Here is today's strip Is it worse than we all feared Or simply as bad If I was popcorn I would be quite offended By this portrayal Les hated this film Why would he even watch this Was happy it failed In this case, "writer" Would not describe Les as he Did not write the script This deserves more scorn I'm a skink, I can't rant, so I'm counting on you Rip this thing to shreds Kill it with all of the fire Or just acetone
Tag Archives: Lisa’s Story
In today’s strip, Marianne is coming off as not simply composed but rehearsed, belying the nerves and words she had just a few days ago. Or maybe Marianne is just that good of an actress and really is worthy of that Oscar… I have to admit, only a great actress could say that Mason and Lisa’s Story deserve Academy Award nominations without breaking out in riotous laughter.
Let’s look at some odds on who this Oscar-worthy “very special person” is:
- 100-1 Cassidy Kerr, for giving Mason points on the backend
- 1,000-1 “Mr. Director” Martin Johns, for keeping his head when Marianne went AWOL from the Starbuck Jones set, actually trying to reach Marianne instead of pointlessly pontificating, and then contacting the actual authorities like a sane person
- 1 million-1 Cable Movie Entertainment and Clay Wallace, for letting Mason pitch Lisa’s Story at another studio with no resistance after he torpedoed their Lisa production by quitting to become Starbuck Jones (nope, it ultimately wasn’t the infamous “kill fee”)
- 75-1 Cindy, for arranging to use Bull’s funeral as a pre-production springboard for the movie
- 275-1 Holly, for demanding the movie be made but not demanding her role be portrayed
- 50-1 Rex Morgan MD, for… uh, aren’t people always giving him things for no reason?
- 700-1 Cayla, for being inhumanly comfortable with being treated as a silver medal
- 40-1 Marianne’s oncologist, for obvious reasons
- 10-1 Lisa, for dying
- 27-1 Lisa’s oncologist, for obvious reasons
- itsgonnabehim-1 Les, for absolutely no defensible reason at all
OK, three weeks until the actual Oscars ceremony, plenty of time to build suspense. Will Marianne beat out Gretchen Gold and Cordelia Rama for best actress? We won’t know for sure until…
The first panel of today’s strip?!
Uh, points for brevity, I guess, though in this case it is most certainly not the soul of wit… or any other word positively associated with writing. In the absence of anticipation as to whether or not Marianne will win the little golden man statuette, we have the ridiculousness of professional actress Marianne (and no stranger to public speaking and media attention) not having any remarks prepared despite having an apparent one-in-three chance of winning. This is compounded by the ridiculousness of her asking advice on accepting an award from a guy whose work outside of Lisa’s Story and Starbuck Jones consisted of Dino Deer, My Dog Pookie, and being incredibly nervous about simply doing a table read (!!!) for the unfinished masterpiece that was Lust For Lisa.
At least Cindy’s shtick is consistent.
Yes, what Marianne needs to realize is that no matter what the outcome may be, her career and her life are both effectively over, as the whole Oscars thing (and the entire entertainment industry as a whole) is a giant sewer of lies, deceit and trampled dreams. But it’s OK, as whaddya gonna do?
What she also doesn’t realize is that they have these things called brushes and combs nowadays, as well as a plethora of various sprays, gels and pastes that keeps your hair from getting all ratty and unkempt while you’re out and about. It seems peculiar that a woman her age, in her business, wouldn’t be aware of the existence of these things, but whaddya gonna do?
This arc sure got really annoying really quickly, didn’t it? The irony of BatHam droning on about the inequities and pitfalls of showbiz awards wasn’t lost on me, as it’s pretty much a recurring theme at this point. Perhaps he should try to win an award for something, THEN run his mouth, like how you’re supposed to do.
And on that note, I’m outta here until April Fools Day, when I’ll be going into detail about the Department Of Justice’s crusade against SoSF. Up next, the Captain himself, TF Hackett!
Ha! That f*cking internet sure does suck balls, amirite? Boy, society sure has gone to hell in a handbasket, I’ll tell you what. Even a humongous Hollywood mega-star can’t get reliable internet service, shows you just how useless and limited it really is. I can’t wait til this fad dies down and we go back to landlines and good ol’ AM radio again.
“Oh for pity’s sake”…and it’s official. Marianne is the least cool twenty-something Hollywood actress of all-time. No one could possibly be this twee in real life, you wouldn’t even be able to breathe. The hair, the hapless naivete, the wholesome homespun exclamations…it just gets worse and worse with every panel. Just look at her today, all dreary and disheveled, she’s pitiful to the point where it’s tough to not feel sorry for her. At first glance I really did think it said “lost interest again” and really, who could blame him? No wonder she’s not in a relationship and has no friends, she’s a total drip.
When I first saw this one I just stared at it for minutes on end, unable to decipher or make sense of it at all. For the first time ever, I seriously considered asking my fellow SoSF hosts for help with figuring out what the hell this is supposed to be. Was Mason saying “COVID 15” or was he saying “COVID is”? I had no clue.
But eventually I figured it out. “COVID 15” is one of those clever little turns of phrase BatYam makes up when he’s trying to capture the way people talk in “real life” and, as usual, it fails spectacularly on every conceivable level. What Mason needs to do now is to pack on another COVID-75 so he can play Funky in the movie adaptation of “Singed Hair”. After that, all he needs to do is play Crazy Harry, at which point his life’s work will be complete.
Obligatory artwork critique: check out that photo on Marianne’s wall. My, such attention to detail. I mean, why even bother drawing it at all?
Les, that is a really, really, REALLY weird thing to say while staring lovingly into the chocolate brown sclera’s of your second wife’s eyes. What are you trying to say here? That you’ve realized you’re lucky your first wife died? Because in the end what you really wanted was both a supportive wife and a sob story? The knockout one-two punch that will win you gold in the victim Olympics in performative grieving.
I get the sentiment, it’s a nice sentiment. You’re trying to tell Cayla that you’re content in your life with her. That Hollywood fame wouldn’t have made you appreciably happier because you’re already happy. But, when talking about this to a second wife, as a widower, you should avoid words like, ‘lucky.’ ‘all along,’ and ‘in the end.’
By Cayla’s tired grimace, I can tell what she’s thinking. “I don’t know if he’s insulting me or snubbing Lisa, but at least he sounds happy she’s dead.”
Many of us this week have found ominous signs that the box office failure of Lisa’s Story might not be then end of this endless arc. That a box office bomb can still go on to be critically successful and win awards. And it would dovetail nicely with Batiuk’s sentiments on popular entertainment, for the true beauty of Lisa’s Story: The Movie, to only be admired by a few.
I fear we’re in for a Marvin’s Room deal. If TomBa is going to use anything as a template for Lisa’s Story’s success or failure, it’s not going to be one of the cancer movies of the last few years. It’s going to be from the glory days of weepy prestige drama. The 90’s.
I’d never heard of this film before my cancer movie research of earlier in the week. And after reading the synopsis, and watching the trailer, it is top on my list of movies to never see. But the plot is Batiukian to the max. A movie about sarcasm in the face of disease, death, and poorly portrayed mental illness, written by a man who was himself dying of AIDS.
For 20 years Bonnie (Diane Keaton) has been taking care of her bed-ridden father, Marvin (Hume Cronyn) following a stroke. When she is diagnosed with leukemia, she reaches out to the sister she hasn’t seen for 20 years, Lee, (Meryl Streep), asking if she and her two sons would be tested for a bone marrow transplant. Lee retrieves her older son, Hank (Leonardo DiCaprio), from the mental health facility where he’d been kept since trying to burn her house down, and takes her family to see her sister. Much heartfelt sarcasm ensues. Bonnie’s treatment appears to be failing, but Lee is now comfortable caring for their father.
The movie bombed in 1996, making $12 million on a $23 million dollar budget.
And it got Diane Keaton an Oscar nod for best actress, Meryl Streep a Golden Globe nom, also for best actress, and three SAG nominations to boot.
The box office numbers might be in. But awards season is right around the corner.
And sometimes, the people you know the least…
are the ones you need the most…
and the places we’ve left behind…
are the places we’ve always belonged….
So after all of Les’ passive aggressive pouting yesterday, he’s actually happy the movie flopped. Peak Les. He’s happy at the failure of others, because it allows him to remain in his own comfort zone. Cassidy Kerr said the movie was going to change his life, and he worried if it was going to be changed for the worse or the better.
And ultimately he’s smugly satisfied to realize that his own life hasn’t changed at all. Millions of dollars of vainly wasted money; hours and hours of actors’ and crewpeoples’ lives; none of that is weighed against Les’ own desire to remain static.
Banana Jr. 6000 posted an awesome video in the comments of Tuesday’s post. It dissects what makes a character unlikable. I’m reposting it in case someone missed it, and I highly recommend it to anyone with writing aspirations.
The most damning criticism in the video, as it pertains to Les Moore, is the subject of repeated, fruitless, character arcs: where a portion of the story is dedicated to a character trying to overcome as struggle or flaw only to end up right back where they started from.
“The storytelling, in this case, puts our arc and character into the protagonist’s driver’s seat and makes a sort of promise that this is going somewhere. Instead, the wheel is turned all the way left and they’re going in circles. They’re left complaining about the same thing or acting in the same selfish way they have before. And it becomes harder for us to identify with a universal struggle that they’re going through, and instead we start to get frustrated with them personally.”
How many times have we seen Les pulled in circles? Like a dog lazily chasing its tail, half knowing it doesn’t want to catch it. Just killing time because it’s been chained to the same place for years, and it gives it a sense of a goal.
For my Funky/Cranky crossover continuity review a few days ago, I reread an obscene number of Crankshaft strips. And you know what? Crankshaft is so much better. I’m not saying it’s great, or even consistently good. The recent newspaper closing arc was Funky levels of unbearable. But the characters in that strip choose to do things. Cranky has decided he’s going to electrocute a tree using jumper cables and multiple cars, and he’s making it happen. Lillian decides she’s going to write a book, so she does. Then she writes ten more books and becomes famous in the same time it takes Les Moore to write a prequel about his dead wife in the strangest self-own I have ever seen.
While there are always exceptions: Crankshaft characters act, Funky Winkerbean characters react. In Funky Winkerbean there are a few ancillary characters, like Mason and Chester, who present the main characters with life changing propositions to react to. And in general the characters are happiest when they’re NOT moving. Everyone lives above Montoni’s, everyone works at the High School, or the restaurant. Darin, Pete, and Jess would rather take the nepotism hires close to home than capitalize on their Hollywood successes.
Les is happy the movie flopped. Inertia and entropy are the twin suns that warm his withered soul, and his only hope is to decay in place.
It’s all so tedious.
Yesterday I did something relatively unorthodox in these parts: I found something to praise Tom Batiuk for. Of course, the overly-long post ended with me screaming at Batiuk in all caps, but that is part of the reason I did it. I never want to get to the point in my beady-eyed nitpicking where everything is a bug to me. Because when I force myself to admit what is good, what is acceptable, and what is innocuous, then when I am confronted with the unbearably bad I can nail it to the wall with confidence.
Today is really really bad guys. Just so bad. This is worst-case-scenario Les Moore at his most insufferable. Self-pitying, sarcastic, complaining, self-absorbed, quipping without being clever. The strip is worse than pointless. It’s not funny. It does nothing to further any ongoing plot, or even advance the conversation in a meaningful way. And the only way it develops character is to further metastasize the tumorous-asshole side of Les’ personality.
And it’s a shame. Because the art today is kind of interesting. One, Les is in pain in panel 2. Which is always nice to see.
And two, he’s putting a pumpkin on a stump.
I can only assume that it’s the stump of the large maple tree in their front yard that was cut down back in 2015.
And before we have our normal reaction, ‘Ah, a relic of Dead St. Lisa, of course it is fetishized,’ the tree was also a favorite of Cayla’s, who wanted to be married under its branches, and felt like the tree was ‘part of the family.’ Plus, Summer grew up eating the fallen leaves from under that tree.
I understand grief at the loss of a tree. Emerald ash borer beetles came through my state a couple years ago and took out seven massive beautiful ash trees on my parents’ farm. It makes me sad in a very Batiukian way, wandering across the acres of yard at home, and so many sentinels of my childhood are missing. Nothing left but weed filled dimples where oceans of shade once marked out the borders of fantasy continents.
Les and Cayla left the stump of the tree they were married under. They’ve left it for years. They decorate it in the trappings of fall it can no longer produce. Because they’d rather have the reminder of the tree for a while longer, than a pristine yard. And all of this is told visually. It develops their characters much better than the awful dialogue on display today. It rewards long time readers. It gives the strip a continuity of place. And there’s that word again, continuity.
When Batiuk chose to have his strip move forward in time, he subjected his strip to the harsh and beautiful realities of continuity. In the measured compliments I’ve given the strip the last couple days, I hope I’ve pointed out how continuity can lead to deeper and more meaningful storytelling. But Batiuk wants all the blessings of continuity, without paying the price of its restrictions. He’s not shy about how little he cares. In fact he revels thumbing his nose at it, like an edgy atheist in Sunday School. And that is why his storytelling so often fails, because we don’t trust it any more.
But still. I would miss that tree too. It was a good tree. After all, it once trapped Les high in its branches, to the joy of all the neighborhood children.
And the very first thing it did upon being introduced to Les Moore was smack him right in his dumb smug head.
I think we all kind of guessed that this movie must have the budget of a community college staging of CATS, when they chose to film a park bench in winter on a soundstage rather than on location. I’ve seen better production values in classic Bonanza episodes.
I don’t know how well weepy cancer movies are generally received, because I try to avoid them. If I wanted to hear sad adults having heartfelt conversations about personal tragedy I would follow strangers around the local Wal-Mart. The last one I remember being big was ‘The Fault in our Stars.’ That made $300 million on a 8-12 million dollar budget.
But is that a normal expectation for terminal illness sadporn? How did cancer movies do in the age of covid?
I did a little digging through the interwebs, just to see if making a movie about dying of cancer in current era is a good idea or not.
Ordinary Love. Filming began in 2018. Liam Neeson is afraid his wife will be taken by breast cancer. They’re sad their daughter died years ago. His gay friend’s husband gets taken instead. His wife recovers, and they go on a nice walk. It was released in the UK in December of 2019, and the US in February of 2020. Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 93%. The thing bombed like crazy though. US Box office was $774,877. Global seems to have ended at around $5 million. The only website I could find that listed a budget had it at $50 million. It is now streaming on Hulu, where random trolls complain that Liam Neeson doesn’t spend enough time threatening cancer over the phone.
I Still Believe. Filming began in 2019. Based on a book. Based on a true story. Christian musician, Jeremy Camp, is engaged to his college sweetheart who is battling cancer. They think she gets better. They get married. Then she gets worse. He has a brief crisis of faith. She dies. He finds a note from encouraging him not to lose his faith. It was released in March 2020. As is normal for movies made by evangelical Christians for evangelical Christians, critics were split on it, and it has a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. It made $16 million on a $12 million dollar budget. It is now streaming on Fubo TV, and my little sister cried so much after watching we wondered if she needed rehydration therapy.
Clouds. Filming began in 2019. Based on a book. Based on a true story. High School student and aspiring musician, Zach Sobiech, writes music about dying of cancer and becomes a viral YouTube star. Dies of cancer. Was originally scheduled for a theatrical release through Warner Bros, but Disney bought the rights to release on their streaming service. Released in October 2020. Budget was between $10-12 million. I couldn’t find how much Disney bought it for. It was received decently with a 76% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Life in a Year. Filming began in 2017. Will Smith’s son falls in love with pixie dream girl dying of cancer. She helps him on his journey to become a rapper. He marries her. She dies of cancer. Sony Pictures Releasing it showed it in 54 theatres in November of 2020. Box office was $43,862, and not enough critics reviewed it for a Rotten Tomatoes score. It is now streaming on Amazon Prime, where random people who love trash seem to like it. Couldn’t find a budget for it.
All My Life. Filming began in 2019. Based on a true story. Aspiring chef Solomon Chau is engaged to his girlfriend Jenn Carter. Then he gets liver cancer. They try to decide whether to postpone the wedding. Instead their friends encourage them to move the wedding up. They get married. He dies. It was released to theatres in December of 2020, and released to VOD a month later. Critics were split, with a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. At the box office it grossed $2 million on a $25 million dollar budget. It is currently streaming to HBO Max.
Our Friend. Filming began in 2019. Based on an essay. Based on a true story. Mother and wife, Nicole Teague, is dying of cancer. Close family friend, Dane, moves in to help take care her, putting his life on hold for more than a year. His girlfriend doesn’t understand and breaks up with him. Cancer wife dies. Husband Matthew Teague writes essay thanking Dane. It was released into the theatres in January 2021. Had a positive critical reception, 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, but bombed big time. Not even $700,000 on a $10 million dollar budget. It is now streaming on Amazon Prime, where random people who love trash seem to love it.
So yeah, with the numbers we have, cancer movies look like a money sink. But that’s the thing, we have no ability to access the numbers that really matter. The streaming numbers. How much are they making on VOD? How much are they making on distribution rights? The theatre releases for many of these were perfunctory. Did they turn a profit for the studio in the long term? We don’t know. All of that is information hidden in the cloud.
Which terrifies me. Because it means that Lisa’s Story could still be a big success. It could still win awards. We might not be done with this yet. And I bet you dollars to donuts that commenter Jeff M. was right yesterday, and Les is going to start getting letters and emails from all the women whose lives he saved by profiting off of his wife’s death.