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

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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

Twin Peaks – The Return: Hour Seven

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 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

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 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

All Defiant on the Western Front in Wonder Woman

Early on in Patty Jenkins’ confident and electrifying big-screen Wonder Woman epic, after getting rescued by the film’s hero (a robust yet appealingly vulnerable Gal Gadot), our guy in distress (a somewhat charming gritty Ken Doll with a sense of humor, Chris Pine) upon being asked about how he stacks up to other men says, “I’m above average.” In some ways, that’s the best way to describe Wonder Woman in comparison to every other superhero movie. It’s above average. But to leave it at that would be deny the film’s subversive charms and contextual place in the pantheon of fantasy films as mirrors into the audience’s psyche.

Let’s not dismiss, however, just how fun it is to simply watch an above average film in this over-saturated genre. Jenkins and her crew show great creativity and tactical savviness in their treatment of all the genre clichés while choosing a relaxed and serialized pacing in the action, following each big set piece with moments of more intimate drama and character development (witness celebratory Belgian villagers and our heroes dancing in the streets in the evening snowfall that seems ripped from a great war-time romance).

The film’s inherently silly exposition (routed in Greek myth) is made palpable thanks to beautifully rendered Renaissance-style paintings of Greco-Roman fantasy come to life – smartly linking the lore and art of old with modern comic book pages and colorful cells flipped through feverishly by childhood’s fingers. Playful camera angles bring to life a rousing aeronautical flyover of an exploding enemy bunker and battle horses and motorcycles racing through war-torn woods, while slo-mo is used judiciously when warranted and not just for the sense of style. Continue reading