Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): 2014

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

7 Facts About Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me


And now we (begin to) reach my favorite part of Twin Peaks, and also one of the most troubled and controversial: Fire Walk With Me, the 1992 prequel film by David Lynch. Although the film's reputation has improved since its disastrous reception two decades ago, it remains greatly misunderstood and underappreciated. I explore the context for positive and negative opinion in the following video (an excerpt from the upcoming Part 4 of Journey Through Twin Peaks, it can still be watched on its own). There are obviously many other details that could be pointed out: the film's structural messiness, the difficulty getting Kyle MacLachlan to do more than a cameo, the hour and a half of deleted footage. But these will be addressed in upcoming chapters and did not seem as integral to me as these seven fundamental facts. While some of these statements can seem more like opinions - how do we "prove" that Fire Walk With Me fulfills Twin Peaks? - they remain solidly rooted in visual and/or historical evidence which I present onscreen.

Needless to say, there are spoilers and graphic/disturbing content.

The video is presented below, alongside screen-caps of each of the seven facts for easy reference. Happy New Year - see you in 2015. Meanwhile, if you are new to Journey Through Twin Peaks you can watch Part 1 (Harmony of the Dark Woods), Part 2 (The Center Cannot Hold), and Part 3 (The Whole Damned Town). You can also start directly with Chapter 1 on YouTube.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Journey Through Twin Peaks: Part 3 - The Whole Damned Town


Well, it's finally here, just in time for Christmas...after nearly two months of preparation, I've finished Part 3 of my 4-part video series analyzing the narrative cycle of Twin Peaks from the pilot through Fire Walk With Me. This is longest video yet (split into 8 individual chapters on YouTube or a single 75-minute presentation on Vimeo), and certainly the most ambitious. Half of Part 3 continues the progression through the second half of the series, including the very weak episodes of the mid-season and the astonishing David Lynch-directed finale. The other half makes room for essential asides embracing the Twin Peaks as a whole, focused on the colorful ensemble, the palpable spirit of the show (including its early celebration in the media), the development of Agent Cooper as a complex character, and in the chapter which took the most time and effort, the mythology of the series.

If Part 2 hinted at divisions between Lynch and Frost in their interpretation of Laura Palmer, "The Whole Damned Town" further explores their fruitful creative tensions: their varying takes on Cooper (whom Lynch idealizes and Frost humanizes), and their individual contributions to the mythology - Lynch through personal, dreamlike images, Frost through concepts imported from Theosophy, the nineteenth-century spiritual movement begun by Madame Blavatsky. Visually, I had to get more creative in this part of my series, since much of the time I'm speaking of abstract ideas rather than something specifically happening onscreen. I had a lot of fun overlapping images, combining montages with pertinent quotes, and creating collages-in-motion. I've reproduced some of the images below.

Next up is Fire Walk With Me, hopefully early in January. It's my favorite piece of Twin Peaks and will conclude our journey so I'm really looking forward to it. Meanwhile, you can start with Part 1 (Harmony of the Dark Woods) and Part 2 (The Center Cannot Hold), or jump right into Part 3: The Whole Damned Town...

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Chapters in Journey Through Twin Peaks: Cooper, the mid-season, and the spirit of Twin Peaks


I've got good news (as the Little Man says)! "Journey Through Twin Peaks" is moving full speed ahead as I post the chapters of Part 3 one-by-one. This week I've finished chapters on the mid-season 2 doldrums, the spirit of Twin Peaks (including a look at the media buzz of season 1 and the Access Guide fake tour book), and the development of Agent Cooper as a character. Enjoy, and stay tuned as more chapters will post this week.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Journey Through Twin Peaks: Beyond the Investigation (the ensemble)


I planned to post more chapters of Part 3 but am holding off as I work out some issues with the videos. In the mean time, here is the chapter I put up early last week. It looks back over the various characters, reminding us who they are and what they do, as the series prepares for its post-Laura Palmer stretch. As I ask (rhetorically) at the end of the video: what could go wrong? Speaking of which, you may have trouble playing these on YouTube in the next few days. If so, stay tuned. I hope to resolve any issues and complete the series. And, as always, if you haven't watched them yet, here are Part 1 and Part 2. For now...

Monday, December 1, 2014

Twin Peaks status update: some things take a while...


Unfortunately, I did not meet my November 30 deadline for posting Part 3 of the "Journey Through Twin Peaks" video series. Since June I have been posting one video a month but if I had to fall short of my goal, this is the occasion. When Part 3 does go up, it will be my longest, most ambitious video ever. One half cover the post-Laura episodes of the show, while the other half focuses on important individual subjects: the ensemble cast of characters, the atmosphere (and publicity) of Twin Peaks (town) and Twin Peaks (series), the evolution of Agent Cooper, and the mythology of the series. I discussed the upcoming video in greater detail last week.

Of course, I don't expect anyone to watch the entire video in one sitting (although you are certainly welcome to!). For that reason I will be dividing Part 3 into eight chapters, much like the other entries in the series. Unlike the other entries, I will be uploading each of these chapters up as they are finished, instead of waiting for everything to be done. I won't update this blog until Part 3 is complete, but if you follow my YouTube channel or you can check out the video piece by piece (I will also be sharing updates on Twitter).

Finally, as "12 Weeks of Twin Peaks" comes to a close on December 15, I want to establish what to expect. Originally I had several other posts planned - particularly a list of favorite scenes from the show and a long-planned close reading of Sheryl Lee's performance in Fire Walk With Me. The first, while fun, seems inessential - perhaps another time, perhaps not. The second is another matter - it's still something I very much want to do, maybe in a month or two. This allows more time to develop the piece (I've never focused an analysis entirely on a single performance before, so this will be a challenge). Furthermore, the essay will go up alongside classic film reviews, an important context because I view this as a great performance full-stop - work that can stand alongside great achievements from any era (but particularly the silent cinema, with which I see many similarities in style). Hopefully, I'll continue this approach in the future: two other underrated/overlooked performances I would like to honor are Bing Crosby in The Country Girl and Anna Magnani in Mamma Roma.

For the moment, I am going to focus exclusively on the two remaining parts of the video series (after which I will post some round-ups, of all my Twin Peaks videos and also of extra pictures from my "90 Years of Cinema" tribute on Twitter, followed by some good old-fashioned straight-up movie reviews in January!). After Part 3 is finished, I will jump right into Part 4. It may be unrealistic for me to finish it by the December 15 deadline, but I don't expect it to take nearly as long as Parts 2 and 3. Part 4 only deals with Fire Walk With Me (i.e. two hours of material, rather than fourteen!), which is a subject I don't need to research nearly as much. It's my favorite piece of the puzzle and something I've already written about numerous times: though I will be taking a very different approach, and embracing a very new perspective, in this video. This, basically, is what I've been working towards all year, at least since the conversation with Tony Dayoub in the spring. In the mean time here, if you haven't yet, check out Part 1 (Harmony of the Dark Woods) and Part 2 (The Center Cannot Hold) of "Journey Through Twin Peaks."

Monday, November 24, 2014

Coming up in Journey Through Twin Peaks...


It's the final Monday of November and, once again, I'm still working on this month's entry in Journey Through Twin Peaks, my 4-part video series covering the series and film in chronological order. Part 3, "The Whole Damned Town," is my most ambitious video yet, covering the most episodes (from the extremely weak post-Laura episodes to the stunning Lynch-directed finale) while also devoting half its chapters to important asides: the cast of characters, the atmosphere of Twin Peaks (show and town), Cooper's character arc, and the series mythology. Among other elements, Part 3 explores the good and bad points of season two, spin-off books like My Life, My Tapes (the Cooper "autobiography") and the Access Guide, the influence of Theosophy, and divergences in Lynch's and Frost's interpretation of Agent Cooper. There will be eight chapters in this entry; in lieu of the eventual upload here is a sneak preview of what's on the way (descriptions include spoilers, as will the videos obviously)...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Twin Peaks on the Internet...in 1990 (an alt.tv.twin-peaks archive)


Online commentary from the original alt.tv.twinpeaks Usenet newsgroup (1990-93)

What if the internet had existed when Twin Peaks originally aired? Well...it did. Sort of. The average viewer did not have online access when the first episode aired on April 8, 1990, nor when Laura Palmer's killer was finally revealed on November 10, 1990, nor when the final episode aired as a Monday night movie-of-the-week on June 10, 1991, nor when the prequel film limped into theaters on August 28, 1992. Of course, the average viewer wasn't paying attention to Twin Peaks at all by those later points - so the following commentators are exceptional not only for their internet savvy, but for their enthusiastic devotion to David Lynch's and Mark Frost's unique world.

I'm not going to attempt to explain Usenet or newsgroups or the pre-World Wide Web internet because I don't really understand them myself. As far as I was aware, the "Information Superhighway" popped out of nowhere in the fall of 1995, when I entered jr. high. Yet since the late seventies, computer networks had been facilitating communication between people with (I believe) institutional access to the internet. Usenet (which is still available today) was among the most popular of these networks. Newsgroups conducted conversations on particular topics, and alt.tv.twin-peaks quickly became one of the most noted newsgroups. Episodes were immediately analyzed, theories were tossed about, and hoaxes were pulled by clever fans.

The newsgroup remains active today, nearly twenty-five years later, as a Google group with over 28,000 topics archived. Through keyword searches, I was able to bookmark many of the early posts, from the show's initial run. Then I made a completely subjective selection of 108 posts that seemed interesting and representative. Consider this a companion piece to my round-up of Twin Peaks media commentary this spring. I am endlessly fascinated by how new viewers react to the show as it unfolds, as well as how the show was received when it first aired, so for me this was pig heaven. (Also worth checking out is this thread I started for fans to share their memories of the original series run).

In 2016, fans from all over the world will share immediate reactions and attempt to make sense of the insensible via Twitter, Facebook, and all variety of internet forums, using phones, tablets, and other devices. Though their numbers will be greater, they will be not be the first do so. Here then, is a glimpse of the first generation of online Twin Peaks fans attempting to figure out who killed Laura Palmer, praising and complaining about the show's twists and turns, and reacting to Dick Tremayne's famous death scene (you'll see). The further we go, the more absorbing the commentary becomes: detailed psychological evaluations of the characters and situations, evocative first-hand accounts of the Fire Walk With Me shoot, even speculative predictions that Twin Peaks will return in 2014! "Through the darkness of future past, the magician longs to see," indeed...

Monday, November 10, 2014

Talking Twin Peaks again (on "Obnoxious and Anonymous")


This summer I spent an hour or two chatting with Cameron Cloutier, prolific host of the "Obnoxious and Anonymous" podcast, about Twin Peaks. Since then so much has changed - Brad Dukes' Reflections book has clarified a lot of Twin Peaks history, The Entire Mystery blu-ray unveiled the "missing pieces" of Fire Walk With Me along with a new look at the Palmer family, and most notably David Lynch and Mark Frost announced that they would be (gasp!) returning to Twin Peaks after all. With all that in mind, Cameron and I joined forces for another lively discussion. This time we cover (among other topics) the nature of David Lynch's collaboration with Mark Frost (and editor Mary Sweeney), the difference in how the two creators treat Agent Cooper, Ronnete Pulaski's importance to the Laura Palmer tale, and the strange contradiction between Lynch's desire to keep Laura's killer a secret (perhaps forever) and to explore that secret in detail in Fire Walk With Me. Quite a lot to unpack, so please share your own thoughts below.

I also encourage you to check out Twin Peaks Worldwide, a new blog spun off from the popular Facebook group. The latest post addresses that perennial question haunting Twin Peaks (second only to "How's Annie?"): who is Judy? Share your thoughts over there; I already have.

My podcast with Cameron follows the jump. And stay tuned over the coming month as 12 Weeks of Twin Peaks continues with a new entry every Monday, including further chapters in my Journey Through Twin Peaks video series (which I hope you'll check out if you haven't yet - this is some of the work I'm proudest of in my six years of blogging).

Monday, November 3, 2014

Opening the Door: a conversation with Martha Nochimson, author of The Passion of David Lynch and David Lynch Swerves


Martha Nochimson, author of the critical analyses The Passion of David Lynch: Wild at Heart in Hollywood (1997) and David Lynch Swerves (2013), has recently written two notable essays: "Don't call 'Twin Peaks' a 'cult classic'" and "David Chase finally reveals Tony's fate on 'The Sopranos.'"

When I returned to Twin Peaks earlier this year, it was through a book, Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks. Some essays were more compelling than others, but two immediately caught my interest. Both addressed what remained "unsettled" (unsettling?) about Twin Peaks for me - and thus what drew me back into that world after a five-year break. Diane Stevenson's essay "Family Romance, Family Violence, and the Fantastic in Twin Peaks" tackled one of the show's most troubled and tangled points, the intersection of real-world trauma with depictions of an otherworldly mythology. And Martha Nochimson's "Desire Under the Douglas Firs: Entering the Body of Reality in Twin Peaks," in contrast to some of the other essays in the book, explicitly analyzed the troubled making of the show. She rooted her analysis of the series finale - particularly Cooper's "defeat" in the Red Room - in careful research, observing not only what David Lynch and Mark Frost had done, but what they believed. The result perceptively located the psychological and spiritual resonance of Cooper's experiences rather than relegating them to narrative exigencies or over-theoretical impositions.

I soon learned that this essay had been followed by one of the most acclaimed books on Lynch. The Passion of David Lynch: Wild at Heart in Hollywood extends the author's analysis of Lynch's (and, briefly, Frost's) visions, bringing a Jungian and feminist perspective to bear on the director's work. Her primary guide, however, is the work itself - and Lynch himself (she spoke with him several times before writing the book). She expected, according to the introduction to Passion, to "get an enormously precious something, which I would transmit in my book. As it turned out, much of the value of my time with David Lynch came as a result of letting go." Later, in one of the most important passages, she describes viewing a Jackson Pollack painting alongside Lynch. When she said she didn't understand it, he told her she did because her eyes were moving. "I saw that I could not contain the painting in some theoretical framework; he saw me performing with the painting." Throughout this book, Martha Nochimson performs with David Lynch's work in similar fashion. For me, reading the book was a series of epiphanies. Did I agree with everything she wrote about the work? No (and below we will discuss some of the interpretations I found more challenging). But there was a consistent sense of revelation I hadn't felt with other analyses of this work - a sense that the central phenomenon was always the emotional experience of what Lynch was presenting rather than a cerebral rationalization.

The follow-up book, David Lynch Swerves, brings a more pronounced framework to the table: using the Vedic scriptures and (especially) quantum mechanics to interpret Lynch's "second-stage" films, from Lost Highway to Inland Empire, in which a purely psychological reading limits what he is doing (the book very firmly rebuts the "it's all a dream" interpretation of the first two-thirds of Mulholland Drive). This, of course, runs the risk of applying a rigid grid to Lynch's films but instead the book is as revelatory as its predecessor: the focus on the Vedas and physics are based on Lynch's own curiosity about these subjects and, again, the interpretation is determined by the experience of the work itself. Besides, these unconventional tools remain shockingly apt. Lynch bends reality yet maintains (indeed deepens) emotional resonance in his later work, a process I see beginning even earlier than the "second stage," in Fire Walk With Me and, to a lesser extent, Twin Peaks. As with Diane Stevenson's earlier essay on "the fantastic," David Lynch Swerves distinguishes the director's visions from Hollywood's traditional genre approaches: "In the Lynchverse, the marketplace blocks experience of the larger energies of the real in the name of a fictitious normality. In horror, science fiction, and fantasy, the larger energies are violations of a highly valued normality conceived of as the real. In the Lynchverse, normality is questioned; in horror, science fiction, and dream/fantasy, it has traditionally been defended."

The most useful quantum concepts in the Lynch experience may be "entanglement" - in which multiple particles react as if they are one (much like the shifting and overlapping identities in Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire) and "superposition" - in which a particle can be two places at the same time (recall the Mystery Man's phone conversation in Lost Highway, among other relevant phenomena in that film). The analysis even finds a way to incorporate The Straight Story, through the concept of "decoherence," which explains how traditional Newtonian physics appears to operate under certain conditions (indeed, this is how we perceive day-to-day life) even as experimentation proves that the larger physical reality is far more complex. Reading The Straight Story this way - as a narrative that takes place within what Swerves refers to as the "Lynchverse" but miraculously avoids the physical and psychological reality-bending of his other works - can seem like a stretch. However, the film is certainly a part of Lynch's oeuvre (and it is clearly a film he was passionate about, even calling it his most "experimental" work), consistent with his vision despite being exceptional in many ways. Recall, too, that Alvin's journey is all about self-imposed limits and sticking to a particular path, and "decoherence" becomes perhaps the most perceptive reading of a film near and dear to Lynch's heart, even as that heart was devoted to a very different perception of reality than Alvin Straight's.

Finally, David Lynch Swerves provides the most penetrating and clear-headed reading of Inland Empire that I've yet encountered. Early in the film, the strange woman who enters Nikki Grace's home borrows language from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of Transcendental Meditation and David Lynch's own spiritual teacher. She speaks of "the Marketplace" (the confusion of day-to-day reality, also akin to the limited vision of classical physics) and "the Palace" (cosmic wisdom, to put it perhaps too simply). With these evocative words as guiding concepts, the book gently roots the swirling realities of the film's prologue in three distinct locales. There is the Rabbit Room, a "vision of faith" in which "three actors wearing rabbit suits wait for understanding in a state of Pinteresque/Beckettian confusion." "The world of human need," as represented by the Lost Girl's Room, "combines an elaborately appointed but realistic looking hotel room with a magic mirror shaped like an ordinary television." The self-descriptive Rage Room is inhabited by "two men, one of whom is filled with violent, negative energy in a beautiful, traditional, gilt-covered European salon." These physical places are visualized psychological concepts: "It is unorthodox to think of emotional states of being as places we can enter, which Lynch does here. Lynch also challenges the way we usually think about time by locating these 'feeling places' - bubble worlds - in a future that is already present when the film begins, way before Nikki finds these worlds." Nikki's visitor in the film also speaks of an "alleyway" through which one can avoid the Marketplace and reach the Palace. My own feeling is that David Lynch's films provide such an alleyway. Despite its elusive, "challenging" air, his work may in fact create a path to better understanding of art, the world, and our place within it.

After reading The Passion of David Lynch and David Lynch Swerves, I knew I wanted to speak to Martha about her work and David Lynch's films. The following conversation was conducted primarily through a single phone call, although preliminary questions and minor revisions were made via email as well.

• • •

Friday, October 31, 2014

Journey Through Twin Peaks: Part 2 - The Center Cannot Hold




"The Center Cannot Hold" continues my 4-part video series analyzing the narrative cycle of Twin Peaks from the pilot through Fire Walk With Me. This second entry begins before the last, exploring the creation and development of Laura Palmer (juxtaposed with the films Laura and Vertigo as well as the abandoned Mark Frost-David Lynch project The Goddess, about Marilyn Monroe). After an examination of The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, we pick up where we left off in season two, covering episodes 9 through the beginning of episode 17, with a long pause to analyze the killer's reveal, including a montage accompanied by W.B. Yeats' "The Second Coming," from which this video essay draws its title. Part 2 in its entirety is fifty minutes long but I've also split it into six individual chapters, running between five and eleven minutes each, for easier viewing. Along the way, of course, there are disturbing images and spoilers (although I don't spoil episodes ahead of the ones I'm discussing).

Completing this video took far longer than expected but I am very happy with the result (well, except for my voiceover work which I am, at best, mildly happy with...). I hope you find it informative, absorbing, and thought-provoking. These episodes feature some of the most distinctive and controversial material on the show so I also hope viewers will share their own thoughts below. Part 3, scheduled for November, will cover the rest of the TV episodes with asides to explore the show's mythological influences, distinctive atmosphere, and colorful ensemble. Part 4, scheduled for December, will focus on Fire Walk With MePart 1 - "Harmony of the Dark Woods" examining the well-balanced first season and controversial season two premiere.

Journey Through Twin Peaks follows the jump accompanied by several representative images taken from the video.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Twin Peaks: "The Second Coming" (W.B. Yeats)


As the giant says, "It is happening again." For the second time in a month, an entry in my Journey Through Twin Peaks video series is taking longer than expected and cannot go up on schedule. Part 2 of the series, "The Center Cannot Hold," will go online this week, hopefully within the next few days but is proving far more complex and challenging than I imagined. This portion of the series will cover season two from the second episode to the resolution of the Laura Palmer mystery, but it also makes room for several asides: the creation of Laura's character, connections to Vertigo and Laura, excerpts from The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch, and a meditation on the nature of the killer's reveal and how Lynch's and Frost's previous work led up to this point. I've completed some of the most important parts and am quite pleased with the results, but I want to make sure I don't rush the rest of it so here we are (if you haven't watched it yet, here is Part 1).

In the meantime, I have posted an excerpt on YouTube; this is the introduction to the "Killer's Reveal" chapter, which couples "The Second Coming" by W.B. Yeats (as read by Harold Pinter) with some of the more unsettling moments from the series, Fire Walk With Me, and The Missing Pieces. I thought the poem would go well with the visuals and it really did, especially with the selected music. Needless to say, the video features spoilers and disturbing images. You can watch the excerpt below and keep your eyes peeled for the rest within a few days:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Twin Peaks is Back! (a conversation with John Thorne, editor of Wrapped in Plastic, pt. 3)


Needless to say (although I'm saying it anyway), this interview with John Thorne - co-editor/publisher/writer behind Twin Peaks magazine Wrapped in Plastic - will include many, many spoilers for the series and film.

When I spoke to John Thorne for the first time in July about the history of his magazine Wrapped in Plastic, I only planned to publish one interview. Yet as we spoke about the upcoming Entire Mystery blu-ray release, I realized we'd have to talk again to discuss what would probably be the last addition to the Twin Peaks canon. It took a couple months, but I was finally able to follow up with him about the deleted scenes, the mysterious Palmer family reunion, and other special features. We also spoke about the possibility of David Lynch and Mark Frost returning to Twin Peaks and both of us thought it extremely unlikely. There was even a wistful tone in John's voice as he commented about The Missing Pieces: "I would say, it felt like he was done. That this is an end point. In a way this is sort of a door closing. Arguably it could be a door opening too." He then added, referring to Lynch's recent art show in Philadelphia, "I would hope that he looks at these paintings again and thinks, I want to see these paintings move and he’s ready to do it again."

Well, here we are a month later and a third interview was obviously necessary. If you're reading this, you surely already know, but on October 6, Showtime announced it will be airing a 9-episode continuation of Twin Peaks. Every episode will be written by Mark Frost and David Lynch, and they will all be directed by Lynch. Many cast members have already declared their interest in returning, and last week (after this interview was conducted - it's impossible to keep up with the news!) Frost also announced an upcoming novel which will divulge what's happened in the town of Twin Peaks over the past twenty-five years. Clearly, John and I had a lot to discuss so we eagerly got back to it. Part three, the final installment of our ongoing conversation (for now), covers questions about the new series, John's interpretation of the original series finale, and why the media still doesn't get Twin Peaks.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hidden Corners of Twin Peaks: a conversation with John Thorne, editor of Wrapped in Plastic, pt. 2 (The Missing Pieces & more)


Needless to say (although I'm saying it anyway), this interview with John Thorne - co-editor/publisher/writer behind Twin Peaks magazine Wrapped in Plastic - will include many, many spoilers for the series and film.

In Part 1 of this interview, conducted in early July, John and I discussed Wrapped in Plastic and his theories about Fire Walk With Me. In this installment, conducted a month ago, we discussed the blu-ray boxset Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery, released a few weeks after our last conversation, particularly The Missing Pieces (90 minutes of deleted footage from Fire Walk With Me). We also discussed the second season of Twin Peaks and why David Lynch seemed unlikely to return to Twin Peaks (little did we know). In a week I will present part 3 of the interview, conducted earlier this week, discussing the amazing news from last Monday (originally part 3 was scheduled for two weeks hence, but I've moved it forward).

Monday, October 6, 2014

Unwrapping Twin Peaks: a conversation with John Thorne, editor of Wrapped in Plastic


Needless to say (although I'm saying it anyway), this interview with John Thorne - co-editor/publisher/writer behind Twin Peaks magazine Wrapped in Plastic - will include many, many spoilers for the series and film.

For thirteen years and seventy-five issues, Twin Peaks fans had one safe haven in a media landscape completely indifferent, even hostile, to the strange, wonderful world they loved. Publishing its first issue in October 1992, a month after the critically-reviled Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me bombed at the box office, and going on permanent hiatus in September 2005, two years before the Gold Box DVD collection would introduce a new generation to the TV series, Wrapped in Plastic carried the torch during the long dark age of Twin Peaks. Or rather, it ensured that this dark age was in fact a golden era, with vital new interviews, deeply insightful essays, and the latest cast-and-crew news bundled into a slick, appealing package every couple months. Wrapped in Plastic was a fanzine but it was also something more: a vital source of scholarship in an era when one of the most iconic, original, and influential TV shows of all time was rarely discussed.

Wrapped in Plastic unearthed countless insights into the production of the series which still resonate today, via extensive interviews and close readings of production documents and other details. It solicited contributions from all quarters, publishing rich and provocative analyses of the series in light of literary criticism, television history, esoteric philosophy, even Arthurian legend. And, in the style of the show it honored, it broke the mould, mixing fanservice with erudition, commercial calculation with aesthetic consideration, personal passion with objective research. And, of course, the entire project was homemade: Craig Miller and John Thorne edited and published every single issue, barely squeaking out a profit while writing a substantial number of the essays themselves. It's no wonder they eventually felt burnt-out - what's amazing is that it took so long for the pace to get to them. Sadly, Craig Miller passed away in 2010 and with that, Wrapped in Plastic was officially over.

I discovered John Thorne's work this past spring, as I gathered quotes for a massive round-up of Twin Peaks commentary, trying to trace the elusive history of the show, the film, and their reception. Intrigued by his long-dormant blog (particularly a post called "The Subject of Laura Palmer"), and heartened by his quick responses to my inquiries, I contacted him to propose an interview. Having come to Twin Peaks only after the magazine went out of print (like many others wooed by the show in the digital/social media era), I was only dimly aware of Wrapped in Plastic and had never had the chance to sample its contents. John shared some of his work with me and I investigated the descriptions of previous issues to get a tantalizing sense of the magazine's treasures (though I haven't been able to yet, I plan to invest soon in its archives - as Gordon Cole would put it, "MASSIVE, MASSIVE QUANTITIES" of back issues!).

The following conversation was conducted nearly three months ago, several weeks before the release of The Entire Mystery blu-ray (with its 90 minutes of deleted scenes from the film) re-ignited interest in Twin Peaks in late summer. John and I discussed his own experience watching the show, the backstory of Wrapped in Plastic, his insight into Mark Frost and David Lynch, and particularly two essays on Fire Walk With Me, "Dreams of Deer Meadow" and "The Transformation of Laura Palmer." The first, Wrapped in Plastic's most controversial article, proposes that the entire prologue of the film is best - and most accurately - interpreted as Agent Dale Cooper's dream. The second, a much longer version of the blog post that hooked me, digs deeply into the process behind the development of Laura Palmer's character. Taken together, the discussion of these two essays makes up more than half of the following exchange which has been dramatically cut down from a three-hour phone conversation. Two months later, John and I would speak again - intending to touch base for half an hour, and again talking for three hours - about The Missing Pieces and other matters. That interview will appear next week as a follow-up.

Finally, I'd be remiss not to mention the big news. Rumor has it that later today, Mark Frost and David Lynch will announce one of the greatest comebacks in TV history: the return of Twin Peaks in some form, probably a miniseries on premium cable. [As expected, a few hours later Showtime declared that it will be running a brand new nine-episode Twin Peaks miniseries in 2016, which will be entirely written by Frost & Lynch and directed by Lynch. Later in the day, John Thorne posted on his blog for the first time in over two years, declaring that he is now planning to renew the mission of Wrapped in Plastic in one form or another.] In an amazing reversal for a series ignominiously cancelled after a season and a half, maligned in the mainstream media, and viciously shot down when it attempted to take cinematic form, it looks like - as Lynch and Frost simultaneously and cryptically tweeted last week - "that gum you like is going to come back in style." If this is true, we can expect the deluge of new, curious fans of the classic Twin Peaks to dwarf anything since the original series aired nearly twenty-five years ago, and it is my hope that as the torch ignites once again, we can remember the folks who carried that flickering flame in the years when the show was nearly forgotten. So let's part the red curtains, cross the threshold, and unwrap Wrapped in Plastic one more time...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Journey Through Twin Peaks: Part 1 - Harmony of the Dark Woods


"Harmony of the Dark Woods" kicks off a 4-part video series analyzing the narrative cycle of Twin Peaks from the pilot through Fire Walk With Me. This first entry introduces the hybrid tone/style of the series and focuses on the essential triptych of Laura Palmer, the town of Twin Peaks, and Agent Cooper. It covers the pilot through the season two premiere (with no spoilers for subsequent episodes, so I don't reveal the killer in this entry). The entire video runs for thirty minutes (my longest video essay yet) - but you can also watch it in five separate, short video chapters for easier viewing. Taken together, the entire video series will be feature-length.

Each month's video opens with a musical montage set to a different Julee Cruise song not featured on the Twin Peaks soundtrack (although contemporaneous with the show and film), provides a larger context for the upcoming material, and then closely - and chronologically - examines the subtle twists and turns in David Lynch's and Mark Frost's storytelling. Hopefully viewers will find this approach insightful; my goal is not simply to reiterate the events of the show but to present them in an illuminating, informative light so that when the series is finished the often bewildering saga will appear as a messy but cohesive whole.

This is my first narrated video essay in nearly two years, and I have written, narrated, and edited the project myself. [Originally this post contained a schedule that has been obsolete as each video takes longer than expected for me to complete. Regardless, you can now watch Part 2 and Part 3, as well as the first two chapters (Introduction & 7 Facts About Fire Walk With Me) of Part 4. Will update as necessary.] These will be my video posts for the coming months (this one just barely made it up in time for September). The first three entries are also a part of this blog's Six Weeks of Twin Peaks.

Hope you enjoy my "Journey Through Twin Peaks." Share your own thoughts on season one and the season two premiere (and hell, anything else that comes to mind) below.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Twelve Weeks of Twin Peaks


Originally this post announced "Six Weeks of Twin Peaks" - a few days before Showtime revealed that Twin Peaks would be returning to the air in 2016. In celebration of that decision, I am doubling the length of time during which I will focus on the 1990-91 TV show and 1992 movie. That means, in addition to Part 4 of the video and the Sheryl Lee post (as well as an unplanned Part 3 of the John Thorne interview) there will be three additional posts on Twin Peaks. I'm not totally sure what they will be yet, though I have some strong ideas. Stay tuned!

The rest of the announcement remains as written, despite the changes. (updated 10/16)

Obviously, 2014 has been the year of Twin Peaks for me - in the spring I re-discovered the series through the critical essays in the book Full of Secrets, was invited to take part in an online conversation on Fire Walk With Me, and found out that an upcoming blu-ray would feature the long-awaited deleted scenes from the film. These three separate but serendipitous factors led me to devote numerous posts to the Twin Peaks phenomenon this year, including a monthlong retrospective of David Lynch, a review of The Missing Pieces from Fire Walk With Me, and an interview with Brad Dukes, author of a new and essential Twin Peaks oral history. I haven't been immersed this deeply in a single subject since I went on a huge Beatles kick ten years ago (in my pre-blogging days).

All obsessions must wind down eventually, and as the year ends I will initiate several projects I've been planning for a while. But the focus on Twin Peaks will intensify before it abates. On Tuesday - the only time I will be violating my once-a-week-on-Monday-morning posting rules (due to a delay in the video's completion) - I am posting the first chapter in a 4-part video series on Twin Peaks. From this point on, for six weeks, every weekly post will be devoted to the show and film. This will include a 2-part interview with John Thorne, who published the Peaks fanzine Wrapped in Plastic for thirteen years, a sampling of the alt.tv.twin-peaks archive from the early nineties (to glean contemporaneous reactions for the show), and finally an interview with Martha Nochimson, who authored probably the best books of Lynch scholarship, The Passion of David Lynch and David Lynch Swerves (as well as a recent lightning-rod article about David Chase). During this time, I will also be posting parts two and three of the video series.

In mid-November, I will start to redirect my focus toward other movies and shows, setting up several years covering old and new favorites, another TV series episode guide, and probably all the movies in my collection that I haven't yet reviewed. But there will still be three big Twin Peaks posts in store, if all goes according to plan. The first, of course, will be the final chapter of the video series in early December (each chapter will be appearing at three-week intervals). Then I hope to post a long-awaited analysis of Sheryl Lee's performance in Fire Walk With Me, my favorite element of what has recently become my favorite film, but an element I haven't had the chance to zero in on yet. That post will also include short looks at Lee's work on the series and her subsequent filmography. Finally, next year on the 25th anniversary of the show (April 8) I would like to present a comprehensive overview of the entire Twin Peaks cycle - analyzing each chapter of the saga in terms of narrative events, behind-the-scenes context, contemporaneous critical and viewer reaction, my own opinion of it, and its place in the big picture of the ongoing story. The essay will most likely be book-length and should close out my yearlong focus. [not sure about this part anymore - with 9 new episodes coming in 2016, perhaps it's best to forestall any ruminations on "the big picture..."]

For now, you can check out all of my previous blog posts on Twin Peaks, which have been gathered in a consistently updated directory.

Originally this was an announcement of the upcoming first video essay, but I revised/deleted that post the following morning.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Growing Up is Hard to Do: Boyhood, The Giver, fragments of memory, and notes on the "death of adulthood"


The following is a double review of two recent coming-of-age films followed by images, videos, and observations gleaned from a much longer essay for which these reviews were originally intended.
Jonas did not want to go back. He didn't want the memories, didn't want the honor, didn't want the wisdom, didn't want the pain. He wanted his childhood again, his scraped knees and ball games. He sat in his dwelling alone, watching through the window, seeing children at play, citizens bicycling home from uneventful days at work, ordinary lives free of anguish because he had been selected, as others before him had, to bear their burden. 
But the choice was not his.
The Giver (1993), by Lois Lowry
When the first whispers of Richard Linklater's Boyhood reached my ears - or rather my eyes, since I "heard" about it on Twitter - I knew I would like it. Shot sporadically over an entire decade, the film anchors its universal coming-of-age tale in a very specific place (rural and suburban Texas) and time (the post-9/11 era). Onscreen we simultaneously watch Mason, the character, and Eller Coltrane, the actor, grow from 7 to 18. While widely acclaimed, this novel approach has also also been called a gimmick, implying that novelty masks an uninteresting story. But the approach is the story.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fragments of Cinephilia, Pt. IV


Short thoughts on: Love Exposure • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm • Kwaidan • The Honeymoon Killers • Richard Linklater  Les Bonnes Femmes • Running on Empty • Phantom of the Cinematheque • Out 1

My response to Boyhood, The Giver, and the recent spate of "death of adulthood" articles is almost entirely written but won't be ready in time for Monday morning. Hence I'll hold off on it till next week and present some oldies instead. For the fourth time (but the first in two years) I am collecting IMDb comments (mostly) left many moons ago during the era when those boards were my main online cinematic stomping ground. Most notably, my first response to the epic and enigmatic Out 1 is recorded below: I wrote these words in the immediate afterglow of a very memorable screening. Enjoy. (And if you do, make sure to check out the previous round-ups.) Disclaimer: my opinions circa 2007 are not necessarily still mine although I suppose I wouldn't re-post them if I didn't think they had some merit (even if 2014 me disagrees with their premises).

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cooper and Laura: a visual tribute to the stars of Twin Peaks


(The following visual tribute contains spoilers)


Through the darkness of future past
The magician longs to see
One chants out between two worlds
Fire walk with me

• • •

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Darkness of Future Past: visual tribute to an episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion


Last week I posted an autobiographical film I made ten years ago, and next week I'll be covering both Boyhood and The Giver, each a coming-of-age film with a twist. In keeping with the theme, this week's visual tribute offers another walk down memory lane - for the characters of Neon Genesis Evangelion (a series I began covering a couple years ago, and plan to resume next year). Once again there are several layers to the long strange trip: Episode 21 features numerous flashbacks but when the show originally aired in 1996, these memories actually belonged to the future (the show's "present" takes place in a post-apocalyptic 2015, and the flashbacks begin in 1999). For me the timeline is even more interesting: had I watched the show when it aired, I would have been roughly the same age as the youngest characters but in terms of actual chronology I am the same age as the slightly older generation (who are around thirty in the 2015 scenes and went to college in the mid-00s). As is often the case, the sci-fi elements of the show provide an intense, amplified backdrop for the drama but the humiliations, heartbreaks, and losses are all too human. The trip down memory lane is not always a pleasant one. This is one of my favorite episodes and I hope you enjoy the striking pictures with or without context. Happy Labor Day...

Monday, August 25, 2014

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been


Rather than a video essay, this month's Lost in the Movies video is an experimental film. It was created in 2005-2007, before I was familiar with the video essay form; nonetheless it overlaps with that approach (it is structured in part around a VHS tape of 1987 TV programs, particularly the Rankin-Bass cartoon The Wind in the Willows). Combining this found footage with home movies and original footage, the film depicts an inner/outer journey in impressionistic, hopefully enjoyable fashion.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Power of Myth: the last 20 books I read, January - July 2014


It took longer than usual, but here's my latest round-up of the last twenty books I read, with excerpts from each (you can also check out previous #JoelsReadingList round-ups). After the first six books, which I selected randomly, a conscious pattern emerged. I began alternating fiction and nonfiction, hoping to balance between my instinct for information and a desire to spark my imagination. I also assembled a backlog of books that were thematically-linked, so that each title would lead subtly into the next based on a similar theme or subject; not only did I think this would provide an enjoyable reading list, I knew it would make for an interesting round-up when I finally published the result. These approaches emerged around the time I began reading Full of Secrets, a compendium of Twin Peaks essays; unexpectedly, that book also led to an unforeseen development. I became obsessed with Twin Peaks and David Lynch again and was soon writing, watching, and otherwise engaging with those subjects to the exclusion of much else. That's one reason, after moving at a fast clip, it took me forever to finish the reading list I'd assembled.

It also occurred to me, after the fact, that the last fourteen books in the lineup (and even perhaps some of the early ones) are all linked by an overarching theme: the importance of mythology - dreams, fairy tales, spiritual riddles - in making sense of life. Whether battling demons both literal and figural, struggling to purify their souls, or seeking the Grail itself, the authors, subjects, and characters involved in the following books exist in a realm limited to neither tangible, material reality nor otherworldly fantasy. Instead, they embrace both and risk getting lost in the quest for a greater truth.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Story Both Wonderful and Strange: my conversation with Brad Dukes, author of Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks


The following interview was conducted in mid-July, between the release of Brad Dukes' book Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks and the release of the blu-ray Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery, featuring The Missing Pieces (deleted scenes from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, which I reviewed last week). The discussion includes spoilers for the TV show Twin Peaks. As an introduction to the conversation, I've included an overview of the book's accomplishment, modified and shortened from my original Amazon review.

As interest in Twin Peaks hits arguably its highest point since 1990 (when the show first aired), the well-timed release of Brad Dukes' oral history provides fans, new and old, with a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how the magic was created 25 years ago...and perhaps even more fascinatingly, how it dissipated.  Interviewing almost everyone involved with the show, from co-creator Mark Frost on down, Brad weaves a spellbinding tapestry embracing everything from the nitty-gritty of recording technique in composer Angelo Badalamenti's New York studio to the fast-paced Hollywood packaging of the show for nervous executives to the ineffable magic David Lynch evoked with his hardy band of fellow travelers/co-conspirators on location in Seattle. The book's greatest strength is its ability to structure all of this material as something not only coherent, but narrative. Brad casts a sensitive and sympathetic eye on the many elements of this wildly diverse show - exploring each character and storyline in turn. While I (like many) am not a big fan of the second half of season two (after the killer is revealed), I was nonetheless absorbed and even touched reading about the actors' excited explorations of their characters. At the same time, the actors and creators themselves don't hide their disappointment with the turn of events, even as they're not quite able to explain them. Turns out that in the eye of the storm, participants had even less of an idea what was going wrong than those on the outside. Reflections does not offer a grand reveal of what precisely killed Twin Peaks, only more clues.

Among the areas Brad is able to explore more in-depth than I (at least) have seen before: the involvement of various writers and directors, most fascinatingly the contentious and autocratic presence of German director Uli Edel (whom Russ Tamblyn hated working for), the eccentric touch of Diane Keaton, and the disastrous blood-covered script submitted by heroin-addicted Jerry Stahl; the discussions between Mark Frost and Steven Spielberg, who expressed interest in directing the infamous season two premiere (until Lynch decided he wanted to do it himself); the loving detail lavished on Badalamenti's scoring, with due attention paid to his numerous and usually-overlooked collaborators in the studio; Kyle MacLachlan's always-controversial decision to nix Cooper's romance with Audrey (supposedly because his girlfriend Lara Flynn Boyle was jealous of her attention), which is fleshed-out but not solidified - although Sherilyn Fenn entertainingly harbors no doubts about what went down; Harley Peyton's increased involvement with the series to the point where he was basically running it while Mark Frost and David Lynch were off working on other projects, leading to some pointed confrontations with Lynch in particular; the personalities of various actors shining through in new and unforeseen ways - veteran actor Michael Parks gets some hilarious anecdotes about his confrontation with "gal director" Lesli Linka Glatter (who seems to take his condescension in stride), and Michael Ontkean surprises us as a more offbeat, soulful fellow (with a penchant to refer to himself in the third person) than we might suspect from his performance as the stable, easygoing Sheriff Truman.

The most prominent figure Brad was unable to interview is David Lynch, co-creator of the series and the most famous name attached to it. This is unsurprising - as Lynch is often loath to discuss his work - and also less unfortunate than it might seem, for that very reason: it's impossible to imagine the director letting down his guard enough to offer Dukes new information, or expose his reasons for apparently abandoning the series when it was at its most troubled (he would later return, but it was too late). That said, the absence of Lynch does create a bit of a void when it comes to his side of the story, particularly what the director sees as the centrality of Laura Palmer; for Brad, like Frost and Harley Peyton, Laura is more important as the gateway into the world of Twin Peaks than as a character in her own right (this also leads him to de-emphasize Fire Walk With Me). While this isn't a viewpoint I share, it's actually beneficial to the book because Brad's wideranging love of the show allows him to explore every facet with equal respect and curiosity, picking up on tidbits others might neglect. Twin Peaks was, after all, an entire world, populated with more characters than several other shows combined, a potpourri of different tones and themes and stories.

In our conversation, Brad and I discussed his discovery of the show as a precocious 9-year-old (with parents far more permissive than my own, it seems!), the development of Reflections, and the personalities involved - from the musicians to the writers and directors to the network execs. Surprisingly - in retrospect - I didn't ask him many questions about the cast, but he's already shared great anecdotes about Peaks actors in other interviews with The Red Room Podcast, Obnoxious and Anonymous, and Welcome to Twin Peaks. Check them all out, as I sought to avoid redundant questions. In the second part of the interview, we discuss the tumultuous second season of Twin Peaks. Questions include: Whose idea was it to go supernatural? Did Lynch and Frost really know who killed Laura Palmer? Was it a bad idea to reveal the killer? Should the reveal have come even sooner? What happened to the show, behind-the-scenes, when Laura's mystery ended? Brad's answers, often expanding on information from the book, may surprise you. Reflections, like Twin Peaks, is filled with secrets and while not all these secrets can be discovered, the investigation is half the fun.

That investigation begins on a summer night nearly a quarter-century ago. A nine-year-old Brad Dukes discovers his mother glued to the television, absorbed by the evocative images onscreen. Two teenagers are whispering in the spooky, mysterious forest. The Douglas Firs stir in the breeze...

Monday, August 4, 2014

Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces


Released as part of the 12-disc blu-ray series TWIN PEAKS: THE ENTIRE MYSTERY, "The Missing Pieces" compiles deleted and extended scenes from "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" into a stand-alone 90-minute presentation - as David Lynch has also done for "Inland Empire" and "Wild at Heart" (though I didn't know about the latter approach until after writing this response). 

This piece was written in the middle of the night after watching the scenes, and slightly revised the next day before I'd read any other responses. As such it represents my immediate, unfiltered impression. Needless to say, there are spoilers for all aspects of "Twin Peaks."

In a way, The Missing Pieces is a misleading title, suggesting ultimate clues which will unlock "The Entire Mystery" of the town of Twin Peaks. But that mystery is already unlocked, in radical fashion, by the prequel film from which these scenes were originally cut. That movie irreversibly remains the spiritual endpoint of the journey which began one lonely morning when Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) washed ashore, dead and wrapped in plastic, disturbing the melancholy tranquility of a sad small town. And yet...The Missing Pieces is a perfect title because this piece of the puzzle - not just a random collection of scenes but an experience with its own distinct mood and style - is a crucial missing link. It belongs between two worlds, the eerie yet oddly comforting community of the TV show Twin Peaks and the searingly raw, subjective psyche displayed in the film Fire Walk With Me. A fragile film-of-sorts, The Missing Pieces serves a poignant marker of the divide separating Laura from the neighbors who, despite their love, fascination, and frustration, finally could not help her in life and were therefore haunted by her death.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Tale of Two Martys: an essay for the Romance Countdown


Cross-posted at Wonders in the Dark, where the 1955 version placed at #54 in the Romance Countdown.

"I think of this as a great rainy afternoon movie. You're flipping through the channels on one of those great lazy Saturdays...it's summer but it's raining outdoors and you're stuck inside. You come across a classic movie channel (AMC, TCM--take your pick) and pause. What's this? Ernest Borgnine? You always like him, why not stop for a moment and watch. It looks like it's just beginning. 'Marty'? Yeah, you've heard of it, vaguely. Won the Oscar or something, but it's been kind of forgotten. So you start watching and before long you're totally enchanted, completely charmed, by the simple story and realistic characters. Who can't sympathize with Borgnine's sensitive butcher, hanging out with his Italian friends and their goofy conversations about Mickey Spillane, all the while pining away with his heart of gold for a girl that his buddies call a 'dog'? The conversations have the kind of natural humor and warmth that remind you of the old days hanging out with your pals. As you watch the movie, you find yourself enthralled and you never change the channel, watching it till the end, realizing that you've seen this plot riffed on and spoofed on various TV shows, films, and cartoons over the years. When the movie's done, you're really excited--this is one of those films you discovered on your own and nothing can beat that thrill.

"Now, this isn't the way I saw 'Marty'--I rented it and now own it on DVD--but it's the spirit I get from it. I love the conversation between Marty and his best friend, its street poetry that's entertaining without being false, in the diner as their Friday night lays out ahead of them. I love Marty and Clara's walk, their honesty and his enthusiasm; you worry is he going too far, being too gregarious for the shy Clara? Will it work? I love the preparations for Sunday Mass, the fight between the married couple, and Marty agonizing over standing up his girl while his friends have an amusingly banal and silly conversation in which they keep repeating themselves. It's really just a charming and wonderful film, joyful even in its sad moments. If you don't enjoy it, what can I say, but my recommendation comes completely honest and from the heart. This is one of those personal favorites that also happens to be an underrated classic--but just underrated enough so that the joy of discovering it on a rainy Saturday afternoon remains undiluted." - Me, April 24, 2003, my first online review (IMDb)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lady in Movieland: Lady and the Tramp's Journey Through Promiscuous Genres (a video essay for the Romance Countdown)



Every month I am posting a new video essay. This month's video also doubles as an entry in Wonders in the Dark's latest genre poll, the Romance Countdown, where Lady and the Tramp placed at #57.

Lady and the Tramp is one of the great romances of all time…but it’s much more as well. In fact, the animated classic samples numerous mid-century film (and TV) genres. “Lady in Movieland” explores many of them while also observing Lady’s anxiety and eventual acceptance of a new member of the family (and what this means for her own comfort and independence). Hope you have as much fun watching this as I had making it.

Videos follow the jump. If you're also in the mood for something completely different (although it too involves an unwanted infant and dark nighttime attack), check out last month's video essay on David Lynch.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Frozen


We begin on Coronation Day, when many other fairy tales have ended. In the isolated kingdom of Arendelle everyone has their role to play. Crowds gather to celebrate their new queen (whose parents died at sea in the extended prologue) while servants bustle around the castle opening the windows and doors for the first time in years. Younger Princess Anna falls for a foreign prince who proposes marriage within hours. And the new Queen Elsa, a beautiful but aloof and conspicuously gloved blonde, accepts her new responsibilities with a pronounced reserve. And no wonder: once shocked by her sister's impending engagement, Elsa loses control (and glove) and shoots ice from her fingertips before fleeing her horrified subjects and escaping to the mountains; a long-concealed secret has been revealed and the kingdom turned upside down. Winter hits in the middle of summer, the good queen forswears her monarchical prerogative, the sidekick princess emphatically steps in as our heroine, and now we know all bets are off - Frozen will be stuffed with welcome surprises.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Talking Twin Peaks on "Obnoxious and Anonymous" podcast (+ July status update & more)


Although from now on I'll be alternating Lynch-focused pieces with other material (particularly my upcoming entries into the Wonders in the Dark romantic countdown, summer reading list round-ups, and an already-written but long-postponed review of Frozen) my attention to Twin Peaks won't really be wavering in the upcoming months. How could it? When I fell back under the spell of the series and its co-creator David Lynch this spring, I didn't yet know about the upcoming blu-ray boxset, featuring ninety minutes of deleted footage from Fire Walk With Me and a bevy of special features that would make even the most casual fans' mouths water. I'm particularly looking forward to Between Two Worlds, in which Lynch himself will interview Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, and Grace Zabriskie, the actors who played the Palmer family so central to Peaks lore. He will not only be interviewing them as themselves but as the characters they played - a fantastic idea albeit one that probably only Lynch could pull off. I'm particularly excited to see the underrated Lee return to the role that defined her forever; and in a sense, this feature will also be the closest we get to a new Lynch dramatic film for some time - unless his rumored upcoming project comes to fruition. I can't wait, and in early August I will be reviewing both Between Two Worlds and The Missing Pieces (Lynch's title for the Fire Walk With Me deleted scenes edited into their own standalone feature, a fantastic and necessary approach).

Meanwhile, I've participated in my first-ever podcast, Cameron Cloutier's "Obnoxious and Anonymous." Cameron, whose fondness for long, unedited conversations defines a channel just packed with in-depth goodies, was someone whose work I discovered via his interview with filmmaker/author Jennifer Lynch. It's probably the longest interview she's ever done, full of insights into The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer and her father's work, as well as her own film career. Cameron invited me to participate after I commented on a previous podcast, and we spent over two hours discussing (and sometimes disagreeing about) both Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me, touching on what was good and bad about the show's controversial second season, how the show attracted and then turned away viewers, and why the film was so poorly received. It was a great conversation and there may be more in store after the blu-ray comes out. I've placed the podcast after the jump but you can also visit the YouTube page to check out some of the fascinating links Cameron included in the description.

In other news, friend and fellow blogger Bob Clark has launched a webcomic well worth checking out. Dubbed "Neo Westchester", the strip cleverly combines savvy social commentary with geeky references, taking an affectionate but clear-eyed view of gaming and anime culture. Beginning with the simple scenario of two fans waiting in line for a game release, the series branches off into surreal fantasies, political satires, and the eventual inclusion of genuine sci-fi intrigue. Ambitiously and accurately, Bob himself describes it as "Bloom County meets Akira," adding, "I hope I can offer a nice taste of political and cultural humor and commentary laced with a healthy dose of action and adventure in the form of deadly robots, evil corporations, and the ragtag rebels fighting them both in the streets and the technicolor carnage of online gaming." Join the battle here.

And now, since I'm already using this post as a catch-all, a status update. As noted, I'll be continuing Twin Peaks posts at least once a month from now on. This will include the aforementioned review of The Entire Mystery box set, perhaps some further podcasts, and hopefully some interviews which I've recently put out feelers for. Additionally, since I've focused so much on Lynch's involvement with Peaks lately, I'd like to list my favorite 20 moments not directed by him (though some will be written by him, or feature him as an actor, they still won't have been covered in my recent directorial retrospective). I am also hoping to end the year with an in-depth study of Sheryl Lee's performance as Laura Palmer in Fire Walk With Me. While this may be my favorite aspect of the film, until now my numerous Fire Walk With Me pieces haven't actually addressed it in much detail. I'm hoping this upcoming essay (which will also touch on her overlooked post-Peaks career) will be the first of many to examine great, underrated performances in screen history. Perhaps the next one can explore Bing Crosby's role in The Country Girl, another brilliant but infrequently-discussed piece of acting.

So that's the general idea and a provisional outline of where we're headed. Which is not to say I haven't already produced a lot of Twin Peaks commentary for you to explore in the interim. I recently updated my Twin Peaks directory from 2010 to include all the Peaks posts, images, video clips, and even brief mentions which have occurred on Lost in the Movies over the past six years (I'm also linking up entries in my episode guide and other Peaks pieces each morning on Twitter). Primarily, of course, this includes recent work. I spent the last two months exclusively focused on the work of David Lynch. If you missed them, I definitely encourage you to visit both my conversation with Tony Dayoub on Fire Walk With Me and my recently-concluded David Lynch Month, which probably constitutes the most ambitious series of posts I've ever assembled for this blog. Every week of that month, I posed a "Question in a World of Blue" and the discussion never closes so please jump in now if you have anything to say.

Finally and most importantly, I want to highlight my video on David Lynch's early work. I think it's the best piece I offered all month, and one of my strongest posts in any format. Sadly, it remains the least-viewed of all the month's posts, as is often the case with videos. Please take this opportunity to watch my tribute to Lynch (spoiler and graphic content warnings apply, of course), or at least to bookmark it for viewing at a more convenient time. I promise it's worthwhile - and if you think so too, please share it with others. This is the only way it will reach a wider audience.


And here is the full "Obnoxious and Anonymous" podcast I participated in:

Monday, June 30, 2014

It's a Strange World: A David Lynch retrospective, 1967 - 2013 (part two: the forest)


This is my fifth and final entry in David Lynch Month, an essay examining long-term changes in Lynch's work. You don't necessarily need to read "part one" first, particularly if you're already familiar with Lynch. There are spoilers for all of his films.

This week's "Question in a World of Blue" is: What does the term "Lynchian" mean to you? You can respond in the comments below or on your own blog (please tag this entry in your response).

David Lynch has been making films for almost half a century. Because it took him another ten years to release his first feature, and nearly another decade to achieve his full-on "Lynchian" breakthrough into the mainstream, we tend to forget he's been around for so long. But Lynch's work stretches from the avant-garde cinematic renaissance of the late sixties (with its reliance on celluloid and aesthetic discipline) to the digital free-for-all of the twenty-first century teens (unmoored and immersed in its own video hyperactivity). He has both shaped his times and been shaped by them, but he's also stood apart - a one-man band beating his own crazy clown drum, sometimes celebrated as a true and timeless American original, sometimes scorned as a self-indulgent sideshow to the larger world, societal and cinematic.

From my recent Lynch marathon, two distinct and somewhat paradoxical observations emerged: a sense of unpredictability alongside an awareness of trajectory. On the one hand, Lynch's body of work is more wildly diverse than is usually credited: yes, there is a special "Lynchian" mood, style, and sensibility, but within that world there is incredible flexibility, ranging from the gentle, G-rated sincerity of The Straight Story (1999) to the raw, hallucinatory terror of Inland Empire (2006). Not only does Lynch's oeuvre feature wild fluctuations in tone, look, and subject matter, these wild fluctuations often occur from one project to the next. This marathon reminded me that the wacky, light-hearted TV pilot On the Air (1992) premiered a mere month after the intensely dark and emotional Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), while Lynch's tragic, stylish Mulholland Drive (2001) was shot around the time he recorded the gleefully juvenile Thank You Judge (2002).

Yet if Lynch can't be simplistically pigeonholed, he can - with caution and qualification - be placed. Over nearly fifty years his work, and the voice expressed in that work, has undergone gradual and long-lasting transformations: despite the variations film to film, strong patterns and an overall evolution emerge when looking at the big picture. This means not only recognizing links and echoes between far-flung films (say, the mirrored endings of Eraserhead (1977) and Fire Walk With Me) but also observing a tidal flow to the themes and styles presented onscreen. There is a chronological march in which claustrophobic panic gives way to rootless wandering, classical restraint dissolves into multilayered impressionism, and recognition of corruption from within slowly overtakes the quest against external evil. Just as in Lynch's films random experimentation and apparent non sequiturs coalesce into powerful, perhaps unintentionally resonant psychodramas, so several narrative arcs emerge when examining the totality of Lynch's expression.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Eye of the Duck: A David Lynch retrospective, 1967 - 2013 (part one: the trees)


This is my fourth entry in David Lynch Month. It is a chronological overview of his career, including full reviews of every single feature and capsules on every available short.

This week's "Question in a World of Blue" is: Do you see particularly important turning points in David Lynch's career? You can respond in the comments below or on your own blog (please tag this entry in your response).

Over three days, I watched almost every single film Lynch has created since 1967, and as "film" I include not just features or shorts, but commercials, music videos, TV pilots, even the occasional promo tag. Next week I will examine the overall evolution of his career, in theme, storytelling, and visual style. Today I'm going to focus more on the nitty-gritty, the "trees" that make up the Lynchian "forest" (if you want to avoid spoilers, just read about the films you've seen - the only entry that contains a spoiler for a separate film is Inland Empire, which discusses the end of Eraserhead in its last paragraph). I will examine each of his works in turn, starting with Six Figures Getting Sick, a painting-in-motion installation he created as an art student in the late sixties, and concluding with Came Back Haunted, a Nine Inch Nails video so rapid-fire it contains a health disclaimer. Thus his filmmaking work begins and (for now) ends in the service of other arts - painting and music - but along the way he emerged as one of the greatest filmmakers of the twentieth century, his work appearing in cinemas, on television, and eventually streaming over the internet. He's bridged all motion-picture mediums and approaches, told stories and immersed himself in irrational imagery, accomplished himself as a humanist director of sensitive performance and a formalist photographer of abstract images.

Despite his surprising range, there is a distinctly "Lynchian" flavor to all of his films, which we'll discover as we move through them one by one. Each feature film is covered in five paragraphs (except for Blue Velvet, Fire Walk With Me, and Inland Empire, which get six, and Mulholland Drive, which gets ten), his seven TV episodes are covered in three, particularly distinctive short projects in two, and the rest of his work in single short paragraphs (often a couple commercials are discussed together). Here's what I couldn't see: a fictitious Anacin commercial (1967), the "Champions" episode of the Lynch-Frost American Chronicles (1990), a low budget video for his song "A Real Indication" (1993), HBO's Hotel Room sketch Blackout (1993), advertisements for Alka-Seltzer and American Cancer Society (both 1993), video documentary Lamp (2007), the Wild at Heart deleted-scenes "sidequel" (2008), playful greetings to the 2008 Hollyshorts awards and the 2010 Twin Peaks festival, a concert film for Duran Duran (2011), and probably dozens or even hundreds of short clips from DavidLynch.com, which aren't listed in online filmographies unless they also appeared on DVD (all I can verify missing are two episodes of his goofy Over Yonder web series, but there must be plenty more where that came from). (UPDATE: there were also many more Playstation commercials made in 2000, which have since been gathered here.) Even with those exclusions, I covered sixty-seven titles below. For a filmmaker with only ten features under his belt, Lynch has been shockingly prolific.

Feel free to browse for the projects that interest you (it may be best to bookmark the post and return for several visits) or follow the entire overview chronologically - this retrospective can be read either way. Indeed, one could say the same of many of his films...