Lost in the Movies: August 2019

The Wire viewing diary

Around the tenth anniversary of the series finale, I started watching and writing about The Wire. Not knowing much about the arc of the show aside from broad strokes, I'm recording my reaction and predictions "in real time" as events unfold - but from the perspective of a slightly later era. Although initially I limited my viewing diary to the first season, the plan is to cover the entire show and as new entries appear, I will update this directory.

The X-Files viewing diary

Although I've only begun watching the show in my thirties, The X-Files is one of the titles I have the longest history with. The series premiered when I was nine and obsessed with U.F.O.s and other paranormal subjects; the theme song hooked itself into my consciousness but I sampled only a few bits here and there - an episode intro, a random tune-in, an amusing case of mistaken identity (discussed in one of the reviews), and then the first movie when I graduated from jr. high. Now I'm reviewing the whole series from a first-time perspective over many years. Beginning with the first season in 2018, future entries will be updated on this list accordingly.

Mad Men viewing diary

Over a decade after its premiere, I finally began catching up with Mad Men by covering the first season as a first-timer's viewing diary - in the autumn of 2019 I am continuing this journey with season two (and possibly season three, depending on my schedule). This directory will be updated with new entries as soon as they appear. (revised September 2019)

Breaking Bad viewing diary

In March 2018, I published my survey of the popular show's first season from a decade earlier. I plan to cover the remaining seasons eventually, and probably continue on to Better Call Saul afterwards. I'm watching this show for the first time and recording my reactions as they occur; this directory will be updated with new entries whenever they appear.

The Prisoner viewing diary

With this sixties British cult classic, I faced an unusual dilemma: despite a clear (arguably) beginning and end, The Prisoner has no one proper viewing order. I chose to follow one fan's particular preference and spoke to him afterward about why he chose this line-up as a guideline (as described in my introduction). This was my first experience of the series, composing my reaction to each episode soon after watching.

August 2019 Patreon podcasts: LOST IN TWIN PEAKS #7 - Season 1 Episode 7 and LOST IN THE MOVIES #58 - Twin Peaks Cinema: Our Town (+ favorites films archive #23 - 13: My Night at Maud's, The Virgin Spring, On the Waterfront, Mulholland Drive, The Godfather, Nights of Cabiria, Star Wars, Meshes of the Afternoon, The Third Man, Taxi Driver, The Mirror & Twin Peaks Reflections: Heidi, Julie, Ronette, the train car, the Packard Saw Mill, official Laura Palmer investigation/The Elephant Man)

Originally I planned to feature a more tangential "Twin Peaks Cinema" entry this month, but Turner Classic Movies came to the rescue by airing the 1940 adaptation of Our Town in May. Fascinated by the correspondences and differences, I just had to bump it up in my coverage and was delighted to discover soon after that Thornton Wilder is Mark Frost's favorite playwright.

On the $5/month front, the Lost in Twin Peaks rewatch embraces my favorite non-Lynch episode of the series, a real peak for Audrey in particular...

The main podcast combines the extensive Our Town overview with a look at some characters and locations tied to the pilot, and observes echoes between how the Laura Palmer investigation slowly draws us closer to Laura while The Elephant Man slowly draws us closer to John Merrick. And the Favorites re-reading reaches some of my most repeatedly viewed movies including another Lynch title. Stay tuned for the very end of the podcast where I added a special bonus clip, whose subject is related to an upcoming video (my first to be published in two and a half years)...

And the $1/month tier gains access to one of the earliest episodes of Lost in Twin Peaks, exploring the pilot of the series with an entire standalone chapter devoted to the history of its creation (this was unlocked for all patrons on the anniversary of my first Twin Peaks post many, many years ago - eleven to be precise)...

Podcast Line-Ups for:

True Detective viewing diary

Unlike most of my viewing diaries, in which I catch up with shows after they've ended, I followed much of True Detective while it aired. I reviewed the first season in early 2015 - a year after it launched a media sensation. For subsequent seasons, I discussed episodes within days or even hours of their premieres. The first two seasons' viewing diaries were introduced here and here.

Why publish viewing diary directories now?

My imminent site re-design - currently scheduled to debut on September 1 - makes this a good time to consolidate my TV coverage. Since one of the main highlights on the new home page will be "TV Viewing Diaries" I need round-up posts for the episodes that haven't been gathered in one place yet. Over the coming week (aside from my monthly Patreon update on Monday) I will publish round-ups for six diaries. This includes the four first seasons I covered last year: Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The X-Files, and The Wire. I will also make a new, simpler directory for The Prisoner (since the old one was wrapped up with a lengthy introduction to the series) and finally place all my True Detective line-ups together in one place. When the new site launches, there will be one TV Viewing Diary hub page that links to all of these posts, making it much easier to explore my content on all of these shows (including those I previously created directories for).

I don't currently have any plans to resume viewing diaries in the fall but if my Journey project isn't ready in November I may publish a couple seasons of Mad Men responses, already written over the past year. If it needs to be said, please feel free to comment on the posts for all of these shows either as a long-time or first-time viewer (all except Evangelion are spoiler-free so they are designed to accompany other initial explorations).

Twin Peaks Unwrapped - Season 1 Madness (w/ Francine the Lucid Dream and John Thorne)

This spring, just in time for the NCAA Finals, Twin Peaks Unwrapped hosted me on its own version of March Madness - in which we used a bracket system to choose David Lynch's best film. The exercise was as delightful as it was absurd, so I was eager to return to this template. This time we tackled TV episodes, sticking to the eight that make up the first season (the second will be a doozy, and I can't wait). Which two episodes will face off in the final match? Can another director sneak past David Lynch's work? Will the Log Lady's cabin or Audrey's cherry stem tip the scales in the episode 5 vs. 6 contest? Along the way, Ben, Bryon, and all of us guests discuss the merits and drawbacks of the various episodes, taking surprising deep dives into some of the more random entries and contemplating questions like why episode 2 feels like the real start of the series and how the pilot establishes Laura Palmer as an almost spiritual presence in its opening minutes.

Freedom from Formula: discussing David Lynch & Auteur TV with Martha Nochimson, author of Television Rewired

Five years ago, I spoke to author and David Lynch scholar Martha Nochimson about her two groundbreaking studies of the great director: The Passion of David Lynch explores his first few films through the lens of feminism and Jungian analysis while her follow-up David Lynch Swerves incorporates quantum physics and Vedic spirituality. Now she has returned to this fertile ground, with Twin Peaks and particularly David Lynch at the center of her new book Television Rewired. This study, subtitled "The Rise of the Auteur Series" does not just limit itself to Lynch and Peaks. Using his troubled ABC production from the nineties and his fully-flowered Showtime series from 2017 as bookends, Television Rewired devotes a chapter each to David Chase's The Sopranos, David Simon's The Wire, David Simon's and Eric Overmyer's Treme, Matt Weiner's Mad Men, and Lena Dunham's Girls. An introduciton called "The David Effect" discusses the genesis and evolution of the trend toward auteur TV while the penultimate chapter, "Backlash! Formula 2.0" focuses on innovative but still formulaic series such as Breaking Bad and The X-Files.

Struck by the way Lynch "modeled freedom," Nochimson builds on her previous work with both him and David Chase through new interviews with both those and other TV auteurs. She sees them as facing a challenge similar to Cooper in Part 3 of the new Twin Peaks limited series (while admiring the dozen poetic resonances of "The Return" she's abiding by producer Sabrina Sutherland's admonition to avoid that title). Unlike Cooper, however, Lynch, Chase, and others don't descend back into the confinement of the black box - they leap out into outer space, into the unknown...falling, or flying? Nochimson discussed this sequence extensively in a lively chat with Scott Ryan in The Red Room podcast a few months ago; for our part, we concentrated on questions about Judy and the presence of evil, the New Mexico girl and the possibility she's Sarah (an idea Nochimson loathes), whether there's a "there" there for poor Dougie, and if there's a relationship between Fire Walk With Me and season three. We also spend a little time on The Sopranos and Girls (I avoided reading about or discussing Mad Men and The Wire, shows I'm still in the process of watching) as well as discovering the stubborn divergence of how we perceive the David Lynch/Mark Frost collaboration - or lack thereof. And, after a ten-minute introduction of her premise, we open the back-and-forth with a particularly fruitful investigation of what TV formula means and how artists could, and perhaps should, relate to it.

I hope you enjoy listening to this lengthy, in-depth discussion as much I enjoyed participating in it (the video is primarily audio-only, but uses images to illustrate various sections if you want to jump around, leave and come back, or just have some visual stimulation as you listen to it unwind in one sitting). Nochimson's book is well worth reading not only for its insights but for the dialogue and reflection it opens up among readers.

Late summer update: a makeover and progress toward Journey Through Twin Peaks

I am currently in the midst of a massive, radical re-design of this site, the most ambitious such reboot since I founded this online hub in 2008. This will finally shift the focus away from a what's-latest blog template (although that approach will still be available for those who prefer it) and attempt to strike a balance between directing readers toward particular subject areas while also keeping Lost in the Movies' massive archive at their fingertips. Since this involves cataloging over a thousand entries visually rather than by text (I'm using movie posters as the "buttons" in most cases), in some cases slotting a single entry in a dozen or so different slots, the process is definitely taking a while. But I'm hopeful the new site can be ready by the end of August. And once it is, I can finally resume work on three video essays (two Side by Side analyses and a 3 1/2 Minute Review) which will be the only remaining obstacles between me and the new Journey Through Twin Peaks.

Back in the spring, I laid out my path to creating more videos and I've stuck to it pretty stubbornly. I decided to tackle the re-design before rather than after the Journey project, and I eventually relegated my Mark Frost readings (expanded to encompass his entire oeuvre) to a small patch each evening, a sidebar rather than a prerequisite to further work. Otherwise, though, I've accomplished my goals in a slow, steady, sure manner and it remains feasible - if not entirely likely - that I could land an early November premiere for the new video series. I can't commit to that, and an early 2020 launch seems more plausible but I can say that I'm on track to at least begin work on Journey Through Twin Peaks by Labor Day. My podcast episodes for September and October are long ago pre-recorded so I won't have to make choices about what work to focus on for another three months, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

I originally hoped to let both the re-design and the rollout of new video essays speak for themselves. However, as I'm still bogged down in (at the moment) a sprawling cross-linked directory web of podcast topics, other commitments came knocking - hence the need for this status update for patient and/or curious readers. A month ago, I recorded and published an extensive, nearly three-hour interview with Martha Nochimson, the David Lynch/television scholar whom I first spoke to in 2014. I uploaded a preview onto YouTube and saved the interview for patrons at that time but, as promised, I'm now making the full conversation available: it's uploading as I type this and will be cross-linked on this site tomorrow. I also have a Twin Peaks Unwrapped appearance kicking around in the backlog - my guess is that Ben and Bryon will drop it this week but no promises. It involves a return to their wacky "Lynch Madness" format, this time for season one episodes - and with two additional surprise guests! I also plan to post a simple notice when I introduce the new site re-design in the next few weeks or even days (fingers crossed). Enjoy the old format while and if you can, because it won't be around much longer.

See you then!

Veronica Mars - "Years, Continents, Bloodshed" (season 4, episode 8)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. Each day, I am covering every episode (and the film) including the brand new Hulu revival. I am watching this series for the first time, so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (premiered on July 19, 2019/written by Rob Thomas; directed by Scott Winant): The Mars family has a not-terribly-difficult decision to make, although initially they are loathe to make it. Penn insists that they work for him - after all, what have they got to lose? If he's guilty, great, they help keep him in jail. If he's innocent, they earn some money while catching the real killer. Sensing that they're being manipulated, Veronica and Keith reluctantly agree but insist on taking the investigation where they want it to go. This leads them back to the Pi Sigma fraternity, where Keith marvels at Veronica's ruthlessness, forcing the weepy Blake Long (Spencer Ward) to admit what happened during Spring Break 2015. Drunk and in the midst of hazing rituals, the bros lashed out at a hapless pizza delivery man, dunking him in the violent waves until he apparently drowned, his body washed away. When one of group expressed remorse, his tent was burned down during the night; since then they've adhered to a vow of silence although Blake suspects his own friends set the fire. Veronica has her own interpretation: the pizza guy didn't really die. He came back to kill one of his tormentors (ironically the one who felt bad), and three years later he's been avenging himself on the broader swathe of spring breakers. Matty, now edging her way into working full-time with Mars Investigations, learns that the pizza shop can't find the paper ticket from that fateful night's delivery, but Penn maintains that such an incident never happened to him. And then, a breakthrough...

Veronica Mars - "Gods of War" (season 4, episode 7)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. Each day, I am covering every episode (and the film) including the brand new Hulu revival. I am watching this series for the first time, so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (premiered on July 19, 2019/written by Diane Ruggiero-Wright, Heather V. Regnier; directed by Amanda Marsalis): "What's a murderhead?" asks poor Wallace, as Veronica explains that actually they're going to attend a later screening of their planned movie in order to catch up with the latest conspiracy theories about the Neptune bombings. (Man, I hope he gets a quality scene in the finale, as Veronica's best buddy has really been given the shaft this season.) Nonetheless, Wallace takes Veronica's last-minute, admittedly self-serving change of plan in stride. Nicole, on the other hand, is appalled when she learns how Veronica has been using her - minutes after chuckling that whatever Veronica's done, she's done worse, Nicole flatly informs Veronica that actually, planting a bug in her office is something she can't top. She also emphatically denies responsibility for any of the bombings, although I suspect she'll eventually be pinned on the beheading and Veronica will forego the quarter-million and look the other way. Fortunately (or unfortunately), Veronica has professional duties to take her mind off personal problems. It looks increasingly likely that while Big Dick engineered the Sea Sprite and Perry explosions, Penn orchestrated the follow-up. The smoking gun, so to speak, is that nail - it only wound up in Penn's back because it was part of a painting on the lobby wall but it was incorporated into all of the subsequent bombs presumably because Penn assumed it was built into the first device.

Then again, as Keith observes, Penn shared that knowledge with the rest of his crew so it could've been any of them. That concept is forgotten as the Mars chase down Penn in his lovers' cabin in the woods and engage in a shootout with Alonzo and Dodie, who have decided they'll let the professionals lead them to the killer and then take out all three in one fell swoop. Keith, once again wounded by foggy cognition, leave his ammunition in the car and beats himself up afterwards: realizing that his condition nearly killed his daughter, he emphatically declares that he's "done." Fortunately, both are saved by the PCHers who show up on a fleet of motorcycles just as the Mexican hitmen are about to finish the job, and insist that El Despiadado's enforcers be escorted back to Neptune. Penn is taken back to the police station, where Leo says goodbye (and apologizes for taking things a bit too far with Veronica). With Cliff at his side, Penn declares his innocence and insists that the Mars - no hard feelings! - take up his case and find the real culprit. After all, there's another bomb set within twenty-four hours and the most important thing they can all do is figure out who's planting it and how to stop them.

My Response:

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