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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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.

Louie: ‘Cop Story’ Season 5, Episode 3

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Cop Story is a devastating episode in the continuing excellence of the quasi-comedic television show Louie on FX. Having watched the entirety of this program’s run, I have come to the conclusion that it is one of the most difficult, intelligent, surreal tv shows to be produced in recent broadcast history. Louis C.K. is a genius for presenting this tv show as a comedy, when it is only funny half of the time. For example, the beginning of Cop Story is a tense conversation between Louie and the young female shopkeeper of a kitchen supply store. Louie wants to buy an expensive cooper pot and is rebuffed repeatedly by the shopkeeper in his efforts to do so. She lays her logic down hard on why she won’t allow him to buy a professional-grade copper pot; suggesting that he should visit William-Sonoma if he wants to have his ego stroked, as he will never be a real chef like her younger clientele.The shopkeeper is brutal in her assessment of Louie and his unease around young people and even contends that everyone younger than him is smarter than he could ever hope to be. Their conversation is uncomfortable and a little too real. This is not a conversation that would transpire in real life. A shopkeeper might think a customer is a jerk, yet would not out-right say it to their face. The confrontational conversation is Louie’s projection of his hatred of himself. Due to C.K. implementing a slipping, surreal reality into the show’s structure, a conversation like this will occur to remind Louie of his own obsolescence.

The rest of the episode revolves around an awkward reunion with an old acquaintance of Louie’s.  Louie runs into Lenny(Michael Rapaport) while walking past him on the street. Lenny summons Louie from a NYPD cop car and pretends to frisk him. It is obvious from the start that Lenny is overjoyed to see Louie, as he jokes around with him and demands his phone number so that they can hang out and catch up. Louie’s expression is of the thinly-veiled realization that he wishes he had walked down a different block and not run into Lenny. It is revealed that Lenny was Louie’s sister’s boyfriend long ago and though Lenny still wants to be friends with Louie, despite the breakup, Louie is reluctant. Regardless, Louie agrees to attend a Knicks game with Lenny, to basically fulfill his hanging-out requirement and then never see Lenny again.

When Lenny arrives at Louie’s apartment to take him to the basketball game, he brandishes his cop gun, using it as a toy. Louie is very unnerved by Lenny waving around his pistol, yet brushes off his childish, irresponsible behavior so they he can just get the night over with. As the pair walk to MSG to see the game, Lenny starts talking and never stops. He’s constantly talking about himself loudly, bringing up old memories which make Louie aggravated, and acts as a gigantic, pushy buffoon. Lenny is a veritable stream of talking; Louie hardly gets a word in edgewise and finally calls Lenny out about his embarrassing behavior and tries to go home early. Then Lenny’s world collapses; he realizes that he has lost his service pistol at some point during the evening and he completely implodes.

He frantically starts freaking out at Louie, raving that he cannot lose his gun. His life will be over, as losing a service pistol is one of the only ways that a cop can be fired. Without his gun, and the identity of a cop which it affords, Lenny is nothing and he is sickeningly aware of that. He knows that he is an annoying, brutish person; one who people actively avoid. Lenny doesn’t want to be a loser, so at least the profession of a cop can give him an identity; if his gun is lost, he will be too. The way in which Lenny rips apart Louie’s apartment to locate the gun and then starts screaming, crying and hitting himself, sobbing that his is stupid, is agonizing. If Lenny did have his pistol at that very moment of ultimate depression, he would have put it to his temple.  Realizing this terrifying fact, Louie commands Lenny to stay put and he will fix things.

The conclusion of this episode shows Louie retracing his steps and miraculously finding the gun undisturbed on the sidewalk. A little comic relief is employed in this section, as Louie awkwardly tries to conceal the gun and even drops it in front of a crowd of cops who luckily do not notice it. When Louie returns to his apartment, he shows Lenny he has found the gun and that all is not lost.  Lenny then tackles Louie into a hug and crushes him to the floor sobbing with relief. Louie cradles Lenny the broken man-child and strokes his back lightly with the gun still in his hand. This final image is highly affecting as the hug is an apology to Lenny; a way to make him feel there can be solace. The aptitude with which C.K. can cut to the bone of human frailty and also serve up a tender closure is the hallmark of this superior program. Louie is not laugh-out-loud funny, it is better than that. This episode is a fine illustration that surrealism employed in comedy can lay bare our most overwhelming feelings of failure and help us explore our hidden inner lives.

Happy Friday: Treme returns to HBO…eventually

treme_hbo1It has been announced that David Simon’s Treme will return to HBO in December 2013 for it’s final season.  Only five episodes of the New Orleans- after-Katrina program will be aired.  Read more here to find out the particulars.  Since the return has been pushed back again I urge you to borrow the previous seasons at your local library in the meantime and catch up, if you haven’t watched it yet.  I have a feeling that not many have watched this show, as I usually get blank stares when I mention it or people say, “It’s boring”. Admittedly, the show does not have the swiftest narrative, but it pays off if you stick with it.  The musical performances alone are enough to keep you watching; fantastic stuff. The cast is also exceptional; John Goodman, Khandi Alexander, Wendell Pierce, Clarke Peters, Steve Zahn and my personal favorite Phyllis Montana LeBlanc.  Ms. LeBlanc appeared in Spike Lee’s documentary When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts and told her story of the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.  This is her first acting job and she knocks it out of the park. Treme is a little fish that swims in the sea of flash that dominates the serious television world.  But it is the prettiest of them all.