Musical Sequence of the Day: “Notorious” from Donnie Darko (dir by Richard Kelly)


For today’s musical sequence of the day (which is a temporary feature that I’m doing until Val’s internet is working again and she can return to doing her music videos of the day), we have the “Notorious” scene from 2001’s Donnie Darko.

In this scene, Sparkle Motion performs onstage while, miles away, Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) burns down the house of creepy motivational speaker, Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze).  Playing throughout this scene: Duran Duran’s “Notorious.”

Why does Drew Barrymore hate Sparkle Motion?

This is the second scene from Donnie Darko to have been featured in this series.  Check out the “Head Over Heels” scene here.

(And yes, one reason why I love this scene is because I very much related to it.  Sparkle Motion is perhaps the most realistic part of Donnie Darko…)

Musical Sequence of the Day: “Head over Heels” from Donnie Darko (dir by Richard Kelly)


Hi, everyone!

Well, Val is having some internet issues so it’s going to be a few days until she’s able to do another music video of the day.  So, until she returns, I’m going to fill in with some of my favorite cinematic musical sequences!  These are scenes that made brilliant use of music.

And what better way to start things off than with the Head Over Heels scene from 2001’s Donnie Darko.  Directed by Richard Kelly, this scene not only makes brilliant use of the Tears For Fears song, Head Over Heels, but it also manages to introduce every character and set up almost every important relationship in the film.

It’s brilliant but I always find myself wondering what Drew Barrymore had against Sparkle Motion.

To quote Val, “Enjoy!”

A Movie A Day #25: Next of Kin (1989, directed by John Irvin)


next-of-kinTruman Gates (Patrick Swayze) may have been raised in Appalachia but, now that he lives in Chicago, he’s left the old ways behind.  He has a job working as a cop and his wife (Helen Hunt) is pregnant with their first child.  When Truman’s younger brother, Gerald (Bill Paxton), shows up in town and asks for Truman’s help, Truman gets him a job as a truck driver.  But, on his first night on the job, Gerald’s truck is hijacked by a Sicilian mobster named Joey Rosellini (Adam Baldwin) and Gerald is killed.  Truman’s older brother, Briar (Liam Neeson), soon comes to Chicago and declares a blood feud on the mob.

Of the many action films that Patrick Swayze made between Dirty Dancing and Ghost, Roadhouse may be the best known but Next of Kin is the best.  Next of Kin spends as much examining the family dynamics of Rosellini’s family as it does with Truman’s, suggesting that there is not much of a difference between the two groups.  There’s even a scene where Joey’s uncle (played by Andreas Katsulas) tells Joey that the Sicily was the Appalachia of Italty.  Next of Kin also has a better supporting cast than most of the films that Swayze made during this period.  Along with Paxton and Neeson, the hillbillies are represented by actors like Ted Levine and Michael J. Pollard while Ben Stiller has an early role as Joey’s cousin.  Patrick Swayze gives one of his better performances as Truman but the entire movie is stolen by Liam Neeson, who is a surprisingly believable hillbilly.

Back to School Part II #11: Skatetown U.S.A. (dir by William A. Levey)


Poster_of_the_movie_Skatetown,_USA

Now that I’ve fully recovered from the trauma of writing about Grease, let me tell you about a little movie from 1979.  It’s a movie about teenagers, love, and competition.  It’s also a movie about disco and some actors who had some extra time on their hands.  It has a great soundtrack and the whole movie is pure 70s.  It even features the debut performance of a future movie star!

What film am I talking about?

SKATETOWN, USA, of course!

But before I talk about the movie, check out the trailer.  This is one of my favorite trailers of all time.  It pretty much tells you everything that you need to know about the movie.  There’s not a deceptive moment to be found in this preview:

Skatetown, U.S.A. is one of those movies that you watch and think, “This could only have been made in the 70s.”  Remember how watching Hollywood High caused me to doubt whether or not the 70s were actually all they were cracked up to be?  Well, Skatetown USA has renewed my faith!  Skatetown is such a 70s film that I personally think someone should send me an honorary coke spoon to reward me for watching it.

(Maureen McCormick, who is best known for playing Marcia Brady and who had a small role in Skatetown, wrote in her autobiography that the main thing she remembers about Skatetown is all the cocaine on the set.)

Skatetown USA doesn’t really have a traditional plot.  Instead, it’s a collection of “comedic” skits mixed in with roller skating performances and a nonstop soundtrack.  There is not a second that music is not playing in the background and, for what appears to be a low-budget film, the soundtrack is truly impressive.  Basically, almost every great disco song from the 1970s is heard at some point during Skatetown USA.  (Even that “Boogie Nights” song that Paul Thomas Anderson was apparently not allowed to actually use in Boogie Nights!  Imagine being the copyright holders who said yes to Skatetown but no to Paul Thomas Anderson…)

The film’s main character appears to be an unnamed DJ (Denny Johnston).  The DJ wears a big white afro wig and is always dancing in his booth.  Occasionally, he shoots a lightning bolt from his middle finger and suddenly, professional roller dancers appear and do a routine.  At the end of the movie, he looks at the camera, says that it’s all a fantasy, and winks.

Skatetown is the most popular disco roller rink in town.  Clean-cut teenager and all around nice guy Stan Nelson (Greg Bradford) wants to win Skatetown’s roller dancing contest.  (The prize is $1,000 and a moped!)  His best friend, Richie (Scott Baio), accompanies him and hopes to win a lot of money by betting on the outcome of the contest.  Stan angrily reprimands him, “This isn’t the streets!  This is Skatetown, U.S.A!”

That’s right — don’t mess with the good name of Skatetown!

Anyway, Stan’s actually a pretty good performer and he does this trick where he rides a skateboard while wearing roller skaters so you would think he would be a sure bet to win.

BUT NO!

The reigning Skatetown champion is Ace Johnson (Patrick Swayze, making his film debut) and we know that Ace is a bad guy because he wears all black and he occasionally snaps a whip while he’s rolling around!  Ace isn’t above cheating to win but really he doesn’t have to cheat!  Ace may be the bad guy but, seriously, he totally kicks ass while wearing roller skates.  As soon as he rolls out there, you understand why he’s the reigning champion.

See, here’s the thing with Skatetown: We’re supposed to be rooting for Stan but Ace really is a hundred times better than him.  There’s a reason why Patrick Swayze went on to have a career after Skatetown while Greg Bradford only has 8 credits on the imdb.  Swayze, even in this silly role, had movie star charisma whereas Bradford — well, he’s comes across as a nice guy but there’s nothing special about him.  Swayze, meanwhile, is dangerous and smoldering.

For instance, when Stan does his routine, his background music is The Village People singing “Macho Man” and you can’t help but snicker a little.  Whereas, when Ace performs, his background music is a slightly menacing cover of Under My Thumb.  Stan is the Village People.  Ace is the Rolling Stones.

Anyway, the film might not be good in the traditional sense but I absolutely loved Skatetown, U.S.A.  Why?  Because it’s a total time capsule! Watching it is such a totally 70s experience that I was even tempted to get a frizzy perm, start wearing bell bottoms, and stop wearing a bra.  Fortunately, the temptation passed but still, I enjoyed getting to use my cinematic time machine.

Add to that, the film itself is just so over-the-top and silly that … well, you can really believe that everyone involved in the movie was snorting mountains of cocaine in between takes.  There’s not a subtle moment to be found in Skatetown, U.S.A.  Instead, it’s all bright neon, loud music, flamboyant characters, silly melodrama, and corny humor.

(My personal theory is that Skatetown, U.S.A. was taking place in the same cinematic universe of A Clockwork Orange and it was showing what normal teenagers were doing while Alex and his droogs were seeking out the ultraviolence.  The over-the-top design of Skatetown reminded me of the similar flamboyance of the Korova Milk Bar and the droogs’s bowlers and oversized codpieces weren’t that different from some of the costumes worn by the cast of Skatetown.)

Anyway, Skatetown is one of those films that everyone should see once.  Unfortunately, because of all the music in the film, it’s never been released on DVD or Blu-ray and it probably never will be because life sucks.  It is on YouTube, though it was recorded off an old VHS tape so the transfer is not the best.

Here’s Skatetown, USA:

One final note: Skatetown, USA was directed by the same William Levey who also directed Blackenstein, Hellgate, and The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington.  It was written Nick Castle, who played Michael Myers in the original Halloween and directed a film that is well-liked by several of the writers here at the Shattered Lens, The Last Starfighter.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #85: Ghost (dir by Jerry Zucker)


Ghost_(1990_movie_poster)Along with it being a part of my series of melodramatic film reviews, there are actually two reasons why I recently watched Ghost.

First off, this 1990 film was nominated for best picture and it’s long been my goal to watch and review every single film ever nominated for best picture.

Secondly, my Aunt Kate absolutely loves this movie.  Ever since she first found out that I obsessively love movies, she has recommended that I watch this movie.  And she hasn’t been alone.  A lot of people both in and outside of my family have recommended this film to me.  And, since I tend to be a bit of a contrarian know-it-all, I originally assumed that any film loved by that many people had to be terrible.  However, because I love mi tia, I decided to watch Ghost.

I have to admit that I started to laugh when I saw Demi Moore sitting at her pottery wheel because I’ve seen that scene parodied in so many different TV shows and movies.  As soon as a shirtless Patrick Swayze sat down behind her and joined his hands to hers to help shape a ceramic phallic symbol, I started to giggle.  As Unchained Melody played in the background, I wanted to be snarky.  But then I realized something.  If you can manage watch the scene without comparing it to all the parody versions, it actually works.  Patrick Swayze looked good and he and Demi Moore had the type of amazing chemistry that more than made up for the fact that neither one of them was a very good actor.  (That said, Patrick was very good at projecting decency and Demi was very good at crying and that’s really all that Ghost required.)  And, if the scene has proven easy to parody, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a very sincere scene.  It’s so sincere that it’s even willing to risk coming across as being silly.

Of course, the entire film isn’t just Demi, Patrick, and a pottery wheel.  There’s also Whoopi Goldberg as a fake medium-turned-real-medium and Tony Goldwyn as the best friend who turns out to be a sleazy villain.  And, of course, there’s the cartoonish demons who pop up every once in a while so that they can literally drag the recently deceased down to Hell.

Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) is the world’s most unlikely New York City-based banker.  He owns a beautiful apartment with his girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore) but he has commitment issues.  He can’t bring himself to say that he loves Molly.  Instead, he just says, “Ditto.”  And, from the minute he first utters those words, you know that his habit of saying “Ditto,” is going to be an important plot point.  Anton Chekhov told us that any gun introduced during the first chapter must be fired by the third chapter.  Ghost tells us that any “Ditto” uttered during the first 10 minutes must be repeated by the end of the first hour.

Sam’s best friend and co-worker is Carl (Tony Goldwyn).  At the start of the film, Sam and Carl have a sweet bromance going and some of the best scenes are just the two of them acting like guys.  (There’s a fun little scene where they freak out a group of strangers on an elevator.)  Goldwyn is so likable as Carl that it’s actually genuinely upsetting to discover that he’s arranged for Sam to be murdered.  (Why?  It all involved a lot of financial stuff that basically went right over my head.  Greed is not only the root of all evil but it leads to narrative confusion as well.)  When Sam dies, he comes back as a ghost but nobody can see him but his fellow ghosts.  Vincent Schiavelli has a great cameo as a very angry subway ghost who teaches Sam how “life” works when you’re dead.

(Of course, Schiavelli isn’t on screen for too long because he’s almost too angry for the world of Ghost.)

Eventually Sam discovers that only one living person can communicate with him.  Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg) is a fake medium who is just as shocked as anyone to discover that she can speak with the dead.  Whoopi won an Oscar for her performance here and she’s certainly does bring some needed humor and life to Ghost.  With Swayze, Moore, and Goldwyn all giving extremely and sometimes overly dramatic performances, you’re happy to have Whoopi there.

Ghost is designed to appeal to your emotions and it succeeds in doing just that.  If you look at the film logically, you’re missing the point.  In many ways, the film is undeniably silly but I still got some tears in my eyes when I heard that “Ditto.”

 

Film Review: Youngblood (dir by Peter Markle)


As I mentioned in my review of Diary of a Hitman, I’ve been trying to watch as many obscure and forgotten films as possible.  For that reason, earlier tonight, I watched, via Movieplex OnDemand, a 1986 film called Youngblood.

Youngblood is one of those films that is so unbelievably predictable that I’m dreading having to detail the film’s plot because there is seriously no way to make it sound interesting.

Okay, let’s give it a shot.

Dean Youngblood (Rob Lowe) is a 17 year-old farmhand in upstate New York who also happens to be one of the state’s best hockey players.  He’s also lucky enough to have a plot-specific last name.  Just imagine if his name had been Dean Bloodthinner or Dean Oldboy.  You’d have a much different movie.  But anyway — Youngblood dreams of playing in the National Hockey League.  His father tells Youngblood to forget about his dreams.  His brother says, “Go for your dreams!”  Perhaps not surprisingly, Youngblood decides to go for his dreams because, otherwise, there wouldn’t be a movie.

Youngblood ends up playing in the Canadian Junior League.  (I should mention that the only reason I even know that there is a Canadian Junior League is because I watch Degrassi.)  After being taken under the wing of fellow player Derek Sutton (Patrick Swayze), Youngblood becomes one of the best players on the team.  However, he’s not comfortable beating up the opposing players, which leads his coach (Ed Lauter) to wonder if Youngblood lacks the killer instinct needed for professional hockey.  Youngblood also happens to be dating the coach’s daughter (Cynthia Gibb).  Anyway, as you can probably guess, the film concludes with a big game and a lot of shots of people shouting, “GO, YOUNGBLOOD!”

Youngblood is not a very good movie but its memorable for being perhaps the most aggressively male movie ever made.  Youngblood, for instance, has no mother.  He just has an older brother to learn from and a father to impress.  Indeed, to judge from Youngblood, upstate New York is apparently a female-free zone.  As opposed to New York, there are women in Canada and, in the world of this film, they all exist for one and only one reason: to validate the existence of Dean Youngblood.  The coach’s daughter does it by assuring him that he’s worthy of being loved.  All the other female characters — from his landlady to two groupies that he meets in a bar — do so by being sexually available.  When Youngblood has sex with his landlady, they’re watched by two other hockey players (one of whom is played by Keanu Reeves and says, “She do me last year.”).  After Youngblood has sex with the coach’s daughter, the first thing he does is track down Derek so he can tell him all about it.

Make no mistake about it.  Youngblood is a love story but it’s about the love between Youngblood and his teammates.  When Youngblood first makes the team, Derek holds him down and proceeds to shave his testicles with a dull razor.  When Youngblood finally starts fighting on the ice (and, in the process, becomes a man or something), he does it to defend his fellow teammates.  Poor Cynthia Gibb can only watch from the stands and cheer.  She’s finally realized that, by encouraging Youngblood to embrace peace over violence, she was holding him back from embracing his destiny.  Or something.

On a positive note, Rob Lowe looks as good in this film as he did earlier in Class and later in Parks and Recreation.  For that matter, a young and athletic Patrick Swayze looked pretty good in this film too.  However, the characters that they’re playing are so hyper-masculine that they quickly go from being sexy to just being obnoxious.  I’ll admit that, unlike the TSL’s own Leonard Wilson, I do not know much about hockey.  But I do know that if I ever have to suggest a hockey film to a friend, I will always suggest that they see Goon and forget about Youngblood.

What Lisa Marie and Erin Nicole Watched Last Night #74: California Dreams 3.12 “Harley and the Marlboro Man” (dir by Patrick Maloney)


Last night, my sister Erin (a.k.a. Dazzling Erin) and I watched a very special episode of California Dreams, “Harley and the Marlboro Man.”

Why Were We Watching It?

If you follow me on twitter, then you may have noticed something last night.   Whether it was just that I was having a long day or the fact that I’ve been somewhat manic since December, I was a neurotic mess.  It all started when I tried to change my profile pic on twitter and I discovered that apparently, twitter has changed the way that they do profile pics and, as a result, this really great picture of me had to be cropped and then it ended up looking totally tiny on screen and this led to me trying 30 different profile pics in just 15 minutes and none of them looked good in tiny twitter form and I was just getting so frustrated and … well, you get the idea.

Fortunately, my wonderful sister knew how to calm me down.  She suggested that I distract myself from obsessing over my profile pic by watching something either on TV or online.  And what better to watch than an episode of a mediocre 90s sitcom!?  Unfortunately, as much as I tried, I couldn’t find any episodes of Saved By The Bell: The New Class to watch.

So, I watched yet another episode of California Dreams instead.  And since it was her idea, I forced Erin to watch it with me!

What Was It About?

Lead guitarist, motorcycle enthusiast, and leather fetishist Jake (Jay Anthony Franke) is entering a motorcycle contest and his Uncle Frank shows up to help him out.  Frank, it turns out, taught Jake  everything Jake knows about being cool but — gasp! — Frank smokes!

And soon, Jake is smoking too.

DOUBLE GASP!

What Worked?

This episode is part of a proud television tradition.  Every show that’s aimed towards younger viewers has to have at least one episode where one of the characte’s takes up smoking and ends up getting ostracized as a result.  This episode of California Dreams is almost a prototypical anti-smoking episode — i.e., the character is inspired to smoke by an older role model, all of his friends are shocked and scandalized to discover that he would even think of smoking, a lot of statistics are awkwardly stuffed into the script (“Did you know that 89% smokers started smoking between the ages of 15 and 27?”), and the older role model is eventually punished with lung cancer.  This episode of California Dreams hits all of the expected notes and it does so far more efficiently than Saved By The Bell: The New Class did.

To be honest, Jake is a pretty silly character with his heavy leather jackets and his perpetual scowl but, in this episode, Jay Anthony Franke gives a fairly good performance.

Up until things got serious with Uncle Frank, this episode had a lot of camp appeal.  There was something oddly endearing about how scandalized everyone was over the fact that Jake was smoking.  I also found it interesting that it only took 6 or 7 cigarettes for Jake to turn into an addict.  Seriously, even I — with my asthma and everything else — smoked more than 7 cigarettes back in high school.  And I never found myself madly pacing back and forth while craving my next fix.

On a personal note, this episode calmed me down and I’m thankful for that!

What Did Not Work?

Hey, it was California Dreams.  Even the stuff that don’t work are a major part of the show’s appeal.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I have severe asthma and it was even worse when I was little.  As a result, my mom was always very protective of me and my poor, little lungs.  If anyone lit a cigarette anywhere near me, mom would always tell them to put it out because, “My daughter can not breathe.”  She also told me that I shouldn’t ever be around people who were smoking and, most importantly, I should never smoke myself.

Of course, that worked when I was little but then, as I grew up and I went through my whole rebellious phase, I found myself fascinated with both cigarettes and the people who smoked them.  Don’t get me wrong — I thought smoking cigarettes was a dangerous habit and I was too obsessed with dancing and too paranoid about my asthma to ever do anything more than take an occasional defiant puff but, at the same time, I still loved to watch certain people smoke and, whenever I dated a smoker, I always loved the way they tasted whenever I kissed them.

So, for once, I found that I could not relate to the character of Lorena in this episode of California Dreams.

Lessons Learned

Strange things calm me down.

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