Twin Peaks – The Return: Hour Ten

loglady_return

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.

“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 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

While We’re Young

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Was it really that smart of Noah Baumbach to open his latest “comedy” by making us read a scene of dialogue from a play?  Even if it is an Isben play…and even if it is pertinent to the film’s major theme…which is essentially beware of the young?  Hidden beyond this stroke of semi-alienating pretension is an almost accessible, quasi-mainstream comedy, Baumbach’s most enjoyable (though far from best) yet.

Well, at least it immediately lets you know you’re in Baumbach territory.  Our main characters are a documentarian/professor (Ben Stiller) and his producer wife (Naomi Watts).  Only in movies, especially movies made by people like Woody Allen or Noah Baumbach (just like in any Franzen-esque pseudo-literary novel where everyone is a writer) is everyone involved in movies or the arts.  This once seemingly hip middle-aged couple have lost their mojo, and they try to get it back by befriending a couple who came to one of his classes, an aspiring documentarian (Adam Driver) and his pretty, young artisanal ice-cream making wife (Amanda Seyfried).  I balked at what the film was trying to make me believe…that Adam Driver (one of the most unlikable actors gracing the horizon of stardom) was supposed to be this generous, non-ironic, admirable seeker of truth and drinker of life.  Ah, but alas…(spoiler alert!) things are not all what the seem…or in Driver’s case, turn out to be exactly what I suspected…this hipster douche acting like a hipster sage was in actuality…a hipster douche!

As is always the case, Baumbach peppers the film with sharp observational (sometimes judgmental) comedy and sound-bites amidst his odes-to-Woody conversational set pieces.  Continue reading

Crazy Mothers, Scrappy Kids, Idiot Fathers and Humorless Dictatorships in The Babadook, St. Vincent, Wish I Was Here and Rosewater

It’s that time again for The Spin to whip up a seemingly random hodgepodge of recent films viewed in theaters, on VOD and on Netflix and draw tenuous lines connecting their themes while passing judgment on the merits of their attempts to be profound or entertain.

All of the films feature main characters dealing with serious father issues, three are from first time feature film directors, three of the films feature troubled and/or precocious kids, two feature single mothers raising sons, and two were funded by Kickstarter.  Here’s the rundown:

Babadook Poster 1

First up is the Kickstarter-funded first feature from Australian writer-director Jennifer Kent currently playing in select theaters and available on VOD.  In The Babadook (a title, that like the film, can take on multiple meanings), a single-mom/nurse (Essie Davis, absolutely outstanding at becoming unhinged) is struggling to raise her out of control, starving for affection and monster-obsessed six-year old son (Noah Wiseman, effectively obnoxious and cute and seriously troubled) whose father died in a car crash on the day he was born.  Their toiling roiling relationship reaches a fever pitch when a creepy would-be charcoal-etched kid’s book, Mr. Babadook, finds its way into their house and refuses to be ignored.   The film, an expressionistic psychological thriller neatly wrapped in a horror gift box, is derivative as hell but also smartly crafted to show the damaging effects of not dealing with grief, unmanaged stress, sleep deprivation and paranoia.  The creepy music, sound effects, cinematography, and art design are all well woven by Kent, who hints at a very promising future.  The ending will be a let down to some, but like the best psychological thrillers, is open for multiple interpretations depending on whose POV (the mother’s or the son’s) one takes.  The Babadook represents the best of what films can and should get funded through Kickstarter and is a creepy fun ride for anyone with any passing interest in psychology and the horrors of a human mind unwound. Continue reading

The Sound and the Fury of Birdman

Birdman

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman (from an a script inexplicable penned by the director and three others) might be a film about a washed-up action star writing and directing a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s classic short story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” but it’s that old Shakespeare quote about life being, “…a tale.  Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.  Signifying nothing.” which inspired the title of William Faulkner’s alleged magnum opus (I’m not going to go off on a side-rant here about how Light in August is really his magnum opus and not The Sound and the Fury, which to me was always so…well…kinda like this Birdman here…self-indulgent) that runs through a viewer’s mind while watching Michael Keaton ACT!

Birdman is the super hero Riggan Thomson (Keaton) played twenty years ago and made him a mega-celebrity.  The Carver play is the intimate character-driven art piece he so desperately wants to restore his street cred and remake him into an Actor rather than a celebrity.  Inarritu’s film, in which the Birdman, the man who played him, and the play he creates exist, is exactly the type of film that people who watch only movies like Birdman (as in the explosion filled super hero movie within the film Birdman, not the actual film Birdman) think people who go to watch films like Birdman (the film, not the movie within the film) go to watch.  I can tell you now, Birdman, at times, is the worst type of those types of films that I like to watch.   It’s also, at times, maddeningly brilliant.

Inarritu’s central conceit is all so very meta and insular, appealing to those who believe in the myth of the tortured artist (“What do you risk?” Keaton blusteringly asks a brusk Broadway critic, “I RISK EVERYTHING ON THE STAGE!”) and those who live it.  It’s been dissected many times before.  It brought to mind the lines from a classic episode of Seinfeld where Jerry is forced to wear a fur coat and man-purse and the building super Silvio mocks him saying, “No, he’s very fancy! Want me, love me! Shower me with kisses!”  So then, how does a Director and a Cast make this often mocked mindset seem fresh and meaningful?  Surround it with sound and fury. Continue reading

International Tragedy through the Lens of Intimate Family Drama in The Impossible

Director J. A. Bayona brings the tsunami to horrifying life on the big screen in THE IMPOSSIBLE.

In December of 2004, Maria Belon and her family were among the many who experienced first-hand one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the world when a tsunami overwhelmed large swaths of Southeast Asia including the coastal resort area of Thailand where Belon and her family were spending the holidays. Director Juan Antonio Bayona (who previously put viewers through tear-soaked thrills in the Catholic ghost story, The Orphanage) has adapted Belon’s harrowing tale for the silver screen. Here Maria Belon becomes Maria Bennet (the incomparable Naomi Watts) and her husband is played by Ewan McGregor and three boys by newcomers Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast. They’re a picture perfect beautiful British family living abroad, and Bayona, in ways both Spielbergian and Hitchcockian, puts them through the wringer in this tsunami horror-show tear-jerk thriller that pulls all the right strings.

The Impossible is worth the price of a ticket just for the ten minute tsunami sequence, frighteningly realized without CGI and done all with scale models and a giant water tank. Bayona in the sequences building up to the disaster uses sound effects for foreshadowing, and by replaying the tsunami through the eyes of Maria and her eldest son Lucas (Tom Holland in a riveting star-making performance), he totally immerses the viewer in the chaos of the event tossing the two actors around like rag dolls in the deluge of water and menacing debris that tears and rips at human flesh relentlessly.
Continue reading

J. Edgar Snoozer

Naomi Watts as Helen Gandy in J. Edgar

Clint Eastwood’s latest Oscar grab bag, J. Edgar, is proof positive of how a bad screenplay can sink even the sturdiest of ships.

Aimlessly leap-frogging around a fifty year time span covering the entire career of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio, delivering a workmanlike performance), Dustin Lance Black’s screenplay utilizes the clichéd framework of the title character dictating his memoirs.  In an attempt to cover so much 20th century history, the story touches on so many things that it ends up enlightening nothing.  Half-hearted efforts to give us glimpses into Hoover’s psyche and background (Surprise! He had a domineering mother represented by a phoned-in performance from Judi Dench) shed little light on the rumors that have always been out there.  Was he a closeted homosexual?  Probably.  Was he a cross-dresser?  Probably not.  The film tries to anchor itself around his relationships with Clyde Tolson (Arnie Hammer – almost comical in his depiction) and his long-suffering secretary Helen Gandy (played admirably by the long-suffering Naomi Watts who seems to always get these thankless supporting gigs in high-profile disappointments) – but neither are treated in any kind of sophisticated way and we’re left with surface-level treatments of these characters who obviously (in their own different ways) loved and were ruled by Hoover. Continue reading