Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 7 - "There's a body all right."

This Twin Peaks is a slippery beast. If you think you have a handle on its pacing, it speeds up or slows down accordingly. If you think it's going to stretch out story beats, it hurls a half-dozen major plot points - and suggestive dramatic tidbits - in scene after scene (and yet, even still, you're left hungering for more). And halfway through the episode, when you think it has established itself as primarily as an expositional hour, with Frost's narrative twists and turns leading the way, Lynch suddenly makes room for not one, not two, but three ambient setpieces in which we linger on locations and soak in the mood. Of course, Twin Peaks was always defined by abrupt shifts in tone, and it had its fair share of slower and faster episodes, maybe even parts of episodes (though I don't think the pace ever fluctuated so sharply before). But perhaps over the years and through multiple rewatches - and other shows echoing Twin Peaks' unpredictability - we grew used to these dazzling surprises. Part 6 in particular is a thrilling reminder that despite prestige TV's vaunted imagination, there's still nothing else like Twin Peaks. I mean, sure, we saw a talking dream fish on The Sopranos but we didn't see a talking braintree popping up through the concrete like a weed to matter-of-factly hiss, "Squeeze his hand off!" to a near-comatose insurance salesman wrestling with a small bald assassin while his wife bashes the little man over the head from behind.

Friday, June 16, 2017

"I have no idea where this will lead us": talking Twin Peaks: The Return Pt. 1-6 w/ Obnoxious & Anonymous

One month (and six hours of television) later, I'm back on Obnoxious & Anonymous, where Cameron and I discussed the first third of Twin Peaks: The Return for a whopping three hours. Topics include whether we're dealing with include Cooper's identity (and why he's unlikely to "snap back" any moment), what Audrey's and Laura's roles will be, whether we are dealing with multiple words, the possible relevance of Richard and Linda, and much, much, much more.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 6 - "Don't die."

Well, can you blame me? I imagine a lot of people are going to top their recaps or reviews with this picture tonight and tomorrow. This moment was the closest part 6 came to fan service - for three weeks, viewers have been predicting that "I know where she drinks" referred to Diane, and that Diane would be played by Laura Dern (although I don't think anyone predicted she'd be sporting that very Lynchian wig). The scene unfolds with fairly conventional buildup and payoff (Albert speaking her name) with a cute nod to Diane's forty hours of masked identity, as she is identified by the back of her head before finally turning around for the camera. It's a lot of fun, and I can't wait to see how her character develops, but this very brief bit is entirely unrepresentative of the rest of "Don't die." It's also something we all saw coming. As such, it's not very typical of Twin Peaks: The Return, or perhaps especially of part 6. I predict this will be one of the more frustrating and alienating episodes for many viewers, but while it didn't do as much for me as part 5, I liked it (probably more than part 4). Parts of it made me uncomfortable, but in interesting ways. It also helps that I'm sold on the Dougie/Coop scenario - but we'll get to that momentarily. After all, why rush? The Return certainly isn't.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 5 - "Case files."

Two weeks ago, I wrote that Twin Peaks The Return was going to allow us to crawl into corners of the narrative, to get lost inside of it. This is the part - or damn it, the episode - where that magic spell really hits. "Episode" is fitting because, despite the claim that this is all one big movie, more or less arbitrarily sliced into chunks to prolong the experience, "Case files." feels like a TV episode in the best possible way. This works as a weekly, episodic, self-sustained entry of a serialized drama. It takes strength both from its reliance on a larger canvas which we can't yet fully see, but also from its isolated joys and sorrows. We dip into at least a dozen different stories, check in with members of an expansive ensemble, intrigued by what we glimpse and (this is key) emotionally invested in their experiences. Some of these experiences - quite a few, actually - are set in the town of Twin Peaks itself and connected to familiar characters (either directly or indirectly), which heightens our engagement. Other are not, yet they connect with us too; possibly the most affecting image is the final one, set in Las Vegas and commenting directly on the discovery, loss, and re-discovery of humanity through art. Though it cuts even deeper, part 5's fast-paced, eclectic structure evokes the best of Twin Peaks' first season, a combination of visiting colorful characters, dropping breadcrumbs along a dark wooded path, and carving out moments of ecstasy, suspense, and raucous comedy. Celluloid or digital, feature-length or serialized into standalone entries, the essence of cinema is and always will be emotion. That was certainly the essence of Twin Peaks, no matter how that was buried or what it was packaged inside.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Twin Peaks & the World w/ Discourse Collective: Lynch, Politics & Prestige TV

(Francesco Bongiorni for The Washington Post
- I LOVE this illustration)

A few weeks ago, the left-wing cultural podcast Discourse Collective invited me to discuss Twin Peaks with them. The episode was released yesterday but recorded before the new series premiere, so we only discuss the original series and Fire Walk With Me. The series is contrasted with the present-day craze for "prestige TV" (as covered in Matt Christman's recent "How TV Became Respectable Without Getting Better") and we also dig into Lynch's tangled political history (which I also talked about on a recent episode of Twin Peaks Unwrapped if you want to hear more). Hopefully we can all return to the subject after the new series has wrapped up.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Son of Man on Wonders in the Dark + Learn About Lost in the Movies

Time for a status update - especially as I have several items to link. It's been a wild week and I'm still catching up with so much commentary on Twin Peaks. As you've probably seen if you're reading this, I reviewed all four hours of Twin Peaks: The Return since the premiere on Sunday and eagerly await the fifth hour on June 4. The third and fourth will air next week, but I already streamed them since they were available early on the app; from June on, one hour will play live and show up to stream simultaneously every Sunday and my review will appear shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile, there are a few non-Twin Peaks developments to report. Several weeks of Wonders in the Dark's tribute to co-founder Allan Fish will climax soon with Sam Juliano's essay on the late critic (which I am eagerly anticipating). The Allan Fish Online Film Festival focuses on movies available to the public via free online venues like YouTube, with a variety of writers highlighting obscure films just as Allan did. I participated by offering up my review of Son of Man for reprinting. It's a great movie (the video itself is embedded in the piece) which Allan himself introduced me to. If you're unfamiliar with it, I highly suggest you visit my review, linked below. That's the spirit of this whole endeavor, after all.

Allan had a huge impact on my work, and by coincidence, the day the above piece went up I was in New York City, meeting with Sam and his family as well as several other Wonders alumni, and we all talked warmly about Allan, his work, and the site that brought us all together.

Finally, last week - after months of other tweaks to make Lost in the Movies more presentable and navigable, I finally created a mobile template for easier phone/tablet use. Along with this (since you can't see the sidebar on mobile), I wrote an "About" page to consolidate my various directories and categories. This can also be handy for visitors using computers, of course. Especially if new readers/viewers discover my ongoing Twin Peaks work this summer, I hope a few will explore some of the other stuff I've been up to over the past decade. This is the best way to do so:

See you on Sunday.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 4 - "...brings back some memories."

By now, Twin Peaks: The Return has settled into a groove of telling several stories, each involving familiar characters from the old series and a central hub (Cooper's disappearances). Whether it will stay in this mode or not, this is the most conventional hour so far - if you can call a TV episode conventional when it includes a man transplanted into a lookalike's body who is so unfamiliar with human ways that he drapes a tie across his head like a bonnet and eats pancakes with his fingers, several minutes of a man in the woods spray-painting hanging shovels gold, and a several-minute parodic beatnik monologue from Michael Cera playing a Wild One knockoff who for some reason has taken Marlon Brando's last name rather than his parents'. His parents, as we all suspected, are Andy and Lucy but I don't think anyone predicted the apple would fall this far from the tree (while still remaining just as lovably goofy in a different way). The actors all look like they wanted to burst out laughing, and I sure as hell did. Incredibly silly? Maybe, but it was also one of the funniest things I've ever seen on Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 3 - "Call for help."

Several weeks ago, revisiting Mark Frost's book The Secret History of Twin Peaks, I came across a reference to "the Brothers Grimm -- who I've since learned drew inspiration for their stories from real events in their own dark woods..." Clearly a throwaway line, this nonetheless got me dreaming of some sort of Twin Peaks/fairy tale crossover. And, in a way, that's what we get in this episode. Cooper, sent hurtling through outer/inner space by the arm/tree doppelganger (I think), arrives outside of a tower surrounded by tumultuous seas, draped in a purple haze. Inside the tower he finds a woman with her eyes stitched shut, sitting in front of a fire as an ominous force bangs on the door or the wall of this room. She seems to be locked in here by a monster, a monster who must not be allowed to meet the visiting stranger.

Twin Peaks: The Return Parts 1 & 2 - "My log has a message for you."/"The stars turn and a time presents itself."

High in the skyline of New York City, ignoring the blinking lights of Manhattan to focus his attention on a box within the room, a young man waits patiently for something to happen. The box is some cross between a sophisticated scientific experiment, characterized by advanced technology, and a magician's crystal ball (closer to a crystal cube), summoning presences from beyond. He's been told to expect an apparition inside this framed glass, and has even learned that others witnessed this visitation themselves while refusing to pass along any details. Perhaps the vision must be experienced personally to be understood. When ..."something" appear, pacing inside the frame like a prowling lion before leaping violently toward the screen, the watcher releases a loud yelp and jumps from his seat. It is happening again.

Unfortunately, no cute, curious girl arrives with a tray full of coffee to keep him company (she's my favorite new character so far - I hope she's ok though that's an awful lot of blood). On the other hand, he can count his blessings: the fantastic, ferocious specter does not escape its cage. Or does it? Remaining physically trapped within its frame, it nonetheless insinuates itself in his, or - why continue the conceit? - my imagination. As I watched the premiere of Twin Peaks: The Return in a friend's Brooklyn apartment, the image of a character gazing at, and recording his experience of gazing at, a giant glass box (not a television in his case, but some sort of teleportation device) certainly felt like a bit of a funhouse reflection. And I would imagine others, watching in places more geographically distanced from Manhattan than me, could also taste the resonance.

It would be difficult to imagine a scenario - urban, high-tech, sci-fi - further away from any preconceptions we might have had about Twin Peaks going in, yet somehow it perfectly encapsulates the experience of watching it.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Anticipation of Another Place: Speculating about Twin Peaks: The Return w/ Obnoxious & Anonymous

The video below includes some discussion of potential spoilers. In fact, you don't even want to see pictures of cast members, aside from Cooper (probably a lost cause at this point!) don't scroll down since the video's thumbnail includes some images of that from trailers and official images released by Showtime.

Nearly three years ago, the first podcaster/YouTuber to invite me onto his show was Cameron Cloutier of Obnoxious & Anonymous. Back then we had no idea the series would ever return. It's appropriate that now, on the eve of new Twin Peaks, my final appearance to be released before the premiere is this episode of Obnoxious & Anonymous. We recorded it on short notice the other night but were able to conduct a long chat about various aspects of the series - rumors of how it might begin and what it might include, our hopes and fears, what the reaction will be like, what the town will be like, and what role Laura Palmer will play.

I may publish one more post, a final look back and forward before our conception of Twin Peaks changes forever. Then again, I'm going to be extremely busy for the next few days so I may not. Either way, for highlights I've everything I've ever written, edited, recorded, or otherwise published about Twin Peaks, check out Sunday's round-up.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

TWIN PEAKS & David Lynch reading / viewing / listening on Lost in the Movies

(picture from Variety)

^ Top 25: My best work on Twin Peaks ^

With a week to go until Twin Peaks: The Return hits Showtime, and my character series on pause till the summer, it's a good time to round up some of my past work on the original 1990-91 series and 1992 feature film (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me). I will be writing about the premiere immediately after it airs next Sunday (as I will for every subsequent episode); until then, you can get your Twin Peaks fix with these pieces.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Character Series will resume this summer - new Twin Peaks coverage begins immediately after the premiere

The writing has been on the wall since at least mid- to late March. There was no way I could finish the TWIN PEAKS Character Series on schedule. Each entry got longer and longer and I kept falling further and further behind. There was a shot - back in the period from December to February, I could have focused most of my "online/creative work" time exclusively on these character studies, and I think I could have managed to get far enough ahead to finish them before the new series premieres on May 21. Instead I violated the rule I've known for years, yet thrown aside at every opportunity: You can only have one priority at a time. I tried to do a little brainstorming for screenplays (what a dismal waste of time that was), some video essay work, and even set aside time to watch other video essays and TV episodes in anticipation of projects that were maybe a year or more on the horizon. Meanwhile my comfortable backlog of character pieces kept growing smaller until I was barely ahead. By the time I abandoned that approach and focused as much time as possible on the character series, it was too late. You reap what you sow.

This hiatus is both a relief and a major annoyance. It's a relief because I am now setting NO deadline. The work will be finished when it's finished, and in fact I'm not going to publish any of the remaining twenty pieces until all of them are done. This work has pretty much taken over my life in the past few months, so now I'll be able to visit friends I've delayed seeing, watch movies and read books (this year so far has been a virtual desert for intaking media that wasn't Twin Peaks), exercise, take care of tasks that have gone on the backburner, and generally just relax. I can earn more money as well, since some of my work is based on my own schedule/input and that's fallen by the wayside too (it's been months since I even contemplated a Fandor video). Also, the loss of a deadline means I can take my time with all these crucial characters. I'd like to think I wouldn't have cut corners anyway (and it's a moot point since finishing them on schedule was clearly a mathematical impossibility), but now I can write them when I feel like it, not when I have to.

On the other hand...that deadline existed for a reason. No matter how I rationalize it, it's just plain dumb to conduct a series of character studies that will be purposefully outdated when I publish them. Because I have no desire or intention to include the new material; I think it's going to violate all sorts of precepts that these studies are based on, and even if it doesn't it would make the upcoming pieces seem totally out of step with the sixty-two that came before. At most, I will add a few notes in the "Showtime" section at the end of each entry. But the character series becomes a tad perverse at this point, an exercise in nostalgia that grows more irrelevant by the week. More importantly than all of that, even knowing that I'm no longer going to pressure myself to write the pieces, I hate that they're now going to be hanging over my head when the new series airs. In a way this project was a purging, one last chance to get all analytical about Twin Peaks before I shift into another mode entirely. One of the treasures of David Lynch's work is the ability to enter it like a dream and float through without any expectations. With the left-brained approach to these pieces still kicking around in the back of my brain, I feel like that's going to be somewhat compromised. And it irks the hell out of me.

I'm also quite skeptical that I will have the will or interest to tackle Cooper up to the season two finale when I already know what happens to him after that. For that reason, I'm considering jumping ahead to my number-one entry in the next few days and seeing if I can write and store away that entry for my own purposes before new Twin Peaks airs. But frankly, even that might be an impossible task (how absurd it was to think I could do twenty entries in ten days - I'm not even sure I can do one in a week).

Oh well. I hope you enjoy the pieces when they eventually appear - right now I'm thinking maybe four a week, Tuesday through Friday (so that my responses to the new episodes can stand for a full day), starting the last week of June and finishing the last week of July. I have to admit there's a chance I'll abandon the project if it just seems too irrelevant or burdensome, but I doubt it because I tend to be anal about eventually finishing what I started, even if it takes forever.

From now on, the main priority of this site will be covering the new Twin Peaks, and doing so in a more impressionistic, meditative manner that allows me to savor the work and share that experience with you.

Everything else can, and will, wait.