TV Thread

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Re: TV Thread

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Tue Aug 22, 2017 4:14 am

The Defenders is not very good, you guys.

Watchable, full of good little moments, but not very good at all.

And it needed to be.

Someone on Twitter called it, Marvel drastically overestimates how interesting ninjas are, again.

I said this about Daredevil season 2, about The Wolverine, and about what DC's been doing, but you can't make a connected cinematic universe out of whatever Frank Miller was doing in the 80s.

I know we're only getting round to adapting this stuff into movie form now, but it's been old hat for 30 years now. The Daredevil ninja stuff was endlessly parodied by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Tick and others. It's a cliche, and this series is almost nothing but cliches without a real sense of humor about itself. Characters unironically say stuff like "We're not so different, you and I."

It's boring, and continues the winning Netflix formula of boring you for a half hour and then doing something interesting at the very end to make you keep watching the next episode. I find it's very easy to bail on these Netflix shows halfway through an episode. Not so much at the end.

Daredevil, season 1, felt like a gamechanger, and a contender for the best thing Marvel had done. All the characters had real depth and the villain was just as interesting as the heroes. Jessica Jones was arguably better, again with a memorable villain, complex hero and great supporting cast.

I'm losing more interest with each subsequent series. Luke Cage I watched most of, and ought to finish, but the formula was definitely showing. Luke Cage himself had a curious conservative streak as a character at times, concerned about respectability and policing the behavior of others. It's no surprise that the character used to be a police officer. Season 2 of Daredevil, which I didn't get through either, went full Frank Miller. Lots of ninja action, a version of Elektra which made very little sense as a character, and a curiously conservative subtext typical of Miller's work. Daredevil is all about punching street-level crime to "clean up the city" - the Batman formula, admittedly done better here than in any live action Batman film. What soured things for me was The Punisher. An effective version of the character, he's introduced almost like a horror movie villain, terrorizing a hospital with automatic weapons. He's a vigilante killer, and mentally unhinged, and the characters then jump through hoops making apologies for him and saying he's a good guy really. (Karen, in particular, setting her up for a fall later.) I know he's a popular hero character, but in this context he made more sense as Daredevil's dark side, a character who took things too far. Daredevil has a moral code against killing. The Punisher does not. The whole thing started to bother me and I didn't finish the series, to be honest. I probably should have. The dark and gritty 90s antihero thing has been done and I'm not all that interested in seeing the solo Punisher series.

I didn't watch Iron Fist. I heard it wasn't great - the lead character in particular. For me, as an outside observer, this felt like Marvel making the same mistake I feel they made with Dr. Strange. Both Dr. Strange and Iron Fist are all about some dream of "exotic" Asian magic and mysticism, from a very American 60s and 70s perspective. It's all nonsense by any standard, but Dr. Strange appeared Asian in his first appearances and Iron Fist was inspired by the kung-fu films of Bruce Lee. It seems odd to tell a story about Asian magic starring a white guy, even though he's white in the comics. It was odd that Dr. Strange's only major Asian character was Benedict Wong, with Tilda Swinton very white as "The Ancient One."

Most comic book heroes are white guys, so it shouldn't feel weird having another white guy around. But in both cases the leads look out of place in their environment, and an Asian lead would have really made sense in a team setting.

It felt odd that "The Wolverine" was about Logan, a guy with superpowers who basically can't be killed, murdering thousands of Japanese guys onscreen. Superman wouldn't have done that. At one point his female sidekick literally plows through these guys with a snowblower, crushing them into mulch.

Superheroes fighting an endless stream of interchangable ninjas isn't all that interesting, especially since we've seen parodies of this going back 30 years now. (Try to watch "The Hand" and "Stick" without thinking of "The Foot" and "Splinter" from the Ninja Turtles series.) Then again, the Avengers fighting a generic alien menace wasn't that interesting either, so it's how you spin it.

Having that many ninjas around does give us, in theory, a lot of good fight scenes. But for the most part it's all the problems the previous Netflix shows have had. It's dark and dreary and hard to see, and the action constantly cuts so some of it is a mess. Some of it is impressive, but it also forgets that Daredevil's most interesting moments as a fighter weren't about being good at fighting. They were about how wounded he was, but refusing to give up.

We sort of get that as Matt confronts Elekta, who is still a deeply strange character here. In truth, bringing all these characters together has only amplified all their problems and removed what was actually interesting about their respective series. In their solo shows, we got a lot of character development, and got to spend a lot of time with their very strong supporting casts.

There are only scattered moments here where Matt, Jessica, and Luke show the same charm they showed in their own shows. Charlie Cox was perfect casting as Daredevil but this series doesn't stop to let him really be interesting. Krysten Ritter's Jessica Jones has somehow become straight-up unlikeable here, a flawed but multidimensional character being reduced to snarking and complaining about not wanting to be there. Mike Colter's Luke Cage benefits the most from these worlds being brought together. Luke turns on the charm, reminding us that he has had interesting romantic and personal relationships with Claire Temple, Jessica Jones, and Misty Knight, and they bring out the best in each other. Jessica tends to come alive in these scenes, when she's otherwise a brick wall of snark. There's also a scene with Jessica and Matt, talking to a teenage girl, where she shows she understands Matt and his guilt. Jessica's guilt and trauma is the most interesting thing about her, and The Defenders rarely shows Jessica as a more complex character.

I haven't mentioned Finn Jones as Danny Rand/Iron Fist, because he's largely insufferable. Just unlikeable and doesn't come off well as an actor. He's not awful all the time, but often enough that you don't forgive him for it. Stick, at one point, calls him a "dumbass." Luke Cage has a very memorable scene calling Danny out on his white privilege. Colter's Cage almost redeems Danny as a character, because the two are set up to have a friendship, and you can believe that, even though Colter's likeability is doing all the work.

Sigourney Weaver is predictably, solidly good as the lead villain, but doesn't steal the show as Vincent D'Onofrio stole Daredevil and David Tennant stole Jessica Jones. I was reminded more of Mahershala Ali in Luke Cage - a very memorable villain who the show is not actually about.

These shows have leaned hard on their supporting characters to fill time. But this show has the opposite problem. There are a lot of great, well-cast characters here who it's good to see again, but who aren't given much to do, because the show is already packed with characters and doesn't need them that much in eight episodes.

The long-underrated Rosario Dawson remains a reliably wonderful presence as Claire Temple, former night nurse who keeps turning up in these shows. She's mostly just Luke's love interest here, but comes across very winningly in that context. She also shares scenes with Colleen Wing whenever the show doesn't know what to do with either of them. Colleen is apparently either Iron Fist's love interest or his babysitter, or both, and a martial arts hero in her own right. She's a much better character than Danny, but that's still a low bar to hit. I didn't actually notice that Colleen and Danny were supposed to be love interests until the end of the series.

Other supporting cast feel underused. This show reminded me of my serious crush on Rachael Taylor as Patsy (Trish) Walker, aka Hellcat from the comics (or Patsy in a line of older teen romance comics). Patsy's not in it much.

I've been iffy about Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson, at least in large doses, but he's definitely not overused here, and adds some much-needed drama to the proceedings.

I always like the lovely Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, and there always seems to be a more interesting character hinted at in her performance than the one she's actually playing. Daredevil season 1 introduced Karen in a tragic and traumatic way, setting her up to have something of a dark side. Sounds cruel to say, but it pays off to see Karen pushed to her breaking point, and those moments are rarer now.

(On a side note, I'm still mad that Daredevil season 1 killed off reliable supporting character Ben Urich, and to a lesser extent that other series have been killing off villains.)

At any rate, bringing these heroes together results in boredom at first rather than excitement. The directing doesn't pick up until episode 3, and the characters are too often reduced to the simplest versions of themselves. The strength of these series was how much they cared about and developed their characters. The shows are quite dull otherwise, by superhero standards, and the dull parts are mostly what we get here. The Defenders feels more comic-booky, but taking place over eight episodes rather than a feature. It drops the ball pretty heavily with Jessica Jones and Iron Fist so the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

At times, it really clicked with me just what the show is missing. There are a couple of little scenes at the police precinct with Claire and Colleen, which are just talking about who they are, and basically filler, but that's the sort of thing these shows have normally been about.

There are a bunch of little moments like that in The Defenders, but its larger attempt to compete with The Avengers as a superhero teamup falls flat. It seems small, and even small-minded, by comparison, combining all the failures of previous Netflix series into one, rather than multiplying their strengths. I wouldn't call it bad but it's hardly a triumph either. I like most of these characters a whole lot but I'm not sure I'll actually be tuning into future series. Maybe Jessica Jones, if only to try to remember what I liked about her, because she wasn't helping much here. And after this I'm not the least bit interested in Iron Fist.

I hope they're over this whole 80s Frank Miller thing. I hope they're over ninjas. I hope they move on to something new.
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Re: TV Thread

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Mon Sep 04, 2017 2:49 am

Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. Originally a 2001 film spoofing movie cliches at a summer camp in 1981, from David Wain and company (of The State, and Stella). The movie was not a widely seen hit at the time, but became a cult favorite and was revived for a 2015 Netflix series, "First Day of Camp," which reunited the all-star cast as much as it could, and brought along some additional big name stars.

"Ten Years Later" isn't as good as the 2015 series, but it's pretty good. There are a lot of funny moments, just not enough to fill eight episodes. As before, the series is full of some of the best comedic actors working today, and to its credit it sticks the landing. There's a ton that happens in the final episode, the joke being that everyone's storyline gets resolved at once, and none of it makes much sense. It's funny to watch.

The original film played it straight, so this is supposed to be a subtler kind of comedy than Childrens Hospital or Stella, which go for the laughs harder. There's a fine line between that subtlety and boredom, and some of the storylines aren't that funny, like new characters Mark (Mark Feurestein) and Claire (Sarah Burns), a couple paired up with Zak Orth, now a wannabe filmmaker with a camcorder pining for Claire. The cliches come across really sharply, but not all of it lands as comedy.

I was happier with the more over the top scenes. Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black are great as the villains, Presidents Reagan and Bush. Chris Meloni uses his physicality really well as weirdo chef Gene. H. Jon Benjamin returns as a can of vegetables, revealed in the 2015 series to be what's left of a camp counselor named Mitch. Here, the scenes are clearly written for a human being who's had an accident rather than a can of vegetables, which is a good gag. It's also nice to have Chris Pine back and Jason Schwartzmann, in the same storyline.

The all-star cast means that scheduling was tricky, for both Netflix series, and at times it shows. David Hyde Pierce had his own storyline in the 2015 series, but was otherwise absent. Here he phones in a brief cameo toward the end. In the 2015 series, Bradley Cooper had some scheduling issues and is basically absent from the very end of the series. Here, his character is replaced by Adam Scott, still romantically linked to Michael Ian Black, who is suspicious of their new nanny, Alyssa Milano. It's not a hugely interesting storyline but Black and Scott really go for it and wring real laughs out of it, and it also gives Sarah Burns something else to do.

You have to wonder which odd decisions here were because of scheduling. Joe Lo Truglio is absent from a lot of the action. Paul Rudd's Andy walked away with the 2015 series, stealing lots of scenes, but isn't very interesting here. You get the feeling he wasn't around much. Janeane Garofalo doesn't get a ton to do either.

Elizabeth Banks' Lindsay, revealed as an undercover reporter in the 2015 series, is funny when she shows up. Ken Marino's Victor is still a likeable, desperate virgin, paired here with Statemates Lo Truglio and Wain, and Lake Bell.

Michael Showalter's Coop and Marguerite Moreau as Katie are still at the center of the show, and get some laughs, but also left me checking my watch. As in the 2015 series, Coop is visibly older and fatter than in the original film, and they splice in footage from 2001 anyway, including one important shot toward the end. Bradley Cooper also turns up in photos only.

"Ten Years Later" is something of a case of diminishing returns, but it's still just funny enough to get you through eight episodes. I'd recommend it, but I'd recommend the previous series first.
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Re: TV Thread

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Mon Sep 04, 2017 9:46 am

Leave it to David Lynch to deliver exactly the resolution we've been waiting for for 25 years, cut it short and then add an entire extra episode whose meaning is very difficult to discern.

Twin Peaks, which lasted two seasons before its cancellation in 1991, is a strong contender for greatest television series of all time. It proved that television could be high art, and is a precursor to most of today's prestige television. Many more straightforward network shows that followed also owe a lot to Twin Peaks - most obviously The X-Files and Northern Exposure.

In the second to last episode, the Laura Palmer spirit said, "I'll see you again in twenty-five years." And it took just over twenty-five years for Twin Peaks to return, for Twin Peaks: The Return. Season 3 has been a fascinating ride, often frustrating, and often wonderful. The original series left off on a frustrating cliffhanger. If I'm feeling charitable I could say that The Return answers the questions that cliffhanger posed, and provides the ending that fans were waiting for for 25 years. I could also point out that season 1 of Twin Peaks, in 1990, provided nine hours of all-time classic television, and that season 3 of Twin Peaks provides exactly the same.

The catch to this is that season 3 is eighteen episodes long. At least half of that running time is wonderful, and much of it is frustrating, and I doubt that fans will fully agree on which half is which. Most of the original series main cast return at some point, and it's wonderful to see them again, but they're also frustratingly underused for the most part, and their storylines are mostly left unresolved, bringing up a lot more questions than the series even begins to answer.

The finale to The Return sums the situation up best. Finally, after twenty-five years, fans of the series get the conclusion, the showdown, the story resolution they've wanted all this time. But it doesn't quite work out as planned. And then there's a whole entire episode after that whose meaning is tough to fathom, and which can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. It's frustrating to watch, consciously so. The entire series is.

It's also great television. And as frustrating as it is, David Lynch has never been in the business of handing out easy answers to the questions his work poses.

The original series ended in the most frustrating way possible too. I'm surprised that Lynch managed to top that.

Twin Peaks is a collaboration between David Lynch and Mark Frost. The series revolved around Special Agent Dale Cooper, assigned to solve the murder of high school student Laura Palmer. It gradually becomes clear that Palmer was targeted by forces outside of the known, conscious, human world, and that there is a deep sorrow and darkness poisoning the small town of Twin Peaks, Washington. Lynch had never wanted to solve the case and reveal Laura Palmer's killer, but there was a lot of pressure to do so from the network, from the media, and from fans. The show had become a fad, a phenomenon. The story of Laura's killer came to an end in episode 16. During the 22-episode second season, Lynch was also filming Wild At Heart, and his attention was not always focused on Twin Peaks at all. The general public gradually lost interest, and it seemed Lynch had lost interest too.

While the back half of season two is still excellent television, there were a lot of unfortunate and embarrassing storylines as well. The show was a quirky, often comedic small town soap opera with a dark supernatural side, and that very specific tone was easy to get wrong. Without David Lynch, Mark Frost's Twin Peaks was a bit more literal. The quirkiness was over the top at times, and tales of alien abduction anticipated what The X-Files would do later.

When Lynch came back fully to write and direct episodes, his goal was really to destroy the show, to shatter it into little pieces. Not out of any hatred for the show, but to take it in a different direction. Twin Peaks tended to settle into a rhythm of being a quirky drama and comedy, then Lynch would shatter that illusion with something more off-putting and bizarre. The rest of the writers would then have to explain that, whatever strange events had just happened, in a more real-world way.

David Lynch is the greatest surrealist filmmaker in cinema history. His films work on dream logic. Lynch understands that a feature film is a dream we all have together in the darkness, and that scenes don't have to make logical sense as long as they make sense emotionally. Lynch's work, at its best, is raw emotion, and will haunt your dreams in a way that very few films can.

Lynch loves his characters as much as we do, but he's also not in the business of giving the viewer exactly what they want. When Lynch returned for the season 2 finale of Twin Peaks, he knew the show had been cancelled, and that season 2 had been full of storylines he'd had no part in creating, and had no interest in working with further.

The season 2 finale is a work of deliberate sabotage on Lynch's part, intended to frustrate the viewer, and terrify them. He created tense situations and wasted time showing an old man walking slowly across the room. He took the most likeable characters and put them in a cliffhanger where you'd never know if they were alive or dead. He spent much of the running time in the Red Room, the show's most surreal location. And finally, he provided viewers with a worst case scenario, where evil has won. Every viewer's reaction was, "It can't possibly end that way! There has to be a season 3!"

There wasn't. Lynch was able to make a feature film, Fire Walk With Me. It might even be the best of his feature films, a highlight in an already incredible career. But even fans of the series largely hated it at the time. It answered almost none of the questions posed by the finale, and had very little to do with most of the beloved characters from the TV show. Lynch had filmed scenes with many characters, and not included them. The film as released was about Laura Palmer herself, who we hadn't really gotten to know in the TV series. We knew her as a photograph of a prom queen, a dead body, a good girl gone bad. Not much more than a meme. Here, in the performance of her career, Sheryl Lee is raw emotion and pain as the high schooler going down a dark spiral of drugs, crime and being targeted for rape and murder by the man she trusted most, and by spirits from another world who have poisoned this one in search of pain and suffering.

Here, Laura Palmer is more than a victim. She is a rollercoaster of emotion who fights back against the darkness poisoning her life until her very dying breath. Dale Cooper is barely in the film as released, but his presence seems to provide Laura with a peace, a redemption, a heavenly end after her hell on earth. We realize that Dale Cooper was Laura's angel all along, or tried to be.

For fans of the series, the film is still frustrating in how much it leaves unresolved.

For decades there were rumors of deleted scenes from Fire Walk With Me which involved the original TV cast, many of whom aren't otherwise in the film. There were rumors that deleted scenes went into more depth about the mysteries that otherwise went unresolved. The fate of Cooper. The convenience store. Philip Jeffries.

In 2014, The Missing Pieces was finally released, a nearly 90 minute film of material deleted from Fire Walk With Me. It's all quite wonderful, and important to the Twin Peaks mythos, and clearly deleted only so that the final film could focus entirely on Laura Palmer. It was the right decision for the film, but the deleted material, once released, must be considered almost equally important to the overall mystery of Twin Peaks.

During Fire Walk With Me, David Lynch and Kyle MacLachlan were having something of a falling out. Cooper is not the star of the film, and it's surprising to see more of him in the deleted scenes, as his absence seemed like a scheduling issue. I'm going to get more into spoiler territory now, but you've read this far. Most of Cooper's part, as filmed, is set well before the events of the Twin Peaks TV series. But every scene also takes into account what happens at the end of the series, where an evil version of Cooper escapes from the Lodge, possessed by the killer Bob. Cooper is an old-fashioned good guy, all smiles and light. But the Fire Walk With Me Cooper is presented as something of an empty shell. He's creepy to watch, somehow, because we know how his story ends.

David Bowie's Philip Jeffries sees it too, pointing at Cooper, saying "Who do you think that is there?" The Jeffries sequence, in either the film or the Missing Pieces, is a strange scene presented in a purposely awkward way. It's also the film's most interesting scene from a lore standpoint, full of ideas which are key to Twin Peaks' supernatural backstory, and key to The Return.

The Return, as a sequel, is twenty-five years too late, and a bittersweet reunion. Members of the cast had passed away in the meantime, and others passed away during shooting and editing.

That includes David Bowie, who was unable to reprise the role of Philip Jeffries. We'd also lost Don Davis (Major Briggs) and Ray Silva (Bob). It's curious that in the Return we spend a lot of time tracking down these characters. Being unavailable, they become a great mystery for Lynch to unlock. He seems more interested in them than in actors who are still living and available.

They turn up in archive footage, as do most of the other missing cast members at some point. (Including the late Jack Nance.) Bowie's character is voiced by another actor and played by a tin machine.

Michael J. Anderson, The Little Man From Another Place (The Arm) has become paranoid and strange, and did not come back for The Return. He has been replaced with a tree. Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) has also not returned. She was replaced by Moira Kelly for the Fire Walk With Me film, and there was some controversy with her during the original series, where she was dating Kyle MacLachlan and had strong feelings that Cooper shouldn't date Audrey (who was supposed to be in high school).

Harry Truman, played by Michael Ontkean, does not return for The Return. Robert Forster appears instead, playing his brother. While Forster is great in the part, you wonder about Ontkean, who retired from acting years ago. In The Return, Harry is ill at home.

Warren Frost (Doc Hayward) passed away in February 2017, but filmed a small Skype scene for The Return.

Miguel Ferrer died after shooting, but shows no sign of it in his scenes, where he's quite wonderful. Catherine Coulson, who played the Log Lady, Margaret Lanterman, had been a longtime friend of David Lynch. She died of cancer in 2015, but not before filming several haunting scenes for The Return. Lynch's grief is evident - we are watching him watch a friend die onscreen, and it's heartbreaking.

Maybe Lynch waited too long to bring Twin Peaks back, or maybe he waited just long enough. It's clear he couldn't have waited much longer. This only adds to the show's aura of mystery. We are floating between two worlds, watching characters and actors who are both living and dead.

In the Red Room, we see older versions of the late Leland Palmer, and Laura Palmer. Toward the end, we even see the young Laura Palmer again, thanks to what must be some major CGI trickery.

We meet an evil Cooper, who has spent twenty-five years possessed partly by Bob. We meet a sleepwalking Cooper as Dougie Jones, a suburban insurance examiner with a wife and son. Dougie is barely functional, and barely conscious. He needs to be led around and helped with everything. But thanks to Lynch's dream logic, no one finds his behavior all that odd, and they overlook it and treat him as a normal adult man. This is the good Cooper's dream. We spend a lot of time with Dougie, and for some he may overstay his welcome, but MacLachlan's blank-slate performance is never less than charming, just as his performance as the evil Cooper is chilling. MacLachlan is good at playing Lynch's idea of a hero or villain, in the wooden, old-fashioned mold. We do eventually see the Good Cooper, the character who starred in the original series, and whose return we've been waiting for all this time. But we don't see much of him. Lynch doesn't seem that interested in giving the viewer what they want, as far as Cooper goes. A little of that goes a long way, as if he's precious gold.

Then there's the Red Room Cooper, who I would argue is an entirely different Cooper. The idea that Cooper, trapped in the Lodge, is a walking question mark, an empty vessel, a blank slate who is neither good nor evil, seems to have come from Fire Walk With Me, and this mode of acting informs most of Cooper's work in the Return. He is mostly silent, and when he speaks it is with neither the energy of Good Cooper nor the malevolence of Evil Cooper. He is just asking questions. Investigating. Talking careful, deliberate steps through a dream world, into the real world. We assume that this is Good Cooper, but a similar version of Cooper leaves the Lodge at the end of the series.

I believe it is a different Cooper, this Lodge Cooper, who stars in the final episode. We assume that this is Good Cooper but he seems more like a Question-Mark Cooper, with no inherent morality. Diane's reaction suggests that both Coopers may be present in him, or that he's somewhere inbetween, some grey area. His actions at Judy's are somewhere inbetween what Good and Evil Cooper would do under the circumstances, and he can see that the woman who looks like Laura Palmer is not clearly evil or good either. She's looking for a way to get out of town and run away from consequences.

The ending to Good Cooper's story already felt like a dream, triggered by looking at the eyeless Asian woman, who may or may not be Diane. Diane appears suddenly with a red wig instead of white, like a human Red Room. It goes with her black and white painted fingernails.

What we see, in the final episode, is a world being rewritten. Rules being changed. A world in which people and places are different from what we're used to. I believe that all of this is shot and acted in a very deliberate way so that we're only about 50% sure who and what we're looking at. Cooper, Laura and even Diane appear as morally grey versions of themselves. When Cooper leaves the Lodge, he and the Red Diane ask each other if they're real. And it's hard to be sure.

11 minutes into the final episode, the acting turns flat. We're no longer sure what this Diane and this Cooper really think of one another. Is it love, or is it more complicated than that? Diane sees her own doppelganger at the Motel and we're not sure which one went into the room with Cooper. Diane and Cooper make love, and for this Diane it's a beautiful experience and also a painful, torturous one. It's hard to know for sure but the whole scene seems to play out as if Diane sees in Cooper the man she once loved, and also the evil man who violated her. She does all the work. He treats her with neither love nor hate. She can't bear to look at his face.

When he wakes up, it's in a different Motel entirely. Linda, if that's who she was, has left Richard ... her husband? It all feels a bit Lost Highway, where the world is changing all around us, as in a dream, but the feelings of guilt and pain linger underneath, even as the names and places and faces change. There's a lot of tension to the final episode, but it's still very dull compared to the catharsis of the previous episode.

Twin Peaks, The Return, often feels less like a sequel to Twin Peaks but a sequel to David Lynch's entire career, with elements of Mulholland Drive, Eraserhead and other films turning up, and actors he's worked with in other projects, like Naomi Watts and Laura Dern. Lynch has made very few films in the last two decades, notably Mulholland Drive (2001) and the shot-on-video Inland Empire (2006). He has been all but retired from filmmaking, and this could be his last project, the capper to his career as a filmmaker.

It could also lead to a fourth season of Twin Peaks that actually tackles the hundreds of plot threads he leaves dangling here. That seems less likely.

Throughout The Return, Lynch opens up a whole can of worms by bringing back characters from the original series and leaving their new stories unresolved. Even sadder, we get the sense that these stories can't resolve themselves - that the same mistakes keep coming back, causing new pain. Madchen Amick is still making bad romantic choices as Shelley Johnson, and so is her daughter. So is Donna's younger sister Gersten (Alicia Witt), who gets only two scenes to break your heart. You don't always get the feeling that Lynch gives much of a damn about these characters anymore, at least not enough to do a lot with them.

Like Fire Walk With Me was Laura's story, this is Cooper's story, even if the Cooper we knew is barely in it. So Lynch follows up most reliably on Cooper's story, while leaving a lot of other plot threads to be intriguing as all heck but somewhat unresolved.

Everyone fell in love with Audrey Horne on the old show and hoped she and Cooper could eventually be together. In the finale, Lynch blew her up, maybe. There was an explosion, left unresolved at the time. We didn't know if she was alive, dead, in a coma, paralyzed for life. Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) eventually shows up on The Return, but in a frustrating way which, amazingly, fails to answer any of those questions.

I hated Audrey's storyline in The Return at first but it grew on me as we saw more of her. To leave it on a cliffhanger is out there, even for Lynch.

Audrey's behavior in The Return is odd, and at first seemed to be a sign of Lynch's problematic handling of women. This has been criticized, especially in The Return. Candy Clark shows up as Sheriff Frank Truman's wife, whose entire part is screaming at him. Audrey seemed to come from the same mold, screaming at a peculiar-looking man who may be her husband or caretaker. This seemed to be reducing one of the original series' heroines to a mean, abusive wife in her middle age - although we then see it's more complicated than that. There's also Janey-E, Dougie's wife, played by Naomi Watts. Watts is a delight in the role, but she's also a real battleaxe, especially at first, and it takes time before we see more sides to her than that. Then there's a certain angry woman stuck in traffic. And Ashley Judd, with her disabled man at home and Ben Horne and another storyline that goes nowhere.

So it seems very easy for David Lynch to write the stereotype of a pushy, screaming, nagging wife, who uses her husband as a punching bag for her frustrations. There's more to these characters than that, but that's a side we see. It is worth noting at this point that Lynch has been divorced several times.

And of course we see a lot of women as victims of violence. That's pretty much constant here, as it was in the original series. Women are beaten, brutalized, raped, threatened and murdered, especially attractive young women. There's a horror movie element here, played straight, constantly. We see young women fall into a real spiral of drugs and bad romantic choices. What balances this out is Lynch's strong sense of morality. While he often depicts violence against women, he's also clear that for him, this is the most evil thing a human being can do. The violation and murder of Laura Palmer is the original sin which poisons Twin Peaks, or at least a symptom of it. It's said at one point that killer Bob might just be the evil that men do. The violence against women is never casual here. It's depicted as the deepest, darkest possible evil.

We see a lot of pretty young actresses who don't have much to contribute narratively. There are new characters at The Roadhouse in most episodes, who may or may not be part of Audrey's storyline. We never find out for sure. There are the three casino girls, in particular Candie, who became a breakout character because she's such a question mark. She's spaced-out, off in her own world, much like Dougie Jones is. She gets emotional, and the brothers keep her around because she has nowhere else to go. Possibly she was abused and has PTSD. The series doesn't go deeply into it.

David Lynch is cinema's greatest surrealist and experimental filmmaker. That side of him is on full display in The Return. He is also, apparently, a horny 71 year old man. Certainly his character is anyway. Lynch himself plays regional FBI director Gordon Cole, as he did in the original series. In season 2, Cole was shown to have a crush on Shelly Johnson, and here he takes an interest in agent Tammy Preston, played by singer Chrysta Bell. Bell's acting is less "FBI Agent" than "sexy vampire" and the show doesn't take her entirely seriously at first. Tammy and Gordon have a charming boss-and-mentor relationship onscreen that would also be true offscreen. Gordon Cole's other interests? He apparently has regular dreams about actress Monica Bellucci, who imparts cryptic wisdom as only she can. Cole also has a hotel-room meeting with the lovely Bérénice Marlohe, who takes too long to leave for Albert's liking. Cole is all charm with Denise Bryson (David Duchovny). And in the second to last episode Cole assures us that he hasn't gone "soft." So it's a running gag with Cole's character that he's a bit horny. This might fit in with the show generally portraying a lot of law enforcement officers as childish and silly in some way, occupied with something other than their jobs.

At any rate, we spend a lot of time with Gordon Cole and company. We spend a lot of time with Frank Truman, and of course with Cooper. We see Harry Dean Stanton as Carl Rodd, 91 with a heart of gold. And Bushnell Mullins. And Hawk. It isn't that surprising, coming from 71 year old David Lynch, that the older male characters in this show are given a lot of weight, gravitas and dignity in their scenes that the women and younger characters aren't afforded. Generally speaking. It's not a dealbreaker, and the show is still full of memorable women, but they're not treated with equal weight.

Lucy and Andy remain equally silly characters, maybe more so than they were in the original series, but that actually pays off later, to an extent. It also gives us Wally Brando, their son, in what is probably the revival's funniest scene. Michael Cera plays Wally, who was clearly an awkward kid who they doted over, and babied, and who has become a rebellious adult by imitating Marlon Brando generally.

We sit through a lot of strange, awkward stuff in The Return, and see actors who were brought back for no major narrative reason. Dr. Jacoby has become a Youtube broadcaster, basically a con artist, but Nadine loves him. We watch his spiel in two different episodes. We also see Big Ed and Norma get together, only twenty-five years late, with both actors being 71 years old now. In the meantime Everett McGill had retired from acting and not spoken to Lynch in 20 years. It took Lynch awhile to find him again.

We get just enough of the old cast that it feels like Twin Peaks, but that's spread pretty thin over the course of the entire series. I wanted to see more of the original series cast, including Shelly and Bobby. And I wanted more of the new storylines. Alicia Witt's one real scene is a highlight, and Amandra Seyfried's love life being as messed up as Shelly's was (and is) made for good moments of television. I wanted to know for sure what's going on with Audrey. I wanted to see more of the "real" Diane, as Laura Dern spends most of the time playing a darker, less trustworthy side of the character.

Lynch takes his time, to the point where he often seems to be wasting our time and delaying any real progress on the plot. It was very exciting later in the series when the plot threads started really coming together, especially in terms of Cooper. We don't get the "real" Cooper until very late in the game, and we don't hold onto him for long. Especially if the Driving Cooper in episode 18 isnt the Good Cooper. Or isn't just the Good Cooper. Or ... well, who knows?

In the end, Twin Peaks: The Return is a mixed bag. It's a strange collection of ideas which don't all work, and what works for some people won't work for others. About half of it is the most interesting television you'll see this year, although that's being generous. And a lot of the best ideas here don't actually pay off. You'd need another series to accomplish that, and David Lynch would probably ignore these stories anyway and spend the series doing something unexpected, and equally dazzling and frustrating.

At times it seems Lynch is explaining nothing, and at times he very clearly explains all the confusing, unexplained subtext from the original series and Fire Walk With Me. The Return will definitely be remembered for episode 8, a very experimental episode which departs from the usual plot threads entirely. It takes us back to 1945 and the Trinity atomic bomb test, which goes off in a dazzling CGI and experimental-film sequence. This is portrayed as America's Original Sin which birthed the evil of Bob. It's the start of a poison which infected our world. It's a masterful origin story for the evil that's been lurking behind Twin Peaks from the start. And its imagery is very specifically American. Canned corn, gas stations, men covered in soot and oil. This is the iconography of 50s and 60s America. And that's what David Lynch's work has always been about. David Lynch is someone who grew up in that idyllic world of small-town suburbia. His films always feel like they're set in the 1960s, regardless of when they were filmed. To portray evil through canned corn and gas and oil and the atomic bomb, these aren't random choices, and a lot could be said about them. A lot could also be said about violence toward women as his ultimate sin.

Blue Velvet (1986) now seems like the first prototype for all of Lynch's later work. It's a story of good and evil lurking behind those suburban fences, one as the flipside to the other. His idea of good is old-fashioned and corny, and subject to corruption. His idea of evil is haunting, and makes you think about the violence behind closed doors in many of those 50s marriages. That suburban prosperity - nice houses, green lawns, union jobs - was a band-aid over a larger problem. Young men had gone to war, in World War II and Korea, and come back with PTSD. They drank. They had anger and violence in them that they didn't know what to do with. Frank Booth is a man with a bottomless, childish rage and he's seeking an outlet for it, one way or another. Kyle MacLachlan's character is a naive young man turned on by the danger of it all, waking up to the wonders and horrors of the adult world.

Lynch has come a long way since then, and he's still telling the story of America. The good that's inside us, and the guilt and shame and genocide we were built on.

He's also still messing with us. Never giving us exactly what we want.

Twin Peaks: The Return is far from perfect, but about half of it will be what fans have been waiting for. The rest won't be. And I figure that's the way David likes it.
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Re: TV Thread

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Wed Sep 20, 2017 4:41 am

Bojack Horseman continues to tackle depression and angst better than any show on television, probably. It retains its wacky, surreal comedy side but gets very real. I've seen a lot of people advising others that "It's a great show, but don't watch it, because I'd have to talk you down from the ledge." If you're depressed, this show drills into your head.

The most interesting stuff in season 4 is about how trauma echoes across generations. Bojack's grandfather on his mother's side is played by Matthew Broderick. He's old-fashioned and oblivious to the damage he does, an original sin which poisons Bojack's mother, who in turn poisons others. Bojack has never been a good person really, but he's alarmingly relatable. He doesn't want to ruin his life and the lives of others, but his heart wants what his heart doesn't want. He's never really going to be happy. We end up understanding where Bojack's pain comes from better than he does. He looks for answers and finds a meaningless abyss, while we see a larger picture.

The only unrelatable thing about this show is that they're all rich, successful Hollywoo types. Their lives are frivolous, their problems not as real as all that. But their psychological pain and restless unhappiness is. They have the trappings of happiness but can't make their personal relationships work the way they need to. Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Amy Sedaris and Paul F Tompkins do their usual great work. Aaron Paul as Todd is basically just a comedic character this season, and I have to point out how funny his voice performance is. That deserves some appreciation.
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Re: TV Thread

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Fri Sep 22, 2017 1:10 pm

Rick and Morty is a smart show. It's also dark, and Dan Harmon and company seem to be using it to work through some stuff. The characters keep their flaws at the center and the writing empathizes with them, tinged with genuine self-loathing.

That can become a Rorscach test where fucked up people could see this as welcoming, saying that their bad behavior is an acceptable part of our society.

But I think that almost any edgy animated comedy is now going to attract an audience of horrible people. South Park and Family Guy laid that groundwork, where they seemed to be smart, edgy humor at first and then gradually lost the good will of anyone with empathy. They went down an edgy, bigoted, path of hyperactive white privilege where a certain kind of straight white male is their default and anyone who's "different" from that in any way is the butt of the joke. They had self awareness about that at first, but less so as the shows got more successful. These shows' legacy is now just a shared language for sick, broken Neo Nazi types to connect online and pretend they have a sense of humor. MacFarlane, Parker and Stone would hate that this is their legacy, and have noticed this somewhat even though these shows are clearly made from inside a goddamn bubble.

I worry about Rick & Morty becoming that. It's not -- it's remained an antidote to that sort of thing. But it's attracted some fucko fans, apparently. Rick and Morty is, I think, misunderstood, so it gets overblown, because people who don't get it are theorizing about who could possibly like this show. I've seen a lot of mainstream complaining about bad Rick and Morty fans, and I haven't actually seen a lot of bad Rick & Morty fans, though I get the appeal the show has to a bad person. But the complaints from the other side boil down to "This show is dumb actually" which is pathetic.

Bojack Horseman is a darker show covering similar ground, and there's no discussion of "bad Bojack fans." Maybe it's considered niche and prestige, considering its cast. Or maybe it's harder for bigots to misinterpret as being about how Bad Is Good Actually.
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Re: TV Thread

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Sat Sep 30, 2017 7:59 pm

There have been about twenty-seven TV shows pitched where the premise is, it's about some young X-Men mutants on the run, but not any of the famous ones.

Some of these shows are even pretty good.

Since FOX has the film rights to the X-Men, Marvel's version of that is, "It's about some Inhumans." We're already on show #2 of that.

And at least show #8 overall.

Just right now there's ...

Legion
The Gifted
X-Men: The New Mutants
Marvel's New Warriors
Marvel's Agents of SHIELD (later on with Inhumans/Quake)
Marvel's The Inhumans
Runaways

These are all current TV series (or coming soon). Am I missing anything?

Back in '96 there was Generation X.

X-folks are also up to six animated shows at least. 90s X-Men, Evolution, Wolverine, Pryde of the X-Men, an anime and Deadpool. (Probably some animated movies I don't know about.)

The wild thing, in terms of grey area situations, is that Marvel's New Warriors features (stars?) Squirrel Girl .... whose official status in the comics is identical to a mutant but legally distinct from one for reasons unstated. Yes, that's actually what they say. During a brief period with the Avengers she was older and seemed to have dated Wolverine. That's retconned now as she's maybe 20 in the North series, but this Squirrel Girl is also older on the TV show. (And probably not as "awesome" as her comic counterpart.)
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Re: TV Thread

Postby filmfan94 » Tue Oct 10, 2017 7:46 am

Batman: the Animated Series due to come out on Blu-Ray next year.

http://www.thedigitalbits.com/columns/m ... 00817-1530
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Re: TV Thread

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Sun Oct 15, 2017 7:59 pm

What every shot on film show should be doing.
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