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

Saturday, June 30, 2018

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


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

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

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

My Response:

Friday, June 29, 2018

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


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

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

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

My Response:

Thursday, June 28, 2018

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


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

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

My Response:

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

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


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

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

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

My Response:

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

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


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

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

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

My Response:

Monday, June 25, 2018

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


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


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

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

Drink full and descend...

Sunday, June 24, 2018

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


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

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

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

My Response:

Saturday, June 23, 2018

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


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




Film in Focus update...

Friday, June 22, 2018

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


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

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

My Response:

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The X-Files - "Miracle Man" (season 1, episode 18)


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

Story (aired on March 18, 1994/written by Chris Carter & Howard Gordon, directed by Michael Lange): The pride of his Southern town, young faith healer Samuel Hartley (Scott Bairstow) has been performing miracles since he was a child, starting with burn victim Leonard Vance (Dennis Lipscomb), whom Samuel revives from death during an opening sequence set in 1983. Samuel's talents earn a fortune for his adopted father, Rev. Calvin Hartley (George Gerdes) but lately they've taken a dark turn. Accused of murder after a cancer patient mysteriously dies within hours of Samuel's touch, the boy is convinced that his pride has turned his gift toward devilish rather than godly ends; he even surrenders himself to the town sheriff (R.D. Call), a Hartley skeptic determined to shut down the thriving revivalist. For the second episode in a row, Mulder and Scully head to Tennessee, this time for a full immersion in the local community rather than a brief interview off a rural highway. I've been wondering when The X-Files, so keen on exploring the vast geography and sociology of the U.S., would turn toward the Deep South. This particularly subject matter provides the perfect opportunity to do so.

Scully warns Mulder at the outset that "this isn't an X-file" but several factors eventually convince them otherwise. After being killed under shady circumstances, Samuel gets up and walks out of the morgue (he's spotted by several witnesses before disappearing), a Christlike resurrection to match the outstretched-arm crucifixion we witnessed in his jail cell a few scenes earlier. Perhaps even more significant, however, is the effect Samuel has on Mulder. "Miracle Man" is generally considered a "monster-of-the-week" story (it's eventually revealed that Vance, not Samuel, is the monster; bitter about being brought back to life in his beleaguered condition, has been poisoning the victims with cyanide in order to discredit and destroy the Hartleys). That designation is fair enough, but the episode also dips into the ongoing mythology in a way that even the mythos-heavy "E.B.E." didn't touch: the faith healer is able to manifest and channel a little girl who continually haunts Mulder's peripheral vision. She appears to be his own, unaged sister, abducted from their childhood bedroom in a close encounter of the fourth kind. Is this another example of Samuel bringing back the dead, or is he contacting her across another plane altogether?

My Response:

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The X-Files - "E.B.E." (season 1, episode 17)


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

Story (aired on February 18, 1994/written by Glen Morgan & James Wong, directed by William Graham): With this dense, cross-country (occasionally even international) tale of sci-fi intrigue, The X-Files dives headfirst into its mythology again, arguably going deeper than it has before. Mulder and Scully are tracking a trucker (Peter LaCroix) who experienced a close encounter deep in Tennessee. Interrogating him in a jail cell where he's been held after firing his shotgun in the middle of the night on a dark country road, supposedly aiming at a flying saucer, the agents are frustrated to see his release ordered over their heads. With Deep Throat's help, they discover that the truck was traveling under false pretenses, with the driver using a fake name and the cargo much heavier than declared in its manifest. But if the duo is onto some secret faction of the government, that faction is also onto them - and Deep Throat is caught in the middle. Several episodes ago, we learned that this source wasn't simply feeding Mulder information but also using and manipulating him. Now it's Mulder's turn to find this out for himself, as he and Scully uncover wiretaps around their office and realize that some (but not all) of the evidence they're receiving is part of an elaborate set-up. When are they being told the truth? When are they being lied to? Why are the people responsible for this cover-up playing this game with them at all?

We get many questions in this episode, and some answers as well - although we don't know which answers are sincere, and what purpose the insincere ones serve. Or, as Mulder puts it, "I'm trying to decide which lies to believe." Riding to his help are "the Lone Gunmen" - John Fitzgerald Byers (Bruce Harwood), Richard Langly (Dean Haglund), and Melvin Frohike (Tom Braidwood) - brilliant conspiracy theorists who consider Mulder's ideas even more fringe than their own, and love him for it. U.F.O. enthusiasts, camped out near a top-secret site in Washington state, also assist Mulder and Scully in their quest to find the cargo (which they are pretty sure at this point is an "E.B.E." - "extraterrestrial biological entity," presumably captured when a spacecraft was shot down over Iraq in the opening sequence). This leads them to shake two snoops, fly separately to Las Vegas where they reunite, and follow the truck just in time to witness a spectacular light show. Did the aliens rescue one of their own from the back of the vehicle? Even this event appears to have been staged (the watches Mulder uses to track time disparities remain unaffected) and so the agents press on until finally they make it to the facility where the alien is being held...or was being held. Deep Throat reveals to Mulder that the creature has been killed. In the late forties, the leaders of all the great powers met in secret and mutually agreed to exterminate any extraterrestrial that crossed their paths (Deep Throat is still haunted by his own role in slaying one such seemingly innocent being).

Is this all bullshit or our deepest peek yet behind the U.S. government's red curtain? Is it a bit of both?

My Response:

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The X-Files - "Young at Heart" (season 1, episode 16)


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

Story (aired on February 11, 1994/written by Scott Kaufer & Chris Carter, directed by Michael Lange): Another old case comes back to haunt Mulder. In the eighties, John Barnett (David Peterson) was a middle-aged killer whom the FBI agent tracked down and sent to prison (but not before Mulder's "by the book" hesitation inadvertently led to the death of a fellow agent). In the nineties, Barnett (Alan Boyce) is a young psychopath, continuing to kill while taunting Mulder. How can this be? Barnett died in a prison in 1989, or rather "died," an event depicted in the episode's prologue when inmate Joe Crandall (Gordon Tipple) discovers Dr. Joe Ridley (Robin Mossley) operating on Barnett's hand. And yet an inexplicably youthful, pale-eyed, web-handed Barnett lives. Dr. Ridley, a disgraced physician who specialized in progeria (the ailment in which children rapidly age), eventually reveals himself to Scully and Mulder. He explains how his experiments with reversing this aging process have cost him his own life (he will die soon due to side effects from these experiments) and even his life's work, stolen by Barnett (his sole successful subject). What initially appears to be an unusual but largely run-of-the-mill crime spree turns into a matter of world-historical import as Deep Throat and Ridley reveal that the U.S. government has been supporting this project all along. Moreover, the national-security state is currently attempting to cut a deal with the serial-killing, FBI-murdering Barnett so that they can have access to this revolutionary procedure. Mulder, determined not to make the same mistake twice, sets a trap for Barnett and then executes the criminal once he takes a new hostage. Of course, secrets seldom die on The X-Files. When we witness a ticking locker at episode's end, we wonder what the fate of Ridley's research will be: an undiscovered treasure, a dangerous weapon soon to resurface, or a trap that will eventually self-destruct when opened? Only future episodes (perhaps) will tell.

My Response:

Monday, June 18, 2018

The X-Files - "Lazarus" (season 1, episode 15)


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

Story (aired on February 4, 1994/written by Alex Gansa & Howard Gordon, directed by David Nutter): Scully takes a break from paranormal phenomena (she thinks) to help her one-time instructor/lover, Agent Jack Willis (Christopher Allport) catch a couple crooks he's been chasing for over a year. As Lula Phillips (Cec Verrell) waits in the getaway van, Warren Dupre (Jason Schombing) races into a bank. When confronted, he shoots Willis and is shot by Scully, who accompanies both men to the hospital. Warren is allowed to die while Scully forces the medics to defibrillate Willis repeatedly until he finally revives. What she doesn't notice is that, with each jolt, Warren's body shudders across the room. Somehow, Warren's consciousness has been transferred into Willis, who acts the part of FBI agent until a raid leads him and Scully back to Lula. At that point, the concealed criminal convinces his wife that he's the same guy (in a new form), and they take Scully hostage while bartering for a ransom from the FBI. Scully fights to deprogram Warren by reminding Willis - whom she correctly believes is still buried inside his own flesh - of their shared memories. Lula, meanwhile, has her own plans. She was the one who tipped the Feds off about the bank robbery, and she's been trying to rid herself of Warren for a while. Ultimately, he kills her before dying in a diabetic coma (not knowing Willis' condition, Warren drank several sodas until it was too late). Scully, studying a wristwatch that stopped at the time Willis was declared dead, is left to wonder how much of the man she knew was left inside this superficially similar vehicle.

My Response:

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The X-Files - "Gender Bender" (season 1, episode 14)


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

Story (aired on January 21, 1994/written by Larry & Paul Barber, directed by Rob Bowman): At a D.C. nightclub, a young woman (Kate Twa) approaches a man who appears hypnotized by her touch. Later, after they make love, he chokes up slimy clay and dies of cardiac arrest. The woman, transforming into a man (Peter Stebbings), leaves the victim behind. And so the premise of our story for this episode is established at the outset: another urban crime drama, with Mulder and Scully stepping in to tease out the supernatural element hidden in the corners of a noisy city amidst modern (nineties-vintage) cultural mores. Right? Wrong, as "Gender Bender" continually delights in reminding us, through very emphatic cuts between neon-lit, sexualized metropolitan nightlife and the eerie quiet of a clapboard-clad community deep in the Massachusetts woods, its quieter night sky pierced only by old-fashioned lanterns. The latter location is where much of the episode actually takes place. The clay Mulder finds at the crime scene comes from this remote area - a small patch of New England dominated by the Kindred, an Amish-like religious sect that avoids twentieth-century technology and most contact with the outside world.

As the FBI agents visit this area, Scully is particularly entranced by one young man, Brother Andrew (the striking Brent Hinkley), who places his hand on hers and triggers a deep reaction. The victims, it turns out, were killed shortly after sex by an overdose of pheromones, an effect Andrew also seems capable of inducing. "We're all different," he whispers to Scully, before nearly taking her to bed (and presumably, an early grave). Mulder, meanwhile, witnesses a ceremony in which the Kindred descend into a clay cavern with an old man (actor unknown) who has recently died, and the "corpse" not only reawakens but begins to turn into a woman. Do all of the Kindred share this quality too? Mulder and Scully aren't able to find out too much, except that Marty (the killer) was a Kindred member drawn to the outside world after he and Andrew, both adolescents at the time, discovered magazines in the woods. They then witness the Kindred themselves catch up with Marty and whisk him away before they can make any arrests. When the agents lead a raid on the village, everyone is gone. "How?" Scully asks as they race through tall grass. "They don't have access to any transportation." "No earthly transportation," Mulder clarifies as they reach a large, flying-saucer like indentation in the field.

My Response:

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Patreon update #24: Twin Peaks season 3 rewatch - Part 6 / film in focus: Before Sunrise (+ Homeland & centrism, listing favorite films & more) and description of Laura character study, pt. I


Although I watched Before Sunrise back in April, I knew I had to save this episode for June 16 - today is the twenty-fourth anniversary of the morning that the characters parted ways (and made plans to meet again). My coverage of this, the second-to-last patron recommendation (and the last in a long run as next week I'll be choosing my own Film in Focus), addresses the passage of time, Linklater's ability to fuse a casual, relaxed air with inventive structural conceits, and the real woman who inspired Before Sunrise and died tragically a year before it was released. For much of this podcast, I discuss a Twin Peaks episode also marked by violent death - the brooding, concentrated Part 6. I also comment on some films/TV episodes I watched recently, including the peculiar political vision of the Homeland finale, and open the archives to a time when I completed my Favorites series (the line-up lists my 58 favorite films, at least according to my mood on New Year's Eve 2011, when I composed said list).

And in an unusual biweekly preview, I describe my approach to a very important entry in my upcoming character series. How to lay out Laura's narrative, with its many tangents and manifestations? I really enjoyed assembling her material into a fragmented timeline that works for me - what do you think?




Line-up for Episode 24

INTRO - concluding the patron recommendations

WEEKLY UPDATE/mostly Patreon: 2nd tier biweekly preview - Laura Palmer's character study structure (mention X-Files series & character runners-up)

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS Return Rewatch Pt. 6
The feel & structure of the episode
Twin Peaks - Cooper investigation/Hit and run/Frank's family/Roadhouse/Drugs/Fat Trout/ standalone scenes
FBI in South Dakota - Yankton
Las Vegas - Dougie at home/Dougie's debt/Dougie at work/Assassination plot/Jade & the key
Spirit World - Red Room
Character introductions & re-introductions/screentime rankings/timeline of events
Coffee, pie & donuts
Lodge lore
Laura Palmer

FILM IN FOCUS: Before Sunrise

OTHER TOPICS: The Peanuts Movie, Homeland finale

LISTENER FEEDBACK: Twin Peaks Pts. 1 & 2, 3 & 4

OPENING THE ARCHIVE: "Finishing the Favorites" (May 2016 - January 2017), this week's highlight: Black/White video essay

OUTRO

Friday, June 15, 2018

The X-Files - "Beyond the Sea" (season 1, episode 13)


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

Story (aired on January 7, 1994/written by Glen Morgan & James Wong, directed by David Nutter): Yesterday I wondered when we'd finally get to Scully's backstory; "Beyond the Sea" provides an answer in the first few seconds as her father Captain William Scully (Don Davis) jovially pokes his head into a Christmas tree composition, before bidding his daughter goodnight. There's an awkward moment as he departs, a sense that in this mostly contented family some tensions and doubts go unspoken. That night, Scully awakens from the couch where she's dozed off to see that her father is still in the room, sitting across from her and silently mouthing something. When the phone rings he's gone, and her mother is on the line with bad news: William has passed away. Throughout episode 13, images of William will flicker through Scully's consciousness: the vision of him in that chair, a glimpse of his voice or face, and most chillingly, his unusually devious head atop an orange-jumpsuited death row convict. The convict is Luther Lee Boggs (Brad Dourif), a psychopathic murderer whose psychic claims even the usually credulous Mulder discounts...but Scully does not.

Mulder is convinced that Boggs has orchestrated a recent kidnapping and that an accomplice is holding two hostages somewhere until Boggs - offering clues via manufactured visions (based on evidence he already knows) - gets his imminent death sentence commuted into life imprisonment. Alternately manipulative and haunted, a clever fox and a terrified rabbit, Boggs cuts quite a figure. When he begins channeling Scully's dad, she keys into his frequency and follows some of his enigmatic hints (a waterfall and angel appear before her not in nature but as a neon sign and urban statue near the killer's lair in Raleigh). The FBI learns that Lucas Jackson Henry (Lawrence King-Phillips) is the culprit and one victim is rescued before he escapes with the other, but Mulder remains wary even after William predicts the circumstances of Mulder's near-death experience. Scully, on the other hand, begins to travel down Boggs' rabbit hole in an effort not only to save the serial killer's next victims but to commune with her father from "beyond the sea." Boggs dangles this reward in front of her twice.

First he teases and then withholds a message while pressuring Scully to petition the governor for his life (she tries and fails, but Boggs appreciates the effort, and even offers a warning which will save her own life in a few hours). Later, after Scully has successfully saved the remaining hostage and chased down the killer, Boggs invites her to his execution, saying that he'll finally facilitate William's voice in his final moments. But as the witnesses are revealed, the gas is released, and the ghosts of Boggs' victims gather around him, Scully is not present. She's at Mulder's bedside, drawn to the living warmth between her and her partner rather than the dying agony of a man who can use his own demons to assuage hers. When Mulder asks her why she doesn't want to know if her father was proud of her, she says she does know. When Mulder asks how, Scully smiles and echoes her mother Margaret (Sheila Larkin) at the funeral, answering, "Because he was my father."

My Response:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The X-Files - "Fire" (season 1, episode 12)


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

Story (aired on December 17, 1993/written by Chris Carter; directed by Larry Shaw): "Fire" is both a literal and figurative title for this episode, as Mulder contemplates re-igniting a passionate romance with Phoebe Green (Amanda Pays) while they both track down a mysterious arsonist. Phoebe is an old flame from his Oxford days, now working for Scotland Yard and alongside the Marsdens (Dan Lett and Laurie Paton), an aristocratic family that has been threatened by the killer before. As is often the case with The X-Files, mystery is eschewed in the opening minutes. We meet our villain (Mark Sheppard) as he's impersonating a gardener, apparently using a combination of telekinesis and rocket fuel-doused clothing to light a man on fire in the driveway of his own country estate. Later, this young man insinuates himself into the Marsdens' milieu by posing as the caretaker of the Cape Cod estate where they'll be staying. This also doubles as a clever way for him to "paint" their entire home - in rocket fuel. When the Marsdens attend a soiree in Boston, their childrens' hotel room goes up in flames and "Bob" the caretaker (stepping in for a driver he himself has killed) is on hand to rescue them and make himself a hero. His goal seems to be impressing Mrs. Marsden, an echo of Mulder's own struggle to navigate Phoebe's overtures and manage his own desires...but, also, it turns out, an echo of Phoebe's own behavior (Mulder discovers she's been carrying on an affair with Mr. Marsden). Heartache gives way to a hotter sensation as Mulder and Scully finally figure out who "Bob" is (a Brit named Cecil L'Ively), and race to save the Marsden boys and capture Cecil after he torches himself and, miraculously, survives (and even begins to regenerate his skin). Kept in a high-security isolation chamber, the human flamethrower is last seen in "Fire"'s closing minutes, severely burnt but still able to grin as he asks for a cigarette.

My Response:

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The X-Files - "Eve" (season 1, episode 11)


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

Story (aired on December 10, 1993/written by Kenneth Biller & Chris Brancato, directed by Fred Gerber): Teena Simmons' (Sabrina Krievens') father has been killed in Greenwich, Connecticut; two puncture wounds on his neck suggest exsanguination, or slow draining of blood. He's found sitting on a swingset. So is Mr. Reardon in Marin County, California whose time of death matches Mr. Simmons'. Mulder and Scully visit the west coast crime scene after Teena has been kidnapped and they're shocked to see a girl who looks identical to her open the Reardons' door. This is Cindy Reardon (Erika Krievins), the product of in vitro fertilization supervised by Dr. Sally Kendrick (Harriet Harris), a disgraced fertility clinic supervisor who apparently tampered with her patients' ova in eugenic experiments. Deep Throat fills in some gaps for Mulder, noting a Cold War program called "the Litchfield experiments" in which U.S. intelligence tried to manufacture supersoldiers with extra chromosomes that lead to abnormally high intelligence, strength...and psychosis. The boys are called Adam, the girls are called Eve (interestingly, we never meet any Adams in Episode 11 - is a follow-up in store?).

At an institution for the criminally insane, Mulder and Scully meet Eve-6 (also Harris, leading them to understand that Dr. Kendrick, or Eve-7, was one of these original clones). It turns out that Eve-8 is the one kidnapping the two girls created by Eve-7; squirreling them away at a motel in Port Reyes, she explains her purpose. She knows that they killed their fathers, which the girls readily admit (asked how they knew that one another existed, Teena and Cindy - or rather, Eve-9 and Eve-10 - explain, "We just knew"). Eve-8 hopes to cure them of their unstable homicidal tendencies, but they've outsmarted her, poisoning her drink and leading her to die just before the FBI agents burst in to "rescue" the two children. Playing their new guardians for fools as they share conspiratorial smirks, the two Eves request a rest stop where one of them poisons Mulder's and Scully's sodas. Only when Mulder accidentally spots the residue of the same extract that killed Eve-8 does he realize who the culprits have been all along. Following a chase through a truck stop, the girls are captured and sent to the same institution as Eve-8. As the episode closes, Dr. Kendrick/Eve-7 arrives to rescue her progeny/siblings; curious, she wonders how they knew she'd come get them. Smiling as ominously as ever, the latest Eves - having apparently orchestrated all of their actions through this episode to lead to this point - answer, once again, "We just knew."

My Response:

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The X-Files - "Fallen Angel" (season 1, episode 10)


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

Story (aired on November 19, 1993/written by Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa, directed by Larry Shaw): Meet Max Fenig (Scott Bellis). It takes the episode eleven minutes to put him onscreen inside a detention pen, following a mysterious crash in Wisconsin, a fatal attack on a sheriff's deputy by some unseen creature, and Mulder's rogue infiltration of the crash site before he's captured. As Mulder's temporary cellmate, the shaggy-haired, conspiracy-minded Max seems like he might just be a one-scene character, indicative of the wider alien obsession that possessed America at this time, the flip-side of Mulder's more official investigations. Instead, Max keeps showing up, parking his silver trailer - full of high-tech spy equipment - in the lot outside the FBI's motel room (Scully shows up to scold and then reluctantly collaborate with Mulder). Mulder notices some strange markings behind Max's ear, matching several alien abductees in his files. He takes a protective, even tender, stance toward the young epileptic - and possibly schizophrenic - man, believing that he may inadvertently help them discover the invisible extraterrestrial force terrorizing the area, burning several soldiers to death as Col. Calvin Henderson (Marshall Bell) tries to track it down. Sure enough, Mulder and Max are attacked by this being in a warehouse, with Max eventually raised in the air, glowing and convulsing before both he and the other life form disappear. Mulder is harshly reprimanded, and an expulsion from the FBI is imminent. Instead, a powerful force intervenes on his behalf: Deep Throat. This intervention is not due to a rugged insider/outsider's affinity for the rebellious agent but to a more pernicious calculation. Not a secret turncoat at all, Deep Throat has been using Mulder, believing that it's safer to feed him some limited information and keep him working for the Bureau than to have him on the outside. "Keep your friends close," he tells another frustrated official, "and your enemies closer."

My Response:

Monday, June 11, 2018

The X-Files - "Space" (season 1, episode 9)


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

Story (aired on November 12, 1993/written by Chris Carter; directed by William Graham): Lt. Col. Marcus Aurelius Belt (Ed Lauter) has been all over the space program: one of its earliest pilots, an astronaut who conducted an iconic space walk, a NASA official who parried press inquiries about a Mars mission in the seventies, and finally head of the shuttle program trying to troubleshoot some technical mishaps and PR risks. Mulder, an astronaut aficianado, has followed Belt's career since childhood but there's something he doesn't know about his hero. As he floated outside his craft years earlier, Belt encountered a kind of interstellar phantom whose face resembles a tectonic feature on Mars' landscape. For decades afterwards he's been haunted by nighttime transformations in which his face becomes grayish and stretched out, a physical expression of his consciousness becoming agonizingly subsumed in another being. As a shuttle launch is aborted and a follow-up encounters grave breakdowns in orbit, Mulder and Scully must figure out what Belt is hiding from them, or rather what the monster within is hiding from him: repeated sabotage of shuttle parts leading to various setbacks or disasters, including the Challenger explosion. Mission Control communications commander Michelle Generoo (Susanna Thompson), concerned for her fiancee on the present shuttle mission, is the one who set the FBI agents on this path. As a consequence, she experiences a violent car accident in which the space creature's face swoops in on her during a nighttime drive. Later, as Belt fights through his possession right before their eyes, struggling to help them despite his agony, the team finally discovers how the astronauts can make it back safely to earth. Later that night, Belt leaps to his death from a hospital room, guided by the phantom that has tormented him for decades. Mulder and Scully honor Belt as his star-draped graveside. He was a hero and villain trapped in the same body, tormented by what he encountered when he charged forward into the unknown.

My Response:

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The X-Files - "Ice" (season 1, episode 8)


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

Story (aired on November 5, 1993/written by Glen Morgan & James Wong, directed by David Nutter): "Ice" opens like a conventional nineties action film, with the buff bare-chested combatants (Ken Kirzinger, a stunt coordinator for the series, and Sonny Surowiec) facing off in an iconic gun-to-each-other's head pose, against a classic generic-science-station backdrop straight out of Goldeneye (the video game, anyway). Then, a twist: in mutual, silent agreement, they each place the guns to their own temples and pull the triggers. Prior to this suicide pact, one of the men, the last of a geophysicist group stationed way out on the Alaskan frontier to drill deep into a glacier, records an ominous message which the FBI eventually watches in the safe, cozy confines of Washington, D.C. As static envelops the frame, the soon-to-be-dead man mutters, "We are not...who we are." Scully and Mulder join three scientists and burly pilot Bear (Jeff Kober) to form a dirty half-dozen investigating the source of the transmission. The scientists are physician Dr. Hodge (Xander Berkeley, quintessential "suspicious official"/professional prick character actor in the nineties and zeroes),  the goofy, geeky he's-gonna-die-isn't-he? geologist Dr. Murphy (Steve Hytner, who played Bania on Seinfeld - "Gold, Jerry, gold!"), and toxicologist Dr. De Silva (Felicity Huffman, whom I dimly recognized but was still surprised to see credited).

At the site, they are attacked by a dog and discover a parasitical worm moving under its skin. Studying the strange creatures, which may derive from a wayward asteroid frozen many millennia ago, the team realizes that this parasite ends up controlling the victim's behavior and forcing them into violent, eventually homicidal confrontations. Bear is the first to be taken over and eventually killed when the worm is removed, meaning that the others are stuck there until rescue can arrive. Studying the creature and eyeing each other suspiciously, the team descends into further infighting when Murphy is discovered with his throat slit. A solution is discovered: if a second worm is introduced into the host, the two parasites will kill each other and then be flushed out of the host's body. De Silva and Hodge try to force this treatment on Mulder, convinced that he is the host/killer. (Scully is initially convinced as well, but after an intense heart-to-heart, one of the most dramatic moments between these two partners in the young show, she believes his innocence). At the last moment, everyone realizes that in fact De Silva is the host, and they are able to force the second worm into her ear, saving her, them, and possibly the human race.

My Response:

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Patreon update #23: Twin Peaks season 3 rewatch - Part 5 / film in focus: The Wrestler (+ my 2016 video essays, Anna Karina & more)


From now until the finale, my Twin Peaks rewatch will deal with one episode at a time. Nonetheless, this podcast is still packed with analysis and reflection. Part 5 was a favorite at the time, and it still seems really rich and underrated to me. I also revisit The Wrestler for the first time in years (I think this was my second viewing) - now it feels almost like a period piece, in addition to its other qualities. Further topics include my earliest experiences with The X-Files (or what I thought was X-Files), the last batch of political podcast recommendations, feedback on The Devil Rides Out and the two-hour premiere of Twin Peaks' third season, video essays I created during a particularly active period in 2016, and (related to that last subject) the onscreen relationship of Anna Karina and Jean-Luc Godard.



Line-up for Episode 23

INTRO

WEEKLY UPDATE/recent posts: finished Veronica Mars series, started X-Files series (memory of trying to watch an X-Files episode as a kid)

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS Return Rewatch Pt. 5
The feel & structure of the episode
Buenos Aires
Twin Peaks - Cooper investigation/Becky/Double R franchise/Frank's family/Jacoby/Roadhouse/Drugs
FBI in South Dakota - Yankton/Buckhorn
Mr. C
Las Vegas - Dougie's home life/Dougie's debt/Dougie at work/Assassination plot/Mitchums/Jade & the key
Spirit World - Red Room
Character introductions & re-introductions/screentime rankings/ timeline of events
Coffee, pie, and donuts
Lodge lore
Laura Palmer

FILM IN FOCUS: The Wrestler

OTHER TOPICS: Political podcast recommendations

LISTENER FEEDBACK: The Devil Rides Out, Twin Peaks Pt. 1 & 2

OPENING THE ARCHIVE: "Paris, Portmeirion, and Other Planets" (December 2015 - April 2016), this week's highlight: The Passion of Anna K. video essay

OUTRO

Friday, June 8, 2018

The X-Files - "Ghost in the Machine" (season 1, episode 7)


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

Story (aired on October 29, 1993/written by Alex Gansa & Howard Gordon, directed by Jerrold Freedman): In the executive suite of Eurisco Software, three shocking (in at least one case, literally!) events occur. CEO Benjamin Drake (Tom Butler) fires the company's founder Brad Wilczek (Rob LaBelle), who threatens him in fairly unambiguous terms on his way out the door. Benjamin then writes a memo advising the shutdown of the Central Operating System, Brad's controversial pet program. And finally the big boss is killed when the building itself, run by the COS, turns against him. After being trapped in the restroom, he is electrocuted by the card-reader and there the FBI case begins. Mulder and Scully are invited to join the investigation by Jerry Lamana (Wayne Duvall), Mulder's old partner who needs the exiled agent's expertise but also wants to take credit for his work. Jerry becomes a martyr rather than a nuisance when he follows Brad back to Eurisco headquarters and is murdered by a rouge elevator. Brad is sitting at the computer's controls when all this unfolds, leading to both his arrest and his blackmail by the Defense Department, who wants to use his AI program as a high-risk weapon. When Mulder and Scully return to the office with specific instructions from Brad as to how they can destroy his life's work (which potentially threatens human society with obliteration), they are confronted by Claude Peterson (Blu Mankuma), yet another bureaucratic rival of the FBI with his own organization's interests at heart (in this case, his apparently working on behalf of the Pentagon). After climbing through a Jurassic Park-like air duct - and narrowly avoiding being sliced and diced by an industrial fan - Scully is able to hold off Claude while Mulder destroys the machine and, with it, whatever ghostly intelligence operates inside. Mulder also meets again with Deep Throat, who cavalierly (and cynically) suggests that Brad will sell out to the U.S. government, and then disappear off the face of the earth. More disconcerting is what reappears. We see a blinking light on the mainframe flare up again as Peterson mutters that he'll get the computer working again "even if it kills me." Be careful what you wish for.

My Response:

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The X-Files - "Shadows" (season 1, episode 6)


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

Story (aired on October 22, 1993/written by Glen Morgan & James Wong, directed by Michael Katleman): This may be less a story of Mulder and Scully than a story of Lauren Kyte (Lisa Waltz), secretary to a Philadelphia businessman who has recently committed suicide. Lauren was very close to Howard Grave (actor - or simply archive photo - unknown), more like a daughter than an employee. This is probably due to the fact that Howard lost a daughter twenty-five years earlier, forgetting to lock the door to a swimming pool in which the toddler drowned. She would have been the same age as Lauren, and so Howard - even from beyond the grave - is determined not to let such tragedy strike again. Lauren is haunted by a protective spirit that uses psychokinetic energy to kill several would-be murderers, wreak vengeance on anyone who threatens her, and expose a treasonous plot involving an Iranian terrorist group's connection to Howard's business (which fulfilled defense contracts until it lost a Pentagon deal and turned toward other sources of revenue). Scully is, as always, skeptical that this national-security intrigue has a supernatural element, but Mulder is present for several poltergeist assaults, including the climactic confrontation with Howard's successor Robert Dorlund (Barry Primus), which reveals the telltale floppy disk hidden behind the executive office's wallpaper and will presumably confirm that Robert actually had Howard killed. Lauren, meanwhile, flees to the Midwest in the hope that Howard's presence won't follow her. When a supervisor's coffee cup trembles on her desk after she's snippy with Lauren, the relocated young woman has to wonder if her old boss has followed her to a new job...and whether she really minds after all.

My Response:

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The X-Files - "The Jersey Devil" (season 1, episode 5)


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

Story (aired on October 8, 1993/written by Chris Carter, directed by Joe Napolitano): Here's an episode that splits the difference between the show's penchant for urban intrigue, with human monsters haunting a decaying metropolis, and rural menace, with dangerous creatures lurking in the eerie woods. By setting itself in southern New Jersey, "The Jersey Devil" can shuttle Mulder and Scully (when she's not racing back to D.C. for a godson's birthday or a date with a divorced dad) between the radically different locales of Atlantic City and the Pine Barrens. In the city, which infamously fronts its Gotham City sprawl with a shiny Disneyland boardwalk, Mulder clashes with the hostile, sneaky Detective Thompson (Wayne Tippit) and goes undercover in a homeless community to spot a mysterious nighttime predator. In the woods, the isolated setting of perhaps the most celebrated episode of The Sopranos, Mulder converses with the helpful if vaguely sinister Ranger Pete Boulle (Michael MacRae) about the human-yet-not-human creature(s?) accused of attacking several victims over a long span of years. The object of this diverse investigation is, yes "the Jersey devil" - as it turns out, a naked woman prowling around both her natural habitat and the back alleys of Atlantic City (how she travels, unseen, from the Barrens to AC is never really explained, unless I missed something). Is she a woman born in civilization who wandered into the woods and regressed to a more animal-like state? Or, given that another cannibal was killed in Pinewood National Park many years earlier (we witness this via flashback at the start of episode 5), is she part of an unbroken chain, a quasi-human cannibal species that can trace its roots back to the supposedly extinct Neanderthal clan? Incidentally, even though archaeological excavations have suggested that Neanderthals were in fact cannibals, some historians believe that homo sapiens systematically hunted and devoured Neanderthals themselves - a dark secret history that lends additional weight to the fate of this Jersey devil, and corresponds with the many ominous ruminations of Dr. Diamond (Gregory Sierra), Scully's old Anthropology professor who eagerly helps the FBI in their hunt for a missing link.

My Response:

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The X-Files - "Conduit" (season 1, episode 4)


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

Story (aired on October 1, 1993/written by Alex Gansa & Howard Gordon, directed by Daniel Sackheim): After an excursion into the city for a series of mutant murders, we're back on familiar ground for the series: small towns and UFOs. There is a possible alien abduction during a camping trip at a Midwestern national park, and Mulder is obsessed with pursing the case. The reason is obvious, as Division Chief Scott Blevins (Charles Cioffi) explains to Scully: Mulder's sister disappeared under similar circumstances and the missing girl, Ruby Morris (Taunya Dee), has a little brother Kevin (Joel Palmer) who is left behind and haunted by her absence. Indeed, when Mulder and Scully arrive at the Morris home near Sioux City, Kevin is staring at the television and jotting down the 1's and 0's transmitted to him by the seemingly random static. Mulder has his own explanation for the case's importance, despite its obvious emotional resonance - Ruby's mother (Carrie Snodgress, who played one of the commune members in Easy Rider) had her own close encounter at the lake with a Girl Scout troop many years ago, and the site is apparently a notorious hotbed of UFO activity. Continuing the show's theme of spy/defense bureaucratic rivalry, NSA agents threaten Mulder and seize the boy's drawing as evidence. But it's Mulder and Scully who discover what the 1's and 0's add up to: a gigantic sketch of Ruby's face. They return to the lake just in time for Ruby's mysterious return, but her memory is foggy and her mother repels the agent's inquiry (rather rudely, given the fat that Mulder saved her little boy's life from a gang of bikers). As the episode ends, Scully listens to a recording a therapeutic session where Mulder's psychiatrist asks him if he believes that his sister is still alive. There's a long pause as the screen cuts to black, and while it might seem poetically appropriate for us to never hear the ambivalent agent's reply, his final line is even better: "I want to believe."

My Response:

Monday, June 4, 2018

The X-Files - "Squeeze" (season 1, episode 3)


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

Story (aired on September 24, 1993/written by Glen Morgan & James Wong, directed by Harry Longstreet): I mentioned last time that eventually the series would need to look for different locations than quiet all-American towns where danger lurks and sure enough, "Squeeze" re-directs us into a very urban milieu. Scully and (reluctantly) Mulder are brought on board an investigation by a Baltimore FBI office, led by the smarmy, nakedly ambitious Tom Colton (Donal Logue), an old colleague of Scully's. This is a good way to demonstrate her loyalty to her new "spooky" partner, as she takes Mulder's side against friends and higher-ups who mock his paranormal inclinations. This case gives them plenty of fodder as attention focuses on Eugene Victor Tooms (Doug Hutchinson), a calm, quiet young man whose polygraph checks out - except that two particular questions make him nervous. Those questions revolve around the commission of earlier crimes...decades earlier in fact, some as old as the early twentieth century, long before Eugene should have been born. Using long, eerily stretched-out fingerprints and old newspaper clippings, Mulder becomes convinced that Tooms is an ageless mutant who can extend his body to squeeze through narrow spaces. While the other agents laugh, we in the audience are given a privileged glimpse of him extending down chimneys and through ducts, ripping out the livers of innocent people; eventually Mulder and Scully will discover his lair in a derelict old building and battle him when he sneaks into Scully's own apartment. The episode ends with Tooms "safely" imprisoned inside a walled cell but when a guard delivers his meal and leaves the tiny trap door open, Tooms stares intently at that impossibly narrow little space...and displays a chilling smile.

My Response:

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The X-Files - "Deep Throat" (season 1, episode 2)


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

Story (aired on September 17, 1993/written by Chris Carter, directed by Daniel Sackheim): Another week with the X-Files investigating team, another trip to a slice of quiet Americana, where ordinary people are experiencing extraordinary, inexplicable occurrences. This time Mulder and Scully are investigating the mental breakdowns of several test pilots near a top secret Air Force base. The latest, Col. Robert Budahas (Andrew Johnston), was taken into custody after hijacking a vehicle, locking himself inside his home, and breaking out into strange rashes. When he returns, his wife (Gabrielle Rose) is horrified - he looks the same, but something fundamental is missing. "That's not my husband!" she screams, and sure enough he can't remember much of anything about his piloting experience. Sneaking onto the base with the help of a couple of goofy stoner teens (Monica Parker and Seth Green, who seems even more 90s here than he usually does), our agents witness strange flight patterns; Mulder begins to believe that the Air Force has been developing advanced technology using pieces from the downed spacecraft at Roswell. However, nobody wants the FBI around and eventually Mulder is snatched and Scully is forced to hold an undercover military operative at gunpoint in order to discover where he went. A befuddled Mulder is released to her, his memory erased like the pilots', and the agents return to headquarters even more uncertain about what they've seen than they were in the last episode. Meanwhile, the episode takes its title from a minor, foreboding character who tries to warn Mulder off the case. At the end of the episode, he reappears, cryptically confirming "they have been here for a long, long time."

My Response:

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Patreon update #22: Twin Peaks season 3 rewatch - Parts 3 & 4 / film in focus: Swing Time (& more) and preview of New Mexico Townspeople character study


What a cheerful bunch! This was a fun image to compile. After a series of somber and/or surreal films in focus, a Hollywood musical comedy swoops in to lighten the mood. Likewise, this week's Twin Peaks pair (the last time two episodes will be conjoined until the finale) has a fairly comedic flair - alongside some genuinely trippy material, of course. The Return Rewatch continues with Parts 3 and 4, followed by my reflections on Swing Time, some more podcast recommendations, and a tour through a Neon Genesis Evangelion-heavy archive period. By the way, if you're wondering why I haven't yet shared your comments on the last episode (or previous ones), worry not; I wasn't able to incorporate them into listener feedback this week, but they'll definitely be read next time around. Also, apologies for the rough quality of the "podcast recommendations" section once again. See you again next week for more Twin Peaks, and a bit of Mickey Rourke.





Line-up for Episode 22

INTRO

WEEKLY UPDATE/recent posts: Veronica Mars series

WEEKLY UPDATE/Patreon: 2nd tier biweekly preview - New Mexico townspeople

 TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS Return Rewatch Pt. 3 & 4
The feel & structure of the episode
New York
Twin Peaks -Cooper investigation/Jacoby/Roadhouse/Drugs/standalone scenes
FBI in South Dakota - Philadelphia/Yankton/Buckhorn
Mr. C
Las Vegas - assassination plot/meeting Dougie/Dougie at home/Mitchums
Spirit World - Red Room/Purple World Tower
Character introductions & re-introductions/screentime rankings/timeline of events
Coffee, pie, and donuts 
Lodge lore 
Laura Palmer

FILM IN FOCUS: Swing Time

OTHER TOPICS: Political podcast recommendations

OPENING THE ARCHIVE: "A World Without Uncertainty" (August - December 2015), this week's highlight: Side by Side video essay on Neon Genesis Evangelion & Twin Peaks

OUTRO