Friday, December 2, 2016

Lost in Twin Peaks #4: speculating about season 3 w/ Twin Peaks Unwrapped

fan poster by Austin Shaddix

Last month I spent a full episode with Twin Peaks Unwrapped discussing Mark Frost's new book; this month (well, technically, the last day of last month but I'm a few days late in sharing) we're back to the short and sweet format of "Lost in Twin Peaks" - this time I focus on what to expect, and not to expect, from the upcoming series. Don't get me wrong; I actually haven't a clue, like almost everyone else not named David Lynch or Mark Frost (and ok, a few of the crew members though the actors all seem to be in the dark outside of their own scenes). But these are my musings and hunches, so enjoy. I talk about why Twin Peaks might actually wander far beyond Twin Peaks; the possibilities of alternative universes in light of Lynch's interest in quantum concepts (inspired by Martha Nochimson's work in David Lynch Swerves); and my suspicion that the series will mostly drop the soap opera format (with reference to Dennis Lim's work in The Man From Another Place, suggesting how the timeless sensibility of Lynch nonetheless frequently manages to connect with the relevant zeitgeist). In addition to my two cents, the podcast features extensive talks with John Thorne, discussing the Log Lady intros, and H. Perry Horton, discussing his new book on Twin Peaks - well worth listening to in full.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

ODE TO BOSTON (video essay on Guy & Madeline on a Park Bench for Fandor Keyframe)

My latest Fandor video essay, like my previous one, is inspired by a new release to look back at an earlier film. In this case, the new release is La La Land, Damien Chazelle's musical love letter to Los Angeles. Watching the trailer, it was clear this movie was screaming from the rooftops that it was an "L.A. Movie" with candy-colored photography of famous locations from the title metropolis. I was most struck by a shot of the Angel's Flight Railway, where the opening scene of my short film Class of 2002 took place. So there was a bit of personal resonance to these clips.

Likewise, when I watched Chazelle's feature debut, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (I keep accidentally typing "Guy and Madeline Go Boating"), I was struck with a bit of geography-inspired nostalgia. But this time it was more subdued and subtle - despite fleeting shots of unmistakable landmarks early on, it actually took me a little while to realize the film was set in Boston. The locale was slightly disguised by the black-and-white imagery and an emphasis on handheld close-ups of the actors. Nonetheless, the city casts a spell over the film, and I decided to draw out that mood even further in my tribute to Guy and Madeline. I created a short musical montage to a city that I - and obviously Chazelle as well - have a great fondness for.

Here is a sample from the accompanying piece I wrote for Fandor:
The film closes with a powerful trumpet solo, shot in a single take—a close-up of the composer-performer playing the instrument as an expression of his love for Madeline. This video essay imagines—perhaps not so outlandishly—that the music is not only a tribute to her, but also to the city in which they fell in, out of, and perhaps back into love. Keeping Guy in a corner of the screen the whole time, I’ve stitched together a montage of the movie’s many quick location shots—juxtaposing these images with a one-minute sample of Guy’s sustained solo. (continue reading on Fandor Keyframe)

For my own personal recollections of Boston, visit my essay Boston, You're My Home, written the day of the Marathon bombing in 2013.

And you can also check out my film Class of 2002, which contains original and found footage from both Boston and Los Angeles:

Monday, November 14, 2016

Black/White: a video essay on Black Girl

Here is my first video essay on my personal YouTube/Vimeo channels since May. Appropriately enough it has a political subject, focused as it is on the work of Ousmane Sembene, the great Senegalese filmmaker sometimes dubbed "the father of African cinema." I explore how his first feature film's aesthetic and polemical qualities intertwine.

On its fiftieth anniversary, Black Girl (aka La Noire de...) is widely considered the first sub-Saharan African film by a sub-Saharan African filmmaker. As one would expect, much of the film takes place in Dakar, Senegal (where writer/director Ousmane Sembene was from). However, two-thirds of the film takes place in France, where the main character Diouana (Mbissine Thérèse Diop) has traveled to work as a domestic servant for a French couple. This film, then, offers a (cinematically) unfamiliar window into a familiar milieu, as we watch the interactions of a typical bourgeois domestic scene - an unhappy wife, an indifferent husband - through the eyes of an outsider to it. In these sequences, Sembene designs a world defined by a heavy contrast between the colors black and white - not just obviously in the skin tones of the actors, but through clothing, decor, even food. It's tempting to read the film entirely through this lens of sharp racial contrast but as this video demonstrates, that's only half the story.

Black Girl's most important contrast is not between black and white in France, but between that very stark French juxtaposition, and the more subtle shading in Senegal. What applies to form applies to content as well: the rigidity of Diouana's life in Antibes is not matched by the more relaxed events and performance shown in the Dakar flashbacks. Through this larger contrast, and also be freely cutting across time and space to analyze these different lifestyles side by side (as well as ending back in Africa, on the face of a little boy who accompanied Diouana in some of the earlier scenes), Sembene discourages us from placing the European part of the story as the ascension of a hierarchy, the inevitable outcome of Diouana's situation. Instead, we are encouraged to regard the sharp black/white contrast of the European scenes, and the stark racial and economic power dynamics which accompany them, within a larger context - and then to reject it.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Discussing The Secret History of Twin Peaks #2 (Twin Peaks Unwrapped)

The Secret History of Twin Peaks, by Mark Frost, fostered a number of elaborate theories about what its unusual approach means - or whether it means anything at all. Last week I appeared on Twin Peaks Unwrapped where I discussed the book with hosts Bryon and Ben. Are the "mistakes" and "inconsistencies" of the book actually purposeful, and if so what purpose do they serve? What does the novel tell us about Mark Frost's vision of Twin Peaks as opposed to David Lynch's? How seriously should we take the intimations of flying saucers?

After my appearance, the podcast brought on another guest, Aaron Mento. He had very strong opinions about what Frost intended? Listen as he decodes the words and images, and see what you think...

Discussing The Secret History of Twin Peaks #1 (Obnoxious & Anonymous)

Several weeks ago, Mark Frost's new novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks was released to general excitement, acclaim, bafflement, and frustration. Imaginatively written as an FBI dossier full of fictionalized mixed-media files (newspaper clippings, confidential reports, postcards, etc), Frost takes us through the history of the town and some of its inhabitants up to the final day of the series, going just a few hours further than what we had already seen. To the surprise of many readers, Frost focused a lot on a wider context - Lewis & Clark, Jack Parsons and the occult, UFO lore, even the JFK assassination and Nixon adminstration. Like all parts of Twin Peaks, the Secret History found its celebrants and its detractors...and Cameron Coultier (as the video's cover-image suggests) was definitely one of the latter! I joined him for a video chat on his Obnoxious & Anonymous YouTube channel to discuss the book for several hours with other Twin Peaks fans. This was the first of my appearance on two different podcasts - the second will be cross-posted later today.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Sci-Fi Countdown - Star Wars (CinemaVille discussion w/ Bob Clark for Wonders in the Dark)

Bob Clark's final podcast for the Wonders in the Dark sci-fi countdown covers the first Star Wars film, a/k/a Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), I made another guest appearance. We talk about the film's unique legacy, connection to the larger saga, and other matters in the seventy-minute-long episode.

Lost in Twin Peaks #3: discussing Mark Frost w/ Twin Peaks Unwrapped

Twin Peaks Unwrapped just completed a "Mark Frost Month" in honor of his new book The Secret History of Twin Peaks. Though he co-created Twin Peaks and was far more involved with its day-to-day creation than David Lynch, Frost has often been overlooked in discussions of the show. Ben and Bryon invited me on to discuss Frost's contributions, and also his other works like Storyville. Be sure to listen to the whole podcast, as it includes a great interview with Twin Peaks writer Harley Peyton, who shares his memories of working with Frost.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lost in Twin Peaks #2: discussing the theme of incest w/ Twin Peaks Unwrapped

I wasn't sure what picture to use at the top of this post. To show characters for whom incest is an issue in Twin Peaks would give away crucial story aspects to the casual browser who hasn't watched the show yet. And that's a problem I'll get to in a second. The picture of the cabin in the dark woods, with the light in the window and the action inside obscured, is eerie enough to suggest a secret beneath the surface without getting explicit. That in itself is in the spirit of Twin Peaks, a show that digs beneath Twin Peaks' welcoming but spooky appearances to unearth corruption, betrayal, loneliness, violence, murder and, yes, in more than one storyline, incestuous overtones.

Lost in Twin Peaks #1: discussing the Owl Cave ring w/ Twin Peaks Unwrapped

I wrote about the results of the election yesterday, following the conclusion of my Favorites series on Sunday and the posting of my most recent Fandor video on Monday. From now through the weekend, I will  be cross-posting twice a day, sharing podcast appearances from the past few months now that I'm done with other work. Starting next week, I will begin sharing new material - starting with a video essay on Ousmane Sembene's Black Girl (1966) which has political as well as aesthetic implications.

Ben and Bryon of Twin Peaks Unwrapped have invited me to participate in a recurring segment on their podcast, in which I discuss Twin Peaks - usually a particular theme or aspect - for about ten to twenty minutes. They presented these segments two weeks in a row (usually, to my understanding, they'll appear once or twice a month) so I'm just catching up by sharing them now (the second will go up tomorrow). At the end of the first podcast, I pop on to discuss the Owl Cave ring in Fire Walk With Me - in particular, why I see it as a more positive object than many other fans do. The rest of the episode includes some chatter about the film and cast of the upcoming continuation - but most importantly, there is an extended, captivating interview with the author of The Twin Peaks Access Guide, Richard Saul Wurman, 81-year-old renaissance man who, it is casually mentioned, was also the founder of TED Talks.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

11:30 pm to 3:30 am: The Unthinkable

I did not expect this to happen.

This is the logical outcome of the ball that started rolling when the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq. It's what happens when one side says "Why not?" and recognize that power creates its own norms. And it's what happens when the other side has no faith in its own values - their integrity, their popularity, or their feasibility.

Hillary Clinton ended her campaign in true form, sending John Podesta out to calm the crowd and send them home (essentially Go to sleep, We've got this), while she wrapped things up behind closed doors, calling Trump and letting him take the stage to proclaim victory before she had addressed her own supporters. Elite to elite, the way the whole race has been run, ceding the populist ground to the vulgar puppet for Paul Ryan and the ruthless Republicans who will actually be setting the agenda.

I don't know if Bernie Sanders would have won. I think he would've had a better shot. What I do know is that the results are in, and Hillary Clinton has lost. And Donald Trump is going to be the next President of the United States.

I am in no mood or mindset to neatly compose an essay right now. Even this intro has taken me forever to get right. Instead, I am going to reprint most of what I wrote on Twitter in real time as the outcome of the race slowly became clear and the nightmare dawned. There's hope here too. But it emerges against a far more stark, dangerous backdrop than I foresaw.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day Status Update

After a slow summer, this site has been quite busy in the fall, finally wrapping up the last (more than) half of my Favorites series by adopting a daily schedule after grinding away, off and on, for four years. Several projects are wrapping up simultaneously, while others are waiting to get started, and those projects plus work plus actually needing to get out to vote...all keep me from doing what I had planned for last night or this morning: finally talking about current events on this blog for the first time all year. My reflections on 2016 will have to wait to go up till tomorrow, if I feel like it - aside from brief thoughts right now, and some links to previous political/cultural essays that represent where I was at the time of writing, not necessarily where I am now.

First, though, how am I voting? My most enthusiastic vote will be cast for Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire's first district, a candidate who avoids corporate PAC money (as a result she was not the DNC's desired nominee, email leaks have revealed). But that's probably not the vote you're curious about. I will be voting for Hillary Clinton for president because I currently reside in a swing state and consider this strategy the best one to ensure Donald Trump doesn't become president, despite my many objections with Clinton specifically and, much more importantly, to the entire system she represents and participates in. While I have, to put it mildly, major disagreements with anyone who thinks Trump is a preferable choice, I also don't have much tolerance with those who condemn third-party voters or abstentions. Yes, not voting for Hillary Clinton could be seen as privilege. You know what? Voting for her could be seen as a privilege too. Both actions have dangerous consequences, and can be deeply repellent to the people most directly affected by those consequences. I've made my calculation, and now you must make yours. (A few minutes ago, I published this piece without this paragraph, but I don't want to seem coy - so there it is.)

Monday, November 7, 2016

Nat Turner & Charles Burnett: video essay on Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property

This cross-post was written in October, but delayed until my Favorites series ended yesterday, so that the schedule wouldn't be too cluttered.

It had been a few months since I posted any video essays on Fandor (or anywhere for that matter), but I’m happy to return now with a short video exploring Charles Burnett’s film Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property – obviously very relevant given the recent release of Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation biopic of Turner.

(more information & images from the video follow the jump)