Twin Peaks: The Return, Thoughts on the Finale

Edit: I added a couple additional thoughts about the narrative, marked by  an *

Some preliminaries:

I think there are at least three levels of interpretation that need to be attended to.  They don’t strictly supervene on each other: an interpretation at one of the three levels is compatible with multiple interpretations at the other levels.  But they are not totally independent: interpretation at each level does bear upon the other two.

The three levels are:

  • The 1990 Level: the narrative of the original Twin Peaks series, taken at face value, and the extension of this narrative in TP: The Return, which I take to be imbedded within but not identical to the new series.
  • The Lost Highway Level: I call it this not because of direct connections with the movie Lost Highway, but rather because of certain general features that TP: The Return has in common with Lost Highway. Lynch’s works that involve a multiple worlds metaphysics include at least the unproduced screenplay Ronnie Rocket, Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr., Inland Empire, and Twin Peaks: The Return.  Of these, only Mulholland Dr. explicitly clarifies that one world is the real world while the other world is a dream world.  Lynch directly shows us a character going to sleep and then waking up, indicating that what falls between is her dream, and then gives us a concrete basis for understanding the dream as wish fulfillment (he does also boggle up the “real world” in various ways and introduce some ambiguities, but the interpretation of the film is clear enough, especially relative to Lost Highway and Inland Empire).  Lost Highway is arguably the film that most fully confounds the question of reality vs. dream.  There is an available reading that is parallel to Mulholland Dr., where the character murders his wife out of sexual jealousy and then enters into a fantasy where he is a virile young buck who saves her from exploitative circumstances.  But the film goes very far out of its way to confound this interpretation and leave us with no easy basis for separating reality from dream.  I think that TP: The Return pulls a Lost Highway: there is some reason for thinking that the entire 1990 Level is a dream, and then there is also some reason for thinking that everything outside the 1990 Level is a dream, and there is also reason for thinking that neither is fully a dream nor fully not a dream.  Audrey’s entire arc, for instance, as well as the “has anyone seen Billy?!” diner scene and everything that happens at the Road House beg to be taken at the Lost Highway Level.   “We are like the dreamer who dreams, and lives inside the dream.  But who is the dreamer?”  That’s an open question.
  • The Meta-Artistic Level: One thing that I think is happening in TP: The Return is that Lynch is summing up his career and revisiting the obsessions that permeate his work. My other posts have noted clear references to or connections with his other work.   Here’s the clearest way to make the case that this level needs to be attended to: the recurring use of the abbreviation “RR.”  Ronnie Rocket, Norma’s RR Diner, Rancho Rosa Production Company (Lynch and Frost’s company), Rancho Rosa Estates (the development where Dougie and Janey-E live).   I mentioned in an early post that my brother noted a connection that resonated for me between Dougie and M. Hulot.  Lynch has explicitly stated that Tati was a major influence for Ronnie Rocket, and it’s very clear that the “electricity as a means of transportation between worlds” trope from Ronnie Rocket has reverberated through Lynch’s career, most saliently in Lost Highway and TP: The Return.  At the Meta-Artistic Level, I think the 1990 Level is a stand in for his creative work, and the Lost Highway Level is a stand in for the practice of transcendental meditation that largely constitutes his creative process (the untethered level, which ideas emerge from and ultimately resolve back into).   As a basic guiding thought, within the 1990 Level think of Cooper’s quest to set things right as standing in for Lynch’s artistic obsessions, and (at the Meta-Artistic Level) think of the desolate final episode, where we step soundly outside of the 1990 level, as a melancholy acknowledgement that these obsessions must ultimately go unquenched.  Cooper can’t set things right.  We leave Cooper and Laura locked in an eternal still life, where she’s whispering in his ear, beckoning him to try harder.   NB, I also think the Meta-Artistic Level is reflected in the appearance of Monica Belluci as herself in a dream of the character played by Lynch himself.  “We are like the dreamer who dreams and lives inside the dream.  But who is the dreamer?”  At the Meta-Artistic Level, the dreamer is David Lynch, and also perhaps us, his audience.

I do not think there is a consistent, exhaustive interpretation of the 1990 Level available.  I have seen a few people complain that they were dissatisfied with the lack of answers and resolutions—not many though: it seems like most people loved the conclusion.  The people who make this complaint think that the 1990 Level is the only level, or at least fail to recognize that it is superseded by the Lost Highway Level.  The 1990 Level is like the central Balthazar Getty narrative in Lost Highway, sandwiched between the Bill Pullman bookends.  It is the primary narrative we engage with, but it is imbedded in a larger structure.  In both cases, elements of inconsistency or unreality within the imbedded narrative both signal its status as non-reality and open up connections with the larger structure it is imbedded in (both ways the larger structure intrudes into it and ways that it intrudes into the larger structure).

The thread that I am most interested in picking up from the 1990 Level and into the Lost Highway Level is the final arc of Diane and Cooper.  We never met Diane in the original series, and she is replaced by a tulpa for most of TP: The Return.   The real Diane emerges from Naido in episode 17.  I can’t remember where I read it but someone pointed out that ‘Naido’ is ‘O Dian’ backwards (and Janey-E got the ‘e’).  In the glorious central scene, after Freddy smashes the BOB orb, I take the overlay of Cooper’s face with the action of the scene to signal the encroaching collapse of 1990 Level into the Lost Highway Level.  “We live inside a dream.”

Naido is brought over to Cooper and they touch hands, initiating her transition into Diane.  When we finally see Laura Dern, Cooper cracks a huge grin and walks over to her.  They immediately kiss like reunited lovers at the airport, with no concern for anyone else being in the room (and the whole menagerie, Jim Belushi included, is there).  Cooper asks, “Do you remember everything?”  “Yes.”  They seem content and resolved.  Cooper tells all his friends, “I hope I see all of you again.”  The superimposed Cooper announces, “we live inside a dream.”  Full Lost Highway Level achieved.  Fade to Cooper, Gordon, and Diane walking through a black space with Cooper’s face still superimposed, looking either confused or concerned or some other hard to pin down emotion (brilliantly ambiguous acting from MacLachlan).  The three of them reach a door (I think  in the basement of the sheriff’s station) that leads to the Convenience Store.   Cooper walks through: “I’ll see you at the curtain call.”  This leads him to Jeffries, who in turn opens a gate to the past, where he prevents Laura’s murder, fulfilling Leland’s request from the Black Lodge that he save Laura.

Edit: Twin Peaks let me hungry for more ambitious large scale works, so I’ve been working through Jacques Rivette (more on that in future posts).  I just watched Celine and Julie Go Boating (clearly a huge influence on Lynch, especially Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr., Inland Empire, and Twin Peaks), and there seems to be some reason to connect Cooper’s saving Laura with Celine and Julie’s saving Madlyn.  This would seem particularly relevant to the meta-artistic level of interpretation.  In Celine and Julie Go Boating, the events within the gothic mansion are a fiction within a fiction, and they keep replaying until finally C&J prevent Madlyn from being murdered, at which point the boundaries between the different levels of fiction break down and Madlyn joins C&J in the “real world,” as do the other Gothic characters, though frozen in a tableau.  This doesn’t obviously correlate with anything that happens in Twin Peaks after Laura is saved, but there seems to be enough of a connection to warrant further consideration.

The suggestion that has resonated for me the most here is that Diane is coming from the timeline where Laura didn’t die, and therefore Cooper never went to Twin Peaks and the two of them had a love affair.   Diane’s tulpa (in its moment of clarity) has already told us that she and Cooper kissed only once, which is part of what leads me to believe that she’s coming from an alternate timeline.  Her reunion kiss with Cooper is a kiss between people who fuck each other, not between people who have only kissed once before.  We must remember that Laura was created in the White Lodge as a counterpoint to the Mother’s spewing forth of all the evil spirits in episode 8.  At the 1990 Level in Twin Peaks: The Return, Judy is still a force in the world but it has been kept at bay.  Perhaps Laura’s death was a part of that.  In a world where Laura didn’t die, things may get really, really bad.  And perhaps Diane and Cooper make a plan in that world to cross over to the 1990 World at the point where Cooper goes back in time to save Laura and intervene.   He saves her again (otherwise they couldn’t have become lovers and made the plan and they couldn’t be there), but this time they proceed with a further plan, referred to as “Two Birds with One Stone.”  I did a little googling and there is apparently some reference to summoning the Mother (who is either connected with or identical to Judy) through sex rituals in Mark Frost’s Secret History book (which I haven’t read and wouldn’t base an interpretation on, but I am happy to take this nugget to support an interpretation that has an independent basis).    The notion that sex can summon the Mother/Experiment/Judy is certainly supported by the wonderful scene in the opening episode where the guy who watches the cube has sex with the girl who brings the lattes and we see the Experiment in the cube before it brutalizes them.   The sex scene between Cooper and Diane is one of the greatest scenes Lynch ever filmed.  I’ve seen it suggested that Diane’s covering Cooper’s face is explained by the fact that his doppelganger raped her.  On my reading, she is from a timeline where this didn’t happen.  I watched the scene closely several times and I don’t read her pain and her behavior as signaling PTSD.  She loves him.  She wants him.  She feels pleasure.  She kisses him even as she covers his face.  She also stares blankly into space, punctuating her vacant stare with grimaces of acute dread.  The two of them have already acknowledged that they should kiss (and enjoy it) now because things will be different once they cross over.   I think what’s happening is that she knows that she’s literally fucking him into another dimension.  She will emerge from the coital interlude as Linda, and he will be Richard to her, not Cooper.  She knows she’s destroying the version of herself that loves Cooper and destroying the Cooper that she loves.  She can’t stand to look at his face, but she also feels driven to express her love to him with these fleeting moments.

So what the Two Birds with One Stone plan entails is that Cooper and Diane somehow use this sex ritual to transition into an alternate dimension.  (edit for aftethought: perhaps Mr. C’s assault of Audrey and Diane is directly related to the sex ritual. Either he is trying to enact the ritual with them or he is trying to close Cooper off from doing so.)

David Auerbach, picking up from another commentator, has suggested in this fascinating post that the world containing Odessa and Twin Peaks that we enter in episode 18 is trap developed by the White Lodge to catch and destroy Judy.  That’s one way to take it.  I see another, though: what if this alternate world IS Judy.  Jeffries shows Cooper the symbol that Mr. C earlier pointed to and said “This is what I want” and refers to it as the place where Cooper wants to go.  Perhaps the reason there is a dead body in Carrie’s house is that Judy is trying to hide her from the Blue Rose Task Force.  She does explicitly say that she would normally avoid the FBI.

*Edit: a different thought: perhaps when the Fireman says in the first episode “it is in our house now,” he means that Judy is in the Richard and Linda world.   Perhaps Judy has taken up residence in the white lodge’s domain and has corrupted it and stayed to harvest the garmonbozia.  This is supported by the desolation of the world and the fact that the diner is called Judy’s.  (continued at the end of the post)

Tangent: What did Mr. C want?  I don’t have an answer, but I see two possibilities: he wanted to stop Cooper’s plan, or he wanted to somehow connect in a deeper way with Judy, perhaps by integrating himself into it or (the inverse) by integrating it into himself.  Perhaps he wanted to go into the Richard and Linda dimension and kill Carrie.   This requires some weird assumptions about the way the time travel loops work but these assumptions don’t seem out of bounds.

Returning to the main strand: so if the place where Cooper goes actually is Judy, some version of Laura is trapped there.  This is a version that Cooper saved from being murdered by her father, but who then somehow became trapped in another life in the dismal alternate version of Odessa, TX.   So what is Cooper’s goal in bringing this version of Laura to the home where she was raped repeatedly by her father and otherwise tormented?   We can infer that it is the final stage of Two Birds with One Stone.  When they are about to walk away, she looks back at the house.  He asks her, “what year is this?”  She thinks for a moment.  She hears Leland’s voice (or is it Sarah’s?) faintly calling, “Laaaauuuuuuura” and lets out a scream for the ages.   Electricity flashes.  Everything goes black.  Show’s over.   Epilogue: she’s whispering  into Cooper’s ear.

The implication seems to be that Laura’s recollection somehow destroys Judy: the alternate world they are in.  In the piece linked above, Auerbach suggests that it’s a garmonbozia overload.  I think that’s plausible.  Recalling Laura’s origin as the White Lodge’s response to the events following from Trinity, it could be the case that Laura was from the beginning a bomb meant to destroy Judy, if only the right set of circumstances could align.  These circumstances are oblique, but I think it’s significant that Judy has trapped her in such a way as to hide from her who she really is (she’s living as “Carrie”).  Also notice that she’s got a dead body in her house and she explicitly says that she would normally avoid FBI agents– perhaps a way in which Judy is trying to hide her from the blue rose task force.  Somehow or other, perhaps through garmonbozia overload, the key to destroying Judy is Laura becoming conscious of herself as Laura within Judy.

What are the two birds, and what is the one stone?  I don’t know.  I think we have to address that question firmly at the Lost Highway Level.  If Lynch wanted it to be clear, that would have been easy to achieve.  One thing that I think is clear is that Cooper doesn’t find exactly what he expects in the world where Laura is Carrie.  Things don’t go according to plan.  Is it a success or is it a failure?  He certainly doesn’t save Laura, but does he willfully sacrifice her or is it rather that something goes wrong and the ending is both a success (Judy is destroyed) and a failure (Laura is destroyed)?  Are Judy and Laura the two birds while he is the stone?  Are he and Judy the birds while Laura is (supposed to be) the stone?  I’m not convinced that things worked out as he planned.  He did, after all, hope to see everyone again at the curtain call.   I don’t think these questions have definite answers.  They must be embraced in their ambiguity.

*(Edit: I do think it’s ambiguous but the best I’ve come up with, riffing on the Auerbach story,  is that the two birds are the White Lodge and Black Lodge and the stone is Laura.    If “it is in our house now” means that Judy is in the white lodge’s domain, perhaps the idea is to seek a Pyrrhic victory: detonate Judy through a garmonbozia overload, sacrificing the white lodge in the process)

55 Nicolas Cage Performances, Ranked by Cage Factor

[Disclaimer: this is now badly out of date. I have seen closer to 90 Nicolas Cage movies at this point and my views have evolved significantly. I underestimate a number of movies in this post. I will eventually write a new version, but for now I let it stand.]

I define “Cage factor” as the distinctive quality that Nicolas Cage brings to the table.  I am not ranking these performances according to how good they are, I am ranking them according to how fully they embody what it is to be a Nicolas Cage performance.  I haven’t seen some of these movies in a very long time (25+ years in some cases).  I did look at some clips to remind myself, but if you think I underestimated something let me know so I can revisit it in full.   I do have a few notable blindspots (e.g., The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Bangkok Dangerous, Birdy), but I’ve seen the bulk of his oeuvre.

55) Left Behind

The movie is unwatchable.  I made it 10 minutes and did not detect any appreciable Cage factor.

54) 8mm

Cage plays it straight, but more generally: fuck this movie.

53) World Trade Center

Here he’s in prestige picture plain vanilla mode.

52) Frozen Ground

Demoted this one a few slots because John Cusack outshines him.  Terrible movie.

51) City of Angels

This exceptionally shitty remake of Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire shouldn’t exist.   Cage doesn’t help it at all.  Little or no Cage factor.

50) The Cotton Club

I haven’t seen this in a very long time.  If I remember correctly, he plays a very small role as a gangster with a dash of Cage factor.

49) Rumble Fish

Another one I haven’t seen for a very long time.  Another small performance with mild Cage factor.

48) It Could Happen to You

Not totally without Cage factor, but this is more the Rosie Perez show.  Not a good movie but it’s not the worst romantic comedy out there.

47) The Weather Man

There is some mild, understated Cage factor, particularly in the archery scenes.  Not a good movie.

46)  The Rock

Here’s he’s in full movie star mode.  Mild Cage factor.  I like the movie.

45) Lord of War

Not a great movie.  If you’re interested in the subject matter check out my friend Max’s documentary The Notorious Mr. Bout.  It does have moderate Cage factor, but nothing remarkable.

44) Guarding Tess

Now we are starting to get some real Cage factor.   Weird performance as a secret service agent.  Bad movie.

43) Gone in 60 Seconds

Another one where he’s in movie star mode, but it has appreciable Cage factor for sure.  The movie’s fine for what it is but the original 1974 Gone in 60 Seconds is vastly, vastly better and you should watch that instead.

42) National Treasure

Treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates!  This is Mildly Campy Cage: he rattles off obscure facts and steals the Declaration of Independence.

41) The Family Man

I have affection for this movie.  It’s like a reverse It’s a Wonderful Life, where a selfish asshole gets a glimpse of what life would have been like if he had started a family.  Significant Cage factor.  He definitely made this more interesting than a more typical romantic comedy leading man would have.

40) Red Rock West

John Dahl western noir.  I haven’t seen this in probably 20 years but I remember it very fondly and I’d like to revisit it soon.  I recall Dennis Hopper stealing the show but it has legit Cage factor.  This is more the stoic, badass Cage with a Texas accent.

39) Dog Eat Dog

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  Paul Schrader’s best at least since Auto Focus.   It’s a wild ride, but it loses points because Willem Dafoe out-Cages Cage.

38) Kick-Ass

He’s is on a leash here but it can’t not have some Cage factor when he plays a vigilante named Big Daddy who trains his daughter for vigilantism.

37) Honeymoon in Vegas

I don’t recall that I liked it very much, but I need to revisit it.   I believe it has medium Cage factor for the most part but he goes berserk a couple times.  “I’LL BE ARRESTED?! PUT IN AIRPORT JAIL?!”

36) Seeking Justice

Strangers on a Train meets Death Wish.  One of a series of recent crime-themed B movies he’s done; it has the mildest Cage factor of the bunch.

35) Fire Birds

It’s like Tom Cruise in Top Gun, except it’s Nicolas Cage flying a helicopter.  Wacky performance.  I loved the movie as a kid.

34)  National Treasure: Book of Secrets

He turns it up to 11 a couple times.  “Going to detain a blighter for enjoying his whiskey?  Bangers and mash.  Bubbles and squeak.  Smoked eel pie.  HAGGIS!!!!”

33)   Windtalkers

Super wacky movie, with lots of screaming and yelling from Cage.

32) Stolen

Another of the recent B movie wave.  He’s America’s greatest bank robber, trying to go clean, but the bad guys kidnap his daughter and force him to steal 10 million dollars in 12 hours.  It’s very entertaining and he leans into the Cage factor pretty hard.

31)  Rage

Yet another recent B movie.  He’s yet again a reformed criminal whose daughter gets kidnapped, except this time they kill her and it becomes a revenge movie.  Considerable Cage factor.

30) Drive Angry

This is more the stoic, badass Cage.  It’s so much fun.  “I told you I wanted sugar.”

29) Next

Underrated high concept action thriller with strong Cage factor.   He’s a Las Vegas magician who can see two minutes into the future.  Hijinx ensue.

28) Trespass

Another recent B movie.  It’s a Straw Dogs sort of thing, with Cage as a bourgeois milquetoast pushed to his limits by home invaders.  Strong Cage factor.  I like the movie.

27) Knowing

This is Next’s fraternal twin.  Exceptional camp.  He’s an MIT professor who figures out that a string of numbers in a time capsule correlate to major disasters, and the worst disaster of all is yet to come.  He brings the Cage factor hard.

26)  Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Less Cage factor than the first Ghost Rider movie, but a better movie.   You still get plenty of flaming motorcycle Cage howling.

25) Trapped in Paradise

“This whole time… you stand there…. with this ‘who me?’… expression… on your FAAAAACE!”  Zany movie, great comedic performance from Cage with very strong Cage factor.

24) Valley Girl

Early Cage, super legit.  He’s doing like an out of proportion comedic James Dean thing.  It’s great.

23) Outcast

This is a godawful movie and it takes far too long for Cage to reappear after an early introduction, but when he does finally show up it is truly something to behold.

22) Joe

This is a great performance by any standard.  It’s more sincere, not campy, but it’s pure Cage all the way.   He’s brooding and explosive.

21) The Trust

The Cagiest of his recent wave of crime-themed B movies.  Crooked cops rob a bank vault.  Extremely bonkers.  “OPEN IT! OPEN IT! OPEN IT! OPEN IT! OPEN IT! OPEN IT!”

20) Kiss of Death

Barbet Schroeder’s loose remake of the 1947 noir classic.  He’s not the lead but when he’s onscreen it is balls to the wall.   He bench-presses a stripper.

19) Bringing Out the Dead

One of my favorite Scorsese movies.  He’s a strung out ambulance driver plagued by hallucinations.  It’s less zany/bonkers and more weird and nuanced, but it’s pure Cage.

18) Amos and Andrew

This is due for reappraisal.  Race-themed satire, with Samuel L. Jackson as an educated playwright who moves into an upscale neighborhood and becomes a victim of police harassment.  A cop has Jackson’s house surrounded, thinking he’s a burglar, but when he realizes his mistake he has a hoodlum played by Mr. Cage break in and hold Jackson hostage to generate a cover story.  But Cage and Jackson realize that the plan is to kill them both so they become an odd couple team.  Extreme Cage factor throughout.

17) Adaptation

Just revisited this.  It holds up well.  Bonus points because he plays twin brothers.  It’s very offbeat Cage (more in the hyper-neurotic vein), but the Cage factor runs strong.

16) Face/Off

It was hard to rank this one.  The first act has some extremely hardcore, top ten-caliber Cage factor, but then after the face swap Cage’s performance becomes more mundane and the primary pleasure is Travolta’s Cage impression.  It’s a delightful movie, if a bit overlong.

Edit: I underrated this one, and when I get around to updating this list it will move up. Here’s what I didn’t get the first time around: once Cage becomes Travolta, his performance gains fascinating meta-Cage factor. He’s doing an impression of Travolta doing a Cage impression.

15) Ghost Rider

So much Cage factor.  I mean, he plays a daredevil who enters into a Faustian bargain and turns into a flaming skulled spirit of vengeance that incinerates the souls of evil men.

14) Matchstick Men

If he’s not losing it, he’s on the verge of losing it.  “PISS! BLOOD!” This is a sui generis performance right here.

13) Leaving Las Vegas

A more serious turn, but still bonkers.  He slurs his speech like he’s playing a village drunk.

12) Peggy Sue Got Married

Completely and totally batshit.   He brings a version of his Vampire’s Kiss madness into a movie where it’s completely out of place.  A non-Cage fan watching this movie must wonder “WTF IS HE DOING???!”

11) The Wicker Man

Neil Labute’s Wicker Man remake…. there’s no reason for it to exist except Cage factor.   It takes a while for him to let loose, but when he does, it’s transcendent.

10) Con Air

Con Air is one of the greatest American action movies, period.  The cast is stellar across the board, but Cage is the centerpiece.  He’s pure fucking hero.  “Put the bunny back in the box!!!”

9) Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

The single most ridiculous accent anyone has ever done.

8) Moonstruck

I have an enduring soft spot for Moonstruck.  Cage is a one-handed, opera-loving, Italian-American baker who becomes obsessed with his brother’s fiancée (Cher) and sweeps her off her feet.  He takes romantic passion to absurd heights.

7) Snake Eyes

One of the most underrated American movies of the 90’s, I love it with my whole heart.  De Palma opens with a virtuoso 20 minute unbroken tracking shot where we follow corrupt cop Cage through an arena in the minutes leading up to a boxing match.   The shot culminates in a political assassination, and De Palma spends the rest of the movie showing us how all the assumptions we made initially were false and the whole thing becomes an autopsy of the way we watch movies.  Cage’s performance is cocky, frenetic, and totally awesome.  He has a golden cell phone.

6) Deadfall

There is no reason to watch this movie except Cage factor, but the Cage factor is nuclear.  There’s nothing else remotely like it in existence.

5) Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

This is his most lurid performance, as a crack-smoking, sexually deviant corrupt cop.   I don’t think the movie is as good as Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, but the Cage factor is top five for sure.

4) Raising Arizona

Nic Cage does Wile E. Coyote.  The film is a comedic masterpiece and it’s overflowing with Cage factor.

3) Wild at Heart

Where to begin?  This is Nicolas Cage lightning in a bottle.  But that’s just a very small part of why it’s so great.  If you haven’t seen this, just watch it.  “This is a snakeskin jacket, and for me it’s a symbol of my individuality and my belief in personal freedom.”

2)  Army of One

Criminally neglected 2016 comedy– easily the funniest movie I’ve seen since Role Models.  It’s based on a true story: he plays a Trump supporter-type who hallucinates a message from God and travels to Pakistan to attempt to single-handedly capture Bin Laden (armed with a katana).  The Cage factor is over the damn moon.

1) Vampire’s Kiss

It’s not even close.  Vampire’s Kiss is the alpha and omega of Cage factor.   His aggressively weird, repulsive vision of yuppiedom rendered American Psycho obsolete years before it was written, and that’s just the first act.  Once he starts hallucinating that he’s a vampire it becomes a category 5 hurricane of Cage factor.

Twin Peaks: The Return part 16

First of all: LAURA DERN!!!  I don’t think I need to elaborate on that.

When I checked in with my brother last night after we had both seen the episode,  we realized that we had taken the ending very differently.   I haven’t read any recaps or commentary yet, so I’m not sure how others took it.  He thought that Audrey’s arc was a Mulholland Dr. or Lost Highway-esque dream narrative, whereas I thought that the final revelation was that she is a tulpa.  So far, we know that Diane and Sarah Palmer are both dark tulpas (as was Dougie before Coop’s return), and the Laura in the black lodge is a light tulpa.   What I got from that glorious, glorious Diane scene was that when a tulpa has been made of an individual, that individual’s consciousness is trapped within and can emerge under certain conditions.  For Diane, seeing Evil Coop’s text somehow enabled her real consciousness to take over briefly.  It seems that when the Sarah Palmer tulpa was in the liquor store and heard voices in her head, what she was happening was the real Sarah Palmer was struggling to come out and cry for help.  My reasoning for thinking Audrey is a tulpa is twofold: we now know for sure that she was raped by Evil Coop, and so it sounds like he did the same thing to her that he did to Diane.  Also, I thought that last image was a representation of the real Audrey’s dormant consciousness flirting with awareness.  I assume that the Sarah Palmer tulpa was actually made by Leland Palmer and not by Evil Coop, which would explain a lot about how she behaved in the original series (in particular, why she wasn’t more aware and protective of her daughter).  I also see my brother’s point though: there are lots of reasons to think that the Audrey’s Dance scene at the roadhouse was the culmination of a Lynchian dream.

In any case, I hope people who have been impatient about Dougie and angry about what’s happened to Audrey realize now that they should have trusted Lynch.  Even if you don’t like Dougie (which I still can’t comprehend), this payoff absolutely depended on the long development leading up to it.   “Dougie sure is talking with a lot of assurance!”   I’m just bubbling over with joy thinking about Cooper’s loving goodbye to his new family.   “I’m your dad.”   And I never would have guessed that Lynch would resurrect James Belushi so magnificently.  Inspired casting.

The Jerry Horne payoff!  The shoot out!

The contrast with the abiding trashiness of Game of Thrones actually made me appreciate Twin Peaks more.  It was like having an 80 minute fast food appetizer before being served the best entrée of your life.

From the Vault: Streaming Recommendations vol. 1

Amazon Prime

Breakdown

This is a 90’s genre masterpiece.   It’s a highway update of The Lady Vanishes, with a great Kurt Russell performance.

Suspiria

Horror fans already know this one.  It’s the most iconic of Argento’s earlier works.  Don’t expect much of a narrative: this is all about mood, elaborately staged deaths, and one of the greatest soundtracks of all time.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 40th Anniversary

If you haven’t seen the 2014 restoration of the greatest horror film ever made, you’re in for a treat.  It preserves the raw, grindhouse aesthetic but really pops off the screen.  Many previously washed out visual details have become legible, and the surround sound mix is more immersive than ever and highlights the incredible score.

Netflix

The Fury

After De Palma’s success with Carrie, he was thought of as “the telekinesis guy” and was asked to helm this Kirk Douglas project.  It’s a very different beast than Carrie: it integrates the telekinesis theme with a Jamesonian paranoid geopolitical aesthetic.   It’s a pretty divisive movie, often considered by De Palma fans to be one of his best, but also widely disliked.  I personally can’t relate *at all* to anyone who dislikes it.  It’s an overwhelming pleasure for me.  Pauline Kael famously wrote about the ending, “One can imagine Welles, Peckinpah, Scorsese, and Spielberg still stunned, bowing to the ground, choking with laughter.”

Hellraiser

I assume most people have seen this, but this assumption has often proven incorrect.  Definitely, definitely, definitely see it if you haven’t.  It’s lightning in a bottle, with an alternate S&M dimension and no sympathetic characters.  Clive Barker’s three masterpieces  (this, Nightbreed, and Lord of Illusions) are unlike anything else in the cinematic horror genre.  His imagination is truly one of a kind.

Late Phases

Old-fashioned werewolf movie, with a blind military veteran as the protagonist.  I love it. With its legit practical effects (!) it stands head and shoulders above all the shitty CGI werewolf movies that we’ve been inundated with since CGI became a thing.

The African Queen

Back in the days before streaming, I used to watch this pretty much every time it was on Turner Classic Movies.  You’ve got salty old riverboat captain Humphrey Bogart and overbearing church lady Katherine Hepburn, you’ve got a WWI adventure story, and you’ve got a classic screen romance.  I pressed play the second I saw that it had appeared on Netflix, and it was as comforting as ever.

Cold in July

Trigger warning! Super dark, extremely compelling, twisted, unusual revenge movie starring Dexter and the late, great Sam Shepard in one of his last film performances.

Hulu

Altered States

Ken Russell’s hallucinatory 1980 freakout has aged well.  This is one of the boldest, most original studio films of the era.

Kaboom

Latter day Greg Araki pastiche.  Really fun and super weird. It’s hard to say too much without giving away plot points, but it’s a like a combination postmodern college sex comedy and cult sci-fi sorta thing.

Pontypool

Weird as fuck high concept chamber horror.  An apocalyptic zombie virus spreads through… certain uses of language.

Ghost Rider

Wildly underrated.  If you feel like freebasing some Nicolas Cage, this is your movie.  The sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, is less campy but also great.  It has less Cage amazingness but Neveldine and Taylor’s virtuoso kinetic style is on full display.

The Mangler

Undervalued Tobe Hooper classic with a delightful Robert Englund performance.  Hooper’s manic-hysterical aesthetic plus a demonic industrial laundry machine.

The Witches

A damn kids’ movie, directed by legendary avant garde British auteur Nicolas Roeg.  I loved it as a kid and I love it even more today.  I’m not a parent so I don’t really know but it seems to me like the shift towards sanitized, feel good kid’s movies is an awful development.  So many movies I watched as a kid gave me nightmares and kept me up late nervously wondering might be in the closet, and it was wonderful.  This was definitely one of them.

Buried

Ultra tight high concept thriller. Ryan Reynolds buried alive!

In the Mouth of Madness

John Carpenter’s Lovecraft-inspired surreal mindfuck.  It holds up very well 20+ years later.  This one should be accessible to people who don’t generally love horror.

13 Assassins

Takashi Miike genre extravaganza.  One of two remakes he did of 60’s samurai movies.   A team of 13 elite samurai confronts an army of hundreds to assassinate the shogun’s sadistic half-bother.   It has that Miike touch of ultra-depravity, but it’s also a rousing and  immensely enjoyable few-against-many action spectacle in the tradition of The Seven Samurai. 

 

Twin Peaks: Part 12

Frustration is endemic to the television serial.  One of the great joys of the serial is the way the viewer’s interest is propelled forward by cliffhangers and unanswered questions.  We all know the feeling of “oh shit, there’s a new Breaking Bad tonight!”  There’s tremendous pleasure in the cycle of being frustrated by a cliffhanger, having thoughts of anticipation building towards the next episode, and finally sitting down for the big revelation.  Sometimes a show will tease you: postpone the awaited event or answer a question with another question.  Skillful play with audience expectations can be deployed to great effect.

Lynch has made this dynamic a theme of Twin Peaks: The Return, and in part 12 it reaches a fever pitch.  A brief perusal of the internet indicates that a lot of people couldn’t stand it.  I’m not surprised.  He takes it so far that it reminds me of Haneke’s Funny GamesFunny Games is an anti-thriller that aims to punish its audience for their blood-thirsty genre expectations.  It shows us none of the action but all of the suffering.  There’s a 7+ minute scene of someone who’s been shot bleeding out on the floor.  I deliberately went to see the English-language version of Funny Games primetime Friday night at the big multiplex with as large a crowd as possible, because the audience reaction is the whole point.  I was not disappointed.  During the above mentioned 7+ minute scene, complete strangers in the audience started fighting with each other openly.  One guy stood up and threatened a group of teenagers that he would “stick all their heads up their asses.” Well played, Haneke.

In an analogous way, part 12 was anti-television.  God, where to begin.   The episode was entitled “Let’s rock,” which is an iconic line from the original series (spoken by The Arm).  Multiple storylines have built a good head of steam and we are getting close to October 1st in the show’s timeline, when we have been led to believe that the shit will hit the fan.  I think everyone expected an eventful episode.  I’ve even heard that Lynch and Frost deliberately leaked that this would be the most remarkable episode yet (someone leaked this, but we don’t know who for sure).  What we got instead wasn’t merely an audience tease; it was an all-out assault on our expectations.   The clearest way to make this case is to consider the way Audrey was reintroduced.  Sherilyn Fenn is listed in the show’s cast; we knew she would show up sooner or later.  I had seen various online comments this last week: “We’re getting down to the wire and so many things still need to happen!  So many characters haven’t even shown up yet!”   There was a lot of hope circulating that maybe Audrey will finally appear.  The show has been brutal about withholding gratification.  Basically none of the fan favorites from the original series are seeing heavy play, and when they do show up, it’s not in the way the audience wants them to.  When we finally get to hear Coop say “damn good cherry pie,” it’s overwhelmingly sad.  Audrey’s reintroduction goes beyond withholding, and approaches open hostility.  Lynch brought her back in the most abrasive way possible.  Her hen-pecked husband Charlie sits over a pile of work and complains about being sleepy while she angrily berates him because he’s not being helpful in tracking down her missing lover, Billy.  We don’t know any of the characters mentioned.  The scene goes on FOREVER.  Charlie makes a phone call (rotary dial, of course), there’s a big info dump, and we only hear his side of it.  He says “unbelievable, what you’re telling me!”, but then refuses to explain what he was told.  Audrey has a conniption.  My favorite line is when she yells at him to look in his crystal ball and find out where Billy is, and he replies, “Come on, Audrey, you know I don’t have a crystal ball.”   She emphasizes “You have no balls!  That’s why I’m in love with Billy!  That’s why I’m FUCKING Billy!”   And then when we do finally get to the roadhouse (where Audrey intended to look for Billy), instead of some kind of exposition of what’s up with Audrey, we switch to two entirely new characters talking about other characters we haven’t met.    I was cackling at this point.  Again: my reading is that he’s taken a structural feature of television serials in general and blown it up to the point of absurdity.  We love to be teased a little by a good TV show.  Lynch takes it past the breaking point several times over.

Another great scene involves Lynch himself and French actress Berenice Marlohe (she was a Bond girl in Skyfall).  Lynch often gets accused of various forms of misogyny.  I think that these critiques are ill-founded, but I’m not interested in litigating the issue right now.  A frequent accusation is that he likes to dress women up like 50’s pin ups and ogle them.  In this scene, he literally ogles Marlohe (in a pin up getup) for two solid minutes.  As for the episode as a whole, in this scene Lynch is really aggressively leaning into his critics.  Oh, you don’t like that?  You mean you don’t like it when I do THIS?!

Negative emotions often figure positively in aesthetic experiences.  Sadness and grief for tragedy, fear and disgust for horror, etc.  I’ve argued that we should understand these negative emotions as elements imbedded within complex aesthetic experiences, and that an overall aesthetic experience can be attractive partly in virtue of one or more of its elements being painful or otherwise aversive.  I think we can understand the frustrations of Twin Peaks according to this model.  Frustration is an unpleasant emotion, but imbedded in the right context, it can be quite pleasant.   Television ordinarily plays with frustration by teasing our expectations.  I’ve been engaging with David Lynch’s art since I was like 12 years old (thanks, Dad).   Part of the pleasure of approaching the new Twin Peaks episodes for me is that I still really, truly have no idea what the fuck he’s going to do.  True aesthetic surprise is an exhilarating experience that’s all too hard to come by now that we’ve passed through the postmodern singularity.   Last night’s episode really, truly surprised me.  The frustration that the narrative engendered wasn’t ultimately unpleasant for me, because it fed into this feeling of exhilarating surprise.  Like, “THAT’S HOW YOU’RE GONNA BRING AUDREY BACK!  OMG!”    I get the sense that people with overly rigid expectations didn’t share my enjoyment, and I think that’s part of the point as well.  Much like Haneke, Lynch is showing open hostility to a certain sort of audience.   He’s punishing those looking for nostalgia.

Game of Thrones thoughts (spoilers)

I’ve had mixed feelings about HBO’s takeover of creative control of Game of Thrones since the beginning of season 6.  On the one hand, Martin is in most respects a mediocre fantasy writer and the show is generally much better than the books.  He writes great characters, but he falls prey to the classic middle-books fantasy trap of burning through plot too fast and then loading up on filler (too many new, uninteresting characters, hundreds of pages of people being on the way to places).   I’m also not a big fan of ultra-gritty fantasy, with constant talk of hard cocks and so on.  I’ll take Robin Hobb and Brandon Sanderson over Martin any day of the week.

But on the other hand, the special appeal of HBO’s Game of Thrones does depend to a large extent on Martin’s influence– in particular, his constant subversion of narrative expectations.  Killing main characters, people on a revenge quest being killed before they achieve revenge, villains falling to other villains rather than to heroes, etc.  That’s what makes Game of Thrones what it Is.   The show has a unique ability to make you feel truly terrible, and that’s 90% of its appeal.

I really did not like season 6 very much.   It was too crowd pleasing, too readily satisfying.  It was like they finally were off Martin’s leash and the first thing they did was distance themselves from everything that made the show distinct.  I hated, hated, hated the way they brought back Jon Snow.  It was like “oh you thought your favorite character was dead, PSYCHE!  He’s fine!”   It didn’t even make sense.  All of a sudden Davos, whose primary character traits are an excess of caution and an abiding distrust of black magic, and who barely knows Jon Snow, is all gung ho in favor of using black magic to bring him back.    I’m not necessarily against the idea of bringing him back– indeed I’m sure Martin planned  something along those lines– but a cardinal rule of fantasy and horror fiction is that if someone is brought back from the dead via black magic they are never the same.  They carry the taint of death with them in some way.  In the HBO version, it’s like he’s immediately back to his old self, no harm done.  The only point I see of him having died in the first place is that his resurrection feeds into some kind of chosen one narrative relating to the Lord of Light.  But c’mon, TAINT OF DEATH, PLEASE.

This week, however, Game of Thrones became Game of Thrones again.  That devastating sea battle, beautifully timed to interrupt a kiss between fan favorites and disappoint the shit out of everyone chomping at the bit for some steamy action, was a true Game of Thrones turn.   And then Theon’s moment of cowardice, after all the work the show has done to rebuild respect for the character, was brilliant.  The action film-making was on par with the best battle sequences we’ve seen from the show.  I also really appreciated the body horror in the earlier Samwell/Jorah scene.  Welcome back, Thrones.

From the first book of the series (which I read well before the show was produced), it’s clear that the ultimate conflict will be between the old magics of fire and ice.  The dragons vs. the white walkers.  The series is predicated on a structural irony, where the Shakespearean machinations within Westeros are the narrative focus but we are constantly reminded that they are quite insignificant in the scope of the larger conflict that is slowly closing its jaws around the Seven Kingdoms.  The failing of the books is that Martin exhausted the interest of the machinations well before he was prepared to drop the hammer.  The series did not fall into this trap.   It elided all that boring crap.  Now there’s a question of whether it can execute the finale without Martin’s source material.   This week is the first time I’ve felt optimistic about the prospect.

Song to Song (no spoilers)

Song to Song is revelatory.  There’s something Malick has been trying to do for a while now, and I feel like he’s finally done it.

There are a number of tropes that are distinctive of his recent work: extreme angle shots, fisheye lens, aggressively subjective camerawork,  TWIRLING, bed sheets, couples chasing each other through sparsely decorated houses.  A lot of tomato critics respond with open mockery.   MORE TWIRLING FROM MALICK!  This doesn’t surprise me, really.  If you are unwilling or unable to engage with Malick’s recent work on its own terms, I can certainly see how it could come across as a parody of a pretentious art film.  Personally, I appreciate Malick’s not giving a fuck about what anyone thinks of the twirling.  He just keeps doubling down on it.

Song to Song reveals something deeper about what he’s trying to do with these tropes and also why many react to it so harshly.  He’s trying to capture private, intimate moments.  The sorts of things you only do when no one is watching.  This is very hard to do, because what makes a moment private and intimate is precisely its utter particularity and idiosyncrasy.  Romantic love is typically portrayed on film through more general representational categories.  To represent one character falling in love with another, a filmmaker might show the one surreptitiously watching the other doing something quietly remarkable, or might show the couple staring longingly into each other’s eyes , or might show the two triumphing over adversity as a team and then falling into each other’s arms.  The sorts of private, intimate moments that constitute the emotional progression of actual relationships are too peculiar, too uncomfortable, too illegible to be readily translated to the screen.  Song to Song is like 40% composed of exactly these sorts of moments, and I suspect that it makes a lot of viewers uncomfortable.   To engage with it on its own terms requires a level of vulnerability and openness from the viewer that many will be unwilling or unable to muster.  It’s just so fucking sincere.

I’m going to stay away from discussing too many details of the film.  I only just saw it yesterday.  Like all of Malick’s films, it needs to be seen more than once before one can even really begin to digest it.   I’ll say it’s clearly the best new release I’ve seen this year, and it’s better than anything I saw last year.  It bears a lot of structural similarities to To the Wonder.  I love To the Wonder, please don’t confuse me for a hater, but I would say this is much more fully realized work.  The acting is uniformly perfect, even Natalie Portman.  Michael Fassbender plays a sort of Lucifer character brilliantly.  Patti Fucking Smith is in the movie.  Iggy Pop is in the movie.  He films both moshing and twerking in full-on Malick style.

He says this is the last movie he’ll film without a script.  He’s got a war film coming out next. This I think corroborates my central evaluative thought: this movie is a culmination of this last phase of his career.  I am eagerly looking forward to watching it several more times over the next few months.

Reflections on Twin Peaks S03E08 (spoilers)

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It’s worth taking a minute to put S03E08 in a broader cultural context.  This week, Disney made news by firing directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller from the new Han Solo origin film.  Lord and Miller are very distinct comedic directors who no doubt were putting an auteurist stamp on the film.  Disney claimed that they were fired due to “creative differences,” which is a euphemism for “they refused to produce something suitably generic.”  Who did they hire to replace them?  Opie.  Ron “Never Made a Good Movie” Howard.  This actually puts me in a bind, as I swore a solemn vow many years ago to never watch another Ron Howard movie, and yet I don’t see myself skipping a Star Wars movie, no matter how deliberately mediocre.

This scenario echoes the firing of Edgar Wright from Ant-Man in 2015.  They hired someone with a very distinctive artistic vision, and then fired him because he was making a movie that expressed that vision.  Warner Bros. confirmed all our worst fears this week when they came out and explicitly said that they are going to try to avoid working with auteurist directors who insist on final cut.  They want tighter studio control over the creative process, precisely so that they can calibrate their productions for maximum profitability.

It is against this increasingly dystopian cultural milieu that Twin Peaks S03E08 aired.  The show’s audience—including me—had been lulled into complacency by four straight episodes that more or less followed the same set of characters with very deliberate pacing, punctuated by moments of acute horror.  I think most of us expected a slight escalation but pretty much more of the same.  What we got instead was the most avant garde thing in the history of television.   I want to take a minute to really appreciate Showtime for facilitating the rapturous aesthetic experience I had last night.  That episode couldn’t have been cheap.  Maybe Showtime has some sort of long game business plan where word of mouth Twin Peaks buzz leads to lots of new subscribers who then decide to sample Homeland but of course get hooked (because Homeland is amazing) and keep subscribing even after Twin Peaks ends.  Maybe.  But I want to believe that at some level this is just old school patronage.  Some well-situated people fought to just let David Lynch do whatever he wants and these heroes won out over the bean counters.  This wasn’t a business decision.  This was service to humanity.   Or so I’d like to think.

There was so much going on in this episode that I don’t even know where to start.  The White Lodge and Black Lodge apparently exist in an alternate dimension.  There is a long-standing “two worlds” motif in Lynch that began with his unproduced Ronnie Rocket screenplay, where electricity is in some manner the medium to pass between worlds.  We found this idea iterated in Lost Highway, where Fred Madison and Pete Dayton appear to switch places across parallel worlds through an electrical disturbance.   We get something similar in Mulholland Drive, with the waking world/dream world dichotomy.  The motif becomes very abstract in Inland Empire, but it’s still there.   Multiple Laura Derns.  Even in Blue Velvet you have the idealized suburban world/rotting underworld dichotomy.   Twin Peaks: The Return is shaping up like a summative work, where we are getting a more direct look at the nuts and bolts of the metaphysics that pervade Lynch’s whole corpus.

The idea doesn’t sound amazing on paper: the Trinity nuclear bomb test opened up a portal to the other dimension (or something like that).  (Edit for hindsight: electromagnetic pulse fuels an explosion of fertility in the Mother?)  But the execution!  Holy shit!  It would be impossible to overstate how incredible a sequence this was.  Again, part of what’s important here is that we were all lulled into complacency.  The show had established a rhythm and a rough trajectory.  The episode started out more or less on track.  Our expectations were reinforced.  Then we get a badass Nine Inch Nails performance in the middle of the episode, and all of a sudden all hell breaks lose and we dive into the heart of the mushroom cloud and get like 11 minutes of Stan Brakhage set to Penderecki’s infinitely haunting “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima.”  It felt like Lynch was making contact with Kubrick here.  For one thing, Kubrick uses several Penderecki pieces in The Shining for similar emotional effect.  More directly, there’s an obvious connection with Dr. Strangelove and also with the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which continues in the following sequence where the Experiment—seen previously in the glass box—spews forth a bunch of evil spirits, including BOB.

We learn that Laura Palmer is a manifestation (or host?) of a spirit of light that is created in the White Lodge as a counterpoint to BOB.  This revelation is mind-blowing, even if the details are still very unclear.  It sheds new light on the tagline “It’s happening again.”  My inference is that just as the BOB spirit jumps from host to host, so too does the Laura spirit.  The BOB spirit continuously hunts the Laura spirit in her newest manifestation.  The predatory relationship between the dark, evil appetites that BOB embodies and the light and love that Laura embodies is represented as part of the spiritual fabric of the world.  BOB’s cyclical predation of Laura is a horror we unleashed through our collective monstrousness, reaching a crescendo with the atomic bomb.

And then there’s the Woodsmen.  The radio broadcast of “This is the water and this is the well…” reminded me of Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem.  I doubt there’s a deliberate connection there, but it was pretty vivid for me.  The audiovisual onslaught of the whole last part of the episode was enthralling.  I felt it in my bones.  It was nightmarish in the best possible way.

The soot-covered Woodsmen clearly evoke the blackened alley dweller from Mulholland Drive, about whom we are told in the Winkie’s diner scene, “he’s the one who’s doing it.”  One of Lynch’s most distinctive tropes is the byzantine web of shadowy figures pulling the levers of power behind the scenes.  In Mulholland Drive this is memorably represented through a bizarre set of characters holed up in weird little rooms relaying phone calls until they reach the kingpin figure, who is perched like a Bond villain as he awaits the call.  Or in Wild at Heart there’s the network of twisted assassins who commission hits with ceremonial silver dollars.  What’s emerging in Twin Peaks: The Return is a sort of origin story for the evil spirits that ultimately lie behind these webs of power.  It’s the soot-covered man in the alley–an agent of the Black Lodge– who’s really pulling the levers.

Sometimes Lynch’s shadowy figures are given motives—typically highly particular and very dark appetites, like Frank Booth’s mommy fixation.  But these motives are in a way just McGuffins.  What really drives these characters is the pure joy of evil, and BOB is the distilled essence of this drive.  Last night we witnessed his creation.  And it was the best thing ever.

 

Scattered Remarks on Twin Peaks: The Return (spoilers)

I’m really, really not interested in nitpicking Twin Peaks: The Return.  It’s too good.  Having a new hour of David Lynch every week is a gift, and it’s inappropriate to subject a gift to nitpicking.  Even if I tried to nitpick, I would fail, because I am totally incapable of seeing any flaws in this work.  Maybe they’re there, probably they’re not, but I’m enjoying it too much to notice or care.  I also don’t really want to defend the show against its detractors, because it boggles my mind that they even exist.  I’m more inclined to be like “fine, have it your way, more Twin Peaks: The Return for me.”  I am going to do a bit of defending anyways, against my inclination, because I can’t even handle living in the same world with people who don’t like Dougie Jones.  I told Angela that there’s allegedly a good deal of dislike for Dougie and she looked at me like she couldn’t understand the words coming out of my mouth.  Some remarks and observations:

  • Dougie Jones couldn’t be done more succinctly.  The central idea realized by the Dougie arc necessarily requires a lengthy development. Dougie wakes up in a suburban nightmare maze of imposing highrise office buildings and an ever expanding network of cul-de-sacs lined with prefabricated houses.  Like a more extreme version of John From Cincinnati, he isn’t able to form original thoughts, just repeat things he’s heard (typically the thing that has just been said to him).  There’s a degree of realism: it’s not like anyone thinks that Dougie is acting normally.  But the idea that comes into view is that this mode of functioning actually works reasonably well–it’s a passable strategy for navigating the suburban maze.  Josh suggested that we can think of him as a postmodern M. Hulot.  I have thoroughly enjoyed every bit of Dougie and I almost felt like something was missing in episode 7, where we only got a little bit of a Dougie fix.  Also, NB, Naomi Watts’ performance is brilliant.  She is sooooooo funny, and I love the way she plays off of MacLachlan’s Dougie.

 

  • I’m noticing quite a few references to Lynch’s films. Some clear examples: The Spike’s office hit that dominoes into a second hit is a reference to the black book/vacuum cleaner scene in Mulholland Drive.  The scene where we meet Richard Horne in the Bang Bang Bar and he aggressively gropes and threatens the girl who asks him for a light is a reference Bobby Peru’s introduction to Lula in Wild at Heart. Evil Coop’s creepy utterance “at your house” is a reference to Robert Blake’s creepy utterance of the same line in Lost Highway.  It’s a little bit more of a stretch but I had an urge to connect Balthazar Getty’s local crime kingpin to Frank Booth in Blue Velvet.  Let me know if you’ve noticed something I haven’t.  I haven’t found this aspect of new Twin Peaks too winky or gimmicky.  Rather, it helps promote this sense that this is a cumulative, career-encapsulating work.

 

  • Is Richard Horne the son of Evil Coop and Audrey Horne? I kinda got that implication from the revelation that Coop visited Audrey after leaving the Black Lodge 25 years earlier.  NB, I just googled this and it’s a fairly widespread fan theory.  Fuck fan theories in general, by the way.  Nothing is more antithetical to Lynchian aesthetics than trying to crack the code, especially in advance.  I do think that we are being invited to wonder about Richard’s parentage, though.

 

  • Laura Dern is a national treasure and I’m relishing her recent wave of activity. I watched Big Little Lies and thought she was more impressive than the rest of the cast combined, including the over-hyped Reese Witherspoon.  That show was all about Laura Dern, as far as I’m concerned.  Her scene with Evil Coop in Twin Peaks episode 7 was a tour de force and maybe the high point of the new series so far.

 

  • The story behind the Evolution of the Arm is amazing. Michael J. Anderson, the actor who played the Arm in the original series, has gone off the deep end.  He demanded a ridiculous amount of money to return in the new series, claiming that they couldn’t do Twin Peaks without him.  Lynch declined, which led to Anderson making all sorts of repulsive, unsubstantiated accusations on social media.  Lynch replaced him with a stick with a wad of bubblegum (or whatever it is) shaped like a brain stuck on top of it.   I guess they can do Twin Peaks without him after all.

 

  • I’ve seen a number of articles where people are trying to litigate which is better, old Twin Peaks or new Twin Peaks. This is a stupid question.  Old Twin Peaks was watered down with all sorts of non-Lynch creative input.  There are some great episodes that Lynch himself didn’t direct, but by far the best episodes are the ones that he did.  Only those episodes are anywhere near the quality of new Twin Peaks.  There’s a *ton* of disposable filler.  New Twin Peaks reflects a vastly more mature and developed artistic vision, and it is unadulterated and unrestrained by network censorship.  Nothing is disposable, it’s a unified work.  OF COURSE IT’S WAY THE FUCK BETTER.  OF COURSE.

 

  • Did anyone notice Andy wearing a Rolex? I’m sure there’s a surfeit of fan theories about that.  I’m not going to even hypothesize about what’s going on there, but it’s a bit of foreshadowing that I expect will be worth keeping in mind.  Side note:  Michael Cera as Wally Brando, dressed up like the damn Wild One, doing a damn Godfather accent, is one of the greatest little tangential moments of Lynch’s entire career.

 

  • One more thought about Dougie: there’s interesting continuity between his being guided by little lights (in the Mr. Jackpots scene and when he reviews the insurance files) and pre-lodge Coop’s mysticism.