Film Review: The Thing Called Love (dir by Peter Bogdanovich)

First released in 1993 and directed by Peter Bogdanovich, The Thing Called Love takes place in Nashville, the city that, for many people, has come to define Americana.

Of course, for those who actually love movies, it’s difficult to watch any film about Nashville and the country music scene without being reminded of Robert Altman’s American epic, Nashville.  Much like Nashville, The Thing Called Love follows a group of wannabes, stars, writers, and performers.  However, whereas Robert Altman used the city and its residents as a way to paint an acidic portrait of a nation struggling to find its way in an uncertain new world, The Thing Called Love is far less ambitious.

The Thing Called Love centers around Miranda Presley (Samantha Mathis).  Miranda is from New York but she loves country music.  She comes to Nashville to try to sell her songs and become a star.  Instead, she ends up working as a waitress at the “legendary” Bluebird Cafe.  While she waits for her big break, she meets two other aspiring writer/performers, Linda Lu (Sandra Bullock) and Kyle Davidson (Dermot Mulroney).  Kyle falls in love with Miranda but Miranda falls in love with and marries James Wright (River Phoenix, brother of Joaquin).  Unfortunately, while James is talented, he’s also a bit of a jerk.

The Thing Called Love aired on TCM last year and I can still remember checking out the #TCMParty hashtag on twitter while the film was airing.  The majority of the comments were from people who loved TCM and who couldn’t understand why the channel was showing this rather forgettable movie.  The answer, of course, is that the film was directed by Peter Bogdanovich and Bogdanovich was one of the patron saints of TCM.  Along with being responsible for some genuinely good films (Targets, The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, Saint Jack, Mask, The Cat’s Meow), Bogdanovich was also a very serious student of the history of film.  Up until he passed away in January, Bogdanovich was a familiar and welcome sight on TCM.  Listening to him talk about John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, and especially Orson Welles was always a delight.

Unfortunately, as Bogdanovich himself often admitted, the majority of his later films failed to reach the heights of his earlier work and that’s certainly the case of The Thing Called Love.  It’s not so much that The Thing Called Love is bad as it’s just really forgettable.  There’s very little about the film that suggests that it was directed by cineaste who was responsible for The Last Picture Show.  Samantha Mathis is likable but a bit bland in the role of Miranda while River Phoenix plays James as being such a jerk that you really don’t care about whether or not he finds success.  From what I’ve read, Phoenix based his performance on watching Bob Dylan in the documentary Don’t Look Back.  Dylan is notably mercurial in that documentary but, it should be noted, that Dylan eventually abandoned that persona once he realized that it was a creative dead end.

To be honest, I think the film would have worked better if Samantha Mathis had switched roles with Sandra Bullock.  This was one of Bullock’s first films and she steals every scene in which she appears, giving an energetic and likable performance as someone who never allows herself a single moment of doubt or despair.  As opposed to the self-loathing Phoenix and the bland Mathis and Mulroney, Sandra Bullock represents the hope and optimism that Nashville is meant to symbolize.  In the end, her performance is the best thing about The Thing Called Love.

4 Shots From 4 Films: In Memory of Peter Bogdanovich

4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

I just read that director Peter Bogdonavich passed away earlier today.  He was 82 years old.

Bogdanovich’s directorial career serves as both an inspiration and a cautionary tale.  He achieved the dream of many a film journalist by making the jump from writing about films to actually making them.  He went from interviewing Orson Welles to being declared the next Orson Welles.  His first film, Targets, allowed him to give Boris Karloff one final, great role.  His second film, The Last Picture Show, was nominated for Best Picture.  With his next film, Paper Moon, he directed Tatum O’Neal to an Oscar.  At a time when the so-called “movie brats” were rejecting the old ways of making films, Bogdonavich paid homage to the classic films of the past.  At his height, he made films that were both entertaining and, if you got all the references, educational.

Unfortunately, Bogdanovich’s later films were not as successful with critics or audiences.  Bogdanovich himself would later say that he underestimated just how much some of his former colleagues resented both his early success and his very public relationship with actress Cybil Shepherd.  In short, the critics were waiting for him to slip up and they attacked films like Daisy Miller and At Long Last Love like sharks in a feeding frenzy.  By the end of the 70s, he often found himself struggling to raise the money to make the movies that he wanted to make.  So determined was he to see that his film They All Laughed was released that he distributed it himself, at great financial cost.

Regardless of his later career struggles, Bogdanovich remained a tireless advocate for watching and appreciating the films that were produced during the the Golden Age of Hollywood and he was a regular fixture on TCM, where he would discuss the films of Welles, John Ford, John Huston, Howard Hawks, and others.  He oversaw the release of Orson Welles’s long-delayed The Other Side of the Wind, a film in which he co-starred with John Huston.  Along with directing, Bogdanovich was a reliable character actor and those who don’t know him as a director might know him as Dr. Melfi’s therapist on The Sopranos.

Finally, a lot of the Bogdanovich films that were initially dismissed have subsequently been positively reappraised.  Bogdanovich was correct when he said that many of his later films were unfairly criticized or dismissed.  If nothing else, Bogdanovich’s love of the movies came through in everything that he did.  He will be missed for film historians everywhere.

Here are….

4 Shots From 4 Peter Bogdanovich Films

Targets (1968, dir by Peter Bogdanovich, DP: Laszlo Kovacs)

The Last Picture Show (1971, dir by Peter Bogdanovich, DP: Bruce Surtees)

Paper Moon (1973, dir by Peter Bogdanovich, DP: Laszlo Kovacs)

The Thing Called Love (1993, dir by Peter Bogdanovich, DP: Peter James)

4 Shots From 4 Boris Karloff Films

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Since we yesterday paid our respects to the great Bela Lugosi, it only seems right that today, we should honor Boris Karloff.  By all account, Boris Karloff was a remarkably gentle and friendly man.  Perhaps that’s why he could find the soul in almost any character, even the ones who didn’t have one.

It’s time for….

4 Shots From 4 Boris Karloff Films

Frankenstein (1931, dir by James Whale, DP: Arthur Edeson)

Bride of Frankenstein (1935, dir James Whale, DP: John J. Mescall)

Black Sabbath (1963, dir by Mario Bava, DP:Ubaldo Terzano and Mario Bava)

Targets (1968, dir by Peter Bogdanovich, DP: Laszlo Kovacs)

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Boris Karloff Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today, TSL pays tribute to the one and only Boris Karloff, born on this day in 1887 in London.

It’s time for….

4 Shots From 4 Boris Karloff Films

Five Star Final (1931, dir by Mervyn LeRoy)

House of Frankenstein (1944, dir by Erle C. Kenton)

Black Sabbath (1963, dir by Mario Bava)

Targets (1968, dir by Peter Bogdanovich)


What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been: Orson Welles’ THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (Netflix 2018)

cracked rear viewer

The day has finally arrived. November 2, 2018. I ordered a free trial of Netflix specifically so I could watch the completed version of Orson Welles’ final film, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND . Welles worked on this project for over a decade, and the footage sat for decades more before finally being restored and re-edited. A film buff’s dream come true – perhaps. There were questions I needed answered. Was there enough salvageable material to make a coherent movie? Does it follow Welles’ vision? Would it live up to the hype? Was it worth the wait?

The answer: OH, HELL YEAH!!

Welles shot over ten hours of film, utilizing different film stocks (Super 8, 16mm, 35mm), switching back and forth from color to classic black and white, to create his movie, which is a documentary about the movie-within-the-movie’s director – a movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie. It took six years (from 1970-76)…

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Scenes That I Love: Boris Karloff Tells A Story In Targets

In the 1968 film, Targets, Boris Karloff gave one of his final performances.  It was also one of his best.

Karloff played an aging horror actor named Byron Orlok, a role that was based on Karloff himself.  Though once a huge star, Orlok’s style of horror has gone out of fashion.  As he explains it, the real world has gotten so scary that his horror films are now tame by comparison.  In this scene, Orlok proves that he can still give a compelling performance when he recites a short story about death and fate.

Reportedly, Karloff did this scene in one take and received a standing ovation after director Peter Bogdanovich called cut.


Lisa’s Way Too Early Oscar Predictions for April

Hi, everyone!

Well, it’s that time again!  It’s time for me to post my very early Oscar predictions.  I do this on a monthly basis.  I always make it a point to acknowledge that, this early in the year, this is something of a pointless exercise.  We’re still not far into 2018 and but, surprisingly, several excellent films have already been released.  Who knows what the rest of the year will be like!

So, as always, the predictions below are a combination of instinct and random guesses.  This month, I’ve kind of let my imagination run wild.  And you know what?  That’s the way it should be.  What’s the point of trying to predict stuff if you can’t have fun?

So, without further ado, here are my predictions for April!

(Click to see my predictions for January, February, and March!)

Best Picture


Black Panther

Boy Erased

First Man

The Happytime Murders

If Beale Street Could Talk

Mary, Queen of Scots

The Other Side of the Wind

A Quiet Place


Best Director

Ryan Coogler for Black Panther

Barry Jenkins for If Beale Street Could Talk

John Krasinski for A Quiet Place

Steve McQueen for Widows

Orson Welles for The Other Side of the Wind

Best Actor

Steve Carell in Beautiful Boy

Willem DaFoe in At Eternity’s Gate

Matt Dillon in The House That Jack Built

Ryan Gosling in First Man

John Huston in The Other Side of the Wind

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Viola Davis in Widows

Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Saoirse Ronan in Mary, Queen of Scots

Kristin Stewart in JT LeRoy

Best Supporting Actor

Peter Bogdanovich in The Other Side of the Wind

Russell Crowe in Boy Erased

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

David Tennant in Mary, Queen of Scots

Forest Whitaker in Burden

Best Supporting Actress

Laura Dern in JT Leroy

Claire Foy in First Man

Nicole Kidman in Boy Erases

Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk

Margot Robie in Mary, Queen of Scots






Get Your Motor Runnin’ with THE WILD ANGELS (AIP 1966)

cracked rear viewer

Roger Corman  kicked off the outlaw biker film genre with THE WILD ANGELS, setting the template for all biker flicks to come. Sure, there had been motorcycle movies before: Marlon Brando in THE WILD ONE and the low-budget MOTORCYCLE GANG spring to mind. But THE WILD ANGELS busted open box offices on the Grindhouse and Drive-In circuits, and soon an army of outlaw bikers roared into a theater near you! There was BORN LOSERS , DEVIL’S ANGELS, THE GLORY STOMPERS , REBEL ROUSERS, ANGELS FROM HELL, and dozens more straight into the mid-70’s, when the cycle cycle revved its last rev. But Corman’s saga of the freewheeling Angels  was there first; as always, Rapid Roger was the leader of the pack.

Our movie begins with the classic fuzz-tone guitar sound of Davie Allen, as Angels president Heavenly Blues (Peter Fonda ) rolls down the road to pick up club…

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A Movie A Day #213: Illegally Yours (1988, directed by Peter Bogdanovich)

This is really bad.

Richard Dice (Rob Lowe, wearing glasses and running around like a speed freak) is a loser who lives at home with his mother (Jessica James), his younger brother (Ira Heiden), and his mother’s boyfriend (Harry Carey, Jr.).  When he gets called for jury duty, Richard thinks that he will be able to easily get out of it but then he discovers that the defendant is someone from his part, even if she does not remember a thing about him.  Ever since the first grade, Richard has been in love with Molly (Colleen Camp) and now she is on trial for murder.  Richard lies about knowing who she is and gets selected for the jury.  When it starts to look like Molly might be convicted, Richard starts to investigate the murder himself.  His investigation leads him to two teenage blackmail victims (played by Kim Myers and Bodganovich’s future wife, Louise Stratten) and a tape of the murder being committed.  Illegally Yours attempts to be a screwball comedy but it just comes across as being frantic, with Lowe especially going overboard.  The actors all speak quickly but that can not disguise how lame most of the dialogue is.  The movie also comes with a clunky narration, a sure sign of post production desperation.

Made at a time when Peter Bogdanovich was mired in an expensive lawsuit over changes made to his previous film, Mask, Bogdanovich has said that he solely did Illegally Yours because he needed the money.  Bogdanovich has accurately described Illegally Yours as being the worst film that he ever directed.  Coming from the director of At Long Last Love, Nickelodeon, and Texasville, that is saying something.

Horror Film Review: Targets (dir by Peter Bogdanovich)


The year was 1968 and legendary producer Roger Corman had aging horror star Boris Karloff under contract.  Karloff still owed Corman two days of work and Corman was never one to let an opportunity pass him by.  Corman approached film critic Peter Bogdanovich and made him an offer.  Corman would finance any film that Bogdanovich wanted to make, on the condition that he stayed under budget, used Boris Karloff, and included some scenes from The Terror.  Bogdanovich agreed and the end result was one of the best films of Karloff’s long career.

Karloff plays Byron Orlok.  Orlok (named, of course, after the vampire in Nosferatu) is a veteran horror star who now finds himself working almost exclusively in B-movies.  When the film starts, he’s just announced his retirement.  Orlok is bitter that Hollywood never fully appreciated his talents but, beyond that, he’s come to believe that horror movies can never hope to compete with the horrors of the real world.  People have become so desensitized to horror that it’s impossible to scare them, he believes.  Orlok plans on making one final promotional appearance at a drive-in that will be showing his final film.  (His final film, of course, is The Terror.)

Meanwhile, there’s a man named Bobby Thompson (Tim O’Kelly) and he’s about to shock the world.  Bobby has just recently returned from Vietnam.  He works as an insurance agent and his cheerfully bland countenance hides the fact that Bobby is going insane.  He is struggling to pay the bills and he resents the fact that his wife is now working and that they have to live with his parents.  His strict and taciturn father continues to criticize him, especially after Bobby points a rifle at him during target practice.  Bobby, incidentally, loves his guns.  After he murders both his wife and his mother, Bobby uses that gun to start shooting at strangers.

Bobby starts his rampage by shooting at cars on the freeway but eventually, he ends up at the drive-in.  While The Terror plays out on the big screen, Bobby shoots at the men, women, and children who have gathered to watch the movie, proving Orlok’s point that cinematic horror cannot hope to match the horror of everyday life…

Even though it was made 48 years ago, Targets is a film that feels extremely relevant today.  As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but think about not only James Holmes’s 2012 rampage in Aurora, Colorado but also the more recent sniper attacks in my hometown of Dallas.  For me, it was interesting to see that apparently this stuff was going on even in 1968.  (We tend to think of mass shooting as being a recent phenomena.)  Targets is an open plea for gun control (which, again, is something that we tend to think of as being a relatively new thing).  I’ll leave the political debate for others to consider and instead just say that Targets is a chilling portrait of both madness and violence.

However, Targets also works brilliantly as a tribute to Boris Karloff.  Though he may have never been as bitter as Orlok, Karloff is basically playing himself in Targets.  He’s portrayed as a cultured and kindly man who just happened to be very good at playing scary characters and Karloff gives perhaps his best performance in the role. Some of the best scenes in Targets are the scenes where Orlok (and, by extension, Karloff) discusses his career with his friend, Sammy Michaels (played by Bogdanovich).  You find yourself really wishing that you could have hung out on the set of Targets just to hear the stories that were told while the cameras weren’t rolling.

(Incidentally, Sammy Michaels was named after famed director Sam Fuller, who helped to write the film’s screenplay and provided a good deal of free advice to Bogdanovich.)

Targets works as both a horror film and a tribute to a great actor.  If for no other reason, watch it for Boris.