Monday, October 20, 2014

Needless to say (although I'm saying it anyway), this interview with John Thorne - co-editor/publisher/writer behind Twin Peaks magazine Wrapped in Plastic - will include many, many spoilers for the series and film.

When I spoke to John Thorne for the first time in July about the history of his magazine Wrapped in Plastic, I only planned to publish one interview. Yet as we spoke about the upcoming Entire Mystery blu-ray release, I realized we'd have to talk again to discuss what would probably be the last addition to the Twin Peaks canon. It took a couple months, but I was finally able to follow up with him about the deleted scenes, the mysterious Palmer family reunion, and other special features. We also spoke about the possibility of David Lynch and Mark Frost returning to Twin Peaks and both of us thought it extremely unlikely. There was even a wistful tone in John's voice as he commented about The Missing Pieces: "I would say, it felt like he was done. That this is an end point. In a way this is sort of a door closing. Arguably it could be a door opening too." He then added, referring to Lynch's recent art show in Philadelphia, "I would hope that he looks at these paintings again and thinks, I want to see these paintings move and he’s ready to do it again."

Well, here we are a month later and a third interview was obviously necessary. If you're reading this, you surely already know, but on October 6, Showtime announced it will be airing a 9-episode continuation of Twin Peaks. Every episode will be written by Mark Frost and David Lynch, and they will all be directed by Lynch. Many cast members have already declared their interest in returning, and last week (after this interview was conducted - it's impossible to keep up with the news!) Frost also announced an upcoming novel which will divulge what's happened in the town of Twin Peaks over the past twenty-five years. Clearly, John and I had a lot to discuss so we eagerly got back to it. Part three, the final installment of our ongoing conversation (for now), covers questions about the new series, John's interpretation of the original series finale, and why the media still doesn't get Twin Peaks.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Needless to say (although I'm saying it anyway), this interview with John Thorne - co-editor/publisher/writer behind Twin Peaks magazine Wrapped in Plastic - will include many, many spoilers for the series and film.

In Part 1 of this interview, conducted in early July, John and I discussed Wrapped in Plastic and his theories about Fire Walk With Me. In this installment, conducted a month ago, we discussed the blu-ray boxset Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery, released a few weeks after our last conversation, particularly The Missing Pieces (90 minutes of deleted footage from Fire Walk With Me). We also discussed the second season of Twin Peaks and why David Lynch seemed unlikely to return to Twin Peaks (little did we know). In a week I will present part 3 of the interview, conducted earlier this week, discussing the amazing news from last Monday (originally part 3 was scheduled for two weeks hence, but I've moved it forward).

Monday, October 6, 2014

Needless to say (although I'm saying it anyway), this interview with John Thorne - co-editor/publisher/writer behind Twin Peaks magazine Wrapped in Plastic - will include many, many spoilers for the series and film.

For thirteen years and seventy-five issues, Twin Peaks fans had one safe haven in a media landscape completely indifferent, even hostile, to the strange, wonderful world they loved. Publishing its first issue in October 1992, a month after the critically-reviled Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me bombed at the box office, and going on permanent hiatus in September 2005, two years before the Gold Box DVD collection would introduce a new generation to the TV series, Wrapped in Plastic carried the torch during the long dark age of Twin Peaks. Or rather, it ensured that this dark age was in fact a golden era, with vital new interviews, deeply insightful essays, and the latest cast-and-crew news bundled into a slick, appealing package every couple months. Wrapped in Plastic was a fanzine but it was also something more: a vital source of scholarship in an era when one of the most iconic, original, and influential TV shows of all time was rarely discussed.

Wrapped in Plastic unearthed countless insights into the production of the series which still resonate today, via extensive interviews and close readings of production documents and other details. It solicited contributions from all quarters, publishing rich and provocative analyses of the series in light of literary criticism, television history, esoteric philosophy, even Arthurian legend. And, in the style of the show it honored, it broke the mould, mixing fanservice with erudition, commercial calculation with aesthetic consideration, personal passion with objective research. And, of course, the entire project was homemade: Craig Miller and John Thorne edited and published every single issue, barely squeaking out a profit while writing a substantial number of the essays themselves. It's no wonder they eventually felt burnt-out - what's amazing is that it took so long for the pace to get to them. Sadly, Craig Miller passed away in 2010 and with that, Wrapped in Plastic was officially over.

I discovered John Thorne's work this past spring, as I gathered quotes for a massive round-up of Twin Peaks commentary, trying to trace the elusive history of the show, the film, and their reception. Intrigued by his long-dormant blog (particularly a post called "The Subject of Laura Palmer"), and heartened by his quick responses to my inquiries, I contacted him to propose an interview. Having come to Twin Peaks only after the magazine went out of print (like many others wooed by the show in the digital/social media era), I was only dimly aware of Wrapped in Plastic and had never had the chance to sample its contents. John shared some of his work with me and I investigated the descriptions of previous issues to get a tantalizing sense of the magazine's treasures (though I haven't been able to yet, I plan to invest soon in its archives - as Gordon Cole would put it, "MASSIVE, MASSIVE QUANTITIES" of back issues!).

The following conversation was conducted nearly three months ago, several weeks before the release of The Entire Mystery blu-ray (with its 90 minutes of deleted scenes from the film) re-ignited interest in Twin Peaks in late summer. John and I discussed his own experience watching the show, the backstory of Wrapped in Plastic, his insight into Mark Frost and David Lynch, and particularly two essays on Fire Walk With Me, "Dreams of Deer Meadow" and "The Transformation of Laura Palmer." The first, Wrapped in Plastic's most controversial article, proposes that the entire prologue of the film is best - and most accurately - interpreted as Agent Dale Cooper's dream. The second, a much longer version of the blog post that hooked me, digs deeply into the process behind the development of Laura Palmer's character. Taken together, the discussion of these two essays makes up more than half of the following exchange which has been dramatically cut down from a three-hour phone conversation. Two months later, John and I would speak again - intending to touch base for half an hour, and again talking for three hours - about The Missing Pieces and other matters. That interview will appear next week as a follow-up.

Finally, I'd be remiss not to mention the big news. Rumor has it that later today, Mark Frost and David Lynch will announce one of the greatest comebacks in TV history: the return of Twin Peaks in some form, probably a miniseries on premium cable. [As expected, a few hours later Showtime declared that it will be running a brand new nine-episode Twin Peaks miniseries in 2016, which will be entirely written by Frost & Lynch and directed by Lynch. Later in the day, John Thorne posted on his blog for the first time in over two years, declaring that he is now planning to renew the mission of Wrapped in Plastic in one form or another.] In an amazing reversal for a series ignominiously cancelled after a season and a half, maligned in the mainstream media, and viciously shot down when it attempted to take cinematic form, it looks like - as Lynch and Frost simultaneously and cryptically tweeted last week - "that gum you like is going to come back in style." If this is true, we can expect the deluge of new, curious fans of the classic Twin Peaks to dwarf anything since the original series aired nearly twenty-five years ago, and it is my hope that as the torch ignites once again, we can remember the folks who carried that flickering flame in the years when the show was nearly forgotten. So let's part the red curtains, cross the threshold, and unwrap Wrapped in Plastic one more time...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Harmony of the Dark Woods" kicks off a 4-part video series analyzing the narrative cycle of Twin Peaks from the pilot through Fire Walk With Me. This first entry introduces the hybrid tone/style of the series and focuses on the essential triptych of Laura Palmer, the town of Twin Peaks, and Agent Cooper. It covers the pilot through the season two premiere (with no spoilers for subsequent episodes, so I don't reveal the killer in this entry). The entire video runs for thirty minutes (my longest video essay yet) - but you can also watch it in five separate, short video chapters for easier viewing. Taken together, the entire video series will be feature-length.

Each month's video opens with a musical montage set to a different Julee Cruise song not featured on the Twin Peaks soundtrack (although contemporaneous with the show and film), provides a larger context for the upcoming material, and then closely - and chronologically - examines the subtle twists and turns in David Lynch's and Mark Frost's storytelling. Hopefully viewers will find this approach insightful; my goal is not simply to reiterate the events of the show but to present them in an illuminating, informative light so that when the series is finished the often bewildering saga will appear as a messy but cohesive whole.

This is my first narrated video essay in nearly two years, and I have written, narrated, and edited the project myself. The parts will appear at three-week intervals: Part 2 will go up on October 27, Part 3 will appear on November 17, and the series will conclude with Part 4 on December 8 (originally the dates were each a week earlier, but I have pushed them back. -10/19). These will be my video posts for the coming months (this one just barely made it up in time for September). The first three entries are also a part of this blog's Six Weeks of Twin Peaks.

Hope you enjoy my "Journey Through Twin Peaks." Share your own thoughts on season one and the season two premiere (and hell, anything else that comes to mind) below.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Originally this post announced "Six Weeks of Twin Peaks" - a few days before Showtime revealed that Twin Peaks would be returning to the air in 2016. In celebration of that decision, I am doubling the length of time during which I will focus on the 1990-91 TV show and 1992 movie. That means, in addition to Part 4 of the video and the Sheryl Lee post (as well as an unplanned Part 3 of the John Thorne interview) there will be three additional posts on Twin Peaks. I'm not totally sure what they will be yet, though I have some strong ideas. Stay tuned!

The rest of the announcement remains as written, despite the changes. (updated 10/16)

Obviously, 2014 has been the year of Twin Peaks for me - in the spring I re-discovered the series through the critical essays in the book Full of Secrets, was invited to take part in an online conversation on Fire Walk With Me, and found out that an upcoming blu-ray would feature the long-awaited deleted scenes from the film. These three separate but serendipitous factors led me to devote numerous posts to the Twin Peaks phenomenon this year, including a monthlong retrospective of David Lynch, a review of The Missing Pieces from Fire Walk With Me, and an interview with Brad Dukes, author of a new and essential Twin Peaks oral history. I haven't been immersed this deeply in a single subject since I went on a huge Beatles kick ten years ago (in my pre-blogging days).

All obsessions must wind down eventually, and as the year ends I will initiate several projects I've been planning for a while. But the focus on Twin Peaks will intensify before it abates. On Tuesday - the only time I will be violating my once-a-week-on-Monday-morning posting rules (due to a delay in the video's completion) - I am posting the first chapter in a 4-part video series on Twin Peaks. From this point on, for six weeks, every weekly post will be devoted to the show and film. This will include a 2-part interview with John Thorne, who published the Peaks fanzine Wrapped in Plastic for thirteen years, a sampling of the archive from the early nineties (to glean contemporaneous reactions for the show), and finally an interview with Martha Nochimson, who authored probably the best books of Lynch scholarship, The Passion of David Lynch and David Lynch Swerves (as well as a recent lightning-rod article about David Chase). During this time, I will also be posting parts two and three of the video series.

In mid-November, I will start to redirect my focus toward other movies and shows, setting up several years covering old and new favorites, another TV series episode guide, and probably all the movies in my collection that I haven't yet reviewed. But there will still be three big Twin Peaks posts in store, if all goes according to plan. The first, of course, will be the final chapter of the video series in early December (each chapter will be appearing at three-week intervals). Then I hope to post a long-awaited analysis of Sheryl Lee's performance in Fire Walk With Me, my favorite element of what has recently become my favorite film, but an element I haven't had the chance to zero in on yet. That post will also include short looks at Lee's work on the series and her subsequent filmography. Finally, next year on the 25th anniversary of the show (April 8) I would like to present a comprehensive overview of the entire Twin Peaks cycle - analyzing each chapter of the saga in terms of narrative events, behind-the-scenes context, contemporaneous critical and viewer reaction, my own opinion of it, and its place in the big picture of the ongoing story. The essay will most likely be book-length and should close out my yearlong focus. [not sure about this part anymore - with 9 new episodes coming in 2016, perhaps it's best to forestall any ruminations on "the big picture..."]

For now, you can check out all of my previous blog posts on Twin Peaks, which have been gathered in a consistently updated directory.

Originally this was an announcement of the upcoming first video essay, but I revised/deleted that post the following morning.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The following is a double review of two recent coming-of-age films followed by images, videos, and observations gleaned from a much longer essay for which these reviews were originally intended.
Jonas did not want to go back. He didn't want the memories, didn't want the honor, didn't want the wisdom, didn't want the pain. He wanted his childhood again, his scraped knees and ball games. He sat in his dwelling alone, watching through the window, seeing children at play, citizens bicycling home from uneventful days at work, ordinary lives free of anguish because he had been selected, as others before him had, to bear their burden. 
But the choice was not his.
The Giver (1993), by Lois Lowry
When the first whispers of Richard Linklater's Boyhood reached my ears - or rather my eyes, since I "heard" about it on Twitter - I knew I would like it. Shot sporadically over an entire decade, the film anchors its universal coming-of-age tale in a very specific place (rural and suburban Texas) and time (the post-9/11 era). Onscreen we simultaneously watch Mason, the character, and Eller Coltrane, the actor, grow from 7 to 18. While widely acclaimed, this novel approach has also also been called a gimmick, implying that novelty masks an uninteresting story. But the approach is the story.

Monday, September 15, 2014

My response to Boyhood, The Giver, and the recent spate of "death of adulthood" articles is almost entirely written but won't be ready in time for Monday morning. Hence I'll hold off on it till next week and present some oldies instead. For the fourth time (but the first in two years) I am collecting IMDb comments (mostly) left many moons ago during the era when those boards were my main online cinematic stomping ground. Most notably, my first response to the epic and enigmatic Out 1 is recorded below: I wrote these words in the immediate afterglow of a very memorable screening. Enjoy. (And if you do, make sure to check out the previous round-ups.) Disclaimer: my opinions circa 2007 are not necessarily still mine although I suppose I wouldn't re-post them if I didn't think they had some merit (even if 2014 me disagrees with their premises).

Monday, September 8, 2014

(The following visual tribute contains spoilers)

Through the darkness of future past
The magician longs to see
One chants out between two worlds
Fire walk with me

• • •

Monday, September 1, 2014

Last week I posted an autobiographical film I made ten years ago, and next week I'll be covering both Boyhood and The Giver, each a coming-of-age film with a twist. In keeping with the theme, this week's visual tribute offers another walk down memory lane - for the characters of Neon Genesis Evangelion (a series I began covering a couple years ago, and plan to resume next year). Once again there are several layers to the long strange trip: Episode 21 features numerous flashbacks but when the show originally aired in 1996, these memories actually belonged to the future (the show's "present" takes place in a post-apocalyptic 2015, and the flashbacks begin in 1999). For me the timeline is even more interesting: had I watched the show when it aired, I would have been roughly the same age as the youngest characters but in terms of actual chronology I am the same age as the slightly older generation (who are around thirty in the 2015 scenes and went to college in the mid-00s). As is often the case, the sci-fi elements of the show provide an intense, amplified backdrop for the drama but the humiliations, heartbreaks, and losses are all too human. The trip down memory lane is not always a pleasant one. This is one of my favorite episodes and I hope you enjoy the striking pictures with or without context. Happy Labor Day...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Rather than a video essay, this month's Lost in the Movies video is an experimental film. It was created in 2005-2007, before I was familiar with the video essay form; nonetheless it overlaps with that approach (it is structured in part around a VHS tape of 1987 TV programs, particularly the Rankin-Bass cartoon The Wind in the Willows). Combining this found footage with home movies and original footage, the film depicts an inner/outer journey in impressionistic, hopefully enjoyable fashion.