Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image)

Monday, July 24, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 11 - "There's fire where you are going."


Wow, I'm still tingling after this one. The first half-hour of Part 11 can stand with the first half-hour of Part 3 and the last half-hour of Part 8 as among the most sustained sequences of The Return. Unlike those stretches, however, "There's a fire where you are going." jumps between many different characters and storylines. We are barely recovering from one traumatizing incident before we're thrust immediately into the next: from children discovering a bloodied Miriam crawling out of the brush (astute viewers noted that there must be a reason she was still breathing last week) to Becky screeching into her phone and rushing from the house, knocking her mother from the hood of the car before racing into an apartment building and fire several shots into the door where she believes her husband is having a tryst. Scored to a stabbing soundtrack, the camera careens through corridors and down stairs in a jagged, sped-up variation on Kubrick's signature Shining shot (which Lynch has already made his own through numerous variations in Twin Peaks, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire - though never this fast and choppy), before settling on Stephen and his lover. I didn't identify her right away but am now pretty sure she's Donna's sister (the credits list Alicia Witt as Gersten Hayward and can't think who else she could be). As they pant and hold each other, the shot is too quick to be called a breather; it's more like a quick gulp before diving into even deeper waters.

In South Dakota, Twin Peaks takes perhaps its most direct cue from a recent prestige TV hit, evoking the sky swirls of True Detective (witnessed this time by Cole rather than Cohle). Twin Peaks' vision lingers longer and takes us further than the the cosmic cyclone glimpsed in the bowels of Carcosa but before Gordon is swept into a bleary tear in space/time, Albert pries him loose. Within minutes of this jittery threshold experience, they've discovered the headless corpse of Ruth Davenport and Hastings' own head explodes, thanks to a woodsman who casually flickers in and out of view. Neither Davenport's body nor Hastings' head are sickeningly real so much as hypnotically Baconesque - they look like Lynch sculptures, and probably were. After this queasy crime scene we receive a relative respite in the diner, less violent but still emotionally on-edge (Bobby-Shelly shippers, momentarily elated to discover Becky is indeed their mutual daughter, are instantly let down when Red arrives to make out with Shelly; clearly the teen lovers of seasons one and two are no longer together).

Before our jangled nerves have had any chance to calm, Lynch offers up the most memorable traffic jam since Godard's Weekend, or perhaps Lynch's own Fire Walk With Me - comic, agitating, and terrifying in equal measure (it's spurred by a pint-size hunter firing his father's gun). Dana Ashbrook does some of his best acting so far by simply reacting to this contained chaos with ever-evolving, finely attuned expressions that mirror our own. This mini-episode of hellish anxiety climaxes as a middle-aged driver screams in short bursts while her child passenger rises from her seat like a zombie, ooze dribbling down the sides of her mouth shuddering in the dim light as the traffic horns sound a symphony of appalling, yet somehow absolutely hilarious, horror.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 10 - "Laura is the one."


This week Twin Peaks both fulfilled my expectations and surprised me, in a fashion I've come to understand as the way this bird flies. The overall shape of the narrative remains legible, consistently defying attempt to render it more complex. By now theories that the different storylines of The Return take place in different timelines, different levels of reality, or even different universes seem quite out of step with the methodical connect-the-dots nature of the episodes. When alternate dimensions or time travel do pop up, they are presented in a clear, distinct fashion, not hidden in sly, deceptive ways. The biggest "twist," at least since the central premise was established in part 3, hasn't had any effect on the plot so far (part 8's atomic/fifties aside, which will presumably become relevant further down the line). While the purpose of the story remains oblique, it is possible to frequently see where certain points might be going - Mark Frost knows how to hit his beats, and how to tease and satisfy just enough which keeping us mostly in the dark. Nonetheless, The Return is as likely as any other David Lynch work to indulge moments of whimsical humor or visionary transcendence and part 10 does not fail to follow this trend. As the title was all I knew before watching this episode, both my predictions and surprises this week have to do with Laura Palmer.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 9 - "This is the chair."


For all its unpredictability, a definite pattern is emerging week after week on Twin Peaks: The Return, a pattern that other commentators had already begun to note. Aside from the two-part premiere, each plot-heavy, relatively straightforward episode has been followed by a more challenging, avant-garde episode, establishing a rhythm that corresponds to the differing interests and approaches of Mark Frost and David Lynch, as well as the demands of a televised narrative and Twin Peaks' yearning desire to break the mold and indulge in experimentation. Given the series' ostensible design as one big film, cut up arbitrarily at each hour mark, perhaps this alternation is a coincidence? Well, I would've been likelier to believe that before the one-two punch of "Gotta light." and "This is the chair." Their juxtaposition is too jarring, the delineation between them far too neat, to believe in an accident. Whether we characterize the modes of this series as Frost and Lynch, narrative and experimentation, breaking it down and breaking through, Cooper is not the only part of Twin Peaks that's split in two.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Twin Peaks Interlude: discussing Parts 1-8 w/ Twin Peaks Unwrapped


Last week, with a two-week break between episodes, Twin Peaks Unwrapped for a discussion about Parts 1-8. We talk about the value of Dougie (and waiting for Coop), whether we are going to get stories or glimpses of the vast ensemble, and the power of part 8.



See you Sunday.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 8 - "Gotta light?"


Through almost my entire history of watching Twin Peaks, I've watched it alone. I saw the first two seasons on my computer screen, with headphones, in the summer of 2008. Fire Walk With Me soon became one of my most memorable solo viewings of any movie, a visceral experience I had to write about as soon as I finished, because it was so overwhelming. I immediately rewatched much of the series, writing about each episode - again, by myself. When I rewatched Twin Peaks six years later (aside from one episode with a friend, after buying a used VHS tape at a dying rental store), it was again a private experience; I finally saw a screening of Fire Walk With Me at a local library, with a crowd and my cousin (a newly-minted Peaks fan) but by this point I'd seen the movie a half-dozen times and had plenty of opportunities to think about it. The new series, initially, followed suit. I was visiting a friend in New York for the premiere, but he'd never watched Twin Peaks and didn't want to start with The Return so he sat in the other room focused on his own work, only poking his head back in when I yelled loudly at the glass box monster.

Tonight, at my parents' house after a long week spent with family,  I was surrounded by other viewers including an aunt eating Cheerios, the aforementioned cousin, my mother - who quickly left the room (around the time the dusty ghost monsters were ripping up the bloody doppelganger) - and a visiting sister who just watched the finale for the first time a few days ago. My sister hadn't even had time yet to watch the film, let alone any new episodes, so I was prepared to occasionally catch her up to speed when old and new characters appeared. As it turned out, that wouldn't be an issue. We sat spellbound for much of the episode, but also talked, noticing details, drawing comparisons, occasionally just marvelling (or cringing), laughing at jokes and asides. On the one hand, this would seem a wildly inappropriate way to watch one of the most immersive, meditative, visual pieces (not to underplay one of Lynch's most evocative soundscapes) of...well, cinema (the televisual aspect seems almost incidental) in the past hundred years. And indeed, I may wake up early tomorrow, before work, to pull a chair up much closer to the TV and rewatch the whole hour alone, soaking it in without any company or distractions.

Yet to be honest, this feels like the perfect time to make Twin Peaks communal. Not only are we all - recent, veteran, and brand-new Peaks viewers - equally lost in uncharted waters (this is radical new territory for an already radical series) - we are also undergoing one of Lynch's deepest dives into world history and mythology. This is, somehow, the history of the human race, and the modern age, and we're all in it together.

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