There is a Meadow in my Perfect World of Wind River

The Native American reservation of Wind River is as far from perfect as one could imagine, a destitute landscape of snow and silence where forgotten people can’t rely on luck…they survive or die. But the inhabitants there can still dream of better places. They can make their way if they fight for it.

The film opens with a thoughtful young woman’s voice-over reading a poem about “a meadow in my perfect world” while we watch on the screen a battered young woman running for her life across a deadly nighttime landscape of moonlight snow and sub-zero winds. It’s another fifteen minutes or so before we witness her body discovered days later by Cory Lambert (an Oscar-worthy Jeremy Renner), a game-and-wildlife tracker hunting a lioness on the reservation, who has his own tragic past that casts a shadow on the current events. Into town comes a green but game FBI agent (a fabulous Elizabeth Olsen, evoking a young, steely Michelle Pfeiffer), who along with the reservation police force (lead by a stoically sardonic Graham Greene) and our determined tracker forms a posse to catch the predator who drove the young woman out into the cold and her ultimate death.

Writer/director Taylor Sheridan’s neo-noir meditation on grief and resilience is a brutal and beautiful thing that also operates on the surface level as a rip-snorting crime drama/police procedural which satisfies our hunger for the perverse while defying our expectations with novelistic depth of back-story and character. Continue reading

Advertisements

Twin Peaks – The Return: Hour Thirteen

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 THIRTEEN

“Everybody’s worst nightmare…”

While the Dougie and Bad Coop plotlines were advanced somewhat (Mr. Todd’s nefarious dealings were revealed through a weeping Tom Sizemore after he couldn’t bring himself to let Dougie drink the coffee he had poisoned…while Bad Coop had an epic arm wrestling match that lead to a man face-punched to death and henchman Ray finally biting the dust)…the rest of Hour Thirteen played on the “It’s happening again…and again…and again…” theme. Continue reading

Twin Peaks – The Return: Hour Twelve

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 TWELVE

“This week on Invitation to Love – The Return…”

Some of the most delightful meta-moments in the first incarnation of Twin Peaks were the tremendously ridiculous snippets from the soap opera show-within-a-show, Invitation to Love. Each week a Twin Peaks character would take a pause during their own overly complicated day to try to catch up with the soapy theatrics, and we the viewers were treated to over-the-top dialogue about who was sleeping with who and who was plotting to kill who, a whirlwind of melodramatic trash where over-acting actors rambled on about people we had never seen or cared about – all, kinda ironic, in the context of the actual soap opera, Twin Peaks, we had become addicted to.

Not surprisingly, one of the major complaints about Twin Peaks – The Return has been the absence of those juicy (and often hilarious) soap opera plot-lines…but here in Hour Twelve, Frost and Lynch redefine meta by delivering the long-awaited return of Audrey Horne… Continue reading

Twin Peaks – The Return: Hour Eleven

Cherry Pie

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 ELEVEN

“The cherry pie is life.”

Remember that movie Seven and the creepy mysterious box given to Brad Pitt, and how it turned out that Gwyneth Paltrow’s head was in the box? Remember what a shock and how gut-punching hearbreaking it was? Wow, how time’s have changed…and most people would now howl with laughter and delight at the idea Goop-y Gwynie’s head in a box. Well, there’s a mysterious box in this episode of Twin Peaks, too, and for a moment we wonder along with James Belushi (driven by a dream of what was in that box) and his brother, just what is in that box…carried by Dougie Jones…who they originally planned to kill.

Turns out…just as Belushi’s dream prophesized…it’s a cherry pie! Thanks to the one-armed man, Dougie bought the cherry pie and brought it with him (along with the $30 million claim check for the brothers)…and the cherry pie saves his life. Which leads to a delightful scene of the brothers and Dougie and Candy, Randie, and Mandie at a Vegas lounge enjoying that “Damn Good” pie and the dulcet tones of Angelo Badalamenti on the piano. Continue reading

Nevertheless They Persisted at Dunkirk

The closest we get to an audience proxy in Christopher Nolan’s relentless exercise in tension and survival is the young soldier played by Fionn Whitehead. He could be anyone’s son, and he’s a partly shell-shocked but still wily (and very observant) lad in Nolan’s wartime nightmare/day scream. We open with him walking through abandoned French coastal village streets as pamphlets rain down announcing, “We surround you.” That first gunshot, setting him off on a run for his life, is so piercing you feel like you’ve been shot at…and it invites the audience to partake in this immersive first-person narrative. He’s the first and last one we see in the film, and his Murphy’s Law-ridden week-long escape from the besieged French shores anchors the multi-POV time-collapsing narrative. Most notably, his struggle to survive is not alone. He doesn’t get from point A to point Z without interacting with others equally driven to survive, and not without help.

Elsewhere, on one fateful day, we have another brave boy named George (Barry Keoghan) selflessly join his friend (Tom Glynn-Carney) and friend’s father (a superb Mark Rylance) as they take their pleasure yacht to join a civilian fleet heading to Dunkirk to pick up some of the 400,000 soldiers stranded there between the English Channel and encroaching enemy tanks on the land. When he hops aboard the vessel after only supposed to have helped father and son set off, the wise elder tells him, “It’s a war, George.” To which George calmly and confidently replies, “I could be of use, sir.”

The film is filled with that kind of stark to-the-point dialogue, interspersed judiciously in a cinematic story otherwise devoid of spoken language but swelling with human emotion transmitted visually across a sprawling canvas of land, sea, and air. Continue reading

Twin Peaks – The Return: Hour Ten

loglady_return

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 TEN

“Laura is the one.”

Critics have been saying that the Return of Twin Peaks has defied the normal episode by episode recap. More so than ever, I see my blogging about the Return as a diary capturing my thoughts, fears, sarcastic notes about plot points or performances, fan theories, (and yes, recaps) directly following each hour. And blogging as a diary seems, well, hell…fitting, considering Laura Palmer and her own diary. And it was the Log Lady (the late great Catherine Coulson) who reminded Hawk (and us) just before Hour Ten’s end and a sterling performance by Rebekah Del Rio (that dress! that voice!) singing “No Stars” that indeed, yes…Laura is the one.

She’s still the one. But damn, sometimes you just need a recap. And it seems following the everything-defying-atomic! hour eight…these plot-propelling hours since “Gotta Light?” call for just that. Continue reading

Twin Peaks – The Return: Hour Nine

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 NINE

“When did he lose his marbles?”

At one point in hour nine, Diane (annoyed to be dragged to Buckhorn by Gordon Cole to see the alleged body of Major Briggs) receives a text that says, in riddle-like fashion from someone unknown, “Around the dinner table the conversation is lively.”

That about describes this hour…full of lively talk (and some great Albert one-liners) that deepens the mystery with plenty of clues but doesn’t give us anything juicy that astute Twin Peaks cultists haven’t already deduced.  There’s a lot of mumbo-jumbo about coordinates that may or may not open up portals into other dimensions:  Major Briggs left behind a secret scroll only his son Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) could extract from a mysterious tube with coordinates (and the “Cooper, Cooper” chant Briggs revealed to Cooper while they were camping in the woods in Season Two shortly before Briggs disappeared in a UFO-abduction-type scenario); while in Buckhorn, Ruth Davenport murder suspect and apparent alternate-dimension blogger William Hastings (a delightfully whiny Matthew Lillard) rambles to Tammy about meeting “The Major” and being given secret coordinates before The Major said “Cooper, Cooper” and floated up into the sky. Continue reading

Finding Strength to Pass on in The Beguiled and Moka

“I admire your strength,” Corporal John McBurney (a devilishly manipulative Colin Farrell) remarks to the headmistress while under the watchful care of the women and girls of the Farnsworth Seminary for ladies, a bastion of secluded tranquility hiding roiling pent-up emotions during the Civil War. He is an injured Union soldier (or perhaps an AWOL mercenary?) discovered in the woods by the nature-loving Amy (Oona Laurence…a stand-in perhaps for director Sofia Coppola?). They are self-sufficient well-bread Southern Belles shielded from the horrors of war, but full of fanciful imaginings and longing.

“I’m just trying to give them what they need to survive in these times,” Martha Farnsworth (a masterful modicum of repressed anxiety underneath a gauze of stern maternal stoicism as played by Nicole Kidman) replies.

Sofia Coppola’s re-imagining of the Southern gothic potboiler novel by Thomas Cullinan (previously brought to screen in 1971 by Don Siegal and Clint Eastwood) is a lean, mean, beautiful thing streamlined through white lace and steamy moss-strewn environs with seductive Louisiana plantation swamps draped in lush symbolism standing-in for war-torn Virginia. Every single meticulously composed shot…from Amy, both resting and sentinel, on the hulking branch of a giant moss-covered live oak…to ennui-suffering teenager Alicia (Elle Fanning) leaning back in her chair in the streaky sunlight while the younger girls play in the tall grass…to a candlelit dinner darkly roasted with insidious intentions…is like a moving painting. There’s not a single shot directed by Coppola and executed by Philippe Le Sourd wasted here, all ripe with symbolism or moving the plot along. Likewise, sparse to-the-point dialogue (the entire language of the film mirroring the bluntness of Martha’s speaking and pitting it against the flowery antagonism of Corporal McBurney’s invitations) moves everything forward. Music, be it wonderful renditions of the olde-timey standard “Lorna” or the suspenseful ambience of Phoenix’s barely-there musical score, is exactly where it should be and precisely where it’s not. Continue reading

How Does a Man Become a Cow in The Salesman and My Cousin Rachel?

“How does a man become a cow?” a student asks in reference to a realistic story with one, odd, fanciful element being analyzed in class.

“Gradually,” Emad, the teacher (Shahab Hosseini) responds in a prescient scene in the beautifully layered, rightfully Oscar-winning Iranian domestic melodrama, The Salesman.

The better animal choice might be a pig…but the answer, crypto-Feminist writer-director Asghar Farhadi implies, is the same.

(SPOILERS AHEAD – READ WITH CAUTION)

No man is born a disgusting, sexist pig. You become one…gradually, based on the choices a misogynistic society forces you to make. When you live in a religiously repressed and politically oppressed society that systematically puts value on their women based on what their men do (or don’t do) to them, and in turn puts value on the men based on the value put upon their women, men will often too easily devolve into metaphorical pigs obsessed with shame, dishonor and possessions…even unwittingly sometimes.

Take for instance Emad, the teacher who brings to his students eye-opening Western literature and moonlights (along with his loving, lovely wife, Rana, played by the powerfully emotive About Elly alum Taraneh Alidoosti) as an actor, currently putting on a production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” where he is Willy Loman and Rana is Linda Loman. The play, by the way, is being threatened with censorship by the government. I loved how this threat of censorship is presented as a throwaway line, a common, all-too-everyday annoyance in Iranian middle-class society (and don’t think this couldn’t happen here…or anywhere, with the right strongman in place). This couple seems like a liberal bastion in a repressive society, self-aware and quietly trying to bring about enlightenment through education and the arts.

But the world they live in wants to turn women into objects and men into pigs. Continue reading

Twin Peaks – The Return: Hour Eight

Twin Peaks – The Return: Complete Hour by Hour Guide

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 EIGHT

“We lived above a convenience store.”

David Lynch and Mark Frost have broken the television.

Like some living, breathing, electrified nightmare, Hour Eight starts with Ray shooting Mr. Cooper, who is then visited upon by the most startling set of engine oil-scorched ghosts whose otherworldly movements and nefarious shamanism bring him back to life.

Flashback to 1945 and a nuclear test site, where Lynch then employs cinematographer extraordinaire Peter Deming to slo-mo pan in on a burgeoning mushroom cloud before going deep inside it to the atom-splitting core. It’s a completely mesmerizing mosaic of meditative horror that could only be done on film (or is this digital, well, you get my drift…it’s purely and wholly cinematic) that seems like the rebirth (or afterbirth) of the artistic medium, though somewhat reminiscent of those fantastic sequences from the close of Kubrick’s 2001 and the middle of Malick’s Tree of Life. The fifteen minute sequence, despite its quasi-eerie familiarity, is completely beyond words and comprehension, and pardon the lame cliché, it will blow your mind. Continue reading