Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image)

Monday, March 4, 2019

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised


The story is simple, straightforward, and the style carries the conviction of a raw immediacy difficult to fake. This is not to say that elaborate machinations and cagey deceptions were not involved in the events of April 11-14, 2002, in which the popular left-wing Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez was deposed (an occurrence all too familiar in the history of Latin America) and then restored (an occurrence not nearly familiar enough). Nor is this to ignore the sophistication of this documentary's analysis, its exacting deconstruction of the privately-owned media's duplicity as well as its own - consequently somewhat ambivalent - skill in shaping a narrative from a vast array of choices. The Irish filmmakers shot at a 200:1 ratio, meaning for every one minute of footage they used, three hours and nineteen minutes were discarded; struggling to tighten their focus, they hired a particularly crucial collaborator, editor Ángel Hernández Zoido, who has argued, "There are always hundreds of stories sleeping inside the material and you have to find them and wake them up." No, what I mean by observing - and praising - the story and style of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is that the filmmakers never lose sight of the essential truths at the film's core.

What are these essential truths? First, that the political tension in Venezuela hinges on class war, with Chávez's support rooted in the more impoverished sectors while the opposition's support is rooted in the more wealthy. Second, that the private media reflects its often oligarchical ownership by pushing narratives that relentlessly attack Chávez, through manipulation if necessary. Indeed, one of the film's most significant and highly cinematic observations is that an image used to justify the coup relies on a dishonest camera angle that denies wider context: Chávez supporters supposedly firing at a crowd of opponents when in fact their defensive fire was directed at hidden snipers in an area mostly devoid of protesters. Third, that the leaders of the opposition - despite their self-righteous claims to be resisting an authoritarian outlaw - gladly operate outside of the law when the opportunity arises; as soon as they have even a flimsy grasp on power they do not turn to democratic means to claim their legitimacy. Notably, although the details of the documentary can be, and frequently have been, vehemently if unconvincingly argued with lawyerly devotion, the film's critics tend to concede or avoid these broader, fundamental truths. They are essential not only because they make the most important facts clear but because they orient us toward the wider context and pattern.

Monday, February 25, 2019

True Detective season 3 episode 8 - "Now Am Found"


This True Detective viewing diary is being written while the new series airs. As such, future readers need not worry: there are no spoilers for upcoming episodes.

This season of True Detective ends not so much with a bang or a whimper as with a sigh, and an ambiguous one at that: a sigh of resignation, satisfaction, trepidation, or bemused awe? This is a finale determined to resolve the central mystery with due diligence, so diligent that it needs an extra fifteen minutes to allow itself the necessary breathing room for more heartfelt matters (including some that still incorporate the big mystery). But the episode unravels its secrets in a measured, muted manner, a stylistic decision both deflating and appropriate; if the first season's somewhat simplified conclusion felt like a betrayal of the grand conspiracizing that had come before, this one has more of an "of course" logic at work. That isn't to say it's entirely successful even within its own parameters; while the third season was careful not to let our expectations get out of hand, this eighth episode is by far the least dramatic and most perfunctory of any installment. The finale's strongest moments arrive when it allows itself to prioritize what has always been Pizzolatto's primary concern: the relationships between the characters.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

February 2019 Patreon Podcasts: LOST IN TWIN PEAKS #1 - The Pilot and LOST IN THE MOVIES #52 - John Thorne interview, pt. 2 & film in focus: First Reformed (+ Venezuelan crisis, my projects before tackling Journey, favorite films archive #89 - #79: Stop Making Sense, Place de la Republique, Platform, Miraculous Virgin, Schindler's List, Raging Bull, Syndromes and a Century, The End of Evangelion, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Wizard of Oz & more)


Although I'm saving the image for later publications, the big news this month is the official kickoff for Lost in Twin Peaks, my in-depth introcast/rewatch of the first two seasons (mostly spoiler-free for an eventual public audience, but with a spoiler section near the end). Today is the thirtieth anniversary of Cooper's arrival in town, so it seemed like the perfect time to cover that episode (I offered a preview of the podcast format last month by discussing The Missing Pieces). I had so much to say that I divided the recording into three sections...





On the main podcast, there are second entries in a couple ongoing endeavors. My conversation with John Thorne continues as we address Diane, the did-Cooper-do-it theory, and the shocking Twin Peaks spoiler that Lynch allowed to leak back in 2015. Meanwhile, the "100 of my favorite films" miniseries continues on Opening the Archive with my #89 - 79 entries). I'm also ending/pausing some other features: my last film in focus (at least for a while) will be Paul Schrader's First Reformed, which also concludes my Ethan Hawke series that began with Dead Poets Society in September. And my discussion of the Venezuelan crisis will be my last political section for now as I try to streamline the show's structure.


Episode 52: John Thorne's Twin Peaks conversation, pt. 2 / film in focus: First Reformed
(+ Venezuelan crisis, my projects before tackling Journey, favorite films archive #89 - #79: Stop Making Sense, Place de la Republique, Platform, Miraculous Virgin, Schindler's List, Raging Bull, Syndromes and a Century, The End of Evangelion, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Wizard of Oz & more)



From now on, I will publish monthly Patreon updates. When I begin releasing public podcasts, probably next year, I will post Patreon episodes in the same cross-posts as public ones; I'm trying to de-clutter the site somewhat so hopefully this helps. Patreon too is becoming simpler as I limit my activity to two monthly podcasts for now: one main episode for the $1/month patrons (usually including a general Twin Peaks discussion, listener feedback, podcast recommendations, quick updates on my work, and the reading aloud of archive reviews), and one Lost in Twin Peaks episode for the $5/month patrons. Those episodes will be released on a monthly basis to $1/month patrons with a six-month lag, beginning in July.

Podcast Line-Ups for...

Monday, February 18, 2019

True Detective season 3 episode 7 - "The Final Country"


This True Detective viewing diary is being written while the new series airs. As such, future readers need not worry: there are no spoilers for upcoming episodes.

The third season of True Detective started strong, with a bold conceptual frame, a hypnotic style, and a comfortably familiar milieu and mystery plot - reassuring us that the series was returning to the strengths of season one and not venturing into over-ambitious season three territory. From there we might have expected a solid eight episodes, putting us on firm ground again with a series and creator we'd grown worried about. And indeed, this story has avoided some of the more grandiose tendencies of the last one, and even ducked some of the first season's flamboyance even as it offers winks and nudges toward a grand unifying theory: an idea which becomes explicit - and appears to be abruptly dismissed - in episode 7 (I've not yet read this article, but am already nodding along with the headline). Eliza displays Rust's and Marty's pictures on her laptop and eagerly puts forward the idea that the Purcell children were kidnapped by a massive pedophile ring related directly to the Tuttle/Yellow King operation busted up by our original protagonists; Wayne of course is having none of it (he even seems a little disappointed/disgusted with how off-track the interviewer is) but less because it's too big and more because it doesn't seem rooted enough in the reality he knows. Surprisingly, the third season is both much more grounded than any previous iteration of the series, and potentially more accomplished as well. There's a strong argument to be made that this is developing into the best-written season of the show - it's certainly the most mature.

Friday, February 15, 2019

True Detective season 3 episode 6 - "Hunters in the Dark"


This True Detective viewing diary is being written while the new series airs. As such, future readers need not worry: there are no spoilers for upcoming episodes.

"You walked away," the aged Roland reminds (or informs?) his long-estranged buddy near the end of the previous episode. Was he being literal? In "Hunters in the Dark," we see Wayne and Roland bicker on a 1990 ride home and the angry Wayne grabs the wheel, storms out of the car, and marches down the road in a cloud of dust as his partner drives away. The incident seems like an explosive but nonetheless temporary rupture in their professional relationship (triggered by Roland's insistence that they stop working for the day, although obviously facilitated by other factors), but what if the two would not speak again for twenty-five years? Considering what happens at the end of episode 6, it's not hard to imagine that the investigation comes to an abrupt end and while we don't see the detectives kill anyone (as some cryptic dialogue suggested they might have) maybe what they were really referring to was their treatment of Tom, driving him over the edge. Then again, there's the question of state cop-turned-Hoyt security man Harris James (Scott Shepherd). Why did he disappear in 1990 if not because a suspicious Wayne and Roland cracked down in private? We'll probably find out soon.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

True Detective season 3 episode 5 - "If You Have Ghosts"


This True Detective viewing diary is being written while the new series airs. As such, future readers need not worry: there are no spoilers for upcoming episodes.

As with previous episode fives, "If You Have Ghosts" places us in an "after" position on the central case. We now know what happened to the original investigation - crime scene evidence (planted, as it's later revealed) linked Brett Woodard to the missing kids and so, conveniently, he was posthumously convicted of their murder. The drama of the middle period is in full swing too, having established the basic scenario against which the partners will be torn apart and a family may be separated. In the almost-present, we're shifting from a reflective look back toward a full-on investigation; Wayne reunites with his partner and makes a crucial realization, that Lucy herself wrote the ransom note (he connects the dots after finally reading his wife's book). So far, so familiar as True Detective story structures go. There are some neat quirks to the storytelling: this season's 1990 scenes combine aspects of both the middle and late periods from season one, and, closer to season two, the older character re-unite to pursue a non-professional investigation at the end of this episode, rather than waiting for the sixth. And of course, we now have a significantly expanded time span to work with (three and a half decades vs. half that time in the original season). Despite these and other small variations, Nic Pizzolatto prefers a certain loose formula and it works quite well here, lending the episode a good deal of its dramatic satisfaction. However, the episode's more profound impact stems from something new.

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Last Weekly Patreon Update: John Thorne conversation, Pt. 1 / Before Midnight & Boyhood (+ Kevin B. Lee/video essay history, La Vieja Memoria, La Haine, Lost in Translation, Celine and Julie Go Boating, Dogville, Persona, Death by Hanging, All the President's Men, Emak-Bakia, Faust, Cria Cuervos, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Cold War, BlacKkKlansman, La Religieuse, Mary Sweeney's short film, AOC hits Congress, podcast recommendations & much, much more)


The first part of a three part, two-and-half interview with legendary Twin Peaks scholar John Thorne, creator of Wrapped in Plastic and The Blue Rose magazines, highlights this epic five-hour episode (if you plan to listen to the whole thing, and probably even if you don't, you will want to break it into several listening sessions). I've made twenty minutes of this segment public on YouTube - if you like what you hear, and want to hear more, you can access the rest of the interview as a patron over the next several months.


Episode 51 also includes my first double feature film in focus since last winter, and that's only the surface of its bounty which also includes my reading of a dozen archive reviews, brief thoughts another dozen or so films or TV shows I watched in the past month, updates on many different projects I've been working on, reflections on a very tumultuous month in politics, pieces of listener feedback across several different platforms, and a dive into the work of Kevin B. Lee and the history of video essays. The links section is equally epic, including probably a hundred different resources based on what I discuss in the episode.


Episode 51A: Film Viewing Diary & Political Topics
(The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Cold War, BlacKkKlansman, La Religieuse, Bohemian Rhapsody, Aquaman, The American Meme, Mary Sweeney's short film, second seasons of Mad Men & Veronica Mars, Inside Out, Thirteen, Derry Girls, Hill Street Blues, Christmas film songs, best year in film history, AOC hits Congress, fair use history of a dance meme + intro, updates, podcast recommendations & more)

(+ Kevin B. Lee/video essay history & Opening the Archive favorite films #100-90: La Vieja Memoria, La Haine, Lost in Translation, Celine and Julie Go Boating, Dogville, Persona, Death by Hanging, All the President's Men, Emak-Bakia, Faust, Cria Cuervos)

(+ listener feedback: the Owl Cave ring, spirituality vs. psychology, Ray Wise, LeftTube recommendations & more)


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

True Detective season 3 episode 4 - "The Hour and the Day"


This True Detective viewing diary is being written while the new series airs. As such, future readers need not worry: there are no spoilers for upcoming episodes. Incidentally, I'm going to switch to a first-name basis for the detectives to match other characters; it just flows better.

Mahershala Ali continues to flourish as the undoubted protagonist of True Detective. For whatever reason, his makeup/performance as the elderly Wayne feels slightly less convincing this round but he is still a strong presence in the younger sequences, an iteration of the Pizzolatto detective persona that feels fully lived-in rather than superimposed on the actor. And after an unassuming debut, Stephen Dorff is emerging as a fascinating character in his own right, sturdy in both eras in very different ways. After the last episode hinted at the outcome of his friendship with Tom in the 1990 timeline, the roots are excavated in "The Hour and the Days"' 1980 scenes; Roland discovers the grieving alcoholic father at his absolute lowest and something in him pities the man. Both actors are excellent, and both characters are quite compelling. However, I think my favorite so far, for both acting and writing (and the way the two element complement one another), is Carmen Ejogo as Amelia. In the wrong hands, the part could miss the mark but Ejogo crafts a convincing portrait of curiosity, confidence, and confusion - do I get an A for alliteration, Ms. Reardon?

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Patreon update #56: New introduction and preview of La La Land review

poster by Patrick Connan

This week I finally updated my intro video for Patreon to more accurately reflect new patron rewards (as well as a year of not getting my hair cut haha). I also tried to fix a few things from the previous video, including the no-no of filming from a low rather than high (or in this case, basically even) level. Couldn't quite get the eyeline right, though! I don't know how all you speak-to-the-camera YouTubers do it, day in and day out...a very simple minute of talking head video took me forever to set up. Anyway, now I have a teaser that's up to speed about the second-tier Twin Peaks podcast (just launched last week) as well as the rewards for all levels. In my biweekly preview, I share a glimpse of my "Unseen" series piece looking at La La Land in the context of 2016, and my weekly journal depicts my first week plunging back into a variety of ongoing projects after a trip to New York. In a few days, look for the official podcast, which will be one of my most packed yet.



Monday, January 21, 2019

True Detective season 3 episode 3 - "The Big Never"


This True Detective viewing diary is being written while the new series airs. As such, future readers need not worry: there are no spoilers for upcoming episodes.

From the chaotic details established in the premiere, a story is beginning to coalesce in the detectives' minds. While the big picture remains foggy, at least one thing now seems clear: the Purcell children had a "secret friend," likely an adult, with whom they were meeting and communicating. They didn't just lie to their father about meeting a classmate on this particular day - the children hadn't hung out together for months before the disappearance. This dawning realization, stretching from a conversation between Hays and West early in the episode to the discovery of a photo album (with a first communion snapshot echoing Will's death pose), lends the 1980 sequence one of its primary throughlines. Another important element reveals itself when Hays stumbles across the probable crime scene in the woods (a stash of toys and a bloody rock suggest a meeting and a murder - or accident?), and then he proceeds to a dirt road where a not-entirely-trustworthy farmer (Mike Hickman). The man claims he's already been visited by police and mentions an interracial couple who used to show up nearby in a brown car, but not on the same days he'd spot the children wandering by.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Patreon update #55: The Missing Pieces kicks off Lost in Twin Peaks podcast for the 2nd tier plus preview archive opened to all patrons


While the shift to monthly rather than weekly podcasts offers me some relief from a constant workload, it's also necessary to acommodate the growth in content. Not only will my now-monthly main podcast be stuffed with more material in each entry, I've also supplemented my approach by adding a lengthy monthly podcast entirely focused on Twin Peaks, episode by episode. For now, it's available only to $5/month patrons; eventually I will start releasing episodes on a six-month delay for all patrons (so the $5/month patrons will retain their head start for the entire series). Only when the podcast is almost finished - around late 2021 - will I begin to publish these episodes publicly as weekly podasts on iTunes. So if you don't want to wait half a year, let alone two and a half years, to listen this material, now would be a great time to become a second-tier patron! This entry, actually a jump ahead to the thirty-second episode, covers The Missing Pieces. I explain this in my intro on Patreon, which I'll reproduce here:
#32?! My brand new "Lost in Twin Peaks" podcast kicks off today by jumping ahead a little...ok, a lot. But I want to save the pilot for next month when it will be the 30th anniversary of February 24, 1989, the day Agent Cooper arrived in Twin Peaks to investigate the Laura Palmer murder. So first up, what is officially a much later episode of the podcast can also serves as a useful warm-up for the season proper. Besides, Charles de Lauzirika - who produced the boxset which debuted this assembly of deleted scenes from Fire Walk With Me - once speculated that The Missing Pieces could make a good, if highly abstract, introduction the world of Twin Peaks. I guess we'll find out...
Meanwhile, I also posted my second weekly journal, updating all patrons on my activities, and I finally adjusted the availability of all my biweekly previews - nearly thirty - going back to the beginning of 2018 so that every single one is now open to patrons at all levels. Considering some of these were originally exclusive to the (now-defunct) $10/month tier, it's quite a deal. Although a few are from posts that were eventually published on this site, most are still in my backlog so these previews remain exclusive sneak peeks.



(includes links to every single biweekly preview from the past year



Line-up for Lost in Twin Peaks #32

Monday, January 14, 2019

True Detective season 3 episodes 1 & 2 - "The Great War and Modern Memory" & "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye"


This True Detective viewing diary is being written while the new series airs. As such, future readers need not worry: there are no spoilers for upcoming episodes.

If "The Great War and Modern Memory" - the first half of True Detective's return to HBO after a three and half year hiatus - is at pains to establish one virtue above all others, that virtue is maturity. Having made a splash as the intense wunderkind behind the first True Detective in the winter of 2014, series writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto flamed out spectacularly with a rushed second season the following summer. Abandoning most of the qualities that made the first season so popular, Pizzolatto's ambitious sophomore slump received a widespread backlash targeting not just the messiness of the storytelling but the hubris of Pizzolatto himself, whose offscreen interviews and on-set domineering rubbed many critics the wrong way. Just shy of forty when the show ended, his rising star looked more like a shooting one, which had burned out much more quickly than expected. HBO dragged its feet commissioning a third season and Pizzolatto disappeared from the public eye. There were hints that perhaps HBO would seek another project from him and then, little by little, word got out that True Detective was slowly and surely assembling a third season after all. Now, in a surprisingly different cultural moment, that third season arrives with a confident but relatively muted rollout, as if to announce that the newly middle-aged showrunner has been humbled without losing his identity. That's the background. But what do we see onscreen?