What Lisa Watched Last Night #200: The College Admissions Scandal (dir by Adam Salky)


Last night, like all good Americans, I watched The College Admissions Scandal on Lifetime!

Why Was I Watching It?

How could I not watch it!?

Seriously, Lifetime has been advertising the Hell out of this thing for the past few months.  I haven’t been able to turn on the channel without seeing a few hundred commercials for The College Admissions Scandal.

Add to that, I have to admit that this is the rare national scandal that I’ve actually been following.  When the news first broke that certain rich people had cheated and broken the rules to get their child into a good college, my initial reaction was, “Well, isn’t that what a parent’s supposed to do?”  Of course, I made the mistake of saying that on twitter and I immediately ended up with a bunch of finger-wagging nags screaming at me about how it wasn’t something to make a joke about and how it wasn’t fair and blah blah blah.  They sure told me!  Of course, it didn’t really change my mind or anything but at least everyone else got to feel like they had stuck up for truth and justice.  That said, I think my point remains valid.  Don’t get mad at the parents for taking advantage of the system.  They’re just trying to look after their kids.  Instead, get mad at the colleges that were willing to be bribed.  Get mad at a system that’s been specifically set up to be corrupted.  The solution is reform, not necessarily imprisonment.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I kinda love the fact that, while Felicity Huffman basically begged everyone to forgive her, Lori Loughlin pretty much said, “Fuck you, I’m not apologizing for anything.” That’s the spirit!

What Was It About?

Penelope Ann Miller plays a character who is definitely not Felicity Huffman, just as Mia Kirshner is playing someone who is definitely not Lori Loughlin.  That said, like Miller and Loughlin, they’re two wealthy mothers who are concerned about getting their children into the right school.  Fortunately, Rick Singer (Michael Shanks) is willing to sell his services as an admissions consultant.  Pay him enough money and he’ll fix your child’s grades, improve their test scores, and even make them look like athletes!

It sounds like a great plan!  Of course, it’s also illegal and, even as the parents are looking forward to sending their kids to Stanford and Harvard, the FBI is looking forward to sending the parents to prison!

What Worked?

Miller and Kirshner were both well-cast and Kirshner was especially good as the mother who definitely was not Lori Loughlin.  Michael Shanks was also wonderfully repellent in the role of Rick Singer.

It was fascinating to watch the lengths that Singer and the families went to remaking their children.  My main memory of this film will probably always be Sarah Dugdale standing in front of a blue screen and kicking a soccer ball so that she can later be photoshopped into a picture of an actual soccer game.

What Did Not Work?

Where were the real people!?  Yes, Rick Singer is a real person but why were all the parents fictional?  I assume for legal reasons.  For instance, Lori Loughlin has yet to be convicted of anything and I imagine that Lifetime didn’t want to get on the bad side of either Felicity Huffman or William H. Macy by portraying them in the movie.  But seriously, it was hard not to be disappointed by the lack of real world gossip.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Hmmmm …. I got into college legally but then again, I also didn’t go to an Ivy League school, nor did I ever particularly want to.  To be honest, it didn’t really occur to me that college was actually that important until my senior year.  That’s when I was like, “Oh, I’m actually supposed to do something with this art history degree….”

Lessons Learned

If you want to send your child to a good college, get them interested in soccer early.

2017 in Review: The Best of Lifetime


Today, I continue my look back at the previous year with my picks for the best of Lifetime in 2017!  Below, you’ll find my nominations for the best Lifetime films and performances of 2017!  Winners are starred and listed in bold!

(As a guide, I used the credits for the imdb.  If anyone has been miscredited or let out, please feel free to let me know and I’ll fix the error both here and, if I can, on the imdb as well.)

Best Picture

Drink Slay Love, produced by Tina Pehme, Kim Roberts, Sheri Singer, Bella Thorne

From Straight A’s to XXX, produced by Austin Andrews, John Bolton, Anne-Marie Hess, Tina Pehme, Kim Roberts, Sheri Singer

Four Christmases and a Wedding

New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell, produced by Deen Dioria, David Manzanares, Ron Schmidt, Judith Verno, Frank von Zerneck.

The Rachels, produced by Paige Lauren Billot, Margaret H. Huddleston, Maggie McFarren, Hannah Pillemer, Rebecca G. Stone.

Running Away, produced by Dureyshevar, Jeff Faehnle, Jack Nasser, Jacob Nasser, Joseph Nasser, Bri Noble.

Sea Change. Produced by Sharon Bordas, Alec Chorches, Adam Fratto, Steven Gilder, David MacLeod, A.J. Mendez, Shawn Piller, Lloyd Segan, Stephanie Slack, Fernando Szew

Secrets in Suburbia, produced by Kristopher McNeeley, Jacobo Rispa, Damian Romay, Stephanie Slack, Fernando Szew.

The Watcher in the Woods, produced by Simon Barnes, Alexandra Bentley, Andrew Gernhard, Jennifer Handorf, Paula Hart.

* Web Cam Girls, produced by Tom Berry, Pierre David, Hank Grover, Sheri Reeves, Ken Sanders, Noel Zanitsch* 

Best Director

* Doug Campbell for Web Cam Girls

Michael Civille for The Rachels

Vanessa Parise for From Straight A’s to XXX

Damian Romay for Secrets in Suburbia

Brian Skiba for Running Away

Stephen Tolkin for New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell

Best Actor

James Franco in High School Lover

Zack Gold in Psycho Brother-in-Law

Stephen Graybill in Web Cam Girls

Timothy Granderos in The Twin

Ted McGinley in Fatherly Obsession

* Ryan Patrick Shanahan in Sinister Minister

Best Actress

Barbie Castro in Boyfriend Killer

Holly Deveaux in Running Away

Sedonna Legge in Web Cam Girls

* Penelope Ann Miller in New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell

Heather Morris in Psycho Wedding Crasher

Haley Pullos in From Straight A’s to XXX

Best Supporting Actor

Francois Arnaud in High School Lover

Joe Hackett in Web Cam Girls

William McNamara in Running Away

Patrick Muldoon in Boyfriend Killer

Judd Nelson in From Straight A’s to XXX

* Daniel Roebuck in New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell

Best Supporting Actress

Madison Iseman in The Rachels

Anjelica Huston in The Watcher in the Woods

* Tonya Kay in Web Cam Girls

Paula Trickey in Running Away

Ashley Wood in Wicked Mom’s Club

Lorynn York in Web Cam Girs

Best Screenplay

From Straight A’s to XXX. Anne-Marie Hess.

New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell. Stephen Tolkin.

The Rachels. Ellen Huggins.

* Running Away. Sheri McGuinn.

Secrets in Suburbia. Damian Romay.

Web Cam Girls. Stephen Romano.

Best Cinematography

Drink Slay Love. Vic Sarin.

Four Christmases and a Wedding. Mike Kam.

Off the Rails. Denis Maloney.

Running Away. Patrice Lucien Cochet.

* Sea Change. Jackson Parrell.

Ten: Murder Island. Richard Clabaugh.

Best Costuming

* Drink Slay Love. Liene Dobraja.

From Straight A’s to XXX. Liene Dobraja.

The Lost Wife of Robert Durst. Tina Fiorda.

New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell. Maria Bentfield.

The Rachels. Courtney Stern.

Stage Fright. Monique Hyman.

Best Editing

* From Straight A’s to XXX. Rob Grant.

Four Christmases and a Wedding. Paul Ziller.

New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell. Mark Stevens.

The Rachels. Brett Solem.

Sea Change. Matthew Anas.

Web Cam Girls. Jordan Jensen.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Drink Slay Love. Jessica Green, Catherine Long, Alysha McLoughlin, Sahar Sharelo.

The Lost Wife of Robert Durst. Lorna Bravo, Kelly Grange, Shelly Jensen, Mary Renvall, Melissa Sahlstrom.

* New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell. Claudia Breckenridge, Daniel Casillas, Nicole Gabaldon, Pepper J. Gallegos, Madeline McCue, L. Taylor Roberts

The Rachels. Taylor Bennett, Austin Cuccia.

Secrets in Suburbia. Andrea Ahl, Trevor Thompson

The Watcher in the Woods. Chloe Edwards.

Best Score

Drink Slay Love. Justin R. Durban

Fatherly Obsession. Aiko Fukushima.

Sea Change. Shawn Pierce.

* Story of a Girl. Travis Bacon.

Ten: Murder Island. Ceiri Torjussen.

The Watcher in the Woods. Felix Bird.

Best Production Design

New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell. Will Albarz, Anthony Medina.

Running Away.   Vincent Albo, Rose Beltran

Secrets in Suburbia. Brendan Turrill.

Ten: Murder Island. Eric Whitney, Caley Bisson.

Tiny House of Terror

* Web Cam Girls. Catch Henson, James W. Thompson Jr., Katherine Bulovic, Valerie Munguia

Best Sound

Britney Ever After

Drink Slay Love

From Straight A’s to XXX

Sea Change.

Under the Bed

* The Watcher in the Woods

Best Visual Effects

* Drink Slay Love

Fatherly Obsession

Sea Change

Stalker’s Prey

Ten: Murder Island

The Watcher in the Woods

And there you have it!  Those are my picks for the best of Lifetime in 2017!  Thank you for your indulgence!  On Friday, I’ll be concluding my look back at 2017 with my picks for the 26 best films of the year!

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)
  10. 2017 in Review: Lisa Marie’s 14 Favorite Songs of 2017
  11. 2017 in Review: The Best of SyFy by Lisa Marie Bowman
  12. 2017 in Review: 10 Good Things that Lisa Marie Saw On Television in 2017
  13. 2017 in Review: Lisa Marie’s 12 Favorite Novels of 2017
  14. 2017 in Review: Lia Marie’s 10 Favorite Non-Fiction Books of 2017

A Movie A Day #336: The Bronx Bull (2017, directed by Martin Guigui)


New York in the 1930s.  Jake LaMotta (Morean Aria) is a tough street kid who is pushed into fighting by his abusive father (Paul Sorvino) and who is taught how to box by a sympathetic priest (Ray Wise).  When Jake finally escapes from his Hellish home life, it is so he can pursue a career as a professional boxer.  Ironically, the same violent nature that nearly destroyed him as a youth will now be the key to his future success.

In the late 60s, a middle-aged Jake LaMotta (William Forsythe) testifies before a government panel that is investigating that influence of the Mafia in professional boxing.  LaMotta testifies that, during his professional career, he did take a dive in one of his most famous matches.  LaMotta goes on to pursue an entertainment career which, despite starring in Cauliflower Ears with Jane Russell, never amounts too much.  He drinks too much, fights too much, and gets into arguments with a ghost (Robert Davi).  He also gets married several times, to women played by everyone from Penelope Ann Miller to Alicia Witt.  The movie ends with Jake happily walking down a snowy street and a title card announcing that Jake is now 95 years old and married to his seventh wife.  (The real Jake LaMotta died on September, 9 months after the release of The Bronx Bull.)

The Bronx Bull is a largely pointless movie about the later life of the antisocial boxer who was previously immortalized in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull.  In fact, The Bronx Bull was originally announced and went into production as Raging Bull II.  Then the producers of the original Raging Bull found out, filed a lawsuit, and the film became The Bronx Bull.  Because of the lawsuit, The Bronx Bull could cover every aspect of Jake’s life, except for what was already covered in Raging Bull.  In fact, Scorsese’s film (which undoubtedly had a huge impact on LaMotta’s later life) is not even mentioned in The Bronx Bull.

William Forsythe does what he can with the role but, for the most part, Jake just seems to be a lout with anger issues.  With a cast that includes everyone from Tom Sizemore to Cloris Leachman to Bruce Davison, the movie is full of familiar faces but none of them get too much of a chance to make an impression.  Joe Mantegna comes the closest, playing Jake’s best friend.  The Bronx Bull was not only shot on the cheap but it looks even cheaper, with studio backlots unconvincingly filling in for 1930s Bronx.  The film’s director, Martin Guigui, occasionally tries to throw in a Scorsesesque camera movement and there are a few black-and-white flashbacks but, for the most part, this is the mockbuster version of Raging Bull.

Cleaning Out The DVR: New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell (dir by Stephen Tolkin)


(Lisa is not just watching horror movies!  She is also trying to clean out her DVR!  She has got over 200 movies that she needs to watch before January 1st!  Will she make it?  Keep checking here to find out!  She recorded New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell off of Lifetime on April 23rd!)

“That is some hard wood.”

— Joyce Mitchell (Penelope Ann Miller) in New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell (2017)

Why would Joyce Mitchell, a middle-aged wife and mother, help two convicted murderers escape from a prison in upstate New York?

That was the question that everyone was asking in 2015, even though everyone already knew what the answer probably was.  (Bad boys are sexy.  Murderers are the ultimate bad boys.  Plus, Joyce Mitchell appeared to be a little bit crazy and a little bit stupid.)  After breaking out of Clinton Correctional Facility, both Richard Matt and David Sweat spent several weeks on the run while Joyce Mitchell was briefly both the most hated and the most ridiculed woman in America.  Interestingly, Joyce Mitchell was not the only prison employee to help out the two convicts.  She was just the only woman.

During the manhunt for Sweat and Matt, I did what I usually do.  I made a joke.  I can’t even remember what the joke was but I do remember that it really ticked off some random people on twitter.  Seriously, the way these randos reacted, you would think that I was the one who had helped two killers to escape from prison.

“Certain things are not funny!” they shouted, “CERTAIN THINGS YOU DO NOT JOKE ABOUT!”

(Seriously, can you believe that people could actually get that mad at little old me?  What is this world coming to?)

Anyway, I have to wonder if any of those self-righteous losers watched New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell and, if they did, how they reacted to it.  New York Prison Break may sound like a standard Lifetime true crime film but it takes a satiric approach to the material.  If certain people found my relatively innocuous comments to be triggering, I can only imagine how they reacted to a made-for-TV movie that opened with a bloody recreation of Matt and Sweat’s crimes and then segued to a scene of Joyce making breakfast while listening to a trashy romance novel on tape.

As played by Penelope Ann Miller, Joyce is somehow sympathetic, pathetic, annoying, and frightening, all at the same time.  She has a nice house with a perfect kitchen and a husband, Lyle (Daniel Roebuck), who is utterly clueless as to how bored and dissatisfied Joyce has become with her very safe life.  It leaves her open to being manipulated by both David Sweat (Joe Anderson) and Richard Matt (Myk Watford), both of whom drew her into aiding their escape by feigning a romantic interest in her.  While they both encourage Joyce to fantasize about running off with them and starting a new life in Mexico, Lyle’s idea of adventure is to go out for Chinese food.  For Joyce, helping Sweat and Matt escape is like a real-life version of one of her novels.

Though it’s a true story, it’s also a very absurd story.  New York Prison Break emphasizes the strangeness of it all.  Scenes of Joyce and Lyle discussing the ins and outs of fabric softener are mixed with scenes of Sweat and Matt bickering over whether they should go to Canada or to Mexico.  Joyce’s desperate attempts to cover up her own involvement in the escape are contrasted with Sweat and Matt bonding outside of the prison.  Joyce may have been in love with both of them but, as the film makes clear, Sweat and Matt only loved each other.  And, as it eventually turns out, they didn’t even love each other that much…

“Mrs. Mitchell,” one detective asks, “you knew these men murdered and tortured a man and you gave them the means to escape from prison?”

“Everyone says I’m too nice,” Joyce explains.

New York Prison Break is a superior and well-made Lifetime film, distinguished by a quartet of strong performances.  Penelope Ann Miller, Daniel Roebuck, Joe Anderson, and Myk Watford are all at their best and it makes for very compelling viewing.

A Movie A Day #262: Downtown (1990, directed by Richard Benjamin)


Alex (Anthony Edwards) is a patrolman assigned to the nicest neighborhood in Philadelphia but, after he gets in trouble for pulling over a wealthy businessman (David Clennon), he is told that he can either be suspended or he can take a transfer downtown, to the Diamond Street precinct.  Alex takes the transfer, even though everyone on the force says that “not even the Terminator would go to Diamond Street.”  Alex gets assigned to work with seasoned Sgt. Dennis Curren (Forest Whitaker), who is still emotionally scarred by the death of his former partner and does not want to have to babysit a naive white cop from the suburbs, especially one who is obsessed with the Beach Boys.  At first, Alex struggles with his new assignment and his new partner but, when an old friend is murdered by a notorious hitman (Joe Pantoliano), Alex is determined to crack the case and bring the killer to justice.

Downtown is a combination of other, better cop films: Alex’s situation is Beverly Hills Cop in reverse and his partnership with Dennis is lifted straight from Lethal Weapon.  Art Evans is the captain who is always yelling at Alex and Dennis and telling them to drop the case and the character is so familiar that I had to check to make sure that Evans had not played the same role in Lethal Weapon.  As the bad guys, Clennon and Pantoliano could just have easily been replaced by Beverly Hills Cop‘s Steven Berkoff and Jonathan Banks and no one would have noticed.  The only real difference is that Downtown is neither as exciting nor as funny as those two films.  Downtown was directed by Richard Benjamin, who will never be known as a particularly versatile filmmaker and who struggles to balance the fish-out-of-water comedy with some surprisingly brutal violence.  Beverly Hills Cops had Eddie Murphy and Lethal Weapon had Mel Gibson and Danny Glover.  Downtown has Anthony Edwards and Forest Whitaker, who are both good actors but who both seem to be woefully miscast here.  (If Downtown were made today, Whitaker could play Dennis but, in 1990, he was too young to be the cop who was “too old for this shit.”)    Of the many Lethal Weapon ripoffs that came out in late 80s and early 90s, Downtown is one of the most forgettable.

 

Back to School Part II #23: Adventures in Babysitting (dir by Chris Columbus)


adventures_in_babysitting

One unfortunate thing about both being the youngest of four and having a teenage reputation for being a little out of control is that I never got a chance to be a babysitter.  Whenever my mom wasn’t around, my older sisters were in charge.  When I was technically old enough to look after other children, nobody was willing to trust me with them.  So, I missed out on babysitting and…

Well, to be honest, that never really bothered me.  I was too busy either having too much fun or no fun at all to worry about any of that.  But maybe I should have because, whenever I watch the 1987 film Adventures in Babysitting, I’m always left convinced that I could have been a kickass babysitter.  Seriously, if Elisabeth Shue could still get babysitting jobs even after taking the kids into downtown Chicago and nearly getting them killed, then anyone could do it!

In Adventures in Babysitting, Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) is a responsible 17 year-old who lives in the suburbs of Chicago.  (As anyone who seen The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off can tell you, being a teenager in 1980s meant living in Illinois.)  When we first meet Chris, she’s getting ready for her anniversary date with her boyfriend, Mike Todwell (Bradley Whitford, years before achieving fame by playing assorted pompous jerks in assorted Aaron Sorkin productions) and she’s dancing around her bedroom.  There’s an important lesson to be learned from the opening of Adventures in Babysitting: if you want me to relate to a character, introduce her while she’s dancing in her bedroom.  Seriously, though, the whole film succeeds because of that opening bedroom dance.  Chris is instantly likable and relatable.  You want to see her succeed and achieve what she wants.

So, of course, we’re all disappointed when Mike shows up and breaks his date with Chris.  That said, as upset as Chris may be, she’s still willing to take the time to try to talk her friend Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller) out of trying to poison her stepmother with Drano.  That’s a true friend.

With nothing else to do, Chris ends up taking a babysitting job.  She has been tasked to look after 8 year-old Sara Anderson (Maia Brewton) and Sara’s brother, 15 year-old Brad (Keith Coogan).  Sara is a bit of a brat, though she’s also generally well-meaning and is obsessed with comic books (Thor, in particular).  Brad is likable but dorky.  He has a huge crush on Chris and even turns down a chance to spend the night at a friend’s, just so he can be around her.

Brad’s friend, incidentally, is Daryl (Anthony Rapp, who would later play Tony in Dazed and Confused and who starred in the original Broadway production of Rent).  Daryl is a hyperactive perv who is obsessed with Chris because she resembles the centerfold in one of his dad’s Playboys.  Daryl decides that, if his friend Brad can’t visit him, then maybe he should visit Brad!

However, Chris has more to worry about than just looking after Sara, Brad, and Daryl.  Brenda has attempted to run away from home and now she’s stuck in a downtown bus station!  Her glasses have been stolen and, as a result, Brenda is doing things like picking up a giant rat and calling it a kitten.  Brenda uses her last bit of money to call Chris and beg her to come pick her up.

(Of course, none of this would happen today.  Brenda wouldn’t have to use a pay phone to call Chris and she could just call Uber to get a ride home.)

So, Chris and the kids drive into Chicago and, needless to say, things quickly fall apart.  They get a flat tire on the expressway.  Chris panics when she discovers that not only does she not have a spare tire but she also left her purse back at the house.  They are briefly helped by a one-handed truck driver named Handsome John Pruitt (John Ford Noonan) but then Pruitt discovers that his wife is cheating on him and takes a detour so he can catch her in the act and, of course, this leads to Chris and the kids being kidnapped by a helpful car thief.  Soon, they’re being chased through Chicago by the Mafia and…

Well, it gets rather complicated but that’s kind of the appeal of the film.  The film starts out as a fairly realistic, John Hughes-style teen comedy and then it gets progressively crazier and crazier.  Downtown Chicago turns out to be a rather cartoonish place, one where one disaster follows after another.  (To be honest, if Adventures in Babysitting was released today, it would probably inspire a hundred increasingly tedious Salon think pieces on white privilege.  Bleh!)  But, regardless of how silly some of the adventures may get, Adventures in Babysitting remains grounded because of the good and likable performances and a script that is full of witty and quotable dialogue.

It’s an entertaining movie and it’s one of those films that always seems to be either on Showtime or Encore.  If you’re sad, watch it and be prepared to be massively cheered up!

(Avoid the Disney Channel remake.)

 

In Memory of Robin Williams #3: Awakenings (dir by Penny Marshall)


Awakenings

The 1990 Best Picture nominee Awakenings is exactly the type of film that seems to have been designed to make me cry.

Taking place in 1969 and based (very loosely, I assume) on a true story, Awakenings features Robin Williams as Dr. Malcolm Sayer.  Dr. Sayer is a dedicated and caring physician but he also suffers from an almost crippling shyness.  He’s at his most comfortable when he’s dealing with a group of patients who have spent the last 40 years in a catatonic state, suffering from a tragic disease known as encephalitis lethargica.  (One thing that I learned from watching this film was that, from 1917 to 1928, there was an epidemic of this disease, with millions either dying or being left catatonic.)  While the rest of the medical establishment (led by John Heard, who always seems to be the embodiment of the establishment in films made in the 90s) assumes that the patients are destined to spend the rest of their lives in a vegetative state, Dr. Sayer is convinced that the patients can be awakened.  He soon discovers that, even in their catatonic state, the patients will react to certain stimulii.  One woman can catch a baseball.  Another appears to react well to music.  And finally, Leonard Lowe (Robert De Niro) — who fell ill with this disease when he was a child — tries to communicate with a Ouija board.

Over the objections of his supervisors, Dr. Sayer treats the patients with an experimental drug.  Leonard is the first one to get the drug and is also the first one to wake up.  While the rest of the patients wake up, Dr. Sayer tries to help Leonard adjust to the 1960s.  At first, everything seems to be going perfectly.  Leonard even manages to strike up a sweet romance with a woman named Paula (Penelope Ann Miller).  However, it soon becomes obvious that the awakening is only going to be a temporary one as Leonard and all the other patients start to descend back into their catatonic states…

It’s easy to criticize a film like Awakenings for being manipulative and sentimental.  And the fact of the matter is that the film is manipulative and it is sentimental and undoubtedly, it probably is a massive simplification of the true story.  (The character played by John Heard is such an obvious villain that he might as well have a mustache to twirl.)  And yes, you know even before it happens that there’s eventually going to be a montage of an amazed Leonard staring at a girl in a miniskirt while Time of the Season plays on the soundtrack.

But, no matter!  It’s a tremendously effective film and it earned the tears that I shed while watching it.  Both De Niro and Williams give excellent performances which add a good deal of depth to scenes that could otherwise come across as being overly sappy.  De Niro has the more showy role but it really but it’s the performance of Robin Williams that really carries the film.  As played by Williams, Dr. Sayer is a fragile soul who hides from the world behind his beard and his professional determination.  When he finally asks a nurse (Julie Kavner) out to dinner, it’s impossible not to cheer for him.

It’s also impossible not to cheer a little for Awakenings.

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