Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): September 2017

Thursday, September 28, 2017

TV Countdown - Twin Peaks


Yesterday's essay on all three seasons of Twin Peaks - one of the longest pieces I've ever written - represented several opportunities for me. First of all, it's always a pleasure to take part in Sam Juliano's "genre" countdowns on Wonders in the Dark - the site whose journey has been most intertwined with my own for nearly a decade now. This is, I believe, the tenth such countdown since the exercise began in 2010, with some authored all by one writer but most featuring dozens of different contributors. I've participated in five of these: the Musical Countdown (a visual tribute to The Gay Divorcee featuring Arlene Croce's descriptions, a video essay and written essay for 42nd Street, and a written essay on An American in Paris), the Comedy Countdown (a video essay featuring multiple critical perspectives on Modern Times), the Western Countdown (a written essay on several versions of Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid - make sure to read the extensive comment by Paul Seydor, who edited one of those versions), the Romance Countdown (a video essay on different genres featured in Lady and the Tramp, and a written essay on the TV and film versions of Marty), and now the TV countdown - the first to expand its scope beyond just a film genre into an entire medium (the entries included everything from game shows to prestige miniseries - where else could you find the avant-garde, Brechtian seven-hour opus Our Hitler: A Film from Germany literally back-to-back with The Flintstones?!!)

That said, the opportunity also provided a chance to reach a milestone with another long-running companion of this site: Twin Peaks. Back in 2014, when The Missing Pieces (deleted scenes from the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me) looked like they would place the final punctuation (probably a question mark, naturally) on the Twin Peaks cycle, I hoped to write a lengthy, comprehensive essay covering the entire series from pilot to feature film. This project eventually evolved into my Journey Through Twin Peaks series, but putting the show into words remained unrealized until now. I didn't plan to write this much, but the final result clocks in at over 11,000 words (approximately 22 pages) and is about as comprehensive as I could manage - though undoubtedly many (including me) will look back and say "But what about..." The big "missing piece" is the feature film, my favorite part of Twin Peaks but beyond the purview of a "TV countdown" (though inevitably the subject emerges anyway in several paragraphs). However, the Criterion Collection release of that film is imminent and I'll probably write something new and in-depth on Fire Walk With Me for that event; taken together, this essay and that will probably represent my most concentrated yet comprehensive written analysis of Twin Peaks.

And that brings me to the final key opportunity - Twin Peaks' high placement on this poll (it comes it at #2, just below The Twilight Zone) meant that it was delayed until just a few weeks after the third season finale. Hence, aside from scattered thoughts on Twitter and other forums - and very immediate reactions contained within a review focused on Parts 17 and 18 - this gives me my first real opportunity to grapple with the new material as a whole. I hope you enjoy the results - and please feel free to join the conversation on Wonders, which always fosters a lively discussion.

I've placed the introduction here and then you can follow the link to read the rest on Wonders (I'll archive it here eventually too, but not for a while).

Twin Peaks is not a TV show.” You’ve probably heard this refrain before, perhaps moderated to “Twin Peaks is not normal television,” or, more generously to the medium, “Twin Peaks changed TV forever.” However phrased, the essence remains the same: Twin Peaks still stands out boldly from the rest of the televisual landscape, twenty-seven years after its debut on the ABC network immediately following America’s Funniest Home Videos. As if to cement this iconic status, when the series returned for an eighteen-hour limited run this summer (dubbed by Showtime’s marketing department as Twin Peaks: The Return although filmmaker David Lynch, co-creator with author/TV writer Mark Frost, simply calls it the third season) this transgressive reputation persisted. Even against the tighter competition of “Prestige TV,” critics were dazzled by its revolutionary nature, especially the (literal and figurative) atomic blast of Part 8, which could almost have been a program of standalone avant-garde Lynch shorts. Yet the story of Twin Peaks is – like everything else in Twin Peaks – a dual narrative, embedded at once in the world of surrealist cinema (and Lynch’s own private universe) as well as TV conventions it embraced, wrestled with, and frequently overthrew.

Friday, September 22, 2017

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


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

Monday, September 18, 2017

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


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

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

What's next: TWIN PEAKS & more


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

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

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

Monday, September 4, 2017

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


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

Sunday, September 3, 2017

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


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

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



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

See you on the other side.

Friday, September 1, 2017

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


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