Music Video of the Day: In Dreams by Roy Orbison (1987, dir. Leslie Libman)


Since I missed the day of the premiere of the Twin Peaks reboot, I’m doing my Twin Peaks tie-in video today. If Wikipedia and Songfacts are to be taken at face value, then there’s an interesting story behind this music video.

As hard as it is for someone like me who grew up on Orbison to hear, his career apparently stalled in the 1970s. Maybe people really didn’t like The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967), and held it against him.

The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967, dir. Michael D. Moore)

The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967, dir. Michael D. Moore)

I wonder how he ended up agreeing to be in that. Maybe he saw that Marty Robbins was starting to appear in movies such as that years Hell On Wheels, and decided he’d take a crack at it the same way Elvis did. His career probably stalled because it was eclipsed by the revolutions in music during the 60s and 70s.

Then Blue Velvet (1986) came along. Orbison didn’t authorize the use of the song in the movie or know how it was going to be used. Lynch went ahead and used it anyways. Since it was used so effectively and is one of the most important parts of the film, it stirred up renewed interest in Orbison. At the time, Orbison didn’t have access to the master recordings of many of his hit songs because of legal issues. Orbison changed his tune about its use in the movie at this point, and asked Lynch if he could use some footage from the movie in the music video for the song. To solve the legal problem, Orbison went back into the studio to re-record his hits for the 1987 album In Dreams: The Greatest Hits. Lynch not only was fine with him using scenes from the movie, but offered to help with the re-recording of the song for the greatest hits album, which he did.

The video is nice and simple. It captures the surreal feeling of the song, the film, and combines the two into a single music video. I love that it starts with Dean Stockwell lip-syncing the song before slowly fading to Orbison actually singing it. It uses Stockwell several more times during the video, but that initial part is like peeling back the curtain to see what is really behind it–a theme of Blue Velvet.

I am going to believe mvdbase when it says Leslie Libman directed this. It, and IMDb both say that she directed some videos for him. The only thing that throws me a bit is that Wikipedia says 1987, but mvdbase says 1989. I think that’s probably an error. Still, they did make videos after Orbison’s death in 1989. That’s why I’m making special mention of it.

You may or may not recognize one of the backup singers in the video. It’s Denise Vlasis, who is best-known as being a prominent Madonna lookalike.

Let’s put this all together here. You have David Lynch who used In Dreams by Roy Orbison in Blue Velvet. The video was directed by Leslie Libman. Leslie Libman would go on to direct Britney Ever After (2017). Britney Spears famously kissed Madonna onstage, and collaborated with her. Denise Vlasis is such a famous Madonna lookalike that she has worked with Madonna. Denise Vlasis is in the music video In Dreams, which brings us back to David Lynch.

You know, as bad as Britney Ever After was, this has me thinking it would have been appropriate for Libman to use She’s A Mystery To Me after the film’s attempt to explain away it not really having the rights to tell the story by saying that people only knew her through video clips–usually from TMZ.

Enjoy!

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: The Best of Lifetime


Today, I continue my look back at the year 2016 with the best of Lifetime!  Below, you’ll find my nominations for the best Lifetime films and performances of 2016!  Winners are starred and listed in bold!

mother-mural-lmn-620x325

Best Picture
Bad Sister, produced by Robert Ballo, Timothy O. Johnson, Rukmani Jones, Ken Sanders
The Cheerleader Murders, produced by Sharon Bordas, Arthur Edmonds III, Hannah Pillemer, Fernando Szew, Jennifer Westin
Girl in the Box, produced by Stephen Kemp, Charles Tremayne, Thomas Vencelides
Inspired to Kill, produced by Johnson Chan, Michael Fiefer, Douglas Howell, Stephanie Rennie, Vincet Reppert, Nathan Schwab, Tammana Shah, Shawn Tira
Manson’s Lost Girls, produced by Nancy Bennett, Kyle A. Clark, Lawrence Ducceschi, Joan Harrison, Jonathan Koch, Stephen Kronish, Steven Michaels, Lina Wong
Mommy’s Little Girl, produced by Tom Berry, Steve Boisvert, Neil Bregman, Cinthia Burke, Christine Conradt, Curtis Crawford, Pierre David, Donald M. Osborne, Andrew E. Pecs
*A Mother’s Escape, produced by Sharon Bordas, Lori Bell Leahy, Michael Leahy, Kristofer McNeeley, Fernando Szew
My Sweet Audrina, produced by Dan Angel, David Calvert-Jones, Harvey Kahn, Kane Lee, Tom Mazza, Mike Rohl, Jane Startz
The Night Stalker, produced by Matthew R. Brady, Patrick G. Ingram, Michel Rangel, Alisa Tager
The Wrong Car, produced by Mark Donadio, Miriam Marcus, Molly Martin, Michael O’Neil

Best Director
Doug Campbell for Bad Sister
Megan Griffiths for The Night Stalker
*Blair Hayes for A Mother’s Escape
David Jackson for The Cheerleader Murders
Leslie Libman for Manson’s Lost Girls
Mike Rohl for My Sweet Audrina

Best Actress
*Tara Buck in A Mother’s Escape
India Eisley in My Sweet Audrina
MacKenzie Mauzy in Manson’s Lost Girls
Alyshia Ochse in Bad Sister
Karissa Lee Staples in Inspired To Kill
Addison Timlin in Girl in the Box

Best Actor
Zane Holtz in Girl in the Box
Lou Diamond Phillips in The Night Stalker
*Eric Roberts in Stalked By My Doctor: The Return
Antonio Sabato, Jr in Inspired To Kill
Jason-Shane Scott in The Wrong Roommate
Jeff Ward in Manson’s Lost Girls

Best Supporting Actress
*Toni Atkins in My Sweet Audrina
Eden Brolin in Manson’s Lost Girls
Zoe De Grande Maison in Pregnant at 17
Beth Grant in A Mother’s Escape
Ryan Newman in Bad Sister
Zelda Williams in Girl in the Box

Best Supporting Actor
Blake Berris in Wrong Swipe
Rogan Christopher in Pregnant at 17
*Rhett Kidd in The Wrong Car
Christian Madsen in Manson’s Lost Girls
William McNamara in The Wrong Roommate
James Tupper in My Sweet Audrina

Best Screenplay
Bad Sister, Barbara Kymlicka
*The Cheerleader Murders, Matt Young
Girl in the Box, Stephen Kemp
Mommy’s Little Girl, Christine Conradt
A Mother’s Escape, Mike Bencivenga, Blair Hayes, Kristofer McNeeley
My Sweet Audrina, Scarlett Lacey

Best Cinematography
The Cheerleader Murders, Denis Maloney
Mommy’s Little Girl, Bill St. John
*A Mother’s Escape, Samuel Calvin
My Sweet Audrina, James Liston
The Night Stalker, Quyen Tran
The Wrong Car, Terrence Hayes

Best Costuming
Girl in the Box, Barb Cardoso, Tania Pedro
Manson’s Lost Girls, Dorothy Amos
*My Sweet Audrina, Farnaz Khaki-Sadigh
The Night Stalker, Rebecca Luke
The Red Dress, Sophie Pace
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, Mary McLeod

Best Editing
The Cheerleader Murders, Eric Potter
Girl in the Box, Julian Hart
Manson’s Lost Girls, Josh Hegard
*A Mother’s Escape, Travis Graalman
My Sweet Audrina, Charles Robichaud
The Night Stalker, Celia Beasley

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Girl in the Box, Claudia Breckenridge, Jen Fisher, Oriana Rossi, Alex Rotundo, Collette Tolen
Killing Mommy, Cinthia Burke, Christie Capustinsky, Kevin Crawley, Kirsten Fairfield, Margaret Harding-Crawley, Corey J. Stone
*Manson’s Lost Girls, Jenni Brown Greenberg, Randi Mavestrand, Kelly Muldoon, Natalie Thimm
A Mother’s Escape, Jenny Hausam, Toni Mario
My Sweet Audrina, Alannah Bilodeau
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, Tara Hadden-Watts, Alexandra Holmes

Best Original Score
911 Nightmare, David Findlay
*The Cheerleader Murders, Cladue Foisy
Inspired To Kill, Brandon Jarrett
A Mother’s Escape, Todd Haberman
My Sweet Audrina, Graeme Coleman
The Wrong Car, Ed Grenga

Best Production Design
Bad Sister, Lia Burton, Danielle Lee
Girl in the Box, Andrew Berry, Jere Sallee
*Manson’s Lost Girls, Cynthia E. Hill, Linda Spheeris
A Mother’s Escape, Zackary Steven Graham
My Sweet Audrina, Tink, Janessa Hitsman
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, James Robbins, Courtney Stockstad, Amanda Christmas

Best Sound
*Center Stage: On Pointe
The Cheerleader Murders
Honeymoon from Hell
I Have Your Children
Inspired to Kill
Toni Braxton: Unreak My Heart

Best Visual Effects
Final Destiny
*Flashback
House of Darkness
The Inherited
Little Girl’s Secret
The Watcher

Congratulations to all the nominees and thank you for keeping us entertained in 2016!

Want to see my picks for the best of Lifetime in 2015?  Click here!

And if you want to see my picks from 2014, click here!

Tomorrow, I’ll continue my look back at 2016 with the 16 worst films of the year!

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

Lifetime Movie Review: Manson’s Lost Girls (dir by Leslie Libman)


MLG

I know way too much about the crimes of Charles Manson.

I realized that, earlier tonight, as I watched the latest Lifetime original film, Manson’s Lost Girls.  It was one of the better films that I’ve recently seen on Lifetime and it was certainly superior to NBC’s Aquarius, the TV show that tried to turn Manson into some sort of sexy anti-hero.  (Memo to NBC:  Walter White was a great anti-hero.  Charles Manson was just a grubby little serial killer.)  Manson’s Lost Girls was well-acted and it did a fairly good job of portraying the 60s without falling back on too many of the usual clichés (at no point was White Rabbit heard on the soundtrack), and it also did a pretty good job of portraying how certain lost people can be brainwashed by one cunning sociopath.

Yet, with all that in mind, I found myself watching the film and thinking, Where is Bruce Davis?  Where’s Clem Grogan?  What about Catherine Share, whose parents were both members of the resistance during the Nazi occupation of Germany just for their daughter to end up a brainwashed member of Manson’s Family?”  For whatever reason, the Family portrayed in Manson’s Lost Girls was considerably smaller than the real-life Family and seriously, how disturbing is that?  I mean, the 10-member cult in Mason’s Lost Girls was bad enough but, in real life, there were even more of them!  How disturbing is that!?  But, in retrospect, it’s even more disturbing that I knew enough about the Family to know that Bruce Davis, Clem Grogan, and Catherine Share were all missing from the film.

(Actually, I just looked at the credits on the imdb and I saw that Diana Irvine is credited as playing Catherine.  So, perhaps Catherine Share was included as a character and I just didn’t notice.)

When I was 16, I took a sociology class in high school.  One of the class assignments was to do a report on a subculture.  I did my report on vampires and the less said about that the better.  However, the hot and troubled guy who sat in front of me did his report on the Manson Family.  As a part of his report, he handed out a little booklet that had pictures of all the Family members in it.  I can remember looking through those pictures and thinking that Charles Manson looked scary and that Tex Watson was kind of hot, in a rebellious son of an evangelical preacher sort of way.  (Tex Watson spent a semester at North Texas State University.  Four decades later, I went to NTSU — or UNT as its now called.  Around the campus, you can find pictures of famous former students like Joe Don Baker, Peter Weller, Pat Boone, and Roy Orbison.  For obvious reasons, you will never find a picture of Charles “Tex” Watson.)  But, as I listened to the details of Manson’s crimes and his belief that the Beatles were sending him secret messages and that those messages justified murder, I found myself wondering how any of the fresh-faced people in those pictures could have possibly believed a word that Manson said.  It just seemed so weird and …. stupid.

(By the end of the presentation, Tex Watson no longer looked hot.)

And I have to admit that I was a bit intrigued by it all.  It wasn’t that I had any sympathy for those murderers.  But I found myself wondering how they could have done what they did.  I wondered how so many different people from different background could come together and all buy into the same stupid bullshit.  Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was struggling to understand the very nature of evil.  To most people, it was easy enough to say that Manson and his followers were evil but I wanted to know how they had become evil.  I wanted to understand why and, though I may not have wanted to admit it, I wanted to make sure that I never woke up to discover that I had made the same mistake of surrendering my free will to a some nut just because he was able to look at me and tell that I had issues with my father.

By telling the story of Linda Kasabian (played quite well by MacKenzie Mauzy), Manson’s Lost Girls attempts to answer that question.  Linda was a young mother who, after her drug dealing husband deserted her, found herself living on the Spahn Movie Ranch with Manson and the Family.  Linda spent a month with Manson.  At first, she felt as if she had a found a new home and a new family but soon, things started to unravel.  In hopes of bringing about a race war (and also looking for vengeance over his own failure to become a rock star), Manson ordered his followers to commit murder.  Linda witnessed the tragic and brutal murder of actress Sharon Tate and her friends.  After the murders, Linda fled the Family and she would later serve as the prosecution’s star witness in Manson’s murder trial.

Manson’s Lost Girls is told almost totally from Linda’s point of view.  It’s through her that we are introduced to Manson and his Family.  The film doesn’t quite succeed in giving us a definitive answer as to how Manson could get people to kill for him but, then again, there may not be a definitive answer.  Fortunately, Manson’s Lost Girls does provide hints.  In her narration, Linda emphasizes that Manson kept everyone perpetually wasted.  But, even more importantly, the film highlights that, for these brainwashed future murderers, the Family truly was a family.  They were lost.  They were rejected by conventional society.  And when they met Manson, they were given a chance to belong.  The film suggests that need to belong and to be a part of something greater than what they had left all the members of the Family vulnerable to Charlie’s manipulations.

Manson was played by Jeff Ward, who did a pretty good job in the role.  Wisely, the film didn’t overplay Manson’s charisma or attempt to turn him into some sort of supervillain.  (In short, it didn’t make the same mistake as Aquarius.)  Instead, it portrayed him as what he probably was — a grubby hustler with a massive chip on his shoulder.  As played by Ward, Manson is less a messiah and more an extremely lucky con artist.  Manson’s Lost Girls deserves credit for portraying Manson without a hint of glamour.

The film suggests that Manson’s rampage was largely motivated by his bitterness over not being able to get a record contract.  As I watched, I found myself what would have happened if Manson had gotten that contract.  Would he now be remembered as one of those obscure musicians from the 60s and 70s whose later career was made up of performing at fairs and cheap clubs?  Or, if he had found success, would he have eventually ended up as a mentor on an early episode of American Idol?

Far more importantly, I found myself wondering what the future would have held for his most famous victim, Sharon Tate?  Sharon gave a such good performance in Valley of the Dolls, one that suggested she was capable of a lot more than she had been given credit for.  Would she have continued to grow and develop as an actress?  And what of her unborn son?  If not for Manson and his followers, Paul Polanski would now be 46 years old.

Manson’s Lost Girls does not linger on the murders.  They largely happen off-screen and, for that, I’m thankful.  But, at the same time, it never shies away from the real-life tragedy of Manson’s crimes.  And, even if the film did not have all the answers, it did remind us why the questions must be asked.  In the end, Manson’s Lost Girls reminds us of what evil can come from surrendering our independence and our free will.

It’s a film that reminds us that no matter how lost we may be, we must always be careful about those who claim to have found us.  Instead of waiting for others to find us, we must find ourselves.

MansonGirls_Group07172015_JZ_0020.psd_copy