Thoughts on: “The” Nine Inch Nails, Twin Peaks: The Return, & Not The Actual Events

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One of the main reasons I decided to watch Twin Peaks: The Return was due to the advance notice that Trent Reznor would be amongst the cast. I’m a huge Nine Inch Nails fan, bigtime, I own 90% of the halos(look it up). I was spoiled on the fact that NIN appeared, as I binge-watched the episodes after it concluded on-air, but hot damn what an episode for the band to appear on! Episode 8 is the shining star in a season that has been incorrectly compared to The Wire and The Sopranos, when it can stand alongside Berlin Alexanderplatz and Dekalog. It claims a rarefied legacy that is absolutely justified to my eye.

It has been confirmed that “She’s Gone Away”, performed by “The” Nine Inch Nails in Episode 8, was written at the behest of David Lynch. This lends major credence that possibly a good deal of the album from which the song originates, Not The Actual Events, is about Twin Peaks: The Return also. The lyrics ‘I can’t remember what she came here for/I can’t remember much of anything, anymore/She’s gone/She’s gone/ She’s gone away’ are clearly about Laura Palmer and Agent Cooper. We learn in Episode 8 what Laura “came here for”; to be a force of pure light to counter evil. The ultimate horror of the first nuclear bomb detonation birthed BOB, which is one of the most spectacularly confounding and engaging sequences ever shown on television. Agent Cooper is the one who “can’t remember much of anything, anymore”. Cooper’s imprisonment in another dimension has caused him to forget himself(Bad Cooper and Dougie) and any knowledge he had of Laura’s purpose. Up until the very last moment of the series, neither Laura nor Cooper can remember “much of anything, anymore”. Their collective trips through alternate dimensions have degraded their memories to the extent that they are different people who arrive in a skewed replica of Twin Peaks.

Other possible allusions to Twin Peaks: The Return include the lyrics from “Branches/Bones” of ‘Feels like I’ve been here before/Yeah I don’t know anymore/And I don’t care anymore/I think I recognize’. Sweet, silly Dougie fits these lyrics as he’s a space case yet does view MIKE’s superimposed image while in the Las Vegas house. The lyrics in “Dear World” of ‘Dear world, I hardly recognize you anymore/And yet I remain certain there is an answer in you’ speaks to Cooper’s drive to suss out the answers to Laura’s fate despite not being on the same plane of reality that he used to exist. The lyrics ‘Oh and if I start to tell you anything, please don’t pay attention/That’s not really me in there/I would never do that/Just go back to the idea of me’ from the song “The Idea of You” could refer to Bad Cooper’s violent actions and how they are diametrically opposed to the honorable heart of Agent Cooper.

If my assertions of the symbolic connotations echoed in the lyrics of Not The Actual Events to Twin Peaks: The Return are slightly accurate, what an excellent treat that David Lynch and Trent Reznor cooked up for the audience. NIN knew that a few of the overly attentive in their fan base would start picking apart the words to find parallels to the show. David Lynch knew that not only would NIN look super badass on stage but that they’d deliver a song that would elevate Episode 8 sonically. The deliberate plodding of the drums, the repetition of the bass line, the affected wailing laugh of Trent Reznor are hypnotizing before the complete jump into nuclear hell. Leave it to Nine Inch Nails to sing us into the emergence of ultimate atomic destruction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Collection of My Outside Work

I have had the luck to share my writing on other film sites I admire over the years. It’s always a pleasure to be invited to collaborate. The following is a list of essays I’ve written. Thank you for reading and enjoy!

wingsofdesire

From Pinnland Empire 

Misunderstood Masterpiece: Return to Oz

Misunderstood Masterpiece: Marie Antoinette

Two by Wim Wenders: Pina and Wings of Desire 

Introduction to The Cinema of Todd Solondz

A Movie for Christmas: Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

A Movie for Christmas: Go

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From Cut Print Film

The Leftovers: Season One

The Leftovers: Season Two, Episode One ‘Axis Mundi’

Sunshine Superman

Lucky Stiff

Set Fire to the Stars

Unfreedom

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From The Pink Smoke

Five From the Fire

A Tribute to Jonathan Demme: Rachel Getting Married

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From Wrong Reel


DiG! podcast

The Cinema of Paul Verhoeven

The Leftovers: Season 3 Recap & Review

 

From Geekin.NYC

Westworld: Season 1 Recap

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

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Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is basically the equivalent to what fanboys get all hyped up about with Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Star Trek, et al. This is a film for lovers of the 24 year old new-classic British television series and it delivers in spades of hilarity. Unlike crabby, never-satisfied fanboys, I have been a huge fan of this show since I was 14 and this adaptation did not ‘ruin my childhood’. The film is a loving callback to past storylines and propels our oddly-endearing, ridiculous fashion disaster duo on an adventure seeking the glamorous life.

The film has not changed the sheer heights of bad behavior and cluelessness which Edina Monsoon, PR guru(Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone(Joanna Lumley), best friend forever to Eddy, exhibit. No one falls out of a car or runs into a wall as well as this couple of expert comedy actresses. If the film had been only Pats and Eddy snorting coke, taking pills, drinking booze and smoking excessively, I would have been more than satisfied. Lucky there is a delightful scene just like I described, with some deep philosophical pot-talk, all while the pair are wearing onesie pajamas. Nearly every scene had me smiling from ear to ear because of how well the main actresses inhabit their characters, as well as the massive amount of callbacks.

Almost every character who was on the tv show is in the film; it’s a bonanza of cameos. Both character actors and celebrities alike pop up constantly, giving the film a touch of nostalgia and a nice tribute to past stories. One brief standout character actor moment that banged home the intense satire of this project was that of Mo Gaffney’s daffy, beyond belief Bo. Bo is the current wife of Eddy’s ex-husband and always has grandly ludicrous ideas about her life. Bo is now sporting an afro, wearing large elephant jewelry and professes that she is Black, that we are all from Africa anthropologically, despite being a hyper-white woman. A perfect jab at Rachel Dolezal, the peculiar, massively-misguided White woman who lied about being Black to gain a top spot in the NAACP. When a person acts like an ass in public, Ab Fab will make a tasty joke out of their idiocy.

Allusions to the television program may lead this film to be less resonant for newcomers than for the initiated. Subtle call backs include Eddy’s home being overtly decadent, but decorated with a massive Che Guevara print to show her supposed political liberalism. Bubble(Jane Horracks) the assistant is still as goofy and into carnival-esque costumes as before. Eddy continues to use people as fashion accessories, like her granddaughter Lola(Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) taking the place of Eddy’s conservative frumpy daughter Saffy(Julia Sawalha). Saffy does get one point of understanding from an unlikely crowd, yet continues to act as the mother-figure to her childish mother.  Patsy has one of the funniest callbacks, to a time of her life in the 1970s, which propels a major plot point to my great delight.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie serves to give the loyal audience and the beloved characters space for a romp we’ve been wanting for years. Patsy and Eddy are frivolous, fashion-obsessed, money-seeking women who are not overtly likeable yet are given endearing qualities to balance out their superficiality. There are a few points of reflection on their lifestyle and the fact that they are ‘women of a certain age’ who do not want to stop the party, as society tells older women to do. In all, this film is a love letter to strong female friendships, though dysfunctional, which are not present enough in general media. Patsy and Eddy are wackos whose lifelong friendship has made their lives more audacious than if they had settled down. Raise a glass of  Bolly to the women of Ab Fab, have a little nibble, put on your Pop-Specs; you’re in for a treat.

Wagner’s Dream

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Originally published in 2013

Wagner’s Dream (2012) directed by Susan Froemke documents the most recent production of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle by the Metropolitan Opera.  If one has even a passing familiarity to opera, the idea that a new staging of the Ring Cycle would be bombastic is obvious, but this film illustrates how much more grandiose this version is.  To be plain, this production could have been the equivalent disaster that the Broadway play, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark became.  How could an opera that is over 140 years old be a potential debacle? The documentary illustrates this fact clearly, to the extent that an opera novice will be excited and entertained by the production’s trials and triumphs.

The ambition of Wagner’s Ring Cycle cannot be understated, both historically and for present performances.  The composer never realized his complete vision for this massive piece; he passed away having only produced it once.  Any production changes, which Wagner hinted at making, have to be imagined by subsequent companies.  The Metropolitan Opera’s idea to bring Wagner’s dream vision to light was to contract French-Canadian stage producer Robert Lepage to oversee the massive undertaking. Lepage and his team aimed to build one set that would be used for the entire 16 hour Ring Cycle; a 90,000 lb. computerized and manually operated set dubbed “The Machine”.

What unfolds through the course of Wagner’s Dream are the trials that the Met encounters using “The Machine”, along with regular theatrical problems, like losing a conductor during the run and bringing in a new Siegfried a few weeks before opening.  It is fascinating watching the stage crew deal with the unruly, gargantuan set and the frustrations this puts upon the rest of the company.  The opera house had to be reinforced or the set may have collapsed the floor.  The singers, though accustomed to expressive acting in Wagnerian operas, are highly challenged by the set and have understandable arguments against even stepping foot on it.  At one point a Rheinmaiden is nearly crushed when the set moves into position and she is not correctly hidden in a crevice.  Having to navigate such a daunting set, as well as having to perform in one of the most difficult operas ever written, illustrates how utterly amazing the company is as a whole.

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The documentary is more an ode to theatrical innovation and efficient teamwork, than a tale about the Ring Cycle.  Audience members are interviewed throughout the film about their impressions of the newly imagined pieces. The reactions range from the upset traditionalist to the young “hip” opera-goer who doesn’t mind the deviation in set design.  Wagner’s Dream is swift in its treatment of the operas; the labyrinthine story is quickly explained with a few sentences.  The real action of this film derives from the overhanging audacious artistic vision of Wagner, Mr. Lepage and his team’s engineering feats and the enthusiasm of the crew and cast.  The sheer joy, energy and expertise which the Metropolitan Opera Company exudes, fills this documentary with a universal quality.  Opera is an unfamiliar art form for many; the backstage view presented helps to normalize and bring down to human scale the audacious task they hope to accomplish.

Author’s Note: I had the good fortune to procure one of the few remaining tickets for the May 11, 2013 performance of Gotterdammerung; the final performance of the entire production.  The words epic, entrancing spectacle do not even get close to describing how amazing this opera was.  “The Machine” is terrifying; it creaks and swings about wildly(there was even a short techincal stoppage during the first intermission due to it malfunctioning). The orchestra kicks complete ass; 6 harps! SIX!!  I spent Act 3 sobbing because it was so mind-blowingly beautiful.  Due to this being the very last performance, the stage crew took a bow.  “The Machine” lifted up and 50 or more stagehands emerged and started waving at the audience. They got the largest ovation of the day and damn, did they deserve it. I cried and cheered along with everyone else.  An amazing life experience; transcendent.

 

Quick Take: Horace and Pete: Episode 1

“All are punish’d” – Prince Escalus

from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

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Louis CK’s newest drama Horace and Pete, tinged with a few laughs, serves as a vehicle to take America to task. No group is excluded from the blame of where we are presently situated; the elderly, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millenials are equally shown in their most harsh and unflattering light. The tropes of those groups are well-examined and illustrate the quesy unease and fracturing of our warped idea of America. The way in which CK expounds on the entropy of a nation which holds itself in the highest egocentric regard is through a day at a hundred year old bar in Brooklyn, NY. Utilizing a stage play atmosphere with traditional sitcom camera work, this episode expresses the multitude of caustic issues which are crippling Americans on micro and macro levels. Featured players in this episode include Steve Buscemi, Alan Alda, Edie Falco, Jessica Lange, Steven Wright, Aidy Bryant, Nick di Paolo and Kurt Metzger to name only a few of this intense cast. Issues ranging from the chaos of the Republican presidential debates, the injurious blood-sucking of the medical insurance cabal, the scars of generations of families repeating abuse and abandonment, are all laid bare on the table with no cushion. To speak in more detail would diminish the utter surprise and bewilderment which the episode produces. This is a series which America needs, even if it hurts to observe and digest the truth.

Watch Horace and Pete through Louis CK’s website. Only $5; a bargain if there ever was one.