Lost in the Movies: November 2019

November 2019 Patreon podcasts: LOST IN TWIN PEAKS #10 - Season 2 Episode 2 and LOST IN THE MOVIES #61 - Twin Peaks Cinema: Lost Highway & Updates on Journey Through Twin Peaks (+ Duelle, Twin Peaks Reflections: Ed, James, Hawk, the cemetery, Sparkwood & 21, Cocaine in Twin Peaks/Part 6 & more)

For the first time since January 2018 (when I offered an extended exploration of Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks side by side) my podcast is comparing David Lynch's TV show to one of his films. Lost Highway offers a rich field for this study, both backwards (the use of Bob and the James and Evelyn saga, of all things) and forwards (Part 18's long drives and the Mitchums as all-American gangsters). It also provides an opportunity for me to preview some of the audio from my upcoming Journey Through Twin Peaks video, along with a general update on how that project is going. And because I've covered the film quite a few times before, Lost Highway leads to an extended "Opening the Archive" reading series, covering three reviews (including a comparison with Jacques Rivette's Duelle), clips from video essays and podcasts, and other highlights. There was so much going on this month that I had to delay a few sections until December (the listener feedback and podcast recommendations) and split November's main podcast in two.

Meanwhile, for $5/month patrons, my Lost in Twin Peaks rewatch reaches an intriguing David Lynch/Harley Peyton collaboration, perhaps his most underrated episode which offers a motherlode of mythology...

The first part of the Lost in the Movies podcast is a mini-episode sharing my recent work, both published and upcoming - starting with the general Journey update...

The second part is dominated by Lost Highway, although it also includes "Twin Peaks Reflections" using Laura's funeral episode as a springboard to explore characters, locations, and a subplot (related to an episode of season 3)...

And here's the Laura funeral itself, the rewatch episode published in May now open to all patrons...

Added 11/28:

Mad Men - "The Mountain King" (season 2, episode 12)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Mad Men. Every Monday I will review an episode of season two, possibly followed by each episode of season three. Later seasons will be covered at another time. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on October 19, 2008/written by Matthew Weiner, Robin Veith; directed by Alan Taylor): For an episode that feels particularly focused on a few big events, the narrative is surprisingly sprawling in "The Mountain King," with at least six storylines unfolding over many scenes. And that's not even including Paul, who returns from Mississippi boasting of his noble endeavors only to be deflated by co-workers who mention that his girlfriend dumped him a few days into the trip. So much for the slice of early sixties civil rights I thought we'd be glimpsing in the tail end of season two - if Mad Men has anything to say about race relations, perhaps the major issue in the first half of the decade, it will have to wait for later seasons. As for one of the other big crises of the time? Cleverly playing on the title of the Frank O'Hara collection introduced in the season premiere, the next episode is called "Meditations on an Emergency," and I harbor stronger suspicions than ever of what that particular emergency will be.

What does unfold in this episode? Betty catches Sally smoking in the bathroom, scolds her severely, and then - reconsidering after Sally replies with straight fire ("Daddy left you because you're mean and stupid") - buys some riding boots to soften the blow before informing her daughter that she fought with Don and doesn't know where he is. Don, of course, is still in California, visiting the woman introduced several episodes ago in the car dealership flashback. Anna Draper, as the name suggests, was the wife of the man whose identity Don assumed and we see them interact in two timelines in episode 12. In the fifties, she confronts Don - well, Dick Whitman - and quickly gets him to concede what happened; though bewildered, she doesn't seem especially grief-stricken about the fate of her husband. Another scene shows the chummy duo in Anna's Californian house; Don asks for an official divorce (since he's still technically her legal husband) so he can marry the "beautiful, happy" Betty whom he's just met. In 1962, Don is pensive about the state of his life and Anna offers warm support. They have an open, honest connection so distinct from all of Don's other relationships; as he said on the phone, he's Dick Whitman to her and the lack of pretense is refreshing.

Back in New York, Bert, Roger, and Bert's sister Alice Cooper (Mary Ann McGarry) agree to sell Sterling Cooper, disregarding Don's minority share since it's an insignificant factor in the decision. Pete aggressively resists Trudy's desire to adopt, losing his father-in-law Tom Vogel's (Joe O'Connor's) Clearasil account in retaliation, and informs Peggy that Don may not return ("He's done it before"), Peggy gets Freddy's old office as a reward for landing an account, and Joan brings her fiancee Greg to the office. A nice excursion turns brutally sour when Greg, who's been having trouble with his more advanced lover in bed and grows jealous , convinces Joan to let him into Don's office. He proceeds to rape her on the floor, growling, "This is what you want, isn't it?" Not that Joan has the words to describe what happened to her in those stark terms: tentatively listing his virtues to Peggy in a later scene, she's told "he sounds like a keeper," and the traumatized young woman - who has always seemed entirely sure about the rules of any given situation - looks lost and confused. A global crisis may be on the horizon, but there are plenty of personal emergencies to go around as one episode remains in the season.

My Response: 

"Twin Peaks was awfully busy that night, wasn't it?": discussing the Season 1 finale w/ Twin Peaks Unwrapped (+ Lindsay & Aidan of Bickering Peaks)

It's been a year and half since I last appeared on a Twin Peaks Unwrapped community rewatch episode (since they're planning to end the podcast at the end of next year, they'll be picking up the pace for season two). I think as far back as that recording, I requested the season one finale as my next endeavor. I knew that Mark Frost's solo venture - the only time a single person wrote and directed an entire piece of Twin Peaks - would provide much fodder for conversation, and it did. I was particularly delighted to share guest duties with the Bickering Peaks co-hosts, Aidan Hailes and Lindsay Stamhuis (whom I just discovered inspired the best BuzzFeed article of all time). Over the past couple years, they covered almost all of Mark Frost's film/TV work; having done a deep dive myself into his films, shows, and books this past year, I was really eager to discuss how his vision impacts this hour of television.

Now, seriously, go read that BuzzFeed article!

By the way, here are the photos from the event where I met Ben and Bryon, as discussed on the episode:

Mad Men - "The Jet Set" (season 2, episode 11)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Mad Men. Every Monday I will review an episode of season two, possibly followed by each episode of season three. Later seasons will be covered at another time. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on October 12, 2008/written by Matthew Weiner; directed by Phil Abraham): The motto for "The Jet Set" may as well be "You can do that?" Way back in the pilot, Don expressed his belief that the rules don't really exist, but now that belief is moving from theory into practice. At Sterling Cooper, Roger flatly tells Duck that he's not going to make partner based on the lackluster business he's drummed up. Duck responds by using Roger's personal troubles to pitch his former British employers on buying out his current American ones. And he does so while taking first a deep breath and then his first, savoring sip of liquor in several years. Somehow the things that men have worked hard to achieve - be it marriage or sobriety - don't taste nearly so sweet as indulging the momentary urge to throw it all away. Elsewhere in the office, Peggy is invited on a date (perhaps?) to go see Bob Dylan by Kurt Smith (Edin Gali), the eccentric German half of "the Smittys," those quasi-bohemian young admen who were brought in a while back but whom I haven't had much reason to mention yet (that's about to change). When their co-workers tease the nascent couple, Kurt matter-of-factly corrects them: "I'm a homosexual." You could hear a pin drop as he calmly leaves the room, and while no one's particularly comfortable, few are less comfortable than Smitty Smith (Patrick Cavanaugh), who has probably just had his own cover blown, or perhaps especially Sal, who never knew such thoughts could even be humored, let alone spoken aloud. The episode even starts off with an expansive surprise, as Jane reveals to a clearly caught-off-guard Roger that she's a talented, deeply intelligent poet.

Of course, the character most egregiously subverting expectations, abandoning professional restraint, and ditching social norms is Don. He wasn't even supposed to be on the trip to California but thanks to a last-minute switch-up, he jets across the country with Pete and stands awkwardly by the swimming pool in his gray suit. Though of course the whole series is shot on the West Coast, the filmmakers really let us know that we're supposed to be in Los Angeles now; that warm light suffuses everything and there's an openness, a sense of restless freedom in the air. And then Don meets Joy (Laura Ramsey), a strangely irresistible young woman whose father Willy, a count, initially appears to be pimping a high-priced call girl (when Don finds out Willy is her father, he's sitting in bed with them and Don is visibly creeped out). Initially Don resists the odd appeal, but the second time she encounters him he's just come from a deeply unsettling conference, in which a confident defense contractor boasted about the total annihilation of the USSR possible with a singe missile. So Don takes up Joy's offer to go swimming, abandons Pete poolside (when Pete returns to New York, he hardly seems to realize that he never saw Don again), and has some very strange times with Joy's family. Passing out after taking a drink (there are repeated hints that he's being drugged), regaled with tales of the family's seemingly carefree, globe-trotting, and highly sexed-up lifestyle, and exposed to a milieu he never even really knew existed, Don doesn't exactly appear to be enjoying himself - but the long strange trip is clearly too fascinating to abandon, as if he's been hypnotized.

If so, he's not assuming a new identity so much as shredding the one he worked long and hard to construct. When he calls someone unseen from Joy's phone near the end of the episode, he announces himself so matter-of-factly that it's shocking: "It's Dick Whitman."

My Response: 

La La Land (The Unseen 2016)

"The Unseen" is a series in which I watch popular films for the first time (reviews contain spoilers). The list, which moves backwards in time, is based on the highest-ranked film I've never seen each year on Letterboxd (as of April 2018). La La Land was #1 for 2016.

The Story: Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) "meet (kinda) cute" three times, on each occasion following a musical performance and laced with bitterness. First, they flip each other off in Los Angeles' seething morning traffic after a spectacular dance number (the drivers all leap atop their cars to sing about making it in the city of dreams). Then, Sebastian is fired as a restaurant pianist for playing a personal composition rather than an innocuous holiday song (Mia, wandering downtown after bad auditions and a towed car, is drawn to the restaurant by his music but brushed off when she tries to compliment him). Finally, the arrogant jazzman is stuck playing keyboard in an eighties cover band at a pool party Mia is attending, where she makes humiliating requests and stares him down mockingly. From this point on, however, music's ability to bring them together will supersede its ability to tear them apart: they tap on a park bench at magic hour, overlooking the purple-hued valleys below; they literally float into the cosmos inside the Griffith Park Observatory; and they fall in love amidst a musical montage as they riding the Angel's Flight funicular railway, cross the Colorado Street Bridge, and gaze at the Watts Tower.

As a modern-day musical, La La Land juggles a grounded if affectionate view of the creative type's struggle to survive the film and music industries with a gleefully romanticized depiction of this lifestyle's charms (in this universe, not only can people spontaneously break into song and dance, but the old backlot style of movie magic is still alive and well, with Hollywood the global phenomenon still rooted in Hollywood the physical location). Sebastian and Mia both consider giving up their dreams for one another, and giving up one another for their dreams. Is it possible to hold onto both? The movie's most memorable sequence unfolds as a coda, when their paths cross after some time apart; drawing particularly from An American in Paris, La La Land crafts a wordless musical fantasy, spooling an alternate timeline that stylizes touchstones of life's passage through motifs like stage performance, home movie, and big-screen rapture. Where the film chooses to demarcate fantasy from reality, within an already fantastical environment, is fascinating to note; La La Land is ultimately less interested (or at least, not much more interested) in being a picaresque travelogue than in depicting the tricky battle between ambitious dreams and pragmatic compromises.

The Context:

Mad Men - "The Inheritance" (season 2, episode 10)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Mad Men. Every Monday I will review an episode of season two, possibly followed by each episode of season three. Later seasons will be covered at another time. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on October 5, 2008/written by Lisa Albert, Marti Noxon, Matthew Weiner; directed by Andrew Bernstein): "The Inheritance" most obviously takes its title from Pete's fraught relationship with his mother; she threatens to cut him out of the (unbeknownst to her, practically nonexistent) estate if he and Trudy adopt a child. Pete later informs Peggy, in yet another awkward office interaction, that he hates his mother and grouses that everything's "so easy for" Peggy. Undoubtedly, the two will eventually collapse under the weight of irony this thick. Pete's two-way parental problems don't get a lot of screentime, but that title stands in for a lot of what we end up seeing in the very family-defined episode 10. Betty's father has suffered a stroke, and the pretense that everything's fine, actually, collapses when he berates Don for being untrustworthy (tellingly, for having "no people") and twice mistakes Betty for his wife, harmlessly at first (he simply calls her by the wrong name) but eventually with immense discomfort, as he makes a coy remark and touches her breast. Don at least is able to be some small comfort during this uncomfortable weekend visit; although Betty exiles him to the floor of their guest bedroom, she eventually descends there to make love to him one night. When they return home, however, she won't even let Don take a shower inside the house.

Young Glen Bishop fares better when Betty discovers the child hiding in her backyard playhouse; he's run away from home and spent several nights in the same clothes, so she sends him off to be washed and lends him one of Don's t-shirts. They even sit together on the couch, watching cartoons and sipping Coke as the boy looks at his much older crush admiringly (at one point, he slips his hand into hers and begs her to run away with him: "I came to rescue you."). What Betty doesn't do - at least not until Carla comes home with her own children and interrupts the odd reverie - is call Glen's mother. When Helen finally shows up to express her worry and take Glen home, he glowers at Betty and declares, "I hate you." Helen returns to the Drapers' to reprimand Betty, but the demure housewife holds her own against the brassy divorcee with surprising firmness and no wonder - as she reveals, she may soon be joining that exclusive social club herself. Admitting she's not a very good mother, Helen sighs: "The hardest part is realizing you're in charge."

My Response: 

October 2019 Patreon podcasts: LOST IN TWIN PEAKS #9 - The Season 2 Premiere and LOST IN THE MOVIES #60 - Twin Peaks Cinema: La Dolce Vita (+ favorite films archive #1: Masculin Feminin & Twin Peaks Reflections: Johnny, Sylvia, Mike, the Red Room, the room above the convenience store & Nadine's drape runners/Part 13)

At first glance, the bursting cornucopia of early sixties Fellini and the enveloping fever dream of early nineties Lynch couldn't be further apart. Yet I've always been drawn to the structural similarities between La Dolce Vita and Fire Walk With Me. This month's podcast gave me an opportunity to linger over this thread, as well as other correspondences and counterpoints between the two works (and the TV series which more closely shared La Dolce Vita's meteoric, flamboyant success).

For $5/month patrons, my Lost in Twin Peaks rewatch celebrates Lynch's memorable return to his own show with a two-parter, one of my longest podcast episodes so far...

The "Twin Peaks Cinema" coverage of La Dolce Vita, my longest yet, is bookended by another sixties Euro icon, since the climactic entry of my favorites series is Jean-Luc Godard's multifaceted New Wave treasure Masculin Feminin, and more Twin Peaks reflections: on the legacy of Nadine's drape runners in Part 13 of The Return, three characters who were (temporarily) swallowed up after making a mark early in season one, and a couple spiritual locales...

On the fifth anniversary of Lynch and Frost tweeting "That gum you like is going to come back in style" to announce season three, I opened my Lost in Twin Peaks coverage of the original Red Room episode for the $1/month tier...

bonus: NOW AVAILABLE: Lost in Twin Peaks #3 ("Episode 2") open to all patrons

Podcast Line-Ups for:

Mad Men - "Six Month Leave" (season 2, episode 9)

Welcome to my viewing diary for Mad Men. Every Monday I will review an episode of season two, possibly followed by each episode of season three. Later seasons will be covered at another time. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on September 28, 2008/written by Andre & Maria Jacquemetton & Matthew Weiner; directed by Michael Uppendahl): Freddy's gotta go. When he pees his pants in front of Pete, Sal, and Peggy, and then passes out in his chair, the whole office quickly learns of his indiscretion and Roger makes the unfortunate call, much to Don's irritation, Peggy's sorrow, and Pete's delight. His soft firing and the Drapers' great drift are what give the episode its core and, at their intersection, prepare us for the surprise ending and retrospective purpose. The initial push for the narrative, however, is rooted in the real world. Having already hinted, rather laboriously, at the Port Huron Statement, and with the Cuban Missile Crisis no doubt providing the backdrop for the finale or penultimate episode, "Six Month Leave" nods to another significant event of '62: Marilyn Monroe's overdose. Don sees the story in the morning paper as he leaves the Manhattan hotel he's been exiled to and Betty hears the news on the radio as she aimlessly roams her empty suburban home in a nightgown; both have more immediate matters on their minds. At the office, however, most of the female employees (except for the mostly matter-of-fact, business-minded Peggy) can't imagine anything more immediate. Joan even snipes at Roger that he'll understand her pain someday when he loses someone very important to him.

Roger does lose something at episode's end, but we'll get there in a moment. For much of episode 9, the boss is cleverly situated as a supporting player in both Freddy's and Don's dramas. The trio goes out for drinks, and then more drinks, and then more drinks, cushioning Freddy's fall by indulging the very habit that got him there but also making it clear that they like the guy, and the whole situation's unfortunate but necessary. Freddy takes his downfall remarkably well, though his final farewell to Don is poignant, leaving an underground gambling joint and climbing into a cab on his way to an uncertain future. "What will I do?" he sighs, and when Don offers a goodnight, he responds - no illusions - "Goodbye." Roger and Don continue on to another location, Don mostly dodging his friend's needling inquiries about his marital situation (Jane, earlier, revealed that she had deduced what's going on), at one point by striding from the bar to punch a conveniently-placed Jimmy Barrett in the face. Finally he concedes that they're separated, and that he's mostly relieved. Parrying Roger's half-hearted counterpoints (which, fixated on "another woman," are subtly not about Don's situation at all), Don inadvertently convinces him to make his own move. The next morning, Mona Sterling storms into Don's office and dresses him down for his "advice." Turns out Roger is sleeping with Jane, took Don's self-analysis as a pep talk, and has decided to leave his wife.

My Response: 

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