Lost in the Movies: May 2017

Son of Man on Wonders in the Dark + Learn About Lost in the Movies

Time for a status update - especially as I have several items to link. It's been a wild week and I'm still catching up with so much commentary on Twin Peaks. As you've probably seen if you're reading this, I reviewed all four hours of Twin Peaks: The Return since the premiere on Sunday and eagerly await the fifth hour on June 4. The third and fourth will air next week, but I already streamed them since they were available early on the app; from June on, one hour will play live and show up to stream simultaneously every Sunday and my review will appear shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile, there are a few non-Twin Peaks developments to report. Several weeks of Wonders in the Dark's tribute to co-founder Allan Fish will climax soon with Sam Juliano's essay on the late critic (which I am eagerly anticipating). The Allan Fish Online Film Festival focuses on movies available to the public via free online venues like YouTube, with a variety of writers highlighting obscure films just as Allan did. I participated by offering up my review of Son of Man for reprinting. It's a great movie (the video itself is embedded in the piece) which Allan himself introduced me to. If you're unfamiliar with it, I highly suggest you visit my review, linked below. That's the spirit of this whole endeavor, after all.

Allan had a huge impact on my work, and by coincidence, the day the above piece went up I was in New York City, meeting with Sam and his family as well as several other Wonders alumni, and we all talked warmly about Allan, his work, and the site that brought us all together.

Finally, last week - after months of other tweaks to make Lost in the Movies more presentable and navigable, I finally created a mobile template for easier phone/tablet use. Along with this (since you can't see the sidebar on mobile), I wrote an "About" page to consolidate my various directories and categories. This can also be handy for visitors using computers, of course. Especially if new readers/viewers discover my ongoing Twin Peaks work this summer, I hope a few will explore some of the other stuff I've been up to over the past decade. This is the best way to do so:

See you on Sunday.

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 4 - "...brings back some memories."

By now, Twin Peaks: The Return has settled into a groove of telling several stories, each involving familiar characters from the old series and a central hub (Cooper's disappearance). Whether it will stay in this mode or not, this is the most conventional hour so far - if you can call a TV episode conventional when it includes a man transplanted into a lookalike's body who is so unfamiliar with human ways that he drapes a tie across his head like a bonnet and eats pancakes with his fingers, several minutes of a man in the woods spray-painting hanging shovels gold, and a long parodic beatnik monologue from Michael Cera playing a Wild One knockoff who for some reason has taken Marlon Brando's last name rather than his parents'. His parents, as we all suspected, are Andy and Lucy but I don't think anyone predicted the apple would fall this far from the tree (while still remaining just as lovably goofy in a different way). The actors all look like they wanted to burst out laughing, and I sure as hell did. Incredibly silly? Maybe, but it was also one of the funniest things I've ever seen on Twin Peaks.

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 3 - "Call for help."

Several weeks ago, revisiting Mark Frost's book The Secret History of Twin Peaks, I came across a reference to "the Brothers Grimm -- who I've since learned drew inspiration for their stories from real events in their own dark woods..." Clearly a throwaway line, this nonetheless got me dreaming of some sort of Twin Peaks/fairy tale crossover. And, in a way, that's what we get in this episode. Cooper, sent hurtling through outer/inner space by the arm/tree doppelganger (I think), arrives outside of a tower surrounded by tumultuous seas, draped in a purple haze. Inside the tower he finds a woman with her eyes stitched shut, sitting in front of a fire as an ominous force bangs on the door or the wall of this room. She seems to be locked in here by a monster, a monster who must not be allowed to meet the visiting stranger.

Twin Peaks: The Return Parts 1 & 2 - "My log has a message for you."/"The stars turn and a time presents itself."

High in the skyline of New York City, ignoring the blinking lights of Manhattan to focus his attention on a box within the room, a young man waits patiently for something to happen. The box is some cross between a sophisticated scientific experiment, characterized by advanced technology, and a magician's crystal ball (closer to a crystal cube), summoning presences from beyond. He's been told to expect an apparition inside this framed glass, and has even learned that others witnessed this visitation themselves while refusing to pass along any details. Perhaps the vision must be experienced personally to be understood. When ..."something" appear, pacing inside the frame like a prowling lion before leaping violently toward the screen, the watcher releases a loud yelp and jumps from his seat. It is happening again.

Unfortunately, no cute, curious girl arrives with a tray full of coffee to keep him company (she's my favorite new character so far - I hope she's ok though that's an awful lot of blood). On the other hand, he can count his blessings: the fantastic, ferocious specter does not escape its cage. Or does it? Remaining physically trapped within its frame, it nonetheless insinuates itself in his, or - why continue the conceit? - my imagination. As I watched the premiere of Twin Peaks: The Return in a friend's Brooklyn apartment, the image of a character gazing at, and recording his experience of gazing at, a giant glass box (not a television in his case, but some sort of teleportation device) certainly felt like a bit of a funhouse reflection. And I would imagine others, watching in places more geographically distanced from Manhattan than me, could also taste the resonance.

It would be difficult to imagine a scenario - urban, high-tech, sci-fi - further away from any preconceptions we might have had about Twin Peaks going in, yet somehow it perfectly encapsulates the experience of watching it.

Anticipation of Another Place: Speculating about Twin Peaks: The Return w/ Obnoxious & Anonymous

The video below includes some discussion of potential spoilers. In fact, if you don't even want to see pictures of cast members, aside from Cooper (probably a lost cause at this point!) don't scroll down since the video's thumbnail includes some images of that from trailers and official images released by Showtime.

Nearly three years ago, the first podcaster/YouTuber to invite me onto his show was Cameron Cloutier of Obnoxious & Anonymous. Back then we had no idea the series would ever return. It's appropriate that now, on the eve of new Twin Peaks, my final appearance to be released before the premiere is this episode of Obnoxious & Anonymous. We recorded it on short notice the other night but were able to conduct a long chat about various aspects of the series - rumors of how it might begin and what it might include, our hopes and fears, what the reaction will be like, what the town will be like, and what role Laura Palmer will play.

I may publish one more post, a final look back and forward before our conception of Twin Peaks changes forever. Then again, I'm going to be extremely busy for the next few days so I may not. Either way, for highlights of everything I've ever written, edited, recorded, or otherwise published about Twin Peaks, check out Sunday's round-up.

TWIN PEAKS & David Lynch reading / viewing / listening on Lost in the Movies

(picture from Variety)

^ Top 25: My best work on Twin Peaks ^

With a week to go until Twin Peaks: The Return hits Showtime, and my character series on pause till the summer, it's a good time to round up some of my past work on the original 1990-91 series and 1992 feature film (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me). I will be writing about the premiere immediately after it airs next Sunday (as I will for every subsequent episode); until then, you can get your Twin Peaks fix with these pieces.

The Character Series will resume this summer - new Twin Peaks coverage begins immediately after the premiere

The writing has been on the wall since at least mid- to late March. There was no way I could finish the TWIN PEAKS Character Series on schedule. Each entry got longer and longer and I kept falling further and further behind. There was a shot - back in the period from December to February, I could have focused most of my "online/creative work" time exclusively on these character studies, and I think I could have managed to get far enough ahead to finish them before the new series premieres on May 21. Instead I violated the rule I've known for years, yet thrown aside at every opportunity: You can only have one priority at a time. I tried to do a little brainstorming for screenplays (what a dismal waste of time that was), some video essay work, and even set aside time to watch other video essays and TV episodes in anticipation of projects that were maybe a year or more on the horizon. Meanwhile my comfortable backlog of character pieces kept growing smaller until I was barely ahead. By the time I abandoned that approach and focused as much time as possible on the character series, it was too late. You reap what you sow.

This hiatus is both a relief and a major annoyance. It's a relief because I am now setting NO deadline. The work will be finished when it's finished, and in fact I'm not going to publish any of the remaining twenty pieces until all of them are done. This work has pretty much taken over my life in the past few months, so now I'll be able to visit friends I've delayed seeing, watch movies and read books (this year so far has been a virtual desert for intaking media that wasn't Twin Peaks), exercise, take care of tasks that have gone on the backburner, and generally just relax. I can earn more money as well, since some of my work is based on my own schedule/input and that's fallen by the wayside too (it's been months since I even contemplated a Fandor video). Also, the loss of a deadline means I can take my time with all these crucial characters. I'd like to think I wouldn't have cut corners anyway (and it's a moot point since finishing them on schedule was clearly a mathematical impossibility), but now I can write them when I feel like it, not when I have to.

On the other hand...that deadline existed for a reason. No matter how I rationalize it, it's just plain dumb to conduct a series of character studies that will be purposefully outdated when I publish them. Because I have no desire or intention to include the new material; I think it's going to violate all sorts of precepts that these studies are based on, and even if it doesn't it would make the upcoming pieces seem totally out of step with the sixty-two that came before. At most, I will add a few notes in the "Showtime" section at the end of each entry. But the character series becomes a tad perverse at this point, an exercise in nostalgia that grows more irrelevant by the week. More importantly than all of that, even knowing that I'm no longer going to pressure myself to write the pieces, I hate that they're now going to be hanging over my head when the new series airs. In a way this project was a purging, one last chance to get all analytical about Twin Peaks before I shift into another mode entirely. One of the treasures of David Lynch's work is the ability to enter it like a dream and float through without any expectations. With the left-brained approach to these pieces still kicking around in the back of my brain, I feel like that's going to be somewhat compromised. And it irks the hell out of me.

I'm also quite skeptical that I will have the will or interest to tackle Cooper up to the season two finale when I already know what happens to him after that. For that reason, I'm considering jumping ahead to my number-one entry in the next few days and seeing if I can write and store away that entry for my own purposes before new Twin Peaks airs. But frankly, even that might be an impossible task (how absurd it was to think I could do twenty entries in ten days - I'm not even sure I can do one in a week).

Oh well. I hope you enjoy the pieces when they eventually appear - right now I'm thinking maybe four a week, Tuesday through Friday (so that my responses to the new episodes can stand for a full day), starting the last week of June and finishing the last week of July. I have to admit there's a chance I'll abandon the project if it just seems too irrelevant or burdensome, but I doubt it because I tend to be anal about eventually finishing what I started, even if it takes forever.

From now on, the main priority of this site will be covering the new Twin Peaks, and doing so in a more impressionistic, meditative manner that allows me to savor the work and share that experience with you.

Everything else can, and will, wait.

The Straight Story: a discussion w/ John Thorne and Twin Peaks Unwrapped

As they covered Twin Peaks, the hosts of Twin Peaks Unwrapped have also been watching all of David Lynch's films. This month they finally reached the last film on their list - one of Lynch's most unusual. The only screenplay to which he didn't contribute (it was written by his long-time romantic and creative partner Mary Sweeney), it tells the true story of a man who traveled from Iowa to Wisconsin on a lawnmower, hoping to visiting a brother who had fallen ill. The Straight Story is a Disney-produced rated-G film that nonetheless feels deeply Lynchian to me. When I was asked which movie I would like to talk about with Unwrapped, this was the one I chose. We're joined by John Thorne, publisher of the legendary Wrapped in Plastic magazine, and together we look at why the film is so effective, how it relates to Lynch's filmography (including Twin Peaks), and whether or not there are secrets hidden in even this most straightforward of his works.

For more, you can read my review of the film from my David Lynch retrospective in 2014, and the follow-up essay in which I discuss the evolution of all of his work, including this.

The Spirits of Twin Peaks (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #21)

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. There will be spoilers for the original series and film.

The character series is pausing for at least a month and will resume in the midst of Twin Peaks: The Return (2017), although its focus will remain the older material. I will be reviewing the new episodes of the Showtime series every Sunday night/Monday morning starting May 21, 2017.

What their sound and fury signify is difficult to apprehend from appearance alone, but something is happening, isn't it?

Lost in Twin Peaks #7: discussing the politics of David Lynch & Twin Peaks w/ Twin Peaks Unwrapped

Not long after last fall's notorious election, I had the urge to discuss David Lynch and Twin Peaks in a political context. It took a while to get out there (thanks to Ben Durant for his diligence in streamlining a lengthy conversation, which I know wasn't easy), but here is the segment I recorded with Ben on the subject several months ago. The focus is less contemporary politics (despite the inspiration) or the sort of hot-take thinkpiece approach that will no doubt be ubiquitous soon, and more a broader look at how the show operates through various perspectives. Particular attention is paid to David Lynch's own ambiguous place in the political spectrum as he and his work evolve.

Topics include how small town communitarianism fares under "conservative" regimes, feminist perspectives on Twin Peaks, Jonathan Rosenbaum's review of Twin Peaks (contrasting Lynch with Luis Bunuel), Lynch's affection for Reagan in the eighties, attitudes toward class in The Elephant Man, the avant-garde in a left and right context, the National Review cover story celebrating Lynch's work as moral and all-American in 1990, and some interviews Lynch has participated in over the years. (And thanks to John Thorne for digging up that copy of Lynch's National Review cover, which I couldn't find anywhere online.)

This episode also contains a fantastic, really fun interview with Takanori Higuchi, star of the Japanese Georgia Coffee commercials that David Lynch directed in the early nineties.

Fire Walk With Me: a 4-part correspondence with Tony Dayoub on the Twin Peaks movie

Four letters on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me written by myself and Tony Dayoub (of Cinema Viewfinder), originally published by the website To Be Cont'd in May 2014

Personal Postscript: A Conversation That Launched A Journey

Three years ago this month, I officially began an exploration of Twin Peaks that never really ended. Coincidentally in the midst of a rewatch, I was encouraged to resume writing about the subject by Tony Dayoub, a film critic who had been one of the earliest commentators on this blog and my first guide into the wild world of Twin Peaks (you can read the beginning of both strands here). He invited me to participate in a four-part conversation, suggesting Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me as a potential subject and I readily agreed. Tony had been chosen as a kind of critic-in-residence for the month of May on To Be Cont'd, a now-defunct website which consisted of weekly exchanges on a different topic between different critics each month (hopefully they restore their archives eventually; there were some great subjects and contributors during their short run). Allowed to pick his writing partner, Tony generously reached out to me and so the project began.

For me, it provided a way back into analyzing Twin Peaks, a world that had intrigued me greatly when I discovered it in 2008 but which I hadn't revisited much in the years since. My first viewing of this series dates more or less exactly to the time I started this blog - within a month I was rewatching the show and writing an episode guide, with Tony a regular commentator. (For a chronology of all my posts on Twin Peaks - which has now reached the hundreds - scroll down to the second part of this directory; at the very end, I've even rounded up posts or comments where I briefly reference the show, including its very first mention on this site, before I'd even finished watching it). Unlike me, Tony had watched the original airing of the show as a teenager in the early nineties. A rabid fan (and early Wrapped in Plastic subscriber), he saw the movie during its theatrical run and was initially disappointed although he quickly re-evaluated it. (He wrote about the film on his site for its twentieth anniversary, and also compared it to Nicholas Ray's classic Bigger Than Life).

When I saw the movie for the first time, I had questions - lots of them - and many had to do with the context of its critical response. Tony popped up right away to start answering my questions and provide his own fascinating background with the show (which actually began before ABC aired the pilot - he caught a screening at the Miami Film Festival months beforehand). Nearly six years later, this experience was incorporated into our back-and-forth exchange, each week tackling a new topic/angle on the fascinating film. I was able to not only meditate on my initial hook into the movie - its subversion of the show's pop culture legacy and startling exploration of abuse (a subject present but subdued on the series) - but also to grapple with an aspect that had provided a barrier for me the first time I watched Fire Walk With Me: the way it incorporated a supernatural mythos alongside psychological realism.

My second entry in the conversation (the third overall) launched one of the most important parts of my Twin Peaks journey during the following year: my exploration of the ways Twin Peaks wasn't just a fascinating mess and/or a story that ultimately subverted itself but also a powerful saga with a kind of internal cohesion despite the apparent contradictions. It also provided an excuse for me to watch or rewatch all of David Lynch's other films, which quickly mushroomed into my massive retrospective post a few months later. Indeed, I'm not sure my "David Lynch Month" of June 2014 (especially the round-up of Twin Peaks media commentary from 1990 to the present, which began as research for our conversation) would have happened without Tony lighting the fuse. And from there, I couldn't stop: podcast appearances, interviews with Twin Peaks authors, and of course my video series Journey Through Twin Peaks, which built on many of the ideas first expressed in these letters and became by far my popular online work. (Incidentally, Tony also praised and published - initially as an exclusive - my very first video essay in 2009. So he encouraged the birth of both strands of my Twin Peaks video project.)

Unfortunately, within a year the work that kicked off this whole process was only partially available. To Be Cont'd not only stopped publishing new conversations, the entire site and its archive went under, including our letters. Fortunately I had kept my own pieces, but Tony's remained unpublished for several years. Recently he got in touch with me to let me know he'd re-posted his own contributions; I've now restored all the links and published this round-up here so everyone can enjoy the conversation as originally intended. I think we're each proud of this work and the role it played it expanding both of our perspectives on an underappreciated masterpiece - we were certainly encouraged to hear it had the same effect on readers. Now it can continue to do so.

Twin Peaks Unwrapped, featuring speculation about new Twin Peaks with me & John Thorne

from Entertainment Weekly

In mid-April Ben and Bryon welcomed me onto a different section of their podcast; rather than my usual "Lost in Twin Peaks" musings, I joined the hosts and legendary Wrapped in Plastic publisher John Thorne to discuss the upcoming series (now just two weeks away). This includes how much of the town and familiar characters we'll actually see, the possibility that the new episodes can be watched out of order (!), the abandoned Lynch/Frost project The Lemurians, and the upcoming Cannes screening (we wonder if this means some people see the first episodes before they air, but that question has since been answered affirmatively by a press screening scheduled for several days before the premiere). It's a short appearance, but this episode is worth listening to in its entirety: Ben and Bryon landed a great interview with John Neff, one of Lynch's most prolific musical/sound collaborators. He shares some fascinating, and sometimes hilarious, memories of their work together.

Lost in Twin Peaks #6: discussing the TWIN PEAKS Character Series w/ Twin Peaks Unwrapped)

A few weeks ago, Twin Peaks Unwrapped ran an interview with me about my character series. This is a good time to share it, since the character series is temporarily paused (see yesterday's post) before resuming around May 10 to continue with about two entries a day until the new series premieres on May 21. Whether you're just discovering my work now or have been following the studies since they started running in January, this conversation can be a good reference point for some of my goals and methods and also (hopefully) what readers can take from it. Thanks as always to hosts Ben and Bryon for having me on, and sharing my work!

By the way we are in a bonanza period for Twin Peaks podcasts. The superb British Peakscast Diane... is covering Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, sharing an episode on Laura's part of the film this past weekend. Bickering Peaks has also announced their upcoming Fire Walk With Me panel, which will be recorded with a group of viewers who have varying levels of experience going into the film (some have never even seen the series). And one of the newer Twin Peaks podcasts, The Lodgers (whose two-episodes-at-a-time coverage has led me to break my "no more episodic coverage podcasts" rule), which is great at using both cinematic-aesthetic and social/political lenses, just reached the killer's reveal.

Meanwhile, a brand-new podcast has an episode coming up with a guest who discusses Fire Walk With Me as a rare film about a sex worker from her own point of view, the deeply insightful The Gifted and the Damned (who had a great episode on why Twin Peaks was cancelled) is going to hold a discussion on the flaws of Fire Walk With Me (they'll be debating some of the points in my videos - my feedback quill is sharpened and ready), and the Weird Fiction/Twin Peaks podcast Counter Esperanto just published a meditation on David Lynch's and HP Lovecraft's worldviews, and how those are reflected in their work. I'm sure I'm leaving out a bunch of great stuff, because the Twin Peaks podcast world has exploded in the past few years.

It's a good time to be a Twin Peaks fan but, of course, that's an understatement given what's coming up in just over a month. Stay tuned (or just take the Unwrapped feed) for more cross-posts of my recent appearances on this podcast.

Twin Peaks Character Series - a pause (but the same deadline)

When I was unable to finish (or even get very far in starting) my Spirits of Twin Peaks entry by midnight last night, I guaranteed that I can no longer limit new entries to once a day (originally the plan was for just every weekday, but that had already proven impossible). This relieves some pressure but not much, because it's still important for me to finish the series before May 21. I just don't feel comfortable writing Cooper's character study after we've already (presumably) learned new information about him. It seems to defeat the whole purpose of this series for me. Others have suggested that I focus on certain characters who are more time-sensitive and catch up with others later (perhaps those who aren't on the cast list, whose stories seem to have officially ended). That's pretty logical, but I still feel, stubbornly, that I want to proceed in order and finish the series as I started. So when I do resume, I will be publishing at least two entries a day.

When will I resume? That remains up in the air. To avoid distractions, I've forsworn Twitter until either I've either completed eleven entries or it's May 10 (somehow I suspect the latter will arrive first). My ideal would be to publish the Spirits entry on May 10, so it can stand alone for a full day (it's a big one). Then, starting the next morning, I would publish two entries a day, probably at 8am and 8pm eastern time, finishing on the evening of May 20 which would allow readers a twenty-four hour window to check it out before the premiere airs. Of course, I know people are going to be catching up with or checking back on these in the midst of the Showtime series. But still it's important to me that people at least have the opportunity to read them in relative innocence of what's to come. And as I said, it's very important to me that I not write them with that knowledge in mind.

So that means even if I can space out the workload differently, I still have to find the time to write about two a day (especially as I won't have time to do any work after May 18). I suspect it's just barely possible - if I use virtually all my non-work time to do so - but is probably a bit implausible, especially since the last few entries involve characters with hours of screentime to write about and explore.

Worst case scenario, I would jump ahead to cover at least two or three of the most important, up-in-the-air characters before the series begins.

Middle case scenario, I would streamline my preparatory approach and also simplify the entries, dumping things like "additional notes"/"deleted scenes" or even the plot summaries and just focus on the analysis, statistics (which are already complete), and images for the time being. (Maybe I'd go back and beef up the other sections later and post an update with links to the completed pieces; I've taken that sort of "cheating" approach before with placeholders).

Best case scenario, after getting over the big hump of the Spirits, I miraculously find the focus and energy to cover the remaining twenty characters in the same manner as the previous sixty-two, but working at a much faster clip.

As I await the anticipated May 9 resumption, the blog will not exactly be dormant. Starting tomorrow morning, every two days I will publish a link to a recent Twin Peaks Unwrapped podcast appearance: one on the character series, one in anticipation of the upcoming premiere, and one on the politics of Twin Peaks and David Lynch. There's also at least one more Unwrapped episode that isn't quite ready yet - the hosts invited me and John Thorne to discuss The Straight Story. I'll publish that as soon as it's available (probably during the week before the premiere), which means on that day three entries will go up: two character studies in addition to the podcast. It's gonna be busy around these parts in May.

Ok, see you on the other side. Wish me luck...

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