Lost in the Movies: January 2017

Randy St. Croix (TWIN PEAKS Character Series Bonus #4)

The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys one hundred ten characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91 on ABC and 2017 on Showtime as The Return), the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), and The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. The series will be rebooted in 2021 to reflect the third season, but this entry will remain intact. There will be spoilers.

Randy is courteous with guests (even strange ones), but his temper flares up when he suspects the boss’ daughter is trying to take his job.

Trudy Chelgren (TWIN PEAKS Character Series Bonus #3)

The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys one hundred ten characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91 on ABC and 2017 on Showtime as The Return), the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), and The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. The series will be rebooted in 2021 to reflect the third season, but this entry will remain intact. There will be spoilers.

Trudy is a genial host, talented musician, and keen observer...who also knows how to mind her own business.

Louie "Birdsong" Budway (TWIN PEAKS Character Series Bonus #2)

The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys one hundred ten characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91 on ABC and 2017 on Showtime as The Return), the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), and The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. The series will be rebooted in 2021 to reflect the third season, but this entry will remain intact. There will be spoilers.

Louie is an extremely (over)eager employee, knocking herself out to impress her boss and go the extra mile.

Julie (TWIN PEAKS Character Series Bonus #1)

The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys one hundred ten characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91 on ABC and 2017 on Showtime as The Return), the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), and The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. The series will be rebooted in 2021 to reflect the third season, but this entry will remain intact. There will be spoilers.

Julie is a woman who just wants to do her job, and is overwhelmed by the disasters big and small that befall her in a single day.

Top 30 "Hidden" Characters of the Original TWIN PEAKS (3rd Preface to TWIN PEAKS Character Series)

The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys one hundred ten characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91 on ABC and 2017 on Showtime as The Return), the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), and The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. The series will be rebooted in 2021 to reflect the third season, but this entry will remain intact. There will be spoilers.

This entry was published before the new series premiered, and was meant to cover characters who didn't have enough screentime for a standalone entry; with the new material, however, some of these characters will reappear after all. (This entry has not been altered since its publication in early 2017.)

In a show as rich with character as Twin Peaks, many people (and some who aren't people at all) fly under Col. Riley's radar. These are characters you might not really notice till a second or third viewing, or whom you forget about until you rewatch years later. Yet once you do pick up on their presence, they become some of the most memorable figures on the show, however fleeting. Some actually are immediately recognizable from your very first visit to Twin Peaks, but don't quite fit in with other characters for a variety of reasons.

Ok, maybe "hidden" isn't exactly the right word - but I wasn't sure what else to go with (despite several interesting suggestions when I posed the question on Twitter). These aren't all "minor" characters, especially compared to some who get their own standalone entries. Nor are their appearances necessarily "brief" - some "appear" in loads of episodes. So "hidden" it is. Some are literally so, cloaked in background appearances or, at least in one case, never actually appearing at all. Others are "hidden" in a more figurative sense, cast in the shadow of more famous characters yet doing their part to fill out their little corners of the universe.

In truth, there is a quite simple criterion for who appears in this and yesterday's entry: these are characters who didn't speak in at least three scenes in the original Twin Peaks (and Fire Walk With Me/The Missing Pieces) and therefore didn't qualify for their own individual character study. I had to draw the line somewhere. The other day, I very quickly covered sixty, but today I want to spend a little more time on the next thirty names. This is a subjective list: simply the ones I personally find most memorable and/or interesting, ranked according to my own whim.

Time for these thirty to come out of hiding.

(Very) Minor but (Somewhat) Notable Characters in the Original TWIN PEAKS (1st Preface to TWIN PEAKS Character Series)

The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys eighty-two characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91) and the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) as well as The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. The series will be rebooted around 2020 to reflect the third season, but this entry will remain intact. This entry is a preface covering characters who won't get standalone treatment. There will be spoilers for the original series and film.

When crafting character studies, I knew I had to draw the line somewhere. Twin Peaks includes many who leave a strong mark, sometimes in just a few seconds, without uttering a single line of dialogue. Others play a crucial role in a particular scene, maybe two, but are never seen again. As described in yesterday's introduction, my cut-off rule for standalone character studies was: "speaks in three scenes." Nonetheless, I wanted to pay some sort of tribute to the remainders. I have gathered sixty of them here on a roughly chronological list - actors, episodes, writers/directors, and a brief notation on their role, relevance, or trivial interest.

Tomorrow I will follow up with the elite of the also-rans: two and a half dozen more (somewhat) minor but (very) memorable characters, ranked by me to form a subjective top thirty. So if you don't see your favorite cameo today, remember to tune in tomorrow.

Let the curtain rise on the characters of Twin Peaks...

(by the way, major kudos to this dugpa thread for identifying many of the bit players!)

Introducing The TWIN PEAKS Character Series

UPDATE 2018: This directory is now obsolete; the line-up for the revised Character Series will be published when it begins around 2020. However, this post remains public for archival purposes, with links to only those posts that were later duplicated, so that you can read them in their original context or explore the often extensive discussions that followed at the time.

My Fandor Video Essays Have a New Home

Unfortunately, this past week Fandor Keyframe removed around a thousand video essays from their archive, including ten of my own (my most recent three remain). Yesterday and today I was able to upload all of the missing video essays to my own Vimeo channel. The Fandor videos remain locked in a "private" status, not deleted, so hopefully they will be restored someday. But the following uploads will remain regardless, so please watch, share, and bookmark these from now on (click on the title or the Vimeo insignia on the video to bookmark the source link).

Here are the videos, from newest to oldest. Learning to Look: Eye Contact in Satyajit Ray's THE BIG CITY is probably my favorite of the bunch, but I'm pleased with how all of them turned out.

update: Two of the videos - 6 Years in America and Learning to Look - have been restored to Fandor. Meanwhile, I have also uploaded all of these titles to my personal YouTube channel.

Sheryl Lee: illustrated filmography


Compiled several years ago as part of an abandoned project, this filmography represents almost every film and TV appearance made by Sheryl Lee, alongside brief contextual notes. Sheryl Lee is, far and away, most famous for her role as Laura Palmer, "the dead girl" in the TV series Twin Peaks (1990-91). More importantly, when the murder victim was resurrected for the prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), Lee gave a performance that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with acclaimed David Lynch heroines Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive), Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet) or Laura Dern (Inland Empire).

But what of Lee's non-Laura roles? Probably due in part to the dismal critical and box-office reception of Fire Walk With Me, Lee's career never went in the direction of, say, a Lara Flynn Boyle (who notably snubbed Lynch's request to appear in the Twin Peaks prequel). Sticking to offbeat independent films rather than major studio productions may have reflected her own interests as well. At times this is an obscure filmography - many of these movies never got the distribution they deserved - but it's often more interesting than a conventional Hollywood career. Lee's work is regularly committed, brave, and subtle; she remains one of the film industry's most underrated actresses and hopefully her appearance in the renewed Twin Peaks can elevate her profile even more.

In the meantime, here is (most of) her film/TV work since the eighties. Further context for this post follows the lineup. The descriptions may be a tad spoiler-y here and there; I wanted to point out connections to Laura Palmer which sometimes entail plot twists. Avoiding any big plot giveaways except where noted, I'd still advise you to peruse the text at your own (slight) risk. Personally I think her most interesting work is in BackbeatHomageBliss, and especially Mother Night (for more on that film, check out this fantastic episode of the Projection Booth podcast). In truth, however, she's consistently dedicated to all of her roles, sometimes more than the material deserves,other times ensuring that it lives up to its promise.

Journey Through Twin Peaks: Who-What-Where-When-Why-How, guest post on "Welcome to Twin Peaks"

On February 1, my video essay series Journey Through Twin Peaks turns 2. Its audience continues to grow, and I've been greatly encouraged to hear back on a fairly consistent basis from viewers who have enjoyed it and want to share it. Today Welcome to Twin Peaks, Pieter Dom's excellent fan site, is sharing my guest post on the subject. In it, I decided to adopt the classic mystery format to introduce the videos to a new audience.

Here is what I published on the site:
Twin Peaks is many things: a wacky, charming portrait of a small town, an alluring yet disturbing murder mystery, a spooky tale of supernatural forces, a deeply moving tragedy, and a profound spiritual and psychological exploration. Above all, it is a feeling, a mood, an atmosphere, difficult to sum up in words. I created my video series Journey Through Twin Peaks to explore this wonderful and strange world, discovering how the magic works without losing it. As in any good mystery, we must begin by investigating the who, what, where, when and most importantly, WHY of Journey Through Twin Peaks… 

2017: The Year of Twin Peaks

Yesterday was finally the day. In the afternoon, Showtime announced that Twin Peaks will premiere on Sunday, May 21. Almost exactly twenty-seven years earlier to that day (May 22, 1991), ABC cancelled the original series. They did so not with any sort of official statement, but simply by publishing a fall lineup from which Twin Peaks was unceremoniously absent. If it died with a whimper that spring, it will be reborn with a roar this time.

Last night, following the announcement, several actors appeared at the Television Critics Association event in Pasadena for a panel alongside surprise guest David Lynch. Less surprising? Lynch took questions but refused to provide any concrete answers, cheerfully deflecting some queries and responding to others with non sequiturs. Although with him you never can tell which non sequiturs may turn out to be crucial details.

For those just catching up now, here's roughly what we do know. David Lynch is directing every single episode, and has co-written the script for the entire series with Mark Frost (they created the original series together). They have assembled eighteen hours of material, and it's not entirely clear yet how that will be shown; we do know that on May 21, they will air two hours and that immediately afterwards, the next two hours will be available on Showtime streaming services (they will air on Showtime TV over the next two Sundays).

Can we even call the individual airings "episodes"? Both Lynch and Showtime CEO David Nevins (who also called the new series "the pure heroin vision of David Lynch") have described the series as more like a movie split up into chunks than a traditional TV show. Lynch shot this as one big film production - organized by location and other considerations - dividing it into episodes only afterwards in the editing room. It also doesn't look like the series will be divided into two seasons after all; I think it's just going to run straight through every week until it concludes around August.

Yesterday's event launches months of hype for Twin Peaks, a surreal situation for fans of a show that was nearly forgotten for so long. I will certainly be playing my part, hopefully able to contribute a sense of depth and novelty with my work. Though I considered assembling previous material into a kind of hybrid episode guide for classic Twin Peaks, leading up to the new premiere, I've decided to go a different route instead. And now that I know when that premiere will be I can lay out the schedule for my eighty-two Twin Peaks character studies and other material.

Lost in the Movies: Past & Future - a status update (sort of)

These were my concluding thoughts in the previous post, which was also a grabbag of links and announcements. I realized they probably deserved their own space. See that entry if you want to know what I'm up to this year and much of next. This "status update" is about what's further along the horizon.

"Movies" have been my primary interest and endeavor for a quarter-century now, since I was an eager first-grader in the fall of 1990, captivated by a combination of new releases at the cinema, my cousin's video collection, and movie books from the local library. At the heart of this was always the notion that I myself would become a filmmaker. That's a much more complicated story that perhaps I'll get into later - not that it's particularly interesting - but as I approach my mid-thirties, the idea of making a living from film is pretty much out the window and even pursuing it as a passion may be fading. That could be the necessary relaxation of pressure before a windfall...or it could simply be the turning of a page, one I've been stuck on for far too long. For the moment, I have other distractions to keep me active on the margins of the film world but they too will pass, eventually.

As I recently noted on Twitter, if it wasn't for Twin Peaks and video essays, I'm not sure what role - if any - film would have in my life anymore. I virtually never go to the movie theater and when I do it's primarily a social event, not an aesthetic pursuit. I don't keep up with new releases on DVD or streaming either, and I barely even watch classic movies these days. By coincidence, I have been reading film books in the past few weeks, but that's more sporadic than it used to be, and I don't keep track of film news at all. Any engagement I have is with particular titles - usually a TV series I'm writing about or a film that I can cover for Fandor or a personal video essay - not the bigger picture of "the cinema." My cinephilia has always waxed and waned, with lean years in which I focused on other subjects - the Civil War, politics and history, music - only for the pendulum to violently swing back as I devoted myself to my core interest once again. What may be different this time is that, if the dream of filmmaking really does disappear, I don't have a real reason to go back again.

For me, the axis of my passion for cinema has always been the faith that one way or another, I am or would be involved in creating it. If I'm not, I don't think I would want to indulge my enthusiasm as a viewer or commentator; it would feel too one-sided. Video essays can bridge that gap somewhat, but not permanently...unless they evolve into something else. Likewise if a cultural moment emerges where movies - or much more likely, a new form of "movies" (probably online, fragmented, and far more homemade) - become relevant again I could experience a renewed passion and inspiration. However, it feels like my own personal disenchantment with the magic of movies has been accompanied by a more generalized pop culture shift away from that form. So we'll see. (Incidentally, I also suspect that even if I do manage to burst my creative drought, it won't be accompanied by a renewed cinephilia; going forward, obsessing over movie culture may only be a distraction from attempting to contribute directly to it - creation and appreciation don't go hand-in-hand as often as presumed.)

Recently, I've been watching (and re-watching, but mostly for the first time) Kevin B. Lee's video essays. Dubbed "the godfather of the video essay," he pretty much invented its online incarnation nearly ten years ago in the spring of 2007. I plan to keep doing this, a little bit each day, not only with Kevin's work but other figures in the video essay world, immersing myself in the history of the still-developing form. It's been just long enough that revisiting these roots evokes a sense of nostalgia (even though in many cases I never watched the actual videos at the time). Devotion to movies, engagement with this exciting idea that they were bigger than individual titles, that we were only brushing a part of the elephant, carried me through some frustrating times and helped me focus and develop myself and allowed me to create a body of work I'm proud of. But it isn't really something I want to return to - it served its purpose. It can either become something new in the near future or it can settle into its place as an artifact of the past, something you enjoy lingering over when you discover it in a dusty attic but leave there after a few hours to return to the life you live now.

In mid-2018, Lost in the Movies will celebrate its 10th anniversary. At that point I will have created a pretty sizable backlog of TV viewing diaries so even if I wanted to throw in the towel on blogging at that point, I would probably have years of material to keep auto-publishing. However, the second (and I'd wager, truly final) season of Twin Peaks will probably have just ended. Maybe I'll even have had enough time to create concluding chapters for Journey Through Twin Peaks. Any other projects will have been caught up with. And by then I'll have experienced a year and a half (beginning this month) of penciling in time every week to attempt creative writing. In other words, I should know where I'm headed that summer, and I will let you know too. Until then, I have enough work to keep me busy, whether it ends up being a last burst or a first full flowering. Here's to 2017.

Lost in Twin Peaks #5: Twin Peaks documentaries w/ Twin Peaks Unwrapped (+ other appearances & Ben Dixon call-in & status update)

I've been popping up here and there on Twin Peaks Unwrapped lately, and will link below, but first I want to share my most recent official "Lost in Twin Peaks" segment (the others were quicker excerpts and/or repeated highlights). In their first podcast of the new year, Ben and Bryon dipped into a conversation we had in the fall - which had not been published yet - about two memorable Twin Peaks documentaries on the blu-ray set: Secrets From Another Place, about the series, and Moving Through Time, about the film Fire Walk With Me. I talk about what they reveal and why I like them, as well as detouring into other subjects, like Windom Earle. Elsewhere in the episode, the hosts discuss the cast list and a trailer for the upcoming Showtime series, listener feedback, and speculation for 2017.

Other Twin Peaks Unwrapped Appearances

Back in December, Twin Peaks Unwrapped featured a quicker clip from that same conversation, this time about Between Two Worlds, the blu-ray feature in which Lynch interviews the actors who played the Palmer family - in character! (I've also discussed this subject with John Thorne.) And at the end of 2016, guest host Scott Ryan highlighted one of my previous conversations with Ben and Bryon. If you've never listened to Twin Peaks Unwrapped before (but are somehow reading this), this "best of" reel might be a good way to get acquainted with all of their work.

Other Twin Peaks News

Meanwhile, a quick heads-up on the week to come, which should be a big one for me and all Twin Peaks fans. On Monday, January 9, Showtime is expected to make an announcement at the Television Critics Association (TCAs) about their lineup for 2017. With many Twin Peaks actors scheduled to appear, it is assumed that the premiere date of the new series will be revealed. Already, there have been clues: the website Welcome to Twin Peaks has highlighted a Showtime calendar in which May is devoted to a Twin Peaks theme, suggesting an airdate on or soon after Sunday, April 30. By the way, speaking of Welcome to Twin Peaks, a loooong-awaited guest post of mine may finally be going up there - but Pieter Dom, the tireless administrator of the site has a lot on his plate so if you want to see it please retweet or reply to this tweet (so far it seems to have worked in moving things along - hope it can go up before the TCA news takes over!).

Once the premiere date of new Twin Peaks is clear, I will schedule my character study series, possibly with the introduction as early as that very day. There are to be eighty-two individual entries, plus two prefaces that cover the most minor characters, and the aforementioned intro. Depending how much time I have, the scheduling could range from one entry each weekday to a more compressed format beginning with several entries every day until we get to the big names (the series will begin with the characters who have the least screentime - while still speaking in at least three scenes - and end with those who have the most a day or two before the new premiere). I also have a few straggling Twin Peaks posts which have been hanging around for years in some cases - the Sheryl Lee filmography, the aforementioned Welcome to Twin Peaks cross-post, a conversation with John Thorne about The Secret History of Twin Peaks. I suppose some of those may have to wait until the new series has already begun, to supplement my episode coverage.

Aside from the occasional video essay, Twin Peaks is going to pretty much take over Lost in the Movies this year. Only when this first season ends - presuming they've divided into two seasons as many suspect - will I begin post other material again.

The Benjamin Dixon Show

Finally, one more cross-post...I called into The Benjamin Dixon Show, one of my favorite political programs, again the other night. You can jump right to my comment/question - about the recent smear campaign against Black Lives Matters and conservative perception of the left/liberal divide - or you can listen to the whole episode, which is definitely worthwhile:

Other Projects

While Twin Peaks will be at the forefront of 2017, beneath the surface I will be working on many other projects. This includes viewing diaries for other shows. I have a few episodes for the following already in my backlog, though I won't share any till the entire series is completed: The Kingdom, The X-Files, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Star Trek, Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Wire, and Clone Wars. I hope to keep writing on film in some capacity, maybe a weekly entry called "Monday is for Movies" even as "Lost in the Movies" slowly comes to mean "Lost in Audiovisual Media (primarily Television)."

I also plan to finally resume/finish my Citizen Kane video series and do a few more entries for my various suspended video essay series on YouTube/Vimeo, so that I end up with five total in each category (3 1/2 Minute Review, Side by Side, Cinepoem, and Montage) - I have three for most so far. This will hopefully begin with an ambitious, probably multi-part study of The Big Chill and The Return of the Secaucus 7 in the larger context of sixties/baby boomer history and pop mythology - a subject that has only become more relevant as the aging generation, once a font of left-wing revolution, has elected authoritarian right-wingers across the board. And yes, I also plan to continue my own personal political journey in the coming year, reading, discussing, and hopefully finding ways to actively engage with the forces shaping society now and in the past.

In addition to all this, I am trying to make time for my own creative writing. I haven't made a short film since Class of 2002 three years ago (and that was my first such project in about six years), or even - truth be told - written a single usable page of a screenplay. That's not for lack of trying; I've spent countless hours filling journals with fragments of ideas, general story premises, character explorations, etc. But my energy just hasn't seemed to channel towards that type of totally original content for, well, over a decade much as I've wanted it too. You can't really force these things or, at any rate, you shouldn't. At the same time, I do wonder what role film - meaning film-(and TV-)watching, writing/posting about, and making - will play in my future.

In fact, rather than complete my thoughts here I realized the next few paragraphs deserve their own space. I'll publish them separately, following this, as a standalone status update, a moment of calm before the deluge of the coming weeks and months.

The Prisoner - Final Conclusions w/ Christopher Yohn

Eight months ago I finished The Prisoner, a cult British show from 1967 - 68. I followed up my viewing diary by talking to a couple big fans but right around then my blogging activity came to a grinding halt (I never even published the second conversation until months later). I always hoped to share a concluding entry, less for my own thoughts (most of what I have to say on The Prisoner has been said) than for further input from Christopher Yohn. He designed the viewing order I used to watch these notoriously difficult-to-organize episodes, and below he explains his reasoning in detail.

I thank him and others who encouraged and aided this endeavor. This was only the second TV series I wrote about during a first viewing, an exciting, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach. The Prisoner itself was a delight, perfectly balancing thought-provoking and (surprisingly) light-hearted moments. Is that an appropriate description of a series with such a deeply engaged and uncompromising philosophical outlook? With its air of play and amusement, I think so - certainly the show's colorful aesthetic and zippy sixties style were quite refreshing to me last year. I know when I eventually return to the series it will nostalgically take me back to the winter and spring when I first watched, discussed, and eventually read (and listened to podcasts, and watched videos) about The Prisoner. It already seems quite long ago, across the much-bemoaned chasm that was 2016, but I remember it fondly.

I don't have anything deeper to say at the moment. Perhaps someday, when I inevitably try out a different viewing order, I will offer some more observations. Until then: Be se...

Well, I don't really need to say it again, do I?