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

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Patreon update #11: David Lynch's Cinema - Connecting Eraserhead & Inland Empire, bonus: Blue Velvet (+ Diane Evans in Twin Peaks, Everything Sucks!, Frontline on Iran & Saudi Arabia, The Wind in the Willows & more)

Afternoon update: I have added an important announcement about a change in the Films in Focus second/third tier rewards.

With over an hour of content devoted purely to the work of David Lynch (out of a nearly two-hour episode - so much for last week's high-water mark!), I am taking a look at what his first and last films share...and how they differ. Eraserhead and Inland Empire are among the already subversive auteur's most radical works, yet they're radical in divergent and revealing ways. By parsing ten connections between the two films, both can be perceived in a sharper light (the "ten connections" section is preceded by slightly shorter-than-usual coverage of each film individually). And as a bonus, I'm also reviewing what many still consider the Lynch masterpiece, Blue Velvet.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Breaking Bad - "Cat's in the Bag..." (season 1, episode 2)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Breaking Bad. Every week on the same day I will offer a short review of another episode. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on January 27, 2008/written by Vince Gilligan; directed by Adam Bernstein): As with the pilot, a large part of this episode's "cinematic" quality is narrative. This is not an ensemble TV series with a sprawling cast of characters, each with their own storyline...at least not yet. "Cat's in the Bag..." has one fundamental purpose: demonstrating how Walter's entire life rotates around the consequences of the previous climax, in which he "killed" two drug dealers in self-defense, pretending to show them how to cook meth before poisoning them with phosphane. Krazy-8 (Maximino Arciniega) survived the gassing in the RV, and now Walter and Jesse have two tasks at hand. One of them has to dissolve the body of Emilio (John Koyama) in acid, a messy, ghoulish piece of work especially since it might involve chopping him up and placing different halves in different plastic containers. Shrinking from that possibility, Jesse decides to do the "easy" thing, dragging Emilio upstairs in his own house, and dousing him in the bathtub. Unfortunately, acid won't dissolve plastic - but it will certainly dissolve a porcelain bathub: near the end of the episode, the ceiling of Jesse's first floor collapses, with gruesome chunks of flesh and bone landing below. And yet, somehow, Jesse does have the easy job. After flipping a coin, Walter is assigned the far more stressful task: killing the very much alive, groaning Krazy-8, imprisoned in the basement with a bike lock around his neck. I suppose there's a bit of a subplot in the episode: after Jesse calls the house pretending to be a salesman, Skyler tracks him down and questions Walter about his identity; he cleverly finds the perfect alibi, claiming that Jesse sells him pot. Skyler is savvy enough to find Jesse but - fortunately for both him and Walter - not savvy enough to notice that he's dragging a dead body through his driveway when she shows up to accost him. Something I neglected to mention (along with many other details) in my previous write-up: Skyler is pregnant. She gets an ultrasound with Walter present, and the two parents-to-be find out that the child will be a girl. Skyler makes a joke about what it will be like when she's older, and Walter's face falls. Despite barely coming up in the episode - aside from his frequent coughing fits - Walter is, of course, dying. He will never get to see this daughter grow up, and that mortality hangs over the central hook of episode two: a man faced with his own death must find the nerve to kill someone else.

My Response:

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Breaking Bad - "Pilot" (season 1, episode 1)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Breaking Bad. Every week on the same day I will offer a short review of another episode. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on January 20, 2008/written & directed by Vince Gilligan): Any number of small things could have gone differently and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) wouldn't be standing here, on the side of a desert highway in his tighty whiteys and ridiculously incongrous green shirt, weeping and holding a gun aloft, ready to fire on the armada of police cars he hears in the distance as they approach his meth lab RV with two dead bodies in the back. What if Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) hadn't run into his suspicious ex-partner when trying to unload his new product? What if Walter hadn't recognized Jesse, his former student, fleeing a raid, or what if Jesse hadn't been screwing the next-door neighbor when the DEA came knocking, or what if Walter hadn't chosen that particular morning to ride along with his cocky brother-in-law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris)...and what if he didn't happen to be out of the car when when Jesse made that fatal eye contact with Mr. White, the chemistry teacher who flunked him years ago but now wants in on his business? Despite this string of coincidences, these events, and this outcome, don't feel accidental. Instead they seem to emerge from the nexus of fate and decisive action. At every absurd, outlandish opportunity, Walter chooses to step in a particular direction. More importantly, everything unfolds against the stark backdrop of Walter's cancer diagnosis, exacerbating and inflaming what might otherwise be a run-of-the-mill midlife crisis or even a steadily repressed, grinding misery that might never find expression at all. Three weeks earlier, Walter was a nebbishy teacher, quietly nibbling on his wife Skylar's (Anna Gunn's) vegetarian bacon and taking his son Walter Jr.'s (RJ Mitte's) good-natured ribbing in stride. ("How does it feel to be old?" the boy asks Walter on his fiftieth birthday.) Now, as the gun misfires and the sirens reveal themselves to belong to firetrucks and ambulances, Walter discovers that the same fate that condemned him has also spared him. Walter is a drug dealer, a killer (albeit, so far anyway, in self-defense), a criminal who seems to feel liberated by "breaking bad." And so it begins.

My Response:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Viewing diary: first season of Breaking Bad begins tomorrow

Although binging has become the premiere way to view old shows - after all, why delay the gratification when you don't have to? - I've recently been taking a starkly different approach (in some cases, the slow process has unfolded over years, with extensive interruptions).

I try to spend an hour each week either watching or reviewing a TV episode in order to create viewing diaries for eight notable series. While I'll be waiting until I've finished an entire show before releasing many of these (building up a backlog, eventually, of hundreds of individual entries), I'm making a few exceptions as explained yesterday. In these cases, I'll be releasing just first-season viewing diaries...and Breaking Bad is the first up since it's the only season I've finished so far.

Keep in mind, in case you're expecting obsessive exploration, that these are viewing diaries, not extensive episode guides. That means a few things. They are short; I've settled on a format for viewing diaries which allows me to keep up a reasonable pace while still offering room to ruminate. Each entry is two long paragraphs: one to synopsize the story and re-orient the reader (especially those who haven't watched the show in a while), the other to relay my own first impression  - which is the main point here. Most of the shows I'm watching for the first time. There won't be spoilers because I myself don't know what's going to happen.

If there's value for you here, it will likely come from enjoying my perspective and wanting to find out how I personally react to various episodes, or, more generally, from the pleasure of re-experiencing a show through a first-time viewer's eyes. In Breaking Bad's case, I had made a couple previous forays into the series without getting very far, and of course I was familiar with a few of its touchstones through cultural osmosis. Part of the fun for me has been discovering how the series does or doesn't meet those expectations. Hopefully you find this interesting too. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

New entries every day (until the 10th anniversary in July)

I had big plans for this winter and spring, but one by one various projects have been postponed. Nonetheless, I want to start posting more frequently - every day through mid-summer to be exact - for several reasons. For one, there are topics I've been wanting to cover for a while and this will provide some encouragement. And to be a bit anal about it, I'd also like to have exactly 1,380 posts the day before Lost in the Movies' tenth anniversary, so that my ten-archive-tweets-a-day can continue right up to that moment (as was the original plan before abandoning an even more ambitious schedule that would have begun in April). This means today is my last chance to start posting daily in order to hit that benchmark.

Most importantly, I need to keep up with public content; since starting my Patreon in January, I have found myself with little opportunity to publish anything other than patron-only podcasts. This ends up making my account a rather self-enclosed enterprise, since more people will probably become patrons as a response to free material than through the enticement of rewards.

That's the rationale - what will be the result?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Patreon update #10: Rogue One, Brawl in Cell Block 99 & Marie Antoinette (+ Mark Twain on the French Revolution, right-wing hypocrisy, Eisenstein vs. Griffith & more) and preview of the TWIN PEAKS Character Series Top 30 Runners-Up from The Return

There's not so much Twin Peaks in the podcast this week (there will be more, and especially more Lynch, on Patreon in a few days) but before highlighting this episode I'd point you to the third tier reward which is super-Peaksian, a two-page preview of the "Top 30 runners-up from Twin Peaks: The Return" entry which will help kick off my character series. This provides the full list of these runners-up - characters who appeared for less than ten minutes in season three, and thus won't be included as individual entries in the series, but still left an impression. The preview also includes statistics for each one (rough screentime, number of scenes, primary location, top episode, even sometimes their ranking within an episode), as well as a paragraph-long write-up for the first character. If you've been considering becoming a patron at the $10 level, this will be a perk you're sure to enjoy. (As always, of course, the podcast and other features are available to all patrons, from $1 on up.)

Monday, March 5, 2018

Pay Dirt!: discussing my Patreon podcast w/ Twin Peaks Unwrapped

A few months since my last appearance on Twin Peaks Unwrapped, Ben and Bryon invited me on to discuss my own recent work. Ben became a patron of Lost in the Movies in February, and wanted to share the podcast he's been enjoying (thanks Ben!). So we discuss my work (including the upcoming character series) in addition to tugging at the edges of season three. Is everyone talking too much about Judy now? Is the nature of the Lynch/Frost collaboration challenging to unravel? Is Laura Palmer just a pawn in the bigger game? Answers, or maybe just more questions, ahead...

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Patreon update #9: High and Low & Elephant (+ podcast recommendations & more)

update: this page now includes a link to the podcast

This week's podcast features a couple intense movies with very different approaches to violence. The first film in focus is an Akira Kurosawa masterpiece, enveloping the viewer in the ever-shifting world of a businessman who must decide if he'll pay the ransom for a servant's son, the cops who try to find the kidnapper, and the sociopathic kidnapper himself. The second film in focus stages a series of shootings, with no context or dialogue provided as we follow characters in long takes until either they deliver death or death is delivered to them. I also recommend a whole host of recent podcast episodes and continue my survey of Twin Peaks books with a discussion of Agent Cooper's "autobiography."

Line-up for Episode 9

WEEKLY UPDATE/recent posts: tweeting 10 archive pieces a day until the 10th anniversary
FILM IN FOCUS: High and Low
TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS: My Life, My Tapes: The Autobiography of FBI Agent Dale Cooper
OTHER TOPICS: Podcast recommendations
OPENING THE ARCHIVE: "Four's Company" (February - May 2010), this week's highlight (The Hurt Locker)


Thursday, March 1, 2018

#10YearsOfLostInTheMovies starts now

Last night, continuing today and for ninety-eight more days after that, I'm celebrating the upcoming tenth anniversary of Lost in the Movies as follows: