Lost in the Movies: July 2014

A Tale of Two Martys: an essay for the Romance Countdown

Cross-posted at Wonders in the Dark, where the 1955 version placed at #54 in the Romance Countdown.

"I think of this as a great rainy afternoon movie. You're flipping through the channels on one of those great lazy Saturdays...it's summer but it's raining outdoors and you're stuck inside. You come across a classic movie channel (AMC, TCM--take your pick) and pause. What's this? Ernest Borgnine? You always like him, why not stop for a moment and watch. It looks like it's just beginning. 'Marty'? Yeah, you've heard of it, vaguely. Won the Oscar or something, but it's been kind of forgotten. So you start watching and before long you're totally enchanted, completely charmed, by the simple story and realistic characters. Who can't sympathize with Borgnine's sensitive butcher, hanging out with his Italian friends and their goofy conversations about Mickey Spillane, all the while pining away with his heart of gold for a girl that his buddies call a 'dog'? The conversations have the kind of natural humor and warmth that remind you of the old days hanging out with your pals. As you watch the movie, you find yourself enthralled and you never change the channel, watching it till the end, realizing that you've seen this plot riffed on and spoofed on various TV shows, films, and cartoons over the years. When the movie's done, you're really excited--this is one of those films you discovered on your own and nothing can beat that thrill.

"Now, this isn't the way I saw 'Marty'--I rented it and now own it on DVD--but it's the spirit I get from it. I love the conversation between Marty and his best friend, its street poetry that's entertaining without being false, in the diner as their Friday night lays out ahead of them. I love Marty and Clara's walk, their honesty and his enthusiasm; you worry is he going too far, being too gregarious for the shy Clara? Will it work? I love the preparations for Sunday Mass, the fight between the married couple, and Marty agonizing over standing up his girl while his friends have an amusingly banal and silly conversation in which they keep repeating themselves. It's really just a charming and wonderful film, joyful even in its sad moments. If you don't enjoy it, what can I say, but my recommendation comes completely honest and from the heart. This is one of those personal favorites that also happens to be an underrated classic--but just underrated enough so that the joy of discovering it on a rainy Saturday afternoon remains undiluted." - Me, April 24, 2003, my first online review (IMDb)

Lady in Movieland: Lady and the Tramp's Journey Through Promiscuous Genres (a video essay for the Romance Countdown)

Every month I am posting a new video essay. This month's video also doubles as an entry in Wonders in the Dark's latest genre poll, the Romance Countdown, where Lady and the Tramp placed at #57.

Lady and the Tramp is one of the great romances of all time…but it’s much more as well. In fact, the animated classic samples numerous mid-century film (and TV) genres. “Lady in Movieland” explores many of them while also observing Lady’s anxiety and eventual acceptance of a new member of the family (and what this means for her own comfort and independence). Hope you have as much fun watching this as I had making it.

Videos follow the jump. If you're also in the mood for something completely different (although it too involves an unwanted infant and dark nighttime attack), check out last month's video essay on David Lynch.


We begin on Coronation Day, when many other fairy tales have ended. In the isolated kingdom of Arendelle everyone has their role to play. Crowds gather to celebrate their new queen (whose parents died at sea in the extended prologue) while servants bustle around the castle opening the windows and doors for the first time in years. Younger Princess Anna falls for a foreign prince who proposes marriage within hours. And the new Queen Elsa, a beautiful but aloof and conspicuously gloved blonde, accepts her new responsibilities with a pronounced reserve. And no wonder: once shocked by her sister's impending engagement, Elsa loses control (and glove) and shoots ice from her fingertips before fleeing her horrified subjects and escaping to the mountains; a long-concealed secret has been revealed and the kingdom turned upside down. Winter hits in the middle of summer, the good queen forswears her monarchical prerogative, the sidekick princess emphatically steps in as our heroine, and now we know all bets are off - Frozen will be stuffed with welcome surprises.

Talking Twin Peaks on "Obnoxious and Anonymous" podcast (+ July status update & more)

Although from now on I'll be alternating Lynch-focused pieces with other material (particularly my upcoming entries into the Wonders in the Dark romantic countdown, summer reading list round-ups, and an already-written but long-postponed review of Frozen) my attention to Twin Peaks won't really be wavering in the upcoming months. How could it? When I fell back under the spell of the series and its co-creator David Lynch this spring, I didn't yet know about the upcoming blu-ray boxset, featuring ninety minutes of deleted footage from Fire Walk With Me and a bevy of special features that would make even the most casual fans' mouths water. I'm particularly looking forward to Between Two Worlds, in which Lynch himself will interview Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, and Grace Zabriskie, the actors who played the Palmer family so central to Peaks lore. He will not only be interviewing them as themselves but as the characters they played - a fantastic idea albeit one that probably only Lynch could pull off. I'm particularly excited to see the underrated Lee return to the role that defined her forever; and in a sense, this feature will also be the closest we get to a new Lynch dramatic film for some time - unless his rumored upcoming project comes to fruition. I can't wait, and in early August I will be reviewing both Between Two Worlds and The Missing Pieces (Lynch's title for the Fire Walk With Me deleted scenes edited into their own standalone feature, a fantastic and necessary approach).

Meanwhile, I've participated in my first-ever podcast, Cameron Cloutier's "Obnoxious and Anonymous." Cameron, whose fondness for long, unedited conversations defines a channel just packed with in-depth goodies, was someone whose work I discovered via his interview with filmmaker/author Jennifer Lynch. It's probably the longest interview she's ever done, full of insights into The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer and her father's work, as well as her own film career. Cameron invited me to participate after I commented on a previous podcast, and we spent over two hours discussing (and sometimes disagreeing about) both Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me, touching on what was good and bad about the show's controversial second season, how the show attracted and then turned away viewers, and why the film was so poorly received. It was a great conversation and there may be more in store after the blu-ray comes out. I've placed the podcast after the jump but you can also visit the YouTube page to check out some of the fascinating links Cameron included in the description.

In other news, friend and fellow blogger Bob Clark has launched a webcomic well worth checking out. Dubbed "Neo Westchester", the strip cleverly combines savvy social commentary with geeky references, taking an affectionate but clear-eyed view of gaming and anime culture. Beginning with the simple scenario of two fans waiting in line for a game release, the series branches off into surreal fantasies, political satires, and the eventual inclusion of genuine sci-fi intrigue. Ambitiously and accurately, Bob himself describes it as "Bloom County meets Akira," adding, "I hope I can offer a nice taste of political and cultural humor and commentary laced with a healthy dose of action and adventure in the form of deadly robots, evil corporations, and the ragtag rebels fighting them both in the streets and the technicolor carnage of online gaming." Join the battle here.

And now, since I'm already using this post as a catch-all, a status update. As noted, I'll be continuing Twin Peaks posts at least once a month from now on. This will include the aforementioned review of The Entire Mystery box set, perhaps some further podcasts, and hopefully some interviews which I've recently put out feelers for. Additionally, since I've focused so much on Lynch's involvement with Peaks lately, I'd like to list my favorite 20 moments not directed by him (though some will be written by him, or feature him as an actor, they still won't have been covered in my recent directorial retrospective). I am also hoping to end the year with an in-depth study of Sheryl Lee's performance as Laura Palmer in Fire Walk With Me. While this may be my favorite aspect of the film, until now my numerous Fire Walk With Me pieces haven't actually addressed it in much detail. I'm hoping this upcoming essay (which will also touch on her overlooked post-Peaks career) will be the first of many to examine great, underrated performances in screen history. Perhaps the next one can explore Bing Crosby's role in The Country Girl, another brilliant but infrequently-discussed piece of acting.

So that's the general idea and a provisional outline of where we're headed. Which is not to say I haven't already produced a lot of Twin Peaks commentary for you to explore in the interim. I recently updated my Twin Peaks directory from 2010 to include all the Peaks posts, images, video clips, and even brief mentions which have occurred on Lost in the Movies over the past six years (I'm also linking up entries in my episode guide and other Peaks pieces each morning on Twitter). Primarily, of course, this includes recent work. I spent the last two months exclusively focused on the work of David Lynch. If you missed them, I definitely encourage you to visit both my conversation with Tony Dayoub on Fire Walk With Me and my recently-concluded David Lynch Month, which probably constitutes the most ambitious series of posts I've ever assembled for this blog. Every week of that month, I posed a "Question in a World of Blue" and the discussion never closes so please jump in now if you have anything to say.

Finally and most importantly, I want to highlight my video on David Lynch's early work. I think it's the best piece I offered all month, and one of my strongest posts in any format. Sadly, it remains the least-viewed of all the month's posts, as is often the case with videos. Please take this opportunity to watch my tribute to Lynch (spoiler and graphic content warnings apply, of course), or at least to bookmark it for viewing at a more convenient time. I promise it's worthwhile - and if you think so too, please share it with others. This is the only way it will reach a wider audience.

And here is the full "Obnoxious and Anonymous" podcast I participated in: