What if this is the Best Version in Lady Bird?

When her mother (Laurie Metcalf) states that all she wants is for her daughter to be the best possible version of herself she can be, our titular anti-hero (Saoirse Ronan) delivers that biting and heartbreaking line that’s been playing in all the trailers for Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age tale, “What if this is the best version?”

It leaves one to wonder if this film is the best version of the writer-director?  The story of a Catholic school senior in Sacramento, California finding her way while dreaming of going to college in NYC is highly autobiographical.  And while it brings out the best in Gerwig as an artist, I can’t help but hope (like Metcalf’s character) for more from her that will surprise and delight us in the years to come.  Many of the quirks people have come to love or loathe in Gerwig (mostly from her work with Noah Baumbach) are present here, but distilled through the amazing Ronan they become more palpable and endearing to the masses (and I write this as a fan of Gerwig in all her faults and glories as an actress).  Likewise, Lady Bird longs for acceptance of her whole self, warts and all, from those around her, especially her mother. Continue reading

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Land Needs a Deed not Deeds in Mudbound

Indeed, you might need a deed to own land, but it’s all those horrible deeds that lead to systematic oppression that tie the tortured souls of Mudbound to the land.  Even in the afterlife they can’t escape the land, which swallows their flesh and churns up their bones, the indentured survivors plopping their dead loved ones’ bodies right into the ground, rendering all their deeds and deeds undone.

While still stewing over the fact his vile racist Pappy (Jonathan Banks) sold the only land the family ever had, Henry (Jason Clark) is so damned obsessed with the idea of owning land and working it that he uproots his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan, ever graceful in her depiction of a woman’s arc from blissful naivety to pessimistic pining) and young daughters to go live on a godforsaken plot of harsh farmland in Mississippi.  There the work and hardships are shared with an African-American family led by the spirited Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan) and his stoic wife Florence (Mary J. Blige) who have been toiling the land in quiet dignity for generations, first as slaves, and now as sharecroppers.

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True Crime, The Last Dossier, and the Melancholia of Moving Paintings and Black and White Photography

David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon sounds like a rip-snorting true crime epic.  The labyrinthine conspiracy that lead to the murders of numerous Osage Indians for their oil headrights and the botched FBI investigation that followed is rife with terror and tragedy, but although Grann attempts a few passages of ponderous heft, most of the book is a dry by-the-numbers procedural that presents far too many names and suspects to keep coherent track of, never allowing us to latch on to any one person, and leaving us lost in the immense scope of the dastardly deeds.  The book is slated for a film adaptation to be directed by Martin Scorsese, and if there is anyone who can provide both focus and pep to the story, it’s probably him…though Eric “hit or miss” Roth is to pen screenplay, leaving me to worry the Osage might never get their due.

Though it’s presented like a true crime book, Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier couldn’t be more fantastical and “out there.”  Mercifully brief (compared to The Secret History of Twin Peaks), this dossier compiled by Special Agent Tammy Preston following the events of Showtime’s Twin Peaks: The Return is designed to feed the fans.  Continue reading

I’m the Best One in Blade Runner 2049

“I’m the best one,” a coolly sinister replicant (Sylvia Hoeks) declares amidst haunting imagery of walking backwards into dark, surging water in Blade Runner 2049‘s chilling climax.

If one is to believe the declaration of a doctor (Carla Juri) who specializes in fabricating human memories for implantation into replicants earlier in the film… that there’s a little bit of the artist in each one…then one might draw the conclusion that replicant mentioned above is speaking for none other than director Denis Villeneuve.  He’s operating on a well-known (and much copied) property in this “30 years later” update of Ridley Scott’s classic neo-noir sci-fi…but he’s very much put his own stamp on it.  There’s also a bit of “killing your darlings” in his daring showmanship, symbolically murdering his forefather Scott along with his oft-compared contemporaries David Fincher and Christopher Nolan.  Yes, Denis…you are the best one.

But there’s more subtext (and context) than just “the mark of the artist” in Blade Runner 2049…there’s also philosophical pondering on artificial intelligence, slavery, and what it means to be human.  Meanwhile, on the surface, the film tick-tock’s through the motions of your traditional noir detective story. Continue reading

Random Places I Have Been in 2017

Well, I guess we were just in a New York State of Mind in 2017.

Trips to the Empire State included:

  • An extended “writer’s  retreat” weekend in Cooperstown in April.  It was my wife’s first time in one of my favorite places on earth.  It was also our first time doing Air B&B.  Despite coming home with a nail in my tire…it was a truly relaxing, lovely trip (and, yes, we both got some much-needed writing done).
  • A weekend getaway to NYC in June to hit up some old haunts (with a jaunt out to Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Museum).
  • A family vacation in August renting a house on Lake Seneca (first time in the Finger Lakes region) from which we watched the solar eclipse. The vacation also included day-tripping to Watkins Glen and the Canadian side of Niagara Falls (a long overdue first time there!)  The Niagara experience inspired a short-story I’m currently polishing up.

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My Thoughts Will Never Be Final on Twin Peaks

When that final gut-curdling scream rang out on that oh-so-familiar street in front of that oh-so-familiar house in that oh-so-familiar town from our oh-so-familiar anti-heroine, just as I had after every other hour, I raced to my laptop to churn out my blog post without much thought. I was a bit flippant, and ill-tempered, as that newly settling frustration of Lynch pulling the rug out from under us (again) was just beginning to simmer, and in my post (and haste) I wrote off the whole series to that Lynchian trope of being caught in an endless loop of suffering from which you can never escape no matter how hard you try.  And I still basically stand by that assessment…but oh, Twin Peaks, you are both just that and so much more.  Much like life itself, you are a walking contradiction.  A mirror unto yourself.

Now I’ve had time to digest the finale and read all the wonderful (and eloquent and thoughtful) theories out there in the media and on fans’ feeds.  And I agree with them all.  Those theories are mirrors of my own thoughts.  Nothing I write about here hasn’t been thought of by someone else who already wrote it down (and probably more astutely conveyed). Continue reading

Twin Peaks – The Return: Two Hour Finale (Hours Seventeen and Eighteen)

Twin Peaks – The Return: Complete Hour by Hour Guide

NOTE TO READERS – These weekly posts are meant to recap what happened (SPOILERS AHEAD) and provide conversation starters for fans to comment and share theories. Do not read if you have not watched this week’s hour(s) yet.

TWO HOUR FINALE (HOURS SEVENTEEN & EIGHTEEN)

“Is it the story of the little girl who lived down the lane?”

Like the entire Return in a microcosm (or condensed into a little golden orb, if you will), the final two hours of Lynch’s maddening opus contained a few moments of satisfying fanatic brilliance buried in deliberately obtuse dream logic. Continue reading

Twin Peaks – The Return: Hour Sixteen

Twin Peaks – The Return: Complete Hour by Hour Guide

NOTE TO READERS – These weekly posts are meant to recap what happened (SPOILERS AHEAD) and provide conversation starters for fans to comment and share theories. Do not read if you have not watched this week’s hour(s) yet.

HOUR SIXTEEN

“You are awake. Finally.”

THIS IS THE EPISODE. I repeat. THIS IS THE EPISODE. We’ve all been waiting for.

After taking Richard Horne to the bogus coordinates provided by Jefferies last hour and using the boy (whom he later refers to as…DUN DUN DUN…my son) as bait leading to a most electrifying (and satisfying) destruction of said bad seed, Bad Cooper texts Diane, leading her to remember the coordinates to the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station (now confirmed as the place to be) and a horrifying confession to Gordon, Albert, and Tammy that reveals Diane to have been…DUN DUN DUN…manufactured. Lynch films these scenes like a jolt, all simultaneously brooding, revved up, and gasp-inducing. Laura Dern, in particular, delivers an astounding performance, rivaling her interview scenes from Inland Empire, but sped up for maximum effect. The pace here, after 15 laborious hours of meandering metaphysical and nostalgic nonsense (interspersed with the occasional atomic-level horror show) is a breath of fresh air that sooths while grabbing you by the throat.

Whoa, baby, but Lynch and Frost were just getting warmed up! Continue reading

Twin Peaks – The Return: Hour Fifteen

Twin Peaks – The Return: Complete Hour by Hour Guide

NOTE TO READERS – These weekly posts are meant to recap what happened (SPOILERS AHEAD) and provide conversation starters for fans to comment and share theories. Do not read if you have not watched this week’s hour(s) yet.

HOUR FIFTEEN

“The Wind is Moaning”

Hour fifteen opens with one of the most gloriously hopeful moments in the history of the series. Nadine, perky and shovel-wielding, marches down to Big Ed’s Gas Farm and in the most blissfully delusional yet definitively zen way possible…releases Ed to be with Norma. Blindsided by the possibility, Big Ed lumbers eagerly down to the Double RR…but Norma has to speak to Franchise Walter first. Ed, along with the audience, thinking Norma is going to slip through his fingers, sits there stoically dumbfounded. Meanwhile, Norma, in a twist of fate, announces to Wayne she wants him to buy out her share of the franchises so she can go back to just managing the Double RR and be with family. All the while, Lynch is playing a gut wrenching blues-rock song, echoing Big Ed’s fathomless deep heartbreak, his camera focused on the emotionally and physically weathered face of the ultimate sad-sack…but then…her hand…his shoulder…they turn to each other…he proposes…she says YES!!!!…they kiss…and the camera pans to clouds clearing to a clear blue sky. Clear, simple, hopeful, visual symbolism. A brief moment of brilliant joy in this world of truck drivers. Continue reading

Twin Peaks – The Return: Hour Fourteen

Twin Peaks – The Return: Complete Hour by Hour Guide

NOTE TO READERS – These weekly posts are meant to recap what happened (SPOILERS AHEAD) and provide conversation starters for fans to comment and share theories. Do not read if you have not watched this week’s hour(s) yet.

HOUR FOURTEEN

“It’s all coming together now…” was what I couldn’t help but think during this shocking hour that made walking in the woods in the broad daylight scary as hell, and one bold woman who’s had enough takes a violent stand against the scum of the earth. The three major plotlines (Buckhorn, Vegas, and Twin Peaks) finally started to converge in cogent ways in the revelatory fourteenth hour. Continue reading