petty annoyance by screeching out, “I’m NEELY O’HARA!”  Seriously, just think about it.  As a character, Neely is a talented, ambitious, emotional, unstable, immature, demanding, bratty, spoiled, and determined.  Sound like anyone whose film reviews you might have been reading recently?  From my previous experience as a community theater ingenue, I can assure you that I can deliver melodramatic dialogue with the best of them and, unlike Patty Duke in this film, I can actually dance.  Unfortunately, I can’t carry a tune to save my life but I’m thinking maybe they could bring in Kelly Clarkson to serve as my singing voice.  (Or maybe Jessica Simpson.  Did I ever mention that we both went to the same high school?  Though not at the same time, of course.) After all, if Patty Duke could be obviously dubbed, why not me?  I can just see myself now, wandering down some sleazy city street, singing to myself and declaring at the top of my lungs, “Ted Casablanca’s no fag and I’m the dame who can prove it!”  I know that Lindsay Lohan will probably insist that this is the role she was born to play, but seriously, who needs Linsday when you’ve got a Lisa?

Beyond the so-bad-that-its-good appeal of the film, Valley of the Dolls is a fascinating cultural artifact for the reasons that I previously hinted at while talking about the character of Anne Welles.  Valley of the Dolls was made in 1967 and, as such, it’s a perfect exhibit of an unstable time when Hollywood was unsure about whether it should embrace the “new morality” or if it should continue to recycle the same sort of old-fashioned filmmaking that had nearly bankrupted the big studios.  The result was several films that felt oddly schizophrenic in their approach and that is certainly the case with Mark Robson’s direction of Valley of the Dolls.  Whether it’s the way the film continually hints at nudity and sex while carefully not revealing too much or the way that random psychedelic sequences seem to suddenly appear on-screen, this is a movie that perfectly captures an uncertain film industry trying to figure out where it stands in a scary new world.

As always, I enjoyed watching this undeniably bad but just as undeniably compelling film.  Our readers chose well!  Thank you to everyone who voted and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this review almost as much I enjoyed writing it.

(Photograph by Erin Nicole Bowman)