Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story [2003)

Happy Birthday to Thora Birch, my favorite actress of all time!

Yes, I know…I know.

A film critic whose favorite actress is a young 35-year-old whipper snapper???

Yes.

That’s alright.

Laugh at me.

If the question was, “Who was your favorite classic Hollywood actress?,” then I would answer, “Lauren Bacall”.

But I said favorite actress of all time.

You can search my “Thora” category here on my site for why exactly this actress is my favorite.

Because otherwise, we’re going to be here all day.

And I have a movie to review!

One of my favorites:  Homeless to Harvard.

It is, indeed …The Liz Murray Story, but I will be using the shortened title hereafter for brevity’s sake.

It is my contention (and I have made the point elsewhere…probably on this very site of mine) that Thora Birch produced a trilogy of acting performances which are more-or-less analogous to Bob Dylan’s classic trilogy.

Let’s start with Dylan.

The three (at unity from a similarity of intense expression):

Bringing It All Back Home

Highway 61 Revisited 

and

Blonde on Blonde

And now the Thora films which correspond in my mind:

American Beauty

Ghost World

and

Homeless to Harvard

Sure…Birch didn’t direct these films.

But her acting is so strong, she might as well have.

By this point she was no longer a prodigy.

She was a mature actress.  A master of her craft.

And the story here is one to really sink teeth in.

[In which.]

We recently touched on homelessness here in the review of Alicia Vikander’s stellar turn as Katarina from Till det som är vackert.

Pure.

But the esthetics of Homeless to Harvard are different.

This isn’t European arthouse.  It’s a Lifetime made-for-TV film.

But don’t go running anywhere!!!

This is as gritty as any Lou Reed tale.

And it’s all real.

Too pure.

Heroin addict parents.

Mother schizophrenic.

Blindness.

Genetic.

Mother with HIV.

Father with AIDS.

Vice versa ice Ursa.

Father in homeless shelter.

Mother wielding knife.  Vomiting.

Alcoholism.

Really appealing, eh?

But you gotta stick with it.

This isn’t Darren Aronofsky mise-en-scène.

It’t not, “Let’s win an award at Sundance.”  Or, “Let’s sweep at Cannes.”

It’s more like one of Aesop’s fables.

It’s the message, man!

And so first, let’s honor the director.

Peter Levin.

Who knew a television film could be so artful?

Well, when you combine the history of Histoire(s) du cinéma with the precedent of Twin Peaks, you should know by now that television can produce good stuff.

Hell…

Your TV can even WATCH YOU! (as per WikiLeaks Vault7).

But I digress…

The weeper (no masonry) sob story…had me crying in my Junior Mints…we must attribute to the excellent writing of Ronni Kern.

Who the hell is Ronni Kern?!?

Male?  Female?

I’ve had less trouble finding the gender of completely unknown foreign movie people.

But Kern is pretty invisible on the Internet.

And maybe there’s a point here.

  1.  It doesn’t fucking matter.
  2. You should judge someone on their work, not their gender.

Hopefully Ms. Birch will appreciate this flash of liberalism should she read this review.

[I’m not holding my breath]

But we have just celebrated International Women’s Day.

And the fact that Birch’s character here is a “feminist” is a running pseudo-joke.

Which brings us to the performances.

Michael Riley is stellar, stellar (I know…) as Liz’s father Peter.

Kudos to the styling department.

That beard.  And that hair!

Crazy, man, crazy!!

But Riley’s performance is really special.

It touched my heart.

Long ago.

When I first saw this film.

And dare I say, this movie made me appreciate my own family.

It made me miss my folks.

And so I salute Peter Riley and Lifetime and all involved for that effect on my heart.

Jennifer Pisana is really fabulous as the young Liz Murray here.

It’s an unenviable task.

To precede Thora Birch’s entrance.

But Pisana is indispensable to this little masterpiece.

Those sweaters.

And the full pronunciations…”Mommy”…”Daddy”…

Ms. Pisana affects the necessary naïveté to be juxtaposed against the sad schizophrenia of Kelly Lynch (who plays Liz’s mom).

And Lynch is great.

Think Cries and Whispers.

[cris et chuchotements…(( (( ((…et chuchotements]

Robert Bockstael does a fine job as Liz’s teacher David.

Very convincing.  Excellent craftsmanship.

Makyla Smith is piquant in her depiction of Liz’s best friend Chris.

[God…the Magic Marker…and the pine box…fuuuuuuck]

Yes, friends…this is Lifetime Television.

So the brisure (bonjour, monsieur Derrida) is “crap”.

“Crap happens.”

Whoa…watch thy mouth, Kelly Lynch!

So again…Peter Levin does a fantastic job shoehorning a true X-file into PG territory.

We see a syringe here and there.  A tourniquet.

Riley cleaning a spoon.

But the real heartbreak is Wheat Chex with tap water.

Yeah…

Hello Gummo.

Ellen Page has a small role here.

And she’s good.

Fine actress.

But we’ve been waiting to roll out the big gun.

Thora Birch.

On this, her birthday, I am only just now getting towards a handful of reviews honoring her unique thespian gift.

What to say?

That every look is magic?

That every glance is gold?

That she has crafted her microexpressions in solitude…and wielded them like an Arthurian sword for the duration of this flick?

Yes, yes, and yes.

[and an Oxford comma]

Because kids take it for granted.

Rich kids.

Harvard.

Penn.

Princeton.

Maybe…

But even more so the lesser ivied walls.

I won’t name names.

But the spoiled kids.

Not turning in homework.

Bragging about shortcuts.

Those, ultimately, will be life’s losers.

But Liz Murray worked her butt off to get into Harvard.

From sleeping on the B Train.

Four years of high school in two.

And Thora Birch has worked her butt off too.

She hasn’t gotten the roles her talent deserves.

But the roles she has gotten, she has largely smashed out of the park.

Like the Babe Ruth of leading ladies.

And so there are other actresses I admire.

But Thora Birch was the first.

The first to give me that magical feeling which only Neil Young has adequately described:

“I fell in love with the actress/She was playin’ a part that I could understand”.

Happy Birthday, Thora Birch!

And may all your days and films be filled with the joy which you have put into the world through your cinematic brilliance.

-PD

Superman [1978)

First, I owe a deep apology to my fellow bloggers who have continued to follow and support me.  I have been swamped with work and embroiled in the current US election.  Thank you so much for your kindness!  I look forward to graduating with a master’s degree in about a month and hope to “get back on the wagon” of following each and every one of your amazing blogs.

Second, my conscience requires that I addend my previous takes on two very controversial figures:  Marina Abramović and Edward Snowden.

As I have continued my research on Ms. Abramović, I am more and more convinced that her dabblings in the occult are not mere innocent instances of artistic expression.  I still do not know what role she plays in the increasingly lurid child sex ring which is leaking from NYPD and FBI sources, but her buddies the Podestas (John Podesta, Hillary’s campaign chairman, and his brother Tony) seem more and more solidly “in the tank” as regards genuine sexual abuse of minors, child trafficking, and (even more shocking) ritualistic murder of these same kidnapped children.

I am not saying that the Podestas are guilty of these crimes.  I am, however, pointing out that mounting evidence suggests they are part of something which bears this general outline.  Also involved is the (likely) Saudi spy Huma Abedin.  But the kingpins seem to be the Clintons themselves.

I was a bit dismissive of hysteria when I defended Marina Abramović’s artistic merits.  I do still think she is an incredibly gifted artist.  But no amount of genius excuses child rape and ritualistic murder of young people.  [We shall be discussing here a similarly “brilliant” psychopath:  Lex Luthor.]

Quite frankly, Hillary Clinton seems to be a witch in the most literal sense.

Lexi Luthor?

Lexus Luthor?

It was my imperfect knowledge which caused my failure to grasp the bigger picture in the Abramović case (“spirit cooking”, in which the Podesta brothers and John’s wife Mary engaged in presumably a dinner with artist Marina Abramović which likely involved ingesting breast milk, semen, urine, and blood).

But there is more to “spirit cooking”…and more to Marina Abramović.

First, it has been suggested that the TRUEST (most genuine) “spirit cooking” would be, essentially, cannibalism:  eating the flesh or organs of spirits (dead children) who are cooked.

Second, Abramović’s references are not anodyne.  I cannot get into the details of “spirit cooking’s” connections to Aleister Crowley and Thelema because I am not conversant in such esoteric knowledge.  But I can confirm that child sacrifice is an obsession of the ruling elites in at least the US and UK (as evidenced by the opening ceremonies of Bohemian Club meetings near San Francisco which are documented to include a “mock” child sacrifice called “the cremation of care”).

My conclusion that Hillary Clinton truly practices illegal manifestations of magic is partly due to the words of former Clinton family employee Larry Nichols who is on record as saying that Bill Clinton told him that Hillary Clinton would make monthly (at least) treks to California to participate in a witches’ coven.  You can bet she wasn’t playing second fiddle at these shindigs!

And so what my readers must understand is that, for these perverse elites, black magic is very real.  At the very least, it appears that they are engaged in illegal activities pursuant to these ritualistic leanings.  And thus, as stated, my take on Marina Abramović was both uninformed and naïve insofar as occult context goes.

Hillary Luthor.

vs. Superman.

I must make a further confession.  I may have done injustice to Edward Snowden to be so skeptical of his aims.  The same goes for my suspicion of Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

And I’ll tell you why.

The majority of real news we are getting in the USA is thanks to WikiLeaks.

Edward Snowden has certainly been lumped in with Julian Assange.

To my satisfaction, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have proven themselves to be a credible (and priceless) asset for world freedom.

And so perhaps I was too harsh on Snowden.

One thing is certain:  we must remember that the eyes are the most easily-fooled of our senses.

So for me to proclaim, as an amateur film critic, that I know the score of Snowden’s veracity should not be taken as gospel truth.

Superman.

Is Edward Snowden the Superman in this whole thing?

Is Assange?

Actually, I would make the case that it is (rather) Donald Trump who is the true Superman on the world stage at the moment.

And it is indeed germane that he be facing off against Hillary Luthor.

And so we have a brilliant movie.

From director Richard Donner.

This is what superhero movies should be like.

Back when CGI didn’t suck (and the Clinton Global Initiative was yet to exist).

Superman brings hope.

To the deepest, darkest, most depressed and forgotten corners of America.

Not insignificant, Superman is a journalist by day.

The names here are blockbuster.

Marlon Brando as Superman’s biological father.

Perhaps James Comey is like Brando’s character Jor-El (who pronounces judgment against insurrectionists but then must acquiesce to the fate of death for he and his wife).

Which is to say, maybe James Comey of the US FBI is an honorable man.

Sure doesn’t seem like it.

But from surrender, a child is borne upon the seas of outer space.

Glenn Ford is excellent as Superman’s adoptive father.

Phyllis Thaxter is wonderful as Superman’s adoptive mother.

Jeff East is very good as the teenage Clark Kent.

Superman is all about the outcast getting his revenge on society…BY DOING GOOD!

Are you an outcast?

Yes.

Me too.

And we all know pain.

The pain of discrimination.  Not fitting in.  Being the odd man out.  The ugly duckling.

We can feel that the world (our little world) doesn’t want us.

And it is tremendously traumatic.

But Superman is a bit like Saint Jude the Apostle:  patron saint of lost causes.

Superman speaks to the most lowly among us.

Schizophrenics.  Shut-ins.  Impoverished.  Living in squalor.

Superman lets us dream.

We may have nothing but a VCR.  We have never gone on a date, much less had a girlfriend.

The world has forgotten about us.

But Superman gives us hope.

That someone or some thing is going to come along and lift us out of our misery.

The Trump connection is strong.

Doesn’t drink.  Doesn’t smoke.

Superman.

The World Trade Center (still standing) in the background (1978).

As Christopher Reeve zips through the New York City sky.

Mr. Reeve is astonishingly good as an actor in this film.

Enter Lois Lane.

Margot Kidder is so charming in this film 🙂

Her skinny little frame never stops moving as she tries to get the latest scoop in her job as a reporter.

But what else does Superman represent?

He represents the good cops who dive into the abyss each night to patrol the unpredictability of our streets.

He represents the good FBI who “damn the torpedoes” and go after the bad guys (and gals) [whomever they turn out to be].

Superman fights crime.

He never lies.

Superman is a protector.

Like the brave Secret Service agents who did a wonderful job shielding Mr. Trump two days ago in Reno from what could have been imminent gunfire.

Supermen are willing human shields.

Defenders.

Like our military.

And Superman does not suffer the deviance of pencil pushers who would try and leverage their brilliance to harm people.

If I was a Hillary supporter, I would compare Trump to Lex Luthor (realtors both).

But sometimes history offers us a counterintuitive option.

Donald Trump, while a realtor, is not out to screw the American public.

He has enough money.

He’s not a sycophant like Hillary.

The famous red “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hat does not feature Trump’s name on it.

It’s not about him.

It’s about America.

Hillary’s campaign always comes back to her…in a self-serving way.

The ubiquitous H signs and the trite “I’m with her” détournement of a decades-old pop culture phrase.

Neither of Hillary’s taglines (including “Stronger Together”) ring true.

Mostly because SHE doesn’t ring true.  In anything.  At all.  Ever.

But Superman is for real teamwork.

Superman has humility.

But he also has immense confidence.  Pride, not arrogance.

And not least, Superman has a wry sense of humor.

With Luthor’s “staffer” Otis (Ned Beatty), there are a plethora of possible parallels to the iniquitous (and, frankly, incompetent) team of ass-kissers with whom Hillary has surrounded herself.

While John Podesta may very well be categorically evil, he’s no evil genius.

What kind of idiot forgoes the advice to encrypt?

But Hillary is really her own Otis.

Only Otis would be so dumb as to use a personal email server and (among other things) let her Filipino maid print out classified documents while Hillary was at Foggy Bottom.

Which makes Hillary the foggy bottom-feeder.  Always.  Forever.

Good attracts evil.

Good can change evil (and vice versa).

But be good…and you will reap the rewards of goodness.

Perhaps Valerie Perrine will rescue you from a swimming pool 🙂

We must save our mothers in Hackensack.

If you’re on the side of evil, it’s time to switch teams.

Good is merciful.

Do not wait until it’s too late.

Hillary has poisoned her own well just like Lex Luthor.

She is coming down.

It’s not a question of if, but rather of when.

However, those who have the opportunity to expose her misdeeds and yet stay silent must bear upon their consciences their accessory roles as silent partners to the evil destruction of America.

There may not be another chance.

So many people are tied to Hillary’s ring of corruption.

If they retain power, they will use all means necessary to purge the country of dissenters.

Don’t believe the “stronger together” hogwash.

Time to deliver Luthor and Otis to prison.

Are you the Superman we seek?

 

-PD