4.20.2018

Six Things That Turn 30 This Year (and deserve some sorta party)


exulansis n. the tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it—whether through envy or pity or simple foreignness—which allows it to drift away from the rest of your life story, until the memory itself feels out of place, almost mythical, wandering restlessly in the fog, no longer even looking for a place to land.
- The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

1988: all in all, too much to mention, too tedious and redundant to list.
After all, haven't we done enough to these poor icons...?
_________________________

Some big league movies, music, books, video games, and TV came out of that mega-year -- some were the best of the 80s, of the 20th century, of all time.... Look it up - I'll wait.


A year of lusciously significant & satisfying pop - so much so that there are lots of crumbs left on that counter, and every particle is sacred.

So, let us skip all the stuff that has been or will be celebrated this year for the purposes of pointless nostalgia (wah ah ah--Nobody says the "B" word!) and instead turn our attention to illegal aliens, pizza points, interesting monsters, birds that talk, and fish that sing.

- Paul

Daffy Duck's Quackbusters

Feature-length Looney Tunes movies have always been of poor quality - and by 'poor' I mean terrible.
This theatrically released oddity is the exception - because it cheats. Comprised entirely of all the monster and horror related shorts produced in the 50s and 60s (Transylvania 6-5000, Hyde and Go Tweet, The Abominable Snow Rabbit, etc.) with not-quite-that-seamless filler to connect the storylines, it plays like a great compilation album of their best stuff.

Nick. Jr. 

It was an odd concept: "Nickelodeon - for kids!"
Seriously, though... These blocks of fresh-yet-bizarre Japanese and French-Canadian cartoons (and the deplorable The Elephant Show) landed right in the middle of the afternoon - great timing for this particular Kindergartener.
It evolved and mutated into other things over the years as I outgrew it, but the severely innocent charm of the original lineup(s) was a pinnacle in candied 80s syrup - free of any cynicism or satire:
Noozles, Adventures of the Little Koala, Maya the Bee, Muppet Babies, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, and my favorite, David the Gnome.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Action Figures

When Playmates toy company was approached with the idea of producing a line of action figures based on the Ninja Turtles comic books, they felt there wasn't nearly enough of a demand for the green teens, & they insisted an animated series would most likely generate more interest... The rest is plastic (and television) history.
I collected the shit out of these - maybe more than any other action figure series - didn't matter that I wasn't familiar with 70% of the characters they produced: Mondo Gecko, Wingnut & Screwloose, Pizzaface, Tattoo, Chrome Dome, Fugitoid, Ray Fillet... They kept makin' 'em - weirder & weirder - and I kept buyin' 'em!

Ghostbusters for Nintendo

It was not one of the best games to come out that year - or any other year - nor was it even one of the better pieces of Ghostbusters merchandise. In fact, all the movie tie-in games were scarce in graphics and gameplay - especially this one.
Its frustrating pace and ambiguous objective give it some ironic charm, but that's not why we celebrate it. Basically, anything with the 'no-ghost' logo has an irresistible magnetism, and the movie's theme song actually sounds better in 8-bit beeps and boops. After all, marrying Ghostbusters with Nintendo feels as natural as Michael J. Fox endorsing Pepsi-Cola.

"Toy Soldiers" by Martika

The phrase "Power Ballad" is usually reserved for when headbangers try to crack the Top 40. For pop stars and soft rockers, it means an extra dose of melodrama and bass drum.
Martika's "Toy Soldiers" was released as a single the following year, but it appeared on her '88 self-titled album -- itself a buoyant 80s jamboree. But this standout track sounds like every John Hughes, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Karate Kid movie ever made - though it has no pop culture affiliation outside of its own bombastic merits. It would've made a great theme song (especially for the 1991 film, Toy Soldiers) but it never was - it just feels that way.

Mac and Me

Endlessly fascinating and perversely engrossing, and best enjoyed under the McInfluence of Quarter Pounders and chocolate shakes.
Because of its shameless product placement, it's often mentioned in the same breath as The Wizard (which, as any faithful reader of this site knows I find to be a grossly inaccurate comparison). Still though, any movie that not only features 1980s McDonald's culture but positively advocates it with a fully choreographed song & dance sequence(!) is worth some sort of deformed 'thumbs up.'
But what places it square in that "good bad movies" sub-genre are the clunky (and creepy) alien FX, the forced sentimentality (that only Capra and Spielberg had the talent for), and a terrifyingly manipulative third act that has to be seen to be believed. So see it!

4.12.2018

All I want is a Pepsi

I've been a true blue Coca-Cola consumer my entire life - both by nature and nurture - though in these, my twilight years, I've come to terms with the realization that, more than anything, I'm a soda extremist.
Pure capitalist, corporate labeling, conscious-altering, health-deteriorating soft drink Americana: all my favorites.
I've become less faithful to particular brands, and pledged my allegiance to all that is sweet & bubbly. (Coke still tastes the best.) But, in my yearning reminiscence for all things good & bad, mixed with an overly convoluted passion for text & color composition, right now I've fallen off the Coca-Cola wave & caught the Pepsi spirit -- thanks to their package rebranding campaign. They've wrapped up their poison in bright, bouncy nostalgia.

Bottles & cans, just clap your hands

In a Coke household, the Pepsi logo used from 1973 to 1986 was in my peripheral vision as a child, & so it exists only in my outermost memory - the way the details of a dream slip away as the day progresses. That's part of the fascination, but really what it's about, and what it's always been about, are bright colors and stark images on solid white backgrounds.


It's an aesthetic composition that ignites some Manchurian Candidate-like reaction that causes me to submit to whatever pop junk they throw at me. This is advertising at its shrewdest, but at its softer, gooier center, it is, by definition, art.

Pepsi attempted this gimmick back around 2011 and they botched it severely: stamping each label with the insipidly large-print Throwback, maliciously crushing the reenactment fantasy with its bold reminder that, "this is not then, and now you live in a time when people use words like 'throwback'."

This newer facsimile is closer to the original generation (with a far more subtle disclaimer - in place for the truly dim). It's as close as we'll get, and I'll take it - because we take what they give us.

Meanwhile, Coke stubbornly holds fast; clumsily replacing the image of Santa Claus with polar bears during their holiday run, while putting people's names (?) on their plastic bottles during the summer months. They don't need anything fancy (or exciting, or innovative) and they know it.
Pepsi always had bigger stars and better ad campaigns -- they've had to try harder, and it shows.
And it works - I'm a fully dedicated Pepsi lover... until they change the cans back.

Joe Camel & Ronald McDonald would be proud.

- Paul


4.05.2018

It’s very very good to see you again old friend! -- DAVID LYNCH: THE RETURN

He's always been a logistical challenge: in what he creates, sure - but, in my experience, much more so in the accessibility/availability of his product. My journey of trying to accumulate and absorb his artistic output has always put me in the position of 'amateur detective' - not at all unlike Jeffrey Beaumont, Diane Selwyn, and countless other protagonists. For nearly 20 years, it's been a systematic struggle to get my hands or eyes on what he's made: hunting down foreign bootleg DVDs, watching things online that were meant for bigger screens, cumulatively traveling hundreds of miles to screenings... That's been the headache of the adventure as much as it's been the joy - again, resembling the content itself.

And it's funny: even in today's widely-available media environment, I still ended up having to wait & search & embrace my anticipation for the new show.

When Twin Peaks 'returned' in May of 2017, I didn't have the Showtime network and I had no intention of subscribing. I still don't. And in hopes of purchasing a potential 'complete series,' I didn't buy the discs. Like the days of old, we rented the video - from the library, no charge. The sacrifice here was that I didn't get to ride the wave with everyone else - instead opting to lag behind like a baby tomato, and feeling a bit like an immodest Charlie Bucket as all the other kids were getting the candy & prizes that were most rightfully mine.

Then again, did I subconsciously allow this to happen? Was it circumstance, fate, a metaphysical force, or the power of my own mind that brought me there?
More accordingly - in every sense - was it worth the wait?

In evaluating Twin Peaks: The Return, everyone has their own background. The idea of "love it or hate it" is a gross directness that undermines anything that arouses an opinion - especially art, and especially David Lynch. And even that alone has its own subcategories: Peaks fans, Lynch fans, mystery enthusiasts, nostalgia buffs, film vs. video, TV binging, and other geekery.

I can't talk subjectively about The Return without very briefly retracing my own journey there, because it is, categorically, a 'reboot' of sorts - no? One can't merely discuss the end of book without knowing how we got there - and in this case, how Lynch got there. After all, wasn't this third season an accumulation of everything he's ever done: all movies, shows, painting, photography, furniture, music, sculpture, comic strips, etc? I saw it, and I know you did too.


I was 7 years old when Twin Peaks premiered in 1990. I didn't watch it - we were more of a Cheers household. But I was largely aware of that weird show: Kyle MacLachlan on SNL, magazine covers, talk shows, commercials, the music, the fashion, et al. If you were there, you know: it was in the air, and it was potent - even to a child.

At that point in time, the only exposure I'd had to Lynch was The Elephant Man, which makes sense, as it was, and still is, his most mainstream endeavor. But I didn't have any kinda wherewithal to know its director or make any connections.

The more invested I became in 'Film' as an art or concept, the more I became aware of Eraserhead. Never, I don't think, has my curiosity reached such heights, or my desire been so fierce to see a movie that didn't already 'tie in' or 'call back' to something I'd already loved. What it boiled down to was: "How can a movie with such a silly title & poster image be so lauded?" For a kid in a small town in the mid 90s, if it wasn't at the video store, I was't gonna get to see it.

I rented Blue Velvet on VHS and watched Lost Highway on cable in '98. I found both to be sexy, silly, and fullscreen. They made generally no impact. David who?

......

Once DVDs became the thing, I viciously purchased every movie I'd ever previously seen, based mostly on the very simple standard that I had previously seen them, and rooted in the sudden availability and affordability of this new home video format.
Remember?

Watching Blue Velvet for the first time in its correct aspect ratio was a bona fide milestone in my career as a movie watcher, as it was very much that: watching it for the first time. Due to the noticeable lack of camera moves or quick edits, I can't say I ever paid any extra scrutiny to shot composition, set design, blocking, or even lighting the way this film was suddenly forcing me to do. Without the shackles of a muddy video square, the hokey 'movie-movie' attributes took a backseat, & now Frank Booth was at the wheel.

That was it. Within months I'd amassed all the Lynch-related physical media there was to scare up, including the newly released, beautifully packaged first season of Twin Peaks - which sat on the shelf, unwatched for some time...

......

I've written before about the euphoria of being into something that's also popular at that very moment. As I fertilized my obsession, Mulholland Drive was in theaters - nowhere near me, of course - making news as 'the best thing Lynch had done.' As I awaited the inevitable video release, I bode my time with the ample media I'd accumulated.


My first copy of Eraserhead was purchased at a flea market from a man who wasn't even selling movies - just this one. There have been very few 'Holy Grail' moments for me in terms of tangible objects. This was one: a digital rip of the Korean DVD, complete with Hangul subtitles (which, in optimistic retrospect, added to the peculiar mood of the film). After trying it on several DVD players, I had to swap machines with my sister - hers was the only one the disc functioned in(?)

Alone in a room with the lights turned off. Maybe because it was an illegal bootleg, or the Midnight Movie hype around it, or the timing of my obsession mixed with years of anticipation, added to the gratifyingly freakish tone of the film, it felt dangerous to watch - like staring into the Ark of the Covenant.

At the time, what struck me deepest was that it is, for all intents and purposes, a 'student film,' and that fact exhilarated me - a then-student attending film school. And as a film student, I was always bogged down with the limitations of adequate money and resources - never properly or fully realizing my ideas due to these constraints. Eraserhead proved beyond any doubt that these concerns were only that: "concerns." Clearly, with enough know-how, patience, determination, and artistic temperament (in other words, talent) one can turn a pile of dirt and a key light into a cinematic achievement the likes of which I'd rarely seen.

In short, I was inspired. And I think that's always been one of my biggest draws to his stuff: if a mood is expertly and meticulously achieved, you can make a movie about anything. A lotta my favorite movies do just that: 2001, Barton Fink, The Master, Suspiria, The Insider, and Lynch's nearly-entire body of work -- these are the movies that make me wanna make movies.

......

Let me stop you in the hallway for just a second and point out that I can't add many new perspectives to a lot of these films; there's nothing I can say about Dune that hasn't been said by everyone else. I watched it once to see it, and I think a second time to make sure I didn't like it.

The Straight Story has a few compelling shots and sequences, but considering the rich landscape and unobtrusive subject matter, it should have been much more than a few. What it does showcase is Lynch's command of quiet and stillness. We'll get more into that later.

I can't remember if I was already aware that the bulk of Mulholland Drive was a TV pilot as I watched it for the first time, but it was palpable nonetheless. As wonderful as it is, it was never going to live up to the hype as his 'best,' and its visual lifelessness felt like television (especially in those first 100 minutes).

Conversely, Wild At Heart is a severely potent visual achievement without any real substance or fun. It seems to have its own cult - Jess is part of it - that I've never quite felt the urge to join.

In 2003 Focus Features released Lost Highway in its original widescreen format, & confirmed what I had suspected for a while: getting a glimpse of the entire frame would change my intially-iffy assessment of the film from 'potentially outstanding' to just plain 'outstanding.' Certainly the darkest shade he'd ever used for motion picture (the Lumiere project notwithstanding), it may still be his closest encounter with the horror genre -- and I don't state that lightly.

As you'd expect, I'd love to go on at length about INLAND EMPIRE, but I'm anxious to get to the show. So, in a few words: I was fortunate enough to have seen it in one of the few theaters it screened - three consecutive times. It hit the spot in ways Mulholland Drive couldn't quite reach -- it was the biggest and loudest presentation of a Lynch creation I'd ever experienced - which played some part in my infatuation, I'm sure. But what I also felt was a reaffirmation of the scope of his imagination - now free of the encumbrances of shooting on film. The result was a stream-of-conciousness fairytale from the most enviable consciousness in the art world, but left by the wayside were the rich and precise compositions that shooting on film demands... It was an even exchange. (Michael Mann did the same, with a similarly exquisite outcome.) And like Eraserhead, it both challenged and expanded my perception of the world around me, & drove me to create stuff of my own.


Twin Peaks - The First Season "Special Edition"
Imagine my surprise - fully prepared to dive into the television phenomenon of the 90s, only to be immediately welcomed with the words, "Previously, on Twin Peaks..."

I was already late! Of course, go figure... This paradox couldn't have been that easy; it was around then that I discovered that the infamous Pilot episode was sold separately (from Hong Kong if I remember). And why not? It fit nicely between my Korean Eraserhead & my then-fullscreen Lost Highway. All these puzzle pieces had been chewed on & were forced to fit, but somehow I never lost hope that someday all these elements would smooth themselves out. And so I pressed on.

......

It was quiet, ambient, moody. Even some of the pro critic TV guide vernacular was right on the money: "sexy," "surreal," "original."
That's a solid list. I would add quirky, meandering, and naive...
All these buzzwords and soundbites apply. It had weaknesses like any other show, but it had strengths like no other other show. And even its flaws were unique; the aimless abstractions into which it often spiraled wouldn't have functioned on Falcon Crest or 90210. And while it was commonplace in Peaks, it wasn't always as mystical as it wanted to be. It was funny, but rarely as funny as it thought it was. It was the 'soap opera with an edge,' but it was a broad edge.

A deliberately paced journey can be a beautiful thing. Though, on Twin Peaks, it didn't always feel so deliberate.
The diverse storylines weren't always compelling - not because they didn't always tie into the central mystery, but because they were too underwritten/underwhelming to carry the show on their own merits. And they monopolized the bulk of that real estate: the Donna/James/Bobby stuff lacked the fire & steam of most of the teenage drive-in movies it derived from, the Catherine/Josie/Pete thread felt like second-rate Dallas, and the One Eyed Jacks plot is too dumb to talk about or even remember (which just about shows all my cards).

The lines between parody, seriousness, and self-seriousness were never not fuzzy, and I never felt safe - due mostly to the fact that nearly all the episodes were written and/or directed by 'not David Lynch.' And that was key - I kept as much of a distance as he did.

I truly enjoy it for the same reasons most people do: pie/coffee/diner fetishization, whodunnit framework, pinup girl aesthetic, the red room, the eccentric performances, and just the general ambiance of the Pacific Northwest. I've learned to love it for what it is & not be (too) sad for what it wasn't.

Season Two is another story. And then some.

......

Twin Peaks - The Second Season would not be released on disc until 2007 - six years after the first set, and I wasn't going to wait to watch Fire Walk With Me.
I've never been aware of anyone else experiencing the story in this order, but I can say for myself that it was startlingly effective (if not entirely ideal). Totally unaware of the events of Season Two, FWWM played out for me like its own detached second season - as though it were more of a flashback than a prequel, and as I would come to learn, severely more competent and engrossing.
Many found 'the life of Laura Palmer' to be one dimensional and generally unsatisfactory. I found the investigation into her death also to be as such. What I did find captivating was the murder of Laura Palmer - graphically and beautifully depicted in the last 40 minutes of the film. I still consider it one of the most skillfully choreographed sequences of editing and cinematography in Lynch's film career (barely rivaled by the first 20 minutes of FWWM). Thematically, he seemed to understand the magnitude of the concept of a prequel long before George Lucas started dicking around in similar territory.

With a mixture of habit, curiosity, and my completist tendencies, I bought Season Two upon its release, and once again kept it on the shelf for some time (until I dumped both sets to get the now-dated "Gold Box").

With adequate distance from my original exhaustive obsession, I went back into the series fresh: starting with the Pilot & proceeded harmoniously into season two...

The palpable space Lynch had put between himself and the show was creating as much of an artistic strain on the series as it reportedly was on its cast and crew. That + the bureaucratic whip crack to dissolve the mystery resulted in the season's high points (the operatic reveal & redemption of the 'killer' and the promise of new existential scenarios) as well as the low points (everything else).

The introduction of Windom Earle as a potentially sinister side story was squandered into a deficient main thread. Leo's vegetable antics were better suited to Home Improvement. Piper Laurie in ridiculous disguises was better suited to nothing. James' serenade. "Miss Twin Peaks." About a dozen other esoteric subplots that didn't even stick. Just awful, really.

Nothing about any of this felt like the work of David Lynch -- it hardly felt like Twin Peaks. Watching, it became apparent to me how there could be two separate sets of fans -- one of these things was not like the other.

Around the time that I finally forced myself into this binge - late 2014 - it was announced that there would be a third season... Had I not been so dubious, I would've thought it to be some magical destiny that caused these two incidents to collide. Maybe it was - it wouldn't be the first time, I suppose. And as soured as I was on the second season, I was not so jaded to ignore the serious potential of a new, entirely Lynch-controlled enterprise. After all, outside of gallery shows & web experiments, this was my very long-awaited followup to INLAND EMPIRE.

And it was. It was also a followup to Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Dune, Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and sometimes, Twin Peaks.

I avoided all reviews & dissections & discussions & images & print & internet content as best I could in the period between its release and the time I was actually able to view it (which, again, only by eerie chance, occurred on February 24th, 2018 - "Twin Peaks Day").


Note: I was vaguely aware of the general consensus, courtesy of the sensitively ambiguous assessments provided to me by you fine folks. And now, I'm anxious for you to send me links to your own write-ups, or simply detailed opinions you can leave in the comments section at the end this longwinded exposition.

......

Without delay, like Fire Walk With Me, The Return reinstated Lynch's full understanding of the weight of this "Limited Event Series," with an emphasis on Event. I got the sense that he was fully aware of what we wanted and what we expected, and he sometimes let that dictate how it unfolded. (If that were true, it'd be a bold and bizarre move for someone who has never let audience reaction influence his "ideas.")

We've said it here now more than a couple of times: the myth of Twin Peaks and all the presence the title carries with it commands an immense gravity and relevance, despite the show's glaring shortcomings. And when Angelo's soul-massaging theme song inaugurated the new season, it gave me a giddy jolt - as if to signify, "It Is Happening Again." It gave me cautious optimism -- light on the 'caution.'

David ditched film long ago - we know that. And there's an immediate confrontation forged between us, the viewers, and this new 'look' the show has adopted. It's sharper & higher def than, say, IE, but it's not the rich film grain of the original terrain. Fine - but the expert lighting & lens techniques once put together with lightbulbs and smoke have been replaced with the pushbutton "advances" of film school final projects. And it shows.

That's not to say that he's lost his touch for abstract images. But I mention this right off the bat because I've always praised Lynch as a visual artist first and foremost. He could make films about murder mysteries, driving a tractor across the midwest, Bill Pullman as a saxophone player, and Laura Dern enduring an existential crisis, but all of these conventional plot devices always rode in the backseat of the striking visual components. Here, for the first time, the 'plot' seemed to take precedent, and for the first time in his career, logic and linear narrative were at the forefront, and it's both refreshing and jarring at the same time; despite all the kooky creatures and crazy twists, it all made sense - sometimes going as far to explain most of the loose ends of the previous series & feature.

Is it future or is it past?

Gone is the original mood of the original show, and I couldn't be more pleased - for a number of reasons.
  • If you've been paying attention, all of these masturbatory 'reboots' of roughly everything have been so deeply rooted in pointless nostalgia that the new barometer of 'Achievement' is how well you can do what's already been done. Had this been that, I think I'd have closed the lid on Lynch. Nevermind the mountain (or two) of problems I have with the original series: it was, without trying to be, a beacon of early 90s pop culture, and if it had to, it could stand on that triumph alone. And if that's the flavor you're looking for, I recommend Fuller House.
  • "Darker," "colder," etc. - these are the words the kids are throwing around... Hardly the most mind-blowing observation made, but they're right nonetheless. Angelo Badalamenti's incessant bass & percussion cues as a (real) indication for the atmosphere of every scene in the original has been replaced with Lynch's trademark white noise, which may've prompted some of the criticisms against the show as being too "slow" or "lifeless" - which is a bit of laughable hypocrisy, I think.
  • The evolution or minimal attendance of most of the original cast is not only a logical step, it also pays tribute to their relevance by giving them crucial - and sometimes lyrical - story function. Mike & Bobby have a much heavier workload in the scheme of things. Andy & Lucy are integral to the climax. Hawk has become the heart of the show. Ed & Norma unite in an eloquent slice of melodrama that depreciates anything the original series ever did. And Audrey's otherworldly limbo was both a transparent tool to get her back on the show as much as it was one of the most pleasantly disturbing subplots of any season.  
  • While it may utilize every theme, vibe, cast member, set and sound design element of everything in his bag of tricks, it very much is a continuation of Mulholland Drive more than anything else: nameless thugs with hidden agendas and dangerous smiles, humorless suits in cold office buildings, skyscrapers and streetlights, showgirls, espionage, mobsters... You can use any of these to sum up a number of his projects, but it more often felt like that one special show he never got to make -- and it wasn't Twin Peaks.   
Someone manufactured you

Like I said, I've shied away from fan & critic reaction, but I have to assume one of the bigger points of contention was the very idea of Dougie Jones, and the execution of that idea.
  • More than some credit should be given to Kyle - not just for his commitment to this absurdity, but what he did with said absurdity. How rare is it to see an actor inhabiting the role he's so well-known for, but playing it as though he himself is censoring all the characteristics that seemed to come so naturally? Very - the answer is very rare.
  • As a concept, again, it makes valuable sense as a plot device, as it drove the now-nationwide mystery as parties all across the country were each following breadcrumbs to eventually converge you-know-where, and the one character who could've ended the run in 20 minutes was trapped as a slapstick zombie.
  • Metaphorically, Dougie/Cooper may also be us: as a distant entity with a blah job & familial responsibilities, he simply can't wake up. The bigger picture eludes him, as does the simple minutia of the 'normal' world - far from owls perched in the Douglas Firs. That may be a stretch.
  • It went on too long. Cooper's almost-absence from FWWM is perhaps its biggest misstep, and that's too true of season three. Sure, it created nail-biting anticipation as to when the best part of Twin Peaks would finally come back to us, but as I've said again & again, the journey suffers when your attention's fixed on the end of the tunnel. Very unlike Lynch.
Baby's got a belly full of black soot

Soap opera. Melodrama. Murder Mystery. Fantasy. Sci Fi. Romance... Type 'yes' if you agree. Add a musical performance & I call it a Variety Show.
  • Think back on the great moments of his movies... "In Heaven," "In Dreams," "Love Me," "Llorando," "Sinnerman." It's a natural and obvious progression - it grounds each Part in consistency, as well as overtly bringing us back to the show's namesake. He's never shot a proper concert film, and you wish he would.
  • The somber and sinister tone of the song choices are more than just for the sake of film credits; they provide an authentic backdrop to the tag vignettes of each episode that introduce us to the countless 'Laura Palmers' of Twin Peaks who are all battling their own ambiguous demons--real or supernatural. And I say without a shade of hyperbole: these enigmatic little sketches may be the true point of the whole series - or at least this season.
  • Exciting to see Julee Cruise and Rebekah Del Rio back home where they belong. I feel like Lana Del Rey or The Ravonettes would've fit right it - but that's a long list in itself.
This is the water and this is the well

I can talk a bit about Part 8, because everyone wants to talk a bit about Part 8.
  • Calling back on what I wrote earlier: I'm still trying to make heads or tails of the whole idea that any Lynch creation would provide us with such direct exposition regarding its many abstractions, and now, added to that, it also gives us an origin story(!) As soon as they cut back to 1945, I said out loud, "Wow, they're gonna do the whole Lost thing?"
  • I've been fascinated by atomic bombs since I was a little kid, and I was thrilled to see it so stylishly depicted. It's notable - and probably essential to the premise - that, historically, when the first test bomb was dropped, scientists were legitimately uncertain about the actual outcome -- to the point that they weren't sure if it would: destroy the entire atmosphere, crack the planet in two, or tear a hole in the universe. I found it exhilarating that the show played on these concepts to some extent; science as a spiritual mechanism. The series has always been soaked in atomic-age nostalgia (diners, leather jackets, poodle skirts, rock 'n roll), and Part 8 brought it full circle - from fashion to physical.
  • And again, to reiterate some stuff I already said: the real 'wow' factors of things like Eraserhead and The Elephant Man were the handmade sculptures, practical effects, and crackerjack cinematography. I didn't feel much of that from the whole Fireman and the golden orb bit. Not to go into my usual CGI detour, but this portion felt comparatively like a falloff in the midst of the atomic laser light show, the convenience store herky-jerk, and the inspired climax.
  • Like coffee & pie, the debut of the Woodsmen (vaguely introduced in FWWM) both compliment & sharply contrast the colorful whimsy of the red room; an army of colorless demons with ambivalent intentions mirror the mysticism of the Black Lodge, but are clearly the opposition. They can reasonably share the table with Eraserhead's Man in the Planet, Lost Highway's Mystery man, and Mulholland Drive's man behind Winkie's. 
That's...weird

The Red Room.
  • One need only watch the open of each episode to distinguish the new direction the show had taken. The glamour shots of trees and the lumber mill have been replaced with the red curtain & zigzag floor pattern; it's become the most memorable character from the original run, and we know that they know that we know that.
  • Originally, in both the show and movie, the room was the payoff -- we were always anxious to get back there, and it was a rare and important event when we did. It's fair to say that, in The Return, it's overused to the point that the bulk of the mysticism it once commanded has dwindled from overuse. This is mildly symbolic in my own eyes - signifying that some of that mystery and initial 'weirdness' had become too commonplace in this new, "all weird, all the time" setting. It's more effective when we don't see the shark...
  • In that vein, the same goes for the gag of 'pie & coffee.' It's used several times as a punchline to call back to the old show. Were they always so self-aware of the motif? It's silly - But! not as abrasive as the 'callbacks' you can find in any other reboot baloney swirling around us at this very moment.
Wrapped, no plastic

I'd love to discuss & dissect each episode, calling out all the great (and not-so-great) components: Jacoby's golden shovels, Big Ed's quiet credit sequence at the Gas Farm, Jerry's cannabis-induced walkabout, the demise of Bob, the absence of Michael Ontkean, the presence of Robert Forster, Harry Dean, the Nine Inch Nails, The Arm, The Log Lady, Laura Dern, Matthew Lillard, Michael Cera... I could go on forever, baby!
But really, what this has all been about, and all I've really wanted to talk about, is the final episode: Part 18, What Is Your Name?
  • No buildup: it's one of the most exquisite things David Lynch has made -- that final hour. Even in some of his greatest cinematic (and television) achievements, he can sometimes come across as an accomplished painter or photographer applying his eye to motion picture. Here, in this episode, he makes it so very apparent that he truly understands filmmaking on a unique plane; he knows what he's doing, and can do it goddamn well. 
  • It did take too long to get Coop back, but it was exciting and emotional when it finally happened... Though, in this last chapter, we get a new Agent Cooper we've yet to see: angry and confused. The man with the distinct understanding of the physical world (as well as the outer limits of space) is suddenly cast into the most frightening reality the series has shown us - and we're along for the ride; if Cooper's confused, we're all in big trouble.
  • Everyone from the old show got their shot to punctuate what they brought this mosaic, and Sheryl Lee, predictably, gets to be the exclamation point and the question mark. Laura's always been The Wizard of Oz of the story, and similarly, any time we pull back the curtain, it's not what we expected -- especially here. 
  • I've used the term "mood" too often here, but it is the driving force of this director's career. Like Cooper, we've been through a lot: we've seen and experienced all that Twin Peaks (and David Lynch for that matter) had to give; we're prepared for whatever's next and it will no doubt be something loud & crazy. But we weren't, because it wasn't. The Final Act in this mixed bag of speaking parts, subplots, numerical clues, red herrings and rabbit holes is unexpectedly and unsettlingly still and quiet. (Silencio, indeed.) Everything's off. Even when we return to the town, it feels like a soundstage long after the cast & crew had wrapped. This mood is something new entirely: it's reality. No dream logic or magic monsters with secret messages can get us out of this horror.
  • If there was one truly moving element missing from the show's revival, it was 'surprise.' Part 18 gave it up in spades. Like a far less whimsical Back to the Future Part II - disrupting the past can have dire consequences, and the 'butterfly effect' will echo through the ages. Coop's attempt to rescue Laura from her original fate had backfired into into a new kind of hell: solidifying the heartbreaking realization that, in any reality, she is doomed to an existence of misery and despair. 
  • Throughout the series, the characters always seemed to know more than the audience. In the final moments of the final episode, everyone's on the same page. Dale Cooper, true detective that he is, investigates and interrogates to the best of his abilities: asking all the pertinent questions - no riddles, no poetry, no Tibetan philosophy, no backwards talk. Twin Peaks, the town, is no longer Twin Peaks, the show... And as Cooper hesitantly proceeds out into the street in front of Laura's 'home,' shaken and disturbed that there are no clues left to follow, he vocalizes the most logical line spoken in the David Lynch universe - immediately followed by the most logical ending (and scream) we could expect from the Twin Peaks saga. 


It wouldn't be Twin Peaks (or any David Lynch endeavor) without being left with that 'beautiful mystery' excitement. I'm of two minds when it comes to the possibility of a fourth season - I sure do want more stuff like this (last episode particularly), but I'm just so darned pleased to leave the series where it left us.
But wouldn't "Season Four" be a tragic artistic limitation? It's been assessed that Ridley Scott is basically locked-in to making Alien movies until he dies. And that's fine for someone like Ridley Scott, who has never made anything as good as Alien.
The ideas and characters and tangents of Twin Peaks: The Return could've played out in their own new, dark world. Lynch isn't a whore to the flimsy 'branding' ideology that pop culture has become, and he clearly has hung onto most of the ferocity and audacity that a lotta my favorite directors have auctioned off. In broader terms: I'd most prefer something new along the lines of INLAND EMPIRE - or even broader terms, something original. But since I have no influence in the matter, if Twin Peaks is his creative electrical outlet of choice, I'll accept it.
If there was one good thing to come out of the Ghostbusters remake, it was generating new appreciation, fans, and merchandise of the original. That may seem like a bit of a footnote in this piece, but this is the climate of right now. I could only wish all 'reboots' were as competent as Peaks - especially considering we live in a world consisting solely of reboots.
One need only glance at the network TV lineup, the titles on the multiplex marquee, or stroll down the toy aisle at Walmart to ask yourself: What year is this?

- Paul

3.12.2018

No Relief In Kakariko


A telepathic wakeup call in the middle of a stormy night is a heinous way to begin a day - never mind this rancid ordeal that lay before me.

Navigating Hyrule under any normal circumstances can be a stressful affair; the landscape, flora & fauna, and general military presence create a strong vibe of intolerance. That's on a normal day. Armed to the teeth with explosives and various stabbing implements makes for that much more of a nerve-jangling journey.

They're out in full force today - this could be largely due to my almost absolute involvement in a prison break. But it's ok: once you've pushed an armored guard three times your size over a stone wall into a colorless abyss to almost certain death, or taken 15,000 volts from a wide-eyed walking pickle, there isn't much room left for alarm. What I'm grinding towards now is bigger than all of us.

The time of the falling rain had passed. The skies were warm and blue now; the sunshine and the moisture on the trees and grass gave the air a golden green glow. Under different circumstances, had I not been bogged down with destiny, I might actually be able to enjoy this day and its weather. But not with these distractions: what I've already been through, and what I have to look forward to.

Without a clearcut destination, a map is a frustratingly useless tool. Right now I have an 'A' without a 'B,' and Kakariko Village is a letter in between; one that doesn't even exist in the Hylian alphabet. Getting here was a violent and logistical nightmare, and being here seems like it's only going to be a continuation. As the humidity rises, my gear gets heavier and I get hungrier, and this rotten mushroom I found seems more than questionable. Half of these townsfolk are under the impression that I'm some knife-wielding derelict with a lust for rupees and potions, and the hotter & more disoriented I become, they may be right.

The soldiers are clunky and indifferent with no apparent peripheral vision. Their presence doesn't concern me. The terror-stricken women with no other interests apart from fulfilling their civic duty are the real threat. Their willingness to turn in a fugitive - regardless of right or wrong (or other trivialities) - derives from a humdrum existence under Agahnim. Their horrified disposition is rooted in their conservative upbringing, with a hint of sexual frustration. Their shattered dreams of maybe one day embarking on some grand adventure - perhaps much like the one foisted upon me - drives their bitterness and subservience. They can't be blamed - I do this for them - but they should be evaded at every turn.

I'm not at all hesitant about walking through strangers' front doors. As a celebrity kidnapper, what reputation am I really clinging to at this point? Besides, this is all for the greater good, and that's what I keep telling myself. So, without any inhibitions, I enter the first dwelling I come across. And to my great delight, I'm met with some deal of charity and open-mindedness -- an elderly woman who seemed to be waiting out her entire existence to interact with me, here in this moment.

"What can I do for you, young man? The elder? Oh, no one has seen him since the wizard began collecting victims..."

Despite her sunny disposition, none of this was good news. "Collecting victims," I thought. "Jesus! What a dismal notion." The only other pressing topic I thought to ask about was the location of the elusive 'Master Sword.' She laid into an honest-to-god legend that concluded with a very vague whereabouts. She suggested I speak with other villagers, and I left there with no more info or confidence than that with which I entered.
Next door was a greenhouse made of leaves and stone; architecturally (and curiously) different than all the other residences. Now my hysteria was getting the better of me - I entered without any hesitation. The interior was like a brightly-lit dungeon -- a contradiction in & of itself. And inside was a stout young man with a very precise and determined part down the center of his neo-blonde hair.

"Yo, Link," he barked. It was both welcoming and off-putting - as contradictory as the building itself. "This house used to be a hideout for a gang of thieves." That makes sense; the villains of this land never had any interest in being inconspicuous. In fact, it's always been the opposite: every criminal and creature with an agenda has always been loud 'n proud about their talents.

"...his name was Blind, and he hated bright light a lot." This information was unsolicited, but it creates enough suspicion in my mind to deem it notable.

Outside was a salesman who seemed to be of Middle Eastern descent. "You sir!" he shouted. "Have you been going through life without one of my 'hold-anything' bottles?!"
I'm still on edge, so any kinda friendly greeting is such a relief - even if he merely sees me as a potential sale.
"Well, step right up and make your life complete!"
Normally, my first thought would be "What's wrong with this poor bastard? Is he for real?" Though after only 10 maddening minutes in this community, I clearly need to start feeding what I see & hear through some sort of newly acquired filter.
"I've got one on sale now for the low, low price of 100 rupees!" Yeah, that's all I need: a large, empty, glass container to add to my already-too-much stuff.

Or do I? Everyone here seems to speak in double-talk riddles and sinister foreshadows and I've yet to catch on. Did this sleazy jar merchant know something I didn't? ...Probably -- everyone seems to. And I'm hoarding all this cash for what? I'm not gonna get my fortune told, or play some dumbass treasure chest Deal or No Deal. Might as well give it to this guy.

"Good buy! Thanks a lot! Now, hold it above your head for the whole world to see, ok?"

I hesitated. Putting aside the fact that it was such a strange request (or demand), I was apprehensive to call this much attention to myself. Sure, my skin was getting a little thicker, but there was still the matter of the timid young lady trolling the streets, shooting me accusatory glances... What's she going to think when I foolishly make a big production out of this routine retail transaction?

All of these thoughts pass through my mind in the span of three seconds before I triumphantly raise this bottle above my head like it's the Stanley Cup.

Skip a beat and I casually recede back into the street - on to the next emotionally jarring question mark. And I'm confronted with it almost immediately, as I find myself face to face with that superficially shy village girl...

"Hey, here is Link, the wanted man!" she shouted. "Soldiers! Anyone! Come quickly!" ...and then ran top speed into one of the houses.

Well, here we are.

This was to be expected - so much so that I was ready for whatever (I think). A solider who wasn't there five seconds ago was suddenly there -- here. No words were exchanged - he just came at me as I threw my Uncle's sword onto his shield, again and again, until I snuck in one fatal blow, through his head.

And that was that; he was gone as quickly as he arrived, leaving behind five bucks which I took.
This was good; this little snafu alleviated whatever tension I had left at this point. If this was the worst sorta thing to happen while I was in town, then I could handle it. From here on in I could better focus on stuff like Sahasrahla, the sword, and apparently a textbook from the town library - which I'll save for last, as I don't really look forward to adding 10 pounds of literature to my mystical herniated disc.

There's a ridiculous amount of chickens around this place. Like, they're in peoples' homes and in the bushes. There's also a local bar that I brushed through which consisted of two patrons and no bartender.
One gentleman sat alone, on the floor, mostly asleep, but woke long enough to cry a little bit about his missing son's love of flute playing. The other guy sat at the bar, anxiously waiting to tell me - anybody - about some broad he once saw at a river or a wishing well...
"Whoa... I saw her." He didn't even lead into it - it was clearly the only thing he was capable of thinking or talking about. This was all going no place fast.

Immediately outside the bar was a man with a giant orange hat - roughly twice the size of his own head. As I approached him, he backed off some. So I stopped, and he continued backing off, to the point that he was running - way away from me.

Was I really going to have to barge in on all these homes? How many more panicky people are going to put up with my being here before we have another incident? I never even had a 'welcome' to be worn out.

Inside the house behind the bar was a kid - a small child, asleep in bed. This was awkward and a little upsetting; this situation could turn sour real fast if I don't play my cards right. I see two options: leave this one alone before someone comes in and finds 'Link the delinquent' alone with a little boy in his pajamas, or have a quick lookaround so I can check this one off my list & it doesn't wear on my mind for the rest of this trip. But it didn't matter: at that moment, the boy's eyes blinked open to find me standing there, over his bed. Unfazed, he promptly let me know what was up...

"I can't go out 'cause I'm sick. People say I caught this cold from the evil air that is coming down off the mountain."

This was by far the most unsettling revelation I'd been faced with since this odyssey began. 'Evil air?!' Can this be a real concern? The kid is legitimately sick - he's not making that up. But the truth about what he actually had and how he contracted it might be something else entirely. I'm hoping that's the case - as it is, I'm so completely run down with dehydration and exhaustion that the idea of doubling over with some medieval malady at a crucial moment makes me wanna Pegasus-run back to my uncle's house and get back into bed. I can't imagine doing battle with Like Likes and Popos while simultaneously vomiting and defecating uncontrollably all over Palace floors.

Or worse! Everyone's heard tales of the symptoms brought on by the Dark World: hallucinations, amnesia, hysterical blindness, joint and muscle fatigue, weight gain, loss of basic math skills, astral projection, skeletal discomfort, bad aim, difficulty swallowing, a low credit score, and scariest of all, metamorphosis. 


That's right! The idea of some genetic mutation is unnerving on its own. But it's the scariest because, apparently, it's the most likely side effect. I've heard - like everyone else - about ordinary people changing into rabbits and toads. And it's firmly established that a boy from this town wandered into the nearby grove and turned into a fox. In all seriousness, a goddamn fox

And now here's this kid, ill with god only knows, as proof of a potential outbreak. But as upsetting and dangerous as it is to be standing here next to him, breathing his air, this has been the most valuable information I've gathered thus far. Followed immediately by the most inconsequential thing thus far...

"This is my bug-catching net. I'll use it when I'm better, but for now, I'll lend it to you." He coughed as he handed me his tainted net, which I was either too polite or too dumb to refuse. It's cumbersome in its shape & size, though it weighs practically nothing. And if I was gonna contract anything from this boy, I'd've already caught it in the last two minutes. 
I left with my new net, frightened of 'evil air,' and anxious to swing my sword into the faces, wings, and/or tentacles of anything that came at me.  

I was ready to leave town - without what I came for, but with a newfound valiantness. It's not optimism as much as it is a bold apathy. I'm through trying to force this so-called destiny into shape - it should do its own damn job. 

On my way out, I spotted another young boy, surrounded by chickens (again with the friggin' chickens). So I'll bring my sword and my apathy and my bug net and glass jar over to this kid & not worry about anyone cursing and causing a scene 'cause who cares, right? 

"Hi Link!"
A friendly greeting - fabulous!
"Elder? Are you talking about the grandpa?"
Shit got really real in that second. "The grandpa," I thought. "Maybe?"
"OK, but don't tell any of the bad people about this..."

A warmth came over me - even before he said what I needed him to say, I knew it was all going to be just fine.

"He's hiding in the palace past the castle. I will mark the spot on your map."
He did, as though he'd already had the map memorized - his hand went right to the spot where he wanted it to be and marked an X.
"Here you are..."

I looked at the map: his mark was clear on the other side of Hyrule - twice as far away from where I'd just left and a day from where I stood. No matter. I got what I came for & then some. So what now then? -- a quick stop at the library, check under a few rocks, and who knows, maybe catch bugs with my net & put 'em in my jar! Why not? For right now, and maybe only for a short time, all the obstacles seem petty, and everything else is cream cheese. 


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