Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

My film Class of 2002 - 5th Anniversary

Five years ago today, I premiered the the final version of my short film Class of 2002. I'd spent the past month and a half producing it, after writing and casting over the summer and fall (I wrote in detail about the full process a couple days after uploading the video). The project was an unusual one - taking a narrated documentary form and relying on existing snapshots for its visual texture but nonetheless a work of fiction. Over time, I received several surprised responses from people who had thought it was all true. This was both flattering and unsettling - on the one hand, I was pleased they were convinced by my characterization, on the other hand, I didn't want the story to be a "gotcha" gimmick playing a trick on viewers. Indeed several seemed mildly disoriented by this realization (initially I presented the film in blog posts unambiguously marking it as fiction, but eventually people discovered it on YouTube on their own, with little to no context).

Class of 2002 reveals the lives of five characters, as well as a sixth character who knew them all and narrates their stories. It's fairly grim; I scripted some more humorous passages that fell by the wayside as its final form was consolidated - ultimately this needed to be a somber narrative. This bleakness plus its unusual form plus the lack of an eyecatching hook ensured that it would not really be among my most popular material...nonetheless, existing feedback has been fairly positive and I remain very proud of the work. To date, it's the only narrative work I've created in a decade of Lost in the Movies, that rare creation not reliant in any way (aside from general influence of course) on a pre-existing work...although of course almost everything onscreen was captured by other people, long before they came into play here! Additionally, the use of a single narrator's voice interacting with the visual material places it in the general vicinity of my video essay work, however different the context.

For me, the film now stands not just as a look back over the previous decade, but as a bit of a time capsule itself. I was in my late twenties, working two retail jobs less than a year after moving to California, and I was in a different place at the time (literally as well as figuratively). My engagement with audiences through video essays, my (ongoing) political awakening after years of disillusioned quasi-apathy, perhaps especially my illuminating immersion into Twin Peaks...all were still on the horizon, along with more immediate work and life experience that would have a strong effect on me. Above all, I don't think I would be as compelled to end a film in so quietly despairing a fashion as I did here, though that melancholy ambivalence does suit this particular story (and as I noted even at the time, the character's outlook was not necessarily my own).

There's some mature equanimity in this development, but also a sense of renewed energy. As Bob Dylan once chuckled, "Oh, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Patreon update #2: Mulholland Drive & Twin Peaks (+ Reactionary Boomers, Stranger Things & more)

I recorded this week's podcast almost immediately after the other, hoping to get into a routine where I was always at least a week ahead of time. And it's a good thing I did, because it ended up being kind of a beast. The film in focus came courtesy of a new patron, with the request that I look at Mulholland Drive not just as a film in and of itself, but a Lynch work with strong links to Twin Peaks. The result was a half-hour segment (much longer than these will usually be) which I enjoyed preparing for. In the latter part of the episode, I touch on some series I've been watching, and ask why suddenly the cultural stereotype of baby boomers has been flipped on its head.

WEEKLY UPDATE/works in progress: 5 Weeks of Fire Walk With Me (Fire Walk With Me & season 3)
FILM IN FOCUS/TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS: connections between Mulholland Drive & Twin Peaks
(pt. 1: Intro/History of Mulholland Drive)
(pt. 2: Relationship to original Twin Peaks/Fire Walk With Me, Mulholland Drive's mythology if it continued as a show)
pt. 3: Relationship to Twin Peaks season 3...iconography/actors, structural similarities - sprawling start, loose ends, tightening at the end, story grows colder/darker at end, identity shift in protagonist, Martha Nochimson's interpretation of Lynchian shifts to darkness, Audrey in s3, Carrie Page & Diane Selwyn, differences...female vs. male perspective, stylistic distinction from the Mary Sweeney era, exception of the Becky sequence)
ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: The Boomer-ang: has the characterization of boomers as uber-reactionaries gone too far? (plus Showtime's Guerrilla series, Stranger Things season 2 - the Duffers' nostalgia for an era they didn't experience, and Hill Street Blues on Bickering Peaks) (pt. 2: Relationship to original Twin Peaks/Fire Walk With Me)
OPENING THE ARCHIVE: "Building Commitments and Community" (August - November 2008), this week's highlight (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Patreon update #1: The Last Jedi & more

Every Saturday from now on, I will offer an update of my Patreon activities. The update will cover the weekly podcast episode, Patreon blog posts, and any other news and information. The content will be accessible to anyone who becomes a patron, while these descriptions will keep regular readers abreast of my activity over there, in case they are thinking about joining, or if they are just curious to know what's going on.

This week, for the only time in the foreseeable future, I'm releasing the intro to the podcast as an illustrated clip on YouTube; it also doubles as an explainer for the format and the Patreon in general. You can hear/view it here:

This week I kicked off my new account with the first episode of my new podcast, and a few blog posts (one to go with the podcast, another a welcome, and another a preview). The Film in Focus this week is The Last Jedi; with the surprising number of second-tier patrons who joined up right out of the gate (meaning they can select future films for me to discuss) it looks like this may be the last one I pick myself, and possibly the last time I just focus on one film in an episode.

Here is the line-up for the podcast episode (the timestamps can be found in the blog post):

Brief background for Lost in the Movies
Explaining weekly podcast format
Welcome to the Patreon
FILM IN FOCUS: The Last Jedi
TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS: Difference between old & new Twin Peaks, Mark Frost's contributions
WEEKLY UPDATE (will usually be after intro)/recent posts: Secret History & The Return, video announcement
WEEKLY UPDATE/works in progress: Patreon, illustrating the Twin Peaks character series, Breaking Bad season 1, Hill Street Blues season 2, Fire Walk With Me & European "art films", Fellini montage video
*skipping additional thoughts/listener feedback this week*
OPENING THE ARCHIVE "Look Ma, I'm Blogging!": becoming a movie fan in 1990 (VHS collection/movie monster books/Home Alone-Kindergarten Cop/Edward Scissorhands), first weeks of blogging (July - August 2008), this week's highlight: The Brave Little Toaster

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Lost in the Movies on Patreon

After much deliberation and preparation, today I finally launched my Patreon account - the first real way for readers and viewers to support my online work since it began nearly a decade ago. You can visit the page for more details, but in summary: there are three basic tiers (as well as a couple advanced commission levels), offering early access to video essays, the ability to choose a topic for me to discuss in a new podcast, and sneak peeks of upcoming work. sometimes months in advance. Perhaps most notably, all levels will have access to the exclusive Patreon podcast, in which I update listeners on my work, share thoughts on a "Film in Focus" (first up will be The Last Jedi), reflect a bit on whatever Twin Peaks topic comes to mind, and offer a guided tour through my archives building up to the tenth anniversary of the site this summer. Within a few days, I will provide a teaser of the first podcast on YouTube.

Thanks to everyone who is interested in becoming a patron, but also of course to those who aren't (or can't) but have enjoyed or shared my work in the past and going forward. This is an exciting new step for me, and I hope you all get something out of it as well!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Secret Histories Return to Twin Peaks: Mark Frost and the Spatiotemporal Expansion of Season 3

Christmas arrived with a nice surprise for me today, when I learned that Offscreen, a Canadian film publication, has uploaded my recent article for them, about Mark Frost's book The Secret History of Twin Peaks and what it tells us about the third season of Twin Peaks that Frost co-wrote with Lynch. The essay is lavishly illustrated (including the above graphic, which seems to be a compilation of an image from the book with a 3D clarification of an underlying image) and should provide fodder for anyone looking to explore Frost's relationship to The Return (which, constant name changes be damned, I've decided I prefer to call the third season). Here is the opening paragraph along with a link to Offscreen, where you can read the rest of my article (the accompanying issue will be available soon...):
For those tempted to primarily credit (or blame) writer/director David Lynch for the open-ended, multifaceted, difficult to pin down nature of the limited series Twin Peaks: The Return, co-writer Mark Frost’s book The Secret History of Twin Peaks both confirms and contradicts that thesis. Like The Return (as the show’s third season was dubbed in one of Showtime’s few permitted interventions), Frost’s work pursues a long-dormant story in several directions. Both series and book abandon the tight timeline and bounded setting that once marked Twin Peaks, shifting from the parable-like containment of the original to something more consciously saturated in explicit American history. Surprisingly, however, the incidents and direct concerns of The Secret History and The Return barely overlap; the book’s curious focus on UFO lore, along with most of its enticing loose ends, never pays off (and barely even comes up) in the series. In retrospect, the book can look like Frost’s own personal, private path, an opportunity to explore subjects that interested him under the Twin Peaks masthead while Lynch directed the series as a film rather than a week-to-week show that Frost could help run (Lynch has stated baldly that he didn’t read Frost’s book). Yet The Return and its literary companion, complemented in October 2017 by Frost’s much shorter and simpler The Final Dossierdo have some broader commonalities in spirit, reminding us that Frost co-authored The Return, however curtailed his role in its actual production.

In other news, I'm slowly advancing on several fronts, including ideas for a Patreon account, which I'll unveil here soon. Until then - Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and (though I hope you'll have something more to read here before then) Happy New Year too.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Announcement: new Journey Through Twin Peaks coming mid-2018 (video)

I've been getting a lot of questions on YouTube about my plans for upcoming Journey Through Twin Peaks videos. Obviously many viewers either don't know about this site or understandably don't want to dig around looking for updates, so I decided to create a video addressing these questions. In it I describe my planned approach for the new videos, although of course those plans could change! The video also announces some other upcoming projects, and points people who've enjoyed Journey to my other work, here and elsewhere. I'm still in the early stages of the character series (and haven't even begun work on various video essays), but now with Thanksgiving travel/celebrations over, I am planning to settle back into a routine. This will hopefully position me to launch the new character entries around January 28, giving way to the new Twin Peaks videos once the character entries  conclude in June. I'll have to make significant progress in December to make that possible, so wish me luck...

Friday, November 17, 2017

Last Words? - discussing The Final Dossier w/ Twin Peaks Unwrapped (+ another status update)

For the first time in two and half months - and perhaps the last time ever - I can provide fresh coverage of brand new Twin Peaks material. I bought The Final Dossier in the evening of October 31, braving Halloween traffic to pick up a copy ordered from a local bookstore. Late that night, ten minutes before midnight to be exact, I opened it up and began to read. When I finished it a mere two and half hours - this was a stunningly quick read - I was wiser to this universe, and a year older (well, sort of; November 1 was my thirty-fourth birthday).

I found the book refreshing and shared some initial thoughts on Twitter, beginning with this tentative prediction: "I don't think we've seen the last of Twin Peaks." A week or two later, I recorded the following discussion with Twin Peaks Unwrapped, paired with an equally long conversation they held with John Thorne.

As for other plans...

Monday, November 13, 2017

Fear The Double: discussing Lost Highway w/ Fireside Friends podcast (+ "5 Weeks of Fire Walk With Me" status update)

This weekend I was invited as a guest onto Fireside Friends, hosted episode by Ryan Persaud and Allen Ibrahim. Under discussion was Lost Highway, a film I'd been meaning to rewatch ever since The Return ended. In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and similar cases emerging from Hollywood almost daily, the film felt particularly relevant. We talk about this aspect of the work, as well as Mary Sweeney's editing of the film, its ties to season three of Twin Peaks, its roots in Fire Walk With Me, the convolutions of its narrative, and its relationship to the O.J. Simpson trial and the avant-garde classic Meshes of the Afternoon (referencing my video essay on the subject). And, on a lighter note, Lynch's propensity for absurdly decadent party scenes, with requisite reference to Crazy Clown Time.

Listen to Fireside Friends

In other news, I was not able to keep up with even my back-up schedule for "5 Weeks For Fire Walk With Me." I do plan to continue publishing those pieces, however, although I'm not sure if I'll try to squeeze them all in before the original deadline (releasing two or three in a single week) or spread them out into December, rendering the title of the series as "5 discreet weeks over a long period" rather than "5 weeks in a row." Oh well - stay tuned for those, and also another recently-recorded podcast in the next few days...

Friday, November 3, 2017

Fire Walk With Me belongs in the Criterion Collection

This is an entry in 5 Weeks of Fire Walk With Me. Next week I will discuss the history of the movie's production, reception, and legacy.

What is this movie? Is it a movie at all? Of course it is, and attempts to claim otherwise dissolve into babbling mystification. Yet they persist - primarily because the TV show which Fire Walk With Me descends from remains more legendary than the film but also because the film itself is so abrasive and overwhelming that it makes sense to retreat into the most convenient explanation: this is a TV spin-off and, good or bad, it can only be appreciated in relation to the series. Furthermore, many viewers, probably a substantial majority, reach Fire Walk With Me after watching two seasons of a surreal soap opera, so it's difficult for most to disentangle their knowledge of the show from their experience of the film even if the relationship is subversive rather than complementary. In a few weeks, I'll write about Fire Walk With Me both as a component of a larger story and as a standalone film (or perhaps several: a lucid psychodrama, a formally hypnotic art film, a hybrid slasher/American giallo/psychological horror flick, an entry in David Lynch's own unique bigger-than-life - and certainly bigger than TV - filmography). For now, I don't merely want to isolate Fire Walk With Me from Twin Peaks but to explain why it can stand side by side with the other titles in the Criterion Collection, which it officially joined two and half weeks ago. Fire Walk With Me needs defending not just for its place within a saga, or even as a bold rejection of that saga defined precisely by said rejection (still therefore dependent on what it negates), but as a movie movie, a piece of cinema history valuable on its own filmic terms.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Lost in Twin Peaks #8: discussing Fire Walk With Me & the end of season 3 w/ Twin Peaks Unwrapped

Although I initially planned to kick off my "5 Weeks of Fire Walk With Me" series with a review/response to the new Criterion Collection edition (look for that as next week's entry), it makes sense to begin with what I recorded first. A couple weeks ago, in anticipation of this upcoming release, I joined hosts Ben and Bryon of the Twin Peaks Unwrapped podcast for our first post-season three discussion. This is also the first official "Lost in Twin Peaks" segment since before the third season began (my appearances since then have been to discuss films or the ongoing series); hopefully there will be more to come this fall and winter.

We cover Fire Walk With Me from several angles, focusing on how the new season does or doesn't change our view of the material (particularly the ending of the film), why it would be a bad idea for David Lynch to release a recut of the movie including The Missing Pieces (as producer Sabrina Sutherland has said he would consider), and if the film functions as a standalone. My segment appears in the latter half of the episode; the rest is devoted to a fascinating discussion of the UK Twin Peaks Festival, sprinkled with snippets of Sutherland's Q&A. (And make sure you check out this episode's amazing cover art, which doesn't show up in the embed.) See you next week for more Fire Walk With Me.

Friday, October 20, 2017

"5 Weeks of Fire Walk With Me" begins next week

UPDATE: “5 Weeks of Fire Walk With Me” will begin next week (the week of October 22) rather than this weekend as originally announced, and the podcast posts before the Criterion review.

This week the Criterion Collection released DVD and blu-ray editions of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Considering its inclusion in a deluxe Twin Peaks boxset three years ago, this may seem anticlimactic; aside from a couple new interviews, it's nothing we haven't seen before. However, I think Criterion spine number #898 is significant and worth celebrating, for reasons I'll explain more in-depth in a few days, after I've had a chance to rewatch the film.

This review/statement of "Why Fire Walk With Me Belongs in the Criterion Collection" will discuss the new interviews and older special features, but will particularly pay attention to Fire Walk With Me's legacy as cinema, and not just a part of Twin Peaks. It will also kick off "5 Weeks of Fire Walk With Me" during which I am planning to celebrate this great, still underrated film with a new post each week. (This ended up appearing as the second entry instead.)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Early thoughts on Twin Peaks season 3: a conversation w/ Lindsay Stamhuis on 25 Years Later

A month ago, when the finale was only a week old, I took a few hours to chat with Lindsay Stamhuis (of the Bickering Peaks podcast) about the new season of Twin Peaks. Both parts of the discussion have now been published on 25 Years Later in print form (thanks to Lindsay for transcribing them!) and you can read them for yourselves. These were initial reflections so in some cases I'm asking more questions than teasing out answers - not that I'm not necessarily much closer to final conclusions about most of this stuff now! What do you think?

With the release of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me on Criterion Collection this week, I'm planning something special. I had hoped to maybe do a full week of posts - a "5 Days of Fire Walk With Me" line-up covering various aspects and perspectives on the film, but it's Sunday afternoon and I haven't done anything to prepare for that so it seems unlikely. However, there will is a podcast appearance already recorded, and I'll probably write at least one new piece, so stay tuned.