Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Belladonna (But Not Stevie Nicks)

Short version: Hi, look at another video I made.

Long version: If you haven’t already seen Belladonna of Sadness, the 1973 anime about eroticism and witchcraft in medieval France, I might not necessarily recommend it outright. If it’s the kind of movie you’d need to see, you’d probably already have seen it. There’s no question that Belladonna is beautiful; it truly is a work of art. However, it may lean more toward art than entertainment, because in many sections of it, there’s not actually any animation happening. You’re just watching the camera pan over a beautiful drawing or watercolor rendering of Jeanne, the film’s central character.

I decided to take the film’s most colorful and most animated parts and edit them into a kind of Belladonna of Sadness supercut, and as soon as I did that, Goldfrapp’s “Hairy Trees” just kind of suggested itself as the ideal musical pairing. What you see below is something I find aesthetically pleasing but also a really misleading trailer for the film, as I purposefully excluded many of the still frame scenes, all the scenes where the sentient penis of Satan is a character and then also the scenes of sexual violence. Like I said, this movie is not for everyone. And yes, I see the irony in taking a work of erotica and essentially spaying it. However, as far as this video being a first in a little series I’m doing about weird animation, I think I’m off to a decent start.

Heads up: This video is NSFW as a result of animated boob.

In case you’re curious about the racier aspects of this film, I’m including below two of its big sex sequences: one represented Jeanne’s induction into witchcraft and the other the effect Jeanne’s liberation has on the villagers in her town. If the video I cut was a soft NSFW, I’d say these two sequences are an incredibly hard NSFW, not just for nudity but also for psychedelic, grotesque imagery the likes of which you may have never seen anywhere else.

Enjoy or also maybe just watch it concernedly, depending on your disposition.

More to come. See previous video art projects here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Let’s Go to the Mall

Still not in the habit of writing much, but hey — here’s a video thing.

This was for a project that is now on hold, but I decided to finish this one segment anyway. It’s a montage of a few different camcorder videos of mall antics back in the day, set to Sylvester’s “Rock the Box,” even though I’m pretty sure the kids featured wouldn’t have heard of Sylvester. Here’s hoping I get to make the remaining segments should the project resume.

And here are the videos I used in this compilation:
You can also see all of my more “finished” projects on a special page on my Vimeo account, should you be bored today. And maybe in the future… writing? 

Monday, July 24, 2017

VHSmas in July

Because nothing should get you into the holiday spirit better than the rapid approach of August, the hottest and least-holiday-filled month of all, here is a Christmas video.

I spent the last two weeks cobbling this together for Drink Special’s Christmas in July event last night at Bar Mattachine in downtown L.A. And while it was cool to see something I’d stitched together projected onto the wall, probably bigger than anything else I’d had a hand in making, I’m also putting the video online, just because a few people have enjoyed my past videos. And who knows? Maybe this will come in handy in a few months, when you’re planning your own holiday party and you want to play some wallpaper video that encourages people to point and say, “Hey, I also remember this thing!”

The Drink Special party had its own soundtrack, so while VHSmas was playing on a loop you couldn’t hear the soundtrack I included with it. That’s okay. The music in the video is really just placeholder music anyway, and I feel like anyone playing this at parties will probably just mute it and put on their own Christmas music instead.

In case you’re wondering, here is a list of the TV shows and movies I included, in order of when each first appears in the montage.

  • The 1964 Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer special
  • The Nutcracker Fantasy (read more about this high-octane nightmare fuel here)
  • 1974’s other Rankin/Bass special, The Year Without Santa Claus
  • Gremlins
  • A Muppet Family Christmas
  • Black Christmas (1974 version)
  • A fairly unknown 1984 slasher movie called Don’t Open Till Christmas
  • 1984's Christmas Top of the Pops, featuring Baltimora
  • 1977’s The Carpenters at Christmas
  • The Star Wars Holiday Special
  • The “Tendo Family Christmas Scramble” episode of Ranma 1/2
  • The finale to Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
  • Ann-Marget on an unidentified Christmas special from 1981
  • The Joan Collins sequence from the 1972 Tales From the Crypt movie
  • The video for “Christmas in Hollis,” by Run–D.M.C.
  • The video for “Last Christmas” by Wham
  • “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” the show’s original Christmas special
  • “Christmas at Pee-Wee’s Playhouse”
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • “The Bird! The Bird!” — the premiere episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  • Sailor Moon S: The Movie
  • Scrooged
  • White Christmas
  • An amazing Philip Morris video about marketing cigarettes that I think I passed off as Christmassy well enough
  • The Solid Gold Christmas specials from 1983 and 1985
  • He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • Babes in Toyland (1986 version)
  • Batman Returns
  • The video for the original version of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
  • Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas (1977)
  • The 1989 Christian Lacroix fall-winter fashion show
  • Profondo Rosso
  • Die Hard
  • The Snowman (1982)
  • This 1951 Russian cartoon that may or may not be an adaptation of The Night Before Christmas
  • Christmas Comes to Pac-Land (1982)
  • “Koopa Klaus,” the Christmas episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super
  • “Miracle at the Teen Club,” the Beverly Hills Teens Christmas special
  • “Christmas Memories,” the holiday special for Heathcliff and the Cadillac Cats
  • A Christmas Story
  • A 1980 clip of Kate Bush performing a Christmas version of “Babooshka”
  • The video for Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love,” which it should be noted was originally written as a Christmas song
  • The Christmas Toy (1986)
  • A Claymation Christmas Celebration (1987)
(Sorry, no ALF.)

I’m not listing all the commercials separately because there are simply too many of them and I found them all in these treasure trove YouTube clips of old broadcast commercials broadcast around the holidays. But ask if there’s something you want identified. And feel free to use this montage as you will.

Previous videos:

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Singing Mountain

It’s not that I’m neglecting this blog; it’s that I’m more often engaged in creative ways that are not writing, and I’m simply using the shell of this blog as a platform to promote these other things.

I started Singing Mountain, a podcast about video game music a few weeks ago. It’s an experiment, and I’m not sure exactly what form it will take. It may change episode to episode, based on my whims and availability, but I can tell you at least that it will always be about why the background music from whatever game you barely remember is actually more important than you might have realized.

I posted the fourth episode of Singing Mountain yesterday. It’s actually a remake, of sorts, of a post that went up here back in 2012. Once I started this thing, I realized that a podcast actually was the better medium through which to tell the story, just because you can exert a little more control over your audience than you can with just text. Topics discussed in this fourth episode include Earthbound, the closet where my mom would hide Christmas presents, The Cars, Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory,” the actual persistence of memory, the litigiousness of Beatles and, finally, Janet Jackson. It will likely prove to be the exception more than the rule, as far as future episodes go, as this one is also about me. I was interested if I could use this sort of podcast as a means to make creative nonfiction, I guess, and I’m eager to hear what you think of the result.

If you’re interested, you can subscribe to Singing Mountain both on SoundCloud and on iTunes. And if you’re curious, you can also listen to my previous three episodes, which cover Super Mario RPG, the Mega Man series and the work of German composer Chris Huelsbeck.

In case you’re wondering, the logo art uses a slightly re-colored version of the Dragon’s Hole dungeon background art from Seiken Densetsu 3. And please — if you’re so inclined, write me a review on iTunes. As a podcast person, I’m required to ask you that.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Here, I Fixed the Woodsman from Twin Peaks

Eight episodes into the new season of Twin Peaks, we’ve seen some scary stuff. However, the single most lingering image, for me, nightmare-wise, appeared back in the second installment. It was our first glimpse of the horrifying, soot-covered woodsmen. The camera pans from Matthew Lillard’s character, grief-stricken as he waits in his jail cell, to another one a few doors down, where there’s this man who is painted black, sitting motionless and contorted. Then he vanishes. Then his head floats away like a balloon. No explanation given.

I made a video in case you need a refresher.

Even though the woodsman has appeared again — and done more horrifying things than just vanish — it’s this one that has stuck with me, and I wanted to take the piss out of it. That’s why I acted on the suggestion that it could be greatly improved by the addition of a slide whistle.

It was, in fact.

That’s why I asked Tony (Tony!) to further improve the sequence with voices.

Here is that.

See? Not scary anymore. I fixed it. I think you will agree. You’re welcome.

Not even scary in the slightest.

Friday, June 2, 2017

David Lynch Explains David Lynch (Sorta)

David Lynch doesn’t want me to write this. He didn’t say so, exactly, and I have no personal relationship with the guy. But over the years, he’s made it clear that he does not want to explain his work — and he’d rather you and I didn’t attempt a single, encompassing explanation for it either.

“When something is abstract, the abstraction is hard to put into words, unless you’re a poet,” he told an audience during a 2007 Q&A that might mark David Lynch at his most self-explanatory. “But these [are] ideas you somehow know, and cinema is a language that can say abstractions. I love stories, but I love stories that hold abstractions. And cinema can say these difficult-to-say-in-words things.” Lynch goes on to say that he often doesn’t understand the meaning of his ideas, and he didn’t even understand the meaning of Eraserhead, perhaps his most abstract work, when he was making it. But it doesn’t matter, because he’d rather you found an “inner knowingness” — a sort of idiosyncratic translation of his own idiosyncratic system of symbols.

All that said, I think Lynch lets on more than some people might guess. Perhaps as a result of him opening up his unconscious mind and letting all that mind goop flow out uninhibited, he’s revealing more substantial, meaty bits than even he may realize. Now, I’m aware of the arrogance involved in taking an artist’s work and claiming to perceive his or her true intent, especially when you haven’t asked about it directly, so I’m simply going to leave this here with the following note: “Hey, isn’t this a neat way to look at David Lynch’s work?”

My thesis is this: In several works, David Lynch would seem to be suggesting a critique on interpretation, and in each of them he does this using the metaphor of a performance or other such viewed entertainment.

Lil the Dancing Girl

My first example of this is a brief scene from Fire Walk With Me, in which regional FBI director Gordon Dole (Lynch himself) greets Agent Desmond (Chris Isaak). Rather than explain the specifics of the case for which Desmond has flown to Oregon to investigate, Lynch introduces Lil (Kimberly Ann Cole), his “mother’s sister’s girl,” who performs a bizarre dance.

Later, Desmond and Agent Stanley (Keifer Sutherland) are driving away, and Stanley asks what was up with Lil. Without hesitation, Desmond explains away each unusual facet of Lil’s appearance and dance as meaning something important to the case.
  • Lil’s sour face = problems with local authorities
  • Lil’s blinking eyes = “trouble higher up”
  • Lil keeping one hand in her pocket = authorities hiding something
  • Lil’s other hand being clenched = authorities would be belligerent
  • Lil walking in place = legwork
  • Cole’s reference to Lil being his “mother’s sister’s girl” and placing four fingers over his face = the sheriff’s uncle is in federal prison
  • Lil’s dress being tailored = a code for drugs
  • Lil wearing a blue rose pinned to her dress = “I can’t tell you about that” (and indeed, in the new series, we are still left wondering exactly what the blue rose might signify)
Even in the world of Twin Peaks, it seems improbable that Desmond was able to interpret all these things so quickly and clearly. I suppose it’s possible that Cole might have instructed him in his own personal language of signs, but I think it’s maybe also true that Lynch is having some fun with the viewer, especially the type of viewer who watched and re-watched the original series and attempted to read meaning into every loose end, every abstract detail. In the absurd world of the show, every aspect of Lil’s dance does mean something — and, in the end, most of what Desmond deduces from the dance turns out to be correct, it should be noted. And while this moves the plot along, I also think Lynch is perhaps making a joke about the way some people might scrutinize every little detail as opposed to taking in the whole of a given work, more like you’d take in a painting, less like you’d take in a traditional narrative.

No Hay Banda

I feel like Lynch could be making a similar comment with the Club Silencio scene in Mulholland Drive. Whereas Lil’s dance comprises only a small part of Fire Walk With Me, the Club Silencio sequence may be the most pivotal in all of Mulholland Drive. And whereas I think the Lil scene is mostly meant as a joke, I think Lynch is talking the idea a bit further and saying, “No, don’t do this. Instead, do this.”

A quick and dirty recap: Betty (Naomi Watts) and Rita (Laura Elena Harring) attend a late-night show at jazz club where they are repeatedly made to watch performances then are reminded that the thing they think they’re seeing is not actually happening. The host (Richard Green, credited as “The Magician”) keeps introducing different instruments and then telling the audience that there is no such instrument, no actual band, no orchestra. Betty and everyone else is only hearing a recording, no matter how real it may seem. Eventually the host vanishes, and Rebekeh Del Rio (credited as herself) steps onstage to sing a Spanish version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” Midway through the song, she collapses, yet the song continues. It’s implied that she was only lip-syncing.

Again, I’ve always interpreted this as David Lynch’s way of telling the audience not to get hung up on the details. Just as it’s absurdist comedy for Agent Desmond to read such specific details into Lil’s dance, the Club Silencio sequence discourages you from thinking that the bare components of the performance — the one Betty is watching onstage, the movie you are watching in real life — should be taken at anything more than face value. Betty and Rita don’t follow this advice, however; they are both moved to tears by “Llorando,” and at one point Betty starts shaking violently, maybe as a result of intense emotion she’s feeling. In fact, when they arrive back home after the show, both cease to exist, and the movie enters its bizarre, plot-bending final third.

There’s a lot more to consider in this scene. Perhaps most notably is one of the film’s final images: the blue-haired woman watching from the opera box speaking the word “silencio” one last time. It’s been theorized in various analyses that this could either represent “Quiet in the theater,” because you’re about to begin the “real” performance of piecing together your own interpretation of Mulholland Drive, or “Quiet on the set,” because you’re about to begin making the “real” movie of living your life. We don’t know, even all these years later. It’s worth mentioning, I feel, that the DVD printing of Mulholland Drive includes ten clues to unlock the film’s mystery, but I’m not sure they would lead anyone to any singular, concrete understanding. I think Lynch wants us to sit with it, think about it, consider and then re-consider it. This should not be a thing that is quickly processed.

Tracey Has Two Lattes

tracey sam twin peaks glass box scene

And then we have the new Twin Peaks. Probably the most talked-about scene from the four episodes occurred in the first episode. It features two characters, Tracey Barbarato (Madeline Zima) and Sam Colby (Benjamin Rosenfield) in New York, in a strange, living room-like setup situated around a mysterious glass box.

Quick and dirty again: Sam is paid to watch the box and adjust cameras around it. He’s not allowed to bring anyone else in, but when the security guard on duty apparently leaves, Sam agrees to show the contraption to Tracey. They only watch for a few seconds. Very quickly, they begin making out. Tracey takes off her clothes and they begin to have sex, oblivious to the fact that some abstract humanoid shape (possibly female?) materializes in the box. Before they can react, the creature bursts through the glass, killing both in a spectacular and bloody fashion. A lot of people have interpreted the scene as a metaphor for watching TV, watching a film at home or the experience of Twin Peaks in general. (It’s relevant to the last interpretation that episode two features Agent Cooper appearing in the box, getting enlarged and reduced, and then being spat out, which you could take as Agent Cooper and the show in general escaping the confines of traditional network TV.)

I think these are valid interpretations, but my first reaction to the scene was David Lynch’s 2008 condemnation of the way so many people experience movies today: distractedly and on an iPhone or other such handheld device. “You will never in a trillion years experience the film,” he says of watching cinema in this format. “You’ll be cheated.”

Tracey and Sam keep their smart phones in their pockets, but they sure seem like the kind of people who’d be tethered to their iPhones — that is, you know, young people. They also do a very bad job of paying attention to the show in front of them, and you might say that Lynch punishes their inattention with death. (Or maybe he’s punishing sex with death, but come on: This is the guy who had the Mulholland Drive DVD printed as one long chapter. He wants you to sit patiently though his films, start to finish.)

Listening to Jeff Jensen’s Twin Peaks podcast about this episode, I heard another decent theory. Starting around the 35:10 mark, Jensen says, “You kind of wonder if it’s the show talking to us about how to watch the show, or maybe even talking about itself and our relationship to the show and to TV in general and the changing nature of our relationship to TV in the twenty-five years since Twin Peaks has been on the air.”

There’s more at 39:20: “What I got from this almost immediately… is this weird allegory for TV-watching. A couch potato sitting on his couch, staring into this box, waiting for something to materialize, something that might come through that portal window. We have a complicated metaphor for Twin Peaks itself — a vision from outside of the world that’s about to materialize inside this box.

So in that sense, we’re encouraged to identify with Sam, as a viewer who’s unsure what he’s about to see at the same time as we embark on this eighteen-hour odyssey through the new Twin Peaks. So what happens next? They literally get their heads blown off, but this is maybe meant as a metaphor as well as a literal death. Again, from the podcast (and starting at the 48:06 mark): “You get the sense that it’s just whipping their faces, just shredding their faces, just blowing their minds against the wall. And they’re not screaming. They’re almost just passive as their doing it. You can read it in so many ways, including this visceral metaphor for a show that wants to get in your face and get in your face and blow your mind.” And because the lead-up to Tracey and Sam’s violent end is slow drawn out, you can take it a bit further: “If it’s the show talking about itself, it’s instructing us that it’s a show that you’re going to have to be patient with, that you’re going to have to watch, that it’s going to take its time taking shape and form, much like the thing in that box.”

This all seems plausible enough, but if it’s the correct interpretation, then it would mark a break from similar scenes in previous David Lynch works, in that the details do matter. As it turns out, Jensen himself got to ask Lynch about this theory directly in a May 26 interview.
JJ: Were you trying to give the audience an allegory for TV-watching or how to watch the show?

DL: No. But that’s an interesting way to think about it.

JJ: Do you think in terms of allegory or meta?

DL: Not really. Ideas just come, you think about them, and you figure out their meaning. Then, how they fit into the whole is another thing completely. It’s not finished until it’s finished, and you don’t really know until further down the road how one thing relates to another. It’s just like a magical thing. I also always say the whole thing exists in another room as a complete puzzle, all the parts are together, and someone from that other room is sort of a rascal and randomly flips parts over into this room. And then you to have to put the puzzle together, but one is from the end of the story, one is from the middle, and a couple from the beginning, and you won’t know until it’s more formed what it could be.
That’s Lynch being evasive, yet again, but it’s also him not directly pooh-poohing the theory outright. However, let’s step aside for a moment and assume that Lynch wouldn’t change up his running theory of how to watch his work. I think there’s maybe an analysis that incorporates a bit of my gut reaction to the scene as well as the podcast theory.

Tracey and Sam die, and before they do they’re so taken with the vision of this creature in the box that they stand utterly still once it breaks out and kills them. As it’s noted in the podcast, they don’t resist; they just sit there while Mrs. No Face slashes away at them. What if this is David Lynch, consciously or not, giving us the same message as I think he’s giving, in different ways, in Fire Walk With Me and Mulholland Drive? “No one thing you’re seeing is that important. Don’t obsess over the details. Stay for the whole thing and take it all in.” Our ill-fated latte lovers don’t do this. They get rattled by the first scary thing they see — and, really, the people watching these new episodes see — and they literally lose their heads. (There’s a pic of the end result, as we see in the third episode, but be forewarned it’s graphic.) If we’re going to appreciate the new Twin Peaks for what it is, we’ll need to be in for the long haul, and we’re should prepare ourselves for some seriously scary shit. But endure, faithful viewers, because it’s all going to add up to something big: what it means to us as individuals.

I’m trying to think of other scenes of performances in Lynch’s work. There’s the Lady in the Radiator scene in Eraserhead, there’s Julee Cruise singing in the Roadhouse, and there’s even the curious Twin Peaks end credits scene showcasing Gersten Hayward on the piano. I don’t know if there’s a way that these scenes also support my theory, and I don’t even know if my take on David Lynch will even make sense to anyone else. But I do know I can’t stop thinking about this scene, and I’d love to hear what you all have to say about it.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Any Workout Video Can Be Pornography, I Guess

I just this week realized that I neglected to post and share a video I made late last year. It’s nothing major—just a silly thing I cranked out while at home for the holidays. I strung together a bunch of vintage workout clips and then paired them with the theme to the Dario Argento slasher movie Tenebre.

The song may be more familiar to you as “Phantom,” a remake by Justice.

I’d intended to use this footage as part of my horror movie video project, but in the end that veered in a different direction, and I didn’t have a place for this. In any case, I think the idea came to me while working out at the gym and watching one of the TVs play an episode of Bones in which this poor guy was reduced down to the smallest possible human fragments. Something about exercising my own body while being confronted by the inevitable conclusion of all human bodies seemed funny, so here you go: slasher music + workout videos.

In scouring YouTube for any usable footage from the right era and in a high enough resolution, however, I realize I may have included some segments that aren’t actually design to instruct you how to exercise. I think they may actually be gay softcore. You can see the segments at 0:59, 1:30, 1:51 and a lot of other places.

Am I crazy? Or am I revealing more about myself in how I don’t see any eroticism in this and not in any of the footage of women bending and flexing in their leotards? (Guys, I think I might be gay…?)

Here are the original clips in full.

Like, this is basically porn, right? It lacks frontal nudity or actual sex, but it’s designed to titillate more than it is to get the viewer into any kind of physical shape. Right? Aside form erect. Right? Also is it gay, necessarily, or is it just the style of the time, which reads as gay today? I am totally unable to tell.

In trying to identify what these videos might have been called, I did find one more that I hadn’t seen before. It’s exactly as ambiguously gay and porny as the others.

Your input is welcome.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Marion / Marion

I’ll blame Twin Peaks for this. I’ve had doubles on my brain for months now, but at least I’ve managed to make something of it.

Also, I have a bold declaration: I actually like the 1998 remake of Psycho. I don’t think it was necessary, exactly, because the original was no less great in 1998 than it was in 1960, but the Gus Van Sant version makes sense, thematically speaking.

Twin Peaks may rack up more lookalikes and opposites just by virtue of having a greater overall runtime, but Psycho packs more of them in, scene for scene. It’s there even in the Saul Bass opening credits: the screen gets slashed by horizontal lines and then by vertical ones. And that horizontal-vertical contrast continues throughout the movie, from the opening scene, with Marion (Janet Leigh) in bed and Sam (John Gavin) standing next to her, to the layout of the Bates property—a multistory house that towers over a lateral sprawl of a hotel. You could say it’s there in Marion’s murder itself. Stabbing a person is, in a sense, a very violent intersection of perpendicular elements.

This mix of opposites extends to the movie’s core four characters, I’ve always thought. After Marion dies midway through the film, she gets replaced by her sister, Lila (Vera Miles), who looks like Marion but seems more sensible. We get the sense that Marion is impulsive and flighty, and that the theft of the money that propels the plot is maybe just a spur-of-the-moment decision she made. Lila, by contrast, seems conservative — more mother than child, though I realize that’s a weird way to describe it in this context. Sam and Norman look alike too, but whereas Sam is smooth, Norman is twitchy. Both characters are driven to action by a sexual attraction to Marion; Sam follows her from Phoenix to the dusty backroads of California, and Norman murders her. Killing Marion off is the big surprise, but it’s also surprising that the characters we learn most about first, Marion and Norman, turn out to be the “wrong” versions of the “straighter” Lila and Sam.

In a similar way, I’ve always thought of the Gus Van Sant version as a weird twin to the Alfred Hitchcock version. The variations are subtle. If Janet Leigh’s Marion was flighty, she was also oddly grave in the way she seemed to process her crime. The Anne Heche Marion seems even further out, and watching her movie, I get a sense that she may get a thrill out of the whole thing that I don’t get when I watch the original. Viggo Mortensen’s Sam seems seedier, though that could just be his clothes. But when he interacts with the Julianne Moore Lila later in the film, I feel like he has designs for her even before they know Marion is dead. (I know, I know—neither Lila made the cut for this, which is too bad, because I love the character. And then in Psycho 2, poor Vera Miles gets all dressed up to play Lila again and ends up getting stabbed in the mouth. For what it’s worth, she did end up marrying Sam.) Finally, whereas a first-time viewer of the original might not immediately peg Anthony Perkins’ Norman as the person named in the title, Vince Vaughn plays the character as creepier from the get-go. (He masturbates while watching Marion in the shower; Norman does not.) And that difference in characterization makes sense; anyone who watched the remake already knew who Norman Bates was, but also it’s Vince Vaughn.

I don’t remember exactly when I got the idea to make this video, but at some point I just became charmed with the idea of thinking about the remake as an alternate version of the events, where things play out slightly differently, but the variation just isn’t enough for the characters to break out of the roles they’re assigned. And yeah, the movies do play differently. The 1998 Psycho may have been billed as a shot-for-shot remake, but Van Sant doesn’t adhere to that too strictly, even beyond allowances for the change in time period. Scenes are shot differently. Some run longer. And many times I had to crop a shot or change the tempo to make the two versions look like they were mirroring each other more than they actually were.

In the end, however, all that is not enough to save poor Marion (either version) from getting into that motel shower at the end. And no, I didn’t bother to show that in this video. Everyone has seen that a million times. I was more interested in looking at Marion while she’s still alive.

This is my third video project. “Rewind” was long and full of VHS static. “All the Colors of the Night” was shorter, more focused and less with all the distortion. This one is only seven minutes long and has no VHS distortion. I didn’t even mess with the color on this one.

I have big, weird plans for what I want to do next.

janet leigh anne heche marion psycho remake

Saturday, April 22, 2017

1984’s Best Song About Being Ejaculated Upon

Here, please watch the video for Vanity’s 1984 pop song “Pretty Mess,” which is not just sexual in nature but unusually specific in the type of sex it seems to be celebrating. Have a look and listen for yourself.

“Pretty Mess” is not a good song, exactly, but you have to admit it’s efficient in communicating its message. if there were any doubts about what Vanity is singing about, those would be tidily removed by the video, which manages at least six metaphors for genitalia and the substances that come out of genitalia. These metaphors are as follows:
  • at 1:06, Vanity getting showered in white feathers
  • at 1:26, the female bartender dripping honey all over the counter
  • at 2:04, Vanity getting showered with champagne that’s gushing out of the bottle
  • at 2:37, Vanity attempting to catch a white throw pillow (and notably failing to catch it)
  • at 3:02, Vanity dancing at the rear of a long, arguably flesh-colored hallway while singing “and then he found a hallway that went all the way”
  • at 3:08, Vanity and her male companion getting showered in white confetti
And that list excludes the references made in the lyrics but not accompanied by a visual metaphor: “boiling like a kettle,” “dripping like a hot tea” and the strange line “he pulled a seam and it went all the way,” in which Vanity runs the “and” into the “seam” so it kind of sounds like she’s saying “semen.”

I’d imagine that if you were in your car listening to the radio during the few weeks “Pretty Mess” would have been getting airplay back in 1984 and you were just hearing the lyrics, you might ask yourself, “Wait, is she singing about getting jizzed on?” But if you were watching the video, the message would be clear: Yes, she really is singing about getting jizzed on. I liken it to Grace Jones’ 1981 track “Pull Up to the Bumper,” which seems like it’s about having sex with a guy with a big black dick but which Jones herself insists is not the case. It’s maybe even funnier for Jones to pretend that she just made a song about parking a car, but the video at least keeps it ambiguous: It’s just Grace Jones dancing onstage, superimposed on images of traffic.

Not that there’s anything wrong with writing and performing a song about getting ejaculated upon, I suppose.

People who have been reading this blog for a while might remember that I wrote about “Pretty Mess” before. However, since that posting, the video disappeared from the internet. I’m posting this today because I finally found the video again but also because looking back on the original post, I hate the way I talked about this song. The post title was “‘Pretty Mess’ Is a Filthy Song for Prostitutes,” and I was implying that Vanity shouldn’t have made this song. If I thought this back then, I no longer think so now. I love that she made this song, bad as it is, and I think we can celebrate it in the context of “Wow, can you believe this song got made? Can you believe she got away with this video?” And it’s all the more notable when you consider that “Pretty Mess” was Vanity’s first solo single after dropping out of Vanity 6, the girl group assembled by Prince and the group responsible for the 1982 hit “Nasty Girl.” As Prince was wont to do, he gave Vanity her stage name, though it the context of this song, it’s notable to point out that she told People in 1984 that he initially wanted to dub her “Vagina.” Even considering how forthright sexuality was a part of Vanity’s persona since the beginning of her music career, “Pretty Mess” still seems remarkable in how blatantly it discusses the matter at hand. (Or you know, at other body parts.)

So please, pop singers of the future, if you feel inclined to write further songs about being ejaculated upon, feel free to do so. It doesn’t seem like a tall order to make a jizz-positive song that’s better than this one.

Miscellaneous notes:
  • Ten years after “Pretty Mess,” Vanity overdosed and nearly died. She subsequently converted to born-again Christianity and cut all ties with the music industry. In Matthew Rettenmund’s book Totally Awesome 80s, Vanity is quoted as saying, “When I came to the Lord Jesus Christ, I threw out about 1,000 tapes of mine—interview, every tape, every video, everything.”
  • I don’t know if it’s even possible, but I wonder if her decision to distance herself from her music career had something to do with the “Pretty Mess” video suddenly becoming unavailable online. For a few years, you just could not find this video, when it was easy to find before that. This struck me as weird. “Pretty Mess” was a Motown Records release that did kinda-sorta okay on the Billboard charts, after all, and it’s odd to have a video for a major release such as this just vanish. I’d periodically look for it—often propelled to do so after exclaiming something along the lines of “Oh my god, you have to see the video for this song”—and it has only returned following Vanity’s death in February 2016. At the very least, I can hope that other people looking for it end up here.
  • Another explanation for its unavailability online? It’s just not that great of a song. At several points during the song, Vanity sounds like Miss Piggy in heat, and I apologize if me pointing this out damages your mental image of Miss Piggy.
  • Pop songs about ejaculation seem to be rare, and those about ejaculate specifically even more so.
  • I’m unclear whether Vanity wrote “Pretty Mess.” The Wikipedia page credits her as the sole writer, while the page for the album Wild Animal credits Bill Wolfer. I like the song more if I think that she chose to write and perform it herself, rather than some man handing it to her and saying, “It’s a song about spooge. You’re singing it now.”
  • Vanity plays the female lead in Enter the Dragon, but her acting career began before Prince’s involvement in her life. Notably, she play, the girl in the sexy Egyptian girl costume in the 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis slasher Terror Train, which means that she and David Copperfield share a movie credit. (She’s credited as D.D. Winters, though she was born Denise Katrina Matthews.)
  • I can’t tell if Vanity is also playing the female bartender into the video or if the actress cast just looks like her. Anyone?
  • Vanity’s love interest in the video suggests a hypothetical love child created by Limahl and a lesbian New Wave amazon.

Bonus video tidbit: Speaking of Prince muses who have surprisingly literal music videos, have you ever seen the video for Sheena Easton’s “Morning Train”? It's more or less what you might expect until you realize that the dude she’s singing about is actually the train conductor. He takes the train because his job is driving the train.

That’s... weird, right?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Duckface Revisited

A few years back I wrote a post that I think of as the “Duckface, Drew Mackie” post. Some of you do as well. In fact, more often than you’d expect, I get people arriving at my blog by searching for the term “duckface drew mackie.” It’s funny enough, this original post. The long and short of it was that I accidentally signed an email “Duckface, Drew Mackie” rather than “Thanks, Drew Mackie,” and then I further embarrassed myself in the presence of this person in ways that indicate that I shouldn’t use email anymore. In any case, both posts featured a screengrab of Walter “Duckface” Berman, Stephanie’s nerdy classmate on Full House, because that was the obvious visual aid to use.

Because the internet is weird and unpredictable, that image took off, and a lot of other people have subsequently used it on other platforms and linked back to me or credited me. As a result, I get periodic reminders that yes, that is an image I made and posted. For a few years, it also showed up when you google my name, though I’d like to point out that that is not me. That is the actor Whit Hertford, who would later become the kid that Sam Neill both impresses and terrifies with a raptor claw in Jurassic Park. But as Duckface, as an image that I featured on my blog years ago, he’s just become a persistent part of my internet presence.

Last night, I posted something on Facebook. And it got a reply.

I’m not posting this to brag about a glancing interaction with *the* original Duckface himself, although that totally wasn’t something I had expected would happen yesterday. I’m sharing this little nothing of an anecdote because I want to convey to you how strange it is to be a human being in Los Angeles when you’ve grown up on a steady diet of pop culture, when you primarily interact with the world via the internet and when you realize that you’ve ended up in the same geographic area as most of the bit players from your childhood. It’s strange to encounter an image of a person again and again and maybe disconnect that image from the living, breathing person who appears in it to the point that you forget that he went on to play other roles and also does things independent from an acting career. (You know, like use Facebook in the exact way everyone else does.) And it’s strange to see that person—say, in line at the grocery store or just online on Facebook or maybe Minkus from Boy Meets World gets the last ticket to a show you’re trying to get into, because that is also a thing that happened once—and to have the internal reaction of “Oh! I know you!” only to have that immediately followed by “No, wait. I don’t at all. I’ve just seen you. In fact, I’ve seen you but you haven’t seen me,” and that’s a normal thing because that’s how TV and movies work.

It’s just all weird, when you think about it.

Drew Mackie

Monday, March 27, 2017

I Have Some Questions About Beauty and the Beast

If you are like me, you greeted the trailer for the live action Beauty and the Beast with sentiments along the lines of “Okay, they’re doing this now. This is a thing they are doing.” But then you went and saw it anyway, and its attempt to translate the original story into a kinda-sorta-maybe more realistic world left you with questions you did not have when you saw the animated version. (Never mind that you were nine when you saw the animated version and that your thought processes at the time were more focused on Tiny Toons than anything else.)

Here are those questions, in no particular order.

How many people live in this goddamned castle?

Like, are there just scads of servants-turned-talking furniture laying dormant until it’s time for the “Be Our Guest” number? And are they otherwise allowing most of the talking and moving to be performed by Cogswoth and Lumiere and the other A-list furniture?

Even then, wouldn’t this caste would have to be mostly bedrooms under normal, non-sentiment furniture circumstances?

Doesn’t it seem like someone would have spoken the Beast’s real name at some point?

Like, if I left the theater being fully aware that Belle’s horse was named Philippe, because it’s mentioned several times, shouldn’t I have also heard what the Beast’s name was, pre-curse?

Do you think Belle and the Beast had to go out and buy new housewares after all their stuff reverted back to humans?

Or do you think there was, like, an old set of dishes that the Beast put in storage upon arrival of the sentient dishware?

Would sentient dishes be pleasant to use? Or would that be weird?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to maybe use the old dishes as dishes and not eat food off your friends and coworkers?

Do you think the castle servants developed some really weird fetishes while being used as furniture and housewares and all that?

Do you think that, for example, someone who had been turned into a couch would subsequently feel compelled to make people sit on him for long periods of time?

Why wasn’t there a singing toilet?

If there had been a sentient toilet, do you think Belle would have used him? Or would she have maybe gone to the bathroom outside, just because she felt bad about it?

What if the toilet begged Belle to use him?

What if Belle only found out months into her imprisonment that the toilet was sentient after all, and she was all, “Wait, why didn’t you say anything?”

Why was the singing wardrobe given narcolepsy as a character trait? Is there some connection between wardrobes and sleep disorders that I’m not getting?

What if when the Beast reverted to the human form, Belle broke up with him because it turns out she was only into guys who were covered in hair and had horns?

What if that water buffalo fetish maybe made more sense, seeing how the Beast’s personality is generally terrible?

Wouldn’t Mr. Potts have just gone out and married someone else if he’d forgotten that he had a wife?

Wouldn’t people in town have wondered why they had, for example, clothes and personal effects in their house that didn’t belong to any family member they could remember?

So if the enchantress has crazy magical powers and can distort reality, why is she spending her spare time living like a bag lady?

Not but really—what possible reason could the enchantress have for dressing like she’s homeless and hanging out in a town that is defined by being mundane and provincial? Unless she’s watching the townspeople go about their fake lives and not remembering the loved ones who are trapped in the Beast’s castle and have been transformed into sentient furniture?

Wouldn’t it be a hundred times more interesting to hang out in the castle with all the magical talking furniture?

Wouldn’t it also give her a better perspective on the Beast and how well he’s dealing with the curse that was specifically designed to punish him for his bad behavior?

Wait a fucking minute—if this enchantress is in in the business of punishing people and also hangs out in town, wouldn’t she do something about that asshole Gaston? Like, wouldn’t she use her magic to punish the vain man who treats everyone badly, since doing exactly that is what cursed the Beast and transformed the servants and made the town forget the castle existed and, you know, propelled the whole plot?

Why do you think the writers of this film made the effort to explain away one of the potholes from the first movie—that no one in Belle’s castle seemed to remember that big honkin’ castle that was a day’s horse ride away—but then wrote into the story an enchantress who can control reality but just inexplicably choses to do nothing for almost the entire movie?

And finally (and most importantly), how did this film rob an impressionable young minds of a live-action glimpse at Gaston’s chest hair?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Every Instance of Doubling on Twin Peaks

In mere weeks, we will get new episodes of Twin Peaks. It seems so strange to write that. Like Laura Palmer herself, Twin Peaks burned bright and then died young, and in the twenty-five years since the series finale, the show’s abrupt ending and unsolved cliffhangers have become as much a part of its lore as that backwards-talking little dude and Laura Palmer’s homecoming queen photo.

I recently restarted watching Twin Peaks, and it’s probably the fourth time I’ve watched the whole series in order, pilot episode to Fire Walk With Me. Every time I watch, I am reminded how often David Lynch uses doubling—mirroring, twinning, splitting, repeating or some other sense of turning one thing into two. It’s the most prominent theme on the show, and I thought it might be of interest if I collected every single instance I could think of in one post.

Here, then is that list. (Here, then is that list.)

donna audrey bathroom twin peaks

The title of the show. It’s right there in the name: There are some peaks, and there are two of them. However, the peaks themselves never become a major plot point on the show. Several natural settings do—Owl Cave, Glastonbury Grove and Ghostwood National Forest, to name a few—but no one ever visits the geographical formations that give the town its name. Given that Lynch had initially wanted to call the series Northwest Passage, I’d guess this was his way of saying right from the get-go, “Hey, doubling is going to be a big thing on this show. Pay attention.”

Laura Palmer. She was essentially leading two lives: publicly as the popular good girl and privately as a tortured soul who used sex and drugs to cope with some heinous personal trauma. In that sense, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) was her own evil twin, and this idea gets literalized in the Red Room, where the bad aspect to Laura’s personality manifests as a shrieking demon.

Maddy Ferguson. And then Laura gets twinned again with the arrival of her identical cousin, Maddy, who has dark hair and is older than Laura but nonetheless looks exactly like her, mostly because Sheryl Lee played both roles. Whereas Laura was outgoing and very sexual, Maddy is bookish and a little matronly—or at least until she breaks her glasses and starts acting more like Laura. The relationship comes full circle when Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) murders Maddy, just as he had Laura. It should also be noted that the character’s name is a nod to Scottie Ferguson and Madeleine Elster, the two lead characters in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which was another mystery revolving around doubles and events that repeat.

Cooper and Evil Cooper. In the last episode, Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) flees the Black Lodge, but the person who makes it out is implied to be a possessed, insane version of Cooper. He’s a cackling monster. He is, essentially, an anti-Cooper. One of the “missing pieces” deleted scenes from Fire Walk With Me has Annie (Heather Graham) being wheeled into the hospital, where she tells the nurse, “The good Dale is in the Lodge, and he can't leave,” and we’re told one of the main plots of the upcoming series is Dale’s return to Twin Peaks.

Cooper and Windom Earle. In the second season of the show, Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh) is also a sort of anti-Cooper. Earle is Cooper’s former FBI partner, who went mad and who vanished for a period, during which Cooper and Caroline, Earle’s wife, became romantically involved. Earle stabbed them both, killing only Caroline, and then returns to menace Cooper during the show’s second season. Whereas Cooper uses his FBI-honed smarts to help people, Earle uses them to hurt people.

Annie and Caroline. Cooper begins dating Annie shortly after she arrives in town, and she becomes a stand-in for Caroline when Earle kidnaps her at the end of the second season.

Other dueling FBI agents. Yes, there are more than two FBI agents that appear in the series, but Agent Cooper is obviously the most important one. He’s affable and charming, and he quickly embraces all the folksy weirdness of the town of Twin Peaks. Early in the series and shortly after Coop arrives in town, he’s joined by Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer), who is prickly and cold. At least initially, Albert rejects everything about the town that Cooper loves. In Fire Walk With Me, Cooper gets a second twin in Chet Desmond (Chris Isaak), a similar-looking FBI agent investigating the death of Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley).

Teresa Banks. Essentially a Version 1.0 of Laura Palmer, Teresa is a 17-year-old girl living in Deer Meadow, Oregon. She has a brief sexual relationship with Leland Palmer, who murders her when she attempts to blackmail him. It’s presumable that Leland’s interest in Teresa is sparked at least in part by Teresa’s resemblance to Laura.

ALL THE REVERSE DOPPELGANGERS. I’m unsure if there’s a better term for this sort of relationship, but many of the characters on the show have “weird doubles” that share key elements of their personalities, with other ones significantly tweaked—Bizarro Superman-style but also Bizzaro Seinfeld-style. Often these pairs revolve around a third character with whom they have overlapping ties. I’m grouping them all together in one list.
  • Donna and Audrey. They’re both beautiful brunette high school students who seek to find out who killed Laura. But whereas Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) was Laura’s best friend, Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) and Laura were rivals. Donna is a good girl, at least at the outset, and Audrey is a bad girl—again, at least in the beginning of the series. Their respective moral alignments push them down two different paths as they try to find out who killed Laura. Audrey’s path takes her to One Eyed Jack’s, the seedy casino and brothel, while Donna ends up tracing Laura’s Meals on Wheels route. Donna and Audrey’s bond is made even stronger at the end of the second season when it’s revealed that they are actually half-sisters and that Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) is father to both. There’s a Huffington Post article that posits that Donna and Audrey are actually the most prominent of the many doubles: “Onscreen together, they look alike right down to the stage-left flick of their weightless hair-dos; immaculately turned-out, pale as snow, eyes deep and soulful, they are of a type, of a height, and of one appearance.” Also this: “In an early scene, A.H. and D.H. stand side by symmetrical side in a bathroom, discussing Laura’s death—the one who dislikes her, the other her best friend, but both claiming to understand her better than anyone else, and both drawn, mothlike, towards the fiery mystery that is Laura Palmer. Reflected alongside one another in the bathroom mirror, like some human Rorschach test, they are a fourfold image of visual consistency, a doubled doubling that resonates with significance in the eyes of the viewer.” It should be noted that this bathroom is decorated with a red stripe that wraps around the room. At several points, it spikes up into two symmetrical triangles. It’s a representation of the mountains that give the town its name, but in this scene, it’s yet another example of duplication.
  • Laura’s two boyfriends. Yes, Laura was sleeping with half the town, but her two most important relationships are with Bobby (Dana Ashbrook), her public boyfriend, and James (James Marshall), her secret boyfriend. Bobby is brash; James is shy. Bobby is on the football team and seems like an all-American dream but is secretly involved in the town’s drug trade. James wears a leather jacket and rides a motorcycle but is actually sweet-natured and honest.
  • Bobby’s two girlfriends. Bobby has a secret relationship as well: He was seeing Shelly (Madchen Amick) while he was dating Laura, and this relationship continues after Laura’s death. Laura kept up the pretense of being a good girl high school student while she was doing drugs and associating with criminal elements. Shelly, however, dropped out of high school to marry Leo (Eric Da Re), a criminal, and you could say that she left behind any pretense of her high school life. (We’re led to believe that she would have been in the same class as Bobby, Laura, Donna and the rest, right?) By having an affair with Bobby, who seems to love her, while being married to Leo, who is abusive and does not seem to love her, Shelly also gets her own triangle.
  • James’ two girlfriends. While secretly dating Laura, James falls in love with Donna, though the relationship only progresses once Laura is killed. Later, when Maddy arrives in town, a new love triangle develops around him, Donna and Maddy-as-substitute Laura.
  • Donna’s two boyfriends. At the start of the series, Donna is dating Bobby’s friend Mike (Gary Hershberger), who is a dick but who is also popular. She later starts dating James, who is sweet to her in a way Mike never was.
  • Ed’s two loves. It’s not just the teenagers in this town who have double relationships. Ed (Everett McGill) is married to Nadine (Wendy Robie), for whom he has some affection even though she is a terrible nag and seems mentally unwell. His true love, however, is his high school sweetheart, Norma (Peggy Lipton), who who understands Ed in a way Norma does not. His public relationship with Nadine hinders his private relationship with Norma.
  • Norma’s two loves. Similarly, Norma is married to Hank (Chris Mulkey), an ex-con who lies to Norma about being reformed, but she actually has always loved Ed, who is an honest man. Both Hank and Ed are involved with the unseen elements of Twin Peaks—the former though the Renault brothers’ gang and the latter through the Bookhouse Boys, a secret society that aims to fight for good. In that sense, the Bookhouse Boys are the benevolent version of a criminal gang.
  • Pete, Catheine and Josie. Take your pick about where to start. Pete (Jack Nance) is married to Catherine (Piper Laurie), who doesn’t seem to actually love him, but he has a special fondness for Josie (Joan Chen), who married Catherine’s brother Andrew (Dan O’Herlihy). Catherine hates Josie, both because she suspects her of killing Andrew and because Josie gained control of the Packard family sawmill. The three of them do-si-do until Josie’s death and Andrew’s (real) death.
  • Donna and Ronette. They’re both friends with Laura, but just as Laura had public and private boyfriends, she had Donna for the “good girl” portion of her life and Ronette (Phoebe Augustine) for the “bad girl” portion. In Fire Walk With Me, Laura actively pushes Donna out of the latter part of her life, not wanting her to associate with the elements that she apparently has no problem with Ronette associating with, and as a result it’s Ronette, not Donna, who is with Laura on the night she dies.
  • Lucy’s two boyfriends. Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) loves Deputy Andy (Harry Goaz), who’s a lovable oaf, but she also dates Dick Tremaine (Ian Buchanan), who’s slick and polished but not necessarily nice. Both Andy and Dick are potential fathers to Lucy’s baby, though she eventually decides that Andy should be the father.
  • Donna’s mom and her two men. We never hear the specifics of how and why, but the second season ends with the implication that Eileen Hayward (Mary Jo Deschanel) at one point had a relationship with Ben Horne and that Donna was the result of that union. This is surprising, given that Donna’s mother is essentially a background character beforehand, but also because Donna and Audrey are the same age, seemingly implying that both Mr. Horne and Mrs. Hayward may have been married to their current spouses when Donna was conceived. Nonetheless, Doc Hayward (Warren Frost) seems to have raised Donna as his own, and this makes it easy to contrast the two characters: The doctor is kind and unassuming and dedicated to helping people, while Ben Horne is aggressive and opportunistic and focused on making as much money as possible.

Shelly and Norma. They’re not opposites but parallels; Shelly loves Bobby but is married to Leo, a criminal who doesn’t really love her, while Norma loves Ed but is married to Hank, a criminal who doesn’t love her. They both work at the Double R Diner, and in one episode even discuss how similar their lives are, whereupon they decide to get makeovers that make them look alike as well.

Norma and her mother. Late in the series, Norma’s mother, Vivian (Jane Greer), arrives in town. An undercover food critic critic who writes under a pseudonym, Vivian introduces her new husband Ernie (James Booth), who it turns out is a criminal accomplice of Norma’s husband, Hank. In essence, Norma’s mother also follows in Norma’s footsteps.

Also, it’s called the Double R Diner. We never find out what those Rs stand for.

“Just You and I.” At one point, James sings a song while Donna and Maddy provide backup. In this sense, the girls are paired, sitting side-by-side in front of James and looking more similar than they ever have before. Also, they’re both romantic options for James. However, there’s irony here, in that the name of the song is “Just You and I” but there are not just two people present; there are three. In fact, the disparity between the title and the fact that there’s a third wheel present is emblematic of most of the romantic relationships on the show. Also, the “you” James is singing to might actually still be Laura, for all we know. Yeah, there’s kind of a lot going on in this scene.

The sheriff and the outlaw. In season two, Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) tells Coop that he and Hank used to be friends. They were both part of the Bookhouse Boys, but at some point Hank turned to a life of crime. Additionally, Hank is a criminal who is married to a virtuous woman, Norma; meanwhile, Sheriff Truman is a lawman who is dating Josie, a criminal.

The Milford brothers. Mayor Dwayne Milford (John Boylan) is introduced in the first season of the show, and in the second, it's revealed that his brother, Dougie Milford (Tony Jay), runs the local newspaper. They hate each other, and Dwayne resents Dougie’s marriage to Lana Budding (Robyn Lively), a young woman men seem to find irresistible despite the fact that just about every other woman in town is a total bombshell. When Dougie dies shortly after the wedding, however, Dwayne takes up with Lana and they quickly become engaged. (BTW, it’s beyond the scope of this list, but apparently Mark Frost’s book The Secret History of Twin Peaks gives Dougie a lot of backstory relating to the military, Project Blue Book, Gordon Cole (David Lynch) and Major Garland Briggs (Don S. Davis) You can read it all here, if you’re interested.)

And two more sets of brothers. There are two Horne brothers, Ben and Jerry (David Patrick Kelly), and they are entrepreneurs, whose business ventures stand to make the town a lot of money. However, there exists a second set of brothers, the Renaults — Jacques (Walter Olkewicz) and Jean (Michael Parks) — who are also entrepreneurs manipulating a great deal of money in town but who do so illegally, through gambling, prostitution and drugs. The Horne brothers are actually affiliated with these illegal operations, it is revealed, but this does not seem to be widely known in town. The Hornes are seen as legitimate businessmen, but the Renaults are seen as criminals. (There is also a third Renault brother, Bernard (Clay Wilcox), but he is much younger and is quickly killed off, and I just don’t think he’s as important as Jacques and Jean are.)

One Eyed Jack’s. It should be noted that one of the places that the Hornes and the Renaults do business is across the Canadian border at a casino and brothel called One Eyed Jack’s. This name is important. On a show where nearly everything exists in doubles, the name of this places calls attention to something that is normally a double but has been rendered a single: The jack only has one eye. It’s an exception to the rule, and in this location things that are normally hidden are done out in the open.

Multiple Bobs and Mikes. Early in the show, we meet Bobby Briggs and Mike Nelson, who are both on the high school football team and who date Laura and Donna, respectively. Not long into the show, we meet a second set of characters with the same first names—BOB (Frank Silva), the boogeyman who possesses Leland Palmer and makes him do awful things, and MIKE, a spirit who once also reveled in rape and murder but who at one point “saw the face of God” and decided to stop BOB. Just as BOB inhabited Leland, MIKE inhabits Philip Gerard (Al Strobel), a traveling shoe salesman missing his left arm. Gerard’s middle name happens to be Michael, and he mentions being friends with Dr. Bob Lydecker, the veterinarian who runs the clinic that Coop and company visit in an effort to find Waldo, the mynah bird owned by Jacques Renault. (Both Dr. Lydecker and Waldo’s names are further references to the Gene Tierney film Laura, in which Clifton Webb played a character named Waldo Lydecker.) And before I finish talking about Philip Gerard once and for all, I will point out that he is also notable in the way One Eyed Jack’s is—half of a complete set. He has one arm, and it’s noted that his suitcase only contains right shoes, as they are sale samples and not complete sets.

T.M.F.A.P. and the Giant. The backwards-talking little person known as “The Man From Another Place” (Michael J. Anderson) is paired with the Giant (Carel Struycken). They’re both otherworldly presences who speak to Coop in riddles and vague clues, but the Giant seems more interested in helping Coop than just reveling in chaos the way T.M.F.A.P. does. In the final episode, both the Giant and T.M.F.A.P. sit next to each other, whereupon the Giant speaks the line, “one and the same,” which could mean they’re two aspects of the same entity. This interpretation gets complicated a little by the Man from Another Place’s statement, “I am the arm,” which would seemingly imply that he is somehow the left arm that Philip Gerard cut off because it bore the tattoo “Fire Walk With Me” and represented a connection to BOB. If T.M.F.A.P. is the arm, I’m not sure what that makes the Giant, but I don’t doubt this is a conversation that’s played out on Twin Peaks diehard message boards for the last twenty-five years.

The Giant and Señor Droolcup. There’s a debatable connection as well between the Giant and the elderly waiter (Hank Warden) who arrives at Coop’s hotel room moments after he’s been shot. The waiter delivers Coop a glass of warm milk and leaves, and moments later the Giant materializes in the room. Later dubbed “Señor Droolcup” by Albert, the waiter seems to be just a doddering old man, but he reappears in the Black Lodge in the second season finale. In fact, the Giant says “one and the same” moments after he seemingly takes the place of the Señor Droolcup, so you could argue that he’s referring to that and not his relationship with the Man From Another Place.

Señor Droolcup and Dell Mibbler.  The final episode of Twin Peaks introduces a new character—Dell Mibbler (Ed Wright), the assistant manager of Twin Peaks Savings and Loan—and then promptly kills him off in the bank explosion. Before he dies, however, Audrey asks him to fetch her a glass of water, and the scene that follows is long, drawn out and comedic in a way that’s very similar to the scene in which Señor Droolcup delivers Coop’s glass of milk. It’s probably coincidental, and maybe more of a result of David Lynch thinking the impossible feeble old men are funny, but it’s notable that this episode also features an appearance by Señor Droolcup—in the Red Room. (Weirdly, Dell Mibbler shows up in The Missing Pieces. Lynch must have like this old weirdo.)

The two Mrs. Tremonds. While taking over Laura’s Meals on Wheels route, Donna meets Mrs. Tremond (Frances Bay), an elderly resident of Twin Peaks, as well as her spooky grandson (Austin Jack Lynch, David’s son). Later, it’s revealed that the woman Donna met wasn’t actually Mrs. Tremond; a different woman (Mae Williams) answers the door and claims not to have a grandson. In Fire Walk With Me, it’s revealed that the first Mrs. Tremond and her grandson (this time played by Jonathan J. Leppell) are inhabitants of the Black Lodge that have some association with BOB and the other spirits. When Teresa Banks lived at the Fat Trout Trailer Park in Deer Meadow, Oregon, they did too, though she was known as Mrs. Chalfont. As if to further underscore the doubling going on, Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton) relates to Chet Desmond the strangeness in the fact that the people who lived in the trailer before Mrs. Chalfont also had the last name Chalfont. The character’s actual name is never revealed. Incidentally, the grandson may have a double in the Jumping Man, another Black Lodge inhabitant and one who wears a similar mask to the one the grandson wears.

Lucy and Gwen. After it’s revealed that Lucy is pregnant, we meet her lookalike sister Gwen (Kathleen Wilhoite), who’s just had a baby. Lucy and Gwen look like twins and even talk similarly, and it seems notable that Gwen’s married name is Morton. Lucy’s full name is Lucy Moran, so that would make her sister’s full name Gwen Moran Morton, which would be instance of near-doubling.

Denise and Dennis. In the second season, Coop works with DEA Agent Denise Bryson (David Duchovny). Previous to Bryson’s activity in Twin Peaks, Coop knew the agent as Dennis, but she has since begun wearing women’s clothes and going by the feminine form of her name. However, for one operation with Coop, she wears men’s clothes and presents herself as male, so we see her as both Denise and Dennis. (NOTE: I feel like by today’s standards, counting Denise and Dennis as a double might seem like I’m saying “she’s both,” when it’s fairly clear that she identifies as a woman, but I also feel like this is how the character was presented back when these episodes aired in 1991. Now that everyone knows what “transgender” means, it will be interesting to see if Lynch and Duchovny address this when Denise comes back for the new episodes.)

Mr. Tojamura. Following the fire at the mill, Catherine disappears from the show and is presumed dead. Further into the second season, the town is visited by Mr. Tojamura, a Japanese businessman eager to work with Ben Horne. You eventually learn that this is actually Catherine in disguise. She is far from the only character on the show to adopt a false identity for one reason or another, but what’s interesting about this character arc is that the production staff allegedly tricked people into thinking Mr. Tojamura was played by a new actor—Fumio Yamaguchi, who’d allegedly worked on a number of Akira Kurosawa films and whom David Lynch had flown in from Japan. As Piper Laurie explains in this interview, the ruse was truly next-level: “The cast, crew, and all guest directors knew nothing; nor did my family. My name came off the credits, and Fumio Yamaguchi’s was put on. Because I wouldn’t talk about it when asked, my poor sister assumed I’d been fired. Sherrye was so upset that she started having asthma attacks, and I had to take her into my confidence.” She even had her makeup done off-set so she could arrive in character as Fumio Yamaguchi. And that is all kind of awesome.

A Packard family tradition. Both Catherine and Andrew Packard fake their deaths, only to make a shocking reappearance when they deem fit.

The other killer. In order to keep spoilers from leaking out, even in a pre-internet age, scenes were allegedly filmed with Ben Horne killing Maddy, thus implying that he was possessed by BOB and had also killed Laura Palmer. The scene allegedly plays out just like the big reveal does with Leland, even in the Palmer family house. The sequence has apparently never been released.

Josie and Judy. Okay, this is a weird one. You may well want to skip to the next item if you don’t feel like getting into the most abstract of Twin Peaks minutiae. In Fire Walk With Me, there’s an offscreen character named Judy mentioned twice: by Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie) and also by a monkey. No, really, there’s a monkey that gets a close-up at one point, and it utters Judy’s name, almost too quietly to hear. I have a video of it. You can hear the monkey talk around the forty-second mark.

In the context of the movie alone, we have no clue who Judy might be. However, it’s noted in a blog post about Judy (and titled, of course, “Judy, Judy, Judy”) that an early draft of the Fire Walk With Me script has Jeffries offering one more clue about this character: “I want to tell you everything, but I don’t have a lot to go on. But I’ll tell you one thing: Judy is positive about this. Her sister’s there, too—at least part of her.” For a few reasons, it’s posited that Judy’s sister might actually be Josie Packard. Foremost among them is that Robert Engels—a Twin Peaks writer who also co-wrote the script for Fire Walk With Me—said he thought Josie was in Buenos Aires, where Jeffries was previously, along with Windom Earle. So there’s that. If you take the “there” to mean the Red Room or the Black Lodge, then there’s an argument for it referring to Josie again. After she dies midway through the second season, she was at one point supposed to make a cameo in the second season finale—kinda sorta. According to this blog post, at least a portion of Josie’s corpse was supposed to be visible in that final episode, and you can even see behind-the-scenes photos that Richard Beymer took of Joan Chen’s stand-in on the set. It’s also noted in that post that Frank Silva, the actor who played BOB, even said that he remembered the scene being filmed, though he noted that Josie’s face hadn’t been visible. The scene doesn’t seem to have made the final cut of the episode, however. Finally, there’s that line that Jeffries speaks: “at least part of her.” It’s hinted on the show that in death, Josie suffered some sort of separation. For example, after Josie dies, her face is seen trapped in a wooden drawer nob in a dresser at the Great Northern. I’m including a video just because the special effects are gloriously early-’90s and we should all appreciate that.

When Doc Hayward does Josie’s autopsy, he notes that her body only weighs 65 pounds—a seemingly impossible fact that is never explained on the show but which would seem to indicate that some aspect of Josie was not present during the examination. That, coupled with Silva’s memory of the final episode showing Josie’s body (but not her face) has made some superfans postulate that Josie’s body was separated from its head—and that’s a ghastly thought, though perhaps not any more awful than any of the other sad fates that befall Twin Peaks characters. (There is also a second Judy in Twin Peaks: Judy Swain, the adoption agent played in the second season by Molly Shannon.)

Laura’s necklace. It’s a heart split in half, and it’s pretty easy to connect that imagery with Laura herself. She wears one half around her neck, in public, and gives the other half to James, her secret boyfriend. James buries his half, but it gets dug up; much like Laura, going into the ground doesn’t mean it’s gone for good.

The two diaries. Laura keeps one that most people know about, but there’s a second that she entrusts to Harold Smith (Lenny Von Dohlen) before she dies. That’s the diary that was published as an actual book, under the name The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer—a book, I should note, that Jennifer Lynch wrote twice because she lost the first copy of it.

The two ledgers. At one point, Josie discovers two account ledgers for the mill, offering two different pictures of the finances. At least one of them is counterfeit, created by Catherine.

The two rings. Fire Walk With Me focuses on Teresa Banks’ ring, which has a green stone and a picture of the petroglyph from Owl Cave on it. It has magical properties, and touching it makes Agent Desmond vanish, presumably sending him to the Red Room. It also doesn’t appear in the TV series, though Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) wears a similar ring. There is a different ring that figures prominently into the TV series, however: Coop’s ring, which the Giant takes from him after he’s shot and tells him he’ll get it back again when he finds all the clues. Rings and circles are also just a major motif of the show—donuts, the ring of trees at Glastonbury Grove and the circle of candle’s in Coop’s dream, among others.

Dr. Jacoby’s glasses. One lens is red; the other is blue. You could just view this as part of Dr. Jacboby’s kitschy schtick, but it’s also another example of someone taking what is traditionally a matching set and rendering it different from what everyone else has. Well, except for Nadine, who has only one eye, and I struggle to find meaning to that aside from a literal way of showing her myopia, as in her singleminded obsession with silent drape runners.

Hank’s domino. When we first see it, it has three dots on one side and three on the other. Later it’s four dots and four dots. There had been a few theories about what that change could mean—and what the domino in general could mean, as just the image of it is enough to intimidate Josie when Hank mails her a drawing of it—but the change in dots apparently resulted only from the original prop being lost. There is perhaps a lesson to be learned here in overreading.

Invitation to Love. At several points during the first season, residents of Twin Peaks are glimpsed watching this soap opera, seemingly oblivious to the soap opera elements unfolding around them in real life. But Invitation to Love also sometimes parallels things happening on Twin Peaks; for example, the character Jade (Erika Anderson) is shown to have an evil twin named Emerald (also Erika Anderson, duh) in the same episode that introduces Maddy as Laura’s identical but differently-tempered cousin. In the unedited version of this footage, you see that key plot point on the show was the production of two wills for one of the characters, one of which gets thrown into the fire. (BTW, all the Invitation to Love scenes were shot at the Ennis House in Los Feliz, which was also used in Blade Runner, Day of the Locust, the 1959 House on Haunted Hill and as Spike and Drusilla’s mansion on Buffy. There’s even a Mulholland Drive connection.)

Wrapped in plastic. That’s how Laura’s body is found, and then just days later that’s a key element of the costumes worn by the contestants in the Miss Twin Peaks pageant. Seems like it’s in bad taste, now that I think about it.

Twin Peaks and Deer Meadow. In Fire Walk With Me, we watch Chet Desmond, a kinda-sorta Coop, investigate the murder of Teresa Banks, a broke version of Laura Palmer, in Deer Meadow, an Oregon town that is essentially a bad version of Twin Peaks. Whereas Twin Peaks’ Sheriff Truman is upstanding, chivalrous and welcoming to the FBI, Deer Meadow’s Sheriff Cable (Gary Bullock) is a hostile jerk who literally fights Agent Desmond. There’s even an anti-Lucy working the front desk, who just giggles at Desmond when he comes in asking for information.

Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks. After handpicking the tiniest details for this list, it seems obvious to say that the town of Twin Peaks is also its own evil twin, but I also feel like that is key to the point David Lynch was making with the show. Even a place as pristine and friendly and gosh-darn American as this rural logging town has a seedy underbelly. It’s an idea he also explored in Blue Velvet, and you could make the argument that Twin Peaks was Lynch’s attempt to push that idea to even darker, stranger places.

The Black Lodge and the White Lodge. And then we have the biggest mystery of all—and the place that ended the original series. After all this time and all these episodes of Twin Peaks that I’ve watched, I still don’t really know what to make of the Black Lodge and the White Lodge, other than that they’re opposites and I don’t especially want to go to either. I will just offer the explanation given by Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse): “There is also a legend of a place called the Black Lodge, the shadow-self of the White Lodge. The legend says that every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection. There, you will meet your own shadow self. My people call it ‘The Dweller on the Threshold.’ But it is said, if you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.” But it is interesting, isn’t it, that when we see Cooper travel through the Black Lodge in the final moments of the last episode, it looks no different than the Red Room he dreams about at the start of the show? And that the floor is zigzagged with white and black?

All that backwards talk. What should we make of it? It’s something made intelligible by being spoken backwards and then again played in reverse, but that process also renders it weird and unsettling. It seems very in line with the Twin Peaks reverse doppelgangers, being flipped and flipped again until you’re back where you started but still somehow different. And it seems notable that it’s the following phrase—a perfect palindrome—that seems to trigger Coop’s entry into the hellish Black Lodge.

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“It is happening again.” There are a some miscellaneous plot points that come up more than once on the show and may be callbacks but may also not be obvious to people who haven’t watched the show as much as I have. I’m listing them off all together.
  • Trapped in the wood. In the first season, the Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson) explains over tea that her “pet” log houses the soul of her husband, who died in a fire. In the second season, Josie dies mysteriously at the Great Northern Hotel, and then Pete subsequently thinks he feels her presence in the wood. Later, you see her faced, trapped in a wooden knob on a dresser drawer. It’s one of the weirder things to happen in the back half of the show, but I feel like people often don’t connect it to the Log Lady’s story. (By the way, there is some interesting discussion about Josie’s death in this blog post.) 
  • Daddy-daughter dance. There’s a scene at the start of the second season in which Audrey has infiltrated One Eyed Jack’s and is posing as the newest girl on staff. Her father, Ben Horne, arrives and wants to check out the new merchandise, and you have this awkward situation where Audrey, masked, is attempting to evade the sexual advances of her own father. It’s mostly played as cringe comedy, but it foreshadows the awful truth we learn a few episodes later about Leland and Laura Palmer. This other father-daughter set actually did have a sexual relationship, and it was just the most awful thing and it ultimately resulted in the deaths of both Leland and Laura.
  • The ceiling fan. A visual motif in both the TV series and the movie is the spinning ceiling fan in the Palmer family house. There’s even a scene in The Missing Pieces in which Laura stares at it, seemingly hypnotized. I think it represents another major theme in Twin Peaks: inevitable repetition. Just as the fan blades can’t help but to spin in the same circle, over and over, events in this universe play out multiple times—Teresa and Laura, for example, or Coop and Annie or even Shelly inadvertently following in Norma’s footsteps. Repetition is, I suppose, another form of doubling.
  • She’s spooky. Certain characters never interact with the supernatural elements of Twin Peaks, while others get more than their fair share. At one point, Donna describes Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) as being “spooky,” having visions and such. Her niece Maddy has these as well—seeing Bob climb through Donna’s living room (in what is easily one of the scariest things ever aired in TV) or even seeing blood on the Palmers’ living room carpet as an omen of her own murder. Maybe the women on Sarah’s side of the family share this ability, but Maddy maybe exhibits it even more strongly than Laura does. 
  • Donna’s two sisters. It’s not notable on its own that Donna has two younger sisters, especially since that makes for three Hayward girls altogether, but it does seem notable that in the second season premiere, when the Haywards have the (surviving) Palmers over for dinner, both Harriet (Jessica Wallenfels) and Gersten (Alicia Witt) perform. Harriet reads a poem about Laura—one that is arguably not super appropriate, given her family is the audience—and Gersten plays the piano—a lively tune that inspires Leland to dance. This is probably me overreading, but it always occurred to me that this scene showed the two younger sisters both being inclined toward the arts and using their art to process the trauma of their sister’s best friend being murdered, but also that they process it differently. Harriet’s poem is dark, but Gersten’s song is happy, and maybe those are the two ways that people use art to process trauma—diving into it or escaping from it.
  • Donna is perceptive. In the first episode, Donna notes Laura’s empty desk, sees a classmate running away crying and immediately concludes that something terrible has happened to her friend. She starts crying herself. In the seventh episode of the second season, immediately after Maddy dies, Donna is sitting with James in a booth at the Roadhouse and again starts to cry. It’s unclear how she’d had sensed that anything bad had happened, as only Cooper seems to see any visions, though other characters also seemed disturbed by the sudden change in mood.
  • Bad trips. Fire Walk With Me shows a few brief glimpses of Phillip Jeffries, who vanished from a hotel in Buenos Aires, only to re-materialize at FBI headquarters, only to blink away again. All the while, he babbles about things that don’t make any sense, including the aforementioned Judy. It’s unclear exactly where he went, but it’s presumable that he had some interaction with the otherworldly forces that create havoc in Twin Peaks—and that the experience broke his brain. It’s similar in some ways to what happens to Cooper in the Black Lodge, only Jeffries seems outright crazy while Cooper is evil, by virtue of being possessed by BOB. The Missing Pieces offers a slightly longer look into Jeffries, and I found a clip of one of the extra scenes.
  • Ring ring. A major theme of Fire Walk With Me is the transfer of ownership of the green owl ring, and the misfortune that seems to follow anyone who acquires it. Again, the ring (and any ring) is a visual metaphor for circularity and repetition. In the The Missing Pieces, we see that Annie has acquired the ring only to have it stolen by a hospital nurse (Therese Xavier Tinling), who should rightly be doomed, though it’s unclear if we are supposed to consider it canon.

Miscellaneous meta bits. They’re probably neither here nor there but whatever.
  • Lynch + Frost. I mentioned this in the Lost Highway podcast, but I feel it’s worth repeating. What’s interesting about Twin Peaks is that if you ask a semi-culturally literate person what jumps to mind when they hear David Lynch’s name, they’d probably say some mix of the quaint and goofy with the surreal and horrific. That’s not inaccurate, as that combination is present in Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, but they’re most likely describing Twin Peaks, which is Lynch’s most famous work. The thing about Twin Peaks, however, is that it isn’t exactly a solo effort: It was created jointly by David Lynch and Mark Frost, and I think it’s the balance between this duo that made the TV show what it is. Notably, when David Lynch made Fire Walk With Me, Frost passed on participating. As a result, Fire Walk With Me plays out more like Lost Highway or Inland Empire—dark and raw and often horrifying, and without a lot of the humor that balanced out the TV series, “gobble gobble” scene notwithstanding. This is one of the big reasons I’m glad Mark Frost is returning for the new TV series.
  • Twin Peaks, twinned. In the way Laura Palmer became her own shadow-self and the way the town of Twin Peaks had its dark flipside, I feel like Fire Walk With Me is the dark twin to the TV series Twin Peaks.
  • Or maybe tripled. That previous statement may be rendered less meaningful by the new series, but it’s worth noting that in May of 2015, the news broke that the new series had itself doubled. That seems like an appropriate turn of events.
  • Book sequel, twice over. The show has spawned two books that further explore the characters and the setting of the show: The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer and The Secret History of Twin Peaks.
  • The Desperate Housewives connection. Early in the production of Desperate Housewives, Sheryl Lee was cast as Mary Alice, the dead neighbor who narrates the entire series. That would have been a doubling for Lee—playing Laura Palmer, the most famous murder victim in the history of American TV, and then playing another character whose best-known trait is that she was dead. In the end, however, the narration was supplied by Brenda Strong—Sue Ellen Mischke from Seinfeld, but also Jones, the assistant to Thomas Eckhardt (David Warner), the South African villain menacing Josie. 
  • The Donnas. Because Lara Flynn Boyle did not play Donna in Fire Walk With Me, Moira Kelly took the role and put her own spin on the character. Perhaps as a result of circumstance or perhaps as a result of the actresses’ vibes, the two takes feel different. Boyle’s Donna is a beautiful weirdo, while Kelly’s Donna is a bit mousier—or at least she is until she tries to go full bad girl. Regardless, we end up with two different Donnas. As the new series approaches, however, this point becomes interesting. James Hurley is coming back, as are Doc Hayward Gersten. It would seem strange if Donna weren’t in the mix as well, but she actually might be, despite the lack of either Lara Flynn Boyle or Moira Kelly in the cast. Lynch added a ton of people to the new series, and it seems possible that some of them could be taking over roles played by non-returning alumni from the original series. Could Ashley Judd maybe make sense as Donna No. 3? If Heather Graham isn’t coming back, could Laura Dern or Naomi Watts make sense as the new Annie? And who the hell is Jennifer Jason Leigh playing? Will we finally get to meet Diane? These are important questions, and I don’t want to wait two months to get the answers.

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Twin Peaks, previously: