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

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Leave It to Beaver" (season 1, episode 22)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 May 10, 2005/written by Rob Thomas & Diane Ruggiero, story by Rob Thomas; directed by Michael Fields): Well, there's a deceptive title. That said, Beaver does play an important role in this episode, albeit a small one, telling Veronica that Logan's alibi isn't so airtight after all (the morning of Lilly's death, Logan ditched their Mexican surf trip to drive home and check on his ex-girlfriend). But by the end of this roller coaster denouement, Beaver is probably the last character on our minds. Certainly when Veronica opens the door at episode's end to smile, "I hoped it would be you," there are numerous possibilities (Wallace, Logan, and Duncan, for example - my money's on Wallace) and Beaver isn't one of them. That closing moment is just one of several cliffhangers or loose ends in "Leave It to Beaver," quite possibly the most benign one. The last time we see Logan he is standing atop the bridge his mother jumped off, with the water on one side and a furious Weevil, his whole bike gang in tow, on the other. Veronica's mother, briefly restored to her happy home, is sent packing by her betrayed daughter (who discovers vodka inside Lianne's water bottle); on her way out the door, the bitter parent snatches the $50,000 check Keith finally earned from Celeste. Speaking of the Kanes, Jake is under arrest for obstructing justice, and we'll have to wait for the season two premiere to find out what's going to happen to him and all these other threads. Where it counts most, of course, Veronica Mars resolves rather than promulgates its mysteries.

Finally, we find out who killed Lilly Kane. And I was right!


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Veronica Mars - "A Trip to the Dentist" (season 1, episode 21)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 May 3, 2005/written by Diane Ruggiero; directed by Marcos Siega): From a Rashomon roundelay of self-serving accounts, Veronica finally pieces together what happened at that party a year ago. The cringingly nicknamed Casablancas brothers, Dick and Beaver (Kyle Gallner), brought the GHB from Tijuana and were ostensibly using it for their own amusement. Dick surreptitiously spiked the drink of his girlfriend Madison (the switched-at-birth child raised by Mac's biological family). Madison gave Veronica "a trip to the dentist" by spitting in her own cup and then handing it to Veronica as she passed by, neither one of them knowing that there was more than spit inside. A drugged Veronica began making out with various partygoers before Duncan pulled her away and then Logan spiked Duncan's drink, ostensibly to help him loosen up and have a good time. When Veronica and Duncan became separated again, Dick tried to get Beaver to rape Veronica but the little brother ran away to throw up before anything happened. Then Duncan found Veronica in the bedroom where the others had left her, she woke up, and they began having sex, which Duncan describes, and Veronica accepts, as consensual. Most of the other partygoers share some responsibility and yet Veronica concludes that what she thought happened isn't exactly what did happen...for better, or for worse.

Duncan, retrieved from Havana by a diligent Keith, is back home. When Veronica confronts him, asking why he left her alone that morning, he screams that he already knew she was his sister. Later, fleeing a party at the Echolls, Duncan attacks own car in a furious rage as poor, clueless Meg tries to stop him. He's just learned that Logan and Veronica are a couple. Logan begins the episode as suspect #1 and is eventually redeemed in Veronica's eyes, even after he admits that he drugged Duncan. But when he leaves the room to find a spare key for the liquor cabinet, Veronica discovers something newly disconcerting: the master of surveillance is herself being watched, as was - presumably - every girl whom Logan ever went to bed with. The giveaway is a ceiling fan (nod to Twin Peaks?) with a hidden camera, running a wire to a secret deck of monitors. The fact that this is Logan's room suggests the equipment is his...but is it possible another Echolls family member has been spying on his trysts unbeknownst to him? And what does this mean for the girl who probably spent more time in this room than any other - Lilly Kane?

Speaking of Lilly, Keith goes to Vegas to track down a call girl who can provide Abel's alibi. While he's out of town, Veronica apologizes to Alicia for the plant-bugging incident and promises her that Keith will stick with her. Episode 21 ends, however, with a possible hitch in that promise. Lianne Mars is home, sitting in the living room with Keith, waiting for Veronica when she walks in the door.

My Response:

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Veronica Mars - "M.A.D." (season 1, episode 20)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 April 26, 2005/written by Phil Klemmer & John Enbom; directed by John Kretchmer): This is an episode of betrayals. While the hunt for Duncan continues (Keith traces a red herring to Tijuana and Mac discovers a passport from Argentina), Veronica learns that her father has been serving notice to Lianne in the newspaper every day, a first step toward getting a divorce. She tracks him down at literally the last minute only to freeze in her attempt to stop him: he's taking ballroom dance lessons with Alicia...and he looks completely happy. The other "betrayals" in the episode will not end so benignly. The very next day, Alicia is confronted by Clarence in a Kane Enterprises conference room. She's infuriated when he threatens her job due to her relationship with a company enemy, but when he reveals that her son brought a bugged plant into his office, she begins to wonder if Keith has been using her after all.

The A-story is one of the darkest yet, a tale of sexual jealousy, homophobic blackmail, and revenge porn, closing with a revelation even darker than the preceding material. Headed for the Naval Academy in the fall, Tad Wilson (Jeff D'Agostino) is dumped by longtime girlfriend Carmen Ruiz (Natalia Barron). He forces her to stay with him through the threat of a phone video she can't remember, in which she performs sexual acts with a popsicle in a hot tub. Once Veronica elaborates swipes Tad's phone, it seems like a simple story has come to an almost comically easy end. It hasn't. Tad has saved the video elsewhere and a more elaborate strategy is enacted, dubbed Mutually Assured Destruction. Tad is framed, via photos (both arranged and Photoshopped) and cleverly-edited audio, as a closeted homosexual who is romancing Seth Rafter (Robert Clark) - not only a personal humiliation for the gay-baiting Tad but also a sure dismissal from the Navy (still under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy). Despite being confronted with this manufactured but convincing evidence, Tad pulls the trigger on his own weapon, sharing Carmen's video and destroying her reputation at the school. Still, she declines vengeance, allowing Tad to get away without consequence. Or so it seems.

Weevil, who has always resented Tad's relationship with Carmen (a Latina girl from his own neighborhood) punishes Tad by tying him naked to the flagpole. In a rare fortuitous accident - so much of Veronica's "luck" is usually the result of keen maneuvering - Veronica is at school early that morning. She needs to turn in a book report before playing hooky with Logan on his yacht and volunteers to cut him loose before other students arrive, on one condition. She wants to know where he got the date-rape drug he used on Carmen that night, at the same party where Veronica was drugged and raped. Tad's answer stops Veronica cold: "Logan Echolls." She approaches Tad with the switchblade and makes the most devastating cut she can. Rather than slice through the duct tape that binds him she removes the bandage covering the fresh back tattoo he was given during Carmen's set-up. Surprise: it reads "Seth." And then Veronica walks away as Tad continues to call out impotently. This last betrayal, at least, is utterly deserved.

My Response:

Monday, May 28, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Hot Dogs" (season 1, episode 19)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 April 19, 2005/written by Dayna Lynne North; directed by Nick Marck): After a bit of dip in the previous episode, the Lilly Kane mystery and Veronica's family crisis (and the intersection between the two) again dominate most of the subplots. Duncan is still missing, with Celeste angrily confronting Veronica before hiring her to find him. Veronica's only condition is that Celeste drops charges against Weevil for breaking into Lilly's room (Veronica eventually discovers the reason why: he was retrieving a "secret message" pen). Keith catches the end of the initial confrontation between Celeste and Veronica (including some ambiguous dialogue from Celeste), and as episode 19 ends he prepares a DNA sample to send away. Meanwhile, he's still dating Wallace's mother, a ticking time bomb situation as his wife is supposed to return soon.

A couple threads unwind outside the Kane/Mars axis. In the self-contained high school A-story, a routine missing dog case exposes a dognapping ring at the local pound, and Veronica helps the meek, awkward Mandy (Claire Titelman) become more assertive. In the other story, Logan grows protective toward his mostly disdained big sister when he realizes her loathsome boyfriend, wannabe screenwriter Dylan Goran (Jeff Parise), has been hitting her. Logan hires Veronica to track the guy down, but Aaron beats his son to the punch - literally. Inviting the young man over for a barbecue to briefly endure his pitch about a "junkie hitman," Aaron wallops Dylan with a belt to the tune of "That's Amore." Relieved and startled by this outcome, Veronica and Logan fall into one another's arms on her way out. Poor Leo is affected by both of these stories. He helps Veronica yet again by leading a search of the pound, even after she's broken his heart by dumping him for Logan.

My Response:

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Weapons of Class Destruction" (season 1, episode 18)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 April 12, 2005/written by Jed Seidel; directed by John Kretchmer): Veronica's new, if temporary (and ultimately, more temporary than planned) journalism teacher Geena Stafford (Joey Lauren Adams) encourages the student's pursuit of a hot story: why is the school holding so many fire drills? Sneaking into the hallways when she's supposed to be outside, Veronica witnesses officers with dogs patrolling the halls but they curiously pass by a kid who's just nervously stuffed drugs in his pants. Clearly they're looking for something else. With a little digging, Veronica finds out what's going on: there have been multiple bomb threats against the school and the web domain "KillThemAll.Net," etched into various tables and lockers, reveals a countdown doomsday clock. The prime suspect is Ben (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), a new kid who hangs out with Norris Clayton (Theo Rossi), a jr. high bully and social outlier whom Veronica nonetheless harbors some sympathy for - he once defended her from an obnoxious jock.

Surprise: Ben is an undercover ATF agent looking to bust Norris after coming across his website. Logan, on the phone with Veronica when Ben essentially hijacks her car, tracks them to the Camelot Motel and beats Ben up before the "student" reveals his federal status. Veronica is convinced to visit Norris' house (he has a crush on her) and she suspects he isn't actually planning to bomb the school. Moreover, she discovers that Pete Kaminski (Michael McMillan), who initially warned her about Norris and Ben, is Norris' next-door neighbor and able to access, and set up a hoax website, via his address. I turns out Pete was viciously bullied by Norris in middle school and wants revenge, while Ben - who reveals damning, but planted, evidence inside Norris' car - is looking to maintain his record by busting (and setting up) the suspect even if he's innocent. Veronica and Geena break the story in the newspaper, resulting in Norris' vindication but also, it seems, Geena's firing.

Veronica also stirs up trouble for Duncan when he's told by Logan that she has a file on him. He flips out about her judgements and storms out of the classroom, eventually withdrawing $10,000 from a bank account and going missing. Did he kill Lilly? Does he think he may have killed Lilly, whether or not he did? Veronica also encounters trouble at home, as Keith reveals that he's begun dating Alicia. Veronica tells Wallace that her mom is coming back home soon, and Wallace nearly tells his own mother, but she doesn't want to know ("This is the first time I've felt at home in Neptune," she insists), so he backs off. And Veronica has romantic turmoil of her own. Despite her pleasant rapport with Leo, it's Logan's kiss that lights her world on fire; a totally unexpected embrace outside of the motel room where she's been talking with Leo, it potentially sets the both of them on an entirely new course.

My Response:

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Patreon update #21: Twin Peaks season 3 rewatch (public video) - Parts 1 & 2 / film in focus: Radio On (+ Josie Packard as a character, my video essay Learning to Look & more)


After months of hype, the Return rewatch series has begun! From now through September 3, I will publish a new podcast entry every Monday on Patreon at 6pm in honor of the third season's first anniversary. I knew that "Twin Peaks Reflections" would become a more ambitious segment  with the dawn of this approach, but I was surprised by how lengthy, comprehensive, and structured the new section ended up being. My coverage of the two-hour premiere - Parts 1 & 2 - runs for over an hour. It explores every nook and cranny of the show, and does so through a format I will follow week to week: looking at the feel and structure of each episode, breaking the plot into story sections (New York and other random locations, Twin Peaks, the FBI in South Dakota, Mr. C, Las Vegas, and the Spirit World), analyzing statistics (characters introduced or re-introduced, ranking screentime, and determining a plausible timeline for the out-of-order scenes), and finally digging into three different areas: coffee/pie/donuts, Lodge lore, and Laura Palmer. It's going to be a blast re-visiting the Showtime series this way.

Despite the overwhelming dominance of Twin Peaks at this point, the rest of the podcast chugs along at its normal pace, making this by far the longest episode so far. From now on, each episode will run closer to two hours than just an hour. My Film in Focus is the second in a row from the UK, the third in a row from the British Isles, the fifth in a row from Europe, and the ninth non-American film in a row, if we discount exile Stanley Kubrick's last film (next week's Hollywood classic will break this streak!). It's also yet another movie, following A Man Escaped and Spirited Away in the past few months, that I first reviewed in the summer of 2008, the earliest days of my blog, but haven't seen since then. Radio On is a captivating musical journey from London to Bristol, and I focus on its strangely political apolitical outlook, its German influence (and possible influence on Jim Jarmusch), and even its early use of video games.

In the "other topics" section I dig into several really absorbing podcasts I've listened to recently, and in listener feedback I hear from one patron who had their own thoughts going into season 3 and another whose take on Josie Packard is at least as comprehensive as what I shared in my biweekly preview last week. Apologies for the strange audio quality in these sections; I think once again the phone itself, rather than my headphone mic, was picking up my voice - hopefully it's still listenable for you. Finally, in "Opening the Archives" I move into the post-Journey Through Twin Peaks era on my site (which feels like a step into the present), when I kicked off my viewing diary approach with True Detective, resumed the Evangelion episode guide, and began creating regular video essays for Fandor. My archive highlight this week is an exploration of eye contact in an iconic sales film, resulting in one of my favorite video essays that I created.

Finally, I've also decided to post the Twin Peaks part of this episode publicly on YouTube for non-patrons to enjoy. If you like it, and can do so at the present moment, consider becoming a patron so that you can hear the rest of my series coverage. Only three more patrons to go, and I'll hit fifty!




Friday, May 25, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Kanes and Abel's" (season 1, episode 17)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 April 5, 2005/written by Carolyn Murray; directed by Nick Marck): Here we have an episode very much devoted to the murder mystery, as will be - I suspect - most of the remaining four before the finale. Almost all plotlines relate to this core concern; even the A-story Veronica high school investigation, a query into who's been harassing academic star Sabrina Fuller (Megan Henning), involves a Kane family scholarship. The case is also only taken because Veronica needs a cash infusion to keep a key witness sequestered away in a motel. That witness is Amelia (Erin Chambers), Abel's daughter, but by lying about a couple key issues (that she's involved with Abel's legal team and that Abel is doing well rather than dying) Veronica eventually loses her trust. Clarence enters directly into the Mars' lives, outwitting them in a game of cat-and-mouse as Keith realizes how deeply his daughter has gotten involved with the Lilly case and commits, by episode's end, to helping her out.

The academic harasser mystery is a very solid story (albeit a bit dismissive of the unlikable Sabrina's nonetheless serious harassment). This plot keys into the series' class concerns by pitting the snotty, insufferable Sabrina against honorable, hard-working Hamilton Cho (Leonard Wu), who turns out to be innocent - but his father Jim (Nelson Mashita) isn't. To make sure that charges aren't pressed against his overeager dad, Hamilton gracefully sacrifices his valedictorian status as well as the scholarship (which he needs, while Sabrina doesn't). The drama also introduces Mars Investigations rival - and hopefully recurring character - Vinnie Van Lowe (Ken Marino), who was hired by Mr. Cho to conduct the academic warfare campaign and is also eager to collaborate with Keith. I love his little speech about Keith entering the P.I. field, which further fleshes out the social dynamics of Neptune. A comically egotistical dick, he provides a lot of potential going forward.

On the more serious side, Veronica is giving serious consideration to which Kane killed Lilly. Experiencing a hallucination just like Duncan in the apparently haunted Kane abode, she's taunted by the dead girl for suspecting her family members, but Veronica nonetheless persists in doing so. We see vision-conjectures of Celeste fatally slapping Lilly around for bringing up Veronica's parentage, Jake shoving her down when she's caught making out with Weevil, and finally a convulsing Duncan, in the throes of his mysterious illness, attacking Lilly in a fit of insane violence. The last is clearly the speculation we're meant to take to heart, especially when Logan sneaks a peek on Veronica's computer and tells her that, while he didn't know about Duncan's condition, he did once witness him attacking his father in a furious, later forgotten, rage.

My Response:

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Betty and Veronica" (season 1, episode 16)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 March 29, 2005/written by Diane Ruggiero; directed by Michael Fields): Veronica discovers her mother was with Jake at the time of Lilly's murder (a storyline that mostly unfolds in flashback) and eventually checks Lianne into rehab. She also poses as Betty from Riverdale (har har), a new student at Neptune's downscale arch-rival Pan High, to figure out who has stolen Neptune's mascot, a parrot named Polly (in return, Neptune's athletic elite steals the Pan goat). Although personally disgusted with the cult of school spirit, and far more amenable to Pan's social milieu than that of her own school, she gets some perks from her principal for taking the case. More importantly, she is personally invested in tracking down Polly after the kidnapper releases a video threatening Polly unless Wallace - Neptune's star player - sits out the big game. Veronica notices a "13" on the masked figure's sneakers, leading us to suspect Pan's #13, Richie (Kyle Searles). In fact, the real culprit is Neptune's own #13, Wallace's supposed friend Jack (Christopher Babers). The conniving gambler is perhaps partially motivated by jealousy of his teammate, but mostly by more mercenary considerations. With Wallace out, he can control the flow of the game and ensure a loss to Pan, paying off on bets he's made (and following a tradition of cheating for profit that goes back years).

Meanwhile, romance complicates Veronica's social life while simplifying her work: she's clearly discomforted by Meg's blooming relationship with Duncan but greatly appreciaties new boyfriend Leo for sending Lilly Kane evidence her way. Veronica listens to recordings of her father interrogating the Kanes about a hotel date at the time of Lilly's death (the then-sheriff doesn't know that in fact his wife was there too), and she figures out a way to even the playing field in her ongoing surveillance war. The reason Clarence spotted her in Barstow wasn't that he was watching her mother - he was watching, or rather listening to, her. She finds the bug in her bedroom but rather than destroy it she decides to keep it installed, letting him continue to listen in as she feeds him what she wants him to hear. Having planted a bug in his office, she's able to spy on his own response when, for example, she states that Abel Koontz must have taken a payoff in order to confess, and that therefore the payoff must be benefitting someone else. Clarence orders his secretary to call Amelia DeLongpre, whom Veronica quickly discovers is Abel's daughter.

My Response:

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Ruskie Business" (season 1, episode 15)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 February 22, 2005/written by Phil Klemmer & John Enborn; directed by Guy Bee): Veronica Mars has a penchant for punny episode titles, but this one's a real keeper, tying together the nationality of the Mars' new client Yelena Sukarenko (Cynthia Lamontagne), the celebrity soundalike name of the man she's seeking (one "Tom Cruz"), the 80s-themed dance that serves as a dramatic centerpiece, and even the storyline of Logan, who, devastated after he learns who has actually been using that suspicious credit card, shows up at said dance in his undies ala...well, you get the picture. It looks like the several-episode arc Lynn Echolls case has ended; Logan's sister Tina (high-profile guest star Alyson Hannigan) is back in town and taking advantage of the parental checkbook - hence Logan's confusion. Meanwhile, another storyline may be beginning; Veronica spends much of the episode trying to find out who friendly Meg's secret admirer is, only to learn it's Duncan. She's a bit devastated but fortunately Leo shows up in the nick of time to catch the rebound.

The titular investigation, meanwhile, has its own surprises in store. Veronica is stunned when a run-of-the-mill client wants to reunite with a lover rather than dig up some dirt on him. She dedicates herself to tracking down the mysterious Mr. Cruz for the Russian immigrant who realizes too late what she had. As in the previous episode, Veronica butts heads with her father out of misguided empathy, but this time he pulls out ahead in the end, stopping her just as she's about to turn a man in the Witness Protection Program over to the mobster's wife who's been tracking him down. Oops. Veronica also struggles with Meg's case (both finding her answer and deciding whether or not to reveal it) and leads Logan into a devastating revelation. Perhaps worst of all, she realizes her mother has been calling her from a pay phone in Barstow, drives out to a dive bar, and finds the drunken parent in the early morning hours, only to realize at the last moment that good old Clarence Wiedman has spotted them together, with potentially disastrous consequences.

My Response:

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Mars vs. Mars" (season 1, episode 14)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 February 15, 2005/written by Jed Seidel & Diane Ruggiero, story by Rob Thomas; directed by Marcos Siega): As is often the case, Veronica and Keith Mars are working on the same case: popular history teacher Mr. Rooks (Adam Scott, later of Parks and Rec) has been publicly denounced by student Carrie Bishop (Leighten Meestor, later of Gossip Girl - this show really was a springboard for the following decade of hit television). She says he seduced, impregnated, and abandoned her. This time, however, there's a twist - father and daughter are working for opposite sides. Keith has been hired by the girl's parents to take down the teacher so that they can file a lawsuit. Veronica, on the other hands, believes Mr. Rooks, Neptune High's resident "cool" instructor (who leads finger-snapping trivia sessions in class and presents U.S. history from a leftist perspective) when he says that he's never had the slightest romantic or sexual contact with Carrie. Perhaps just as importantly, she doesn't believe Carrie, whose reputation as a self-centered scandalmonger precedes her - not just from others' lips to Veronica's ears but through Veronica's own experience. A flashback reveals Carrie and fellow gossip-hound Susan Knight (Christine Lakin) snickering about Duncan's mental breakdown and trashing Veronica herself as she listens from a bathroom stall.

While Keith warns Veronica that Carrie's documentation is sound and Veronica begins to successfully poke holes in Carrie's story (she saves the teacher's job at a school board hearing by proving that it's easy to fake text messages and convincingly confronts Carrie with the fact that she was winning a track meet at the time of one of her supposed rendezvous with Rooks), there are other ongoing investigations. Veronica sneaks into the office of Duncan's doctor to pull his medical records, discovering that he takes medication prescribed for violent epileptic episodes featuring blackuots. In the same file cabinet, she serendipitously comes across Abel Koontz's diagnosis and returns to the prison at episode's end to confront him with the fact that he's dying and is serving as someone else's patsy. And she's also fulfilling her duty for Logan, tracing down every hint that Lynn may have faked her own death: discrediting a supposed witness who claims to have seen the jump, discovering that someone who supposedly saw her shoved into a van is actually just a megafan indulging in wishful delusions, and finally turning up a freshman who accidentally caught Lynn's suicide on video. Then, in a shocking twist - just as Logan's hope seems completely crushed - Veronica learns that Lynn's credit card has just been used.

There's a less welcome breakthrough in the Rooks case. A visit to the recklessly horny teacher's home reveals that his bedsheets and music choices are exactly as Carrie describes, and Veronica's keen eye for detail determines that another student was at an event the night he allegedly hit on Carrie. The "S.K." who received the text messages shown on the disciplinary hearing wasn't "Sweet Knees," Carrie's supposed nickname, but...good old Susan Knight from the restroom gossip squad (the flashback makes sure to drop her name, in a plant reminiscent of the Triton leader's otherwise random appearance a few episodes earlier). Veronica tracks Susan down and discovers she's pregnant, disowned by her parents, and still hesitant to pin statutory rape on Mr. Rooks even though her diary and anecdotes inspired Carrie, who was attempting to do a good deed for a friend (hence the discrepancies in her story). Rooks is fired, Veronica apologizes to Carrie, and Keith, humbled by his daughter's prowess and perhaps contrite that he was so hesitant to share information with her, pays his respects.

My Response:

Monday, May 21, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Lord of the Bling" (season 1, episode 13)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 February 8, 2005/written by John Enbom; directed by Steve Gomer): Suge Kni - er, Percey "Bone" Hamilton (Black-ish's Anthony Anderson), a rap producer with a reputation for violence, discovers his daughter is missing. When he visits Keith ("I don't like police, and the feeling is mutual," he tells the private eye, "I think you'd understand"), Veronica is inclined to help out for a few reasons. For one, she always like to involve herself with her dad's sleuthing; for another, his back problems mean that he needs assistance...most importantly, however, she palled around with Yolanda Hamilton (Jowharah Jones) a year ago, and feels guilty for abandoning her. As we learn through flashbacks, Yolanda briefly kissed Logan at a party and was cast out from her new social group by a jealous Lilly. Veronica and Keith get to the bottom of the kidnapping when they discover it wasn't a kidnapping at all. In a Romeo and Juliet scenario, Yolanda ran off with Benjamin Bloom (actor unlisted), son of wheelchair-bound attorney Sam Bloom (Bruce Nozick), who was nearly killed in a drive-by attributed to Bone. In a Big Lebowski-esque move, the "kidnapping" cover story was concocted by Yolanda's nerdy brother Bryce (Jermaine Williams), who resented Bone's constant refrain that he was too "soft."

Elsewhere, Logan and Aaron stumble through Lynn's funeral, Aaron a mess of self-pitying nostalgia and Logan a bitter cynic mocking the whole affair. As it turns out, though, Logan isn't simply infuriated that his mother has died. In fact, he believes she hasn't. Logan reveals to Duncan that she left a lighter - engraved by her Korea POW father with the words "Free at Last" - on her dresser, an indication that she was running away, not killing herself. And at episode's end, Logan, the person Veronica least expects to see, shows up on the young detective's doorstep, asking her to find his mom.

My Response:

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Clash of the Tritons" (season 1, episode 12)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 January 11, 2005/written by Phil Klemmer & Aury Wallington; directed by David Barrett): Three stories dominate "Clash of the Tritons," to varying degrees of seriousness. The lightest plot is the one Veronica is most directly involved with. She is framed - even forced to do a perp walk - for manufacturing fake IDs. Rick (J.D. Pardo), the student who was busted when he dropped his now-comatose friend off at an ER, claims that Neptune High's elite secret society the Tritons forced him to (pardon the expression) ID her as the culprit. Through surveillance, clever deduction, and dedicated investigation, including a visit to a karaoke bar to belt out Debbie Harry, Veronica determines that the mysterious but ultimately goofy Tritons were never involved with this conspiracy. Rick got caught out on the town with a friend on his own prerogative, blamed the Tritons out of resentment that they wouldn't induct him (despite past family members getting initiated), and chose Veronica as the patsy because her father exposed his own dad for fraud when he tried to get revenge on a hedge fund that had treated him poorly.

Meanwhile, Ms. James has not left Veronica's life simply because she stopped dating Keith. She is interviewing all Neptune students about Lilly's death as part of grant-funded study of adolescent grief. This is quite convenient for Veronica, who sets up a recording device (disguised as a stapler) on Rebecca's desk and listens in to the various interviews. Most alarming is Duncan's, as he describes not being able to remember the days surrounding his sister's death, and confesses that he's taking an array of different medications. Death and medication coincide most toxically in the third story, which initially seems to just be a gossipy soap opera tangent. Logan's parents may be headed for a divorce; someone has leaked Aaron's affairs to the tabloids, causing extensive humiliation for Logan at school. Eventually, that person is revealed to be Lynn herself. She flees the school after her son confronts and threatens his angry father, hopping in a car and popping a pill before tearing off. The last shot of episode 12 reveals her convertible on the edge of a high bridge, police helicopters whirring overhead. The vehicle is empty.

My Response:

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Patreon update #20: My questions before Twin Peaks season 3 & film in focus: The Devil Rides Out (+ making Journey Through Twin Peaks & more) and preview of Josie character study


For the last time - at least for a while! - I'm releasing a podcast at the very end of the week. I've already got a lot of the next one down, which is good, because from now on the episodes have a hard deadline of Monday at 6pm (these updates/round-ups will continue to post on Saturdays). My Return rewatch begins in a couple days, just in time for the first anniversary of the May 21 premiere. The last "Twin Peaks Reflections" before that rewatch is an epic countdown of questions I posed both before the third season and before the finale last September. I go down the line and answer each one as best I can, determining how accurate my assessment of Cooper's direction was, whether the elements coalesced in Parts 17 and 18, and if the Frost/Lynch dynamic played out in new and interesting ways. I had a lot of fun revisiting these questions, most of which I hadn't looked at since writing them - this was pretty much a "live" response to that speculation.

My film in focus this week has a bit of Peaksian charm about it, as many have: a "drawing room horror" movie from the sixties, with Christopher Lee as the good guy battling a Satanic cult, The Devil Rides Out plays with social conventions in interesting ways while also being occasionally too straightforward for its own good. "Other topics" this week include several films and TV shows I've been watching, including Isle of Dogs, Downsizing, and Homeland, while my archive series finally reaches Journey Through Twin Peaks (my selected highlight, however, may surprise you).

See you Monday night on Patreon.





Line-up for Episode 20

INTRO: longer than usual - invitation to submit memories of "Twin Peaks in-between years, announcement of rewatch schedule

WEEKLY UPDATE/recent posts: Veronica Mars series (were the 00s a distinct era?)

WEEKLY UPDATE/Patreon: 2nd Tier biweekly preview - Josie

WEEKLY UPDATE/work in progress: Twin Peaks characters runners-up (the New Mexico townspeople)

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS/Pre-s3 questions, part 1: Cooper, before the premiere

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS/Pre-s3 questions, part 2: Before the finale

FILM IN FOCUS: The Devil Rides Out

OTHER TOPICS: Isle of Dogs, Downsizing, Homeland (Russia episode), Ferdy on Films ends its run

OPENING THE ARCHIVE: "Journeying into Twin Peaks" (July 2014 - February 2015), this week's highlight: Opening the Door - interview w/ Lynch scholar Martha Nochimson

OUTRO

Friday, May 18, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Silence of the Lamb" (season 1, episode 11)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 January 5, 2005/written by Jed Seidel & Dayna Lynne North; directed by John Kretchmer): The E-String Strangler strikes again! An old case brings Keith (temporarily) back to the Neptune police force when a dead body washes up on shore. The guitar chord wrapped around her neck suggests the work of a serial killer who had supposedly been captured; in need of Keith's expertise in the area, Sheriff Lamb swallows hard and partners up with his nemesis to track several suspects. They seem particularly close when they detain an amateur pornographer (Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad's Jesse making a second appearance in my spring viewing diaries), but Keith - constantly butting heads with the arrogant but insecure sheriff - has doubts about all the circumstantial evidence. Sure enough, just in time to save a suffocating victim locked inside a safe, Keith discovers the real murderer: a jovial guitar store owner (Steven Monroe) who was right there in front of them all along.

Veronica uses her dad's return to the sheriff's station, and young desk officer Leo D'Amato's (Max Greenfield's) flirtatious overtures, as an opportunity to sneak into the evidence room and retrieve a CD with the anonymous tip about Lilly Kane. With the help of techie friend Mac, she figures out who left the distorted phone call that identified Abel Koontz - it was Kane employee Clarence Wiedman (Christopher B. Duncan), who took those threatening photos of her (and whom she implicitly threatens with photos as well by episode's end). Mac is returning a favor for Veronica, who looked up her parents (part of a thriving side business which Mac would like to launch as a global web service), discovering that Mac was accidentally switched at birth with spoiled rich girl Madison Sinclair (Amanda Noret). Crashing the 09ers' birthday party, Mac discovers a family as interested in art and literature as she is, and a little sister who looks and acts like a junior doppelganger. She makes her peace with the painful truth, but before leaving on a family trip with her adopted parents (who have no idea what she knows), Mac finds her biological mother (Carlie Westerman) watching her from a parked car. The melancholy teenager places her hand on the window longingly, and the teary-eyed Lauren returns the gesture, both of them wishing for something that never was but should have been.

My Response:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Veronica Mars - "An Echolls Family Christmas" (season 1, episode 10)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 December 14, 2004/written by Aury Wallington; directed by Guy Bee): The Echolls estate anchors both big storylines this week. Weevil joins an elite poker game at the 09 mansion and wins, only to discover the pot has been mysteriously stolen. The other players strip down to demonstrate their innocence, but the money’s gone somewhere, so Weevil vows to terrorize them until the culprit is revealed. Veronica's on that case, while her father is hired by the elder Echolls to identify a stalker - first he's mostly in touch with Aaron's wife Lynn (Lisa Rinna), and then with the movie star himself, once Aaron realizes the gravity of the threats (and the possible scandals intertwined with it). Reluctantly admitting that he's had multiple affairs, including a fling on the night of the family's Halloween party, Aaron insists that none of his mistresses is the jealous type. Both Keith and Veronica must narrow the culprit down from a small but convincing stable of suspects, while keeping their eyes open for personal motivations and visual evidence.

Keith realizes who the stalker is at the last minute - a server whom Aaron had fired when she came across him and another woman making love at the party - and he attempts to crash the family's Christmas party, only arriving in time to tackle the woman (Alexandra Fatovich) after she's already stabbed Aaron in a rage. Mostnof the guests miss the violent altercation, as they've already filed outside to enjoy carolers under an expensive fake snow shower - a Hollywood touch from a Hollywood star (or, one could say, a phony gesture from a phony guy). Veronica's investigation has a less bloody but no less clever conclusion; she is able to identify specific reasons why each player didn't steal the money before revealing that "the butler's son did it" by stuffing the cash in a recyclable bottle and picking it out of the trash the next morning. The surprise isn't just his guilt but the fact that he's a butler's son at all...he pretended that his family owned the house his father worked at. There’s a racial component to all of this (highlighted when Logan continuously slurs Weevil) - the Latino player isn’t the only one at the table from the wrong sides of the track, but the white guy is able to pretend otherwise and use his appearance to both fool his peers and rob from Weevil.

Finally, before the "Echolls Family Christmas" climax, Veronica confronts Jake, asking why he hired someone to take photos of her (a confrontation Keith witnesses on his way to rescue Aaron). Jake denies any knowledge, but Veronica sees him angrily demand answers from his wife a minute later - it looks like perhaps the Kane behind Veronica's many woes (and perhaps more, besides) may actually be the wife, not the husband.

My Response:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Drinking the Kool-Aid" (season 1, episode 9)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 November 30, 2004/written by Russell Smith, story by Rob Thomas; directed by Marcos Siega): The Moon Calf Collective sounds for all the world like a dangerous cult. An agricultural commune located in the country, it's led by charismatic guru Josh (Chris William Martin) and promoted by Holly Mills (Amy Laughlin), a flaky English teacher who has roped in Neptune student Casey Gant (Jonathan Bennett). The young man has abandoned his wealthy family and now spends all his free time with Moon Calves, so his parents (Rebecca Kitt and Albie Selznick) hire Keith to dig up some dirt, bust the cult, and break their son free. They've even employed a "deprogrammer" (Ray Proscia) to convert Casey back to their way of thinking once they've exposed the collective. There's only one problem: the dangerous cult isn't actually a dangerous cult. The more time Veronica spends with the Moon Calf Collective, the more convinced she is that they are harmless, even beneficial. Besides, Casey's parents have less than pure motives. Casey is about to come into a vast inheritance from his dying grandmother, and they're terrified he'd give it all to his newfound community.

One thing's for sure: Veronica much prefers the new, improved Casey over his bratty earlier incarnation. And Keith has to admit she has a point about all of this, even though the $5,000 reward is pretty tempting. Ultimately, they decide to sit on some potentially damaging information they've acquired (a member of the collective, played by Megalyn Echikunwoke, is a minor, who ran away from abusive but legal foster care). Nonetheless, Casey is kidnapped by his parents at his grandmother's funeral; when the episode ends he's back to a more materialist "normal." Veronica has her own familial concerns, tricking Keith into drawing blood and sending their samples to a DNA-testing company. Initially convinced that she must find out if Jake Kane is her father, Veronica finally changes her mind at episode's end. If Casey's true family can be compassionate strangers rather than his much colder blood relations, then Veronica's real father can definitely be the man who loves her deeply rather than the tycoon who never raised her. The loyal daughter shreds her DNA results before reading them, confident that she's better off not knowing.

My Response:

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Like a Virgin" (season 1, episode 8)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 November 23, 2004/written by Aury Wallington; directed by Guy Bee): In a gesture possibly inspired by the Harvard scandal that launched Facebook a year earlier, a Neptune High student has created an online quiz asking students to see where their sexual and other (but mostly sexual) experience ranks on a "How Pure Are You?" scale. As a bonus twist, the myster quiz-crafter emails the student body with a follow-up: pay $10 and find out anyone else's score. Veronica, with her scandalized reputation, gets a 14. More shockingly, archetypal "good girl" Meg Manning (Alona Tal) lands somewhere below 50%. Veronica goes on the case, discovering that between the IT guy Renny DuMouy (Rudy Dobrev) and Meg's jealous friends Pam (Shanna Collins) and Kimmy (Annie Abrams), who's sleeping with Renny, passwords were stolen and quiz results were forged. Veronica is assisted in her investigation by Mac (Tina Majorno - I knew I recognized her!), a computer whiz who, it's eventually revealed, designed the quiz in the first place to fleece '09ers for new car money, an angle Veronica has to respect.

There aren't too many other storylines in this particular episode. Veronica's father gets in good with Wallace's mother Alicia (Erica Gimpel) by intimidating a deadbeat tenant (Jeremy Masterston) off her property. And Veronica gets a "meeting" with Abel on death row, posing as a Southern crime reporter from his hometown. Abel takes the meeting but reveals that he knows exactly who she is, and refuses to deny culpability for Lilly's death. Worse, he presses the point I brought up in yesterday's entry (which I didn't expect to become relevant so quickly): she's probably not the daughter of some "schlubby sheriff" but "the king and queen of the prom." This observation was so shockingly on-the-nose that I initially thought it belonged to a dream sequence. It doesn't, and it forces a stunned Veronica out into the parking lot where she weeps in her car.

My Response:

Monday, May 14, 2018

Veronica Mars - "The Girl Next Door" (season 1, episode 7)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 November 9, 2004/written by Jed Seidel & Diane Ruggiero, story by Jed Seidel; directed by Nick Marck): Often Veronica Mars likes to surprise us, but in this case it plays its cards right up front. We begin with classic flashback framing: someone is being transported out of the Sunset Cliffs Apartments (the Mars' home) into an ambulance as Veronica watches and wonders if she should never have gotten involved with her neighbor's problem in the first place. The credits, so often postponed for seven or eight minutes, begin right after this introduction and we jump back a week, slowly leading up to that fateful night. Sarah Williams (Jessica Chastain), a pregnant, troubled young woman, lives with Andre (Adam Kaufman), a painter with whom she frequently fights. When she vanishes, Veronica suspects the worst. Sarah's mother Emily (Eve Gordon) and stepfather Randall (John J. York) show up in Neptune and hire Keith to find their daughter but it's Veronica who eventually tracks her down.

Veronica may solve the case, figuring out who stole Sarah's journal, where she was hiding, and that Sarah was raped and Andre isn't the one who got her pregnant. But she misses one crucial detail, hinted when Emily casually identifies Sarah's change around the time she remarried. Randall is the father of Sarah's child, and when she reveals to her mother that he assaulted her, a fight over a gun ensues. Keith fires through the window, and so the person we see transported to the hospital at episode's beginning - and end - is Sarah's stepfather, not Sarah, and as it turns out Andre has nothing to do with any of it. Veronica speculates that perhaps digging into Sarah's past only exacerbated the situation, openly wondering if sometimes secrets are better left unexplored. This is a question which has additional meaning given some of the other discoveries in this episode (and incidents from earlier ones too).

On a lighter note, Weevil and Logan end up sharing detention and their revenge on Mr. Daniels (Steven Williams), spiking his car on a flagpole - I still have no clue how this was accomplished - almost gets Weevil expelled, until Logan takes credit and essentially bribes the principal into letting them both off easy. Even this storyline, however, hints at a broader significance. Weevil's buddy mocks Logan in the bathroom, noting that Weevil slept with the white boy's girlfriend (Weevil protests that it wasn't like that), and at one point Logan notices a Lilly heart tattoo on Weevil's back. Despite lying and saying it's his sister's name, Weevil clearly had some involvement with the dead girl, a fact hinted in previous episodes (he cried at Lilly's memorial service, and Wanda asked Veronica if the rumors about Weevil and Lilly were true, which Veronica denied). Veronica also discovers another hidden relationship when she's assigned a class reunion montage and finds out her mom was one half of the Class of '79's star couple...with Jake Kane.

Indeed, when she says that some secrets should remain secrets, it's hard not to keep that revelation in mind. The episode's flashbacks dwell on Duncan's break-up with her, which actually precedes Lilly's death, and there's just the slightest hint that Veronica wonders if she herself is actually a Kane. When her father says something to the effect of, "You have to really love someone to raise a child that's not yours," Veronica pauses and has what looks like an epiphany. It could be the realization that Sarah was abused by her stepfather...or it could be something closer to home.

My Response:

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Return of the Kane" (season 1, episode 6)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 November 2, 2004/written by Phil Klemmer, story by Rob Thomas; directed by Sarah Pia Anderson): It's election season on the series, as it was in the U.S. at this time (this episode aired the very night that George W. Bush defeated John Kerry). Rebellious student Wanda Varner (Rachel Roth) launches an impromptu campaign for student council president, which takes off like wildfire. Condemning the "Pirate Points" awarded to wealthy students for "09er"-dominated activities, Wanda attracts constituencies among excluded groups like artists and band members, tapping into a widespread resentment among the school's have-nots. Veronica herself finds Wanda's message - and her energetic delivery - attractive, and when Wanda loses to Duncan (who didn't even want to run but has been put forward as the figurehead of the school's elite), Veronica is able to prove that the results were manipulated. A recount ensues, as does as a negative smear campaign condemning Wanda as a narc. Ultimately it works and, more surprisingly, it's true. Weevil tells Veronica that a friend of his was busted soon after he began dating Wanda, and when Veronica tests this theory, it leads to her own near-bust...and Wanda's confession (she was caught with drugs herself a year earlier, and informing is the only way she can keep this off of her record and get into a good school).

Anyway, Veronica was already having second thoughts about Wanda; although she condemns Duncan at one point for "standing idly by" while other rich kids act badly, she also remembers a time he let a less popular kid sit at their lunchtable, shutting down a bully from his own class. Sure enough, when Duncan officially wins he offers a reform to the Pirate Points, preserving the perk but expanding it to other clubs at the school as well. Logan makes a stand of his own this episode, albeit a generally less noble one. Having arrogantly bribed homeless men to box for him and his pals, the story is blown wide open by gossip columnists...after all, Logan's dad is the movie star Aaron Echolls (Harry Hamlin). Humiliated by this event, but only because it makes him look bad (not because he actually cares about his son's greedy abuse of the town's underclass), Aaron forces the boy to volunteer at a soup kitchen and make a public apology. Logan turns the situation on its head by announcing that his dad has decided to donate half a million to the town's food bank, a subversive fuck-you to the old man that earns a literal whipping but seems worth it to him.

Meanwhile, Veronica finally reveals her interest in - and pursuit of - Lilly's real killer to her dad, showing how a sneaker cited as evidence for Abel Koontz's guilt was actually still at the crime scene when photographers arrived. Koontz has fired his lawyer and seems ready to be executed, but Veronica believes in his innocence - and in someone else's guilt (we're not just sure who yet). As one Kane leads the student body, another leads Veronica and Keith back into a case that caused them so much pain, and may cause more yet to come.

My Response:

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Patreon update #19: Twin Peaks in the In-Between Years/1992-2014 & The Lobster (+ getting back into Twin Peaks & more)


For many years it seemed like the post-1992 era of Twin Peaks was a kind of “forever epilogue,” not really part of the story at all. Twin Peaks burned bright, it burned out fast, and that was that. Everything else was an afterthought. In 2014, of course, all of that changed with the announcement of a new season. Looking back on those year now we can see the creators move in different directions, shaped by the experience they had on that show, as fans (aside from a few small Lynch contributions) kept the spirit alive. As I prepare for the Return rewatch, this episode - one of the longest “Twin Peaks Reflections” yet - explores this long “In-Between Era” in depth.

I also muse about the amusing international co-production of The Lobster (whose whimsy nonetheless feels distinctly Irish), share a Twin Peaks cartoon, and recall my own personal experience of re-discovering Twin Peaks at the tail end of that very “In-Between” era.

One last thing, an invitation (including to those who are not or not yet members): next week I'm going to be covering my own speculation and questions heading into the third season as a whole, as well as the finale. What were some of your own, and how were they fulfilled, disappointed, exceeded, answered, or subverted? I will include these as part of the next episode.




Line-up for Episode 19

INTRO

WEEKLY UPDATE/recent posts: "3 first seasons" intro, Veronica Mars series

WEEKLY UPDATE/Patreon: moving to Mondays soon

WEEKLY UPDATE/work in progress: character runners-up

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS: The In-Between Years, 1992-2014

FILM IN FOCUS: The Lobster

OTHER TOPICS: Jeffries teapot cartoon

LISTENER FEEDBACK: Value of Twin Peaks season 2 (*correction: this is feedback for Episode 17, not 15)

OPENING THE ARCHIVE: "Getting Lost in Lynchland" (March - June 2014)

OUTRO w/ preview for next week - including invitation to send feedback about speculation/questions going into season 3

BECOME A PATRON

Friday, May 11, 2018

Veronica Mars - "You Think You Know Somebody" (season 1, episode 5)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 October 26, 2004/written by Dayna Lynne North; directed by Nick Gomez): The good vibes of the previous episode overflow into this one...at least initially. All is well with Veronica and Troy, even after he "misplaces" his dad's car on the ride back from Tijuana with Logan and Luke (Sam Huntington). He's freaked out that his father will probably send him away when he discovers the theft, but not so much that he doesn't still grin and joke his way through his "last days," trying to get frisky with Veronica while she attempts to do her detective thing and locate the stolen vehicle. The stakes are raised when she learns that Luke was transporting a pinata full of steroids across the border. But, of course, everything will work out in the end, right? Right? Things seem less rosy with Veronica and her dad; he's trying to warm her up to his new girlfriend (no dice, and he eventually dumps her due to Veronica's hostility) and she's suddenly concerned about her mom after seeing her as the villain for a long time (a visit to a safety deposit box yields photos of herself with a target painted onto her head, suggesting that Lianne may have fled for her daughter's safety, rather than selfish pride). Indeed, the episode ends with Veronica, her hearing blocked by a Discman (every episode manages to remind us that the world has changed a lot in fourteen years!), receiving a call from her mother, hinting at an explanatory (and exculpatory) secret.

Meanwhile both Mars provide background checks on each other's partners, and so Veronica learns that Troy was kicked out of many previous schools for drug trafficking (which he dismisses as some minor dope-dealing). She confronts him and he offers the plausible excuse that he wanted to wait before telling her, denying that he knew anything about the steroid deal (a claim even Luke backs up). After a number of episodes where the central investigation is neatly settled in the end, Veronica fails to find the car or the drugs, Troy's dad follows through on his threat, and Troy is shipped off. If that seems like an unexpected turn of events, what follows goes much further: a cocky Troy arrives at the border stop, retrieves the pinata he stole from his own backseat, and roars away in his car, calling up his old girlfriend to let her know everything went according to plan. Or did it? When Troy tears open the pinata he discovers a bunch of candy and a note from Veronica letting him know how she found out and what she's done with his stash (somewhere between her toilet and the Pacific Ocean). It's a hell of a kiss-off for a character who turns out not to be a recurring part of her circle at all, but simply another opponent to be bested.

My Response:

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Veronica Mars - "The Wrath of Con" (season 1, episode 4)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 October 19, 2004/written by Diane Ruggiero; directed by Michael Fields): A homecoming dance provides the central pole of "The Wrath of Con," serving as an upcoming event to solidify Veronica's romance with Troy, a flashback revealing more of Lilly than we've seen before, and a subversion of Lilly memorial's video into which footage has been spliced from that earlier dance (or rather from the night of the dance - Veronica, Duncan, Logan, and Lilly skipped the actual event in order to drunkenly ride around in a limo and party on a beach). The titular investigation shifts our focus elsewhere - Wallace's crush Georgia (Kyla Pratt) has been conned, and Veronica uncovers hotshot young techie college students (Robert Baker and Adam Wylie) who hire unwitting actors to enable a phishing scam. This leads Veronica and Wallace to explore college life as well as the geekier subcultures of Neptune (gaming and anime, or as Wallace calls it in the one dated element of an otherwise prescient topic, "Japanime"). Veronica's dad meets (and intimidates but approves of) Duncan, Georgia kisses Wallace, and with the con artists caught out, all seems to end well. There is, of course, still a reminder of the town's tragedy in the memorial dedication to Lilly but even there a spirit of good cheer prevails. The home movie of a drunken Lilly disrupting the otherwise gauzy montage takes the audience by surprise, but ultimately charms even her uptight parents, bringing a poignant tear to their eyes.

My Response:

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Meet John Smith" (season 1, episode 3)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 October 12, 2004/written by Jed Seidel; directed by Harry Winer): As Weevil takes an episode off, and Wallace takes a distant backseat for the second time in a row, "Meet John Smith" focuses on five different storylines, sometimes overlapping but mostly distinct. On the investigative front, Veronica helps Justin Smith (Bobby Edner) find his missing father. Initially the whole conceit plays as the nerdy Justin's desperate attempt to spend time with a girl he has a crush on; the dad's name is, suspiciously, "John Smith," and as we quickly discover he died when Justin when seven. Then, in an unexpected twist, Veronica's scholarship scam scheme (letters sent to various John Smiths in the area) pays off when one person writes back. It turns out Justin's other parent is still alive, and eventually the hunt leads Justin and Veronica to a parole officer...and then to his wife. Realizing that Julia (Melissa Leo), a frequent, friendly customer at his video store, is in fact his post-transition parent, Justin is heartbroken and lashes out cruelly, rejecting her overtures. Later, however, he reconsiders, calling Julia to let her know a DVD has come into the store and tacitly letting her back in to his life

In the Kane melodrama, Duncan goes off his meds, becoming more euphoric, outgoing, and hallucinatory: injuring his head in a spill, drawing closer to Veronica, and then returning to the antidepressents after a vivid dream in which Lilly, bleeding profusely from the head, cuddles up to him on the couch and says the story surrounding her murder was bullshit and he knows it. Still drawn to Duncan, Veronica nonetheless chooses Troy, first for a date that goes well before ending in an aborted kiss and finally for an embrace at episode's end, signifying - it seems - a more ongoing relationship. Her father initiates a romance of his own, with Veronica's concerned guidance counselor Rebecca James (Paula Marshall), and Veronica gets close to finding her mom, only to discover she's skipped town.

My Response:

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Credit Where Credit's Due" (season 1, episode 2)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 28, 2004/written by Rob Thomas; directed by Mark Piznarski): At a beach party, thrown by the elite 09ers on the PCH bikers' turf, a confrontation between Logan and Weevil gets personal. While trading barbs, Logan is keen to remind Weevil that his grandmother Leticia (Irene Olga Lopez) cleans Logan's house - no matter who wins any physical confrontation, it's clear who has the upper hand in the broader cultural clash. This connection comes back to haunt both of them soon after, as Leticia is arrested for committing fraud with the Ecchols' credit card. Given the nature of the expenses, everyone is positive Weevil himself was the culprit and sure enough, the gang leader eventually turns himself in so that Grandma can be released. But Veronica isn't so sure. Helping her father out on behalf of Leticia's lawyer, she initially suspects Logan himself - did he steal his own mother's card in order to set an enemy up? The deeper Veronica digs, the more her focus shifts from Logan to his girlfriend Caitlin Ford (we'll save her actress attribution for the "response" section). Turns out Caitlin was cheating on Logan with Chardo Navarro (Wilmer Calderon), Weevil's cousin.

With Veronica busting the case wide open, Weevil is released, Logan is humiliated, and Chardo is kicked out of the PCH before fleeing town alone, foolishly believing until the last moment that Cailtin would join him. Maybe she wishes she had - after her relationship with Chardo is exposed, she, like Veronica before her, is marginalized and excluded by the social class she took for granted. Veronica, meanwhile, may be moving in the other direction. A stint with the school newspaper, under the friendly tutelage of Mallory Dent (Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Sidney's daughter), hooks her up again with Duncan, while new kid Troy Vandegraff (Aaron Ashmore), already part of the popular clique due to prior connections, is eagerly pursuing Veronica despite her outcast status. Did she make the wrong decision siding with her father rather than her peers? Though the focus is mostly elsewhere, Lilly Kane's presence lingers in "Credit Where Credit's Due," appearing in flashbacks, photos, and of course haunting all the social interactions. And at episode's end, Veronica wonders aloud why her father suspected Jake Kane at all. He won't tell her yet.

My Response:

Monday, May 7, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Pilot" (season 1, episode 1)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. 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 22, 2004/written by Rob Thomas; directed by Mark Piznarski - extended version): In a highly eventful premiere, many of the most significant events have already happened to and around Veronica (Kristen Bell). Veronica Mars sets the stage by establishing the title character's identity at its present stage: she is an outsider with experience as an insider - or at least a fellow traveler of insiders. Even a year earlier, when her father Keith (Enrico Colantoni) was still the sheriff of Neptune, California, Veronica was afforded dual status. She dated Duncan Kane (Teddy Dunn), the son of enormously wealthy tech innovator Jake Kane (Kyle Secor), and ran with the "09er" crowd who live in the area's most fashionable zip code. As protector and popular elected official of the local elite, Keith Mars and his daughter held a privileged place within this community. This position, however, was tenuous and reliant upon the goodwill of those with actual power as demonstrated by a town tragedy (which we witness via flashback).

Several months before the pilot's opening scene, Veronica's best friend, her boyfriend's sister Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried), was found murdered by the swimming pool in her family's luxurious home. Veronica's dad made the mistake of taking his job too seriously, following the evidence to investigate Lilly's own father for her murder. A confession from one of Jake's employees, Abel Koontz (Christian Clemenson), promptly ends Sheriff Mars' case, his political career, and his marriage to the alcoholic Lianne (Corinne Bohrer). Veronica suffers worst of all. In addition to experiencing public humiliation, social isolation (including the end of her relationship), and her mother's abandonment of the family, Veronica is raped at a party. Having been drugged, she doesn't know who raped her, and when she tries to report the crime to her father's replacement, Sheriff Don Lamb (Michael Muhney), he mocks her and refuses to investigate any further.

The old Veronica has essentially been broken, generally by an entire community, and specifically by a few unknown individuals: the murderer of her friend (assuming, as Keith does, that Abel is a patsy) and her own rapist. But a new Veronica emerges, determined to carve her own space within Neptune, conducting much of her father's new work as a private detective, befriending fellow outcast Wallace Fennett (Percy Daggs III), and even forming a tenuous alliance with Wallace's tormentor, bike gang leader Eli "Weevil" Navarro (Francis Capra) against both Lamb's corrupt department (the revelation of a deputy's sex scandal, spurred by Veronica, derails the bikers' trial for theft) and the spoiled, sarcastic, vaguely sinister Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), whom Veronica framed with a bong in his locker, for both personal vengeance and to set up a larger purpose: swapping videotapes so that the scandal video would be the one shown in court.

This whole operation demonstrates that Veronica is willing to subvert the legal establishment for a just cause and exploit high-up connections for the benefit of the downtrodden (the fire chief swaps out the evidence for her). In other words, she's a consummate pragmatist dispensing with propriety to do the right thing. These skills are put to their greatest test by the end of the episode, when she discovers that her mother is back in town, having an affair with Jake Kane, and that her father has re-opened the Lilly Kane case. Veronica follows suit, quietly and independently: she will work toward the same goal as her father, but on her own path, because even he can't be trusted to tell her everything. The course of this first season has been set.

My Response:

Sunday, May 6, 2018

3 First Seasons: Veronica Mars / The X-Files / The Wire


The way my "post every day" schedule has worked out, I have exactly enough days left before my anniversary to publish weekly podcasts each Saturday, an archive round-up on the last day, and three complete first season episode guides for TV shows I began watching several years ago...plus, of course, this one introduction for all three viewing diaries.

Tomorrow I will launch my coverage of Veronica Mars, which will be followed by The X-Files and finally The Wire. In each case I will cover the entirety of the show's first season; through July 13, a new episode entry on these shows will go up every day except Saturday. All three narratives document obsessive investigators, but of course they vary in many other ways. Veronica Mars is about a teen detective trying to solve the murder of her friend and clear the name of her father, a disgraced sheriff in a wealthy town. The X-Files follows a couple FBI agents who specialize in paranormal activity. The Wire balances between a Baltimore drug squad trying to bust a heroin ring in the city's projects and the dealers in those very projects. I've been intrigued by all three shows for years, and at the time of this writing have only watched a handful of episodes of each, despite starting them all as far back as 2013 and no later than 2016 (it looks like after an intense week I will now have the opportunity to finally leap ahead in my watching/writing).

Believe it or not, the hardest part of this entry was creating the above image! I didn't have a DVD of The Wire on hand at this moment and for some reason screenshots of that show are really hard to come by. With that out of the way, I look forward to getting to the fun part. In fact as I finish writing this introduction I'm about to dive into the second episode of Veronica Mars (I've already covered the pilot) and for the next few months - maybe just the next month if I'm able to keep a good pace - I'll be absorbed in these three worlds.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Patreon update #18: Mark Frost's connection to Fire Walk With Me & film in focus: Holy Motors (+ Korean peace talks & more) and preview of Vivian/Phyllis character studies


With three weeks to go before my Return rewatch begins (or rather, two weeks and two days given the scheduled date), I'm halfway through the preparatory "Reflections" and done talking about the original series. On this episode I move onto Fire Walk With Me - the film I've discussed more than any other on Lost in the Movies, but with a new twist. I wanted to look at Mark Frost's troubled relationship with the movie, for which he received executive-producer credit without any creative involvement. Tracing Lynch's and Frost's collaboration through their pre-Twin Peaks work, I tease out their differing sensibilities and how these apply to the story of Laura Palmer. What is Frost drawn to in Fire Walk With Me, given its incorporation into season three, and how does his perspective on Laura's last night differ from Lynch's? I think this turned out to be a really interesting topic, and I hope you enjoy listening to it - and continue to share your own thoughts as well.

Speaking of which, I have some more listener feedback this week - one patron offers some fascinating insight into Red (including his connection to The King & I), while someone else shares their thoughts on my public episode: is Eyes Wide Shut a 90s film or a 90s period piece that just happens to be a 90s film? I also finally watched the film that everyone in 2012 was buzzing about; this is my first Leos Carax joint so I'm a bit of a stranger in his world - a distance I felt at times. I was intrigued by Holy Motors' anthology structure and compelled by the way it seemed to comment, perhaps unintentionally, on our present economic situation as well as my own podcast endeavors (that last bit I'm sure was intentional). I talk about the Korean peace efforts and share a very cogent thread on the subject from a reporter whose beat is the peninsula, and I wrap by closing off the #WatchlistScreenCaps period on my site. Next week's archive will delve into the Twin Peaks era of my blogging, a period that my "Twin Peaks Reflections" will dovetail with in the upcoming episode.

And yes, I do know Mark Frost didn't speak with Isaac Asimov on a podcast! I meant Mr. Robot, not I, Robot.





Line-up for Episode 18

INTRO

WEEKLY UPDATE/recent posts: Kingdom series, Buffy posts, interview w/ Cameron Cloutier

WEEKLY UPDATE/Patreon: 2nd Tier Biweekly Preview - Vivian & Phyllis

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS: Mark Frost's connection to Fire Walk With Me

FILM IN FOCUS: Holy Motors

OTHER TOPICS: Korean peace talks

LISTENER FEEDBACK: Red in Twin Peaks s3, Eyes Wide Shut as a 90s period piece

OPENING THE ARCHIVE: "Classics & Completionism" (October 2013 - February 2014), this week's highlight: 90 Years of Cinema alternate Oscars

BECOME A PATRON

Friday, May 4, 2018

How's Annie? (interview with Cameron Cloutier & Amy Ostbo, director & actor from Queen of Hearts, a Twin Peaks fan film)


"For a long time, no itch. But at the same time, there's a thing in Fire Walk With Me where Laura is in her bed and she's visited by Annie. Annie says, 'I'm in the Black Lodge with the good Dale. Write that in your diary.' That little bit right there held a string of dreams." - David Lynch (May 2, 2018)

Twin Peaks lives and so, it seems, does Annie Blackburn. The controversial character, played by Heather Graham in the show's second season in 1991, was notably absent from the recent Showtime revival last aside from a few lines about her. Mark Frost's follow-up novel Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier went a little deeper but still left much unsaid (we learned that Annie had been mostly catatonic since her kidnapping and rescue from Glastonbury Grove). As a viewer, Twin Peaks super-fan Cameron Cloutier may have been frustrated by the character's loose ends but as a filmmaker himself, he saw an opportunity. Host of the YouTube channel Obnoxious & Anonymous (a deep well of Twin Peaks content since 2013), Cameron gauged his audience's interest in a fan film about Annie and was able to raise over $20,000 to launch this production (the film's page offers colorful descriptions and updates, and is still accepting funding).

The project has deep roots, extending to Cameron's days as a teenage fan of the show when it originally aired, and particularly to his enthusiasm for the feature film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, which demonstrated Lynch's continued interest in the character (hence the recent quote, as well as Annie's sole incorporation into the third season). In a sustained burst of creativity, Cameron has not only been working hard on a screenplay for this film, he's been crafting eye-catching trailers, including one starring Jake Wardle (green-gloved Freddie himself) delivering a message to Annie through static filters, and a recent, epic ten-minute promo featuring Annie drifting through various Twin Peaks locations, including the infamous Palmer home (whose owner Mary Reber - she actually plays the house's resident in Twin Peaks' final episode! - is a very generous host). The whole preview was shot on site by Cameron and a recent addition to the project, Amy Ostbo. Initially an assistant to the costumer (her sister), Amy's screen presence in the test footage left such an impression that she was cast as Annie herself.

A few weeks ago, Cameron and Amy both joined me for a chat full of energy, enthusiasm, and good humor about this imaginative endeavor. We covered both participants' history with the series (spoilers ahead, if such a thing needs warning), the creation of the trailer, Amy's thoughts about Annie (which may, or may not, surprise you), Cameron's take on The Final Dossier's big reveal, the delightful genesis of the Jake Wardle promo, and lots of other interesting material. Of particular interest may be Cameron's unfilmed screenplay about the Golden State Killer's final victim; his research for that passion project has become a treasure trove for the recent spate of documentaries on the subject. (Coincidentally, in a major news story just a week or so after this interview, police identified one of their own as the likely suspect, decades after his last murder.)

Meanwhile, how's Annie? We'll have to wait until December to find out (as Cameron observes, "I'm fine" may not have been much of a reveal after all), but here are a few clues...or, as Lynch says, "a string of dreams."