Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Dr. Amp's America: discussing Twin Peaks: The Return w/ Discourse Collective


This spring, I joined several of the hosts of the left-wing political/cultural podcast Discourse Collective to discuss Twin Peaks as it existed at that time. With eighteen more hours of material to address, I returned to the show last week and we dug into the show's portrait of an economically devastated America, the impact of the atomic bomb, the depiction of otherworldly entities beyond our understanding, and whether or not the Twin Peaks universe simply illustrates Alex Jones' perception of everyday reality. With Will Menaker (of Chapo Trap House fame) taking part as well, it was a great conversation. What else would you expect from a podcast that uses "The Pink Room" track as its personal theme, whether covering the DSA convention, the Paris commune, or the evolution of 4chan? (That said, this time they put a little twist on that opening.)

Monday, September 18, 2017

The World of Twin Peaks - discussing the third season w/ the Beyond the Filter podcast


The show is over, but as I mentioned last week the conversation is just beginning. One of the highlights of this season for me was the generosity of podcasters invited me onto their platforms to discuss Twin Peaks: The Ret-- er, season three. (After being told in the early months of this year that this was not the third season but one big eighteen-hour film called Twin Peaks: The Return, we are now informed that this was a Showtime marketing label, and Lynch prefers to call this the third season of good old regular Twin Peaks.) On these episodes we would all reflect on the partial work we'd seen and speculate on where it might be going. Now, of course, we have a complete work on hand.

Tonight Liz Ryerson, host of Beyond the Filter, guides a conversation not just through the broad expanse of the new season (focusing on the big picture so as not just fall into the rabbit hole of the finale - though of course, we get into that too), but also the original series, Fire Walk With Me, and Lynch in general. We discuss these works in relation to TV conventions, trauma, social context, and the art world in an in-depth discussion that's one of the best I've had on Twin Peaks (the episode itself is extensive, but we also spoke at length before and after the recording). If you're looking for somewhere to digest what you've just seen, in a context much wider than these eighteen episodes (wide as that context already is), this is a great place to begin.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

What's next: TWIN PEAKS & more


It has been a week and a half since the finale, but my activity around the show has not really slowed down - if anything it's only escalated! (Twitter in particular has been nonstop.) I mentioned on a podcast a few weeks ago that while Parts 17 and 18 would bring to a close the experience of reacting to new, fresh Twin Peaks, in a sense the end of The Return would be more of a beginning. Now that we can see how this series functions as a whole, and the ways it does and doesn't fit in with the already existing Twin Peaks, we can begin the real work of diving into and exploring this world. (Meanwhile, of course, you can explore all of my previous work on Twin Peaks while waiting for some of my long-term responses to The Return to emerge.)

First of all, though, thanks to everyone who has read, shared, commented on, or otherwise engaged with my writing on The Return. It's been wonderful to see that the essays - meant to be real-time reactions rather than careful retrospective analysis - have resonated with other viewers, including those who created a lively, impromptu community in the comments sections each week (if you haven't read the responses yet, please do - the discussion for the last episodes in particular is close to, or perhaps already has, exceeded the longest thread on any of my blog posts). For years, comments on this blog have been minimal, with conversations and observations emerging on other platforms if anywhere. I'm glad to see that this home base has life in it yet!

Speaking of which, I have many plans for the next year of Lost in the Movies, so many plans that in fact I'm not sure they all can be contained in a single year - some might spill out into the latter half of 2018 or even further. And, of course, a lot of this involves Twin Peaks.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Parts 17 & 18 - "The past dictates the future."/"What is your name?"


Poor Cooper. He stands uniquely in David Lynch's work - a hero so sterling and steadfast that when the narrative mill eventually demands more complexity and darkness, it must manufacture an evil copy of him to do the trick. Twenty-five years ago, the second season of Twin Peaks struggled up to that endpoint, providing a serviceable backstory to set him up for his final Lodge confrontation with a shadow-self who feels as incongruous to him as to us. When "the good Cooper" returned in Part 16, it was with the full force of the first season's bravado - commanding but generous, cheerful yet sensitive, enthusiastic and wise at the same time. This is the Cooper who shows up at the sheriff's station in Part 17 to oversee the destruction of his doppelganger and the Bob bubble - emphasis on "oversee" since it's Lucy (in a marvelous twist!) and Freddie the Glove who do most of the heavy lifting. And this is the Cooper who, in the spirit of The Wizard of Oz and one of the better moments from the old "Leland's wake" episode (where the original series went horribly wrong, erasing the Palmers and kicking Coop out of the FBI), says goodbye to his lovably cartoonish friends and associates before heading into that humming door beneath the Great Northern. This takes Cooper right into the darker, deeper, more abrasive realm of Twin Peaks where he has always been much more lost. The first half-hour of the two-hour finale is an absolute joy and delight, a satisfyingly zany conclusion to a story that doesn't take itself too seriously. And then, with the length of a feature to go, the true brilliance begins - and we are reminded why Cooper is, and will remain, "poor Cooper."

Sunday, September 3, 2017

There's Always Music in the Air: anticipating tonight's Twin Peaks: The Return w/ Obnoxious & Anonymous


With less than five hours to go, everyone who's been following The Return is eagerly awaiting the two-part finale tonight. The Obnoxious & Anonymous channel is hosting a live discussion this afternoon and I plan to stop by for a little while (the whole thing will be four hours, with guests presumably coming and going during that time).

update: To my surprise, executive producer Sabrina Sutherland made an appearance, and we were all able to ask her questions! She couldn't answer many in too much detail but it was great to speak with her nonetheless.



It's been quite a journey but with Twin Peaks, there's never anything quite as powerful or overwhelming as the endings - of the mystery, of the second season, of the film and with it (for a time) the whole cycle. Hopefully tonight follows in that tradition.

See you on the other side.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Time and Time Again: discussing Part 16 and anticipating the finale w/ Twin Peaks Unwrapped


With just a few days to go before Twin Peaks is, once again, a (relatively) closed book I joined Ben and Bryon to discuss Sunday's episode and what we're anticipating, hoping for, and completely unable to predict about the two-hour finale. Topics include Diane, Audrey, Cooper's ultimate fate, and whether or not to expect a Lynchian twist. My guest apperance occurs in the second hour; during the first, the hosts go over Part 16 in great detail (earlier this week they had another episode to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Fire Walk With Me, including interviews with John Thorne and screenwriter Robert Engels; nobody works harder than these guys at getting their Twin Peaks material out there).

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 16 - "No knock, no doorbell."


So...that just happened. As I reach for comparisons, the first to come to mind is episode 16 of the original Twin Peaks: the one in which Cooper magically solves the show's central mystery, captures Leland Palmer, and (temporarily) expunges Bob from the material world. "No knock, no doorbell." has the same breakneck sense of pacing, a jaunty, breathless, butterflies-in-stomach eagerness to hit its marks and give us what we've anticipated for...well, sixteen episodes come to think of it (ok, that's cheating - the original episode 16 doesn't include the pilot in its count). Narratively the match isn't exact because Cooper's awakening precipitates but does not deliver a climax, and tonally the heroic return of our protagonist is a far more joyous occasion than the death of a killer. Stylistically though, and on a more fundamental level of spirit, this feels remarkably similar. As followers of my work may know, I am not the biggest fan of episode 16 - but I liked Part 16 quite a bit. True, David Lynch's open embrace of cheeky absurdity is a welcome addition to the original mix, since he didn't direct that earlier episode (Leland's capture has been compared to a Law & Order episode given its more straightforward approach); but some of the things I enjoy about this semi-resolution are the same as what I do like about that older one. What differs is the context.

The other comparison that just occurred to me, which feels more apt, is to the Neon Genesis Evangelion finale. Not to the sections featuring avant-garde animation or lengthy, psychoanalytical internal monologues but to a specific moment just before the end when the lead character, Shinji, himself awakens. (Skip two paragraphs if you care about a jarring, if brief, surprise twist in that episode.) The boy pops out of bed, greeted by his stereotypically ordinary parents (doing the dishes and reading the newspaper), and races out the door with his best pal Asuka. Schoolyard drama ensues and the whole thing has an air of wacky, antic energy, bubbling over with a sense of fun even as its setting is aggressively everyday. In this, I'm told, the spirit of the sequence corresponds with many other anime shows...without at all corresponding to the rest of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Shinji's parents aren't truly kitchen-dwelling normies; his dad is a sociopathic warlord and his mother is dead (well, kind of, it's a long story). His gal pal/girlfriend is in real life catatonic following her own violent trauma, and the city he cheerfuly jogs through has - outside of this dream state - actually been devastated by a massive battle (in which he, no ordinary schoolboy, took part). Shinji, in the midst of a psychedelic reckoning both physical and metaphysical, actually exists in a post-apocalyptic society, his life a mixture of numb depression and intense trauma (far from being everyday in its milieu, the series features giant mechas battling otherworldly monsters over the fate of the world).

Shinji's classroom interlude is a fantasy and/or alternate reality demonstrating how his mind can create other realities. The sequence also offers what many frustrated viewers yearn for, the ability to relax alongside beloved characters without any anxiety (which the show otherwise cultivates). This is, in a word, fanservice - but delivered with a cheerful wink and sleight of hand. We enjoy the moment because it's enjoyable, and we appreciate it because it exists within a more profound if troubling frame.

Does Twin Peaks?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 15 - "There's some fear in letting go."


There are three possibilities. First possibility: Cooper is dead (although, as the giant Jeffries kettle reminds us, Mr. C is still Cooper in some fundamental sense as well). Wouldn't that be a pisser? David Lynch and Mark Frost string us along for fifteen episodes, allowing Dougie to elude numerous assassins, and then dispatch him by having the guy stick a fork into a wall outlet. The event is even triggered by him hearing the name of David Lynch's character (is Sunset Boulevard the first movie we ever see played in Twin Peaks?), as if to remind us exactly who is doing this to our beloved hero. The ultimate troll? Beyond pure sadism, this development could serve some dramatic purpose - forcing Mr. C to be the conduit (no pun intended) of Cooper's redemption or sending the good Cooper back to the Lodge/elsewhere (as the Log Lady says, death is not an ending, just a transformation) so he can find another way out or achieve something even more important, which we can't foresee. Yet I suspect the series isn't going to go there. For whatever reason, even though I was audibly shouting at my TV "Don't do it!", I'm not particularly worried about the character right now.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Into the Woods (discussing Twin Peaks: The Return Pt. 14 w/ Twin Peaks Peeks podcast)


All of the Twin Peaks podcasts I listen to have something unique to offer, and in Twin Peaks Peeks' case it's the hosts' fearless enthusiasm for in-depth conversations on various topics, using Twin Peaks as a springboard to discuss TV narrative structures, sociopolitical questions of representation, or their own personal experiences (such as their journey to the series' locations while The Return was being shot). When Ashley Brandt and Mat Olson invited me to make a guest appearance on their latest show, the episode was no exception - our conversation spilled over two hours (edited down to a still-generous chunk). I talk about how I got into Twin Peaks and what my approach to it is, and then we cover on Hinduism, superhero tropes, Eisensteinian montage, and (what were to me anyway) unfamiliar concepts like tulpas and misophonia. Speculation and reflection abound; this was a really fun discussion and I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed participating. Also, Brendan James was a recent guest so between that and Discourse Collective's interview with Will Menaker, I can now assert that Lost in the Movies officially shares of an extended podcast universe with Chapo Trap House! (Take that as you will...on a more serious note, I strongly encourage you to check out Chapo's recent coverage of Charlottesville.)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 14 - "We are like the dreamer."


What's the biggest news this week? That the gang finally made it to Jack Rabbit's Palace? That the FBI has now linked up with both Twin Peaks and Las Vegas? That Chad was busted by his compatriots? Nah, of course not. We saw all of those things coming, even if we couldn't figure out when (especially after Part 13 tipped its hand about screwy chronology). Far more shocking and memorable were any of the following: Monica Bellucci finally appears as...Monica Bellucci! (In David Lynch's, er, Gordon Cole's dream!!) Sarah Palmer literally killed an obnoxious bar patron by removing her face and then biting off his neck!!! Andy is the one to make contact with the other side (specifically the Giant ??????? The Fireman)!!!! James' gloved British buddy was sent to Twin Peaks personally by the...Fireman!!!!! DIANE AND JANEY-E ARE SISTERS!!!!!! And yet in some ways the scene that affected me most was the final one, maybe simply because it was the cherry on top of everything else, the moment that tipped my overall impression toward something I've been wanting to feel but hadn't quite yet: the intoxicating desire to enter into mysteries that I suspect will never be solved.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 13 - "What story is that, Charlie?"


Somewhere between watching last week's and this week's episode I finally got a grip (I think) on the shape of this series. (Hey, it only took twelve hours.) Nothing big - well, nothing big big, like no earth-shattering twist on the level of a quasi-comatose Cooper popping out in Dougie Jones' place in Las Vegas - is going to happen again until the finale. True, part 8 is already something of an outlier, but look what it actually achieved: not so much a crazy narrative development as a dazzling stylistic detour (whose explicit plot relevance, if any, probably won't be revealed until later). And I don't think we're headed for another part 8 any time soon, though I'm admittedly less certain about that. In a way, this is an odd statement to make right now: aren't I just repeating what I've been saying since the beginning? I have, more or less, voiced such views about Dougie/Cooper (and, with the series more than two-thirds over, I think I've won that bet). But I thought other parts of the narrative would pull the rug out form under us, or rather pull back the curtain and reveal a hidden reality or shocking secret that reoriented our understanding of what we were watching.

This created a nervous dynamic each week: particularly eventful episodes would excite me, inspiring me to think, "Oh boy, we're really onto something big now!" while more low-key episodes would frustratingly evoke the feeling of being stuck in a rut. But after mulling over last week's perplexing, frequently perverse installment I finally sighed in a mixture of relief and resignation. I've always said that David Lynch's notion of an ongoing narrative is different from Mark Frost's (and many other television writers'): less a cycle of beginnings, middles, and ends - existing within an overarching narrative perhaps, but still full of self-contained units - and more an extension of a single middle as long as possible. I should have listened to myself, despite Frost's deceptive proclivity to sprinkle breadcrumbs along the three-and-a-half month-long path. Set-ups and payoffs do exist, characters and storylines have moved (if not exactly advanced), and there are a few mini-arcs within the larger narrative. For the most part, though, The Return wants to linger and doodle between A and B, not leap from A to B to C and onwards.

So the best way to enjoy each week is simply to sit back and let it happen without too many questions or expectations. This isn't a slow-moving train, it's a train that has stopped and calmly rests in place, partly to refuel for the final destination (the terminal point within sight on the horizon, yet frustratingly no closer as each hour passes), but also to allow us to wander and explore this particular way station. In that sense, those who grumble that Lynch stretched a nine-hour story into an eighteen-hour one aren't necessarily wrong, but that's the point. Don't rush the journey, we'll resume eventually; for now, just enjoy the scenery. You'll miss it when it's gone.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 12 - "Let's rock."


Tonight's episode opens with possibly the most straightforwardly lore-y scene of the series so far. Not only does Albert speak the letters "UFO," he makes plain one of the lingering mysteries of Fire Walk With Me. The blue rose has long been a symbol of pure mystification ("I can't tell you about that," Chet Desmond once informed Sam Stanley...speaking of Chet, my condolences to John Thorne and his dream theory). The blue rose was a symbol of nothing that could be articulated except perhaps just that (the inability to articulate). Sure, for years fans speculated about a connection to the supernatural nature of certain FBI investigations, but within the text of the film itself (i.e. the most purely Lynchian slice of Twin Peaks), the blue rose remained enigmatic. The cover of The Entire Mystery blu-ray used it as a motif as if to say, "Here it all is, but see what you can make of it."

Frost, on the other hand, started pinning this phrase down as early as The Secret History of Twin Peaks last fall, using the book to suggest that "blue rose cases" do indeed denote a supernatural aura. Early episodes of The Return also hinted at a more specific meaning without zeroing in too close, but "Let's rock." tells us flat out: the Blue Rose squad continues the work of the Air Force's Project Blue Book, exploring some of their unresolved cases, and takes its name from the dying words of a woman in one of these cases. Granted, there's still an air of mystery here - the ultimate origin of the phrase remains ambiguous (why did that lady utters those two words?). Nonetheless, the expository nature of the scene and its determination to ground the story in both an in-world and historical backstory indicate this episode will be more interested in answering questions, drawing threads together, and turning corners than leaving us in darkness. This turns out to not quite be true.

At times, part 12 purposefully stalls us, spinning its wheels. The exposition becomes repetitious: Truman tells Ben everything we already know about Richard (and then Ben in turn tells Beverly this same information), Albert offers more evidence to Gordon that Diane is a traitor, Jerry continues to scramble around the woods (though at least he's reached a meadow), and even the coordinates that Diane enters into a map on her phone unsurprisingly point to the town of Twin Peaks. The Chromatics play again under the closing credits, and the Jacoby scene repeats a shtick (sometimes verbatim, perhaps even with the same footage) that was initially inventive but has become slightly tedious. Indeed, as that scene unfolded, I thought "There's gotta be a really specific reason this scene is placed here, beyond just being filler." I was right - the mind-numbing familiarity serves as the perfect counterpoint to what comes next: the revelation, finally, of a character viewers have been waiting months to see, in a manner as perplexing for us as for the character herself ("YOU'RE NOT GONNA TELL ME WHAT SHE SAID??!").

Thanks in large part to this scene as well as several other elements, the episode that begins in demystification winds up as perhaps the most mystifying episode of The Return so far.