Take 3: Black Narcissus (1947) Review

For the first Genre Grandeur of 2023, the theme is ‘Movies that take place in Cold weather situations (snow, ice, hail, etc.)’. While I could have selected a Hallmark title, I decided to pick another film instead. As I looked through my recommendations board on Pinterest, I remembered the 1947 movie, Black Narcissus. Suggested by Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films, this story takes place in the Himalayas, a mountainous region known for colder temperatures and snowy landscapes. Prior to watching Black Narcissus, I had heard this movie was controversial at the time of its release. All I knew about the film was its synopsis and the fact it premiered within the Breen Code era. Is Black Narcissus worth the trek up the mountain? Keep reading my review to find out!

Black Narcissus (1947) poster created by The Archers and General Film Distributors

Things I liked about the film:

The dialogue: In my review of When the Circus Came to Town, I mentioned how the dialogue was surprisingly profound. This was also the case in Black Narcissus, where the dialogue was sometimes profound, even thought-provoking. After Christmas Eve service, the Young General congratulates Sister Clodagh on the birth of Jesus. This statement brings up an excellent point about Christmas. When there is a new baby in a family, the family will be congratulated on their new arrival. So, congratulating Jesus’ birth makes sense, especially given the religious context of the holiday. After Sister Clodagh tells the Young General how the sisters don’t speak of God in a casual sense, Mr. Dean replies how God should be as common as bread. Even though Mr. Dean made this statement while drunk, he did make an interesting point. From the way I interpreted it, it seems like Mr. Dean thinks Christians should live their everyday lives with God present in it.

The set design and scenery: Off the top of my head, I can’t think of many movies taking place in the Himalayas. Therefore, I was excited to see this locale through a cinematic lens. The Himalayas did not disappoint, as the landscape looked so photogenic, it honestly appeared as a piece of art! One example is a shot of the mountains, where the snow caps dissolved in an ombre palette of white to light blue, transforming to a deep blue. Not only were the exterior shots appealing to the eye, the interior shots were interesting to look at as well! My favorite room in the palace was the “blue room”. In this room, the walls are covered in a mural primarily boasting hues of blue, periwinkle, and purple. Pops of green can be found on the mural, presenting the illusion the room has been submerged into the sea. Complimenting the space is a blue, circular chair with yellow, flowered stitching and a crystal chandelier.

The Young General’s wardrobe: Even though the Young General appeared in the film for a limited period of time, I absolutely loved his wardrobe! In fact, his wardrobe stole the show! My favorite outfit was the one he wore during the Christmas service. While attending the service, the Young General’s attire was white with gold details. Because winters in the Himalayas are colder, his outfit was beautifully paired with a fur coat covered in a leopard pattern and puffy white sleeves. Adding a light gold turban, the Young General’s attire was impeccably designed by Hein Heckroth!

Snowy mountain image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/landscape-background-of-snow-track-and-mountains_968656.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Few introductions to Himalayan culture: In 1956’s The King and I, Anna, as well as the audience, are introduced to Siamese culture through her interactions with various characters. One notable example is Tuptim’s interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, where her perspective on the text provides an insight into her cultural background. Before watching Black Narcissus, I was hoping to learn more about the people of the Himalayas. Unfortunately, the film’s creative team didn’t take the time to show Himalayan customs, traditions, and beliefs. Yes, the Young General is interested in learning more about Christianity and there is a spiritual leader who makes a handful of appearances in the movie. But these parts of the story were not explored to a satisfying extent.

Little to no explanations: Kanchi is a seventeen-year-old young lady who arrives at the convent. Mr. Dean explains to Sister Clodagh how Kanchi is a “troublemaker” who isn’t wanted by anyone. Was Kanchi truly a “troublemaker” or is she simply misunderstood? Why does it seem like no one wants her around? Why was Kanchi given little to no dialogue in the story? Is she non-verbal or was she so traumatized by something from her past, that she chooses not to speak? This is just one example of how little to no explanations were found in the film. That creative decision didn’t allow the audience to get to know Kanchi and understand the reason behind her choices. Because of how common explanations were omitted, I was confused by the end of the movie.

Relying on a premise instead of a plot: When I reviewed When the Circus Came to Town last December, I talked about how the made-for-tv movie relied more on a premise (the story’s hook) than a plot (what keeps the audience invested in the story). Black Narcissus contains the same flaw. Prior to seeing this film, I thought the first half of the story would show the sisters’ journey up the mountain, with the story’s second half chronicling the creation of the convent. The movie completely omits the journey, going straight to the convent’s creation. For the majority of the story, the sisters are shown going through the motions of keeping their convent afloat. While the sisters’ deal with their own personal issues, there was no overarching conflict that needed to be resolved.

Blue sparkly Christmas tree image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/frame”>Frame vector created by Macrovector – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/merry-christmas-card_2875396.htm’>Designed by Macrovector</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Objectively speaking, Black Narcissus is a competently made film. In fact, I could tell the creative team behind the project cared about what they were making. But subjectively, this is one of the most confusing movies I’ve ever seen. That is because so many parts are the story were given little to no explanations. I didn’t know the 1947 film was based on a novel until I saw the film’s opening credits, so maybe this is a case where the source material does a better job than the adaptation when it comes to explaining things? Black Narcissus is a film that emphasizes style over substance. While there was appealing scenery, set design, and costume designs, the story was missing an overarching conflict. Missed opportunities to learn more about Himalayan culture were in this story as well. With everything I said, I can’t give a strong recommendation for Black Narcissus. Instead, I would suggest checking out movies like 1956’s The King and I and The Nun’s Story.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Have you seen Black Narcissus? Which movies featuring cold weather situations are your favorites? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Sea Change Review

Have you ever read a film synopsis that sounded so “bonkers”, you just had to check the movie out for yourself? That’s what happened when I stumbled across the 2017 Lifetime film, Sea Change. This is a movie I had never heard of until this year. It’s also a fantasy story, a genre Lifetime rarely creates projects for. Based on the film’s synopsis sounding so “outside of the box” for Lifetime, I not only had to seek the movie out, I had to review it as well. Whenever I’ve talked about Hallmark productions, there have been times when I wished the network would take a break from the typical rom-com or drama. The same can be said for Lifetime. In recent years, that network has relied on mystery thrillers and true crime stories, with the occasional drama. But how does Sea Change fare as a fish out of Lifetime’s waters? Let’s dive in and find out!

Sea Change poster created by Piller Squared/The Segen Company and Lifetime Television

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: While watching Sea Change, I discovered Siobhan Williams starred in the film. Knowing that name sounded familiar, I looked through my movie reviews to see if I had reviewed any of her movies. Sure enough, I had not only written about Flicka: Country Pride, I had also talked about her character from that movie! Similar to Flicka: Country Pride, Siobhan portrayed a popular “mean girl” named Ginny. But in the 2017 Lifetime production, Ginny was a lot less annoying. Siobhan’s expressions were fluid, allowing her character to experience a variety of emotions. When a local lawyer questions Ginny about her cousin’s whereabouts, Ginny responds in a nonchalant way, an unconcerned look on her face and a tone of voice that lacks urgency. But when a family tragedy occurs, shock is stamped on Ginny’s face. Her eyes appear to stare out into the distance and paired with a frown.

While I haven’t reviewed any of Keenan Tracey’s projects, I have seen some of his Hallmark programs, including When Calls the Heart. In Sea Change, Keenan portrayed TJ, a young man who was staying on the island for the summer. During the story, Keenan consistently maintained a laid-back, easy-going personality. This consistency made his performance appear effortless! I also liked seeing Emily Rudd’s portrayal of the protagonist, Miranda! Similar to Siobhan’s performance, Emily portrayed her character with a variety of emotions. One of her best scenes took place toward the beginning of the movie. In this scene, Miranda is recalling a memory of her late father. Her mother reveals some information that goes against this memory. As soon as she receives this information, shock trickles down Miranda’s face. Her eyes become really wide and her lip quivers ever so slightly.

The scenery: In Sea Change’s opening credits, it was mentioned the movie was filmed in Nova Scotia. This Canadian locale presented a very convincing Maine! While Miranda went jogging, she traveled near the edge of a grassy cliff, which overlooked the ocean. The bright orange and yellow hues of the sunset paired beautifully with the dark blue ocean waters. This same ocean was captured magnificently at night-time! While on her jog, Miranda visits the ocean’s shore in the evening. A color palette of deep blue, black, and even purple created an environment that was beautiful in a dreamlike way. The scenery definitely stole the show and felt like a character itself!

A mystery subplot: As I said in the introduction, Sea Change is a fantasy story. But within this story, a mystery was included as a subplot. At the beginning of the movie, a murder takes place on the beach. The island’s law enforcement and a local lawyer attempt to solve the case. The audience learns early on who the culprit is. But what kept me invested is seeing how this information would be discovered by the lawyer and law enforcement team. With the gathering of clues, the mystery provided an element of suspense to the overall story. It was a familiar thread Lifetime wove in a newer way!

Paper Boats in the Sea image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/background-of-paper-boats-with-hand-drawn-waves_1189898.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Poor audio: I’m well aware a typical made-for-tv production works with a smaller budget. With that said, part of the budget should be reserved for quality audio equipment. In Sea Change, the characters’ dialogue was so quiet, it sounded like they were mumbling. This forced me to turn up the volume on my television, as it was difficult to hear what the characters were saying.

Questions left unanswered: According to Sea Change’s synopsis, Miranda “makes a startling discovery about her connection to the Seawalkers”. Throughout this one hour and twenty-one-minute film, this connection was never revealed. Leo, one of the Seawalkers, tells his sister how Miranda will save them. The question of how Miranda will save the Seawalkers was never answered either. These are just two examples of questions that were not resolved. This is especially an issue toward the end of the movie, when the story is left open-ended. I’m not sure if this was done as a weak attempt at setting up a sequel or leaving room for the audience to interpret what might happen. But by the end of the story, you’re left with more loose ends than necessary.

Few appearances from the Seawalkers: When I reviewed the 2012 Hallmark movie, Chasing Leprechauns, I mentioned how the titular leprechauns could be heard and not seen. This made that film’s title seem somewhat misleading. Sea Change contains a similar flaw. While the characters talk about the existence of Seawalkers and while the movie’s synopsis brings them up, the Seawalkers themselves are rarely shown as Seawalkers. More often than not, they are presented in human form. From the perspective of an audience member, I speculated this creative decision was likely made as a result of the production’s limited budget.

Magnifying fingerprints image created by Balintseby at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/glass”>Glass vector created by Balintseby – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/fingerprint-investigation_789253.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Fantasy is a genre Lifetime rarely delves into. After seeing Sea Change, though, I think I know why the fantasy genre doesn’t often appear on Lifetime. Based on its synopsis, I thought Sea Change was going to be a “bonkers” picture. I even believed this could be my “so bad it’s good” movie. The movie itself is an average, weak imitation of Twilight. If you’ve seen or read that story, or any story similar to Twilight, you’ve already seen Sea Change. While there were aspects of the film I liked, I, honestly, can’t recommend it. One reason why is how so many questions are left unanswered. As I said in my review, the film’s ending is left open-ended. Since Sea Change seems to be a stand-alone story, this fact will only leave viewers frustrated. What made this movie disappointing, for me, was how unmemorable it was. Because Lifetime rarely creates projects in the fantasy genre, it’s a shame Sea Change didn’t stand out, for better or worse.

Overall score: 5.5 out of 10

Have you seen Sea Change? Did you ever come across a film synopsis that sounded so “bonkers”, you felt you had to check out the movie? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Worst Movies I Saw in 2022

My worst movies list of 2022 is different from that of the previous year. This time, I’ll be talking about more films that were “so bad they were bad”, as only three of these movies were disappointments. The Dishonorable Mentions portion of the list has also returned! Though I did see more good movies than bad, I couldn’t avoid coming across a “stinker” every now and then. I like to think I’ll, one day, see less than ten films for my annual worst list. But someday has not come this year, as the title of this article suggests. As I’ve stated in past lists, I did not write my list to be mean-spirited or negative. It’s just a way to express my own, honest opinion. Since some of these films have been reviewed on my blog, I will provide links to those reviews.

Dishonorable Mentions

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Vows We Have Made, A Place for Annie, Swim Instructor Nightmare, Nikki & Nora: Sister Sleuths, The Corsican Brothers (1985), and Donnie Brasco (I only watched forty minutes of the film before turning it off)

<a href=”http://<a href=’https://www.freepik.com/vectors/new-year’>New year vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>&quot; data-type=”URL” data-id=”<a href=’https://www.freepik.com/vectors/new-year’>New year vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com2022 Changing numbers image created by Freepik at freepik.com

10. The New Adventures of Heidi

In 2022, I was hoping to finally find my coveted “so bad, it’s good” movie. Sadly, The New Adventures of Heidi was not it. As I said in my review, this film is “spectacularly average”. The more I think about the 1978 made-for-tv movie, the less justifiable reasons I can think of for the project’s existence. Yes, The New Adventures of Heidi was intended as a “modern” re-telling of Johanna Spyri’s story. But the movie didn’t feel unique enough, despite all the changes. Every year I’ve participated in the So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, there has been a pattern between movies that turned out ok and movies that were just disappointing. Hopefully, in 2023, I can break this pattern.

Take 3: The New Adventures of Heidi Review

9. Love in Wolf Creek

When I first read the synopsis for Love in Wolf Creek, I was excited at the idea of a “cozier” story filled with adventure and excitement. The 2022 television film seemed better on paper than in practice. For a movie titled Love in Wolf Creek, there was very little romance in the story. The writing was weaker than I hoped, filled with scenarios that were too unrealistic for my liking. This project was too ambitious for INSP, the network who created the film. It was so disappointing, I didn’t bother watching its sequel, Christmas in Wolf Creek.

8. Harvey (1950)

I think the 1972 Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation of Harvey is better than its 1950 predecessor. While I’m aware how controversial my opinion is, the 1972 film had more success executing its intended points. A mistake the 1950 movie makes is trying to be a comedy and a drama. This decision led the comedy to not only be underutilized, but also showcased medical negligence in a way that didn’t sit well with me. “Magical realism” was lacking in the 1950 film. This took away any opportunity for the story to be charming and whimsical. When I reviewed Harvey back in January, it was the most disappointing movie I saw in 2022. Now, eleven months later, the 1950 picture still holds that title.

Take 3: Harvey (1950) Review

7. Journey

The 1995 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation made the same mistake Durango did: not giving the audience a reason to care about the characters and their story. In the case of Journey, the creative team failed to provide explanations for the characters’ choices. At the beginning of the film, the protagonist’s mother, Min, abandons her family, claiming she hates her parents. But the script never explains why she made this decision. Even when there are cut-away scenes featuring Min, she isn’t doing anything significant. How am I expected to care about Min’s choice affecting her family when I don’t even know why she left in the first place?

6. My Mom Made Me Do It

According to a synopsis I read for this 2022 Lifetime film, the protagonist, Jade, turns to stealing in order to help her mom pay the bills. Both the title and synopsis turned out to be a lie because 1) Jade’s decisions were made on her own and 2) Jade never steals anything. What she does instead is crash wealthy people’s parties and photographs their belongings. Other issues contained in this movie are weak lead performances and characters who make one dumb choice after another. I will admit there was at least one effective plot twist. But I wish it had taken place in a better film.

Harvey (1950) poster created by Universal Pictures

5. The Sundowners (1960)

For a little while, I thought The Sundowners was going to be the worst movie I saw this year. Even though I was proven wrong, the 1960 film has still remained in my top five. Like I said in my review, one of the worst things you can do as a film-maker is waste your audience’s time. The story felt longer than necessary, which made the movie two hours and thirteen minutes not well spent. One of my biggest issues with The Sundowners was its “bait and switch” ending. While I won’t go into detail about the ending, as I don’t want to spoil the film, I will say it was cruel for both the characters and the audience.

Take 3: The Sundowners (1960) Review

4. The North Avenue Irregulars

This movie attempts to answer the question; “Wouldn’t it be funny if a group of women came together to solve a mystery”? By the time The North Avenue Irregulars was released in 1979, that question made the film dated on arrival, as there were several television programs from the ‘70s featuring at least one female character solving mysteries or fighting crime. The movie’s creative team told too many types of stories, yet failed at all of them. One minute, the film felt like a precursor to the Mitford series, revolving around a preacher trying to live his best life. The next minute, the film turns into a gangster heist picture, paired with car chases that were longer than necessary. Honestly, I wish this movie was a Scooby Doo-esque story about the film’s fictional band, Strawberry Shortcake. Maybe then the movie would seem more timeless.

3. Lake Effects

For the first time in 18 Cinema Lane history, all the movies in my worst list’s top three are Hallmark productions. Accepting the bronze is the 2012 film, Lake Effects. This movie has so many Hallmark movie clichés, you could create a bingo game around them. You could also create a bingo game around the many storylines found in this script. Lake Effects is a production that relies on style over substance. While Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia was captured well on film, there’s only so much the movie’s creative team could do with the weak script at their disposal. In my review from August, I stated how the movie seemed forgotten over the years. Its poor quality makes it not worth remembering.

Take 3: Lake Effects Review

2. A Boyfriend for Christmas

In 2019 and 2020, a Hallmark Christmas movie ended up in the top three of my annual worst movies list. History is kind of repeating itself with A Boyfriend for Christmas in second place. Like Lake Effects, the 2004 film contained a weak script. But in A Boyfriend for Christmas, I only liked two minor parts of the story. The lack of Christmas magic made my movie viewing experience unenjoyable. It was one of those stories that became worse the longer I watched it. I know this movie is one of the most beloved titles in Hallmark’s cinematic library. Honestly, though, I found it over-rated.

Take 3: A Boyfriend for Christmas Review

1. Francesca Quinn, PI

Remember when I said one of the worst things a film-maker can do is waste their audience’s time? Well, another worst thing a film-maker can do is disrespect their audience’s intelligence. As I watched Francesca Quinn, PI, I was given the impression the film’s creative team didn’t want me to solve the mystery alongside the protagonist. That’s because Francesca explained things that didn’t need explaining. Despite Francesca being a professional private investigator, she constantly made decisions an amateur detective would likely make. Her lack of personality didn’t help either. According to IMDB, Francesca Quinn, PI could replace the Mystery 101 series. The reason is “the main characters’ relationship and the crime at the end of Deadly History are the same as the main characters’ relationship and crime in Francesca Quinn, PI”. If this is the case, the Mystery 101 fans, including myself, deserve so much better.

A Boyfriend for Christmas poster created by Hallmark Entertainment,  MAT IV,  Alpine Medien Productions, Larry Levinson Productions, Gaiam Entertainment, and Hallmark Channel 

Have fun in 2023.

Sally Silverscreen

Ten Classic Movies I Watched Because of My Blog

18 Cinema Lane is almost five years old. In that time, I have reviewed many films; from the blockbuster to the underrated and everything in between. Sometimes, I had the opportunity to talk about “classic” films. These opportunities were formal introductions to these titles. This list highlights some of the “classic” movies I watched because of my blog. Whether it was a blogathon entry or a Blog Follower Dedication Review, I’m thankful I was able to see these films. That way, I can now have an honest opinion about them. Since I have reviewed all the films on my list, I will provide links in this article. I will also be sharing my thoughts on these films, so anything I say is not meant to be mean-spirited or negative.

The Discovering Classic Cinema Blogathon banner created by Maddy from Classic Film and TV Corner

The Bridge on the River Kwai

The Bridge on the River Kwai poster created by Horizon Pictures and Columbia Pictures

Starting this list is the most recent “classic” I reviewed. I chose to write about The Bridge on the River Kwai for The 5th Golden Boy Blogathon, where I was the only participant to select it. This movie made me question why some movies do or don’t end up on AFI’s list of The 100 Greatest American Movies Of All Time. Until I watched The Bridge on the River Kwai, I believed these titles met one of two criteria: those that represent the time they were released and those that brought something new to the cinematic table. With the 1957 film, I still haven’t figured out why it’s on the list. I am not saying this is a bad movie. But, at best, I thought it was just fine.

Take 3: The Bridge on the River Kwai Review

A Star Is Born (1937)

A Star Is Born (1937) poster created by Selznick International Pictures and United Artists

Before participating in the Fredric March Blogathon, I didn’t have an interest in watching any version of A Star Is Born. Because this story has been remade on more than one occasion, I thought each version was going to share a recycled plot, with little variation among them. As of this list’s publication, I’ve only seen the 1937 original. However, I was surprised by how impressive the movie was! Fredric March’s performance was so strong, not just among the Breen Code era films I’ve seen, but among any movie I have seen. He worked well alongside Janet Gaynor, sharing really good banter between each other. A Star Is Born made me want to actively seek out more films from Fredric’s filmography!

Take 3: A Star Is Born (1937) Review

Funny Face

Funny Face poster created by Paramount Pictures.

As Fred Astaire famously said, “Do it big, do it right, and do it with style”. When it comes to his movie, Funny Face, that’s exactly what happened. This is a pleasant looking production! I remember loving the use of color, as pops of color were placed in scenes with a primarily plain color palette. The musical numbers were also entertaining to watch, with creative ideas woven through them. Though I haven’t seen many of Audrey Hepburn’s films, Funny Face is one of her projects I like. She appeared to be enjoying whatever she was doing, whether it was dancing in the “Basal Metabolism” number or portraying Jo traveling to Paris. Then again, Audrey did famously say “I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls”.

Take 3: Funny Face Review (Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly Blogathon Part 2)

All About Eve

All About Eve poster created by 20th Century Fox. Image found at https://www.foxmovies.com/movies/all-about-eve.

As the last movie I reviewed for 2019’s Clean Movie Month, All About Eve is a film I thought was just fine. A peek behind the theater world’s curtain was refreshing, providing the story with interesting perspectives. The use of voice-overs not only allowed the audience to witness Eve develop as an individual, but connect with the other characters as well. However, I found the title to be misleading, as the story was led by Margo. As I said in my review, the film would be called “Mostly About Margo” or “Sometimes About Eve” if given an honest title.

Take 3: All About Eve Review (Clean Movie Month — #5)

Nosferatu

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

The same year I reviewed All About Eve, I also wrote about Nosferatu. My review of the 1922 “classic” was for 2019’s A Month Without the Code. I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to see Nosferatu, as the film was not only created under strict copyright rules, but has also been preserved over time. This film serves as a stone in cinema’s foundation, showcasing elements still found in today’s movies, such as using music to elevate the story’s tone. I don’t often talk about horror films on 18 Cinema Lane. But out of the ones I have reviewed, Nosferatu is definitely one of the better titles!

Take 3: Nosferatu Review (A Month Without the Code — #1)

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird poster created by Brentwood Productions, Pakula-Mulligan, and Universal Pictures. Image found at commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:To_Kill_a_Mockingbird_(1963_US_theatrical_poster).jpg

Like I recently said in my list, ‘The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2022’, there are few movies I found better than their source material. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those films! I like this adaptation because the script gets straight to the point sooner than the book did. It also places more emphasis on the trial, the part of the book I found the most interesting. The visual nature of film elevated the suspenseful moments from the original story, presenting realistic situations with an intensified level of uncertainty. This is one of those times where I would suggest skipping the book and going straight to the film.

Take 3: To Kill a Mockingbird Review

Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane poster created by Mercury Productions and RKO Radio Pictures. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/89/Citizen-Kane/#.

In my opinion, Citizen Kane is an over-hyped movie. I know that’s a controversial opinion. But when I reviewed the movie in 2019, I didn’t find it the flawless masterpiece others have made it out to be. For starters, I don’t think the film needed an hour and fifty-nine-minute run-time. I also found it difficult to connect with the characters. Despite my view on Citizen Kane, I don’t think it’s a bad movie. If anything, I thought it was decent. But like I said with The Bridge on the River Kwai, I wonder why Citizen Kane is number one on AFI’s list of The 100 Greatest American Movies Of All Time?

Take 3: Citizen Kane Review (Clean Movie Month — #2)

Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia poster created by Columbia Pictures. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/4455/Lawrence-of-Arabia/#

This is another “classic” I feel is over-hyped. However, the over-hyped status of Lawrence of Arabia is not to the same degree as Citizen Kane, in my opinion. The 1962 film is one of the most iconic “sword and sandal” titles. But beyond this simplified distinction is a World War I story from a unique perspective. Reviewing Lawrence of Arabia for The World War One On Film Blogathon was not my first choice. I had actually planned to review a different movie, which ended up being released on DVD after the blogathon took place. This last-minute decision was a blessing in disguise, as it gave me an excuse to check out Lawrence of Arabia!

Take 3: Lawrence of Arabia Review

Ben-Hur (1959)

Ben-Hur (1959) poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s, Inc. Image found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ben_hur_1959_poster.jpg

When I chose to watch this movie for a Blog Follower Dedication Review, I had no idea how much I would love it! I remember being so invested in Judah’s journey, I wasn’t too bothered by the film’s three-hour run-time. This is another iconic “sword and sandal” picture. But only referring to this film by that simplified title does it such a disservice. That’s because the movie is, in my opinion, one of the better faith-based films! I’ve heard 1959’s Ben-Hur is a remake of a film from the ’20s. Maybe that version will be covered in a future review!

Take 3: Ben-Hur (1959) Review + 60 Follower Thank You

Meet Me in St. Louis

Meet Me in St. Louis poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s, Inc. Image found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Meet_Me_in_St._Louis_poster.jpg

The Breen Code era gave us some good musicals. Meet Me in St. Louis is no exception! A musical is only as strong as its musical numbers. In the 1944 film, there was an assortment of enjoyable songs. From Judy’s iconic rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to my favorite, “Under the Bamboo Tree”, this part of the story added to my movie viewing experience. While the film does have its flaws, it is a pleasant production. If I were introducing someone to the Breen Code era, Meet Me in St. Louis is a film I would recommend!

Take 3: Meet Me in St. Louis Review + 75 Follower Thank You

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2022

As the sun begins to set on 2022, it’s time to publish my best and worst movies of the year lists! Last year, every film on my best list had been reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane. But that’s not the case this time around. For this list, only two movies were not reviewed, while another movie served as an editorial subject. Any film I covered on my blog will have a link included in this post. I’m thankful another year was filled with more good movies than bad. I’ll even have more titles in my Honorable Mentions! While these lists have become great traditions on their own, the variety of this collection of films has become another tradition. So, without any delay, let’s begin the list of the best movies I saw in 2022!

Honorable Mentions

Cut, Color, Murder, Sailor Moon S: The Movie, Cyrano de Bergerac (1950), Children of a Lesser God, Sweet Revenge: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Honeymoon, Honeymurder, The Princess and the Pirate, Dirty Little Secret, Singin in the Rain, McBride: Tune in for Murder, McBride: Dogged, McBride: Requiem, Hugo, Akeelah and the Bee, The Shoplifting Pact, and Secrets at the Inn

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10. Fiddler on the Roof

When I reviewed the 1971 musical back in February, I said it was too early to say whether it would be one of the best movies I saw this year. But Fiddler on the Roof captivated me so much, the film ended up on my annual top ten list! I described the movie as a well-made quilt, with each of the film’s strengths representing a different quilt piece. The inclusion of Jewish faith/culture also gave the project a unique identity by asking questions and discussing topics that aren’t often found in musicals. Looking back on this movie, Fiddler on the Roof was three hours well spent. It’s a special project in both the world of musicals and cinema. I hope to check out more Jewish cinematic stories in 2023!

Take 3: Fiddler on the Roof Review

9. The Lost Empire/The Monkey King

Out of all the movies on my best list for 2022, The Lost Empire/The Monkey King is the most unique one! A fantasy film based on Chinese folklore, this was an imaginative production I enjoyed watching. The story was sometimes thought-provoking and even somewhat educational, as it included literature related discussions. Strong acting performances brought to life characters who seemed believable. The set designs boasted a realistic and fantastical setting, which effectively presented the illusion of an immersive world. I wish Hallmark created more movies like The Lost Empire/The Monkey King, where the stories and ideas are more creative. With the network prioritizing rom-coms and dramas, though, I don’t know what their decisions will be in the new year.

Take 3: The Lost Empire/The Monkey King Review

8. Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Haunted by Murder

Talking about this movie is bittersweet, as it is the last film in the Aurora Teagarden series. I’ve thought about all the moments the fans will never get to see, such as Aurora and Nick’s first Christmas, Phillip’s college graduation, and Sally falling in love. But if this is where the story must end, at least it ended on a strong note. The realistic and supernatural elements of the story complimented each other nicely. Supernatural elements being incorporated at all gave this chapter a more creative approach to the series. It was nice to spend time with Lawrenceton’s favorite residents; the acting performances and on-screen camaraderie remaining consistent. Even though I would have loved to see the Aurora Teagarden series continue for many more years, I know nothing lasts forever. But as the saying goes “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened”.

7. Redwood Curtain

There are very few movies I found better than their source material. Redwood Curtain just so happens to be one of them! The creative team behind the Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation took advantage of the expansive nature of film by providing the story with more locations. Allowing characters like Julia and Laird to appear in the movie showcase the Riordan family dynamic not present in the play. I found Geri more likable as a character in the movie. Lea’s performance paired with the screenwriting gave Geri an empathetic and understanding personality. Redwood Curtain is a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation I wish was re-released on DVD.

‘Redwood Curtain’: From Stage to Screen

6. The Pit and the Pendulum

The Pit and the Pendulum was one of the biggest pleasant surprises of 2022! Despite the film not being my first choice for its respective blogathon, I thought it was engaging and entertaining. Vincent’s performance didn’t disappoint, as his portrayal of Nicholas was versatile and fueled on emotion. The mystery not only started right away, but it also allowed the audience to experience the journey alongside Francis, the main character. The Pit and the Pendulum is, to me, one of the more effective horror movies, like 1962’s Cape Fear. While this film would be a perfect choice to watch on Halloween, I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it around Vincent’s birthday!

Take 3: The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) Review

Redwood Curtain poster created by Chris/Rose Productions, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, American Broadcasting Company (ABC), and Republic Pictures (II)

5. The Song of Bernadette

And another film of Vincent’s joins my list! Faith based films come in two forms; those that emphasize a message and those that emphasize a story. The Song of Bernadette falls into the latter category, as it revolves around religious phenomena affecting a small town. What I like about the 1943 film is how different perspectives relating to the phenomena are explored, highlighting how various members of the town view the events unfolding. The story doesn’t choose sides on the main topic, allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions about what is taking place in the movie. Even though The Song of Bernadette was released during the Breen Code era, the film is a good representation of the quality from that period in cinema. As I said in my review, Easter would be an appropriate time to watch the movie!

Take 3: The Song of Bernadette Review

4. Heaven Is for Real

Heaven Is for Real shares a major similarity with The Song of Bernadette. The 2014 film also revolves around religious phenomena affecting a small town. But what Heaven Is for Real does differently is encourage the audience to have a conversation about their beliefs on Heaven. Like I previously stated, faith based films come in two forms; those that emphasize a message and those that emphasize a story. However, I’ve rarely seen a movie of this nature start a discussion about one of their themes. This creative decision brings something new to the table and gives Heaven Is for Real a unique identity.

3. Words on Bathroom Walls

It seems like I’ve been talking about this title for as long as my blog has been around. But I’m glad I finally got the chance to see Words on Bathroom Walls this year, as it was such a good adaptation! There were changes between text and film. Despite that, the adaptation was, for the most part, respectful to its source material. The visual presentation of the story gave the audience a glimpse inside Adam’s mind. Interactions between the characters were believable, thanks to the actors’ performances and screenwriting. As I mentioned in my review a month ago, the adaptation for Words on Bathroom Walls seems more underrated. Based on the response my review received, my statement may be wrong.

Take 3: Words on Bathroom Walls Review

2. Top Gun: Maverick

I’m going to be honest; I had low expectations for Top Gun: Maverick. That’s because sequels released over ten years after their predecessor can be hit or miss. Top Gun: Maverick ended up surpassing my expectations, making it in the top three of my best of the year list! From what I know about Top Gun, the sequel respected what came before it. At the same time, new elements were added to the story, like focusing on an overarching mission. In a cinematic landscape where a film receiving over a billion dollars has become a rarity, Top Gun: Maverick achieved what some studios only dream of. As the 2020s move forward, maybe more filmmakers will turn to this film as an example of what can be cinematically possible.

Take 3: Top Gun: Maverick Review + 450 Follower Thank You

1. A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love

When it comes to “Godwink” stories, I prefer those that focus on a conflict. While that is the case for A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love, I found the overall production impressive! The interactions among the characters, as well as each volunteer’s talent being showcased, provided a nice amount of character development. Christmas activities were incorporated in more unique ways, such as the Romero family’s gift exchange. The inclusion of Advent was a newer approach to the Christmas movie genre. I don’t know what’s in store for the Godwink series. But I’d love to see more adaptations of these stories!

Take 3: A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love Review

A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love poster created by Crown Media Productions and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Have fun in 2023!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Alex: The Life of a Child Review

‘Films About Doctors, Nurses and Hospitals’. That’s the theme of this month’s Genre Grandeur. There were several titles I could have selected to write about. But after re-reading my list of the top ten films I’d love to review, I decided to take a different approach for November’s event. When I published the aforementioned list in June, I talked about the 1986 made-for-TV movie, Alex: The Life of a Child. The film is based on Frank Deford’s book of the same name, which recounts the life of his daughter, Alex. Because of her Cystic Fibrosis diagnosis, Alex spent a significant amount of time interacting with doctors and nurses, as well as spending time in the hospital. Therefore, I thought Alex: The Life of a Child was an appropriate title to review for November’s Genre Grandeur!

Alex: The Life of a Child title card created by Mandy Films and American Broadcasting Company (ABC). Image found on the Youtube channel, JPG Highlands Vlog.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When you have a story that primarily focuses on a younger character/person, you need to recruit a younger actor or actress who has the talent to carry that film on their shoulders. In the case of Gennie James’ portrayal of Alex Deford, her performance highlights the idea of children being smarter than they sometimes receive credit for. Toward the end of the film, Alex asks her doctor whether she’s going to die. Her tone of voice is matter-of-fact, containing a sense of understanding for what’s going on. Alex’s doctor, Dr. Tom Dolan, tries his best to be as honest as possible, while also sugar-coating the news just enough to keep it bearable. Alex then tells Tom, “Ok, I think you better go now”, empathy felt in her voice. However, this empathy was for Tom, as Alex knew how difficult her passing would be for him.

Danny Corkill portrays Alex’s brother, Christian Deford. Even though he appeared in only a handful of scenes, Danny’s performance was a strong one! After receiving the news his family will be adopting a child, Christian goes to his room. In there, he listens to a series of recordings Frank created while Alex was still alive. Throughout this scene, Danny consistently carries a long look on his face. His eyes stare off into the distance, searching for the one person who won’t come back home. Those eyes are paired with a frown and a sad tone in his voice. This scene alone showcases how difficult a family member’s passing can be on a child, especially if that family member is their younger sibling.

Alex and Christian’s mother is portrayed by Bonnie Bedelia. What I liked about her performance was how expressive it was. Shortly after receiving the news about Alex’s diagnosis, Frank and Carole are worried about their daughter’s outcome. During her conversation with Frank, Carole’s eyes are filled with sadness and fear. A deep sense of concern is in Carole’s voice, as she and Frank wonder how much longer Alex will live. That scene displays a portrayal that feels believable, thanks in part to Bonnie’s strong acting abilities!

Respect toward the source material: As I mentioned in the introduction, Alex: The Life of a Child is based on a book written by Alex’s father, Frank. In my list of the top ten movies I’d love to review, I said I had read this book. Even though it’s been years since I read Frank’s novel, there were parts of the story I recognized from the text. One of them was the Deford family’s recording for their answering machine. In both the book and movie, the Deford family creates a funny recording for their answering machine, where they pretend to be in the shower while the phone is ringing. They record the message in the bathroom, leaving the faucet running and singing songs. This moment served as a hilarious moment in Alex’s life, stressing how Alex attempted to seek out the bright spots in her world, despite the severity of her illness.

Addressing the subject of patient advocacy: During one of her hospital stays, Alex’s lung collapses. She not only is in pain, she recognizes where the pain is coming from. When she tells a doctor what is happening, the doctor doesn’t believe her. But when Alex told a nurse she couldn’t breathe, Alex’s concerns were addressed. The subject of patient advocacy, especially for younger patients, is one that has received more acknowledgment in recent years. Alex’s story took place in the 1970s, with the film released in 1986. Therefore, this scene’s inclusion feels ahead of its time. It can also show viewers, including younger viewers, that you should stand up for yourself, even in a medical setting.

A screenshot of my copy of Alex: The Life of a Child. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The adoption subplot: Throughout the film, Frank and Carole Deford plan on adopting a child. This decision comes after the death of their daughter, Alex. In real life, the Deford family did adopt their youngest daughter, Scarlet. But this information was not included in the film’s source material, which was published in 1983. Scarlet’s adoption was addressed when Frank’s book was re-released in 1997, a decade after the film premiered. Because a good amount of the movie focused on this subplot, it took away focus from Alex’s part of the story, even though the film is titled Alex: The Life of a Child.

No acknowledgment for the Deford family’s involvement with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: According to Frank Deford’s bio on Goodreads, “he became involved in cystic fibrosis education and advocacy after his daughter, Alexandra (“Alex”) was diagnosed with the illness in the early 1970s”. Frank even became a chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Unfortunately, none of this information is included in the film. In fact, the aforementioned foundation is never brought up. I know there’s only so much story you can tell in an hour and thirty-three minutes. However, I wish this part of the story was included in a subplot instead of the adoption subplot.

Unclear time period: Similar to the book, the movie is told from Frank’s perspective, as he recalls Alex’s short life. Because of the visual nature of film, the audience witnesses some of these moments brought to life. But since the presentation of the “past” scenes doesn’t look much different from the “present” scenes, it was sometimes difficult to determine what part of the story was being told. For the sake of the film, I think the story should have been told in chronological order.

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My overall impression:

Back in April, I reviewed Brian’s Song. In that review, I said I wasn’t as emotionally affected by the movie as I thought I would be. This is because I was familiar with Brian and Gale’s story before watching the film, which prevented me from becoming caught off-guard by the emotional, sadder moments in the story. I ended up having a similar experience while watching Alex: The Life of a Child. As I mentioned in this review, I have read the source material prior to seeing its adaptation. Therefore, I already knew how Alex’s story would play out. From what I remember of the book, I do feel the film was respectful to Frank’s text. I also think the strong acting performances worked in the movie’s favor. Alex: The Life of a Child is a fine, competently made television film. But if you’ve read the book, you’ve already seen the movie.

Overall score: 7.1-7.2 out of 10

Have you seen or read Alex: The Life of a Child? Is there a “based on a true story” movie you’re a fan of? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Top Ten Characters Who Didn’t Reach Their Full Potential

For my World Television Day Blogathon, I was originally going to review one of the books in the Murder, She Wrote series. But with the recent passing of Angela Lansbury, I thought it would be a bit too soon. Therefore, I decided to write about the top ten characters who didn’t reach their full potential instead. What does it mean for a character to reach their “full potential”? In my opinion, it means a character is given the opportunity to reach their goals, make their dreams come true, and allow their stories to be told to a satisfying extent. Unfortunately, some characters are denied these opportunities for various reasons. This list will address the characters I wish had received their full potential. For the sake of this discussion, I will focus on characters who appeared in television shows or made-for-tv movies. While there are some characters I have talked about before, I tried to include those I never talked about on 18 Cinema Lane. There will also be spoilers for the television shows and movies discussed in this list.

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1. Matthew Rogers from Little House on the Prairie

Yes, I’m starting this list with a character I’ve written part of an editorial about. However, I feel there’s an argument to be made for Matthew not reaching his full potential. On Little House on the Prairie, he was introduced in the show’s last season. Within that season, Matthew only appeared in a total of three episodes, departing in the series finale. This left him with little to no time to reach his full potential. Meanwhile, characters such as Albert Ingalls, Willie Oleson, and even Nancy Oleson had their potential recognized because they were introduced in earlier seasons. Had Matthew made his debut in, say, season seven, his chances to reach his full potential may have been stronger.

2. Jamey Farrell from 24

24 was released during a very interesting time. It was almost ten years after the premiere of Jurassic Park, a film that showed Dr. Ian Malcolm breaking the mold of a “geek/nerd”. But 24 was also released almost ten years prior to Iron Man, when the idea of the “cool geek/nerd” would be fully embraced by the media. Before Robert Downey Jr. accepted the role of Tony Stark/Iron Man, Karina Arroyave portrayed Jamey on 24. A beautiful, intelligent, and charismatic woman, Jamey had the potential to be the Dr. Ian Malcolm of the show. In fact, I think if the show’s writers had allowed her to reach her full potential, Jamey could have been the reason why the media embraced the “cool geek/nerd” idea a lot sooner than they did. As the events of 24’s first season unfolded, though, Jamey’s sparkling personality became watered down and her unique attire morphed into looking just like every other employee. Becoming a villain and dying after appearing in ten episodes ended all chances of Jamey reaching her full potential.

3. Jiggy Nye from Felicity: An American Girl Adventure

Another character I’ve written an editorial about joins this list. In the 2005 made-for-tv film, Jiggy was presented more as a victim than a villain. This is because he didn’t come across as a big enough threat to the protagonist. It also doesn’t help how Jiggy’s backstory was poorly incorporated into the script. Felicity: An American Girl Adventure is based on a six-book series. Like any adaptation, changes were made between books and film. When it comes to Jiggy’s part of the story, though, it seems like he received the short end of the stick. From a writing perspective, he deserved so much better.

4. Libby from Lost

Out of all the characters from Lost to not receive their full potential, especially those from season two, Libby is the one you can make the strongest argument for. Introduced as one of the “Tailies”, there was so much mystery and intrigue surrounding her and her story. When Libby and Hurley started a romantic relationship, things seemed to be going well with her character development. Sadly, Libby’s story was short-lived, as she died toward the end of the second season. Because of her departure, none of the mysteries surrounding her were ever addressed. Libby never even received any flashbacks.

5. Amédée Chevalier from Hallmark Hall of Fame’s O Pioneers!

I first mentioned Amédée in my review of the 1992 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation. In his limited appearance in the movie, he had so much potential. From his athleticism to his charisma, Amédée could go anywhere and be anyone he wanted. Sadly, his story was cut short due to dying off-screen of appendicitis. From the information I’ve found about Amédée, he only made three appearances in the book. This makes me wonder if his full potential was always meant to be denied?

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6. Captain Lynch and Judy from Crusoe

Long before 18 Cinema Lane existed, there was a television adaptation called Crusoe. In the season premiere, Captain Lynch and Judy arrived on Robinson’s island. Similar to Libby from Lost, Judy and Captain Lynch were surrounded in mystery and intrigue. But toward the end of the season premiere, these characters departed from the show. While Captain Lynch died, Judy was taken away by the Royal Naval Police, never to be seen again. It also didn’t help how Crusoe survived for only one season.

7. Barry Klemper from Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Boys Next Door

I always thought there was an argument to be made for Barry Klemper’s full potential in the 1996 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation. A photogenic and articulate man, Barry had a passion for golf, which he kept alive at his job at a driving range. Had he received a more one-on-one, individualized approach to his care, I honestly think Barry could have lived a, somewhat, independent life. But all that momentum Barry had was destroyed when his father showed up and intimidated him. This interaction caused Barry to spend the remainder of the story in a psychiatric hospital. The Boys Next Door is based on a play that I have not read or seen in its entirety, so I’m not sure how respectful the adaptation is to its source material. All I know is Barry Klemper not reaching his full potential is, in my opinion, heart-breaking.

8. Moon from Cedar Cove

The proprietor of Moon’s Café, Moon is one of the most important characters of the 2013 Hallmark Channel show. Along with coffee and baked goods, Moon serves up wisdom to those who will provide a listening ear. I even recall one episode where he claimed he was adopted. This tidbit could have opened the doors to a compelling story for Moon. But during Cedar Cove’s three season run, Moon, more often than not, was overshadowed by the other characters and their stories. Since the show ended in 2015, there have been no announced plans to release a Cedar Cove movie or reunion special. Hallmark’s lack of interest in revisiting their first scripted show leaves Moon with no more chances to reach his full potential.

9. Harris Trinsky from Freaks and Geeks

After watching some episodes of Freaks and Geeks, Harris has become my favorite character from the show. His “wise beyond his years” perspective make him a character the “geeks” can trust and others can respect. Harris also had a lot going for him, from his intelligence to his interest in Dungeons & Dragons. Unfortunately, Freaks and Geeks lasted for only one season. The fact Harris was a recurring character didn’t help his case either, as he appeared in ten of the show’s eighteen episodes.

10. Jesse and Clara from When Calls the Heart

When I was creating this list, I, at first, didn’t think there were any characters from When Calls the Heart who didn’t reach their full potential. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized Jesse and Clara fit my list’s criteria. Clara came to Hope Valley in season two, still healing from a broken heart. Season three saw the arrival of Jesse, seeking a second chance after living a life of crime. When Clara and Jesse became a couple, they had their whole lives and relationship ahead of them. But the longer they stayed on the show, the more overshadowed they became. Jesse and Clara were given few good stories during their time on When Calls the Heart. They were also denied the outdoor wedding of their dreams. Clara and Jesse were written out of the show after season seven.

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Have fun on television!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Words on Bathroom Walls Review

Rebecca from Taking Up Room has great blogathon ideas, hence why these events are so fun to participate in! The latest event, The Fake Teenager Festivus Blogathon, is no exception. For this blogathon, participants are asked to pick a movie or show featuring young adults, older teenagers, or older adults who have portrayed teenagers. As soon as I read the blogathon rules, I immediately thought of Charlie Plummer’s portrayal of Adam in Words on Bathroom Walls. Charlie was born in 1999, which means by the time of the film’s release in 2020, he was 21 years old. Words on Bathroom Walls is about a high school senior with Schizophrenia. I first started talking about this film in 2019, when I mentioned it in my Book Adaptation Tag post. In my Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish List that year, I wished the film would receive a distributor, a studio that would release the movie. When the film received a distributor and release date the following year, I meant to get around to watching the movie. With Rebecca’s blogathon, I have an excuse to finally review Words on Bathroom Walls!

Words on Bathroom Walls poster created by LD Entertainment, Kick the Habit Productions, and Roadside Attractions

Things I liked about the film:

Interactions between characters: When it comes to interactions among characters, they are only as good as the actors and actresses portraying those characters. In the Words on Bathroom Walls adaptation, the cast was strong, which allowed their characters’ interactions to appear believable! The interactions between Adam and Maya serve as one example. Adam’s friend, Maya, comes over to his house to tutor him. When she enters Adam’s room, Maya discovers his collection of cookbooks. This leads to a verbal match, both Adam and Maya sharing their greatest achievements in good fun. Throughout the film, Charlie Plummer portrays Adam with a laid-back personality. Taylor Russell brings to life Maya’s studiousness, direct, and confident demeanor. Their interactions showcase how Adam’s and Maya’s personality are compatible, despite the fact they are the opposite of one another.

Seeing what’s in Adam’s mind: In the Words on Bathroom Walls book, Adam goes into detail how his Schizophrenia diagnosis impacts him and his world. His honesty about his diagnosis gives the story a sense of realism. But with Words on Bathroom Walls being adapted into a movie, the story gained the opportunity to visually present what goes on in Adam’s mind. At various moments of the story, Adam sees three people, who are his hallucinations. When he starts a new medication, these hallucinations begin to disappear. But the way their disappearance happens on screen looks like a technological glitch, a slow and steady process instead of instantaneous. This not only gave the audience something interesting to look at, it allowed them to gain some understanding into Adam’s experiences.

Breaking the fourth wall: Adam’s story in the Words on Bathroom Walls book is presented through the notes of a therapist. This literary approach made the story feel like Adam was speaking directly with the reader, as if he was having a private conversation with them. Adam’s therapy sessions are included in the adaptation. Because these sessions are only shown in certain parts of the film, they give Adam the opportunity to break the fourth wall. These moments still contain the honesty, emotion, and even humor I came to like about the book. The fourth wall being broken felt reminiscent of the book’s direct storytelling. This translation between adaptation and source material worked in the story’s favor!

The Fake Teenager Festivus Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room

What I didn’t like about the film:

Father Patrick’s inconsistent presence: Father Patrick is a movie exclusive character in Words on Bathroom Walls. He serves as a mentor figure to Adam, giving him advice and words of wisdom. I liked this dynamic between these characters, as there were no mentor figures at St. Agatha’s Catholic School in the book. However, Father Patrick only appeared in about four scenes total. I wish he had appeared in some more scenes, especially since the character himself was so well written and acted.

Adam’s limited perspective on Catholicism: One of the best parts of the Words on Bathroom Walls book was Adam’s perspective on Catholicism. In the story, Adam attends St. Agatha’s Catholic School, despite his decision to not adopt the religion. Reading Adam’s thoughts on Catholicism provided an insight that isn’t often included in stories featuring religious affiliated schools. In the adaptation, Adam’s perspective on Catholicism was featured. But its inclusion was so limited, it was watered down, compared to the book.

Toned down humor: What makes Adam such a likable character in Words on Bathroom Walls is his sense of humor. Julia Walton, the author of the book, gives the protagonist a drier sense of humor that contains a hint of sarcasm. However, Adam’s sense of humor was never depicted as mean-spirited or disrespectful. What Julia also does is provide a good balance between a humorous and serious tone. The adaptation prioritizes the story’s serious tone instead of trying to achieve the aforementioned balance. I know that mental illness/Schizophrenia is a topic that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But I think that balance between seriousness and humor was better executed in the book.

Since I’m finally reviewing Words on Bathroom Walls, featuring a screenshot of the book cover is in order! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

No matter how good or bad an adaptation is, there are bound to be changes between text and visual piece of entertainment. Words on Bathroom Walls is no exception to this, as I noticed several changes among both media. But despite these changes, the Words on Bathroom Walls adaptation was, more often than not, respectful to its source material. This is one of the reasons why I liked this film! The strength of the cast’s acting abilities worked in the movie’s favor. It allowed believable interactions between the characters. Interesting film-making techniques were incorporated into the project, such as the special effects. This enhanced the visual presentation of what goes on in Adam’s mind. Looking back on this movie, it seems like it is one of the more underrated adaptations. Why that is, I have no idea.

Overall score: 8.3 out of 10

Have you seen or read Words on Bathroom Walls? Are there any adaptations you’d like me to see and/or read? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Welcome to the World Television Day Blogathon!

The day you’ve been waiting for is finally here; the World Television Day Blogathon! Since the dawn of television, this particular medium has become a staple in popular culture. Through this lens, history has been recorded and memories have been made, giving people a way to look back on the past. Television’s broad landscape has provided something for everyone, from cozy mystery shows to beloved musical competitions. In this blogathon, various television related topics will be showcased. Each entry highlights different decades, made-for-tv movies, and shows, illustrating the importance of World Television Day!

Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express

18 Cinema Lane — Four Reasons Why ‘The Flamingo Rising’s Adaptation is Different from its Book, Top Ten Characters Who Didn’t Reach Their Full Potential

The Stop Button — THE JERICHO MILE (1979, MICHAEL MANN)

Taking Up Room — My Top Twelve “Gilmore Girls” Episodes

Four Reasons Why ‘The Flamingo Rising’s Adaptation is Different from its Book

When we talk about book-to-film adaptations, we are quick to point out how both pieces of media are different. Some of these differences can lead to insightful conversations between the fans and the casual audience. Other differences can cause a negative reaction, from readers walking out of the theater mid-film to Youtube videos showcasing fans’ rants and complaints. But one topic I haven’t heard addressed is why these changes between book and film likely happened. This topic can be applied to any adaptation. For the sake of my editorial, though, I’m writing about Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Flamingo Rising. Back in June, I published a list of the top ten movies I’d love to, one day, review. The 2001 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie was on that list. Because I own a copy of Larry Baker’s novel, I thought it would be interesting to read the book after I saw the movie. Now that I’ve consumed both pieces of media, I have gained an understanding for why Hallmark likely made the changes they did. There are four main reasons why The Flamingo Rising’s book is different from its adaptation, which will be explored in this editorial. This article contains spoilers for the story of The Flamingo Rising.

Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express

The Run-Time

Abraham Isaac Lee is the protagonist of The Flamingo Rising. In Larry Baker’s novel, Abraham takes a biographical approach to telling the story, reflecting on various moments that occurred in his life. He even goes into detail about the history of his parents and Grace’s parents. According to IMDB, Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Flamingo Rising has an hour and thirty-four-minute run-time. As I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, that run-time gives a film’s creative team only so much time to tell a story. Hallmark Hall of Fame’s adaptation of The Flamingo Rising condensed the events in Abraham’s and his family’s life. The book explains how Hubert, Abraham’s father, purchased the land for The Flamingo Drive-In before Abraham and his sister, Louise, were adopted. While Hubert was a soldier in the Korean War, he sent building plans and business ideas to his wife, Edna, who was put in charge of putting those plans into fruition. The purchase of the land and creation of The Flamingo Drive-In, in the movie, took place long after Hubert left the military and in a shorter amount of time. Both Abraham and Louise are teenagers for the majority of the movie, with only one flashback showing the siblings as babies.

There are many characters in The Flamingo Rising. While reflecting on his life, Abraham takes the time to explain who each person in his life is, as well as giving these people a significant presence in the story. Most of these characters were present in The Flamingo Rising movie. But because the film’s run-time is an hour and thirty-four-minutes, their parts of the story were reduced. Abraham’s sister, Louise, is one of these characters. The book reveals Louise grew up to become an actress, as Abraham claims she had the talent for it. In one scene, Louise expresses interest in flying in Harry “Judge” Lester’s plane. This interest was sparked by a promise Hubert made to his children. The movie’s script, however, never addresses why Louise wants to fly with “Judge”. In fact, the audience never sees her flying in “Judge’s” plane. When it comes to Louise’s acting, it was only mentioned once throughout the movie. During a conversation between Abraham and his friend, Gary, Abraham mentions how his sister wants to be an actress someday.

Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Flamingo Rising VHS cover created by Hallmark Entertainment, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, McGee Street Productions, CBS, and Artisan Entertainment 

The Budget

From what I’ve heard over the years, a typical made-for-TV movie costs somewhere between one to three million dollars. While that sounds like a lot of money to the average movie blogger, that amount is actually on the lower end of the financial spectrum, when it comes to making movies. If the aforementioned millions were the budget for Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Flamingo Rising, it would explain why some parts of the source material were cut from the movie. In the book, Abraham shares his family had a temperamental dog named Frank. This dog was so unstable, he not only bit Louise, he was forced to live in an empty room above Abraham’s room, due to the dog’s behavior. In the film, however, Frank the dog is nowhere to be seen and is never acknowledged by any of the characters. If a movie’s creative team chooses to include an animal in their production, the training, veterinary care, and other related expenses will need to be factored into the overall budget. Working with an animal trainer also requires time, something the creative team behind The Flamingo Rising only had so much to spend. Therefore, the inclusion of Frank the dog was an expense the adaptation’s creative team likely thought was unnecessary.

Location scouting is a film-making component also affected by a creative team’s budget. Like I said in my editorial, ‘Redwood Curtain’: From Stage to Screen, a location scout might not be able to secure a location similar to one described in the source material. Even if they succeeded, there’s a process in order to film at a residential building, especially if it’s someone’s real-life home. This process, along with the budget, is the probable reason why the funeral home has a different appearance in the movie than described in the book. Larry Baker’s novel gives the West Funeral Home the look of a “Southern plantation style house”, complete with white columns and Jeffersonian arches. The Home also contains a garage full of hearses and limousines. The Flamingo Rising’s adaptation gives the funeral home a different exterior. Referred to as the Knight Funeral Home in the movie, the facility boasts a bungalow style in a dark green hue. The Home’s garage is not shown on-screen. However, the Home itself does feature a full-sized porch. The funeral home’s interior has more appearances in the book than in the movie. In fact, the only time the Lee family enter the Knight Funeral Home is shortly after Edna dies. For those two scenes, the creative team may have filmed them on a set, away from the building that portrayed the funeral home.

Image of The Flamingo Rising by Larry Baker found on Goodreads

Appropriateness of Content

For many years, Hallmark garnered a reputation for presenting themselves as a “family-friendly” company. This has been reflected in their programming, including their Hallmark Hall of Fame productions. As someone who’s read The Flamingo Rising book, I’ll be the first person to say there are some parts of the story that are not “Hallmark appropriate”. One of these parts is Louise’s social life. Abraham, in the novel, recalls how, one night at The Flamingo Drive-In, Louise snuck out with some male college students. During this interaction, these males attempt to take advantage of her. Even though Louise is saved just in time by some of the drive-in’s employees, the ordeal is a frightening one. This event is not included in the movie. The only older characters Louise is friends with are Polly and Alice, who all happen to work at the drive-in. It should also be noted that Abraham and Gary are the only male characters Louise hangs out with in the film.

Louise’s story was not the only one to change in Hallmark’s efforts to keep the adaptation “Hallmark appropriate”. Polly, an employee of The Flamingo Drive-In, is a very problematic character in the book. A reason for this is due to her racism. Polly expresses how she didn’t like her high school becoming integrated. She also thinks Abraham is “too brown”, causing Abraham to have self-image related issues. Even though Polly’s role in the movie is smaller, she never comes across as racist. In fact, racism is never addressed in the film. Polly, along with Alice, appear to get along with both Abraham and Louise. Alice, throughout her time at the drive-in, gives Abraham advice and looks out for him, like an older sibling would look out for their younger brother or sister.

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.

The Casting

When an author creates a story, they sometimes don’t consider how that work could be translated to film or television. If that author’s work does receive an adaptation, the casting can dictate how the story changes. Abraham describes Alice Kite, in the book, as being “as tall as my mother”. Edna is six feet tall in the novel. Because of her height, Alice wore baggy jeans and shirts, never shorts. Elizabeth McGovern and Angela Bettis were cast as Edna and Alice in the Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation. According to IMDB, Elizabeth is 5’7, while Angela is 5’3. Alice wardrobe’s, in the movie, included tank tops and shorts. This creative decision was likely made to compliment Angela’s height.

In both the book and movie, Grace looks like her mother. Turner, Grace’s father, tells Edna, in the film, “she looks just like her”, referring to his daughter’s resemblance of his late wife. But Grace’s mother never makes an on-screen appearance, as she dies before the movie’s events. Therefore, The Flamingo Rising’s creative team cast an actress that resembled the actor portraying Turner. William Hurt portrayed the owner of Knight Funeral Home. He appears blonde in the film, despite his character having “coal-black hair” in the book. Erin Broderick was cast as Grace, though it isn’t known if Erin or William was recruited to the movie first.

Since The Flamingo Rising takes place in Florida, I figured featuring this screenshot was appropriate. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Image originally found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiBkULOrf7Y.

When I reviewed the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, O Pioneers!, back in July, I said that story should have been adapted into a multi-part mini-series or a television show. That’s because I felt an hour and thirty-seven minutes was not enough time to tell a story with that many moving parts. I feel similarly about The Flamingo Rising. Because Abraham, in the book, is reflecting on his life, there are a lot of characters and plot points included in the text. With the Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation being an hour and thirty-four-minutes, Larry Baker’s story was forced to be condensed.

There are several parts of The Flamingo Rising book that were either omitted or changed in the adaptation, due to these parts not being “Hallmark appropriate”. With that said, it makes wonder why Hallmark Hall of Fame chose to adapt Larry Baker’s novel over a story that was more “Hallmark appropriate”? This situation kind of reminds me of when Hallmark Channel adapted At Home in Mitford. Last September, I reviewed the 2017 film for one of my double features. After reading the book and watching its adaptation, I came to the conclusion the network was attempting to fit a round peg into a square hole, trying so hard to fit At Home in Mitford into their brand of film-making. Perhaps something similar happened to The Flamingo Rising, causing history to repeat itself sixteen years later?

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen