Twin Peaks – The Return: Hour Seven

NOTE TO READERSThese 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 SEVEN:

“I Don’t Know Where I Am”

Jerry Horn (David Patrick Kelly) announces this, while lost in the middle of the woods, to his brother Ben (Richard Beymer) at the start of Hour Seven. But really, it’s an echo of the audience groupthink around the new series, and of perhaps the Good Agent Cooper…who, thanks to those recently discovered pages of Laura Palmer’s diary (alas, a fourth page is still missing!) mentioning that creepy dream from Fire Walk With Me where Annie Blackburn visited her and told her about Cooper, and Hawk’s keen detective work, we communally recognize and confirm (as theorized by many fans) is still perhaps trapped in the Lodge.

Meanwhile…Bad Cooper reveals his unique blackmailing techniques using severed dog’s legs to get Warden Murphy to allow him to escape from prison all easy-peasy at 1am with his henchman and a car…but not before Gordon and Albert talked a hard-drinking, “My attitude is none of your damn business!” Diane (Laura Dern – perfect) to come out to Sioux Falls to interview Coop for herself, leaving her to proclaim broken-heartedly to Gordon that something key was missing from that thing claiming to be Cooper (namely, a heart). Continue reading

Twin Peaks – The Return: Hour Six

NOTE TO READERSThese 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 SIX:

“Diane?”

While Albert fulfilled the promise at the end of Hour Four and finally delivered us Diane (Laura Dern), it was the actress who played another Lynchian Diane, Naomi Watts as Janey E. Jones, who owned Hour Six, channeling the rage of the 99% and teaching some nefarious tough guys who were after Dougie a lesson about how to treat people and collect debt. Her diatribe was all at once heartfelt, clunky, tough-as-nails, and borderline funny (at one point I expected her to echo the words of George Costanza and explain to them, “We’re trying to live in a society!”), and it left the bad dudes shocked and muttering, “That was one tough dame.”

Weather it was the Neanderthal bookie thugs (who might make harassing phone calls or even break a leg or two…but wouldn’t kill a guy, right?), a psychopathic teenager with the last name Horne (who runs over a kid in the middle of the day!), a “magic man” drug kingpin (Balthazar Getty – last seen flirting from afar with our dear Shelly – a scene viewed as sweet in hour two, that in hindsight now hangs with a pall of sickening dread), or a miniature assassin who brutally murders a woman in her office in cold blood…Lynch and Frost are showing us that sickos not only lurk everywhere…but are now out of the shadows and in broad daylight. But for each deplorable in the basket…there were glimmers of decency…as seen in our dear Shelly, giggly Heidi, and a pie-loving teacher; in the officer who takes a dementia-riddled Dougie home; and in chain-smoking trailer-park Carl (Harry Dean Stanton) who comforts a grieving mother in the middle of the street while others look on with distant horror. It was both the distance and intimacy of that universal sense of horror that Lynch so awkwardly captured in tonally discordant ways this hour…capped off by the most haunting closing song yet at The Roadhouse and a soft yet hoarse velvety guitar playing chanteuse singing about wanting to forget… Continue reading

Twin Peaks – The Return: Hour Five

NOTE TO READERSThese 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 FIVE:

“The Cow Jumped Over the Moon”

Well, well, well…where to even begin? So much happened in hour five, yet nothing happened…and with a resurgence of “high-hat-jazz” meets “1950’s grunge” music throughout the hour, this was the closest we’ve gotten to traditional Twin Peaks yet…Yet there was that mondo-bizarro Buenos Aries (yes, that’s right, Buenos Aries!) and Buckhorn, South Dakota stuff too!

So what did we learn this hour?

Under the radar character actor Jane Adams’ Buckhorn forensic scientist apparently moonlights as a comedian. “I think the cause of death was his head was chopped off.” And whose head was it? Well, apparently it was someone whose stomach contained a wedding ring engraved by none other than Janey E. Jones!

Back in Rancho Rosa, that sad-eyed kid with the drugged-out mom watches as some morons accidentally torch themselves after setting off the bomb some other morons set underneath Dougie’s car outside the foreclosed house where he had his trysts with Jade. Cue the scene of Jade (the no-nonsense yet somewhat empathetic Nafessa Williams – quickly becoming a sardonically sexy fan favorite) dropping the Great Northern key that magically showed up in Dougie’s pants (and he dropped in her car) into the mailbox.

Meanwhile, Janey E. Jones (a wonderfully exasperated Naomi Watts) is just about losing her patience with her husband, Dougie (who apparently has psychic abilities that tells him his insurance company comrade, an always slimy Tom Sizemore, is lying).  “Ok, Dougie, you’re acting weird as shit,” she tells him while he gets teary eyed looking at his kid. Yeah, our thoughts exactly, Janey… Continue reading

Twin Peaks – The Return: Hours Three and Four

NOTE TO READERSThese 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 THREE:

“Do chocolate bunnies have anything to do with your heritage?”

Andy (Harry Goaz) asks Hawk (Michael Horse) this amongst the spread of old Laura Palmer files, donuts and coffee as he and Lucy try to help the Deputy Chief figure out what the Log Lady meant and what exactly is…missing? “It’s not about the bunny,” Hawk stoically muses, “Or is it is about the bunny?”

Earlier the third hour opened with more Red Room / Black Lodge / Limbo / WhateverAndWhereverTheHellItIs, which every nook and cranny could be described and it would still be as incomprehensible as the craziest dream with Lynch having evolved (or is it devolved?) these manipulated digital photography sequences into moving modern art installations…or, as my wife pointedly pondered, is that vast ocean Cooper looks out over in the opening moments where Lynch goes when he does Transcendental Meditation? Cooper does find his way out…and voila! he’s taken the place of some awwshucks schmuck named Dougie Jones in Las Vegas. Simultaneously the Evil Cooper vomits creamed corn and black poison while overturning his Lincoln outside of Buckhorn, South Dakota. The dazed Cooper in Las Vegas is then dropped off at a casino by his hooker-with-a-heart-of-oh-brother where he proceeds to light-up slot jackpots guided by images of that zig-zag floor topped with a flame over the machines.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia (YES!), Special Agent Tamara “Tammy” Preston (a chic and slinky Chrysta Bell) is giving Gordon Cole (old Lynch himself) and Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) the rundown on that nasty piece of business in New York City (where those two poor kids were indeed mauled to death by whatever came out of that glass box) only to be whisked away by a phone call from someone claiming to have in custody none other than the long lost…Agent Cooper!

Cue the closing Bang!Bang! Roadhouse song and credits.

HOUR FOUR:

“Holy Jumping George!”

And Gordon Cole is right. Hour Four is where this new Twin Peaks finds its groove. What was disjointed and weird in the first three hours congeals into a jazzy-funny-scary tour de force, most of the action this hour bouncing back and forth and forth from our continued re-entry into our hometown through Hawk, Lucy and Andy; Gordon, Albert, and Tammy’s trip to Blue Rose territory and the increasingly bizarre Buckhorn, South Dakota case (where the bad Coop is itching to be debriefed by Cole); and good Coop’s entry into Dougie Jones’ family life. Continue reading

Twin Peaks – The Return: Two Hour Premiere

NOTE TO READERSThese 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.

“The Stars Turn and a Time Presents Itself”

The Log Lady (Catherine Coulson) states this rather matter-of-factly to Deputy Chief Hawk (Michael Horse), part of message for him to go find out in the woods that which has been missing…

Most of the premiere had a tense, occasionally obtuse, and brooding vibe – somewhere between the madness of Fire Walk with Me and the tone of Mulholland Drive. Three main story-lines (along with plenty other tangled threads) were set up for some vast cosmic and physical convergence: Agent Cooper being trapped in the Red Room (for 25 years!); an evil doppelgänger Cooper running amuck in the real-world whose days are numbered and is wanted back at the Black Lodge; and some key players in our beloved hometown gearing up for something.

The two hours both inch along and somehow fly by thanks to Lynch’s uncanny knack to make you feel as uncomfortable as hell knowing that at any moment a long, static shot with stilted actors doing not much of anything could turn into an absurd experimental horror show (witness the truly ghastly special-effects that harken back to Lynch’s art school days in Philadelphia and Eraserhead). I wanted some scenes to end so badly, while at the same time I didn’t want the experience to end. Continue reading

Life is very very Complicated and we’re ready for our Mirror, Mr. Lynch

Bob Cooper Mirror

Life is very, very complicated, and so films should be allowed to be, too. – David Lynch

David Lynch has been saying that the new “season” of Twin Peaks is really just an 18 hour film. And, Jeeze Louise, ain’t the world all kinds of fantastic complicated right now? What better time then for a complicated, complicated film that will last all summer long?

I can’t help but muse upon the context with which we are about to consume this 18 hours, where Bob-willing we’ll get lost in a place both wonderful and strange.

Lynch is a proud Eagle Scout, and his re-entry into the social consciousness couldn’t be more eerily timed as two other Boy Scouts (Comey and Mueller) play detective in an attempt to unearth just what in Sam Hell is going on in the White House these days. Is there a world in more need of Boy Scouts than the world of today?

Be Kind. Be Courteous. Be True. And most importantly…Be Prepared!

Lynch has historically had an uncanny mastery of tapping into…”something”…that may have been unbeknownst to him at the start of the project. What will he accidentally tap into here (what big fish has he caught)? What was it that was so special…so great…about the context in which Twin Peaks enthralled a nation and world over 25 years ago? What is different…or the same… about the context today in which Twin Peaks returns?

What was the original Twin Peaks if not the tale of a Patriarch (Leland Palmer – possessed by Bob) run amok – and a Boy Scout (Cooper) who solved the mystery about what made that mad man tick (but alas, did we ever learn how to make Bob stop)? Weren’t we all Laura Palmer – living under Killer Bob’s tyrannical reign and longing for a way out?

And don’t we all love a good mystery? Don’t we all desire to get lost in those woods again? Can’t you just smell those Douglas Firs? How cathartic does this return to Twin Peaks have the potential to be? What will it say about our shared fears…about the American soul…about aging…about dying…about life?

We all have our hopes up so high…but even if it fails to tap into some sense of what Makes America Great Again…at the very least, I hope this new mystery provides a most pleasant diversion to the turmoil we’ll be roiling in all summer long (and perhaps beyond).

As I immerse myself in this world again, I will try to only report – hour by hour – on what is seen, what is felt. I’ll try to keep politics out of it. But all great art is made greater in equal parts by the baggage both the maker and the viewer bring to it. And, oh brother, we have a lot of baggage to unpack. So Be Prepared!

Don’t let us down, Davy boy…we couldn’t be more ready for complicated if we tried.

And Don’t Forget to Follow the Hour by Hour Spin, Brave Boys and Girls!

Matterlightblooming and Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

In an ancient cemetery on a hill near Washington D. C. the dead-who-know-not-they-are-dead rise from their sick boxes at night to cavort, cajole, console and wonder, wander, ponder. They have developed their own culture, their own shadowy cadence of “living” in this self-inflicted purgatory, patiently waiting for some sign to know what to do next, while fellow spirits vanish in the matterlightblooming and others join them in fresh sick boxes, an eternally spiraling phantom world of temporary inhabits…ships passing in a melancholic feverishly nightmarish harbor where the waters are haunted by memories of thier life in that other place from before they so long for…

One such spirit is left dispirited by another (who committed suicide)…exclaiming…

“You did not give this place a proper chance, but fled it recklessly, leaving behind forever the beautiful things of this world…Forgoing eternally, sir, such things as, for example: two fresh-shorn lambs bleat in a new-mown field; four parallel blind-cast linear shadows creep across a sleeping tabby’s midday flank; down a bleached-slate roof and into a patch of wilting heather bounce nine gust-loosened acorns; up past a shaving fellow wafts the smell of a warming griddle (and early morning pot-clangs and kitchen-girl chatter); in a nearby harbor a mansion-sized schooner tilts to port, sent so by a flag-rippling, chime-inciting breeze that causes, in a port-side schoolyard, a chorus of childish squeals and the mad barking of what sounds like -” (p. 140-141)

Apparently in George Saunders’ purgatorious bardo, every ghost is a poet…and a grammarian champion of the semi-colon. Saunders’ ghosts go through the metaphysical motions, getting bawdy like Shakespeare in their regaling of tales and nihilistic like Beckett’s Godot waiters…waiting, for something…someone…to rock their boats. Continue reading

I’ve Got a Part You Will Kill in La La Land

la-la-land-mia

“Betty, I’ve got a part…you will kill,” casting director Linney James (Rita Taggart) tells naive ingenue Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) in David Lynch’s self-described “love story in the city of dreams”, the seminal classic, Mulholland Drive.

Fifteen years later, Damien Chazelle has delivered the greatest “love story in the city of dreams” since Mulholland Drive with his swooning, joyous and melancholy musical La La Land…and he’s left the greatest part for us. In his story, we get to play the audience. And, boy, in this year of pop cultural celebrity deaths that has 1980’s children in nostalgia tinted tears and a political wasteland that hath wroth His Orange Emperor, man…we are so PERFECT for this part! We are gonna kill it! And we are going to love La La Land with its toe-tapping musical themes and heart-ringing ballads forever echoing in our collective unconscious to be passed down from generation to generation like our communal love for flickering wonders in the dark and dreams writ large on a silver screen. It’s possibly the defining fluff piece of our times, and it is beautiful.

Like Mulholland Drive, La La Land weaves an archetypal tapestry of dreamers falling in love and getting swept up in the pulse and vibrations of Los Angeles. Here we have struggling actress Mia (almond-eyed, red-haired, fair-skinned, cute-as-a-button and sassy as all get-out Emma Stone in the type of role you wonder if a young actress could ever out-shine) and struggling jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling at the top of his Gos Game) breaking out into song (hell, and why shouldn’t they?) and literally dancing on air (a feeling anybody who has fallen in love can relate to). Like Lynch’s film, there are moments where you will drift away into the most rapturous of reveries (the opening “drivers-stuck-on-the-LA-freeway-breaking-out-into-song” bit perfectly disembodied, transportive and tone-setting), fall in love, laugh, perhaps cry, and wonder along with our big-eyed dreamers.

Where Chazelle takes the film from beautiful fluff to art is his insistence on not resting on the musical norms while at the same time exploiting them for all their worth. Each wondrously choreographed dance number is breathtakingly dreamlike, both eschewing what we expect (and I normally loathe) in musicals while adhering to the genre’s most universal and transportive tropes. Chazelle employes lyricists who tell the story through the songs, not just put on a show…while the set designers, costumers and choreographers put on one hell of a show.   Continue reading

The Specter of Past Relationships in Nocturnal Animals

nocturnal-animals

*SPOILER ALERT – READ WITH CAUTION*

(Read With Caution could’ve been an alternate title to the film, by the way…)

Fashion designer turned director Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals has been ridiculously advertised as a schizophrenic film within a film that anyone watching any of the tonally different trailers would be hard pressed to tell you what the devil the thing is about. But one almost wonders if the strange advertising is all part of the Ford game? Look at Jake Gyllenhaal’s tipsy smirk plastered across your IMDB homepage…oh…and look…he’s taking a blue-eyed gander at the even bluer-eyed Amy Adams, all red tresses and smiles…America’s sweethearts. It’s all so fake. And all so wrong. Like much of the film. But also so symbolic. And borderline brilliant when it’s not absurd.

Ford’s opening credits of obese women doing some post-modern Burlesque (ah, what an art show!) will put some off with its Lynchian inspired weirdness (and there’s more sick touches interspersed throughout the film)…but it serves a purpose if you wisely invest in the film until the very end. It’s just one of many tricks the director pulls off here…like inserting a go-for-broke performance from…you guessed it…the ubiquitous – and if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times –  always amazing, Michael Shannon, into the film within the film on what seems like a total lark.

Nocturnal Animals is really much more straightforward than any encapsulated description of its plot would lead you to believe. Or is it? Simply put, it’s a psychological thriller about reading. In a grander sense, it’s about how the viewer (or reader) brings their own emotional baggage to viewing art. In a bizarrely humanist bent, it’s also an infinitely sad testament to the spectre past relationships and traumatic break-ups cast upon one’s ensuing life.

In the film (based on a novel by Austin Wright), a teetering-on-depression art gallerista named Susan (Adams, so delightfully complex and subverting all her norms in what is her second great performance this year after Arrival) receives a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward (Gyllenhaal, who somehow both under-acts and overacts, Edward’s tottering emotions always subject to Susan’s sometimes melodramatic interpretations of his writing) that he has mysteriously dedicated to her. Continue reading

Changing the World Brick by Brick in Loving

loving_true

loving_film

In Caroline County Virginia in 1958, an oridinary white man (Joel Edgerton) shows an ordinary black woman (Ruth Negga) the plot of farmland upon which he wishes to build them a house and then asks for her hand in marriage. It all seems so sweet and pedestrian and normal. He drag races cars when not building houses while she preps family meals and squeals with her sister over her coming nuptials. But it was anything but normal…in fact, their relationship was against the law in their own home state where both their families had lived and died alongside each other for years. After stealing away to Washington D. C. to get married, the couple are arrested in their bedroom upon returning to their peaceful Virginia homestead where the state refuses to leave them in peace.

Writer/director Jeff Nichols, who has become the premier chronicler of the American South for his cinematic generation, crafts a script that highlights the quiet, simple dignity of Richard and Mildred Loving while showing the casually insidious everyday acceptance of institutionalized racism. “You should’ve known better,” the law tells Richard. There’s no physical violence against the couple, but a threat of being torn apart emotionally hangs over them like a pall. Yet there are no histrionics over the Lovings’ predicament, no highfalutin ideals to which they subscribe, only a sense of what is decent and true. They love each other. It’s that simple. And they deserve to build a home and family just as much as anyone else. Both Edgerton and Negga transmit the feelings left unsaid through the nuances of their body language and facial expressions…both of them delivering master classes in subtlety and repressed emotions that come pouring out of their eyes. Always dignified…never wanting the spotlight. Continue reading