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One-Hit Wonders

by Dave Gourdoux

The ultimate one-hit wonder?

"In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes."             
                                                                            -Andy Warhol

For years now, one of the enduring iconic stories of the rock and pop universe has been the rise and fall of one-hit wonders. We’re all familiar with the story arc – the stars of time and fate and luck and talent all suddenly align in such a way as to propel previously unknown acts into fleeting and temporary superstardom, and then they crash and fade just as quickly as they emerged. As long as there is a pop music scene, there have always been and there always will be one hit wonders, either waiting on the fringe of the culture to rise to the top or spiraling uncontrollably out of the public consciousness.

Who are these fireflies that so quickly burn out, and what is their story? Well, as we’ll learn in this brief look at eleven of my favorite one hit wonders, with stories of rapid rises and fantastic falls, "the possibilities are endless."

About this list: as old as I am, the list is heavy with songs from my youth, the sixties and seventies. I’m old and grumpy enough to offer no apologies for that.  Obscure and cheesy as some of these selections may seem to younger generations, they all occupy permanent residence in my memory.

Hear then, in chronological order, eleven of my favorite one-hit wonders:

1. “96 Tears,” by ? and the Mysterians, 1966

With its infectious organ riff and low-budget production, "96 Tears" ranks right up there with the best of the '60s garage band songs. At the time the song was recorded, the band was exactly that: a completely unknown garage band, consisting of the sons of migrant workers who’d settled in the Saginaw, Michigan area. Somehow they recorded "96 Tears," and drove around promoting it to local radio stations around Michigan. It first became a regional hit  until they caught their break and signed a deal with a big record company, and the rest is history.

A couple of follow-up singles were moderately successful, reaching as high as 22 on the U.S. charts. The band has survived many breakups and lineup changes to persist to this day. The only constant has been the lead singer, Question Mark, or ?, who claims to be from Mars and to have walked with dinosaurs.

2. "I Fought the Law," by the Bobby Fuller Four, 1966

One of the most covered songs in rock history (most notably by the Clash, and in a politically charged 1978 re-write by the Dead Kennedys), the song also inspired John Mellencamp to write (or rip-off?) his 1983 single, “Authority Song." The song features the familiar, almost percussive guitar styling of the late, great, Buddy Holly.

The reason it sounds so much like Buddy Holly is that it was written by Sonny Curtis, who was a friend and high school classmate of Holly. After Holly’s death, Curtis replaced him as singer and lead guitarist in Holly’s band, The Crickets. He later penned the theme song to the Mary Tyler Moore Show, "Love is All Around."

The reason Fuller never had another hit was that a few months after releasing “I Fought the Law,” his dead body was found in an automobile parked outside of his Los Angeles apartment. There were no signs of physical trauma, and though an autopsy was performed, the cause of death remains murky, with both “accident” and “suicide” boxes checked with question marks after them on the death report. Speculation abounds that he was actually murdered. Theories have persisted that the culprits were either the Manson clan, the LAPD, or the mafia.  Whatever the cause was, Fuller’s death remains one of the great unsolved mysteries in rock and roll history.


3. "Israelites," by Desmond Dekker, 1968

Though Dekker had a long and distinguished career in Jamaica as a Reggae master, "Israelites" was his only entry on the U.S. charts. Aside from being a wonderful little piece of music, "Israelites" is noteworthy in that it is probably the first reggae song to hit the U.S. top forty, ahead of Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion” (1970), Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” (1972)  and Eric Clapton’s cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” (1973).

Whether the song is technically reggae or its predecessor, ska, it is indisputably unique when compared to anything else we’d heard on American air waves before. The guitar work is subtle and accents the off beat, while the vocals are sung with a heavy Jamaican accent, making the lyrics difficult to understand.

Dekker said he wrote the song after hearing a young couple arguing about money, and how the work the young man was doing wasn't paying enough. This explains the opening lyrics, "get up in the morning slaving for bread, sir / so that every mouth can be fed." From there the song becomes something of a Rastafarian anthem, a lament for the impoverished and the destitute.

Dekker passed away in 2006. Although he didn't make the U.S. charts again, he remained musically active, and was held in high esteem in the reggae community.

4. "Pictures of Matchstick Men," Status Quo, 1968

The opening guitar lick to this weirdly infectious little gem is so ridiculously easy that even I could play it. But then the rhythm guitar, bass and drums kick in, and the effect is pretty cool. The lyrics are vague and psychedelic, and the chord progression and that silly little four note guitar lick are just catchy enough to stick in your head long after you’d ever want it to.

The song has been covered a few times, most notably by Ozzy Osborne in the late '70s. As for the band, Status Quo, it appears that they put out a few albums and vanished, and I couldn’t find much of anything of any interest about them. "Pictures of Matchstick Men" is so weirdly bizarre  that it speaks for itself.


5. "Spirit in the Sky," Norman Greenbaum, 1968

One of the great guitar-driven gospel tinged songs ever recorded. The guitar riffs create a groove that evoke Jimmy Page, while the lead guitar fills in the spaces with just enough cosmic-ness to evoke the great beyond.

Lyrics like “I’ve got a friend in Jesus” bely the fact that Greenbaum was, and is, Jewish. He wrote "Spirit in the Sky" after watching Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner sing a gospel song on television. The song has since appeared in numerous Hollywood sound tracks, perhaps most famously in Ron Howard’s Apollo 13.

Greenbaum continues performing to this day, and has recorded a few albums over the years, but never had any level of commercial success that approached the  magnitude of “Spirit in the Sky.”

6. "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” Steam, 1969

This was just solid, mainstream pop music, performed by a band that never existed (similar to another great one–hit wonder, the fictitious “The Archies” and the big hit single, “Sugar, Sugar.”). The song was written and recorded by a couple of studio musicians who supposedly thought it was so bad they didn’t want their names associated with it. So the fictitious band “Steam” was assigned to the song, and when it surprisingly went to number one in the charts, a real band was hastily put together. This manufactured band lacked anything remotely resembling a stage presence (as the video shows).

Despite all that, I still love the song and the innocence it conjures up in me. It reminds me that I grew up in a time where not only such sweet and innocent music could chart, but also that times were so innocent that record companies would throw together a bunch of guys who had nothing to do with the recording of the song and send them out on tour to support it. For some reason I can’t adequately explain, now, almost fifty years later, it all feels more sweet than cynical.

7. "I Can See Clearly Now," Johnny Nash, 1972

Probably the biggest selling reggae song of all time, although the off-beat is buried a bit beneath a poppy arrangement, meaning you have to listen a little bit closer for the reggae rhythms than on “Israelites.” But the song, with Nash’s soaring falsetto and its hypnotic hooks, was a huge hit, dominating the top-forties airwaves for what seemed like months.

Nash had a long career, recording from 1958 thru 1985, and it’s a little bit unfair to call him a one-hit wonder, as he had several other songs hit the U.S. charts, with the follow-up single to “I Can See Clearly Now”, a song called “Stir it Up” that I have no memory of now, briefly reaching number twelve on the U.S. charts. He makes the list because “I Can See Clearly Now” was so huge that one is left wondering why in such a long career he never approached the top ten again.

8. "Last Song," Edward Bear, 1972

Some songs bring back memories that are so vivid they overpower any attempt to hear them objectively. “Last Song” is, for me, such a song. I know it’s terrible, schmaltzy pop, but it was on the radio at a time when I was susceptible to its gooey sentimentality, and hearing it now takes me back to the time when I’d just turned fourteen, at the height of my pubescent, shy and lonely misfit period, and the endless list of cute girls I had hopeless crushes on.

As for Edward Bear, it was neither man nor beast, but rather an unexceptional Canadian pop-rock band that was around for a couple more unexceptional years, years that included lineup changes and members dabbling in Scientology. The highlights of their career appear to be limited to achieving fame for “Last Song” and for once opening for Led Zeppelin. The name Edward Bear was taken from the “proper” name of Winnie the Pooh.

9. “In a Big Country,” Big Country, 1983  

For a brief time in the early '80s, Big Country was Scotland’s answer to Ireland’s U2, gathering critical acclaim for their unique sound, making electric guitars sound like bagpipes. They made it all the way to a guest shot on "Saturday Night Live" and a world tour, but were never able to follow the anthemic “In a Big Country” with a second hit single.  After playing on the Band Aid project “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and backing Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend in separate solo projects, they fell out of fashion, and found themselves dropped from their record company in 1991. They hung around for the rest of the nineties and finally broke up in 1999, with alcoholism playing a role in their dissolution.

10. "Take On Me," Ah-Ha, 1985

The song is unexceptional but catchy '80s new wave, notable for its keyboard-driven riff and the singer’s Roy Orbison-like, octave-crushing falsetto. What makes it stand out is the song's video, one of the great videos of the MTV era. A rare combination of art, charm and humor, the video transcends the song even while remaining faithful to its catchy rhythm. It's impossible to watch the video and not smile.

Although "Take On Me" has been the band's only U.S. hit, they are still together and have remained very popular in their native Norway, winning 10 "Norwegian Grammy" awards over the years.

11. “A Girl Like You,” Edwyn Collins, 1994

No, this song wasn’t, as is often assumed, recorded by Iggy Pop or David Bowie, although it’s an easy mistake to make, given Collins baritone vocals,the disco-punk rhythms, the infectious groove, and the hypnotic guitar licks.

Collins has never charted again in the U.S., but he still performs in his native U.K. This might not seem like a big deal until one considers that in 2005, Collins suffered and survived two cerebral hemorrhages that resulted in aphasia, an inability to comprehend and formulate language because of damage to specific brain regions. He was left able to speak only four phases (“yes”, “no”, “Grace Maxwell” (his wife’s name), and “the possibilities are endless”). Amazingly, he recovered and within two years was able to resume playing music and performing.

•  •  •

From the tragic mystery of Bobby Fuller to the rise and fall of Big Country to the steady perseverance of Desmond Dekker and Ah-Ha to the inspirational triumph of Edwyn Collins that renders any position on any top 40 chart as the meaningless distraction it really is, stories of one-hit wonders prove that the possibilities are indeed endless, that fate really is fickle, and that in the grand scheme of things, our fifteen minutes of fame aren't really that important.

So there you have it, my latest little list.  I know there are dozens of more one -hit wonders in the annals of popular music history ("99 Red Balloons" and "Chevy Van" immediately come to mind, although in the case of "Chevy Van," it won't leave soon enough), but these eleven have, to me, at least, some value, whether artistic (like "Israelites") or sentimental ("Last Song"), to me personally. I'd be interested in what one-hit wonders that you find any value or interesting stories in.


Paul Feig's Other Space

by Jav Rivera

One of the main reasons this site exists is to showcase art that most people have never seen/heard. And in doing so, we hope that others will find something wonderful that may have never been discovered otherwise. Every once in a while I'll get asked how I find these hidden treasures. The truth is that there are a variety of ways. Sometimes it's a friend's recommendation. Sometimes it's by accident. And sometimes it's completely intentional.

"Other Space" was mostly intentional. I've been a fan of Paul Feig ever since I watched "Freaks and Geeks" way back when. Although Judd Apatow (40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) got most of the credit for the show, it was Feig who originally created it, and his fingerprints are definitely what make the series work. Being a huge "Freaks and Geeks" fan, I tried to keep tabs on what Feig was working on. His more famous film projects include Ghostbusters (2016), Spy (2015), The Heat (2013), and Bridesmaids (2011).

L-R: Trace Beaulieu, Joel Hodgson, Milana Vayntrub, Eugene Cordero, Paul Feig, Karan Soni, Bess Rous, Neil Casey, and Conor Leslie
Feig has also directed episodes of popular television series such as "The Office," "Arrested Development," "Nurse Jackie," "Parks and Recreation," "Weeds," and "30 Rock," some of which he also worked on as executive producer. But for some reason, "Other Space" came in under the radar. Perhaps it's because of the whole Yahoo Screen debacle (more on that later), but this show deserves some recognition. And like most of Feig's projects, it's not just because of his involvement; his casting is (once again) spot-on.

"Past the moon. Past Mars. Let us sail to the stars!"

Released in April 2015, "Other Space" is set in...well...space, in the year 2105. But due to an encounter with a strange portal, the crew is transported to another universe -- or to an Other Space. It's been described as "The Office" in space, or even "The Office" meets "Lost in Space." It's also been compared to the much-loved British series "Red Dwarf."

The crew, within the UMP Cruiser, is a mixed bag of nuts. And though some of their characteristics can be traced back to stereotypical sci-fi shows, the cast of "Other Space" bring their own charm and talent. I honestly couldn't picture anyone else except these actors as their characters, especially given how easy these actors made it to love these oddballs.

L-R: Gypsy, Crow, Joel, and Tom Servo
And I'm elated that they're mostly unknown actors. I've written about the lack of attention to lesser-known actors before, specifically in my article about the series "Detectorists," and "Other Space" is another prime example of untapped talent finally being explored. In fact, the most famous of the bunch are Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu, both of whom achieved fame for their series "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (MST3K). And even that isn't all that famous outside of the cult fans (myself included). I'll even admit that my original reason for wanting to watch "Other Space" was because of Hodgson and Beaulieu. When I discovered Feig's involvement I thought, "Yup. This has a lot of potential to be great comedy."

Hodgson, who created "MST3K," and Beaulieu, who voiced (as well as worked as puppeteer for) the character of Crow T. Robot, bring some comedy weight to the show. Both are in perfect form as their characters Zalian (played by Hodgson) the crew's engineer, and A.R.T. (played by Beaulieu), Zalian's robotic sidekick. What's surprising is that it's hard to tell if the rest of the cast is keeping up with Hodgson and Beaulieu or if it's the other way around. And we probably can thank Allison Jones for that.

Jones has become the go-to casting director for some of the best comedic projects, including "Family Ties," "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "Freaks and Geeks," "Parks and Recreation," and "Curb Your Enthusiam." Some of her film credits include SuperBad, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Scott Pilgrim vs. the WorldStep Brothers, and many, many more. To date, Jones has nearly 100 credits to her name, many of which have incredibly strong ensembles. Having worked with Feig on many of his previous projects, it comes to no surprise that the cast of "Other Space" is as tight as they can get. As I mentioned before, I can't picture anyone else in these characters' shoes. Jones was particularly important because Feig is known for creating shows that are character-based, and I'd say that most of "Other Space's" success as a series is because of this. The cast includes:
  • Trace Beaulieu as A.R.T. 
  • Neil Casey as Kent
  • Eugene Cordero as Michael
  • Joel Hodgson as Zalian 
  • Conor Leslie as Natasha
  • Bess Rous as Karen Lipinski
  • Karan Soni as Captain Stewart Lipinski 
  • Milana Vayntrub as Tina

If their names don't look familiar, their faces might. All of these young actors have been working for years, bringing their talent to TV and film in mostly smaller roles. But this will hopefully change in the near future because they each have unique comedic skills that more shows and movies could (and should) all be taking advantage of.

The Captain (played by Karan Soni), for example, might look familiar if you've seen Ryan Reynold's 2016 Deadpool film. Soni played the cab driver named Dopinder. I was so happy to see Soni in the film because, by that point, I had already seen him in "Other Space." All his scenes in Deadpool got some of the biggest laughs and I'm sure director Tim Miller and actor Reynolds were well aware. I wouldn't be surprised if Dopinder's character had been expanded for the film just because of Soni. On a side note, there's a rumor that Dopinder will be brought back for the Deadpool sequel, and the fans couldn't be happier. But Soni isn't the only one.

Milana Vayntrub in an AT&T commercial
Tina (played by Milana Vayntrub) might look familiar too. She's Lily, the really cute and friendly AT&T girl. Despite having over 40 projects under her belt (some of which I've seen), I've never noticed Vayntrub. And it's probably because she wasn't given anything with as much meat as she deserves. Now that I've seen her true talent being utilized on "Other Space" I'm a fan, and I'm looking forward to seeing her in future performances.

Eugene Cordero as Michael
Eugene Cordero (who plays Michael) has appeared in over 75 projects since 1999, including "Arrested Development," "House of Lies," "Parks and Recreation," and "The Good Place." Most of these parts are extremely small, which is probably why you can't quite remember if you've seen him or not. But of the entire "Other Space" cast, I'd keep a closer eye on Cordero because one day someone's going to realize his talent and make him huge. It's good to see that "Other Space" has created a bigger role for him. And though there's a running joke in the series that his character Michael is terribly forgettable, Cordero still makes him endearing. Whether Michael is getting yelled at or if he suddenly turns vengeful, Cordero transforms into whatever personality he needs at the moment -- often times flipping back and forth between them within seconds.

The character Kent (played straight-faced by Neil Casey) comes across as a combination of Spock and Data (both, of course, from the Star Trek universe). Kent shares the emotionless of a Vulcan and the intelligence of an android. Casey's take, however, plays with inappropriateness. He displays a lack of sensitivity by providing valid yet ill-timed information. Throughout the season Kent transforms into a (slightly) more human version but Casey doesn't lose all of his character's awkwardness. One of my favorite Kent moments involves him waking up and regurgitating a mucus-like substance. I won't say more because it's more of a visual and sound-based gag, but it was completely unexpected, especially since his character is typically the most composed of the crew.

Of course I can't leave out Conor Leslie and Bess Rous, who play Natasha and Karen Lipinski, respectively. Natasha is the ship's computer, but don't let the good looks fool you. She's just as out of place as the rest of the crew. There's an interesting development with her and another character throughout the season, but it's more than that. Her attempts to interact with each of the crew members are usually awkward, and, of course, fun to watch.

Karen, the crew's first officer, just happens to be the captain's older sister. As it turns out, UMP put her there simply because they're all terrified of her. That should tell you a lot about Karen. Every sci-fi crew has to have one of those strict, by-the-book characters. But Rous takes that stereotype into new territory. Instead of playing Karen as the average "B" word, Rous plays her more of an insecure and jealous sibling. Fortunately, the writers do a great job avoiding stereotypical sitcom storylines and characters. There is eventually a moment in each of the episodes when you can tell that the writers are just having fun or playing around with sci-fi standards and clich├ęs.

Captain Lipinski wearing UMP-issued pajamas
Staff writer Shelby Fero leads the series' writing crew of Matteo Borghese, Owen Ellickson, Ben Smith, Rob Turbovsky, Jacob Young, and of course Paul Feig, who wrote the pilot. It's tough to find a favorite episode but I'd have to go with the sixth entry, entitled "Trouble's Brewing." The scenes with Tina and Michael are so full of comedy gold that I didn't want it to end. It's once again proof that the writers on the show wanted to create something unique by playing off of stereotypes. They may use old sitcom tricks as a platform, but where they jump to is something no one can predict.

So with this writing crew, this cast, and a creator like Feig, why aren't more people aware of "Other Space?" I think the biggest reason is due to the fact that Yahoo's streaming app (Yahoo Screen) didn't take off. Unfortunately, by the time "Other Space" was released, Yahoo Screen was already dying. Not long after its release, the app was removed from the digital world, and all of Yahoo's shows were then "archived" on their site somewhere (note: At the bottom of this article, I provided a link to "Other Space" in Yahoo's archival location). What's worse is that it leaves Feig's labor of love in the vast vacuum of space. Now that Yahoo won't be creating original content, "Other Space" needs a new home.

My gut reaction is to hate Yahoo, which isn't hard since their email service continually gets worse. But interviews with Feig have me second-guessing. Apparently Yahoo gave Feig all the creative space he needed while producing the show. Furthermore, Yahoo went above and beyond when the production went over budget (due to the special effects). I still don't like Yahoo Mail but I've got to give it up for Yahoo's support for Feig and the show.

UMP Crusier
Feig is currently looking for someone to broadcast the show, as well as continue the series. Fortunately for Feig, the entire cast is eager to get back out into space. Feig has been proactively interviewing around cyberspace to explain his dilemma. The biggest struggle has been a lack of viewers. Those of us who couldn't wait for the show's release back in 2015 became instant fans. Upon hearing the news that he wants to get a season 2 made, fans around the world are starting to spread the word. Heck, I even bypassed a different article for this month (about Chris Isaak) just to help Feig get the word out sooner! The show needs a bigger audience and the best way to do that is to share this show with your friends and family. That's what I'm trying to do -- just like other recent articles and interviews about "Other Space" are doing. And you can help too!

If you like the show, use your social networking abilities. Make sure to use #ShareOtherSpace to get others on board. You may want to include Paul Feig's Twitter handle (@paulfeig) to let him know we're out there. Another way to help is to get onto Rotten Tomatoes (link below) and add a rating and maybe even a review.

There's no doubt that "Other Space" deserves more attention. When I re-watched the series to help write this article, it became clear to me that I didn't just like it back in 2015, I adored it! It's a shame that two years have gone by since it was released, and not many people in my social circle have even heard of it. But the show is wonderful, and it's even better the second time around. I know that I'll be watching it again. And again. And again.

For more information, visit their IMDb page: www.imdb.com/title/tt4561950

To watch the entire first season for free, visit: www.yahoo.com/tv/tagged/other-space. Most Smart TVs also have a Yahoo app which can play the series.

Don't forget to help the show's rating on Rotten Tomatoes by adding your rating here: www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/other_space/s01

TRIVIA: "Other Space" was originally created by Paul Feig around 2005 for NBC. This was one of Feig's only older ideas that he felt the need to bring back from the dead. Feig also insisted on having all 8 episodes released at the same time to take advantage of the binging trend.


The Unparalleled Lori Petty

by Lisa Adamowicz Kless

Has there ever been a time that you thought about a TV star, singer, or actor who you haven’t seen much of recently and thought,”I wonder what she/he has been up to?” I’d heard the hype about the Netflix series "Orange is the New Black," so I decided to give it a try, and quickly found myself binge-watching it on a regular basis. During season two, a new character--but a familiar face--appeared, and I was excited to see that it was Lori Petty, who I’d adored from her acting in movies in the ‘90s. The roles that I remember her from most were the crime/action/surfer flick Point Break, the baseball comedy/drama A League of Their Own, the Pauly Shore comedy In the Army Now, and the film adaptation of the comic Tank Girl. Seeing Petty back onscreen was so much fun; like an unexpected visit from an old friend who you've been thinking about, but haven't seen in ages.

Lori Petty as Kit Keller in A League of Their Own
In all fairness, Petty didn’t exactly fade into the ether after the ‘90s; she was in quite a few TV series from then until now, including "Superman," "Star Trek: Voyager," "NYPD Blue," and "House," as well as several movie roles. Unfortunately, many of these were off of my radar, so I just nostalgically thought of her former roles and hoped that she’d be back around.

As I mentioned before, I'd seen her in some roles during the '90s, but it was the 1995 film Tank Girl, based on the comic book series created by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin, that made me really fall in love with Petty’s acting. Checking out the comics is something I've always planned to do, but sadly, haven't gotten to yet, so I can’t speak to how faithful to them the movie was. But, I adored the frenetic energy Petty brought to the character of Tank Girl. The storyline is set in a somewhat futuristic, drought-affected Australia, with Tank Girl, her sidekick, Jet Girl (played by Naomi Watts), and hybrid soldiers called The Rippers fighting against an oppressive mega-corporation called Water & Power. Petty’s portrayal of Tank Girl is wild, crazy, and unapologetic--exactly how I imagine a person in Tank Girl’s situation would be. As a very young woman back then, I admired Tank Girl and Jet Girl’s “take no s***” approach, how they refused to be taken advantage of, and how they fought for what was fair and right. Add to that the outrageous costumes, the set designs, and a soundtrack that featured music by quite a few of the decade's well-knowns (including Bjork, Bush, Veruca Salt, L7, Hole, and Ice-T, who had a part in the film), and the entire movie was a non-stop romp of fun. Though it didn’t have a lot of financial success when it came out, it has a cult following to this day.

 Lori Petty as Lolly Whitehill in "Orange is the New Black"
But back to the excitement I felt when I saw Petty onscreen as Lolly in "Orange is the New Black": after seeing her handle both serious and comedic roles so well in the past, I was eager to watch her shine as she played this character too, and I wasn’t disappointed. Lolly is an inmate at Litchfield Penitentiary, where most of the show is set, and was also an inmate at a facility in Chicago. Though I don’t remember the show specifically stating what Lolly’s diagnosis is, it’s clear that she deals with mental illness. She believes that government agencies are doing surveillance on her, and shares conspiracy theories with anyone who will listen (and even those who won't sometimes). I don’t want to provide spoilers, but there are some poignant flashback scenes where the compassionate side of Lolly is on full display, as she cares for people in her neighborhood, especially those who are disadvantaged. Petty adds depth and layers to what could easily become a very cliche, stereotypical character. There are moments of humor, but it’s also tempered by the way Petty shows Lolly as a complex person struggling with mental illness who deals with loneliness and feeling isolated. Petty does this so well that, watching the show, there were times that I got emotional during particular scenes involving Lolly. The compassion I couldn't help but feel for her got me so caught up in the moment that it was easy to set aside that it was just Petty acting out a character.

Not only as Lolly, but in all the roles she’s played, Petty has a wonderful physicality and timing to her acting. In a close-up shot, viewers don’t even need to see the rest of her body to pick up what’s being conveyed; her eyes and facial expressions can say it all, and then some. Even then, don’t discount the scenes where the whole person is in view; with gestures, the way she walks or runs, etc., Petty adds personality to her characters that rounds them out into so much more than just two-dimensional.

I’ve seen that Petty has said she feels that the character of Lolly will be back for a new season(s) of "Orange is the New Black", and IMDb lists her in upcoming roles in the films Fear, Love, and Agoraphobia, a story about a female Marine and an agoraphobic man, and Dead Awake, a horror/thriller movie that’s in post-production. I'll definitely be on the lookout for new projects from her now, and can't wait to see what else she might be working on.

I wasn't able to find an official website for Lori Petty, but you can follow her on Twitter at @LoriPetty.

So, your turn, readers: What entertainers have you had that "I wonder whatever happened to them?" feeling about? We'd love to hear from you in the comments.


No Country For Old Men

by Dave Gourdoux

No Country For Old Men is a 2007 film directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. It was adapted by the Coen brothers from a highly regarded novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy. I haven't read the book yet (it's high on my list), so I can't speak to how faithful to the novel the film is or isn't, but I can tell you what high regard I hold it in: I think it's the best movie the brothers have made so far (even better than Fargo and The Big Lebowski) and if I had to pick the best film of the 21st century so far, it'd be a toss-up between No Country For Old Men and Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood (also released in 2007).

What's so great about it? Well, to start with, there's the amazing cast. The setting, southwest Texas in 1980, is dramatic and beautifully filmed. The writing and the direction are top notch, and the suspense is intense and unrelenting. The three main characters all have depth and are all memorable. Add to that an enigmatic ending that many found anti-climactic (and which I loved) and you've got a recipe for a pretty tasty movie.

The three main characters are:

Llewelyn Moss (played by Josh Brolin), a Vietnam veteran who is out hunting antelope when he witnesses a drug deal gone bad. Things get very interesting very quickly.
Anton Chirugh (Javier Bardem in an Academy Award winning performance) is perhaps the most purely evil character in movie history. Enough said for now.
Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is an aging law enforcement officer about to retire who thought he'd seen it all.

All three actors are outstanding. For Jones, it's a role he's mastered and played plenty of times before, although here he adds a sense of sadness that is palpable and powerful.

Bardem's performance is incredible, already legendary. He looks, speaks and behaves like nothing we've ever seen before, and he's always one step ahead of everyone else.

While Bardem's Chirugh is the character everyone talks about, that everyone remembers, it's Brolin's performance that's the glue that holds the movie together. He's persistent, resourceful, and way over-matched, but he keeps on as long as he can. He's heroic and naive and stubborn and greedy and smart and stupid, often all at the same time.

The fourth major character would be the harsh landscape that serves as the setting. The scrub brush prairies and deserts are as harsh and brutal as the other characters, but they are also filled with an existential beauty. Just like the snow-covered terrain that was such an important part of Fargo, the Coens demonstrate an affinity for emptiness, for expansive horizons and big skies.

No Country For Old Men is one of the most atmospheric and suspenseful movies ever made. Like most Coen brothers films, there's a lot going on, and it all works, even that enigmatic ending. Above all, the Coen brothers are great storytellers.

Now about that ending ... (spoiler alert!)

If you haven't seen the film yet, you might want to stop here.  If you have, and you've wondered what's up with the ending, and what was it all about, well, let me take a whack at it.

In order to discuss the ending, we have to try and make sense of what we've seen so far. What does it all mean? The Coen brothers give us plenty of clues:

Clue number one: The title.

Understanding why a film is named what it is is always a good starting point. In this case, I think it gives us everything we need to know to appreciate the ending and understand what the entire film is about.

The title is taken from the opening line to a poem by William Butler Yeats, "Sailing to Byzantium."

                           This is no country for old men. The young
                           in one another's arms, birds in the tree ...

The poem is about how as one ages, one needs to reject the physical and sensual world and accept entry into the spiritual, the eternal worlds. Remember this, because it explains everything, especially the ending.

Clue number two: The three main characters are only seen one at a time.

Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), Anton Chirugh (Javier Bardem), and Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) are never seen in the same frame, never share the screen. It's not just that all three of them are never in the same frame; no combination of any two of the three are ever together. The closest is near the end, when Bell enters the Hotel Room crime scene, and Chirugh is on the other side of the door. The open door obscures Chirugh, so even when they are in the same room, only one is visible.

Why is this important? I think it's the Coens telling us that the three characters share common attributes and that they are metaphorically the same, all three being parts of a larger whole. They can't share the same space because when you see one, you see all three.

Clue number three: Rules.

Gene Jones as "Gas Station Proprietor"
Both Chirugh and Sheriff Bell are bound by and remain faithful to their own set of rules. We see this repeatedly with Chirugh and the coin toss with the store keeper, and later, the bounty hunter Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson). Chirugh is bound by the results of the coin toss--he doesn't kill the storekeeper when he guesses correctly, and he does kill Wells when he guesses incorrectly. He says, more than once, "If the rule you follow brought you to this, of what use was the rule?" Useful or not, Chirugh is bound by rules, and therefore lacks free will.

Sheriff Bell also obeys rules--not just the laws he is sworn to uphold, but also the mythic western code of the landscape, of cowboys, of simpler times. He believes in traditional values, and in a scene near the end of the film, while visiting with his Uncle Ellis, a retired sheriff, he blames the madness he's witnessed on the erosion of these values. Ellis points out that the region has always been violent, pointing to a brutal murder in 1909 as evidence.

The rules both men are forced to follow reveal a lack of free will, and they also speak to the randomness of fate. In Chirugh's case, his victims' fates come down to the results of a coin toss. In Bell's case, many of the rules he follows are really only values, and have no inherent strength of their own. At the end of the film, he seems depressed, as if he'd answered the question Chirugh posed to his victims: If the rule you follow brought you to this, of what use was the rule? The rules the Sheriff followed brought him to Chirugh, who is a nightmare for him.

Llewelyn Moss is the only one of the three that doesn't follow any rules. He snubs the rule of law that Sheriff Bell embraces, and he also defies Chirugh. He has free will, but he still ends up dead. His wife, when confronted by Chirugh and his coin toss, refuses to participate, opting to die rather than sacrifice her own free will.

So what do we make of these rules? I think it illustrates that the sheriff and Chirugh both lack free will, but in the end are still alive while the Mosses are not.

After Chirugh kills the Mosses, he is struck by a car that blows a red light and nearly kills him. This might be seen as an act of karma, as punishment for killing the free, but Chirugh proves again to be too strong and ends up walking away from the accident. His belief in the rules he follows, twisted as they may be, is so strong as to make him into a Superman (Nietzsche?), indestructible and immune to random fate.

Clue number four: The hunter becomes the hunted.

Josh Brolin as "Llewelyn"
The movie begins with Moss hunting prong-horned antelope and, after witnessing a drug deal gone bad, he quickly becomes the hunted. Chirugh hunts Moss and is hunted by Bell. Bell is hunted by an invisible force: time. About to retire, he is hunted and haunted by the events unfolding before him. These shared experiences are further linking of the three and evidence of them being parts of a disparate whole.

Clue number five: Two scenes that illustrate the bond shared by Chirugh and Sheriff Bell.

Javier Bardem as "Chirugh"
The first of these occurs in Moss's trailer, when Bell, hot on the trail of Chirugh, arrives just minutes after Chirugh left. There's a glass of milk on the table that Chirugh left behind and it's still cold. Bell drinks from it, thus reinforcing my three are really one theory in that all drank from the same milk (Mother's milk? Hmm...). Bell sits on the couch in exactly the same spot Chirugh sat, and sees his own reflection in the television, just as Chirugh saw his. This illustrates that Chirugh and the Sheriff are different aspects of the same being.

The second scene is in the hotel crime scene, when Bell enters, unaware that Chirugh is behind the door. There is a shot of the two men's shadows that seem to overlay each other as the door opens until the two shadows become one.

Clue number six:  The sheriff's dream.

Tommy Lee Jones as "Sheriff Ed Tom Bell"
The movie ends with Bell, now retired, sitting at breakfast with his wife, telling her about a dream he'd had. In the dream, he and his dead father were riding on horseback in cold darkness, and his father went ahead to light a fire in the darkness, where he'd wait for the sheriff. The film ends here, fulfilling Yeats' vision that the aged need to accept entry into the non-physical, spiritual world of eternity. Bell is completing an entry that began just before Moss's murder.

Clue number seven:  Moss's murder isn't shown.

With the entire movie seemingly building up to a final Chirugh and Moss conflict, instead we are shown only the aftermath of Moss's murder. This is because of the rules the filmmakers imposed upon themselves (not to show any two of the characters in the same frame), and because the final act, which begins at this point, is about the entry into the spiritual world and the abandoning of the physical world of death and violence. In the scope of this, the murder of Moss and his wife isn't important; it's part of a world that is being left behind.

So what does this all add up to? I'm not sure. There is no denying the inherent nihilism in the randomness and brutality of the unrepentant violence in the film, despite the presence of rules or the existence or non-existence of free will. The sheriff's dream, about being reunited with his father in another world, would seem to suggest a paradise, except that his father will need to start a fire so he can see in the cold darkness. This doesn't sound like the brightly lit paradise that heaven is normally depicted as (although being reunited with his father in the landscape he loves might seem like paradise to Bell).

The idea of the three main characters being a part of one makes me think of the three elemental attributes associated with human beings: body, spirit and soul. If this was what they represented, then Chirugh would have to be body, because he dwells only in Yeats' physical world; Moss would be spirit, for he has elements of both of the other two yet he is the first to pass--the body and the soul will both outlast the spirit. Finally, Bell is the soul, as he has gained admission into the eternal world, leaving the spirit-less and soul-less body alone to perpetuate its evil in the physical world, in the region that is no country for old men.

So--that's my interpretation. I'd love to hear your comments, what parts you agree or disagree with.
I love films that make me think, and I know I'll still be thinking about No Country For Old Men for a long time, and that I'll collect even more clues the next time I see it.


Black Jesus

by Jav Rivera

I've always been a fan of things that weren't afraid to be funny, no matter who they might offend. And it's not because they're trying to offend that makes it funny for me. It's more because of the fact that the artist tackles something that in truth is funny, but just happens to be a bit taboo.

With that said, "Black Jesus" may or may not be for you, though I do urge you to look past its cover, because what's beneath has a lot of heart.

"Slink" Johnson as "Black Jesus"
Created by Aaron McGruder and Mike Clattenburg, the show is a perfect combination of the animated series "The Boondocks" and the Canadian cult series "Trailer Park Boys." And it just so happens that both McGruder and Clattenburg were the creators of those shows, respectively. "Black Jesus" shows us the life of an African-American Jesus living in Compton, CA trying to spread the good word while getting high and drinking a 40. And yet, oddly enough, "Black Jesus" feels relevant for current television. With other shows and movies promoting drug use, alcohol, and violence it makes sense that we see religion being represented in modern times.

The titular role is played by the incredibly cast Gerald "Slink" Johnson. Johnson brings a joyous spirit to his character, much like what you'd expect a Savior to have. His castmates bring a perfect balance of reality to over-the-top scenarios. Black Jesus' main crew are full believers while antagonists Vic (Charlie Murphy) and Lloyd (John Witherspoon) question his identity. In fact, Vic, who does believe in God, is a downright vicious non-believer of Johnson's character. He takes offense that Black Jesus is the real Lord Savior. Lloyd, on the other hand, flip-flops between believing or not, depending on if he gets what he prays for.

Lloyd (John Witherspoon) and Vic (Charlie Murphy)
If you're familiar with the great John Witherspoon, you won't be disappointed. He brings his comedy genius to every scene. There's something about how he delivers his lines that make any sentence sound funny. And it's nice to see that Charlie Murphy has finally graduated from his work on "Chappelle's Show". It made me sad to see Murphy get mostly bit parts knowing that he was a skillful comedic actor. On "Black Jesus" he's given the chance to shine.

Most of the gang, L-R: Boonie (Corey Holcomb), Black Jesus, Trayvon (Andrew Bachelor),
Maggie (Kali Hawk), and Fish (Andra Fuller)
But it's not just the bad guys; the good guys bring the funny too. Besides Johnson's outstanding portrayal of a modern day Jesus, his co-stars add a nice range of characters. For me, Boonie (Corey Holcomb) and his mom Ms. Tudi (Angela Elayne Gibbs) have the best chemistry. She cuts him down at every given moment, and he takes the beatings like a slow-witted child. And though the rest of the crew make the show more rounded, it's scenes with Boonie and Ms. Tudi (whether they're together or separated) that have the show's best laughs.

[warning: explicit language]

The only other character that might be able to compete with Gibbs' chemistry with Holcomb is Boonie's ex-wife Shalinka (played by Dominique Witten). Witten who's already a talented stand up comedian, dumbs it down for her character. She only appears once in a great while but she's always well worth the wait. And in season two, the underrated Keith David appears as Reverend Otis. It's always nice to see David appear in films and television, but when he's given a meaty role like he has in "Black Jesus," you wonder why more people don't give him the credit he deserves.

Every episode furthers the overall story arc per season, but the individual episodes have their own mini stories. I often felt like I was watching a McGruder version of "Trailer Park Boys," though the show never feels like it's a ripoff of the Canadian series. If anything, "Black Jesus" is honoring Clattenburg's incredible creation. And even though its "Trailer Park Boys" similarities is probably one of the show's best features, "Black Jesus" has enough originality to have other redeeming features. As I said, there actually is a lot of heart to the show despite its crude humor. Black Jesus really is trying to spread the good word to the modern world; he just happens to enjoy smoking a bud or two while he does it.

Just because a show like "Black Jesus" isn't politically correct doesn't mean it's all-out blasphemy. McGruder and Clattenburg have done a good job of showing just enough innocence and love through the lives of a group of sinners. Indeed, there are a lot of good lessons to be learned if you can look past the vulgarity.

For more information, visit their IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3589872

TRIVIA: Some of the cast members previously worked with Aaron McGruder on his animated series, "The Boondocks," including John Witherspoon, who was the voice of "Granddad."