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

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)

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


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 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)

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


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


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 Todd, 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 Todd 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, Todd's dad follows through on his threat, and Todd is shipped off. If that seems like an unexpected turn of events, what follows goes much further: a cocky Todd 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 Todd 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)

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


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


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."

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (unaired pilot)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Eventually, I will cover the whole series; for now I am posting brief overviews of the film and the unaired pilot as prologues. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (created in 1996/written & directed by Joss Whedon): On a typically blue-sky Californian day in the mid-nineties, and this is very mid-nineties (or earlier, given the House of Pain needle-drop), Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) shows up for her first day at a new high school. And what a school, designed more like the Disneyland version of a Renaissance palazzo than your more usual boxy public building. All is cheery, sunny, and colorful - or at least it probably would be if this episode wasn't just available in washed-out bootleg quality online. The show, however, begins before this bright introduction, as one night a couple breaks into the school, trespassing in the auditorium before the young woman morphs into a vampire and kills Buffy's first victim. When the corpse falls out of a locker with two fang marks in his neck, Buffy realizes she can't escape her destiny: she's a slayer, as immediately recognized by the school librarian Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), clearly sent there in anticipation of her move, to be her handler. Buffy is more interested in being a typical teenager, but that's not in the cards - after rescuing her new friend Willow (Riff Regan) from a vampire encounter, she accepts that she's a slayer whether she wants to be or not.

My Response: 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: the film

Welcome to my viewing diary for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Eventually, I will cover the whole series; for now I am posting brief overviews of the film and the unaired pilot as prologues. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (theatrical debut on July 31, 1992/written by Joss Whedon; directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui): The story begins, briefly, in the middle ages when we might expect to find vampires and vampire slayers, passing rituals down through the generations to fight the undead. But then, with a sharp shift even in the font of the graphics, we are in a mall with a bunch of Valley girls, pop rock blaring on the soundtrack. What could these two worlds have to do with each other? Buffy the Vampire Slayer very consciously sells itself as a high-concept mash-up, albeit a light-hearted one. It's right there in the title of course (a vampire slayer named Buffy??!) which the show retained, but it's also highlighted in the posters, which mix the iconography of vampires - specifically the deadly wooden stake which hasn't changed much over the centuries - with the fashion of early nineties Southern California high schoolers. And the film makes the most of these juxtapositions, contrasting its gothic action with the bright day-glo colors popular a quarter-century ago on the West Coast (at least its southern, non-grungey precincts). The characters are also studies in contrast. Buffy (Kristy Swanson), the materially spoiled but emotionally neglected daughter of a couple yuppie socialites, discovers she has incredible martial talents and powerful instincts. An initially creepy but ultimately harmless older man named Merrick (Donald Sutherland) awakens her to these latent skills, letting her know that he and she are inheritors of an ancient tradition, in which Watchers train Slayers to battle vampires. Eventually, she must survive on her own, with only the intermittent, occasionally feckless help of Pike (Luke Perry), a slacker whose best friend received the bite of immortality.

My response:

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Kingdom II - "Pandemonium" (episode 8)

Welcome to my viewing diary for the two-season Danish miniseries The Kingdom. Every day (except Saturday) I will offer a short review of another episode. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on November 22, 1997/written by Tómas Gislason, Niels Vorsel & Lars von Trier; directed by Morten Arnfred & Lars von Trier): "The sun turned so red, mum/And the night so black./Little Brother's dead, mum/And Mona can't come back./Aage's roaming out there, mum/So we lock our doors./There's a draught upon my pillow, mum/Will the Kingdom be as before?"

Sigrid's elevator is dropping down many levels beneath the ground floor (the numbers on the display are all negative). She has already discovered a Satanic cult worshipping deep down in the hospital, and identified Camille - the sleep technician whom we've hardly seen since season one - as a member of this cult. Now she's plummeting into Satan's realm, but then so is the entire hospital. Jørgen's "hook" has become homicidal; if the character's misanthropy once had some charm, since his resurrection he has become an irredeemable fascist, nearly exterminating Mona (until the blocks she plays with on her bed spell out something about Helmer, which he thinks he may find useful). His eugenicist urge finds a more drastic outlet at episode's end; as Christian prepares for his blind Falcon run, a worker rushes off to watch the monitor (a month's salary rides on Christian's fate) and leaves Jørgen in charge of a switchboard that holds the power to the hospital's machinery, and thus the lives of many of its patients. An elderly, gentlemanly figure of Death (Ingolf David) rides in the back of Christian's ambulance, warning, "It's going to be a busy night." And that busy night will begin in the very vehicle he rides in, with some of the ensemble's youngest characters. As the power goes out at the hospital, Christian can't receive commands from the dispatcher and he crashes into Mogge and Sanne. Little Brother is finally dead too, his belly distended, his gigantic limbs and fingers limp, his head resting on the floor. His own mother, after his endless pleas, cut the strings holding him in place while singing him a lullaby. Now, however, she has second thoughts, screaming into the night for the baby's father, consenting to give him what he wants - power over and through them - if he will bring her child back. The frame is engulfed by a flash of light, an almost atomic explosion...and The Kingdom ends, forever, right on the cusp of its biggest moment. Of course!

Well, there is a little more. Helmer has already had quite an episode - he is elevated in the Lodge, married to Rigmor (who, after all the roundelays, acquired the Mona report herself and now uses it to keep the sour Swede in her clutches), and forced by Mogge's desperate blackmail - mentioning an official Helmer knows back in Sweden - to give the student a passing grade on his exam. Meanwhile, even without the anesthesiologist's report, Mona poses a threat. When Helmer finds out she can deliver messages via her blocks, and that his name is featured among these messages, he kidnaps the little girl in a laundry basket and placing her on a circular conveyer belt to avoid detection. When her box returns, it is empty - where has she gone??? And that brings us to the final button, placed after the von Trier outro, as Helmer flushes some more incriminating material down the toilet and mutters that the only thing to make his night worse would be for Dr. Jönsson, the Swede whom Mogge dug up, to show up at the hospital. And sure enough, this new character (Philip Zandén), introduced over the show is over, appears in the darkened, candlelit building in the middle of the blackout. "I bring greetings from Dr. Helmer," he says to the official who stumbles across him, "from his wife and seven children in Borĺs."

My Response:

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Kingdom II - "Gargantua" (episode 7)

Welcome to my viewing diary for the two-season Danish miniseries The Kingdom. Every day (except Saturday) I will offer a short review of another episode. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on November 15, 1997/written by Tómas Gislason, Niels Vorsel & Lars von Trier; directed by Morten Arnfred & Lars von Trier): I should have known. Although the stakes seemed incredibly high at the end of the previous episode, they are quickly dragged back down to earth at the start of "Gargantua." Helmer has been merely wounded by an apologetic Rigmor. Jørgen was rescued by a man who wanted to sing a funeral dirge for his corpse. Despite all the intervening leaps, we're back where we were before, with Jørgen and a wheelchair-bound Helmer still trying to outwit each other for Mona's anesthesiology report. Hilariously, there is a "chase" inside the archive room as they inch toward/away from each other just slowly enough not to trigger the alarm. Another hilarious Helmer chase involves a bailiff with a yellow envelope calling the surgeon to court; Helmer is warned of this threat by another snobbish Swede, his lawyer (played by notable guest star Stellan Skarsgård, fresh from the director's international triumph Breaking the Waves). Ole's attempt to impress Sanne ends in a whimper; she cares more about her slasher films than the fact that he's become the "Falcon" she was so infatuated by. As if looking for another avenue to prove himself in, the new ghost-driver tells a dying man (injured and eventually killed by, I think, the previous driver, not Ole) that his family will be provided for and decides to do one last ambulance run - a blind one in this case, with the windshield obscured - so he can earn enough money to fulfill that promise.

Sigrid and Bulder pal around with Hansen (Otto Brandenburg) all episode, initially - harmlessly enough - in hidden rooms, sussing out dream-clues about the nature of the hospital. Bulder is guided through a vision in which he travels deep into the bowels of the Kingdom and rearranges the stone-hewn letters of its Danish name ("Riget") so that they spell “Tiger.” When a tiger materializes before him, Bulder turns into a bird (albeit, to the great annoyance of Sigrid, one that can't fly). Sigrid takes these clues as a reference to the painting she saw in her near-death experience, and Bulder digs up a magazine reproduction of the image, that he clipped back during his "hippie phase" in the early seventies. His mother deduces that the tiger is the hospital, the serpent in the tree above it is the doctors, and those uncanny birds of passage are the spirits (perhaps Bulder, even in his visionary state, could not turn into flying bird because he lacks the spiritual nature of his mother; he's too - literally - down-to-earth). Here's where Hansen becomes dangerous; the amateur pilot suggests flying them into the airspace above the hospital, where spirits may haunt the atmospheric corridors much as they haunt the building’s. As they ascend to the heavens, Satan is afoot below; the "ghost" of Age Krüger returns to see his son, now dubbed Little Brother, and is identified by another spiritualist as not a ghost at all, but a demon (at which point he instantly grows two horns and flees before snapping them off his own head). He is the one who killed the priest last time and as his son, part-demon himself (but determined to be good), prepares to die it seems that two Udo Kiers may be too much for this rickety structure to handle.

My Response:

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Kingdom II - "Birds of Passage" (episode 6)

Welcome to my viewing diary for the two-season Danish miniseries The Kingdom. Every day (except Saturday) I will offer a short review of another episode. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on November 8, 1997/written by Tómas Gislason, Niels Vorsel & Lars von Trier; directed by Morten Arnfred & Lars von Trier): Sigrid lives! Albeit only after she (temporarily) dies. Jørgen dies! Except he doesn't...except he's about to...maybe? Life and death are confusing matters in "Birds of Passage." Judith's grotesque baby continues to grow (and is expected to die soon); Moesgaard falls under the sway of Ole (Erik Wedersøe), the manipulative shrink in the basement; and mystic-healing charlatan Philip Marco (Fash Shodeinde) temporarily convinces Sigrid and Bondo that he's removed - and eaten - their diseased organs through a sleight of hand involving cow's blood. Among the younger crowd, Christian (Ole Boisen) objects to "ghost-driving," a popular sport where the mysterious "Falcon" (Thomas Bo Larsen) speeds around town in an ambulance, racing against raffic on the wrong side of the street while the students bet on his survival. Mogge and Sanne love the game and admire Falcon, considering Christian a predictable bore. Determined to impress his crush, Christian takes over for Falcon one night, speeding into one of many tense strands in this episode's cliffhanger climax. Despite these different subplots, episode six is largely focused on the Sigrid and Jørgen material.

The episodes kicks off when Sigrid herself kicks off. The dying Mrs. Drusse is swept into a vision of the afterlife - her spirit floats up to the ceiling and then above the whole hospital and city, before she finds herself in a long corridor leading to a room with two doors. One is tall and one is small, and a much happier Mary emerges from the tall one to let Sigrid know that her time has not yet come. The old woman is relieved to hear she is not responsible for the spirits roaming the hospital, but she's concerned to learn that a great task is at hand: "It will come to pass at Christmas," Mary warns her. "You must go back." Sigrid is also struck by a painting of a tiger in a tropical landscape, with black birds of passage flocking overhead. Back in her body, Sigrid organizes a meeting of invisible spirits, using water and chalk dust to commune with these ghosts. This eccentric but peaceful event takes a disastrous turn, however, when the friendly priest wanders into the lecture hall and is violently attacked by paranormal forces, who appear to tear him to shreds.

Meanwhile, Jørgen's fate is coming to a head; Helmer has learned that the Haitian poison only makes its victim appear to be dead - if he applies the antidote within a couple days, the corpse can be resurrected. Unfortunately, the fallen doctor is scheduled to be cremated so Helmer races to stop the process, eventually seizing the casket with both hands while a conveyer belt pulls them toward the flames. Out of nowhere, at the worst possible moment, Rigmor shoots her lover in the back, forcing him to collapse and lose his grip on the casket just as Jørgen's eyes open inside and fire consumes the box. Rigmor may not have killed Helmer, but it's a cinch she's killed "Dr. Hook." That is, if anything's a cinch on this show...

My Response:

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Patreon update #17: Twin Peaks season 2 & Séraphine (+ cartoon classics & more)

Originally I planned to review Before Sunrise this week but, after rewatching the film, I realized at the last minute that June 16 would make a more suitable date (at least for this site's cross-post; the episode will publish earlier in the week). A few months ago I had seen and reviewed Séraphine, a biopic about a French outsider artist from the early twentieth century so I was able to bump it up a week on the schedule without a problem. I also discuss the second season of Twin Peaks, attempting to view it both as the complicated, multi-part narrative it was and also as something with an overarching character of its own. This is a relatively quiet episode overall - there's no "Other Topics" section to speak of, and I've reserved most of the listener feedback for next week too. By the way, thank you to all patrons - I reached $100 this month! I hope you continue to enjoy the work I produce.

Line-up for Episode 17


WEEKLY UPDATE/recent posts: Kingdom series

WEEKLY UPDATE/Patreon: eliminating 3rd Tier

WEEKLY UPDATE/work in progress: interview w/ Cameron Cloutier (Twin Peaks fan film about Annie & research into Golden State Killer)


FILM IN FOCUS: Séraphine

OTHER TOPICS: A new approach

OPENING THE ARCHIVE: "The Watchlist Hits Toontown" (August - October 2013), this week's highlight: #WatchlistScreenCaps - Cartoon classic marathon


Friday, April 27, 2018

The Kingdom II - "Death on the Operation Table" (episode 5)

Welcome to my viewing diary for the two-season Danish miniseries The Kingdom. Every day (except Saturday) I will offer a short review of another episode. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on November 1, 1997/written by Tómas Gislason, Niels Vorsel & Lars von Trier; directed by Morten Arnfred & Lars von Trier): Who could that "death on the operation table" belong to? The season finale left many options: Bondo, receiving his new liver (no, he's still with us, albeit looking extremely depleted); Judith, giving birth to what appeared to be a full-size man (she survives and is even drawn to be a mother - for a time); her baby, choking and screaming as it bursts from her body (as it turns out, he just has the head of a full-size man attached to a small if weirdly-proportioned infant baby)? Instead, the victim of fate's caprice is the character most obsessed with death herself until now. Sigrid Drusse is discharged at episode's beginning, uncomfortable with recent events and guilty with her role in releasing new spirits upon the hospital. She immediately returns as a patient - a genuine one this time - when she's struck by an ambulance in the parking lot; after hovering in critical condition all episode she appears to die in the end, floating above her body as a transparent spirit, ready to join the ghostly ensemble she studied for so long. Notably, Helmer is implicated in both events pertaining her to her demise. She's hit by the ambulance while distracted by Helmer's rushed re-entry to the hospital (on roller-skis for some reason), and later flatlines as a direct result of Jørgen passing out just as he's about to resuscitate her (a loss of consciousness caused, it seems, by Helmer's possibly fatal Haitian poison, gulped down in a cup of coffee).

Elsewhere, the hospital seems slightly hungover from the feverish night before. Mogge attempts to break free from Jørgen only to discover that a videotape exists of him removing the head from the refrigerator. Officials continue to badger the staff, in this case objecting to the arrangement of beds, while the elder Moesgaard has completely lost his former vigor and confidence, wandering the corridors of the Kingdom in a daze before stumbling across a quack psychiatrist forcing a patient to beat a drum in the basement. Helmer comically dithers between poisoning and not poisoning Jørgen, based on the arrangement of coffee cups at morning meetings as well as information he receives from a cheerfully spiteful Rigmor (she, along with the meek, malleable Sanne, played by Louise Fribo, contribute to a motif of male-spiting feminine irrationality). Elsewhere, mundane workplace romances, rivalries, and political jockeying take place; the hospital is as haunted as ever and some characters are in crisis, but for the most part we are distinctly post-climax, and what we're building toward now is uncertain. But when Judith's baby, its limbs outstretched like a spider's legs, grabs its mother and screams for her attention, spittle flying in every direction...things don't look good.

My Response: