Back to School Part II #40: Crossroads (dir by Tamra Davis)


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Last year, I started a new blog called Lisa Marie’s Song of the Day.  It’s nothing big.  It’s just a place where, on a daily basis, I share music that I happen to like.  Ever since I started the site, certain people have been giving me a hard time over the fact that they have discovered that I am a total Britney Spears fangirl.

Well, I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I love Britney Spears.  I always have.  Even when I was going through my whole “wearing black and writing dark poetry” phase, I still loved Britney.  Her songs are great to dance to and they’re even more fun to sing off-key and at the top of your lungs when you’re taking a shower or driving to or from work.  Even better is when you have a family member in the car and she has no choice but to listen as you sing Work Bitch in your thickest rural accent.

(Whenever I sing, I unleash my inner country girl.)

Of course, it’s never just been Britney’s music to which I’ve paid attention.  I was jealous of her when she dated Justin Timberlake.  I was worried for her when she married Kevin Federline.  I was scared for her when she went through her period of public instability.  When she shaved her head, lost custody of her children, and was placed under the conservatorship of her father and attorney, it angered me to watch as the media treated her pain as entertainment.  When she was diagnosed as being bipolar, I related to her because I knew exactly what she was going through.  I even still use the #FreeBritney hashtag on twitter.

So, in short, I’m definitely a fan.  But I have to admit that I prefer Later Britney, the one who uses bitch as a term of empowerment, to Early Britney, the one who used to lie about being a virgin.

The 2002 film Crossroads is definitely all about Early Britney.

Crossroads was Britney’s feature film debut and it was also pretty much her exit.  The film did well at the box office (and I’ll admit that I paid money to see it … well, actually, I got someone else to pay for me to see it but you get the point…) but the critics absolutely hated it and it still regularly appears on lists of the worst films ever made.  For the record, I do not think that Crossroads is one of the worst films ever made.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not exactly a good film but it’s definitely something of a guilty pleasure.  Whenever I watch it, I go on a nostalgia trip and that’s always a little bit fun.

In Crossroads, Britney plays Lucy.  Lucy has just graduated from high school.  Lucy is supersmart and, the film is quick to tell us, a super virgin as well.  (There’s something rather icky about how much media emphasis was put on Britney’s claimed virginity.  Especially since even her biggest fans suspected there was no way she was still a virgin if she was dating Justin Timerblake…)  Lucy was her school’s valedictorian and now her father is looking forward to Lucy going to medical school and becoming a doctor.  Lucy’s father is played by Dan Aykroyd.  Though Aykroyd is playing a Georgia auto mechanic, he makes no attempt to hide his thick Canadian accent.  Good for you, Dan!

Anyway, Lucy is preparing to do what her father wants but then she gets an opportunity to drive across the country with two childhood friends and a complete stranger.  In high school, Lucy had little to do with snobby Kit (Zoe Saldana) and pregnant Mimi (Taryn Manning) but, when they were all 10 years-old, they were all BFFs.  In fact, they were so close that they even buried a time capsule.  Digging up the capsule inspires these three frenemies to hop into a car with Ben (Anson Mount) and hit the road!

Ben, it turns out, has just gotten out of prison but he’s hot and he’s musically talented.  The girls are a little bit scared because they think Ben might have been in prison for murder but seriously, Ben is way too cute to be a murderer.  Plus, when he reads Lucy’s poetry, he sets it to music.

AND SERIOUSLY, HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THAT!?  I mean, c’mon — every girl who has ever written a poem has, at some point, fantasized about a boy who would put that poem to music and tell her that her words were almost as beautiful as she was.

I mean, there’s a lot of negative things that could be said about Crossroads.  I’m not a fan of the way Mimi was portrayed and, towards the end of the film, it almost feels as if the movie is suggesting that she’s being karmically punished for getting pregnant without being married.  The film’s emphasis on Lucy’s (and, by implication, Britney’s) chastity feels dangerously reactionary.  And, while Britney doesn’t really give a bad performance, she’s still not quite believable as someone who was so busy studying that she didn’t even go to one single party during high school.

But ultimately, this will always be the film where a hot guy took a girl’s poem and spontaneously set it to music.

There’s something to be said for that!

#FreeBritney

2015 in Review: The Best of Lifetime


Today, I continue my look back at 2015 by posting my picks for the best of Lifetime!  My nominees for the best Lifetime films and performances are listed below, with the winners starred and listed in bold!  Congratulations to all the nominees and winners and thank you for making this one of the most entertaining years in my long history of watching Lifetime movies!

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Best Picture
Babysitter’s Black Book, produced by Robert Ballo and Ken Sanders.
Cleveland Abduction, produced by David A. Rosemont and Stephen Tolkin
*A Deadly Adoption, produced by Fritz Manger, Max Osswald, Will Ferrell, and Adam McKay.*
If There Be Thorns, produced by Richard D. Arredondo and Harvey Kahn.
A Mother’s Instinct, produced by Oliver De Caigny and Timothy O. Johnson
Patient Killer, produced by Barbie Castro.
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, produced by Joseph Boccia, Don Carmody, and David Cormican.
The Spirit of Christmas, produced by Andrea Ajemian
Stalked By My Neighbor, produced by Robert Ballo.
The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story, produced by Ian Hay.

Best Director
Jason Bourque for A Mother’s Instinct
Doug Campbell for Stalked By My Neighbor.
*Rachel Goldenberg for A Deadly Adoption*
Alex Kalymnois for Cleveland Abduction
Vanessa Parise for The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story
Casper Van Dien for Patient Killer

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Best Actor
Shaun Benson in Kept Woman
Dan Castellaneta in The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story
*Will Ferrell in A Deadly Adoption*
Travis Hammer in The Bride He Bought Online
Adam Kaufman in A Mother Betrayed
Eric Roberts in Stalked By My Doctor

Best Actress
Josie Bissett in A Mother’s Instinct
Anna Camp in Caught
Kimberly Elise in Back to School Mom
Kelli Garner in The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
*Taryn Manning in Cleveland Abduction*
Kelcie Stranahan in Stalked By My Neighbor

Best Supporting Actor
Ken Camroux-Taylor in Sugarbabies
MacKenzie Gray in If There Be Thorns
Richard Harmon in A Mother’s Instinct
*Patrick Muldoon in Patient Killer.*
Eric Roberts in A Fatal Obsession
Peter Strauss in Sugar Daddies.

Unauthorized Beverly Hills

Best Supporting Actress
Angeline Appel in Babysitter’s Black Book.
Barbie Castro in Patient Killer
Olivia d’Abo in Stolen From The Suburbs
Sarah Grey in A Mother’s Instinct
Jessica Lowndes in A Deadly Adoption
*Samantha Munro in The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story*

Best Adapted Screenplay
*Cleveland Abduction, written by Stephen Tolkin*
If There Be Thorns, written by Andy Cochran.
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroewritten by Stephen Kronish and J. Randy Taraborrelli.
Seeds of Yesterday, written by Darren Stein.
Turkey Hollow, written by Tim Burns and Christopher Baldi.
Wuthering High School, written by Delondra Williams.

Best Original Screenplay
*Babysitter’s Black Book, written by Richard Kletter and Michele Samit*
A Deadly Adoption, written by Andrew Steele.
The Murder Pact, written by John Doolan
Patient Killer, written by Bryan Dick and Brian D. Young.
Stalked By My Neighborwritten by Doug Campbell.
Stolen From The Suburbs, written by Alex Wright

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Best Cinematography
*Cleveland Abduction, Richard Wong.*
Fatal Obsession, Ronnee Swenton.
If There Be Thorns, James Liston.
The Murder PactBranden James Maxham.
Patient Killer, Bernard Salzmann
The Spirit of Christmas, Michael Negrin.

Best Costume Design
Grace of Monaco, Gigi Lepage
If There Be ThornsShanna Mair, Rebekka Sorensen.
Kept Woman
*The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, Gersha Phillips.*
Seeds of Yesterday, Claire Nadon.
The Spirit of Christmas, Jennifer Lynn Tremblay.

Best Editing
Babysitter’s Black Book, Ely Mennin
Cleveland Abduction, Henk Van Eeghen.
*A Deadly Adoption, Bill Parker.*
A Mother’s Instinct
Stalked By My Neighbor, Clayton Woodhull.
The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story, Allan Lee.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
*Cleveland Abduction, Dugg Kirkpatrick, Susan R. Prosser, Tina Roesler Kewin, Alan Tuskes, Alicia Zavarella*
Grace of Monaco
If There Be Thorns, Jenine Lehfeldt, Tana Lynn Moldovanos.
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.  Jordan Samuel, Cliona Furey
The Spirit of Christmas
The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story, Amber Crombach.

Best Original Score
Dangerous Company
Cleveland Abduction, Tony Morales.
Her Infidelity, Russ Howard III
Kidnapped: The Hannah Anderson Story, Matthew Janszen
*The Murder Pact, Matthew Llewellyn.*
Sugar Daddies.  Steve Gurevitch.

heather-graham-if-there-be-thorns

Best Production Design
Cleveland Abduction, Derek R. Hill.
*If There Be Thorns, Linda Del Rosario, Richard Paris.*
A Mother’s Instinct, Jason Sober.
The Murder Pact, Caley Bisson.
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.  Rocco Matteo.
The Unauthroized Beverly Hills 90210 Story

Best Sound
*The Bride He Bought Online*
Dangerous Company
If There Be Thorns
Stalked By My Neighbor
UnGodly Acts
Whitney.

Best Visual Effects
Becoming Santa
If There Be Thorns
Last Chance For Christmas
*Turkey Hollow*
When the Sky Falls
Wish Upon A Christmas

Tomorrow, I’ll post my picks for the worst 16 films of 2015!

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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

Adventures in Cleaning Out The DVR: Cleveland Abduction (dir by Alex Kalymnios)


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After I finished up Ominous, it was time to deal with Cleveland Abduction.  Why was it something that I had to “deal with?”  Well, I originally watched Cleveland Abduction when it was broadcast on Lifetime way back in May.  I meant to review it when I originally watched it but, every time I sat down to write about this movie, I just couldn’t.  Just thinking about the movie and the true story that inspired it was too overwhelming and upsetting.  Cleveland Abduction is one of the most disturbing and depressing (and yet also inspiring) movies that I’ve ever seen.  It’s certainly the most emotionally intense film to ever be made for Lifetime.

A friend of mine actually told me that she could only watch 15 minutes of Cleveland Abduction and then had to stop because she didn’t want the film’s ugliness to get inside her head.  And I don’t blame her.  Cleveland Abduction is an ugly film about three young women who were kidnapped, held prisoner, and repeatedly raped by an evil man.  The film does not flinch from showing the details of their ordeal and it is all the more disturbing for being based on a true story.

I don’t know if I believe in demons or possession or anything like that but I do know that Ariel Castro was an evil man.  Castro, a school bus driver and wannabe musician, abducted Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, and Amanda Berry off the streets of Cleveland.  For 11 years, he held them prisoner in his filthy house.  (Disturbingly, some of Castro’s neighbors actually saw the girls in the house but refused to get involved.)  Rather than face a jury and spend the rest of his life as imprisoned as the three women he held captive in his house, Castro committed suicide in his jail cell.

The film centers on Castro’s first known victim, single mother Michelle Knight (a poignant performance from Taryn Manning, who perfectly captures Michelle’s quiet strength).  Castro (played, in properly brutal fashion, by Raymond Cruz) runs into Michelle while she’s walking to court to try to win custody of her son.  Castro offers her a ride and Michelle agrees.  Castro takes her back to his house and her 11-year nightmare begins.

And it’s not easy to watch, nor should it be.  The film doesn’t shy away from showing what Michelle and, eventually, the other two victims went through.  Spending her days either handcuffed or in a locked bedroom, Michelle’s only escape comes from thinking about her son.  When the other two girls are abducted, Michelle comforts them and help them to remain strong.  Meanwhile, on the outside, the police assume that Michelle has just run away from her old life and they refuse to even look for her.

It’s ugly and disturbing and difficult and infuriating to watch.  As I watched, I continually asked myself if I would be able to survive if I ever found myself in the same situation.  I always like to assume that, since I always have pepper spray and I’m a fairly god runner, nobody would ever be able to abduct me but, as I sit here couch-bound with a sprained foot, I know that it’s never that simple.  I also like to assume that I could be as strong as Michelle Knight.  Hopefully, I’ll never have to find out.

But here’s the thing — as disturbing and nightmarish as this film has to be — it’s ultimately a very inspiring film.  For all the ugliness, Cleveland Abduction is ultimately a film about survival and tribute to the strength, courage, and sisterhood of Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, and Amanda Berry.  Based on Michelle’s book and featuring a compelling lead performance from Taryn Manning, Cleveland Abduction is not an easy film to watch but it is one that should be watched.

Back to School #60: Crazy/Beautiful (dir by John Stockwell)


Oh, memories!

I don’t know if I can describe how much my girlfriends and I loved Crazy/Beautiful when it first came out in 2001.  We saw it in the theaters, we rewatched it when it came on cable, and after I bought it on DVD, we watched it at my house.  We loved the movie because we all dreamed of having a sensitive, hot boyfriend like Carlos Nunez (played by Jay Hernandez), who would love us no matter how obnoxious or bratty we may have been.  Even if we sometimes got annoyed with her, we still all related to out-of-control Nicole (Kirsten Dunst), who everyone in the world had given up on but who ultimately just wanted her father to pay as much attention to her as he did to his new wife and his new baby.  We liked the film because we wanted to be both crazy and beautiful.

And, of course, there was all the sex, all of it filmed in beautiful soft-focus with the camera always suggesting that it was showing more than it actually was.  Crazy/Beautiful was one of those films that made you feel grown up while still being very careful not to lose its PG-13 rating.

Yes, back in the day, I loved Crazy/Beautiful.

And you know what?

It may just be the nostalgia talking but I still love it.  I recently rewatched Crazy/Beautiful and, despite the fact that I was now watching as a “critic” as opposed to a 15 year-old with issues, I quickly fell under the film’s spell.  There’s just something about Crazy/Beautiful that I simply cannot resist.

It’s a beautiful film.  Director John Stockwell has made a career out of making movies about pretty people hanging out on pretty beaches and Crazy/Beautiful has a lot of both.  When Carlos, a responsible high school senior who lives in East Los Angeles and who is hoping to attend the U.S. Navy Academy, first meets Nicole, she’s doing community service by picking up trash on the beach.  What Carlos doesn’t find out until later is that Nicole is the daughter of U.S. Rep. Tom Oakley (played, somewhat inevitably, by Bruce Davison).  Nicole is haunted by her mother’s death and feels that her well-meaning but ineffectual father has abandoned her.  At first, her relationship with Carlos seems to be yet another part of her rebellion but soon, both she and Carlos are madly in love.

Can Carlos save Nicole from herself?  Can Nicole love Carlos without leading him down the path of self-destruction?  Will Nicole and her father ever reconnect?  Will … oh, who cares?  You already know the answers.  Crazy/Beautiful is less about the story and more about how the story is told.  Stockwell keeps the story moving along and fills the screen with colorful and romantic images that make Crazy/Beautiful into the perfect teenage daydream.  He also makes perfect use of the undeniable chemistry between Jay Hernandez and Kirsten Dunst.  Both of the stars give such good performances that you really do come to care about the characters that they are playing and hope that things work out for them.  Kirsten Dunst, in particular, gives a brave performance and doesn’t shy away from playing up Nicole’s abrasiveness.  It takes courage to play a character who can be unlikable.  It takes talent to make that unlikable character sympathetic and, fortunately, Kirsten Dunst shows a lot of both in Crazy/Beautiful.

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