Monthly Archives: December 2012

I had big plans for the holidays this year: celebrations in multiple cities, hot beverages of all kinds, a hike in the snow…

But no. Instead I woke up on Christmas Eve with more than the usual amount of malaise and a cough that tasted like a coral reef. I was still convinced I could get over it, so we went forward with our cross-state travel (well, Mr. Max did. I mostly slept in the car with a blanket over my face).

We were supposed to visit with metropolitan-based family on Christmas morning, but by then even I (a person who “ doesn’t get sick”) had to admit that I was really, really, really, sick. Like, too sick open presents. Or move. Or drink.

Instead I slept all day, drifting in and out of fever spells. When I woke up, the TV revealed the silver lining of my unfortunate flu:

The perfect excuse to finally see the Meredith Baxter TV movie that practically defines Television For Women.

A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story is the true-life (according to the title cards) tale of Betty Broderick, the wife of high-powered San Diego attorney Dan Broderick. As a wealthy power couple, the Brodericks are all about swanky balls and country club memberships, and less about, you know, sanity.

Within the first half an hour, Betty ruins Christmas because she got a bad present (a giant diamond ring that’s the WRONG KIND apparently).

Dan responds,  “It’s Christmas. If your Mom wants to behave like a spoiled brat, let’s let her.” Because that’s what you do in front of your children.

It isn’t long before Dan starts palling around with his young new secretary in a convertible.

Dan threatens to leave, and in response Betty burns his clothing in a pile in the front yard. Sensing that this will not end well, Dan moves out, and Betty goes off the deep end in a way that is only plausible in a Lifetime movie.

(I couldn’t get a screenshot of this so I’ll just tell you: she smears a frosted cake on his wardrobe and bed. Points for creativity, right?)

Dan gets a restraining order, but it doesn’t stop Betty’s reign of terror. She starts leaving obscene messages on Dan’s answering machine, drops their kids off in the middle of the night to “live with him,” breaks into the house and spray paints the walls…

…drives a truck into the side of the house, and generally continues to aggressively harass Dan for “ruining her life.” Eventually, she gets a gun and you probably know the rest.

In case you don’t, she totally blows away Dan and his new wife.

And that’s basically the movie, plus the framing device of a still-crazy Betty talking to the camera from jail.

You might be wondering: who exactly is the protagonist? I know the question crossed my mind a few times.

It’s not Dan (because he’s a sleazy lawyer dude who’s sleeping with his secretary). And Betty’s like, a crazy murderer, so it really shouldn’t be her. But since she’s always on-screen, ranting and monologuing, you almost begin to root for her. Even though she’s crazy and actually phenomenally unlikable.

And that is the magic of Lifetime.

Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick, The Last Chapter

You might think that a TV movie that begins with a couple arguing and ends with murder and handcuffs completes a natural story arc. But that doesn’t stop Lifetime! There’s actually a sequel — descriptively titled Her Final Fury — and it’s (almost) as good as the original.

Unlike most movie sequels, Her Final Fury actually includes the last ten minutes or so of the regular movie. Why? No idea, but Mr. Max says this detail is his favorite part of either (or both?) movie(s).

Shortly after the murder happens (um, again), we see an unnamed suburban couple gossiping about the case in their front yard. “Did you hear who killed her husband?” whisper-shouts the wife with way too much excitement. I love the randomness of this scene. I guess it’s supposed to show us that the murder is big news in town? At least among this particular couple?

The rest of the movie takes place, more or less, in boring courtroom drama land. Betty doesn’t have a lot to do except hang out in jail so the lady prosecutor becomes the de facto protagonist. The first trial ends in a hung jury, but the dedicated prosecutor is undeterred and immediately signs on for trial #2.

Even behind bars, Betty’s up to her usual antics — threatening her older daughter for testifying against her, ranting to the press, and hiring a PR firm to craft her “image.” Eventually, there’s a showdown on the stand between lady prosecutor and crazy Betty. Betty’s no match for the sharp (and powersuited) lady prosecutor, and she’s finally convicted and sent to jail for a long, long time.

Come on Lifetime, it’s been 20 years. Aren’t we ready for Her Final FINAL Fury: The Parole Hearings?

Mr. Max brought home the above nutritional shake powder and as soon as I saw it I exclaimed, “DESIGNER whey? OOH FANCY!”

and then we both died of sarcasm.

Seriously, I kind of love everything about this package design. In addition to the utterly nonsensical use of the term “designer,” there’s also the phrase “America’s #1 protein since 1993.” Why not just say America’s #1 protein and leave it at that? Sticking that preposition at the end sort of turns it into the wussy opposite of a humble-brag. (Would that be a brag-humble?)

It immediately reminded me of another braggy bit of marketing that recently came to my attention: a bag from a grocery called Mediterranean Foods in Astoria.

“The best store of its kind in Astoria.”

The friend who sent this to me captioned it: “Beautiful in its modest braggadocio.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

We did. Even though it may have annoyed people, there are five reasons it was justified.

#1 Old Man Delivering a Speech Voice

I agree that Daniel Day-Lewis makes a pretty convincing Abe Lincoln, at least in terms of appearance. But for some strange reason, he does this oratorical old man voice in EVERY SINGLE SCENE. Like, not just the scenes where he’s delivering a speech, but even when his face is 3 inches away from Mary Todd Lincoln’s or he’s just shooting the shit with a bunch of aides. Dude, don’t most politicians usually have an indoor voice, too?

And it’s not even a normal old man voice. It’s like some weird cadence-heavy Bob Dylan voice. I’m guessing it’s like when Johnny Depp decided to do an imitation of Keith Richards because someone told him that Jack Sparrow was a kind of rock star figure. Maybe someone said, “Lincoln was like a rambly-old-man-burned-out-eccentric” and DDL was like, “Dylan!”

(Yeah, I know there’s all kinds of research out there saying that Lincoln had a weird voice. I stand firm in my inappropriate laughter.)

#2 Mary Todd Lincoln: Harpy

Mary Todd Lincoln was not exactly beloved, and most scholars agree that she was probably mentally ill or personality disordered. But man, they could not make the woman any shriller. Sally Field shrieks through her scenes like she’s still on the set of Soapdish (which is, incidentally, a better movie).

#3 Robert California as Himself

This was priceless. I’m sure that James Spader CAN play other characters. But in this case, W.N. Bilbo is really just Robert California in period britches. Same smirk, same scoundrelly-ness, same sarcasm…

“Politics are all about sex. The Union wants it. The Confederacy wants it…

#4 John Williams Rips Off The National Geographic Theme and Just Decides To Go With It


Don’t believe me? Watch from 1:30 onward.

It reminds me of that scene in the Twilight Zone Movie where Albert Brooks sings lyrics to the National Geographic theme: “Look-at-that-fos-sil/It’s-stuck-there-in-the-tar (Boom Boom)”

“Look-at-John-Williams, he-is-cashing-a-check  (Boom Boom)”

Mr. Max adds that it also rips off the following:

Lord of the Rings score
The Postman score
Jurassic Park score
Aaron Copeland (generally)
Ashokan Farewell, the theme from Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary series
Jupiter (Holst)

#5 General Spielbergianisms

We knew this going in, but boy oh boy there were certainly some serious goofy Spielberg moments. Just a few:

Any of Tommy Lee Jones’ grumpy reaction shots

Har har har!!! Because every historical drama about slavery needs a moment that seems like it belongs in Mrs. Doubtfire.

Comic relief re: political corruption

There’s literally a montage where James Spader falls down in mud while trying to lobby votes for the amendment. I’m sorry but no. Falling down humor is for Kevin James movies only.

And, last but not least:

Depicting the African-American perspective through shots of extras with one tear running down their cheek and THAT’S IT.

You’d think they could have gone beyond the depth of narrative depicted in those crying-Native-American PSAs.