Tag Archives: Twin Peaks

Over on AC: 9 Directors Who Can Replace David Lynch on “Twin Peaks”

This sort of article is often treated as a quick toss-off for writers. That’s always annoyed me. A critic will name the first few directors that pop into their head regardless of how appropriate they are.

To me, it’s an opportunity to introduce to you directors you may not know yet. Sure, you’ll recognize Darren Aronofsky and David Cronenberg, but other names I suggest might not be as familiar.

An article like this should end up with more names off the list than make it on. It shouldn’t be word association with director’s names. So here’s my take on who should replace David Lynch now that he’s exited Twin Peaks. Click over for my article on Article Cats. I think you’ll be surprised at some of my suggestions:

9 Directors Who Can Replace David Lynch on “Twin Peaks”

– Gabe

Wednesday Collective — Films of Excess, Black Widow, & All Your Ark Are Belong To Us

ARTICLE OF THE WEEK
The Cinema of Excess
Izzy Black

Wolf Excess lead

This article. Dear lord, this article. Last year was a banner year for characters who rejoiced in their own excess – in Spring Breakers, The Bling Ring, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Great Gatsby, and The Counselor, just to name a few. These are movies that “speak to the false, illusory, or destructive promise of the American dream,” to quote Izzy Black.

By comparing The Wolf of Wall Street to American Psycho, Black highlights the qualities that separate the new genre of excess from satire and anti-consumerism films – a lack of judgmentalism on the part of the director, a use of formal techniques to emphasize the sensory overload of debauchery over the comfort of glamor, and the use of montage and monologue voice-over as a sort of infinite accounting by sensory barrage. She even dips into music’s recent entries in the genre – covering Kanye West, Lana Del Rey, and Lorde.

Black’s article makes so many points I’ve circled around for ages but struggled to put words to. It is an insanely well-studied and comprehensive piece. Cinephiles get reading. This is one of the best pieces of film writing we’ve seen this year.

Reviewing Black Widow
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

This Season's Underslung Grenade Launcher

I’ve made it a priority never to review a woman’s performance in a film differently than I would a man’s. There are obvious exceptions, such as when those differences are crucial to a movie’s themes, but in the case of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Scarlett Johansson could play the Captain and Chris Evans could play Black Widow and it wouldn’t make a jot of difference to the plot.

I’m not here to review a woman’s sexiness. If your eyes and your brain can’t do that much on their own, you’ve got bigger fish to fry. What Johansson is wearing ought to make as much difference to me as a critic as what Evans is. In fact, less so – his costume change gets its own scene, starring Stan Lee. Besides, I’m pretty sure Black Widow’s most notable accessories were an assault rifle and a jet plane.

So here’s where I’d take the majority of mainstream critics to task for reviewing Black Widow’s wardrobe over her function in the plot or Johansson’s excellent performance…except Gavia Baker-Whitelaw already did at The Daily Dot. I highly suggest you read her compilation and condemnation of so much of the sexist laziness and celebrity-revue-as-criticism we so regularly rail against here.

Lessons from The Wind Rises
Qina Liu

Jiro and paper airplane_out

Qina Liu has a treasure trove of deep, intelligent, heartfelt reviews. She blends a broad analytical knowledge of theatre and literature with a passion and storytelling ability that gets her reviews to that next level, where they themselves become pieces of social commentary and art.

Storytelling is about giving your reader all the information they’ll need for that one perfect sentence that hits them in the gut, without ever letting them know that’s what you’re doing. Liu has that ability in spades. She does it succinctly to make a cultural point about The Wind Rises and she draws her reading of August: Osage County into a dreamlike contemplation on family and death that reflects and expands on the themes of the film itself.

I discovered her this week and already she’s leapt to the top of my list of fellow critics.

TV’s Love of Dead Women
Sarah Marshall

Twin Peaks (ABC) 1990 - 1991 Created by David Lynch Shown: Kyle MacLachlan

This is a fascinating article that picks apart the trope of that eternal, plot-driving mystery of the murdered woman. Sarah Marshall at New Republic deconstructs its use on Twin Peaks, a TV show that used that mystery to drive its first season but plummeted into ratings obscurity once her killer was found.

Marshall juxtaposes the comfort we have in publicly mourning the loss of a dead woman – even if she’s just on a TV show – against the difficulty we have in coming to terms with details of her life that don’t match our preconceptions. By doing so, she calls out a lazy cliché relied upon far too heavily in TV storytelling, and whose time has passed.

Captain America vs. The Tyranny of “Dark”
Ross Lincoln

Captain Falcon Punch

Here’s why you should read this article: “Captain America is, at his core, someone who believes, really believes, in the potential for goodness in people, in the values America purports to represent, and in basic concepts like personal freedom, equality, and fair play. He isn’t a ‘my country, right or wrong’ kind of person, he’s a ‘my country can and should be better’ kind of person. If there’s any period from US History he embodies, it isn’t the Nixon years, it’s the New Deal.”

What Wednesday Collective Gets Wrong About Wednesdays and Collectives
Sam Adams

Noah build

A few weeks ago, I foolishly clicked on an article Huffington Post blatantly ripped off of Politico. It was titled “What Noah Gets Wrong About the Bible.” I waited eight years for Huffington Post to load 765 separate ads and finally read an article in which the writer clearly demonstrated his vast and boundless ability to not know anything about the Bible. He also didn’t know how to interpret a film any way but literally, which is your last priority when going to see an Aronofsky flick like Noah, but that’s secondary.

Critic Sam Adams isn’t a big fan of this type of article. He argues that articles about the X number of things that Y gets wrong about Z should be banished to the Seventh Circle of Hell (that’s Dante, not the Bible, for those keeping score. Please don’t interpret Dante literally, you’ll hurt yourself.) Adams argues that movies and TV shows aren’t often meant to be accurate depictions of what they cover. An article about what absurdist comedy Veep gets wrong about the vice-presidency is clearly useless.

I’d suggest these types of articles aren’t particularly factual either. They’re assigned in a day. Critics need to tell their audience when they don’t know something, not pretend they do. Informational inaccuracy in movies comes in so many forms, it needs to be treated like a disease – you need to find the right specialist in every genre.

For instance, click on Huffington Post and you’ll learn that Noah never had an adopted daughter who was barren but then later had children. What deep analysis. How dare Aronofsky and Russell Crowe make something up like that! Anger, anger, pitchforks & torches.

Click on the link of someone who’s studied the material and you may learn that the orphan is drawn from Korean flood mythology and that her barrenness is an analogue for Abraham’s wife Sarah, who in the Old Testament was barren until God gifted her with Isaac, who God then demanded Abraham sacrifice. How 10,000 critics missed that Crowe’s Noah is playing Abraham the last half of Noah is beyond me, but that’s why you find the right specialist in every genre. Let me recommend a good one:

Forget about Noah, it’s time for Russian Ark
A. E. Larsen

Russian Ark

Look at that segue. Here’s yet another stellar article from An Historian Goes to the Movies. This time, Larsen passionately implores you to see Russian Ark, an intricate movie containing 300 years of Russian history and filmed using 2,000 actors and 3 orchestras in 33 rooms across a single 96-minute take in Russia’s Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. I’m guilty of not having seen it myself, but I’m pretty sure I just got convinced.

Disfigurement Stigma and Under the Skin
Elizabeth Day

Adam Pearson

Day reports on her interview with Adam Pearson, an actor with disfiguring growths on his face. He discusses how his new film with Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin, helps to isolate preconceptions we hold about those who look different from the norm.

Should You Watch? ‘Resurrection’

RESURRECTION
The Returned”
“Unearth”

Resurrection 4

I’m going to answer this one up front. Should you watch? Yes. Absolutely, unequivocally yes. Job done? Great. Let me count the reasons.

#1: The Purpose

Resurrection 2

Resurrection is a fantasy drama based off a simple concept. What if the dead started coming back to life? We’re not in zombie territory here. The show opens with a little boy, Jacob, waking up in a field in China, not knowing where he was or how he got there. In Resurrection, the dead simply walk back into our lives just as they were the day they left us. They may resurrect on the other side of the world and we may be older by years, but they haven’t sensed the time pass that we have, and they’re just as disoriented by what’s happened as we are.

How do you react? How do they cope? Can you pick up where you left off? Do you trust that they are who they say they are, or do you still question even when DNA tests and interviews all confirm the impossible? Is it a miracle or something more sinister?

From the first moment, the show has a sense of purpose, of where it’s going. Its mysteries make it feel momentarily like a Lost-alike, while its setup – that of an ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) agent investigating an increasingly odd situation in a closeted small town – is reminiscent of the brilliant Twin Peaks. The way its proceduralism bounces off the town’s denizens and the stabilizing presence of Omar Epps can’t help but remind you of House, M.D., too.

#2: Epps, Kelley, & Utopian Sci-Fi

Resurrection Epps Kelley

Epps plays J. Martin Bellamy. He serves as an analogue for audiences, a trustworthy way to access the plot. Epps’s calm presence may have bounced him out as a movie star – Hollywood still doesn’t trust African-Americans to act as narrative guides – but he’s made for TV. The more reliable the anchor, the more bizarreness can storm the plot he’s holding down, and Epps oozes the kind of reliability that we look for in many supernatural and sci-fi shows.

Dr. Maggie Langston (Devin Kelley) is the little boy Jacob’s cousin. She acts as Martin’s eyes and ears in town. Kelley has the same strong, striking feel that Olivia Wilde did on House, though with a better behaved character. This is no mistake. It makes the House comparison feel all the more natural. Since Epps played the only sane character on that medical drama, it’s easier for viewers to give Epps even more benefit of the doubt. It’s a shortcut into solidifying the audience’s reliance on Epps and to trusting a pretty quick friendship between Martin and Maggie – this is Smart-as-Hell Casting 101.

It also means that whichever way they go with Martin – keeping him as our anchor or pulling the rug out from under us – they’ve very quickly earned the kind of equity in the character that other shows take a season to develop.

Leaving my mixing of metaphors behind, such reliable protagonists are not always the stuff from which TV legends are made. We love our bad boys and feisty girls because we want to tune in every week to see if they get fixed – look no further than the approach Believe, the rest of House, or Lost itself took. In fact, when it comes to sci-fi, you can pretty accurately judge whether something is forward-looking utopian or near-future dystopian by the protagonist – is he or she already redeemed or seemingly irredeemable? Resurrection uses Epps and Kelley as much as the writing itself to communicate a central hope and comfort in the face of the unknown.

#3: The Casting

Resurrection 7

Frances Fisher and Kurtwood Smith play Henry and Lucille Langston, Jacob’s parents. As the first family experiencing someone who has returned – Jacob died 32 years ago – they become pariahs in their community. Lucille picks up right where she left off three decades back, thankful for the second chance. It’s clear she never fully dealt with Jacob’s death. Henry made peace with it however, and fell in love with the memory of his dead son. To him, loving this new Jacob represents a betrayal of the old one.

Most shows of this type rush ahead with the plot, but Resurrection doesn’t feel the need to go quite as fast. It’s genuinely interested in its characters, and takes the time to show them thinking and reflecting in quiet, non-dramatic ways. It’s a unique approach – as good as it was, Lost changed the game for mystery box TV shows. They were suddenly packed with action, plot, and discovery. If characters got emotional, it was about love interests and betrayals of trust, and not about how hard life is already without being stuck on an island to die or facing your dead son of 32 years. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but it’s nice to see a show with a central supernatural mystery that finds time for its characters to process emotions like adults, rather than constantly acting out.

Fisher’s had guest roles on just about everything, and Smith played the dad on That 70’s Show. You’ll be surprised by Smith. Bryan Cranston’s shift from just being the goofy dad on Malcolm in the Middle to becoming a ruthless drug kingpin on Breaking Bad ought to show you that many of those thankless, pigeonholed comedy roles are the most difficult and overlooked on TV. If you can communicate emotion when playing a one-lining stereotype, you can certainly communicate it once you get your shot at a drama. Fisher and Smith both get their turns to be heartbreaking – she somehow does in a look what some actors can’t do in their entire lives – and the show is certainly willing to trust its actors more than most do. Landon Giminez also deserves credit as Jacob. He’s more interesting and far less cloying than most child actors on TV.

Resurrection cleverly gives us characters of all types – Martin is a federal official, albeit a humane one. It’s mentioned in passing that Henry was an architect. Maggie’s a doctor. Jacob’s uncle (Maggie’s father) is Sheriff Fred Langston (Matt Craven). Of course, he doesn’t like Martin. Jacob’s best friend growing up, Tom (Mark Hildreth), is now the town’s pastor. While a bit obvious, it’s a smart way of letting the show explore how people who follow different paths and beliefs react to an event that seems miraculous. The time the show takes with its characters and the leeway it gives its actors does a lot to quickly evolve them from archetype to fleshed-out, unique individuals.

This is, simply put, the best job of casting on television right now. Casting director Deborah Aquila, who typically casts moderately-budgeted (but superstar-laden) action movies like the Underworld series, Red, and The Expendables, has recently moved into TV with this and the upcoming Black Box. She deserves a lot of credit for her work here.

#4: The Style, The Style, The Style

Resurrection 8

Resurrection drips in elegance, and I don’t mean ballgowns and tuxedos. Arcadia, Missouri evokes the feelings of sunrise and sunset, of those brief hours when we let our guard down and get home from work or school and daydream the fantasy of how well we’ll spend the little free time we have. It’s hopeful and reflective. It understands the calm and quiet obsessions of American suburbia, even how nature plays into the repeated architecture as relief. It hints at the magic hour that turns those afternoon fantasies from hopeful to threatening.

This is smartly done sci-fi soap drama. It knows what it wants us to feel, but at the same time it feels like a curious creation that’s genuinely invested in mining for something deeper. It occasionally borders on schmaltzy, but dramas dream of doing schmaltz this effective.

A lot of shows feel episodic because the tone changes from one director to the next, from one writer to the next. There’s a clear purpose and a guiding hand to this show’s priorities. It carries within it the possibility to overwhelm at a moment’s notice, to make you catch a lump in your throat that lasts an entire commercial break, to make you recatch that lump on some completely other day when you briefly remember some passing detail, some moment of quiet shared with a character struggling to process life. Resurrection is exciting in its ideas, genuine in its emotion, and it puts its actors first and foremost – even before the show’s central mystery – in a way TV typically doesn’t. It’s a rare combination.

Should You Watch?

Without a doubt, yes.

Resurrection 6

Resurrection airs on ABC Sundays 9 p.m. Eastern, 8 p.m. Central. You can watch it on Hulu here, or on ABC’s site here, as well as other streaming platforms.