Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): 2018

Monday, July 16, 2018

Patreon update #29: 10th Anniversary Episode - Top 30 David Lynch/Twin Peaks pieces & Top 12 Video Essays (plus: the future of Lost in the Movies, plans for new Journey Through Twin Peaks & more) and description of Laura character study, pt. III

Today is the day. Ten years ago, probably around the time I'm writing this, I established my Blogger account, clicked "Create a New Blog," and chose the title "thedancingimage" to go with the "blogspot" domain. The name change to Lost in the Movies would come further down the line, along with many other transformations but that's where it all began.

I'm still working on my full archive page, which may or may not be divided into individual chapter posts (illustrated directories for thirty different "eras" of the site) to be shared over the coming month - particularly if that's something readers are interested in exploring that way (let me know). For now, the commemoration is in the form of this post, including a public list of my "top" David Lynch/Twin Peaks pieces and (non-Lynch) video essays from the past ten years. On the podcast for patrons (a great day to join if you've been thinking about it!) I offer my perspective on this work, providing background or explanations for each selection and also narrating a broad overview of the past decade on the site itself and in the big picture/background that informed my evolution as an author.

Finally, I share some plans for the future, including a lot of ideas for different projects and series, and a detailed breakdown of the chapters I'm planning for the new Journey Through Twin Peaks (as well as a list of "unseen" popular films that I might cover for another series). Considering the inquiries I've received about upcoming Journey videos, I'm guessing this will probably be the most intriguing part of the podcast for many listeners. However, there's a lot of other material to check out here as well, including shout-outs to the fellow travelers: guests or hosts of my work, as well as bloggers and other creators whose invidual paths crossed mine.

I also continued my recent biweekly preview format, outlining my approach to an upcoming character study, in this case Laura Palmer again. Laura's timeline has proved lengthier than I expected, so this is the third of four previews (after her, I'll delve into Cooper).

The podcast's Return rewatch will resume next week (on schedule for the one-year anniversary of Part 11), and I'm not sure yet what will be going on for Lost in the Movies itself in the coming days and weeks. I may post individual chapters of the archive each day or I may just publish links to them as pages in one single post. Either way, I hope you continue to enjoy exploring the archive, as well as reading, viewing, or listening to my future work...

(follow links to visit the selections, listen to the podcast to hear me discuss each one)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Rewatching Parts 5-8 of Twin Peaks season 3: a conversation w/ Lindsay Stamhuis on 25 Years Later

In anticipation of my 10th anniversary tomorrow, I originally intended to publish my full archive page today. It's an illustrated chronological catalog of everything I've posted on the site, organized into thirty chapters. Unfortunately it isn't ready yet and is also a bit much to take in at a single glance. Instead, starting on Tuesday, I will share each chapter as an individual post in addition to eventually publishing the full page.

For now I wanted to share some work that was recently published elsewhere but couldn't be featured on this site until now because of all the viewing diaries. This is my 1380th post and as such it concludes the #10YearsOfLostInTheMovies archive tweet series begun on February 28. Thanks for following!

This summer is the first anniversary of Twin Peaks' third season (or The Return, or the limited series, call it what you will). For many fans, this was our first time watching Twin Peaks week to week, and it was certainly our first time sharing that experience collectively. As such, there's a hunger to mark the occasion and a number of individuals and outlets have been conducting rewatches (including, of course, myself). At 25 Years Later, Lindsay Stamhuis has been conducting conversations on different sections of the show as those particular anniversaries roll around. John Thorne joined her to discuss Parts 1-4 and a few weeks ago I was invited to talk about the next four episodes. In comparison to the series' bold opening and close, Parts 5-7 can seem pretty laid back. (Part 8, of course, is another story).

However, I'm really fascinated by Parts 5-7, which each have their own distinct flavor. Because the first four were released all at once, it wasn't until Part 5 that we really got a flavor of the series as an ongoing week-to-week show, a concept that episode was particularly well-suited to deliver with its multitude of storylines and its re-emphasis on the town of Twin Peaks. These three episodes also introduce or develop a number of fascinating characters and storylines which Lindsay and I were eager to discuss. That said, the obvious "big one" here - indeed, the most notorious and astonishing episode of the whole season (some would argue even the whole series) - is Part 8. A good chunk of our conversation dwells on the questions raised by that unforgettable hour of television, and I think both of us found ourselves surprised by some of the conclusions - and new questions - we began to develop in the midst of this very exchange.

The full conversation is exclusive to 25 Years Later for now, but I'll share an opening sample here alongside the link. You can also check out my conversation with Lindsay from nine months ago, when the end of the series was still fresh in our minds. And make sure to visit her great podcast Bickering Peaks, in which she and husband/co-host Aidan are currently exploring the entire Lynch/Frost catalog, alternating between the Peaks auteurs' works in chronological order and including even some of their most obscure efforts. As a fan not only of Lynch and Frost but of chronological cataloging in general (as today's preamble demonstrated), I applaud their efforts!

Onto Parts 5-8. Here's how we begin...

LS: First off, something easy and general: Do you feel that rewatching the series with some distance from the original airing enhances your understanding or does it have some other effect on you?
JB: I don’t know if it enhances my understanding but it does provide a fresh context. I’m able to see it more as a cohesive if enigmatic whole.
LS: What was your gut impression when you saw the black box in Argentina? Do you have different feelings about it now?
JB: I think I assumed it was some new form of Jeffries, given David Bowie’s death, plus how David Lynch had turned Michael J. Anderson (the Little Man From Another Place) into a talking tree. Later, of course, we see him as the infamous “tea kettle” so maybe this box is something else after all, like a communication device. If anything, I’m even less sure what’s going on in Argentina than I was while watching. I suppose it’s possible the box doesn’t actually house or facilitate contact with Jeffries at all. We know Mr. C was in South America too, so maybe it’s something for his use. Given its visual links to other communication devices (we see the box right after Lorraine types on her blackberry and Mr. C does the trick with the telephone), perhaps this has something to do with getting in touch with Mr. C while he’s in lock-up, without anyone being able to trace the call? He could have set the device up long ago, in case of an emergency like this. In that sense, maybe the box is Lynch’s outlandish, highly visual version of an answering machine – Lorraine leaves a message, and Mr. C picks it up and then “deletes” the message (maybe “the cow jumps over the moon” triggers erasure) – hence the crumpling up.
LS: I like this idea a lot, that it was simply a highly stylized answering machine. Feels very “Lynch” in a way. There was so much talk about transfiguration and alchemy, with Argentina being highly suggestive of argent/silver, and the black device shrinking down to an apparently silver ball. If Lynch is drawn to gold as a metaphorical colour/substance, what do you think silver represents?
JB: I’m trying to think if there are other examples of silver in Twin Peaks, either verbally or visually. I do think Lynch is interested in different metal textures, for example that very tactile old bank vault in the Season 2 finale.
LS: Yes! Great observation. Now, the line: “You’re still with me. That’s good.” The whole idea that Cooper split into two halves has been explored in depth in the past, but there was always the other debate (going back to Leland vs BOB) about how involved BOB was in all of this. Seeing him emerge in the mirror in Part 5 seems to lend credence to the idea that BOB was possessing Cooper to some extent, which might invalidate the split theory. How do you view that whole situation?

See you tomorrow for a special Patreon podcast episode on the ten years of Lost in the Movies.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Wire - "Sentencing" (season 1, episode 13)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The Wire. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on September 8, 2002/written by David Simon & Ed Burns, story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Tim Van Patten): Greggs is awake, but she can only do so much for the overeager homicide detectives. She won't identify Wee-Bey as the second shooter because she couldn't see him through the windshield; "Sometimes things just gotta play hard," she tells a disappointed Bunk. But she can play it soft too, sending McNulty to (finally) deliver the promised cash to Bubbles. It's too late: he's clearly using again and McNulty can only nod in understanding when Bubbles gently requests, "Don't tell Kima." These are only two of many disappointments in a roller-coaster denouement for the season. D'Angelo decides to turn state's witness, shocking McNulty and Pearlman (who celebrate by screwing in the parking garage), but then changes his mind when his mother Brianna (Michael Hyatt) pressures him. It probably doesn't help that he hadn't been placed in a witness protection program yet, due to the FBI's unwillingness to take the Baltimore Police Department's case. They're only interested in going after terrorists, big suppliers, and corrupt politicians. The Barksdale investigation could potentially provide that third target, but the Feds want to provide protection for Stringer and Avon if they turn in bigger fish and neither McNulty nor Daniels wants to let the butchers of Baltimore off the hook that easy.

So the case goes forward with mixed results, better than might have been expected but much smaller than seemed possible when the FBI and D'Angelo were in the offing. Instead, D'Angelo takes the big fall for the drug charge (a maximum sentence of twenty years for possession with intent to distribute) while Wee-Bey avoids the death penalty for one murder by helping the BPD clear out their backlog, pleading guilty to multiple slayings (including some he didn't actually pull the trigger on). Over a dozen Barksdale men take plea deals and are sentenced to about five years each while Avon himself is sent away for seven - all of them charged for narcotics activity rather than violence (only Wee-Bey gits pinned for homicide). Everyone's congratulating McNulty: Stringer as he walks away scott-free, Judge Phelan as he attempts to skirt his own utter abandonment, and Rawls as he facilitates McNulty's reassignment (to the marine unit, where a chuckling Bunk and Freamon toss him a drink as his speedboat pulls out of the harbor). McNulty's work doesn't seem to be worth much, but he also may view his treatment as a necessary penance. During his visit to Greggs he apologizes, observing that it's always the black officers who have to go undercover in cases like this, tacitly acknowledging that he could afford to treat it as a game while others couldn't.

Other characters face diminished returns too: Daniels loses his shot at promotion, Greggs remains in the hospital, and Bubbles is back to hustling. Some are moving up in the world, to varying degrees - Herc plays cerebral mentor to fresh young recruits, Freamon is restored to the high-profile homicide work he richly deserves (he's also enjoying Shardene's company more than professional duty requires), and Carver is promoted to sergeant - although Daniels' stern warning ring in his ears, about the responsibilities of this position and the values necessary to become a good leader (after Daniels discovered Carver was the one passing information to Burrel). On the street side, Stringer is now running a tight ship out of a back room in a sober funeral home rather than the sleazy strip club, Bodie has been promoted to the high rise, and Poot has taken over the pit. And the traffic goes on, and on, and on, the episode's closing montage confirming that the hard work and sacrifices of the Daniels detail made absolutely no actual dent in Baltimore's drug trade or its human cost. The product is even traced up to New York where Omar whistles "Farmer in the Dell," holds up a dealer, and laughs, "All in the game."

My Response:

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Wire - "Cleaning Up" (season 1, episode 12)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The Wire. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on September 1, 2002/written by George Pelecanos, story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Clement Virgo): The troubling reality of this case is sinking in for everyone on both sides of the war. Some come out ahead of others, but nobody really feels like a victor. Detective Leandor Sydnor (Corey Parker Robinson), a quiet but steady presence on the investigation (so quiet, in fact, that I haven't mentioned him until now), articulates this sense explicitly. Gazing at the corkboard, where Avon's photo has been tagged with an "Arrested" note while many other faces and names remain untouched, Sydnor sighs, "It's the best work I ever did. I never did a case like this. It's not enough. I gotta go back to auto tomorrow and just feel like...this just ain't finished."

However, it is finished for several characters. Avon spends the whole episode, well, cleaning up - which means several more dead bodies. Security guard Nakeesha Lyles (Ingrid Cornell), whom we met way back in the second scene of the series when she changed her story on the stand (freeing D'Angelo) is not saved by her failure to testify. On the tacit recommendation of Avon's respectable lawyer, the civilian is executed for fear she may change her mind again. The other victim is Wallace; Stringer meets with young Bodie and hints at what he wants done. Bodie acts tough, sneering at Wallace behind his back and later to his face when he has a gun pulled on him. But he hesitates before killing his friend, just long enough for Wallace to realize what's going to happen (all the children are gone from his new squat, a chilling prelude to the end of his brief life). As Wallace cries, Poot shouts for Bodie to do it and ends up finishing the job himself. The police, who lost track of the boy after Greggs was shot, discover his body the next day: yet another individual snuffed out as a result of their interference. Earlier in "Cleaning Up," Avon and Stringer called D'Angelo into their office, asking him to send Wallace their way, but D'Angelo refused ("Let Wallace be," he told his uncle with a steely determination that had building up all season). With Wallace gone, D'Angelo has had enough. He only finds out about the boy's death from McNulty, after getting arrested for possession (thanks to a new wire that leads to Avon's arrest as well). When Stringer and Levy show up at the jail to speak with D'Angelo, he declares that he'll be hiring his own lawyer and angrily confronts Stringer with a question he can't answer: "Where's Wallace at? Where the fuck is Wallace? Where's Wallace, String?" It's unclear if D'Angelo will flip on Avon (I doubt it), but a break has been made.

With Shardene's help, Freamon bugs the strip club from an adjoining building, circumventing the need for a warrant but despite Avon's resultant arrest, the Daniels detail is glum. McNulty is particularly devastated by Greggs' comatose condition, declaring that the case is meaningless - and that for him it was never about stopping the brutality of the Barksdale organization but just about boosting his own ego. Daniels doesn't want to hear it. The job matters now, precisely because Greggs went down. Now the roles are flipped, with McNulty dragging his feet and Daniels taking a hard line; in fact, the lieutenant is finally able to tell off Burrell too - a development that (much like D'Angelo's explosion) has been building all season. After Daniels' investigation into the state senator and other politicians brings heat to the department, the deputy commissioner order Daniels to close shop and threatens to expose the old FBI investigation if he doesn't. But Daniels calls Burrell's bluff, noting that the last thing his boss wants is bad publicity so, if necessary, he'll put it all on the line for this case. Later, to punish the lieutenant, Burrell orders back a number of officers but tells Daniels he can keep his two weakest links: the old pawn shop cop Freamon and the incompetent young buffoon Prez. Daniels smirks, knowing that these are possibly his two most talented cops (Freamon has become the shining star of the detail, while Prez has developed an unexpected flair for analyzing and digging up the paper trail). He's also realizing that Burrell is a paper tiger who doesn't know as much as he'd like to think he does.

Speaking of paper tigers - on both sides - a SWAT team gathers outside Orlando's and revs up for a big raid on the drug kingpin as Daniels and McNulty roll their eyes. Protected only by basic bullet-proof vests, they brush past the jacked-up squad to arrest Avon themselves, leaving Stringer - to his surprise - untouched. McNulty allows Daniels to exit the building with Avon alone, a kind of penance for his earlier, destructive hubris. This, it seems, is how the Avon Barksdale investigation ends - with an arrest, yes, but more of a whimper than a bang.

My Response:

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Wire - "The Hunt" (season 1, episode 11)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The Wire. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on August 18, 2002/written by Joy Lusco, story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Steve Shill): Greggs is alive, but in critical condition. A furious but contained Rawls quickly dominates the bustling scene, insisting that everyone not under the direct command of a homicide detective - Narcotics, DEA, state cops, and others - clear the location immediately. He also memorably chews out an agonized McNulty at the hospital, shortly after playing the audiotape of Greggs' last moments of consciousness. "You, McNulty, are a gaping asshole," he growls. "...But fuck if I'm going to stand here and say you did a single fucking thing to get a police shot. You did not do this, you fucking hear me? This is not on you." It's the memorable cap to a tour-de-force extended opening sequence, balances out the negative portrait of Rawls that The Wire has been delivering all season (though I suspect we'll tilt back soon enough).

Daniels' detail is forced to bust up the main stash house so the department can stage a photo op with lots of captured narcotics; with the police so busy this episode, the street perspective takes a back seat. What we do witness is a growing panic: Stringer in particular seems broken, while Little Man (Micaiah Jones) - the shooter - is now marked for death and Wee-Bey is shaken by his own role in the incident (the show finally unveils that infamous Wee-Bey reaction shot, as he realizes Greggs was a cop). The core of the gang scatters to the wind, fleeing to Philadelphia or hiding out locally until the storm blows over (if it's going to). Savino surrenders himself after McNulty pressures the Barksdale lawyer Maurice Levy (Michael Kostroff), but he cops only to a small charge of trying to defraud Orlando rather than to any role in the shooting. He'll get three years which is extremely frustrating to McNulty but there's an even more anxious question hovering in the background. Is this all he and the others who've invested so much in this operation are going to accomplish?

My Response:

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Wire - "The Cost" (season 1, episode 10)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The Wire. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on August 11, 2002/written by David Simon, story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Brad Anderson): Despite Avon's beating and warning a few episodes ago, Orlando carries on with his planned score. But as he gets into the car and exchanges cash for cocaine, something is off. Is Orlando about to be robbed? Is the product he's receiving far worse than expected? Was this a fatal set-up by Avon to test his loyalty? None of the above, as it turns out, though the long-term consequences of this indiscretion will be dire, and widespread. The dealer, Troy Wiggins (Neko Parham), is an undercover state cop. Orlando lands in jail and quickly snitches on Avon, leading Wiggins to the Daniels detail and his old friend and colleague Greggs. It's unclear how much Orlando can really provide the investigation - they've just achieved more important progress in determining the location of the quiet stash house in the suburbs that supplies the low-rises and high-rises in the inner city. However, an impatient Burrell pressures the reluctant detectives to conduct a buy bust. Greggs will go undercover as one of Orlando's squeezes, ostensibly fronting half the money for a major purchase that could expose a higher-up in the organization.

Orlando is one of a growing web of informants in The Wire. This episode alone is thick with them. Wallace is picked up and McNulty easily flips him on Stringer and Wee-Bey, although the boy is hesitant to say anything bad about D'Angelo (outright denying his culpability for the Deidre Kresson case). Daniels drives Wallace, undergoing withdrawal, out to a relative in the countryside where the city kid is perplexed by the sound of crickets. Omar is also going away (to New York City), having established a fragile truce with the Barksdale crew. He wears a wire for a very public parlay in a mall with Stringer (who won't acknowledge his boss' name) and flees after his demand for $5,000 is accepted - at that point he knows they're just trying to lure him into being killed. Shardene attempts to spy for Freamon (in a sly moment after she ignores D'Angelo, he kicks over a stool and a pigeon flies across the screen). And a newly sober Bubbles asks for help from Greggs. The wry detective jokes that a clean informant isn't much use to her but agrees to get him some money.

As it turns out, Bubbles is one of many who will feel the aftermath of what happens that night. The set-up collapes with Avon's enforcer Savino Bartton (Chris Clanton) drives Orlando and Greggs to an unexpected area of town, They are left alone in the parked car and then sprayed with gunfire. By the time Greggs' desperate peers reach the crime scene, Orlando is long dead and a bloodied Greggs is dragged from the car, with McNulty trying to resuscitate her limp body amidst the ensuing chaos.

My Response:

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Wire - "Game Day" (season 1, episode 9)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The Wire. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on August 4, 2002/written by David H. Melnick & Shamit Choksey, story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Milčo Mančevski): After several episodes in which The Wire's scope broadened, "Game Day" is tight and focused. The central event is a basketball game between Eastside and Westside, with the suit-clad Proposition Joe (Robert F. Chew) representing the east's Avon equivalent. The game - literal for once - provides Daniels' detail the opportunity to physically identify and follow Avon (who mocks their efforts, hiding his car between streets to lure Daniels out and then driving past the lieutenant while dramatically wagging his finger). This plot device also introduces Proposition Joe, who will help Omar out by the end of the episode, exchanging a stash of free drugs for information that lures Avon out of the strip club and nearly leads to his death (as Omar emerges from the shadows near the club, only Wee-Bey's out-of-the-blue intervention saves Avon).

The club is the locus of another subplot, as Freamon and Greggs pick up Shardene and find out she's as compliant and sensitive as they hoped. When they show her Keisha's body and describe how she was found - rolled up inside a rug in a dumpster - Shardene breaks, acknowledging she is D'Angelo's girlfriend and listening (but not yet, it seems, agreeing) to the detectives' request for collaboration. She bonds with Freamon, admiring his dollhouse furniture and even keeping one of the pieces (of a little baby), a sentimental gesture that may hurt her if anyone who has been inside the detail's cavern spots the connection. Herc and Carver, meanwhile, seize another bag of cash, leading Daniels to suspect they're holding out (Herc considered this option at one point, but the missing cash was actually lost inside the trunk of their car). All of the cops' action takes place close to the street; there are no scenes at the police headquarters and interdepartmental drama is mostly offscreen.

Indeed, Bubbles' storyline is the only one to exist entirely outside of the Barksdale investigation or Omar's quest for vengeance. After literally fishing a baggie of heroin (actually baking soda) for himself and Johnny, Bubbles begins to crack. He's already seen Walon down in the pit watching over for a family member and his NA vow is looking more and more enticing. So finally the scraggly user shows up at his skeptical sister's (Eisa Davis') door. She allows him to stay in her basement and try to go clean. Along with D'Angelo, Shardene, and Wallace (who is looking toward drugs rather than away from them), Bubbles is considering a way out of his current life. Some of these characters will undoubtedly be more successful than others but at least Bubbles has a potential mentor in Walon, someone who could actually have his own best interests at heart. I'm not sure we can say that about the others.

My Response:

Monday, July 9, 2018

Patreon update #28: Twin Peaks season 3 rewatch - Part 10 (+ Chilean Revolution, my spring viewing diaries & more)

As we take a break from films in focus the episodes are getting shorter again. This one is particularly slim, just over an hour, which suits its central subject: Part 10 was a surprisingly light "hour" that actually ran only about fifty-four minutes (excluding the longest musical number of the series, the nearly seven-minute "No Stars") . I mean "light" primarily in terms of runtime of course; while this episode does indulge the more comic side of the Mitchums, and effectively introduce the delightfully daffy Candie, Part 10 is a very dark affair - indulging in shocking violence, meditating on loss, grief, and trauma, and taking place largely at night. Suiting that mood, my "Other Topics" section uses a recent Revolutionary Left Radio podcast as a springboard to discuss the Chilean revolution of the early seventies, which ended in a brutal U.S.-backed coup. To close the episode, I finish my twenty-eight-part "Opening the Archive" series which has surveyed my work over ten years (in the future this section will focus on a single piece at a time, usually reading the full text of a written piece or playing the audio track from a video essays that work on those terms as well).

The catching-up of the Archive series to the present brings us to the reason that, for the second week in a row, the rewatch series is taking advantage of 2017's two-week break between Parts 9 and 10 to present an episode a week ahead of when it aired. (The break will be observed next week instead, so that when the rewatch resumes with Part 11 July 23 we will be in sync again.)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Wire - "Lessons" (season 1, episode 8)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The Wire. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on July 28, 2002/written by David Simon, story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Gloria Muzio): Orlando's (Clayton Le Boeuf's) strip club - which is, of course, Orlando's in name only - figures heavily in "Lessons." Orlando's offer to D'Angelo, to do a little dealing on the side, comes back to haunt him when Avon finds out, beating and threatening the owner of his legitimate front business for threatening to taint it with crime. Some of Orlando's employees suffer (or are poised to suffer) even more - one stripper, Keisha (Shaneera Lawson-Smith), overdoses at a party to celebrate Stinkum's (Brandon Price's) promotion; the only one who seems to care is D'Angelo. Later, when his own stripper girlfriend Shardene (Wendy Grantham) worries about Keisha's absence, D'Angelo wonders aloud if this life is really for him. Between Brandon's beating, Keisha's death, and the everyday dishonesty and brutality he's witnessing around him, the game is starting to feel like a trap. Unbeknownst to either of them, Shardene may soon be caught in this trap herself; Freamon and Greggs identify her as the best bet for a future informant based on their impression of her photographic portrait.

Other Orlando's-related photos will cause trouble for the detail. While visiting the police again, Omar spies a snapshot of the business on their corkboard and realizes it must be a front for Avon. When we see him waiting outside the club as Orlando locks up, we can probably guess what he has in mind (actually, there are a few strong options). Omar's already caused immense havoc this episode, killing Stinkum and maiming Wee-Bey before whistling "The Farmer in the Dell" and shouting out from the shadows "Come at the king, you best not miss." When the detail realizes Omar's behind the shooting, McNulty forces Bunk to lie to other homicide detectives, letting them know that the narcotics squad has recorded evidence of who killed Stinkum and will offer it once the investigation is over (they have no intention of doing so). All of the officers involved are slightly uncomfortable with this dynamic: is Omar their informant or an off-the-books assassin? Granted, Stinkum's death actually complicates their case rather than simplifying it (since he was one of their best potential weak links to Avon) but the way they all cover him doesn't quite sit will with any of them. "Are we still cops?" McNulty half-jokingly asks, and when he and Bunk go out to drown their sorrows in booze, Bunk ends up going home with a random woman and forcing McNulty to lie to his wife as a quid pro quo. Later that night, McNulty finds Bunk in a pink bathrobe, burning "the evidence" in a bathtub so that he won't go home smelling like another woman.

In the midst of this other personal and professional drama, the investigation almost comes undone when Greggs and Carver pick up a well-dressed bagman in the projects. Turns out this is the state senator's personal driver whom Daniels met at the party in the previous episode; orders come from the higher-ups to let him go immediately and Daniels is warned that the investigation has a few days to wrap it up and bring whatever charges they can against Avon. Phelan comes to their rescue, warning Deputy Commissioner of Operations Ervin Burrell (Frankie Faison) that he'll be held in contempt of court if he attempts to prematurely close down the wiretaps. McNulty doesn't just have powerful judges on his side in "Lessons"; his own sons assist him early on by tailing Stringer when he randomly walks into a grocery store they're shopping inside. McNulty uses the information they acquire (Stringer's license plate) to tail Avon's right-hand man, although the only thing he discovers is that Stringer is taking macroeconomics courses at a community college. In an episode where Herc and Carver study for the sergeant's exam and McNulty quizzes his kids on police terminology, this proves that the titular lessons aren't just for the police side of the equation...although how much longer Stringer will be able to pursue and apply this knowledge is far more open to question.

My Response:

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Wire - "One Arrest" (season 1, episode 7)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The Wire. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on July 21, 2002/written by Rafael Alvarez, story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Joe Chappelle): "One Arrest" has a knack for playing characters off of one another in interesting ways. The pathetic Prez and professorial Freamon unexpectedly bond over their shared enthusiasm for codebreaking. Bubbles, accompanying Johnny to an NA meeting for laughs, finds himself profoundly moved by a talk given by Walon (country icon Steve Earle) to the point where he pledges his determination to live (even though he's high at the moment and will shoot up again later in the day). McNulty is eager to impress Judge Phelan with the case he's making, only for Phelan to humiliate him with a grammatical lesson on the difference between "then" and "than" while hitting on Rhonda Pearlman (Deirdre Lovejoy), the legal liaison for the Daniels detail (although it's McNulty who ends up getting invited into her home at episode's end - potentially the second time they've hooked up since he asked her how to clone a beeper in "The Buys"). Daniels accompanies his wife to a tony party where he feels out of place, eventually settling in with the chauffeurs who are watching a baseball game in the kitchen. One of them, Damien "Day-Day" Price (Donnell Rawlings) entertains the police lieutenant by describing how he'd rip off the entire place in great detail before Daniels reveals his actual occupation. Near the end of the episode, one of the most unusual and productive pairings occurs between Omar and Bunk; the thief recognizes the cop as a lacrosse player a few years ahead of him in school. In the midst of this repartee, Omar helps solve yet another cold case.

Omar is in the station because he's already fingered Bird for Gant's killing; Bird, defiant even when confronted with the prospect of capital punishment (the ballistics match on his weapon) is beaten by several officers. A succession of police actions - including the arrest of recent police brutality victim Kevin Johnston (making for an awkward moment with Prez and a failed intervention attempt by Daniels) - has the whole Barksdale gang spooked. Stringer correctly deduces the issue after one too many arrests, and he has the low-rise crew tear all the pay phones out of place and implement a new approach to making calls from now on. That is to say, most of the low-rise crew does this: Wallace is pointedly absent, getting high in his home as he gazes at the spot where Brandon was found. His life seems to be falling to pieces (and this in an episode where Omar has gone out of his way to remind us that Avon strictly prohibits users as dealers). There have essentially been two crucial inciting incidents this season, from which almost everything else has rippled: first, D'Angelo's offscreen slaying that led to his demotion, the killing of Gant and recent arrest of Bird, and of course the whole narcotics detail itself; and second, Omar's robbery of the stash which may have created an even more serious long-term threat for the Barksdale organization than the police themselves. These events initiate but can hardly contain the subsequent blowback. The Wire has been called Dickensian and Shakespearean but its delight in arranging and rearranging many moving pieces, and its enthusiasm for intricate tactical detail alongside its taste for the drama of humanity, also recall War and Peace.

My Response:

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Wire - "The Wire" (season 1, episode 6)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The Wire. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on July 7, 2002/written by David Simon, story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Ed Bianchi): Six episodes in, the series embraces its title, bugging the pay phones on the low-rise apartment buildings near the pit. However, the police need to ensure that the conversations they're listening to are pertinent to the investigation, requiring constant visual surveillance on the rooftops. Right away, they - and particularly Freamon, who is proving himself the brains behind the whole operation - are able to piece together some crucial information from this eavesdropping. They are able to link pager numbers and call times to the time and location of Brandon's murder, or at least the kidnapping that led to his brutal torture and eventual execution. They also have a new informant, willing to testify as a witness against Bird (Fredro Starr) for an earlier shooting as revenge for the Barksdale enforcer's role in killing Brandon. Omar is devastated not just by his boyfriend's demise, but the condition he's found in: an eye gouged out, cigarette burns and knife wounds all over his body, sprawled out over a car in a particularly squalid neighborhood. But he's not frightened by his own potential victimhood ("Omar don't scare") as much as he is determined to fight fire with fire.

The thief's role as a potential thorn in Barksdale's side is so important that McNulty (who has the kids on this particular night, after much frustration in not being able to see them) drives into Omar's area with his sons in tow and makes them wait in the police station as Omar identifies Brandon's body. Omar wails so loudly that the startling sound interrupts one of the boy's chirping handheld video game. It's clear now that this will be Omar's place in the narrative, at least for the time being. Will Bubbles become less necessary to the cops? If so, a diminished role comes at a very bad time for him - he could really use some help for Johnny, who is arrested while scoring more heroin with money earned from a stolen copper wire sale. If the effect of Brandon's death is rippling across many different areas outside of the Barksdale business, it has also created an impact within the gang. This is particularly true for Wallace, who not only placed the call that led to Brandon's capture but was also among the first to see his body outside the apartment where Wallace, Poot, and a whole bunch of early-school-age children are squatting. Wallace is greatly disturbed by the sight of his own action's consequences. D'Angelo tells him to put this out of his mind, but also shows sympathy for the shaken teen.

Even as, unbeknownst to himself, an old killing is attracting growing police attention, D'Angelo remains a calm at the center of the storm. He reassigns pawns rather than allow them to get beaten for some mild thieving on the side, and he even explains the withholding-pay scheme to Wallace, to whom he's becoming something of an impromptu mentor. Opening the season as a rash, foolish young man in over his head, whose savvy uncle intervened to protect him, D'Angelo now looks like the more shrewd, patient, and responsive leader while Avon descends into paranoia and showiness, sauntering into the pit to make an impression but too far removed from the action himself to really get what's going on inside.

My Response:

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Wire - "The Pager" (season 1, episode 5)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The Wire. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on June 30, 2002/written by Ed Burns, story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Clark Johnson): Prez - of all people - cracks the pager code, which involves diagonal/cross-numbers on pay phone keypads. Nonetheless, even if they can now recognize the numbers calling in, the cops still can't hear the actual messages. Freamon stresses this point: without wiretaps on the payphones they're not going to get anywhere. Indeed, as the episode ends Brandon is about to get hit (Bailey already has been) and the police have no way of knowing, even as the computers dutifully log every number and call time. Meanwhile, with Avon's crew taking down the thieves one by one, Omar's position becomes more untenable. Brandon's death in particular is going to sting - he's not just a partner but a lover. How will Omar react? Earlier in the episode, we see McNulty and Greggs gently confront Omar, trying to woo him into becoming a snitch, but he declines as a point of honor - although he drops the name of the witness' killer from the first episode, so that honor may not extend so far. Now that his back's against the wall and he's been hit in a personal way, will he change his mind even further? Since he's not directly part of the drug business, I've wondered what Omar's role would be. Perhaps this will be it: someone not only on the street, but also the police side. While Omar considers his options, Carver and Herc arrest Bodie, beating, threatening, and attempting to bribe him to no avail. By the end of the night, they're all playing pool - they mock the prisoner for thinking he could hustle them...but in a way he already has, hasn't he?

My Response:

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Wire - "Old Cases" (season 1, episode 4)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The Wire. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on June 23, 2002/written by David Simon, story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Clement Virgo): "Old Cases" is full of surprises. Avon and his closest associates are taken aback to find out that Omar is a gay man, even doubling the bounty on him when they learn this information. (A few scenes earlier, we've already been shown Omar and Brandon, played by Michael Kevin Darnell cuddling on a stoop.) McNulty is unexpectedly impressed by the innovative police work of Freamon, one of the quietest members of his crew, who has tracked down D'Angelo's pager, concocted a pager surveillance program, and thus set up a new phase of the operation. Taking Freamon out for drinks, McNulty learns his history as a homicide detective reassigned to pawn shop duty when he overstepped his bounds (he forced the son of an influential newspaper publisher to testify in a murder case fourteen years earlier). Bodie Broadus (J.D. Williams), the kid who just beat up the cop (and was beaten in turn), disappoints the policemen arriving to interrogate him at a juvenile detention center by sneaking away before they even arrive (disguised as a janitor, he makes an easy escape and then steals a car to drive back to Baltimore; Carver and Herc, meanwhile, raid his grandmother's house while only Herc lingers behind to apologize and make a brief connection with the older woman).

Bodie catches D'Angelo's eye when he arrives back in the projects, boastful about his escape, and then the older, more experienced D'Angelo cuts him down to size by recounting a previously untold hit on one of his uncle's too-talkative girlfriends a few years ago. McNulty and Bunk are shocked when a dog of an old case, the unsolved shooting of Deidre Kresson (actress unknown), yields new evidence, including a bullethole in the window, previously assumed to be an exit from an interior execution but, in fact, an entry from an exterior shooting. The detecetives communicate their weariness, curiosity, and eventual excitement with multiple variations of "fuck," a verbal tic as iconic in its own way as any visual flourish. The biggest surprise of all is ours: the circumstances of this woman's murder match the killing that D'Angelo has just described - something we already suspected as soon as he began to talk but which the crime scene apparently confirms.

My Response:

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Wire - "The Buys" (season 1, episode 3)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The Wire. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on June 16, 2002/written by David Simon, story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Peter Medak): The Avon Barksdale investigation hits another low point when the crew is ordered to make a bust, undercutting their larger mission and - as it turns out - yielding nothing (the stash was moved a day or two earlier). Disgusted by this decision, McNulty refuses to participate but it's unclear whether he or Daniels will come out of this situation with the upper hand. As it turns out, the brash renegade cop may have dirt on his superior; an FBI pal tells him that Daniels was once investigated for potential financial improprieties. Nobody in the department comes out well in this episode, as the hangover of the Prez beatdown continues to haunt them (Prez himself barely appears, showing up only to man the shoddy office with McNulty as unexpected company while their peers, even Herc, go on the raid).

In the projects, D'Angelo dispenses and receives wisdom, teaching chess to his young associates by comparing the pieces to members of their organization ("the king stay the king," he informs them when they naively suggest the pawn's ambitions) but also receiving some schooling from them about the disposability of their captive customer base. Stringer chuckles about how the worse their product is, the better it sells, and even Bodie and Poot (Tray Chaney) express contempt for a junkie when he shows up too early. The biggest turn of events may arrive with a player outside of both arenas; Omar Little (Michael K. Williams) is a thief who cases the area for several days before breaking into the safe house one night and robbing the dealers at gunpoint (they, and we, learn his name when an associate stupidly blurts it out). It's a brief but memorable appearance and, circumstances and outside knowledge reveal, far from his last.

My Response:

Monday, July 2, 2018

Patreon update #27: Twin Peaks season 3 rewatch - Part 9 (+ Bob Dylan's Pretty Saro music video & more) and description of Laura character study, pt. II

This week's mellow, meditative episode pairs my analysis of the quiet Part 9, a surprisingly low-key return to Twin Peaks after the revolutionary Part 8, and my reflections on a Bob Dylan music video I discovered on Twitter a while ago. "Pretty Saro" was a Dylan cut so deep it never even appeared as a bootleg (it was recorded for, but excluded from, his 1970 album Self-Portrait). Created for a special release five years ago by the filmmaker Jennifer Lebeau, and tweeted again recently to celebrate the singer's seventy-seventh birthday (which is how I found it), the video uses many midcentury snapshots and home movies from the Library of Congress to paint a powerful portrait of a time just recent enough to feel like part of the collective memory, yet just old enough to feel like a dream that has mostly slipped away. I dissect the history of the song itself, the context of the recording, and the reasons why these images resonate. For reference (and the enjoyment of readers, including those who are not patrons), I've embedded the video beneath the following line-up. If you have comments or impressions you'd like to share, please do and I'll present them on the podcast. For whatever reason, this very random piece struck a chord with me and also gelled with a particularly subdued, vaguely melancholy Twin Peaks episode.

Finally, now that I'm cross-posting on Mondays, biweekly previews will be linked in odd-numbered Patreon updates going forward. This edition continues to outline how I'm approaching Laura's narrative in my future character study, in this case organizing scenes from the first season when she is either mentioned by other characters or present as a corpse or disembodied voice. As these outlines are longer than initially expected, the next preview should conclude this format (an overview of how I'm organizing Cooper's story will follow afterwards).


WEEKLY UPDATE/mostly Patreon: main site cross-posts now go up on Monday (brief X-Files/Wire mention, no work in progress)

The feel & structure of the episode
Twin Peaks - Cooper investigation/Hit and run/Jerry/Ben & Beverly/Beverly's marriage/Roadhouse/standalone scenes
FBI in South Dakota - Yankton/Buckhorn
Mr. C
Las Vegas - Dougie at work/Dougie at home/Assassination plot
Spirit World - Zone (mentioned)
Character introductions & re-introductions/screentime rankings/timeline of events
Coffee, pie, and donuts (and cigarettes!)
Lodge lore
Laura Palmer

OTHER TOPICS: Pretty Saro - Bob Dylan music video

OPENING THE ARCHIVE: "Podcasting for Patreon" (January - April 2018), this week's highlight: Patreon podcast, episode 11: Connecting Eraserhead & Inland Empire (+ Blue Velvet)


Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Wire - "The Detail" (season 1, episode 2)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The Wire. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on June 9, 2002/written by David Simon, story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Clark Johnson): The whole crew assembles...and it isn't pretty. When Lt. Daniels gathers his detail together in the bleak basement room of some peripheral police-owned building (a solitary phone hilariously rings in the middle of the floor), he is surrounded by embarassments. Augustus Polk (Nat Benchley) and Patrick Mahon (Tom Quinn) are washed-up detectives known more for their boozing than their policing. Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters) is an anonymous veteran whose beat is more typically pawn shops than drug dens. And "Prez" (Jim True-Frost), well...what can't you say about the gawky, inordinately-too-confident Roland Pryzbyelewski? You certainly can't say he's good at job. Nor could you claim he knows his own limitations. We first get acquainted with Prez when he accidentally discharges his weapon in the cavernous cellar HQ, and we soon learn that he was nearly fired for shooting at his own car (family connections keep him working in the department, even as various officers try to pass him off onto other ones).

By the end of the episode, Prez has done much worse than that: encouraging a raid that had no reason to occur, beating the teenage Kevin Johnston (Jimmie Jelani Manners) until he's blinded in one eye, and provoking an attack on the police that makes headlines the following morning. The detective is an absolute disaster, although Herc and Ellis are no help either, enthusiastically accompanying him on his mission of brutalization. This is the central thread of "The Detail", but there are other important elements too. McNulty discovers the murdered witness, and manipulates his favorite/least favorite judge to pressure Baltimore PD into allowing him to investigate. Greggs leads a clever undercover op, utilizing Reginald "Bubbles"Cousins (Andre Royo) to identify leading members of the Barksdale gang. And D'Angelo gets played by the cops when they claim to show him a picture of dead witness Gant's kids (Moreland later chuckles, "those were my kids") and cajole him into writing a sympathy letter that stops just this side of being a confession. D'Angelo also takes his girlfriend Donette (Shamyl Brown) to meet his uncle Avon (Wood Harris), the leader of the entire crime syndicate, looking entirely innocuous as he hosts a family gathering for the neighborhood.

My Response:

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Wire - "The Target" (season 1, episode 1)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The Wire. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on June 2, 2002/written by David Simon, story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Clark Johnson): Baltimore Homicide Detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) is noticing a pattern. He has recently seen a murder rap result in an acquittal, and now he's watching it happen again - one witness (Ingrid Cornell) changes her story while another (Larry Hull) sticks to his, but also hesitates nervously when eyed by Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) sitting in the back of the court. McNulty recognizes Bell as a member of the Avon Barksdale crime organization, and the defendant who gets off, D'Angelo Barksdale (Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.), as the boss' nephew. Judge Phelan (Peter Gerety) notices McNulty in court, and asks him why he attended a case he had nothing to do with. McNulty never quite answers this question, other than implying curiosity based on what happened to his own previous case, but he does share everything he knows about Barksdale, who pushes drugs in most of West Baltimore's projects. Actually...that's pretty much all he (or anyone in law enforcement) knows about the mysterious kingpin, who has never been photographed and keeps a low enough profile that even McNulty's peers seem unfamiliar with his name. That won't last.

The conversation with the judge opens up a can of worms and McNulty finds himself on the hook (to mangle a metaphor). He's assigned to a detail run by the Narcotics Division, led by Lt. Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick) and staffed by gung-ho detectives Herc Hauk (Domenick Lombardozzi) and Ellis Carver (Seth Gilliam), the more by-the-book Det. Kima Greggs (Sonja Sohn), and - also dragged along from Homicide as an unwilling victim of McNulty's loud mouth - McNulty's erstwhile partner Det. Bunk Moreland (Wendell Pierce). Their superiors are furious that McNulty spoke out; they want to rush through this Barksdale investigation as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, D'Angelo is facing the heat despite beating his case. Wee-Bey Brice (Hassan Johnson) rakes him over the coals for his impulsive shooting, and he is demoted from selling drugs in a high-rise to supervising a group of youngsters in a low-rise yard. There he catches a junkie (Leo Fitzpatrick) trying to use fake bills, and the other dealers beat him so badly he winds up in critical condition at the hospital. This is a helpful turn of events for the detectives, since the junkie's friend Reginald "Bubbles" Cousins (Andre Royo) is a former informant and tells Greggs he wants to inform again for revenge. Speaking of revenge, D'Angelo eventually discovers the price of his escape in the episode's final minutes. The security guard who identified him in court lies dead, and D'Angelo looks a bit stunned to see what a moment's indiscretion has wrought: not just one corpse, but two - including someone who hadn't even been in the game to begin with.

My Response:

Friday, June 29, 2018

The X-Files - "The Erlenmeyer Flask" (season 1, episode 24)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The X-Files. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. Future entries will cover the remaining seasons, breaking to review the feature films where chronologically appropriate, and eventually reach the recent miniseries. I have seen very few X-Files episodes, though I was utterly fascinated with the concept as a child, so for the most part this will be a first-timer's perspective. There will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on May 13, 1994/written by Chris Carter, directed by R.W. Goodwin: At first, Scully is frustrated by Mulder's credulity and Deep Throat's obscurity. They are trying to figure out what happened to Dr. William Secare (Simon Webb), a man fleeing a police chase who bleeds green when he is shot and then disappears underwater for hours without being found. The car he's using belongs to Dr. Terrance Berube (Ken Kramer), a member of the Human Genome Project conducting mysterious experiments. Based on these clues and Deep Throat's strong hint that they're onto something big, Mulder and Scully deepen their investigation. Scully's skepticism is quickly overcome: Dr. Berube dies under very suspicious circumstances, Dr. Anne Carpenter (Anne De Salvo) informs her that a sample from the Berube lab is possibly extraterrestrial in origin, and then Dr. Carpenter dies under even more suspicious circumstances. Mulder discovers a room full of bodies floating in water and they're all gone the next day - according to Deep Throat, these were humans with terminal illness who were infused with alien genes as experimental treatement. However, they've probably been destroyed thanks to Secare's relatively high-profile disapperance (and perhaps, grimly, Mulder's piqued interest in their condition). This isn't merely a cover-up - it's a brutally violent suppression.

As Mulder tries to save Secare, the doctor is assassinated and the FBI agent is taken hostage. The "Crew Cut Man" (Lindsey Ginter) has been scouring and often instigating these crime scenes and he mocks Mulder as his cell phone rings without answer. Only Deep Throat can help him now, and so the informant meets with Scully, telling her what to do to get Mulder back. She is given passage to a top-secret government facility where she extracts the source of extraterrestrial tissue that was infused into the various patients: an alien fetus in a jar. The trick works; the deep-secret agents release Mulder. But the rescue comes at a price - these same nefarious forces shoot Deep Throat at the hand-off. And Mulder finally informs Scully that Skinner, from "the highest authority in the Executive Branch" has shut down the X-files and is planning to assign the partners to different areas. Explaining why he won't comply with this order, Mulder references one of the series' key slogans: "the truth is out there." Deep Throat articulates another arresting phrase: "Trust no one."  Well, aside from one another.

My Response:

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The X-Files - "Roland" (season 1, episode 23)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The X-Files. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. Future entries will cover the remaining seasons, breaking to review the feature films where chronologically appropriate, and eventually reach the recent miniseries. I have seen very few X-Files episodes, though I was utterly fascinated with the concept as a child, so for the most part this will be a first-timer's perspective. There will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on May 6, 1994/written by Chris Ruppenthal, directed by David Nutter): Like "Lazarus" and "Born Again" before (indeed, in "Born Again"'s case, right before) "Roland" hinges on a story of possession, in which a weak host occasionally struggles against or works in tandem with a malevolent invading consciousness, most often just being completely subsumed by the psychic energy of another. "Roland" presents probably the most compelling twist on this concept: twin brothers, one the late Dr. Arthur Grable, a brilliant rocket scientist whose head has been cryogenically frozen after a suspicious car accident, the other Roland Fuller (Željko Ivanek), a severely autistic janitor in the laboratory who is channeling his brother's mind after his death. Unfortunately for Roland - and the scientific team the controlled Roland methodically executes - Arthur's restless spirit/mind energy is intent on eliminating anyone who can take credit for his own accomplishments. Dr. Frank Nollette (James Sloyan), egotistically determined to claim Arthur's work for himself, proves the most egregious example, and his life is only saved by Scully when she appeals to Roland himself to re-assert control over his body. Throughout the episode, Mulder and Scully have walked a delicate line between treating Roland as a mere vessel for a supernatural force and treating him as a human being with agency of his own. It's ultimately the latter that helps them, and him, restore balance.

My Response:

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The X-Files - "Born Again" (season 1, episode 22)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The X-Files. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. Future entries will cover the remaining seasons, breaking to review the feature films where chronologically appropriate, and eventually reach the recent miniseries. I have seen very few X-Files episodes, though I was utterly fascinated with the concept as a child, so for the most part this will be a first-timer's perspective. There will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on April 29, 1994/written by Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa, directed by Jerrold Freedman): A Buffalo police station becomes a crime scene when a cocky, obnoxious detective (Dwight Koss) is mysteriously thrown out the window of an interrogation room. The only other person in there with him was eight-year-old Michelle Bishop (Andrea Libman), so the death is assumed to be a suicide. The girl, however, claims that she saw another man in the room. Mulder, called to Buffalo to investigate this unusual case, has a third idea: the killer was the girl herself. Scully is not the only one skeptical of this notion, but it turns out Michelle's own story is compatible with this out-there thesis. A mixture of clever, lucky, and thorough detective work turns up the identity of the man Michelle saw in the room: Charlie Morris, a cop who passed away before Michelle was born. Meanwhile, origami figures connect Michelle to the home of Tony Fiore (Brian Markinson), another cop Charlie was once linked with.

After introducing us to Tony, the show breaks away from the FBI agents' point of view to show Tony arguing with ex-cop Leon Felder (Richard Sali) about money they stole long ago, and the pact that led to Charlie's death. Soon after, Leon is killed by a bus - his scarf is caught in the door and he's strangled...as Michelle sits nearby and watches. This plus the child's history of strange behavior convince Mulder that Michelle is Charlie, that somehow upon death his energy transmigrated to hers and she's functionally a reincarnation of the murdered cop. Now Charlie/Michelle is getting revenge on the policemen who drowned him in a fishtank and then faked the circumstances of his murder (a grisly gangland execution that Michelle imitates by mutilating dolls at therapy sessions). Sure enough, Michelle descends upon Tony's house, telekinetically assualting him with an electrical cord and various fragile objects. She only stops when Mulder and Scully realize the circumstances of Charlie's murder (shades of "Shadows") and when Tony's wife Anita (who was once married to Charlie) begs for mercy. As in "Eve," The X-Files tells the story of a powerful, dangerous little girl but this time she doesn't know her own power and is restored to a normal life at episode's end.

My Response:

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The X-Files - "Tooms" (season 1, episode 21)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The X-Files. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. Future entries will cover the remaining seasons, breaking to review the feature films where chronologically appropriate, and eventually reach the recent miniseries. I have seen very few X-Files episodes, though I was utterly fascinated with the concept as a child, so for the most part this will be a first-timer's perspective. There will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on April 22, 1994/written by Glen Morgan & James Wong, directed by David Nutter): When we last saw Tooms, a mutant serial killer capable of stretching his body to fit through extremely narrow openings, he was placed inside an institution for the criminally insane, ostensibly under lock and key. However, the small opening in his cell door beckoned with the promise of escape. As it turns out Tooms himself doesn't have to do much to escape - the system will do that for him. Despite Mulder's testimony - arguing that the seemingly young man has actually been killing innocent people for decades, slaughtering five victims and devouring their livers before undergoing another thirty-year hibernation - the prisoner is released. His hunt for a new victim is continually thwarted by the omnipresent but increasingly exhausted Mulder's semi-rogue surveillance. Scully takes a more methodical approach, digging (literally) into Tooms' past with the help of Detective Frank Briggs (Henry Beckman), the retired cop from episode three who guides Scully to a skeletal corpse with incriminating toothmarks on its ribcage. Mulder and Scully are unable to prevent Tooms from murdering Dr. Aaron Monte (Paul Ben-Victor), the very psychologist who helped get him released, but they do catch up to the killer as he burrows beneath a new building (on the site of his old hibernation spot). Sucked into an escalator, he is apparently destroyed but Mulder's and Scully's troubles are only beginning.

FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and the ominous, usually silent Smoking Man (William B. Davis) spend much of episode 21 pressuring Mulder and Scully to back off their general mission. At times Skinner argues that their methods are not within bureau guidelines, at others he implies that their conclusions are at issue. In one meeting, he shakes a career-threatening stick at them, in another he flatters their talents and offers the carrot of restored credibility. His means change but his ends are clear - let's allow these X-files to fade away. Mulder of course resists, while Scully is increasingly invested not just in their personal solidarity (which is solidified when she lies to cover for him) but by the importance of the work itself, however hesitant she is to draw immediate conclusions. Although it never makes explicit reference to the quasi-cliffhanger at the end of "Darkness Falls," in which the agents were placed in lingering physical peril, somehow the precarious nature of their work in this episode flows logically from the grim mood of the previous one. With three episodes until the finale, The X-Files is building a sense of anxiety that draws the agents closer to one another - and the audience closer to them.

My Response:

Monday, June 25, 2018

Patreon update #26: "Gotta light? HOLY SMOKE!" - guests Em & Steve of No Ship Network/Sparkwood & 21 discuss Twin Peaks season 3 rewatch - Part 8 & the final film in focus...for now (+ Too Many Cooks, podcast recommendations, my Return viewing diary & much more)

Believe it or not, I didn't realize the perfect pairing of "Gotta light?" and Holy Smoke! until I put those two images together. It's one of those serendipitous accidents that we discuss in the episode itself. This is a big entry - by far my longest (two and half hours), covering the most celebrated episode of The Return alongside my final patron-recommended film in focus (Jane Campion's 1999 film starring Kate Winslet as a cult member and Harvey Keitel as her cocky deprogrammer), and featuring my first double guests, here to discuss not just a movie but a Twin Peaks episode. This will also be the third time I've publicly shared an episode or part of an episode on YouTube - in this case, I'm uploading eighteen minutes of our Part 8 discussion, focusing on the New Mexico sequences of the atomic bomb blast and the Woodsmen-led invasion of a small town eleven years later. If you enjoy this conversation, I encourage you not only to subscribe to my own Patreon but that of No Ship Network, where you can support the fantastic and prolific work of this week's guests Em and Steve (who host the Sparkwood & 21 podcast on Twin Peaks, among many other ventures).

I'm also using the occasion to change how I publish my Patreon updates on this site; from now on, I will be cross-posting new podcast episodes an hour after they go up each Monday instead of waiting until the end of the week. My original reasons for updating on Saturdays became irrelevant long ago, and I was already planning to switch to Mondays in time for the site's tenth anniversary in three weeks (which I will celebrate with a special podcast episode marking a one-week break from the Return rewatch). After that, I'll probably stick to this schedule at least through the end of the rewatch, maybe until I have a public series/backlog of pieces to go up on those days for the foreseeable future. This spring has been pretty nonstop, so I imagine it will take a while to get to the point where I have a backlog again, but meanwhile the podcasts will remain steady throughout the year.

As for this week, there's a biweekly preview coming out Wednesday but I'll save that for the next update. There's already plenty to dive into with this podcast alone: aside from the Peaks episode and Campion film (one of Em's favorites, which I was seeing for the first time based on her tip), I loaded up an "other topics" section with recent non-site-related activities: YouTube videos I watched - including, finally, the viral 2014 sensation Too Many Cooks; a couple political articles I read; rock albums I listened to; a dash of Twitter drama; and, of course, a whole lot of podcast recomendations. After some brief listener feedback on Dougie's unusual arm gesture, "Opening the Archive" explores the recent past, recapping my summer of Twin Peaks: The Return that we're now reliving with my rewatch series. These first reactions were a lot of fun to write, and hopefully still helpful to read, but my highlight ended up being a more comprehensive piece I wrote after the third season ended, in which I covered all three seasons at length. And of course, the show notes provide a bevy of links to accompany and extend these discussions.

Drink full and descend...

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The X-Files - "Darkness Falls" (season 1, episode 20)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The X-Files. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. Future entries will cover the remaining seasons, breaking to review the feature films where chronologically appropriate, and eventually reach the recent miniseries. I have seen very few X-Files episodes, though I was utterly fascinated with the concept as a child, so for the most part this will be a first-timer's perspective. There will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on April 15, 1994/written by Chris Carter, directed by Joe Napolitano): A huge crew of loggers vanishes in one of the few limited, isolated areas of Olympia State Park where they're allowed to cut down trees (as long as they're not old-growth). Mulder volunteers for the case and, as Scully quickly deduces, it's not because he believes that the suspected eco-terrorists are responsible for the disappearances. The agents trek into the woods with Park Ranger Larry Moore (Jason Beghe) and head of security for the logging company Steve Humphreys (Tom O'Rourke), eventually running into one of the anti-logging guerrillas, Doug Spinney (familiar character actor and eventual TV lead Titus Welliver). Sure enough, they come across bizarre phenomena like a cocooned cadaver attached to a tree and an illegally cut old-growth whose inner rings reveal a bizarre substance from several hundred years ago. Doug tells them that he saw one of his friends devoured alive by a strange swarm of insects, who avoid light but attack in darkness, and eventually they all realize that a volcanic explosion must have trapped these ancient parasites inside a tree...until they were released by the shady avarice of the logging company.

This realization comes too late to save the stubborn Humphreys, who hikes back to the crew's wounded vehicle and is killed. Doug notes the irony of both Humphreys' and the loggers' deaths at the hands of a force of nature released by their own disrespect for nature, but a similar irony will eventually consume Doug too. The radical environmentalist, true to his word, attempts to rescue the other three survivors in his Jeep (Mulder allows him to take the cabin's gasoline, condemning himself, Scully, and Moore to submit to a nervous night in the dimming cabin as the generator runs low). However, he drives across his own spiked traps ("talk about shooting yourself in the foot," Moore mutters) and is swarmed when he exits the car to discover the flat tire. Surprisingly, there is no real escape for Scully, Mulder, or Moore either. They only survive the episode, with Scully still comatose and Mulder looking extremely battered, because rescuers arrive before the cocoons have entirely consumed their bodily fluids. A scientist (David Hay) tending to them tells Mulder that the government will eradicate the pestilence from the woods, but Mulder has his doubts. As the official reminds him, failure isn't an option - should these swarms migrate, they could destroy the human race. If ever there was a time to truly want to believe, this is it.

My Response:

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Patreon update #25: Twin Peaks season 3 rewatch - Part 7 (+ The Rolling Stones early albums & more)

Part 7 of Twin Peaks' third season is driven by investigation and discovery: Deputy Hawk and Sheriff Truman examine Laura's secret diary, Ben and Beverly go looking for the source of the magical Great Northern hum, Mr. C mysteriously blackmails a prison warden to plan his escape, and we finally get to know Diane - and come to realize all we don't yet know about her. Part 7 was one of my favorite episodes at the time it aired, although of course it would quickly be dwarfed by the follow-up (a very different episode). Elsewhere in this entry, I linger over the early discography of the Rolling Stones, from the American version of their cover-heavy rhythm and blues debut (England's Newest Hit Makers) to the fully-realized masterpiece they recorded nearly a decade later (Exile on Main Street). In between, they dabbled in raucous rock and roll, airy pop, and experimental psychedelia, before returning to their roots with renewed vigor and songwriting maturity. As I describe the various eras they experienced, I play short clips from many songs; in the show notes on Patreon, I've listed each one by timestamp, in case you're curious. As for Opening the Archive, I'm diving into the original character series - we're now almost a year away from the present, having traversed my entire back catalog up until my Return viewing diary last summer.

Film in Focus update...

Friday, June 22, 2018

The X-Files - "Shapes" (season 1, episode 19)

Welcome to my viewing diary for The X-Files. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. Future entries will cover the remaining seasons, breaking to review the feature films where chronologically appropriate, and eventually reach the recent miniseries. I have seen very few X-Files episodes, though I was utterly fascinated with the concept as a child, so for the most part this will be a first-timer's perspective. There will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on April 1, 1994/written by Marilyn Osborn, directed by David Nutter): In the moody, misty environment of Browning, Montana, Mulder and Scully investigate what appears to be a pretty routine murder. Lyle Parker (Ty Miller) and his son Jim (Donnelly Rhodes) have been in a deep dispute with a nearby Indian reservation; when Lyle shoots Joseph Goodensnake (actor unknown) it looks like an extension of their feud. But the Parkers claim that the...thing they saw attacking them was not a man at all, but a savage beast. Mulder is intrigued by the case because it echoes the very first X-file, opened by the head of the FBI himself in the late forties. Ish (Jimmy Herman), an older local, later confirms the details of that case, recalling how he witnessed an earlier werewolf (or as the tribe calls it, "a Manitou") who may have passed the curse down through his bloodline to Joseph and his grieving sister Gwen (Renae Morriseau). When Lyle is killed in a nighttime attack, however, the FBI agents eventually realize that it is his son, scratched by Joseph, who has inherited the affliction. Jim nearly kills Scully in his canine form before Sheriff Charles Tskany (Michael Horse, of Twin Peaks) shoots him down. Scully, assuming she was nearly attacked by a mountain lion, is gently corrected - that animal is still in its cage and the monster who burst through the bathroom door is far more human in origin.

My Response: