We Need to Talk About the Toxic Relationship of Top Dollar and Myca from ‘The Crow’

Two years ago, I wrote an editorial on why I felt Lestat and Akasha’s relationship from Queen of the Damned was very problematic. When I published that editorial, I had no idea how popular it would become. As of late October 2021, my editorial has garnered 1,301 views and counting! So, that success is a reason for this new editorial. I’ve read many articles and seen many videos about The Crow. But no one has talked about how toxic Top Dollar and Myca’s relationship is. In fact, I’d go so far as to say their relationship is worse than Lestat and Akasha’s. Like my previous editorial, I will present five key reasons why Top Dollar and Myca’s relationship is unhealthy. But before I start my explanations, let me bring up some disclaimers:

  1. In this editorial, I will be addressing the subjects of inappropriate sibling relationships, violence, drug use, and crime. That is because the movie itself addresses these subjects. If you are sensitive to any of the aforementioned subjects, take this disclaimer as a fair warning.
  2. This editorial was not written to be mean-spirited or negative. Its intent is to showcase my honest opinion about this topic.
  3. This editorial was not written to disrespect any persons who worked on The Crow. This includes Michael Wincott and Bai Ling, who portrayed Top Dollar and Myca.
  4. Like most of my editorials, this article is going to be long in length. If you are interested in reading this post, please allow yourself enough time to consume the content.
  5. Unless I say otherwise, the screenshots in this editorial are screenshots I took with my cellphone.
Image of Top Dollar and Myca found on IMDB

An Inappropriate Sibling Relationship

A typical sibling relationship is meant to teach empathy, show how to get along with others, and help maintain a family unit. But with Top Dollar and Myca’s relationship, nothing about it is typical. In fact, it is downright inappropriate. In The Crow, it is revealed these characters are half-siblings. But instead of treating each other like siblings, they interact with each other like a romantic couple. In the very first scene Top Dollar and Myca appear in, it is heavily implied they engage in intercourse. Their physical interactions also appear more sensual in nature. The existence of Top Dollar and Myca’s relationship is illegal, especially in Michigan, the state The Crow takes place in. According to Michigan Legislature, they would be guilty of Criminal Sexual Conduct in the First Degree. This is because Top Dollar and Myca meet these two circumstances: “The actor is a member of the same household as the victim” and “The actor is related to the victim by blood or affinity to the fourth degree”. When the true nature of their relationship is revealed, Top Dollar says Myca is “my father’s daughter, that’s right”. This means both Top Dollar and Myca were fully aware of their involvement in an inappropriate sibling relationship.

Top Dollar and Myca kissing photo found from Top Dollar/Myca (The Crow 1994) – Love song

While Top Dollar and Myca are aware of their relationship’s nature, they go out of their way to keep their relationship private. Any time Top Dollar and Myca engage in displays of affection, it is done when few people or no one is around. In the first scene these characters appear in, there is another woman in the room. However, this woman is dead. In their next scene, Top Dollar and Myca partake in consuming drugs or creating mystical concoctions. When T-Bird and Grange arrive at Club Trash’s lair, Top Dollar and Myca are careful when displaying their affection for one another. Myca sits beside Top Dollar, with his arm draped across her lap. But when T-Bird and Grange leave, Top Dollar places his hand on Myca’s thigh, a gesture that is typically known for being sensual. It should also be noted how this gesture was performed under the table. Out of all the characters in The Crow, only two of them know about Top Dollar and Myca’s relationship. These characters are Grange and Gideon.  It’s safe to assume Grange was already aware of Top Dollar and Myca’s relationship prior to the film’s events. But Gideon finds out about this relationship when he visits Top Dollar at Club Trash’s lair.

Because it can be difficult to see, I put a yellow line next to Top Dollar’s arm. This shows how his arm is draped across Myca’s lap when T-Bird and Grange are around.
This time, I put a circle around Top Dollar’s hand, showing how it is now on Myca’s thigh. You can also see how Myca is holding back Top Dollar’s hair, a gesture I will talk about later in this editorial.
In this picture, it is clear to see how Top Dollar and Myca appear “professional” to keep up appearances.

One of my criticisms of The Crow is how some parts of the story don’t receive context. Top Dollar and Myca’s story is one of them. But based on what was said and not said by these characters, it is assumed their relationship is the result of an absent/dysfunctional family unit. In Top Dollar and Myca’s first scene, Top Dollar reveals the origin of a snow globe. This snow globe, displaying a miniature grave yard, was a birthday gift from their father when Top Dollar turned five. He tells Myca “Dad gave me this. Fifth birthday. He said ‘Childhood is over the moment you know you’re gonna die’.” Top Dollar brings up their father on two other occasions: when he tells Gideon Myca is his father’s daughter and when he tells Eric “Ya know, my daddy always used to say ‘Every man has a devil, and you can’t rest till you find him’.” Meanwile, Myca never brings their father up. In fact, when Top Dollar is talking about the snow globe, she doesn’t express any emotion toward her parent. According to David J. Schow, one of The Crow’s screenwriters, Top Dollar and Myca’s “father was in Vietnam”. In the book, The Crow: The story behind the film, “Top Dollar’s motivation would be to punish the world for Myca’s tragic life”. Taking all of this into account, it seems like Top Dollar and Myca’s father had no qualms about exposing his children to dark and harmful things, especially at a young age.

For this picture, an arrow points out the tear near Top Dollar’s eye, emphasizing how emotional the snow globe is making him.
Meanwhile, as Top Dollar is sharing the snow globe’s origin, Myca expresses no emotion.

They Enable Each Other

If you knew someone who was causing harm to themselves or other people, would you intervene and help them turn toward better choices? Most people would say “yes” if asked this question. But, in The Crow, Top Dollar and Myca do the complete opposite. During their introduction in the movie, Myca asks if the woman in the room is dead. Top Dollar responds by saying, “I think we broke her”, heavily implying they had something to do with the woman’s death. Myca then proceeds to remove the woman’s eyes, with Top Dollar silently watching her perform this act. Top Dollar was fully aware of how much damage he and Myca made in one evening. Despite this, he never tried to stop Myca from obtaining the eyes or question her reason for committing the act. In fact, Top Dollar never intervened during the process. While Myca’s desire to snatch someone’s eyes is explained, Top Dollar continues to enable Myca.

As you can see in this picture, Top Dollar expresses no concern for Myca’s harmful behavior.

In the next scene Top Dollar and Myca appear in, they engage in activities only they would leisurely choose to do. While Myca uses the aforementioned eyes to create a concoction involving smoke, Top Dollar is consuming drugs. During Myca’s “activity of leisure”, Top Dollar silently watches the entire time. He only gets involved when Myca creates smoke, as he ends up breathing it in. While this scene is taking place, Top Dollar’s plate of drugs are located right next to Myca’s goblet. Myca is fully aware of their presence, yet chooses to do nothing about it. What she does do is ignore Top Dollar’s drug use. When Grange and T-Bird arrive at Club Trash’s lair, Myca can be seen turning her body away from Top Dollar, facing her guests. Before Top Dollar consumes the drugs for the second time in this scene, Myca gets up from the table she is laying on and walks away from the situation. Even though she does return to sit beside Top Dollar, she ends up holding his hair back as he consumes the drugs for the third and final time in this scene.

An arrow pointing to Myca’s goblet and a circle around Top Dollar’s plate of drugs highlight how close they are to each other.
Before T-Bird and Grange show up, Myca is facing Top Dollar.
After T-Bird and Grange arrive, Myca turns away from Top Dollar and faces her guests.
The arrow is pointing to Myca’s shoulder, as she is rolling off the table and moving away from Top Dollar.

The previous scene I talked about isn’t the only time Myca turns a blind eye to Top Dollar’s harmful choices. When Gideon pays a visit to Club Trash’s lair, the intent of his visit is to call Top Dollar out for his lack of involvement. This is in relation to Gideon’s Pawn Shop being burned down in an earlier scene. It is in this current scene where Top Dollar reveals he and Myca are half-siblings. After this secret is revealed, Myca places her foot on Gideon’s chest as Top Dollar points his sword at Gideon, both actions attempting to intimidate their guest. Shortly after Gideon tells Top Dollar and Myca “I ain’t twisted like you two fucks”, Top Dollar proceeds to stab Gideon with his sword. Before Top Dollar receives a gun from Grange, Myca can be seen turning her head away from the situation. She turns her head back after Top Dollar kills Gideon.

This picture illustrates how Myca is enabling Top Dollar’s behavior by helping him intimidate Gideon.
This is the same picture/scene as above, but from a different angle.
This is a photo of Myca as she is turning her head away from Top Dollar’s crime, before he shoots Gideon.
This photo shows Top Dollar and Myca after he shoots Gideon, with Myca turning her head back.

When I first watched The Crow, I was really confused by Top Dollar and Myca’s decision to enable each other. Judging by their body language, their love for one another seems obvious. So, seeing them enable the other to hurt themselves or other people told a conflicting story. After talking with some fans of this film, I came up with three likely reasons why Top Dollar and Myca choose to enable one another. The first reason relates to the possible upbringing I talked about in my first point. Because Top Dollar and Myca were likely exposed to dark and harmful things for so long and often, these things have become their “normal”. The second reason is the precedent Top Dollar places on his environment. Since he is the leader of his villainous group, he is the one who sets that precedent, which is a “I don’t care because it’s none of my business” attitude/mindset. With that said, why should Myca be expected to care about Top Dollar’s drug use or violence when he doesn’t seem to care how or where she acquires eyeballs? The third and final reason is how the final product benefits them. As I already mentioned, Top Dollar only gets involved in Myca’s “activity of leisure” after she makes the smoke. This allows him to enjoy the fruits of her labor without worrying about how the smoke is created. In a meeting at Club Trash’s lair, Myca says “I like the pretty lights”, referencing the fires taking place throughout Detroit. This statement alone shows that Myca doesn’t seem to care how those fires came to fruition, but instead how these “pretty lights” make her feel.

This picture from The Crow: The Movie clearly shows Top Dollar and Myca looking disinterested in each other’s concerns and needs.

No Meaningful Conversations

As I said in my editorial, ‘Toxic Valentine: Why Lestat and Akasha’s relationship is very problematic in Queen of the Damned (2002)’, words are needed to build/strengthen a bond. In The Crow, the audience can hear Top Dollar and Myca talking to each other instead of at each other. But when one truly listens to what these characters are saying, it is evident how Top Dollar and Myca are not having meaningful conversations with one another. There are two scenes showing them carrying on a conversation. In the first scene, Myca sees Top Dollar becoming emotional over a snow globe. She acknowledges this by telling him “You are thinking about the past”. However, after Top Dollar tells her the story behind the snow globe, she changes the subject to the dead woman in the room. While Myca does give Top Dollar physical affection by hugging him and kissing him on the head, she doesn’t use words to get to the root of the unidentified problem. No questions about why this snow globe causes Top Dollar to get so emotional are asked. Similar personal moments or comforting sentiments are not shared either. Because of Myca’s decision to not verbally help Top Dollar through his emotions, those feelings and personal turmoil are bottled up and unaddressed instead of being resolved.

A picture of Top Dollar and Myca hugging before she learns the origins of the snow globe.
Instead of verbally comforting Top Dollar, Myca kisses his head.

In the second scene, Top Dollar wishes he were hungrier. He reveals this to Myca after she tells him “You are very restless”. But instead of trying to help Top Dollar find a solution to his problem, Myca says “Be careful what you ask for”. Hunger is a basic need, with eating being an important part of human life. The fact Myca is ignoring this basic need, especially after Top Dollar addressed it to her is concerning. In this same scene, Myca tells Top Dollar “There are energies aligning against you”. His response to her concern is “Seeing is believing, isn’t it?”. Like Myca’s response to Top Dollar’s hunger, Top Dollar’s reaction is also concerning. He doesn’t question what these “energies” are or try to verbally put Myca’s worries at ease. These examples in this point highlight what I talked about earlier: the precedent in Top Dollar and Myca’s environment carrying a “I don’t care because it’s none of my business” attitude/mindset.

In this picture, Top Dollar clearly look like he doesn’t care about Myca’s concerns.

They Treat Others Horribly

Similar to Akasha from Queen of the Damned, Top Dollar and Myca treat other people horribly. This horrible treatment is experienced by most of the members of their community as well. Like I mentioned earlier, Top Dollar intimidates and kills Gideon, with Myca helping Top Dollar intimidate their guest. I also mentioned the dead woman whose eyes were removed by Myca. However, these are just two examples of their hurtful ways toward others. Whenever something bad happens to someone with a lower social ranking, Top Dollar does not show any amount of sympathy for them. Instead, he treats their misfortune as a joke. When T-Bird visits Club Trash’s lair, he informs Top Dollar of Tin Tin’s death. Top Dollar says he’ll provide a moment of silence for Tin Tin, but uses that time to consume more drugs. Later in the movie, at a meeting in Club Trash’s lair, Top Dollar tells the attendees how T-Bird will not come to their gathering. He says T-Bird has “a kind of a slight case of death” as if passing away is simply an inconvenience. This causes some of the meeting attendees to chuckle, like Top Dollar told a funny joke.

This photo highlights how annoyed Top Dollar looks by T-Bird’s death.

It should also be noted how complete strangers are not safe from Top Dollar and Myca’s harmful choices. As the story progresses, Eric Draven learns his and Shelly’s murders were caused by Top Dollar, as he ordered some of his members to remove Eric and Shelly from their apartment. When Eric crashes the meeting at Club Trash’s lair, Top Dollar orders the meeting’s attendees to kill Eric. While these attendees shoot Eric, Myca stands beside Top Dollar and watches the violence upfold. After the meeting ends earlier than expected, Top Dollar and Myca kidnap Sarah. They do this in an attempt to lure Eric and The Crow toward them, planning to kill both of them in the process. Based on the examples I provided, it is obvious that Top Dollar is the one who causes most of this harm, with Myca as his bystander.

As Top Dollar orders the meeting’s attendees to shoot Eric, Myca simply watches the violence unfold.
This is the same picture/scene as above, but from a closer angle.

No Sense of Shame

The most blatant aspect of Top Dollar and Myca’s part of the story is how they have no sense of shame for what they say and do. This is because they are never given a reason to feel a sense of shame. In Top Dollar and Myca’s environment, there are no “voices of reason” to hold them accountable for their actions and choices. Even when someone, like Gideon, tries to become a “voice of reason”, they end up facing consequences instead of Top Dollar and Myca. Two reasons are likely why “voices of reason” don’t exist in Top Dollar and Myca’s world. Like I’ve been saying in this editorial, the precedent in this environment carries a “I don’t care because it’s none of my business” attitude/mindset. Since Top Dollar and Myca don’t express any concern for others, the people in their environment have no incentive to care what Top Dollar and Myca do. Fear can also be a contributing factor. Top Dollar and Myca have the two highest social ranks in their environment. So, this fact can be a motivator to keep others in line. Out of all the people who work for Top Dollar and Myca, Skank is the only one who openly expresses this fear. After being forced to attend the meeting at Club Trash’s lair, Skank cowers in his seat when Top Dollar calls him out. Skank’s demeanor clearly displays unease, like he is afraid of upsetting Top Dollar. In a community where people are too afraid to speak up, it is no wonder Top Dollar and Myca’s behavior is allowed to run rampant.

This picture illustrates how Skank is cowering in his seat.
This other picture shows the fear in Skank’s face, emphasizing how uncomfortable he is near Top Dollar.

The one person who should have been a “voice of reason” is Grange. As Top Dollar and Myca’s bodyguard and the closest person to them, his job is to look out for their best interests. What he does instead is enable Top Dollar and Myca, as well as encourage them, to carry on their harmful ways. When T-Bird goes to Club Trash, he tells Grange he’d like to meet with Top Dollar. Grange says that won’t be possible because Top Dollar is in a meeting. The next scene reveals Grange’s lie, as Top Dollar is in a bedroom with Myca and a dead woman. This scene shows how Grange is enabling Top Dollar and Myca’s inappropriate sibling relationship while also turning a blind eye to it. When Top Dollar stabs Gideon during his visit to Club Trash’s lair, Grange gives Top Dollar the gun that would ultimately kill Gideon. He also tells Top Dollar and Myca he’ll get someone to remove the dead body. Later in the movie, when Myca discovers a connection between Eric and The Crow, Grange says “So kill the crow, then destroy the man”. He tells Top Dollar and Myca this as a way to enable them to hurt Eric and The Crow. Grange’s reaction to Top Dollar and Myca’s other harmful decisions, like kidnapping Sarah and enabling one another, is either silently playing along or ignoring the problem altogether. With all things considered, Grange shows how he isn’t doing his job well.

When Grange visits Top Dollar and Myca in Club Trash’s lair, he never points out their “activities of leisure” or calls them out for hurting themselves or others.

After I published my editorial about Lestat and Akasha’s relationship, I naively thought I would never come across or even talk about a relationship worse than theirs. But when I watched The Crow for the first time, Top Dollar and Myca proved that idea wrong. I can say with all honesty their relationship is one of the worst I’ve ever seen in cinema. It is so toxic, red flags pop up every time they appear on screen. At first glance, it seems like Top Dollar and Myca love each other. But when one looks beyond the surface, it is plain to see how weak their relationship is. They don’t have a strong sense of care for one another. When something important is addressed, whether it’s a concern, need, or feelings, Top Dollar and Myca ignore them. They also allow each other to hurt themselves or other people with no attempts at intervention. With the way they care so little about the other, it makes me wonder why Top Dollar and Myca are even together at all? But because their backstory would probably be as dark and harmful as the choices they make, maybe it’s better to leave that question unanswered.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

References:

The Crow 1994

The Crow: The story behind the film by Bridget Baiss

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(nwj0dk1ejwrt2atsnhskh4od))/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=mcl-750-520B

Sally Watches…Touched by an Angel (Again)!

As I mentioned in my recent Word On The Street story, the newest Signed, Sealed, Delivered movie is on its way. Premiering on October 17th, this movie will bring their audience a new chapter to a story that started all the way back in 2013. The series is executive produced by Martha Williamson, who also executive produced Touched by an Angel. Similar to Signed, Sealed, Delivered, Touched by an Angel has seen many guest stars appear over the course of the show’s nine season life-span. One of them was Bai Ling, who guest starred on Touched by an Angel in 1998.

Even though I have seen many episodes of Touched by an Angel before, I don’t recall ever seeing the two-part episode, “The Spirit of Liberty Moon”, the episode I’ll be reviewing for this post. Prior to writing this article, I had heard it was “one of the most moving episodes from the television drama”. With curiosity getting the better of me and because Bai’s birthday is on October 10th, I decided to revisit this show and review this particular episode. Two years ago, I wrote about another Touched by an Angel episode, “The Sky Is Falling”. Like that post, what will be discussed is what I liked about this episode, what I didn’t like about this episode, the story itself, the other factors from this episode, and my overall thoughts.

This is a screenshot of one of the Touched by an Angel DVDs I own. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

Last November, I reviewed an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street titled “And The Rockets Dead Glare”. In that post, I talked about how, while portraying Teri Chow, Bai was forced to rely on emotion instead of actions. This was compared to her characters in The Crow and Lost; Myca and Achara. Because of how effectively she used emotion, Bai was the stand-out actor in “And The Rockets Dead Glare”! I’ve seen only a handful of projects from Bai’s filmography. Despite this, I have noticed that she has a strong sense of emotionality. She not only knows how to control that emotionality, but also how to use that control to her advantage. Portraying a character named Jean Chang, the emotions Bai brought to her role in “The Spirit of Liberty Moon” felt realistic and genuine. Earlier in the episode, Jean crosses paths with Monica and Edward, a toy company CEO, at a local Chinese restaurant. In an attempt to recruit her for an upcoming business trip, they ask Jean why she doesn’t want to go to China. This is where Jean explains her very heart-breaking life story. Throughout this explanation, Bai’s emotions flawlessly adapted with each part of Jean’s story, ranging from blissful reminiscing to tear-inducing sadness. This strength in Bai’s acting abilities allows her performance to contain depth. It also gave the audience a reason to feel empathy/sympathy for Jean.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

One of Edward’s co-workers is his friend, Alex Stella. Throughout “The Spirit of Liberty Moon”, Alex was rude and self-centered, especially toward Jean. It got to the point where his attitude became so annoying, it was tiresome to watch him in a static state. I understand Alex was meant to show the viewer that, sometimes, people won’t change, no matter how hard you try. I’ll also admit this is not a bad lesson to teach. But because of this episode’s story and because of the nature of Touched by an Angel, I wish the angels had paid Alex a visit and opened his eyes to selflessness.

The story itself:

Touched by an Angel is a show that was not afraid to take creative risks. “The Spirit of Liberty Moon” is a perfect example of that statement. I haven’t seen the movie, Red Corner, but I am familiar with its basic premise. The story of “The Spirit of Liberty Moon” is very reminiscent of the film due to topics discussed within the script. Criticism of China’s government and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests are the two major subjects revolving around this episode. Because of the serious nature of these subjects, “The Spirit of Liberty Moon” was heart-breaking and gut-wrenching. Similar to the Touched by an Angel episode, “The Sky Is Falling”, the story of “The Spirit of Liberty Moon” is a fictional narrative wrapped up in a real-life historical event. During Jean’s recollection of her past, black-and-white flashbacks and video footage of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests were shown on screen. The use of these visual techniques presented an interesting and creative way to discuss a piece of world history.

The other factors from this episode:

  • As I mentioned earlier, Alex is rude and self-centered, especially toward Jean. To further explain my point, I will bring up two examples from this episode. When Monica suggests a translator should join their business trip to China, Alex suggests speaking to Jean about the idea. While Edward assumes Jean’s ethnicity based on her appearance, Alex carries that assumption into his and Monica’s meeting with Jean. Even though Jean calls Alex out on his assumptions during this meeting about the aforementioned idea, Alex’s promotion of the idea itself should have been more professional. When Alex, Edward, and Monica have lunch at a local Chinese restaurant, Jean soon arrives. The three then discover Jean had lied about her ethnicity. Upset by this discovery, Alex approaches Jean and yells at her in public, accusing her of lying about other things. I understand Alex was disappointed by Jean’s decision. Even Jean admitted that her decision was wrong. But, like I said about the previous example, Alex could have handled this situation more professionally and in private.
  • Throughout the episode, Edward and Jean develop “romantic” feelings for one another. I’m using the word “romantic” loosely, as the only romantic gestures they perform are holding hands and Edward kissing Jean’s head. When a romantic relationship is introduced in a movie or television show, it is usually done with an endgame in mind. Without giving anything away, there wasn’t an endgame for Jean and Edward’s relationship. Their relationship also felt “insta-love”, as it progressed at a quick pace. With all that said, I don’t think a romantic relationship was necessary for this particular story.
  • Touched by an Angel shows the angels going undercover in different professions based on an episode’s mission. In “The Spirit of Liberty Moon”, Monica goes undercover as the Chinese consultant of Edward’s toy company. As Monica interacts with Edward and Alex, I was confused why Monica was the Chinese consultant instead of Jean. When Alex was explaining what Monica would do on their business trip, it made me wonder why Jean wasn’t originally recruited for the consultant position, especially since she knows more about China than Monica. But, without giving anything away, it makes sense why this choice was not made.

My overall thoughts:

“The Spirit of Liberty Moon” is a tough episode to write about. On the one hand, I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from watching it. It contains one of the strongest stories in the show’s history and features strong acting performances, especially from Bai Ling. On the other hand, “The Spirit of Liberty Moon” is not for the faint of heart. This episode is so emotionally intense, I was left mentally drained after watching it. Because of that, the episode doesn’t have a high re-watchability rate. What I will say is this story is an important one. In fact, I would say this episode’s story is one of the most important Touched by an Angel has ever told. So, if you’re interested in watching “The Spirit of Liberty Moon”, my advice would be to watch it in the right headspace. Speaking of Bai Ling, I realized something while watching this episode. As I said earlier, I’ve seen only a handful of projects from Bai’s filmography. Based on her roles I have seen, I noticed how her characters are, more often than not, surrounded by unfortunate circumstances. Myca is one of the villains of The Crow, so her unfortunate circumstances don’t cause the audience to feel any empathy/sympathy for her. But for Teri, Achara, and now Jean, their unfortunate circumstances can, to varying degrees, cause feelings of empathy/sympathy from the audience. During my movie blogging journey, I hope to see Bai portraying a character whose circumstances are more fortunate and happier.

Rating: A solid 4 out of 5

Birthday cake image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/chocolate-birthday-cakes-collection_765437.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/birthday”>Birthday vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Have you watched Touched by an Angel? If so, which episode is your favorite? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun on television!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Anne Tyler’s Saint Maybe Review (National Read a Book Day Double Feature Part 1)

Happy National Read a Book Day! I want to let you know there will be spoilers for both the book and movie in this review. If you want to check out this double feature’s introduction, you can visit this link:

The National Read a Book Day’s Double Feature Introduction

Anne Tyler’s Saint Maybe poster created by Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions and CBS
1. How did you come to know of this film?

If you’ve been following my blog, you would know that my least favorite Hallmark Hall of Fame movie is Back When We Were Grownups. Like a lot of Hallmark Hall of Fame productions, the 2004 film was based on pre-existing source material; a novel written by Anne Tyler. Over the years, I discovered that two other Hallmark Hall of Fame movies have been based on Anne’s work: Breathing Lessons and Saint Maybe. Before this double feature, I had never seen either film. All I knew about Hallmark’s 1998 adaptation was that a man took in a deceased relative’s children and that the story had something to do with forgiveness. I also remember how the film would sometimes air during Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ ‘Miracles of Christmas’ marathon.

2. How did you acquire this movie’s respective source material?

I purchased a second-hand copy of Saint Maybe at an estate sale earlier this year. As soon as I saw the book on a shelf, it reminded me of my Hallmark Hall of Fame Reading Challenge. Back in 2019, I created a reading challenge based on the books or plays that were adapted into Hallmark Hall of Fame titles. Since I’d like to read as many of these works as I realistically can, I purchased the book with that intention.

3. Have you read Anne Tyler‘s work before? What are thoughts on her writing?

As I said in the introduction, this was my first time reading anything by Anne Tyler. Based on what I read and based on what I saw in Back When We Were Grownups, I’m going to guess her forte is writing about larger families that are somewhat dysfunctional. Out of those two stories, I liked Saint Maybe more than Back When We Were Grownups. There was heart incorporated in the narrative and the Bedloe family had a legitimate reason for their dysfunctionality. I was also surprised by the inclusion of religion/faith. But I didn’t like how the chapters were too long. What Anne should have done instead is write shorter chapters and include them in separate sections for each character. I, personally, am not a fan of “slice of life” stories. About eighty percent of Saint Maybe is just that: a “slice of life” story. With all that said, I thought the novel was well-meaning and fine.

4. Was the movie different from its source material? If so, how?

For the most part, Saint Maybe was faithful to the source material, especially when it came to the most important parts of the story. But there were changes found in the adaptation. One of these changes was Agatha’s personality. In the book, when Agatha was introduced in the story as a young child, she came across as distant and matter-of-fact. As she grows up, Agatha comes to despise religion, as she feels religion was forced upon her life. The movie version of Agatha adopts the personality Thomas had in the book, coming across as sweet and mild-mannered. She grows up to be a friendly doctor who has no known opinion on religion. While she does criticize The Church of the Second Chance, she does this because she wants Ian to live his best life. Her criticism has nothing to do with religion itself.

Another difference between the movie and its source material is how Ian figures out the identity of Agatha and Thomas’ father. Agatha, in the book, is very protective over a jewelry box she claims belonged to her mother. Ian stumbles across this box by accident and finds Agatha’s and Thomas’ birth certificates among the jewelry and other items. These certificates reveal their father’s last name; Dulsimore. Ian learns this information differently in the movie. Similar to the book, Thomas and Agatha own a doll named Dulcimer. While Agatha is at Ian’s parents’ house, the audience can see her trying to remove something from the back of the doll. However, this information isn’t revealed until later in the movie. When the Bedloe family hires Rita diCarlo to organize their house, a lot of items end up getting thrown out. One of these items was Dulcimer the doll. As Ian is leaving the house, he sees the doll in a garbage bag. When he picks it up, he finds a slip of paper hidden in the doll’s back, revealing the doll’s name was also the last name of Agatha and Thomas’ father.

5. Do you think the movie was better than the book or was the book better than the movie?

Like its source material, I thought the movie adaptation of Saint Maybe was fine. Therefore, this is a difficult question to answer. But I will try to answer this question as best as I can by saying this: If you want to see a story about a family dealing with a personal tragedy, I’d recommend the movie. This is because the movie gets straight to the story’s point a lot sooner than the book did. If you’re interested in a story where the protagonist overcomes guilt and sin through religion/faith, I’d recommend the book. As I’ll explain later in this review, the movie didn’t feature religion/faith as much as in the book.

This is the copy of Saint Maybe I purchased earlier this year. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
6. Saint Maybe and At Home in Mitford share some similarities, such as how both books were published in the 1990s. Are there any other similarities you can think of?

As I said in answer number three, I was surprised by the inclusion of religion/faith in Saint Maybe. Even though the movie and its source material are titled Saint Maybe, I wasn’t expecting religion/faith to play a large role in the text. But religion/faith is a cornerstone of both Saint Maybe and At Home in Mitford.  References to God, the Bible, and Christianity can be found in each book. However, the way both authors incorporated these ideas into their stories is very distinct.Throughout Saint Maybe, the congregation of The Church of the Second Chance obeyed a rule that forbade them from consuming sugar. While this rule seems ridiculous on the surface, it is used as a metaphor for sin. Reverend Emmett, the leader of The Church of the Second Chance, explains that if one actively avoids sugar, they are actively avoiding sin. If someone tries to make excuses for consuming sugar, they are making excuses for committing sin.

7. Should Hallmark adapt Anne Tyler‘s other work? If so, why?

As of early September 2021, Hallmark has not made any announcements on whether they are bringing back the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection. But if Hallmark does choose to create more Hallmark Hall of Fame titles and would like to adapt more of Anne Tyler’s novels, there are plenty of stories for them to choose from. According to Goodreads, twenty-four books written by Anne Tyler have not been adapted into a Hallmark production. Since I’ve never read any of those books, I can’t say which one is more deserving of receiving an adaptation. But if I had to pick at least one title Hallmark should adapt into a film, it would either be A Patchwork Planet or Digging to America. This is based on each book’s synopsis, as I have not read either book.

Personally, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Hallmark adapt more of Anne Tyler’s stories. Based on my experience with Saint Maybe, the movie was mostly faithful to the source material. So, with the right creative team involved, maybe another Anne Tyler story could be lucky enough to receive similar treatment. Because three of Anne Tyler’s books have been adapted into Hallmark Hall of Fame titles, it appears Hallmark has had a good working relationship with the author. I’m not sure how much creative control Anne had on either film. But if Hallmark wants to work with Anne again, I’m pretty sure an agreement between both parties could be reached.

8. Is there anything about Saint Maybe you liked or didn’t like?

Saint Maybe is a story that takes place over the course of several years. In the movie, there were subtle clues revealing which time period was portrayed on screen. One establishing shot showed a boy riding his banana seat bicycle down the sidewalk. This brief image indicated how that specific part of the story took place in the 1970s, as banana seat bicycles were popular within that decade. During the movie, Ian adopted a pair of large rimmed glasses. Because this style of glasses was common in the 1980s, Ian’s accessory is very telling of how much time had passed since the beginning of the film. Movies are a visual form of story-telling. So, I liked how the film’s creative team took the initiative to show the passage of time in a creative way.

 My favorite part of the book was when Daphne tried to set up Ian with her fifth-grade teacher, Miss Pennington. It was in this chapter that I started to like Daphne as a character, her free-spirited personality being introduced to me as the reader. Unfortunately, this part of the book wasn’t translated to the screen. I was disappointed by the omission of the book’s seventh chapter. The audience could have witnessed the evolution of Daphne’s personality, gaining an understanding of why she became who she was by the end of the story. Instead, there was a huge time jump from five-year-old girl to free-spirited woman. Because of missing context, this left questions without answers. But I recognize there is only so much story you can tell in eighty-four minutes.

Antique car image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/red-classic-car_803652.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/vintage”>Vintage vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.
9. Did you develop any thoughts and/or questions while watching this film?

While I didn’t develop any questions, I was surprised by how religion/faith was downplayed in Saint Maybe’s film adaptation. Yes, Ian’s introduction to The Church of the Second Chance was similar to the book. Agatha and Thomas tell Ian what they learned at summer camp, which was run by The Church of the Second Chance. Toward the end of the film, the Bedloe family are seen going to church. Other than these moments, religion/faith didn’t have an influence over the character’s lives. The Sugar Rule I talked about in answer number six was never brought up in the script. Reverend Emmett’s beliefs on how his congregation was led didn’t appear in any of the character’s dialogue. Even Reverend Emmett himself showed up in two or three scenes, having a much smaller presence than he did in the book. Saint Maybe’s film adaptation was released in 1998, a time when shows like Touched by An Angel were finding success on mainstream television. In hindsight, Hallmark choosing not to ride Touched by An Angel’s coattails kind of seems like a missed opportunity.

10. Would Saint Maybe encourage viewers to read either its source material or any other book?

I think it depends on what type of story someone wants to consume. As I said in answer number five, I’d recommend the book if you’re interested in a story where religion/faith is one of the key themes. But if you like films from the drama genre, those that explore relationships between characters, then the film adaptation is for you. I’ve said before that I am not a fan of “slice of life” stories. Like I mentioned in answer number three, Saint Maybe is primarily a “slice of life” story. If I hadn’t read the book beforehand, I would probably choose the movie over the text.

11. After watching this movie, is there anything you can take away from your movie viewing experience?

I now understand why Saint Maybe was sometimes shown during Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ ‘Miracles of Christmas’ marathon. Several scenes took place during Christmas-time, with decorations associated with the holiday shown in the background. But I wouldn’t necessarily call Saint Maybe a Christmas story/movie. I said in answer number eight that this story took place over the course of several years. The themes and messages within the text are not exclusive to the Christmas season. In 2019, I created a tier rank list of every Hallmark Hall of Fame movie I’ve ever seen. Since posting that list, I have renamed each category. For Saint Maybe, I’d place this film adaptation in the category titled ‘Bought It at a Garage Sale for a Dollar’. The movie itself was fine, but I wouldn’t pay $20 if it was sold on DVD.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Durango Review

Last year was the first time I participated in Legends of Western Cinema Week! For that event, I reviewed some episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger and the movie, Forsaken. This year, I decided to review the 1999 Hallmark Hall of Fame film, Durango! One day, Hallmark Drama was airing several older titles from the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection, with Durango being one of them. Since I try to watch as many Hallmark Hall of Fame movies as realistically possible, I made sure to record this film on my DVR. This is not only my first time watching it, but this particular title was only sold on VHS. Hallmark has a history of selling some of their Hallmark Hall of Fame films for home entertainment. As I said in my review of the 1987 movie, Foxfire, some of them have been sold on DVD for $20 apiece. But there were some titles that were only given a VHS release. I don’t know what the original price of these VHS tapes were. But if the DVDs were $20, it makes me assume the VHS tapes might have been sold for a similar price. Would Durango be worth the price if it was re-sold on DVD? Keep reading my review if you want to find that answer out!

I really like the poster design for Durango, as it is reminiscent of posters from older western films. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

Patrick Bergin’s performance: In Durango, Patrick Bergin portrayed Fergus Mullaney, the father of the protagonist’s girlfriend, Annie. Out of the whole cast, Patrick is the one that, for me, stole the show! Whenever his character came on screen, he delivered his performance with a strong sense of emotion. Toward the beginning of the movie, Fergus is giving a threat to the movie’s protagonist. During this scene, he truly came across as intimidating. The look in Fergus’ eyes was fiery, revealing the anger within him. His tone of voice was loud and stern, indicating he is not someone to be messed with. I wish Patrick had more appearances in this movie, so he could have had more opportunities to show off his acting talents!

The scenery: Within my review of Chasing Leprechauns, I discussed how the film looked drab. This was because that film’s creative team didn’t take advantage of Ireland’s natural landscape. That was not the case for Durango, as the majority of the movie took place outdoors and there was a lot of greenery to be found! When the Mullaney family was taking a ride through the countryside, the rolling hills of Ireland were showcased in front of a clear blue sky. On the path, a small stone bridge was seen over a river. This river was surrounded by grassy, green fields. That type of landscape was consistently shown throughout the movie. However, it featured Ireland’s natural beauty, which could encourage someone to visit the country!

The music: In films like those from Hallmark Hall of Fame, orchestral tunes are commonly heard in the background. While that is the case for Durango, the music worked with what was happening on screen. During the protagonist’s journey, grand, sweeping orchestral music could be heard as cattle were traveling through the vast fields of Ireland. Because the scenery is so captivating, having this type of music playing makes sense, as the music represents the viewers’ awe for such a beautiful place. When Annie’s brothers were fighting in public, Mark, the film’s protagonist, tells Fergus what is going on. Even though orchestral music can still be heard, the music is reflective of one’s fear when facing an intimidating man like Fergus. Just like any component of a film, music can make or break a production. The music in Durango definitely worked!

Legends of Western Cinema Week banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine and Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy.

What I didn’t like the film:

Low stakes: A common staple in the western genre is including high stakes in the story. In the movie I reviewed last year, Forsaken, the future of the town was at stake. The fear of the unknown could be felt among the characters, with their dialogue and interactions elaborating this point. The major conflict in Durango was the transportation of cattle from one town to another in an effort to receive a fair price for them. But the stakes associated with this conflict were low, causing me not to feel like any of the characters or their cattle were in danger. This is because, nine times of ten, the characters’ plans work out perfectly. Come to think of it, these plans worked out too perfectly by the standards of the western genre. When a higher stake is introduced in the story, it doesn’t appear until the film’s last nineteen minutes. This stake feels like it was included simply for the script to shoehorn a subtle David and Goliath reference. What is frustrating about that creative decision is the movie’s creative team had the entire project to give us the aforementioned reference. Heck, Durango itself should have been a David and Goliath story.

Fergus Mullaney’s desire to protect his daughter: In a story where a young woman falls in love, it’s common for her father to be concerned for her well-being. This is no different for Durango, as Fergus Mullaney only wants to protect his youngest daughter, Annie. The way he went about protecting her is the issue, as it came across as possessive and bit over the top. Whenever Annie’s boyfriend, Mark, is expressing his love for her or seen interacting with her, Fergus becomes angry. It gets to the point where he threatens to physically harm Mark. If Durango were a comedy and Annie were a teenage girl going on her first date, maybe Fergus’ behavior would be justifiable. But because both Annie and Mark are adults and because this movie is more dramatic in tone, Fergus’ behavior felt out of place.

Matt Keeslar’s performance: I’m not really familiar with Matt Keeslar’s filmography. However, I wasn’t impressed with his portrayal of the protagonist, Mark Doran. He wasn’t as strong of a performer as other actors from Hallmark Hall of Fame productions. For most of the movie, Matt carried a “resting face”, making his face appear static. I could tell he was trying with the material he was given, as there were times where he expressed genuine emotion. But these emotions were, in my opinion, not delivered consistently. With everything I just said and the fact that Matt and Nancy St. Alban, the actress who portrayed Annie, didn’t have strong on-screen chemistry, I was not invested in Matt’s performance.

Irish heart image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/label”>Label vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

In my introduction, I mentioned how Durango was only sold on VHS. After watching the film, I now have an understanding of why this could be the case. Durango is one of the few Hallmark Hall of Fame movies I would consider a dud. With a weak lead performance and many low stakes, I found it difficult to stay invested in the characters and overall story. I also think the way Fergus tried to protect his daughter, Annie, felt out of place in this particular film. According to IMDB, Durango is “the first western set in Ireland”, so the fact this movie was not good is disappointing. On paper, an Irish western is an interesting idea that could have worked with a strong creative team. Unfortunately, Durango had a weak execution. I’m glad Hallmark Drama chose to air this movie, as I can honestly say it is not worth purchasing a copy. Personally, I think Irish cinema, the western genre, and Hallmark Hall of Fame deserve better.

Overall score: 4.7 out of 10

Have you seen Durango? Are there any Hallmark Hall of Fame movies you’d like to see re-released on DVD? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Rigoletto Review + 350 and 355 Follower Thank You

For my American Girl Instagram account, Dolly Parkington’s Dollhouse, I recently talked about the 1993 movie, Rigoletto. Because of this, I decided to review the film for my next blog follower dedication review! While I heard good things about this particular title, I have never seen it until this year. The one constant statement was how Rigoletto was “Phantom of the Opera for kids”. As someone who has seen the 2004 adaptation of the musical, I was curious to see how it could be adapted into a family friendly version. If you have taken notice, I have recently relied on older movies for my blog’s content. Come to think of it, I only reviewed one new release in 2021 so far. That’s because I enjoy discovering films that are new to me, as well as finding hidden gems in the world of cinema. This also correlates with my blog’s mission of giving underrated titles a “standing ovation”. Now, let’s raise the curtain on this review of Rigoletto!

Rigoletto poster created by Feature Films for Families

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Even though I liked the acting performances from the film’s younger cast members, it’s the movie’s older cast members that stole the show for me! One noteworthy performance was John Huntington’s! Portraying Ribaldi’s butler, Hans, John was able to serve as the story’s comic relief while, at times, being intimidating. When Bonnie’s mother visits Ribaldi’s house in an effort to address an impending eviction notice, Hans gives her a set of instructions. The tone in his voice and the look in his eyes is so intense and direct, even the audience may feel intimidated by his demeanor. But, as I mentioned before, Hans can also be a source of comic relief. In one scene, Hans makes a comment about music. This comment causes Ribaldi to throw a book at Hans. Even though the moment itself was hilarious, I was caught off guard because it was so sudden. While we’re on the subject of Ribaldi, let’s talk about Joseph Paur’s performance! His portrayal of Ribaldi reminded me a lot of the Beast from Beauty and the Beast. In scenes that were more suspenseful in tone, Ribaldi’s persona was aggressive and powerful, with his presence appearing intimidating at times. For more gentler moments in the film, such as when Ribaldi was giving advice to a boy named Porter, his personality was kinder. This allowed Ribaldi to become an approachable character as the story went on. Despite appearing in the film for a short amount of time, I liked Tracey Williams’ portrayal of Gabriella. Not only did she have a pleasant on-screen personality, but she also had good on-screen chemistry with Joseph Paur! Honestly, I wish she had appeared in more scenes.

The music: Because this movie is loosely based on the opera of the same name, there are musical elements within the story. Even though the musical elements were limited, I really liked the music! A memorable song is ‘The Curse’. Performed by Joseph Paur, this was an operatic piece that was powerful and emotional in tone and musical scope. It reminded me of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra songs ‘The Moment’ and ‘This Is Who You Are’. Toward the end of the movie, Ivey Lloyd, the actress who portrayed Bonnie, performed a song titled ‘The Melody Within’. While Ivey’s voice in the movie sounded fine and delicate, the song itself complimented her talents! Not only was it pleasant to listen to, but it also contained a good message. Musical numbers like ‘The Curse’ and ‘The Melody Within’ gave weight to the film.

Wisdom within the script: As I watched Rigoletto, there were several moments where wisdom could be heard within the script. This was such a pleasant surprise, as I was not expecting to hear that. When Bonnie’s mother tries to talk to Ribaldi about her eviction notice, Ribaldi explains how she has a home while he has a house. During this explanation, it is clear that Ribaldi had enough self-awareness to know what really mattered the most. After interacting with a rude peer, Bonnie reminds her friends how pointless it is to match unkindness with unkindness. While this piece of wisdom was simple, it served as a reminder for how to treat others. What also helped was how these pieces are woven into the script through dialogue. It prevented the wisdom from coming across as mini lectures or heavy-handed.

String of musical notes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/pentagram-vector_710290.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundvector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The “disappearing disabilities” subplot: In the town of Castle Gate, there are several citizens who have a disability. These disabilities could be seen or heard; from a young boy who stuttered to a woman who relied on a wheelchair in order to move from place to place. But as the film progressed, their disabilities were magically reversed. Without spoiling the movie, I understand why this subplot was in the story, as it did serve an important message. On the other hand, it kind of contradicts another important message, one about inner beauty. According to IMDB, Rigoletto “is a branch off of the story line of “Beauty and the Beast”, a story where you would find this kind of message. However, it feels like the movie’s creative team wanted to have their cake and eat it too.

Little to no context: Rigoletto is the second movie I’ve recently reviewed where there was little to no context in certain areas of the story. Toward the beginning of the film, it was stated that Ribaldi’s face became disfigured due to an “accident”. But the audience never learns about the accident itself, as well as Ribaldi’s life before he came to Castle Gate. Ribaldi reveals a magical mirror that he claims was given to him by “Snow White”. However, it is never explained if the mirror actually contains magic or is magical in a figurative sense. Similar to what I said in my review of The Girl Who Spelled Freedom, context would have been beneficial in understanding Ribaldi as a character.

Under-utilizing musical potential: While I liked the songs in Rigoletto, I wish it had been a musical, similar to productions like Beauty and the Beast or The Sound of Music. Throughout the film, I can think of only four scenes that featured characters singing. Even though the story should be the first priority of any movie, Rigoletto relied on the script’s drama more than the film’s musical components. I’m also disappointed by the missed opportunity for at least one duet. Maybe Ribaldi and Bonnie could have sang a song about friendship. Perhaps Gabriella and Ribaldi could have shared a romantic, but wholesome melody. This idea might have become a reality had the movie been a musical instead of a drama with musical elements.

Masks of comedy and tragedy images created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As I said in my introduction, Rigoletto has been compared to Phantom of the Opera. However, it felt more like a live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. Because I like the 1991 version of the aforementioned story, I didn’t mind this subversion of expectations. In fact, I found Rigoletto to be an interesting re-telling! The emphasis on music within the world of Castle Gate helped the film obtain its own identity. Having the story take place during the Great Depression and relying less on fantastical elements also helps the film’s case. The movie did have its strengths, but it also had its flaws too. I honestly wish Rigoletto had been a musical like Beauty and the Beast, so its full potential could have been reached. If you do like films with musical elements or are a fan of “modern” fairy tale re-tellings , I would definitely recommend this movie! As this review reaches the final curtain, I want to thank all my followers for helping 18 Cinema Lane make it this far! Like I’ve said before, this blog would not be the same without you!

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

Have you seen Rigoletto? Are there any musical movies you enjoy watching? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

It’s time to vote for the Gold Sally Awards’ Best Story

The Gold Sally Awards recognizes the crucial role screenwriting plays in the filmmaking process. Among the best movies I saw in 2020, you can choose which film contained the best story! Even though you can only vote once per person, you are able to vote for more than one nominee. As I’ve said before, the link to the poll is featured under the list of nominees. This poll starts today, March 15th, and ends on March 21st.

In case you’re wondering, this is a screenshot from the Murder, She Wrote episode, ‘The Legacy of Borbey House’. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Which film from 2020 had the Best Story?

 

Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
The Unfinished Dance
If You Believe
Sweet Nothing in my Ear
From Up on Poppy Hill
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Grace & Glorie
Matinee
The Boy Who Could Fly
Anchors Aweigh
 
 
 
 
 
 
Created with Poll Maker

Have fun voting!

Sally Silverscreen

The 3rd Annual Gold Sally Awards is Finally Here!

To celebrate the anniversary of 18 Cinema Lane’s beginning, I host a movie awards to highlight the best films I saw in the previous year. As I had several projects on my plate in February, the Gold Sally Awards were pushed back. However, the Gold Sally Awards are still happening, starting with the Best Movie category! In this division, all of the films that were featured on my Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2020 list will compete for the title of Gold Sally Awards’ Best Movie. Like in years past, you are allowed to vote for more than one nominee. But you can only vote once per person. This poll starts today and ends on March 14th. On the bottom of the poll, there is a link where you can submit your vote. If you’re having technical difficulties, please don’t hesitate to speak up in the comment section.

I usually don’t show this anniversary image on my blog. However, I thought it would make sense for the start of this year’s Gold Sally Awards! WordPress Anniversary image created by WordPress.

What was the Best Movie of 2020?
Anchors Aweigh
The Boy Who Could Fly
Matinee
Grace & Glorie
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
From Up on Poppy Hill
Sweet Nothing in my Ear
If You Believe
The Unfinished Dance
Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
 
 
 
 
 
 

Have fun voting!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Scarlett Review

Originally, I was going to review a different movie for the 3rd Annual So Bad It’s Good Blogathon. But when I found a DVD copy of Scarlett at a local consignment store, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to review the film! Last year, I discovered Gone with the Wind received a sequel many years after its release. While I’m not a fan of the sequel’s predecessor, I thought the 1994 film would be perfect content for the aforementioned event. According to IMDB, Scarlett premiered as a TV mini-series. This gives the sequel a run-time of six hours, which is even longer than the first movie. I never thought Gone with the Wind needed another chapter, as everything ended on a definitive note. However, curiosity got the best of me, as I wanted to find out if this could finally be the “so bad it’s good” movie I’ve been looking for!

This is the DVD I purchased from a local consignment store. Even the packaging calls Scarlett a six hour film. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: While I like the acting overall, there were three performances that were stand-outs. The first one came from Sean Bean. I haven’t seen much from his filmography, but I remember his portrayal of Ian Howe from National Treasure. Based on these two movies, it seems Sean is very talented when it comes to portraying on-screen villains!  Without spoiling the film, I will say Lord Richard Fenton is a despicable individual. However, it was interesting to see how Sean carried his character in each scene he appeared in. Whenever in public or around Scarlett, Richard comes across as a dashing gentleman. But behind closed doors, he reveals himself to be selfish and controlling, which makes Richard’s overall persona very ugly. In all my years of watching movies, I’ve seen few actors effectively portray characters that had likable and unlikable qualities. Within the film, Scarlett, Sean single-handedly accomplished this; making the audience despise Richard, but appreciate Sean’s acting abilities! The second stand-out performance was Annabeth Gish’s! In historical fiction/period stories, few female characters from a wealthier background contain a personality that is gentler in nature. With the way Annabeth approached her character, Anne, she brought something to the table that isn’t seen often. This not only provided a contrast to Scarlett, but allowed Anne to be her own character. Anne’s gentleness came across on screen very naturally as well! Tina Kellegher’s portrayal of Mary Boyle is the third stand-out performance! A strong sense of emotionality worked in Tina’s favor. This component to her performance presented her character as a believable individual, as if Mary had actually existed at some point in time. Miss Boyle experiences some difficult situations throughout the movie. However, Tina pulled off a performance that appeared flawless!

The costumes: In period films, one of the notable aspects is the costumes. They are one example of a physical representation of the story’s respective time period. The costumes in Scarlett not only looked historically accurate, but also impressive! It also helps how the costumes compliment the actors wearing them. Scarlett’s wardrobe was amazing! It featured a color palette that never appeared over-the-top. Each piece featured patterns and textures that felt fitting for the 1870s, with color combinations working well together. I honestly can’t choose a favorite outfit, as it was fun to discover what outfit Scarlet would wear next! While I realistically don’t have any place to wear one of Scarlett’s outfits, it’s nice to think about which piece I’d like to own in real-life.

The conflict between the British and Irish: Within the overall story, there was an ongoing conflict between the British and Irish. According to the Irish characters, this was due to the British wanting to take over Ireland. I’m not familiar with this particular period in world history. Despite that, I found this part of the story to be fascinating! Because of Scarlett’s Irish heritage and the fact she had family living in Ireland, it gave Scarlett a reason to be aware of the political and social environment around her. Her interactions with Richard also highlight the different sides of the conflict itself. There were other people in this story who were directly connected to this conflict as well. One of Scarlett’s cousin’s, Colum, is a priest. However, he is also a member of a group of Irish people fighting for freedom against the British. It was interesting to see how Colum navigated his own struggles of religious duty and standing up for his people.

The Third So Bad It’s Good Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Scarlett and Rhett’s on-again/off-again relationship: I am not a fan of Scarlett and Rhett’s relationship. Even when I try to give it a fair chance and watch it with an open mind, I still do not like their relationship in this movie. One of the reasons why is how it was continually on-again/off-again. This was so repetitive, it became tiresome. It was also difficult to determine if Joanne Whalley and Timothy Dalton, the actor and actress who portrayed Scarlett and Rhett, had any on-screen chemistry. Scarlett and Rhett’s relationship problems did not need to be explored, especially after Gone with the Wind’s ending. In fact, seeing Scarlett and Rhett’s on-again/off-again relationship diminishes one of the most famous scenes and quotes in cinematic history, where Rhett says “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”. In my opinion, this situation took place simply to justify the sequel’s existence.

Unnecessary stories: As I already mentioned in my previous point, Scarlett and Rhett’s on-again/off-again relationship felt like it was taking place simply to justify the sequel’s existence. This wasn’t the only story within the film to make me feel this way. In the first half of Scarlett, Ashley is struggling to keep his business afloat. Scarlett recruits Sam, a former slave of the O’Hara household, to assist Ashley in building more homes, in order to save Ashley’s business. That storyline is one I found myself not caring about. It also didn’t lead anywhere, as it didn’t have a consistent presence in the overall film. Scarlett’s feud with her sister was another story I thought was unnecessary. Throughout the film, they refused to see eye-to-eye about the future of Tara. While Scarlett’s sister was still living in the house, Scarlett was considering selling it. I thought it was odd for Scarlett to think about selling Tara. In the first movie, she loved Tara so much, Scarlett slapped a woman in the face for expressing her opinion against the place. For Scarlett to completely change her mind without any explanation seemed random.

Choppy scene transitions: At some points in the movie, there were scene transitions that were so abrupt, it caused the film’s overall flow to feel choppy. When visiting a family member, Scarlett is about to share how she became so wealthy. Right as she was about to tell her story, the next scene started, showing another family member walking toward his house. It seemed like parts of the movie were missing. Some of these scene transitions were so jarring because the change of tone was so drastic. One scene showed Colum speaking with an Irish neighbor about their plans to fight the British. This dramatic and serious moment was met with a light-hearted scene where Scarlett goes to a horse fair. The journey from point A to point B needed a bridge.

Irish heart image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/label”>Label vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

I can’t call Scarlett “so bad it’s good”. In fact, I would never consider it a bad movie. Objectively, this is a competently made project, where the creative team behind it clearly knew what they were doing. Subjectively, Scarlett is a mixed bag. The conflict between the British and Irish was the best part of this story! It was fascinating to see it unfold and discover how the characters were involved. With the parts of the story directly referencing Gone with the Wind, I found those to exist simply to justify the sequel. Until Scarlett went to Ireland, I was questioning why the movie was made. Personally, I would rather watch a miniseries about the British and Irish conflict over the one I just did. As I wrap up this review, I realize I still haven’t found my “so bad it’s good” movie. Time to go back to square one.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Do you have a movie in your life that you’d consider “so bad it’s good”? If so, what is it? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Love Letter Review

I’m not going to lie; I love a good blog party! So, when I discovered Heidi, from Along the Brandywine, was hosting the Valentine’s Day Period Drama Blog Party, I couldn’t wait to sign up! Period dramas are not regularly covered on 18 Cinema Lane. While I do have a re-cap series for When Calls the Heart, I choose what films to watch based on how interesting their stories sound. There have been period dramas I loved, such as Swept from the Sea. But, for this blogathon, I wanted to review a film I hadn’t seen before. For about a year, I’ve had the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, The Love Letter, on my DVR. Because parts of the movie take place in the 19th century, I felt it fit Heidi’s time period requirement of the 1600’s to World War II. I try to watch as many Hallmark Hall of Fame titles as I realistically can. Prior to reviewing The Love Letter, the only Hallmark Hall of Fame movie from 1998 I’ve seen is Grace & Glorie, which was one of the best movies I saw last year! While not all movies from this collection are created equally, I do watch these movies with an open mind.

Since an image of The Love Letter‘s poster was featured on my television, I took a screenshot of it with my phone. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because The Love Letter heavily relies on the performances of its lead actor and actress, this part of the review will focus on Campbell Scott’s and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s portrayal of Scott Corrigan and Elizabeth Whitcomb. With Campbell’s performance, there was always a sense of focus in his character. This focus could be seen in Scott’s eyes. When he was inspecting the desk at the antique store or restoring that same desk, Scott’s focus showed how much he cared. This was a consistent part of the character and helped whenever he wrote to Elizabeth. In historical fiction/period films, it would be easy for the screenwriter to give their lead female character one distinct type of personality. Elizabeth Whitcomb, on the other hand, held a balance of two that brought something unique to the character. She had a youthful radiance about her, being a “romantic dreamer” at heart. However, Elizabeth carried herself with a graceful maturity that prevented her from becoming childish or immature. Jennifer brought both aspects to Elizabeth equally and beautifully, allowing her character to be multi-dimensional.

The historical accuracy: I am not an expert on the 1860s and its historical significance. But based on what I do know about this particular period in time, Elizabeth’s part of the story looked and felt historically accurate! The Whitcomb family home was furnished with pieces that appeared antique, from the couch in the sitting room to the desk Elizabeth and Scott share. Dark wood held these structures together, with green cushions and intricate carvings finishing the couch and desk. The costumes were very detailed and also reflective of the 1860s. Embroidery on Elizabeth’s jacket and the overall design of her lacy parasol serve as two examples. Even the dialogue spoken by the characters sounded like it came directly from an era gone by. Pieces of the story like the ones I mentioned tell me, as an audience member, the creative team behind this film cared about the presentation of this part of their project!

A fantastical element: Most of the stories from the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection are grounded in reality, which means that fantastical elements are rarely found in these scripts. With The Love Letter, the story revolves around two people from different time periods who communicate to each other through letter writing. The idea of time manipulation is a concept that would likely be found in either a fantasy or science fiction film. While stories like Somewhere in Time and Portrait of Jennie have been dramas paired with this specific concept, I don’t recall Hallmark Hall of Fame creating their own film like that before or after 1998. Because The Love Letter’s creative team chose to include a fantastical element into their overall project, it gave the movie an opportunity to stand out from other titles. This was a creative risk that worked in the film’s favor!

The Valentine’s Day Period Drama Blog Party banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Scott being engaged: A trope that has appeared in several Hallmark films is the male or female protagonist being engaged at the beginning of the story, only to fall in love with someone else by the end of that story. This trope has found its way into The Love Letter. For most of the movie, Scott is engaged to a woman named Debra. As he finds himself falling in love with Elizabeth, he strings Debra along and keeps the letter writing a secret. Scott does tell Debra the truth about his feelings, but this doesn’t happen until the movie is almost over. Personally, I think this trope is pointless, as the audience is spending time with a relationship that will end up leading nowhere. Scott should have remained single so the script could give its undivided attention to his and Elizabeth’s exchanges.

A rushed explanation: When fantastical or science fiction elements are included in a script, it helps to provide clear explanations to the audience so they can understand what is happening on screen. In The Love Letter, Scott’s mother tells Scott that an imbalance in the time-space continuum is the reason why he and Elizabeth are able to write to one another. However, this explanation was rushed, with Scott’s mother briefly bringing it up on only two occasions throughout the whole movie. She gives Scott stamps from the 1860s and had a special kind of writing ink made for him. Scott’s mother even found a post office that has existed since the Civil War era. These objects and the post office felt more like they conveniently benefited the plot instead of serving as ‘macguffins’ to move the story forward. As I already mentioned, this kind of story is rarely found in the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection. Despite this, a little more time should have been devoted to providing a clearer explanation.

Lack of physical interactions between Scott and Elizabeth: Because Scott and Elizabeth are from different time periods, it is not possible for them to physically interact with one another. Even though this is the nature of the story, it prevented the audience from seeing the on-screen chemistry between Campbell Scott and Jennifer Jason Leigh. One of the staples of a romance film is the on-screen chemistry between the lead actor and actress. Since that element was missing from The Love Letter, I was only invested in Scott and Elizabeth’s relationship to a certain extent. While their words were romantic, verbal communication only plays a part among any given couple.

Hand-written letter image created by Veraholera at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Veraholera – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/love-letter-pattern_1292902.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As I said in my review, most Hallmark Hall of Fame stories are grounded in reality. These stories are also on the simple side, with messages and themes that audience members can relate to. Even though The Love Letter has a fantastical element that is rarely found in films from this collection, it has a simpler story that works! Romance through words and thoughts is what carries the overall story, with important advice woven into the script. Forming a relationship with someone you truly love and never giving up on yourself are nice sentiments that can make audience members feel good about what they are watching. The movie also has the ingredients of a good Hallmark Hall of Fame title, like the level of detail when it comes to the film’s historical accuracy. It is true the movie has its flaws. However, the execution of a creative risk like this makes up for The Love Letter’s weaknesses. Films such as this one make me wish Hallmark would be more creative with their stories and think outside the box more. With the ball in their court, I don’t know what their next creative step will be.

Overall score: 8 out of 10

Have you seen The Love Letter? What Hallmark Hall of Fame movies would you like to see me review? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host Review + 290 Follower Thank You

In February, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries will be airing two new mystery films! These movies are Crossword Mysteries: Terminal Descent and Chronicle Mysteries: Helped to Death. While I do plan on reviewing both films, they aren’t scheduled to premiere for another week or two, as their release dates are February 14th and February 21st. Until then, I’ll be talking about Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host! I enjoy watching films from this particular series. In fact, this isn’t the first time I’ve reviewed a Perry Mason movie. Last year, I wrote about Perry Mason Returns and Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, with both films receiving honorable mentions on my list of the best films I saw in 2020. Because I recently saw Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host and because I needed to publish my blog follower dedication review, in honor of my blog gaining 290 followers, this was the perfect opportunity to talk about another mystery film!

I wasn’t able to find a picture of this film’s poster, so I took a screenshot of this image from my television. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As of February 2021, I have seen some of the movies from the Perry Mason series. Based on those films, I’ve noticed how the acting performances have always been a consistent strength. Speaking of consistent, Raymond Burr does a good job bringing his character, Perry Mason, to life! The dry sense of humor and serious demeanor Perry is known for has had a constant presence in every film he has appeared in, including Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host. Toward the beginning of the film, Perry is talking on the phone with a colleague. When the conversation was almost finished, Perry responds that he is going to meet the colleague in two hours, when he was planning to wake up. Because the audience only sees Perry’s side of the conversation, they see that he was spending the night working on paperwork instead of sleeping. Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host features some real-life talk show hosts in the cast. Two of them are Regis Philbin and Montel Williams, as I’ve seen episodes of their respective shows before. In this film, Regis and Montel portrayed characters that were different from the personalities they have presented on their shows. Regis’ character, Winslow, was an antagonist who was self-centered and mean to those around him. Meanwhile, Montel’s character, Boomer, was only looking out for himself and avoided talking about issues from his past. These characters not only gave Regis and Montel interesting material to work with, but it also gave the audience something new to see. Like any mystery film, Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host provided an opportunity to introduce new characters. Cathy Paxton was one of them. Portrayed by Alex Datcher, Cathy had a spunky personality and the street smarts to help her with undercover police cases! She and Perry’s assistant, Ken Malansky, also worked well together. Out of the movies I’ve seen from the Perry Mason series, it doesn’t seem like Cathy made any appearances outside of this film. It makes me wish she would have joined the main cast of characters, as she fit in with the members of Perry Mason’s law firm so perfectly!

The inclusion of talk shows and their hosts: Like I just mentioned, Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host features some real-life talk show hosts in the cast. As their names were presented in the opening credits and based on the title itself, I was expecting the movie to focus on talk shows from television. But as I watched the film, I discovered it was about talk shows on the radio. To me, this was a pleasant surprise! It allowed the audience to see these hosts, like Regis and Montel, in a different media format. I also liked seeing the diverse personalities and shows within one radio station. When the story progresses and as each character is questioned by Perry, the audience can witness how they all bring something different to the table. A unique dynamic was formed because of this creative decision!

The mystery: On 18 Cinema Lane, I’ve mentioned there are mystery movies that adopt a type of story where the audience solves the case alongside the protagonist. The mystery in Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host is that kind of story. This case unfolds as the movie progresses, with Perry and his team making discoveries along the way. In that time, the audience learns more about the characters within the overall story. When Perry questions the talk show hosts from the radio station, we learn about their possible motives and even their backstories. It was a good way to incorporate character development. This kind of story worked for Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host because it maintained a steady amount of intrigue. My interest in this story also remained from the start to finish.

Recording studio image created by Senivpetro at freepik.com. Music photo created by senivpetro – www.freepik.com

What I didn’t like about the film:

An overlooked murder: At the beginning of the movie, Sheila, Perry’s newest client, discovers a dead body in her house. She then calls the police and the body is removed from her home at a later time. After this happens, that murder is not referenced again. In fact, it has nothing to do with the main mystery. From a story-telling perspective, these two cases should had been related in some way. It would have prevented that early part of the script from being overlooked.

A glossed over tragedy: In a few moments of the film, Sheila mentions that her daughter died of a drug overdose. Outside of those moments, this detail is never explored to a fuller extent. Similar to the overlooked murder I previously mentioned, the tragedy doesn’t really have anything to do with the main mystery. It would have made more sense if the movie had included a subplot where Sheila helps someone who is struggling with a drug addiction. This would have allowed her to work through her grief and make peace with what happened to her daughter.

The reveal of the guilty party: Whenever I review a mystery movie, I try not to spoil it for anyone, as there could be readers who haven’t seen the film yet. That is the case for Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host, as I won’t be revealing the mystery’s outcome. However, I’m going to say that I didn’t like the how the guilty party was discovered. This is because it felt out of character for a series like Perry Mason. The best way I can describe it is it’s more like Murder, She Wrote; presenting an outcome that most of the audience would not easily guess. I know that Perry is known for creating theories and connections off-screen. But in the movies I’ve seen so far, the outcome could be figured out by the viewer.

Courtroom image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/isometric”>Isometric vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

The Perry Mason series is a collection of films I enjoy talking about. Even though I don’t always get the opportunity to bring it up on my blog, I feel it is a series worth seeing. Based on the films I have seen from this collection, Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host is one of the stronger films! There are areas of the overall story that could have been elaborated upon or explained better. The murder that takes place at the beginning of the film and the tragedy in Sheila’s life are two examples. However, the movie as a whole was a solid production! It incorporated creative elements that made the story stand out from the other chapters in the series. The film also selected choices that I, personally, haven’t seen in any film before. Having real-life talk show hosts from television portraying talk show hosts on the radio is a perfect example of this. Before I end this review, I want to thank all of my 290 followers! I know this post is published later than expected, as the blog received 290 followers in January. However, I do appreciate your support.

Overall score: 8 out of 10

Do you watch the Perry Mason movies? If so, which one is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen