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

Friday, November 16, 2018

Finding the Missing Pages: interview w/ Lindsay Hallam, author of Devil's Advocates - Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

This is the fifth entry in 5 Weeks of Fire Walk With Me, concluding the series.

With the explosion of Twin Peaks literature following Brad Dukes' 2014 oral history Reflections, it's become easy to forget how thin that library was for several decades. Despite its presence in David Lynch monographs and the occasional TV history, virtually no books broached the series as their central subject. Now, thankfully, our shelves have been well-stocked with scholarly studies, episodes guides, fan theories, and historical overviews. Even so, until very recently there remained a glaring blind spot in this collection. The 1992 prequel film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, has grown in reputation since its initial critical savaging and box office disaster, but most Peaks books still - of necessity - treat it as an offshoot of the series (occasionally, it's even sidelined as an irrelevant tangent). Certainly no tome took the film as its sole focus until now. Two books have been published since the premiere of The Return in 2017, one by Maura McHugh for the Midnight Marauders series (which I've not yet read but am looking forward to) and the other by Lindsay Hallam for the Devil's Advocates series.

Devil's Advocates - Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is primarily divided into four big chapters: "Filled With Secrets: Fire Walk With Me as a Twin Peaks Film"; "Cherry Pie Wrapped in Barbed Wire: Fire Walk With Me as a Horror Movie"; "'Since I was Twelve': Fire Walk With Me as a Trauma Film"; and "We Live Inside a Dream: Fire Walk With Me as a David Lynch Film". These thematic studies are interspersed with a selective study of the film's plot (not exactly chronological, different scenes are aligned with different topics) and make ample use of both an overflowing bibliography and Hallam's own keen insight; the book manages the neat trick of being a grand survey and a personal perspective. Hallam, a British film scholar who specializes in horror and trauma cinema, doesn't just cite her fellow authors, she engages directly with their words: amplifying arguments, contesting claims, and connecting different points of view. She concludes her study by looking at the paratexts that surround the film (including not just the original series and supplemental spin-offs but Showtime's 2017 third season) and, perhaps most interestingly, tracing Fire Walk With Me's echoes in recent art horror films like It Follows and Personal Shopper.

While her scholarship breaks new ground, Hallam's enthusiasm is also contagious. She's a diehard Twin Peaks fans going back to her teenage years in Australian suburbia. We decided to start our conversation not in the bracing clarity of her final analysis, but the intoxicating confusion of her first encounter...

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Patreon update #46 (Fire Walk With Me in Season 3, Pyaasa & more) and preview of Renee/Jade/Knox character studies

I planned to have a big "Other Topics" section this week covering the midterms, lots of podcast recommendations, and some random subjects that came up recently on Twitter or elsewhere, followed by more listener feedback next week. However, each of those efforts have been pushed back a week because my "Twin Peaks Reflections" and "Opening the Archive" segments are both longer than usual. For the first, I delve into my recent piece on Fire Walk With Me mofits in The Return; for the second, I revisit a 2013 review of an Indian film that has just been added to MUBI. See you next week - before Thanksgiving - for a 90th anniversary film in focus!

Line-up for Episode 45


WEEKLY UPDATE/recent posts: Twin Peaks: The Return & Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

WEEKLY UPDATE/Patreon: 2nd tier biweekly preview - Renee/Jade/Knox

WEEKLY UPDATE/work in progress: Lady Bird review, Cinepoem, picture galleries

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS: Fire Walk With Me in season 3



Saturday, November 10, 2018

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Twin Peaks: The Return

This is the fourth entry in 5 Weeks of Fire Walk With Me. Next week I will conclude this series by interviewing Lindsay Hallam, author of a book about the film in the Devil's Advocate series.

Sixteen and a half episodes into Showtime's revival of Twin Peaks, FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) - the unquestioned (if multifaceted) hero of this series, as well as the old one (two seasons, 1990-91) - is speaking to a character who never appeared in the old show yet whose familiarity is taken for granted. Portrayed by a monstrous steam-spewing machine (whose spout Lynch says he regrets; "I wish I'd just made it straight, because everyone thinks it's a teakettle"), and articulated by voice actor Nathan Frizzell, yet visualized in flashback as none other than late pop legend David Bowie, this "Phillip Jeffries" is sending Cooper back to a particular date: February 23, 1989. Cooper's one-armed companion (Al Strobel, Jr.) intones, "Eeee-lec-tric-ity..." - a curious motif for anyone who came to this decades-delayed third season after close study of seasons one and two (in the old series owls, not electrical currents, were the harbingers of spiritual energy between two worlds).

And then our protagonist closes his eyes as the camera pushes toward him, a whoosing sound filling the soundtrack before we realize it belongs to a ceiling fan. Another sound emerges - a motorcycle - and we are faced with perhaps the most important, if infrequently-glimpsed, location in this two-part finale, perhaps in the whole series. It is, we have previously been told (in parts two and twelve), the Palmer family household even though it's a distinctly different house than the one used in the classic first and second season. And then we see actors: Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, and James Marshall (as Laura and Leland Palmer and James Hurley, respectively); all have been glimpsed in earlier parts of The Return but ow they look much younger, much younger than CGI or makeup could achieve. What's going on here?

This whole passage - the Bowie-initiated time travel, the view of a tall foreboding "Palmer house" ascending from a sidewalk, the actors who've leapt back in time a quarter-century - represents not only a return to the winter of '89. It is a return to Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the controversial 1992 spin-off film that was for years left out of many discussions of Twin Peaks, often treated as an odd footnote at best and an irrelevant cast-off at worst. This crucial sequence of the "third season" (as Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost call it, though Showtime's designation The Return remains catchy and telling in its own right) begins with overt references to Lynch's onetime bete noire and concludes with direct immersion into that very work.

For most of the next five minutes David Lynch (who directed only six episodes of the first two seasons, but all of the third season as well as Fire Walk With Me) will play footage from his own movie, with color and score extracted and some new shots (along with a few previously unused old ones) sprinkled throughout. Having promised (or warned) viewers before the season's May premiere that his prequel film would be very important to the new work, Lynch certainly delivers. And yet this time, his Fire Walk With Me ideas are filtered through Frost's own strong vision (rather than reinforced by Robert Engels, co-writer of the film, who came closer to Lynch's own sensibility and was generally more deferential towards him). Frost was not involved at all with the film, but now he has been able to re-interpret its motifs in collaboration with Lynch. How does this impact the prequel project's legacy as well as the new material?

What follows is an exploration of all the Fire Walk With Me references in The Return.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Patreon update #45 (Fire Walk With Me as art film, Sherilyn Fenn in Twin Peaks season 3, what is Judy? & more)

This week mostly consists of listener feedback, as readers pour forth their thoughts on Judy, Diane, Richard/Linda, Red, and much more (including a few non-Twin Peaks topics too, believe it or not!). A particular highlight is one listener's recounting of Sherilyn Fenn at a recent Eraserhead Q&A in which she divulged the most in-depth account yet of what happened in season three. I also discuss Fire Walk With Me in conjunction with several European art films and offer updates on recent work, including the next "5 Weeks of Fire Walk With Me" entry which will be published within twenty-four hours (stay tuned).

Line-up for Episode 44

INTRO following quick corrections/disclaimer 3:57 

WEEKLY UPDATE/recent posts: 4 Ways to Watch Fire Walk With Me 5:42 

WEEKLY UPDATE/Patreon: 2nd tier biweekly preview - The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

WEEKLY UPDATE/work in progress: Mad Men viewing diary, Cinepoem, Fire Walk With Me & season 3

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS: Fire Walk With Me as art film

LISTENER FEEDBACK: Sherilyn Fenn talks about season 3


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Patreon update #44: Halloween (+ Fire Walk With Me as horror movie, The Old Dark House & more) and preview of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari review

Halloween horror dominates this special podcast episode; taking the week off from other topics and postponing most of the extensive listener feedback I received since Episode 42, I focus on the holiday theme in almost all sections. The film in focus was an obvious pick, with John Carpenter's unforgettable theme music leading into my musings on the first Michael Myers slasher flick. For Opening the Archive, I picked James Whale's evocatively-titled but dazzlingly idiosyncratic horror comedy The Old Dark House, reading my review from seven years ago. And "Twin Peaks Reflections" emphasizes one section of my recently published essay 4 Ways to Watch Fire Walk With Me, exploring the film's links to the horror genre. The one piece of feedback, meanwhile, shares a listener's favorite horror film (expect at least one more in the next episode).

Even the biweekly preview participates in the spooky mood with a full (and longer than usual) review of early Expressionist horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Although I got both podcast and preview up on Patreon in time for the eve of All Hallow's Eve, by the time you're reading this cross-post we're several days into November. But like The Shape himself, the spirit of Halloween is always ready to spring out from the shadows just when you think you've finally put it to rest.

Line-up for Episode 43


WEEKLY UPDATE/recent posts: 5 Weeks of Fire Walk With Me resumes

WEEKLY UPDATE/work in progress: lost Mad Men review, re-recorded Lindsay Hallam interview, Fire Walk With Me & season 3, finalizing 4 Ways to Watch Fire Walk With Me

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS: Fire Walk With Me as a horror movie

FILM IN FOCUS: Halloween

LISTENER FEEDBACK: Listener's #1 horror film



Wednesday, October 31, 2018

4 Ways to Watch Fire Walk With Me: Art Film, Horror Movie, Lynch Project, Twin Peaks Episode

This is the third entry in 5 Weeks of Fire Walk With Me. Next week I will discuss connections between the film and the new Showtime season last year.

David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) is a confounding experience for many viewers because it can be so hard to contextualize. Cinephiles may feel too alienated from its connections to a TV series to appreciate its qualities as an art film; horror enthusiasts may be tripped up by its reliance on surreal experimentation over genre tropes; Lynchheads may be perplexed by its raw, grisly intensity, its ingredients less balanced than they are in other, equally strange entries in his oeuvre; and Twin Peaks fans may be the most bewildered of all. This is all the more true if those TV viewers came to the beloved ABC series thanks to soap opera, sci-fi, or quirky comedy but are unfamiliar with the more abrasive work of its auteur. Haunted for many years by its undeserved bad reputation, the Twin Peaks prequel wandered in the wilderness lost like a lost soul, a film without a home. The truth, however, is not so much that Fire Walk With Me doesn't belong in any of those contexts - in fact, it belongs to all of those contexts. If the movie doesn't fit neatly into any one category, it still spills over into many, in deeply fascinating ways. Here are four ways to watch Fire Walk With Me, each gripping on its own but even richer when viewed in conjunction with the others.

Inevitably, major plot points will be discussed below. And if you're hungry for an additional "Four Ways" analysis, in this case placing the movie inside different junctures of the series, check out the brilliant "The Four Placements of Fire Walk With Me" by Julius Kassendorf. My own analysis will eventually explore Fire Walk With Me's connections to the series (in the most extended section of them all), but first I want to start as far away from that perspective as possible.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

"5 Weeks of Fire Walk With Me" (finally) resumes this week

Just over a year ago, I announced a loose series of posts: "5 Weeks of Fire Walk With Me" to celebrate the release of the Twin Peaks movie as part of the Criterion Collection. Some of these pieces were more ambitious than others, and I had to pause my schedule after a couple weeks. I never thought it would take an entire year to come back!

Now, however, the remaining entries are either completely or almost ready and Halloween seemed like a good time to return, not only because the first post discusses the film within the horror genre (among several contexts) but because the last day of Fire Walk With Me's production happened to fall on October 31, which is also - believe it or not - the birthday of both the actors who played Bob and the Man From Another Place.

So this Wednesday, look for "4 Ways to Watch Fire Walk With Me," a study of the film in light of art cinema, horror, Lynch's filmography, and Twin Peaks. The following week, hopefully by Wednesday, I will publish "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Twin Peaks: The Return," a collection of connections between the film and the third season (which featured many callbacks). And finally, in a concluding entry that wouldn't have been possible if the series stayed on schedule last year, I will interview Lindsay Hallam, author of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, a new book in the "Devil's Advocate" series.

See you in three days.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Patreon update #43 (The Shining, Cooper & Mr. C, the year after Twin Peaks, Hill Street Blues early season 4, Mimi, Schitt's Creek, "race vs. class" on the left, podcast recommendations & more)

This was intended to be a light episode but it ended up being kind of packed. The "other topics" section is vast this week, despite mostly limiting itself to very recent media intake. This includes the unsettling French film Mimi, the comedy series Schitt's Creek, and an extended discussion of Hill Street Blues' early fourth season, including another Mark Frost-penned episode (although he was also story editor for all the episodes this season). There are also a load of new podcast recommendations alongside a reflection on some recent Twitter beef involving the hoary "race vs. class" debate that has only worsened since 2016 while taking on new (and in my mind lopsided) manifestations.

For "Twin Peaks Reflections" I go broad, surveying the past year for a general discussion of what the fallout from The Return has looked like. I read some listener feedback on that Showtime season and close out the program with an apropos reading of my 2010 essay on my "#1 horror film" The Shining (although a year later, it didn't even show up in a top 100 films of all time list alongside Rosemary's Baby or Fire Walk With Me - so who knows about these things). I'm hoping there will be much more Halloween programming in a few days but it might be difficult to complete the work in time. Wish me luck and maybe I'll have a treat instead of a trick for listeners early next week.


WEEKLY UPDATE/Patreon: thread of biweekly previews

WEEKLY UPDATE/work in progress: Mad Men viewing diary, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari review, notes on Hill Street Blues

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS: the past year of post-Return Twin Peaks fandom, plans for season 1/2 rewatch

LISTENER FEEDBACK: Cooper & Mr. C, Leland & Cooper

OTHER TOPICS: Mimi, Schitt's Creek, Hill Street Blues, Blue Rose magazine's Women of Lynch, Twitter arguments about race & class, podcast recommendations



Thursday, October 18, 2018

Patreon update #42: Gattaca (+ The Contender, Kavanaugh hearings, Twin Peaks interviews, podcast recommendations & more) and preview of Daguerréotypes review

The Ethan Hawke film in focus series continues for its second month; October's selection is Gattaca, the 1997 sci-fi film in which Hawke plays a genetically "deficient" young man who passes as someone else. Enmeshed in a murder mystery while awaiting an imminent trip into outer space (and romancing Uma Thurman in a very hip nineties pairing), he's pulled in two directions at once. At the end of this podcast, after discussing podcasts about the recent Brett Kavanaugh judicial confirmation, I revisit my 2008 review of The Contender about a scandal-plagued vice presidential candidate tormented by a Republican political inquisition (this is a film I thought for all the world had been written by Aaron Sorkin until about three hours ago). I also have quite a lot of listener feedback this week, in response to several different episodes, and for "Twin Peaks Reflections" I look back over the interviews I've conducted with Twin Peaks scholars since 2014.

The biweekly preview, meanwhile, is an Agnes Varda documentary about shopkeepers - another full review, and the twentieth preview this year. Now is a good time to become a $5 patron because I have yet to publish any of the pieces I've previewed since January: that's roughly thirty-five pages of written material, a dozen or so images, and a couple minutes of video essay footage only available to members of the second tier. Be the first one on your block to get a sneak peek!

Line-up for Episode 41


WEEKLY UPDATE/recent posts: updated TV/director directories & Top Posts

WEEKLY UPDATE/Patreon: 2nd tier biweekly preview - Daguerreotypes

WEEKLY UPDATE/work in progress: Boyhood for Patreon, choosing next Cinepoem, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised review, finished Twin Peaks character runners-up

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS: history of Twin Peaks interviews


LISTENER FEEDBACK: patrons switching places at the diner, the actor in Carrie's house is not the hitman, Frost's knowledge of casting, Dead Poets Society, the existence of good and evil, Great Expectations, season 1/2 rewatch for Twin Peaks Reflections?, FWWM early draft, I Love the 90s w/ Twin Peaks theme

OTHER TOPICS: Podcast recommendations, Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation

OPENING THE ARCHIVE: The Contender (w/ 2018 reflections)


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Patreon update #41: Mark Twain (+ the 2000s decade/documentary, the French Revolution, Nicaragua, podcast recommendations, early Fire Walk With Me draft & more)

Bit by bit over the past month, I've been watching Ken Burns' fascinating documentary Mark Twain. I didn't know many details of Twain's life before watching so both the style and the story made for a captivating experience. In this episode, the 2002 Twain is my film in focus, while "Twin Peaks Reflections" focuses on an early (and apparently contested, as I only found out after recording) draft of Fire Walk With Me. The latter half of Episode 40 is dominated by podcast recommendations, covering Nicaragua, Washington congressional candidate Sarah Smith, animator Ub Iwerks, and the French Revolution - among many other topics. You can watch Mark Twain here and here.

Line-up for Episode 40


WEEKLY UPDATE/recent posts: updated a couple 2017 Twin Peaks cross-posts

WEEKLY UPDATE/work in progress: interviewed Lindsay Hallam, Mad Men season 2 viewing diary, Daguerreotypes, Twin Peaks characters runners-up (limo driver), watched Gattaca for upcoming podcast

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS: early draft of Fire Walk With Me


OTHER TOPICS: CNN documentary on the 2000s, Back to the Future Part II, PBS book program, Vice segment on Nicaragua, podcast recommendations


Saturday, October 6, 2018

Patreon update #40 (The End of Evangelion, Carrie Page as the dreamer, American Made, The Children Act, Wire's 154 & more) and preview of Zama review

What would you be interested in hearing from "Twin Peaks Reflections" in the future? With the Return rewatch over, I consider some different options and also ask for your input. Additionally, I survey all of the Twin Peaks subjects I've covered so far. Elsewhere on the podcast, I finish reading my 2015 End of Evangelion review, read some follow-up feedback from the listener who discussed Cooper as the dreamer (now she's focusing on Carrie Page as Laura's dream), and run down the films, books, and music I've experienced in the past several months. For the biweekly preview, I share a full review for the first time, of the Argentine film Zama.

Line-up for Episode 39


WEEKLY UPDATE/recent posts: updated Twin Peaks directory, from now on focusing on my backlog

WEEKLY UPDATE/Patreon: 2nd tier biweekly preview - Zama, discussing biweekly preview backlog

WEEKLY UPDATE/work in progress: Ethan Hawke films for Patreon, The Unseen: La La Land, Devil's Bride review, Fire Walk With Me early draft, read Lindsay Hallam's Fire Walk With Me book, Mad Men season 2 premiere viewing diary

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS: Where should I go with this section?

LISTENER FEEDBACK: Twin Peaks/Neon Genesis Evangelion, Double R counter patrons - is that shift/cut a continuity error & does it matter, Carrie Page as Laura's dreamer, remembering what Ethan Hawke was in

OTHER TOPICS: American Made, The Children Act, other films I've watched for online work, Dead Poets Society special features, still playing DVDs & CDs, Alan Splet, Roku menu, Spielberg bio, Lynch's Room to Dream bio, Blue Rose Magazine including Women of Lynch episode, Fire Walk With Me book, Classics Illustrated (90s editions), Time Machine books, Common Ground photo book, 154 (Wire album), Live from the Salem Witch Trials (The Fall album), Sister Ray

OPENING THE ARCHIVE: The End of Evangelion (2 of 2)


Friday, September 28, 2018

Patreon update #39: Dead Poets Society (+ Twin Peaks for new viewers & more)

Fall is the perfect time to focus on the richly autumnal Dead Poets Society but I'm emphasizing the film for another reason as well. I've recently watched three Ethan Hawke films: Before Sunset and Before Midnight, to finally follow up on the first Before film I covered back in June, and coincidentally First Reformed, in which he plays a Protestant clergyman seized by growing fanaticism. I decided I might as well make this a thing, so I added Dead Poets Society, Gattaca, and Training Day to the mix with plans to cover one a month in chronological order until February. In an admittedly very rambling monologue, I touch on the film's vivid location, its place in the "inspiring teacher" genre, the cringe factor of its romantic storyline, and the ambiguity of Robin Williams' character. For a more jaundiced (and more disciplined) take on the film, Roger Ebert's 1989 takedown is worth reading. Many of his points (and those of the commentators) are quite solid, but I have a soft spot for this film. What are your thoughts on it?

From now on, episodes will be a little shorter and I'll tend to shift between categories each week rather than running through all of them every time.

Line-up for Episode 38


WEEKLY UPDATE/work in progress: Zama review, The Unseen: La La Land, character bonus: Johnny Horne

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS: my dugpa comments round-up & first time viewer companion

FILM IN FOCUS: Dead Poets Society


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Patreon update #38 (Twin Peaks season 3 finale - Listener Feedback, The End of Evangelion, additional listener feedback & more)

The long break between episodes was still filled with activity, including a Patreon update sharing video "slide-show" versions of an earlier podcast (as well as a couple biweekly previews - the second one, on a couple Fire Walk With Me motifs dragged into season 3 - is featured below). Part of this episode covers those videos as well as other material released during this time - September saw more individual posts than any other month in the site's history. However, most of Episode 37 is devoted to listener feedback, primarily (although not exclusively) for my last episode, covering Parts 17 and 18. Topics include Cooper's responsibility for Mr. C, Lynch as a trickster or naif, and the Doppleworld of season 3, along with surprising - at least to me - revelations about Mark Frost's initial seed for The Return, Sheryl Lee's perception of Maddy, and Sherilyn Fenn's knowledge of her character's storyline. This podcast concludes with the first part of an End of Evangelion essay from my archive series. It was published in 2015, but perhaps has new relevance after The Return's own conclusion.

Line-up for Episode 37


WEEKLY UPDATE/recent posts: Twin Peaks comments from spring 2015 & first time viewer companion, the full archive, added 4 Fandor videos to YouTube, updated The Passion of Anna K. YouTube link

WEEKLY UPDATE/Patreon: 10th anniversary videos, 2nd tier biweekly previews - Get Out & Jeffries/woodsmen in FWWM/s3, ep. 15 YouTube takedown

WEEKLY UPDATE/work in progress: phone videos for Journey Through Twin Peaks, corresponding with viewers on Journey Through Twin Peaks

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS & LISTENER FEEDBACK: responses to my coverage of Pts. 17 & 18 (as well as pre-s3 predictions, Pt. 16, old Twin Peaks episodes, Maddy, comic-con panel, ring in s3, David Learns to Fly, etc)

OPENING THE ARCHIVE: The End of Evangelion (1 of 2)


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Full Archive for Lost in the Movies

Earlier this year, Lost in the Movies celebrated its tenth anniversary. I had been hoping for a while to post a fully illustrated archive featuring a small picture, tweet-size blurb, and link for each of the fourteen hundred posts I'd published over a decade. This approach yielded way too much content for one page so I divided it into thirty chapters; it also entailed way too much work to complete on schedule, so here we are a couple months - and another chapter - later. Recently, I also illustrated a podcast video outlining my history, suggesting my future, and emphasizing particular works in my two most popular categories (Twin Peaks and video essays).

For this post, I've reproduced each chapter's introduction (suggesting the spirit of that period, surveying several trends and topics, and choosing a particular highlight), along with a link to that chapter's page, and links to pages organized by year as well. This archive doubles not only as a resource for my site, but an overview of my evolution across multiple platforms, media, sensibilities, and approaches. Maybe "evolution" is misleading because while growth may be part of this story, the journey has been more of a winding path through the woods than a steady hike up a mountain.

If you're looking to quickly find particular titles or subjects, you can check out my many other directories which are organize film titles alphabetically, chronologically, geographically, and by director, as well as within particular categories like Twin Peaks, video essay, and TV viewing diary (the picture gallery can also lead to some interesting discoveries, aside from being fun to take in on its own terms, while Top Posts isolates what I think is my strongest work). These archive pages, on the other hand, offer a sense of the context from which these pieces arose; they are at least as much about surveying the big picture as they are exploring individual pieces.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Patreon update #37: FREE Public 10th Anniversary Videos and preview of Get Out review

This was supposed to be my week "off" but I thought it would be nice to mark the time by opening up an old podcast episode to the public as a video - in this case, the tenth anniversary episode from July. (You can read more about the episode, including the full line-up/timecodes, here.) I would just add a few illustrations to accompany the audio track. Easy, right? Well...

For those who just want to watch/listen to the part about my plans for the Journey Through Twin Peaks series, I've isolated that here. It's the only part I've shared on YouTube for now (I may add more later):

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: episode directory


This series serves as a friendly companion for first-time viewers of Twin Peaks, meaning they can read about each episode directly after watching - to consider interesting questions, perhaps learn a bit of context, and hear a different and/or complementary perspective - without worrying about spoiling upcoming episodes. This series is not a formal guide that meticulously breaks down the plot and character relationships; it's a far more casual, spontaneous form of reflection, sometimes as short as a paragraph, sometimes as long as several pages, sometimes descriptive of several events, sometimes ignoring the narrative altogether to discuss style or mood.

These entries were originally written as comments on a Reddit rewatch in the summer before the third season was released. They cover each episode of seasons one and two, the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the deleted scenes from the film, and a few other topics (preparing yourself to see the film, my interpretation of the film's ending, and the overall structure of the series). Although there's some controversy over how episodes should be titled, since most people now watch the series via Netflix or other streaming formats, I used that model, citing the pilot as "S1E1" and employing the unofficial titles, chosen by a German TV station in the early nineties, which have somehow become permanently affixed.

After each entry, I share links to my other work on that given episode (noting when they do and don't contain spoilers), including chapters of my popular video series Journey Through Twin Peaks, as well as my 2008 episode guide, my 2015 ranking of episodes, and other comments, essays, or visual tributes when applicable. I have probably one of the largest personal archives of online Twin Peaks analysis, so if you've just stumbled across this site as a first-time viewer, you've come to the right place! And hopefully these short entries are a good starting point on your journey.

(Oh and also, although they weren't published as entries in the first time viewer companion and are generally much longer than these other reviews, my viewing diary for Twin Peaks' third season is also included in this directory since each entry was written without spoilers for the next. In fact, in that case I too was a first-time viewer.)

TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: The structure of the original Twin Peaks

These short Twin Peaks episode responses are spoiler-free for upcoming episodes, presented here for first-time viewers who want to read a veteran viewer's perspective on each entry while remaining in the dark about what's to come. They were first published as comments on a Reddit rewatch in 2016.

On the thread for a late season two episode, Iswitt wrote the following comment in reply to one of my own (which it quotes at the outset):
This episode really hammers home how unnecessary the entire mid-season stretch was, and it contributes to why people look back at those episodes so scornfully. Now they we've moved on to a whole new set of subplots (aside from Nadine, who we don't see much of in this or the next few episodes), can we say anything from those episodes really mattered?
I see people say things like this a lot, not just in reference to this TV show. There will be a subplot within some TV series that someone happens to dislike and they ask, "Did this matter?" I find this an interesting question. Does it matter in the context of what? The overall series? What you think things ought to be like?
In the case of Twin Peaks, I think people are comparing these middle plots to things that happened in season one and what happens at the very end of season two (Owl Cave, the Lodge stuff, etc.). To me, so what if these middle plots had any bearing on the last few episodes' events? Why is that so important? TV shows that go on for any length time always have certain plots that come, they happen, and then they go away (The Walking Dead is a good, modern example). People often use phrases relating to subplots such as "it didn't go anywhere" or "it didn't matter", but this is entirely opinion based (where's it supposed to go to and what makes it matter to someone?). Obviously I'm speaking as someone who really enjoys the "slump" in season two, so I'm biased, but it irks me that people look at Dead Dog Farm, the Marsh plot or others and say "These plots don't matter. They aren't the Lodge or Laura so they're unimportant."
I disagree. I found them to be a fascinating look at what was going on in and around Twin Peaks as a whole. That's what I wanted out of this show. What is life in this town like? Who are these strange people? The murder mystery and the final sequences of the show are just icing on the cake to me. To me they did go somewhere (or perhaps take me somewhere) and they did matter (I was entertained and I learned more about the town, like I wanted to). So I contend those events did matter, as much as any long-term TV show's plot events can matter (yes, this show did get canceled, but they obviously intended for it to go on longer). To use TWD as an example again, we're entering season seven. Does anything in basically the first 4-5 seasons matter anymore? Go back and watch season two and try to feel like any of it matters. It really doesn't in the context of what's happening now. And that's okay. Pretty much all shows go through this kind of thing, some faster/sooner than others.
This was my response...

That's a great answer to what is a (slightly) more open-ended question than it may have initially seemed. I've actually been enjoying those midseason episodes more than usual but there does seem to be a widespread dissatisfaction with them which I’ve often shared. For me personally, this has something to do with a preference for “film” over “TV” storytelling. There are advantages to both – film usually has a stronger sense of purpose and momentum, reaching cathartic moments that can carry greater dramatic weight, while television can build attachment and investment in a way that a two-hour film usually can’t. Serialized shows attempt to bridge this gap by telling one ongoing story but usually stretching that story out by telling smaller chapters with their own dramatic arcs (sometimes as long as a season, sometimes as short as a single episode).

The tension between those two approaches will be present in any serialized show, but is especially sharp on one which aired on an early nineties network, where the format was also pressured to function on an episodic basis. And it’s especially sharp on Twin Peaks for a very specific reason: because Lynch came from the world of film and Frost came from the world of TV, and their sensibilities (maybe for other reasons too) really, really reflected this. It’s even apparent in the dichotomy of their interest: Lynch, much as he loves all the eccentric characters, repeatedly hones in on Laura and her singular mystery whenever he has the chance, whereas Frost is all about the town as a staging ground for various, perhaps unrelated dramas. Lynch is also a painter, which means he has an eye for the overall shape – the big picture – in a way a TV writer, under pressure to produce week to week and take the story in ever-new, ever-expanding directions, does not.

If you listen closely to Lynch’s seemingly TV-friendly statements about “a neverending story” or “the mystery shifting to the background” it becomes increasingly apparent that he isn't talking about abandoning movie structures so much as taking one part – the middle – and extending it perpetually. This avoids the finality of the ending while maintaining the momentum a fixed endpoint implies. It’s essentially a massive cheat code in which a destination creates a sense of purpose, but that destination is placed so far on the horizon that it allows an unusual amount of immersion in the journey. (And, in terms of the audience of the time at least, it didn't work - they demanded the ending any movie requires but any TV show dreads.) For Frost on the other hand, the narrative model seems not to have been an extension of a middle but a perpetual, interwoven succession of beginnings, middles, and ends in a consistent environment. In other words, something closer to the traditional TV model but perhaps more intricate and inventive than usual (the essay you and Somerton were discussing does a good job of laying this out).

The mid-season epitomizes the crisis in Twin Peaks between these two different, essentially contradictory modes. We could also argue about the effectiveness of its execution, but that’s immaterial to this particular point. These episodes are attempts to create a much looser serialized structure for the show, one which theoretically could have carried it into multiple seasons. There are some big threads that trickle information to us – Windom, the Lodges – while other stories carry the show week to week. Obviously the proposed Cooper-Audrey romance was supposed to form a stronger central axis, but even that would have a different nature than the Laura mystery, more of an in-the-moment sense of discovery than a perpetual hungering for more. My – and others’ – frustrations with this development may partly be due to a preference for more filmic types of storytelling, but I think they are also fostered by the show itself, because it begins very differently.

The pilot of Twin Peaks puts forward a much more cinematic conception: here is this terrible incident that is haunting everything else, and all the events of the story are driven by and/or circulate around this event. To then abandon this story, as the show does at its midpoint, would be a bit like The Godfather veering off to Las Vegas to explore the travails of the Frank Sinatra character (which the Puzo book actually does!!). Yes, a lot of the characters are still the same (although many aren’t, and that’s its own problem) and – other than the Evelyn stuff - the setting remains, but the premise of Twin Peaks wasn’t about characters or setting, it was about a particular traumatic event and its effect on the characters. To abandon the centrality of this event feels like a violation to a lot of us. For others, due perhaps to a greater fondness for TV than film, or a general affinity to a Frost-like narrative conception, or simply some inclination difficult to articulate/pin down, the other aspect of the pilot – its world-creation and fondness for character sketches – outstrips the impact of the narrative device, and is enough to sustain the show on its own.

I think all Twin Peaks fans, wherever they fall in terms of their preferences, should recognize that the show exists in the tension between these two poles. Eventually, it seems, Lynch did win the tug-of-war by changing the final script, creating the feature film without Frost, and even writing the Log Lady intros which frame the show as a single, cohesive work in a way the episodes themselves do not. Now that Frost is involved again, will the show shift back toward his conception (of a universe of stories that needn’t fall within one single frame)? I have my doubts for a few reasons: a) as director, Lynch has a sort of final say, no matter how collaborative he and Frost are as writers and producers; b) the new season was shot in a fashion far more similar to film than TV, suggesting a cohesive, bounded story, however sprawling; c) Frost himself has given statements over the years that place him much closer to the “filmic” type of storytelling than he used to be. We’ll see. For the show as it exists now [prior to the release of season three], questions of quality/execution aside, whether one fundamentally accepts the mid-season episodes will depend on how much that viewer desires an overarching sense of purpose, and how much they are willing to accept that a storyline or event “matters” and “goes somewhere” even if it doesn’t bring us any closer to a dramatic conclusion.

Here is the final "Journey Through Twin Peaks" chapter on the original series/film before season three:

I also created a preview for the whole video series with clips from all the chapters:

Want more?

Here's one of the last comments I left on the Reddit rewatch, linking many of my pieces on the series. Since then I have also begun a character series

Having shared my previous work relevant to each step of Twin Peaks, I've left out a lot of material that approached the show/film as a whole entity. (I also have some work treating Lynch's entire filmography the same way but I'll save those for the film threads this sub will hopefully tackle.)
Here are some highlights...
If you are a fan of the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion (and the film The End of Evangelion) or don't mind spoilers for it, here is my side by side video comparison with Twin Peaks. These shows are very different on the surface yet they have a striking relationship.
Just before work on my Journey videos began, I created a screencap visual tribute to Laura & Cooper featuring all the moments they share or in which one is coming into contact with traces of the other:
Last year I made a meme/set of memes to clarify who contributed to the creation of Laura Palmer and how they contributed, as best I know:
On the 25th anniversary of Twin Peaks I shared some thoughts on why Twin Peaks was both influential and misunderstood:
Round-ups of other writers
Two years ago, while preparing for a conversation about Fire Walk With Me, I underwent massive research into the show and film and ended up gathering over 100 pieces of commentary from newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, blogs, and videos from 1989 to 2014. I organized quotes chronologically and included links wherever possible. This is a good ground zero for anyone hoping to expand their understanding of how Twin Peaks has been discussed over the years:
Later I revisited the Usenet forums of 1990-92 to recover some of my favorite pieces of Twin Peaks commentary from the time it aired. This is a great look at how viewers responded in real time:
Finally, I went to fans today (on the dugpa forum) and asked them to recall how they had reacted to key moments on the first run-through:
In addition to all of this I have conducted several interviews with authors of Twin Peaks/David Lynch publications or documentaries, only one of which has been linked so far. If you want to explore more, I have created a massive list of every Twin Peaks post - or even fleeting mention - on my blog, from podcast appearances to news updates to image round-ups. Enjoy.

The comments section below may contain spoilers for season 3.

TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: The Missing Pieces

These short Twin Peaks episode responses are spoiler-free for upcoming episodes, presented here for first-time viewers who want to read a veteran viewer's perspective on each entry while remaining in the dark about what's to come. They were first published as comments on a Reddit rewatch in 2016.

The Missing Pieces: only in Twin Peaks would there be so much fuss over deleted scenes! Of course, they feel like much more than that. The polish Lynch put on these is astounding when you think about it. Not only are they color-corrected and mixed, there is actually intricate sound design at work in some places and the scenes are stitched together to give them a flow that makes this collection feel almost like its own movie.

This is (until season three) the only part of Twin Peaks that I was "present" for the release of. (I was only 6 when TP debuted, and although I was following film releases enthusiastically by 1992, I don't remember FWWM hitting theaters at all.) It's obviously anecdotal but it seemed to me that even in the months leading up to the Missing Pieces the general response to FWWM leaned negative, with its boosters making a passionate but defensive case. And then after this release, the momentum subtly shifted. I think in a way they "legitimized" the movie as if to say, 22 years later FWWM is so important that scenes cut from the movie can become the hyped centerpiece of a box set for the hit TV show. The idea of packaging the film as an essential part of "the entire mystery" also helped greatly.

The scenes themselves I don't think had the impact many expected - it was more that indirect effect that mattered. Fans love watching them, but they remain interesting fragments, tidbits, and hints, not "solutions" that fit the puzzle together much more clearly. I've heard people say the Bowie or convenience store scenes "make more sense" in their extended versions but I don't get that really. I think they still seem fairly cryptic and enigmatic (which I like).

The only scene which really feels like it fills in something of a blank is the one in the Hayward living room. It has the touching angel foreshadowing, it actually explains "I am the muffin!", and it even plants the seeds for something that was in the script but which the Missing Pieces don't even restore (a tilt down from James' motorcycle as it zooms away to reveal Doc's red rose lying at the intersection). Most of all, though, the scene provides something essential: the only place in all of Twin Peaks that Laura interacts with several members of the community (her meetings with Bobby and James are one on one/personal and she barely interacts with Shelly and Norma). We get one more glimpse of this at the end where she briefly speaks to the Briggs but for the most part this is the only place where we see two of Twin Peaks' core strands (the community and Laura) intersect.

For me that was enough to make the Missing Pieces kinda revolutionary: they opened my eyes to the relationship between the movie and show, which had previously seemed like almost totally separate entities. This conception of a "total" Twin Peaks (facilitated by the Entire Mystery packaging too) set me on the course to make my Journey Through Twin Peaks videos and also prepared me mentally for the idea that Twin Peaks could return and continue from both these strands.

I really don't get the idea of a fanedit. I mean, I get it conceptually - I've been stitching together some parts of Twin Peaks for my own purposes in recent months. But I don't get the desire to present this exercise as the "official" or "complete" FWWM. Even in the screenplay, these scenes don't really gel with the Laura narrative and as presented on the blu-ray they feel even further apart. They are quiet, sparsely scored, composed largely of long takes and master shots, and generally feel cut from a different aesthetic cloth - 2014 Lynch rather than 1992 Lynch/Mary Sweeney (who edited FWWM). I think it's good to watch them as part of the saga, but not intertwined with the movie this way, as they can only dilute its power.

That said, they also make a weird afterward/set of footnotes, a bit of an anticlimax after the intense FWWM. I think this may be the first time I've watched them after the film on a full-series watch-through; usually I prefer to place them between finale and film as a gateway between the two worlds. That just flows better for me, building up a crescendo while allowing me to mentally segue from the bustling world of Twin Peaks to the stark horizon of FWWM, offering glimpses/teases of Deer Meadow, the Palmer household, even a few more annotations to the finale, before settling in for a subjective look at Twin Peaks' dark heart. I wouldn't advise this for a first viewing - I think newbies generally find it too confusing/distracting because they know they are watching extracts from a film they haven't seen yet. But for veteran viewers, I say definitely give this method a try on your next rewatch. It's like a collection of short stories circling around the subject of a great novel - or to use one of my favorite analogies for the series, the Missing Pieces allow you to gradually approach the center of a whirlpool before getting sucked right into the vortex.

Want more? Here's my other coverage of the episode:

More for first-time viewers (SPOILER-FREE for season 3)
(but be careful of video recommendations at the end of YouTube videos)

+ My "Journey Through Twin Peaks" chapter on the deleted scenes, from 2015:

The comments section below may contain spoilers for season 3.

TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: The ending of Fire Walk With Me

These short Twin Peaks episode responses are spoiler-free for upcoming episodes, presented here for first-time viewers who want to read a veteran viewer's perspective on each entry while remaining in the dark about what's to come. They were first published as comments on a Reddit rewatch in 2016.

On the thread for Fire Walk With Me, BaalHammon wrote the following comment:
Rewatching it for only the second time (or third, I'm not sure), I find I'm still not sure what to think of this movie.
I mean I like the first part.
Many people have commented on it being a sort of parody of the series, and it's fun for that, but it's also very eerie, especially the end when Cooper discovers Chet's car with the Let's Rock tag written on it.
The Laura part on the other hand is just gut-wrenching. Lynch has a way to pace scenes with a deliberate sometimes unnerving slowness (the opening episode of season 2 being the most obvious example, but there are many many other examples) and in a way, the last 90 minutes of FWWM feel like that, because of the anticipation of the end we already know.
I actually cried when I reached the final sequence, in part because of Badalamenti's haunting music, but also because I just don't buy it. I don't know what specifically Lynch believes in, but I don't believe in afterlife.
I don't believe that in Heaven everything is fine.
FWWM shows that James cannot help Laura, that Bobby cannot help Laura if he wanted to, that Donna is powerless to save her, and implies that it's the case too for Sarah Palmer (shame that we see so little of her), and the unseen Jacoby.
But if the only glimmer of hope is in the afterlife, it makes it all the more horrible for me.
When I saw Laura smiling at the end I was just crying, and not from relief at finally seeing her freed (as others have put it), but because when years of abuse and trauma culminate in death, that's it.
There's nothing afterwards except the dissonnant serenity of a dead girl's face that seems to be asleep.
To be clear, I'm not saying that movies have to follow my metaphysics views, what I'm saying is how, far from providing any kind of comfort, this final scene just exacerbated in me the horror of everything that I'd just seen before, and I felt an overwhelming sadness which few works of fiction have ever aroused in me.
Apart from that, Moira Kelly is really good as Donna, and though the film is focused on Laura, it also sheds new light on this character, because you realise just how envious she is of Laura, how she wants to be like Laura (and hence that she doesn't really understand Laura). It's not so clear in the series but once you've seen FWWM, Donna makes much more sense, as a character.
Two things that aren't consistent between the series and the film bothered me :
  • Laura's house and the exteriors around the house look nothing like Twin Peaks, it looks like some generic suburb shot in California, and it probably was.
  • Second and worse : in the S2 first episode, Ronette has a flashback of the murder with Laura screaming and Bob hitting her, but in FWWM she gets out of the traincar before it happens.
Also it's kind of weird that MIKE is there at all, that he saves Ronette, and just gives the ring to Laura. I mean if you think he's trying to save Laura, why doesn't he try to do just that ? And if he's out for pain and suffering, why help Ronette escape ? Why does he do anything that he does ?
I mean I guess you can say that he's saved her soul or something like that, but as you may have surmised, I don't find that answer very satisfactory.
This was my response...

Great comment. I think I may have felt somewhat similarly on my first viewing. Though I have always had some form of, I don't know, spiritual inclinations I was very agnostic/skeptical about an afterlife and, more importantly, I think - the notion of any underlying positive order to the universe when I first saw Fire Walk With Me. I even wrote in my first review of it: "But despite what he thinks, the story he has chosen to tell is not about evil as a metaphysical force, or links to the collective unconscious, or anything like that. It's about one very fucked-up girl..."

I wouldn't say I have completely reversed on all of my larger questions, but I'm inclined to see things a bit differently now, in part actually because of the year I spent on Twin Peaks (and little else in terms of media) which led me to some internal realizations/discoveries as well as engagement with ancient texts like the Upanishads. This was the culmination of many years of other factors too, but it's amazing what an impact a show and film (especially the film) can have.

Anyway, we each have our worldviews and it can be hard to "see" whatever a film wants us to see if it clashes with that. I think in a way you hit the nail on the head with the idea that for Lynch, there is something fundamental about Laura's redemption and that after the film he's delivered, it can be hard to digest that turnaround. However, I do think there is depth and commitment to it, it can just take some work to see.

For a long time, I felt the climax of the film was a letdown, and that the angelic ending - while beautiful - may have been something of a tagged-on non sequitur. I don't anymore: I think they, especially the train car (with the angel as the ultimate payoff) are the keys not just to the narrative and theme of FWWM, but the entire Twin Peaks saga. It's a lot to get into, but I'd recommend chapter 25 of my videos (linked above) if you're curious as to how. That's where I was able to make the case most articulately and succinctly. I may come back to this thread to try and rephrase some of that argument though I'll have to move to a computer as this is a lot to type with my thumbs haha.

I think on one level Fire Walk With Me is a psychological portrait of abuse. That's the level I recognized right away and it made a lot of the rest of the film feel extraneous to me. But on another level, the level that not only subverts but also fulfills the show, the film is also a spiritual allegory; this is the purpose of its narrative and why it's not simply a series of painterly portraits (though it would still be great if it was). For all the writers praising (or attacking) Lynch as a postmodernist concerned only with form, and despite Lynch's own refusal to explicate messages or meanings, he has a very clear spiritual ethos shaped in large part by his involvement with Transcendental Meditation (in many ways a highly questionable institution), but also, ahem, transcending the pleasant platitudes of that movement to suggest that the only way to the light is through the darkness.

My advice for anyone who wants to "get" the ending but doesn't buy the tenets of Hinduism (which is, I submit, essentially what Lynch is working with here despite the Christian iconography of angels) is to put aside specific theological questions of afterlife or reincarnation or karma or whatever and focus on the outcome as an allegory for life as it is lived, with the death and rebirth symbolic, involving the realization of fundamental truths and expansion of consciousness. Often times religions just end up being how universal experiences are packaged and sliced off from one another. Laura's pain is extremely real but so, ultimately, is her relief.

Next: The Missing Pieces • Previous: Fire Walk With Me

The comments section below may contain spoilers for season 3.