Saturday, November 4, 2017


Marlowe and Shakespeare, (Bros)
Will, TNT Television Drama (2017). 

"A drama about the lost years of young William Shakespeare after his arrival to London in 1589,"  (IMDB)

I neglected to include the second synopsis bit about the theater being like rock and roll because I think in order to enjoy this show, you really need to have a relaxed attitude about some things, and the punk music is definitely one of them. I loved this show. Everything looked exciting and colorful, the acting was exciting and colorful, and I was fine with modern music being used to illustrate mood and feeling in Shakespeare's (and Marlowe's) London although not everyone will be. There is a pretty big community of people who get real bitchy about the useage of Iggy Pop, The Clash, and The Beastie Boys in media, and it's a downright certainty that they were unhappy with this placement, but I say whatever. If you can't enjoy "Sabotage," in an appropriate narrative moment, you're probably dead on the inside, anyway.

The point was obviously to attract a younger audience with a bunch of aesthetic spectacle while weaving the glamour and importance of the theater with the poverty, plague, and heavy anti-Catholicism present in England together with the writings of Shakespeare (Laurie Davidson) for more literary-minded, mature viewers. It works. Christopher (Kit) Marlowe (Jamie Campbell Bower), an established playwright who is, yes, portrayed as more rock star than writer, is a significant character in the narrative, and anyone at all interested in a sort of fairy tale glimpse of what it means to be a successful writer (contrasted with Will, an unknown at the series' start) will appreciate the insight explored through this often over-the-top character. Writer's block, drugs, muses, rejection, and sudden (fickle) success are all  covered, and in comparison to this guy, Will comes off as somewhat of a lightweight, at first. But patience pays off, and in the end, what begins as a sort of overindulged guilty pleasure turns into a legitimate story with interesting characters who've been written well and are solid enough in their performances to make you care about them.

"What a miserable, mother-swiving profession
it is to be a writer."
One of my favorite moments comes in the sixth episode after Will has just had to intentionally hurt someone he cares about in order to protect her, is stifling his own tears backstage, and then must go out for his bow to the wildly enthusiastic crowd cheering his play. In the middle of all the fun, this re-imagining also throws in a brilliant bit of acting, now and again.

WHO WILL ENJOY THIS SHOW: Fans of Shakespeare in Love, fans of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, fans of Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, non-snooty writers, sentimentalists, and teenagers.

WHO WILL HATE THIS SHOW: People who hate remakes of any kind, historical purists, Catholic purists, Protestant purists, and musical purists (i.e., if you're someone who couldn't tolerate Immortal Beloved because Oldman's Beethoven used a piano that didn't exist in that time or you give the side-eye to concertgoers who mistakenly clap between orchestral movements, it's probably best to stay far, FAR away).

Saturday, October 28, 2017


(you'll float too)

It, 2017. directed by Andy Mushietti; screenplay by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman; based on novel by Stephen King

" A group of bullied kids band together when a shape-shifting demon, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children. "(IMDB)

Well let's get the obvious out of the way: this was a redux of a highly popular work repackaged for today's audiences that played heavy on the nostalgia factor to entice older fans into seats, and it seemed to work. According to Scott Mendelson at Forbes, most filmgoers on opening weekend were females above the age of 25 (!) The marketing campaign was pretty brilliant---a solid, everyday object (red balloon), an easy-to-remember tagline ("You'll float, too!"), and a bigger, scarier clown all launched just in time for October, when everyone, present woman-over-25 company included, starts going through the horror list.

Did he "wear" it better?
Fans of the book have said the changes in decade and liberties taken with locations, dialogues, and character development weren't great; fans of the original 1990 miniseries, while admitting its cheesiness, have expressed preference for Tim Curry's more personable clown and insight into the characters as adults (as opposed to a separate film sequel, as this filmmaker has chosen). The book, for me, was way too long and I had a pretty big problem with the "group bonding activity" (aka 12YOGB) at the close of the kids' segment, but still a great story. The mini-series was poorly acted, poorly produced, and cheesy as hell, but understand that it was all we had, back in the day. Many of us needed a good remake of this, and I suppose the bottom line is that you'll never please everyone, especially when it comes to book adaptations or remakes and let alone both. My personal take on this (2017) production is that it competently told the story, tamed the edgier violence themes, and played successfully to the strengths of its young actors.

Setting the story in the late 80s instead of keeping with the original 60s opened up a ton of new possibilities for fashion, banter in dialogues, and best of all, music. The Cult, NKOTB, and Young MC provided a secure anchor for the era, but there were several other significant throwbacks from previous decades as well. The filmmaking captured a great balance between the dark inner worlds of the children Pennywise exploits (Ben's library, Beverly's incestuous apartment and bathroom, Stan's father's office and evil painting) with the bright, wide open landscapes where the kids learn bravery, compassion, and enjoy occasional light-hearted moments and humor. 

Bev shows inner strength

The horror parts were carried mostly by the creepiness of Bill Skarsgaard's not very personable Pennywise, the aforementioned dark environments through which he flourishes, and several well-placed jump scares. Truth be told however, the most disturbing segments of the film weren't when the kids were battling a killer clown but were dealing with real-life danger such as bullying, incest, and the death of a sibling.

One of the first films I saw, at age 6, and I'm
Which brings me to the social aspect of all this, but first I'll throw out the disclaimer that we have 4 neurotypical non-nightmare-suffering kids who all singly expressed desire to attend this film (which afterward they all said they enjoyed). Many people are politely horrified when they hear what we let our children watch, and this film was no exception. Our youngest is 8, oldest 13, and though they all grew up watching Sesame Street, Yo Gabba Gabba, Dora, Diego, and all the other kid shows, they've gravitated toward the television and films that Matt and I watch, which is exactly how my brother and I experienced media growing up. They can appreciate Disney films, they have been exposed to silent and foreign films, and they've learned to ask questions and to make comparisons and connections. Where this film is concerned, they had seen half the scenes online before we ever set foot in the theater, so there's also something to be said for familiarity and prepping in stages.

It's my opinion that empathy and humanity aren't only learned from the people in one's life, but in the stories of others, too, outside one's circle. The best way to experience this, for me, is through books, but in a lot of ways, films and more recently, television, have provided opportunities for this as well. Do we teach our kids what honor is? Or bravery? Yes, we do, or at least we try. But having specific memories, verbal or visual, to which they can attach abstract concepts might be helpful someday should the occasion arise.

On a basic level, this film can facilitate discussion about:

1. How to respond to bullying
2. How friends or loved ones can support you when times are tough
3. How being different is okay

Of course I can't say that every horror movie has this ability; I'm hard-pressed to identify any kid-specific, useful life lessons imparted by The Shining or Psycho, (other than maybe "Survival Through Avoidance") but whatever.

I won't shield my kids from the world because I expect them to take an active part in fixing it someday.

Friday, October 27, 2017

All the Updates

I tried to take a picture out the front and back doors as so to document the fact that it is snowing today, October the 27th, 2017, but the camera on my phone couldn't capture it and I thought posting a picture with superimposed snow (even though it is happening) would be a fake, cheater thing to do.

I've never not loved the piano.
Someone asked me today where my film review of It was, which means that this one person must have enjoyed my film reviews at some point over the years and therefore this validates me as a person, as a writer, and as someone who paid for and is still paying for a (mostly useless) film degree. The truth is, I haven't done many film reviews because I took a full-time job two years ago with Americorps as a reading tutor, and then just last May started full-time graduate school at Augsburg University for a masters degree in music therapy, which is to say my spare moments are all pretty much spoken for. In addition to piano, my at-one-time major instrument, and violin, my at-another-time second major instrument that's been left to sit way too long, I'm learning guitar, ukulele, and . . . (shhhhhh) voice. The interesting thing about this is the fact that my voice is not particularly ideal for singing, it's low and nasally, so more equipped for things like humming, ranting, or annoying people but it's coming along.

The education piece been exciting, challenging, and at times, very scary, but I really do love it, and have found myself more than once appreciating all the years of writing at Iowa's Summer Writing Festival and The LOFT Literary Center, because as it turns out, graduate school, even for music, is a shit ton of writing. Although in an interesting side note I'll add that chemistry, biology, and anatomy (all prerequisites for my admission) did not draw upon any writing, liberal arts, or narrative-based skills at all, and having to re-learn how to be tested on solid, scientific facts was somewhat of an adventure for someone whose main scholastic efforts tended to be, "GOOD ENOUGH," or "ALL MY BULLSHIT SOUNDS LEGITIMATE WHEN WRITTEN OUT THUS," (see former).

Regardless of my life, work, and educational commitments, I have missed writing about film and television. I taught a film appreciation class for Minneapolis Community Ed for five years and had to bow out this semester, and I find myself missing that, too. Funny how the things you tell yourself are too much seem to find their ways back to you if they're important enough.

We've started The Walking Dead and everyone loves it, especially the dynamics between Rick and Negan, which are admittedly very graphic, very unpredictable, and kinda sick. Here's the reason I'm okay with it: YOU CAN USUALLY ACCEPT AN ENEMY AS LONG AS THEY HAVE A SOMEWHAT WINNING/UNSTABLE-YET-NOT-ABRASIVE PERSONALITY. And I think a bit of comedy is also necessary. Some favorite examples:

  Howard Payne in Speed. Intelligent (he makes bombs), mildly unstable, but high on the comedy factor. Loved this guy.

  Bobby Peru in Wild at Heart. Not terribly smart, quite abrasive, and extremely unstable but enough comedy to carry him through (and by comedy in a David Lynch film I mean grotesquerie.) 

  Annie Wilkes in Misery. This bitch is crazy AF but still finds time to play with her pet pig, listen to Liberace records, and watch The Love Connection. Bonus points for being a dedicated fiction reader.

There's just something about a bad guy/girl who manages to entertain you while being bad. You don't necessarily root for them, but you get a little excited when they come on. This isn't always the case; there have been tons of terrible, disgusting villains that you really just wish would piss off and die. Scorpio in Dirty Harry, Martin Keamy in LOST, or Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones. Gross, abrasive, and no redeeming qualities therefore prompting wild applause in their respective deaths. Do you have any favorite villains? Or any you absolutely hated? I'd love to talk more about this, Walking Dead, or any other similar topics!

Image result
I don't like you, Negan, but I don't want you to go, either.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about It: why I loved it and why I took the family to it.

Monday, April 24, 2017

All the Twin Peaks #8

Sorry, darling but I like the blondes.
Twin Peaks Journal
Episode #8 The Last Evening
Airdate: May 23, 1990
Written by: Mark Frost
Directed by: Mark Frost

Summary: Doctor Jacoby is beaten by a mysterious assailant; Deputy Andy shoots Jacques Renault; Leo torches the sawmill with Shelly and Catherine inside; Nadine Hurley attempts suicide; Lucy tells Andy she's pregnant; Hank shoots Leo; Ben tries out the new girl at One-Eyed Jack's (who happens to be Audrey), Cooper is shot.

Other Areas of Interest:
*How fitting that among other various talents, Cooper can count cards!  

*Jacques drives a goddamned EL CAMINO! YES! 

*Nadine's suicide setup is pretty elaborate. Poor Nadine. 

*Norma seems to be visibly disgusted by Hank, as we all are.

*Leland is starting to lose it.

Rating: 🍩🍩🍩🍩 (Four doughnuts out of four possible)

There are some seriously amazing moments in this episode: 1. Cooper's subtle reaction of disapproval when Jacques, during their interview at One-Eyed Jack's, says that Leo "was doin' a real number on her (Laura)," which was accomplished mainly by a sudden tight closeup on Cooper's eyes, and 2. Sheriff Truman's look of utter fury and badass as he and his team close in on Jacques Renault. What a couple of guys.

I suppose the bigger issue here, the theme, if you will, is that the murder of Laura Palmer has become secondary for Cooper. Even though still an outsider, the crime has now begun to affect Cooper on almost the same level as the others---Truman, Doc Hayward, James, etc.,  and not just as an agent of the law, there's emotion involved now. He's angry when Jacques nonchalantly brags about the sexual escapades with Laura, just as Truman is when he finally gets his chance to arrest who he believes is Laura's killer. It matters to us in the same way as we too have become invested and want justice.

Old girl finds JR, Dallas, 1980.
What we saw Cooper's dream is the suggestion Cooper will eventually solve Laura's murder, but also that the dream itself was bizarre in a way that only David Lynch could conceive---the room was red and sinister, a little man was speaking in what sounded like backwards-dubbed language, and Laura Palmer whispered into Cooper's ear who her murderer was. It's a valid assumption that Cooper both has grown to care about the people of Twin Peaks AND is intrigued by the mystery of his dream and the strangeness of the events surrounding the murder (I'm mostly referring to Sarah Palmer's visions, The Log Lady, The One-Armed Man, and Cooper's ability to tie all this together to the assumed-to-be-related murder he mentioned at the town meeting). We are on the brink of getting resolution with all this and then, BANG BANG, in a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers (props back to the old school "Who Shot JR," for paving the way), Cooper goes down. A perfect episode with a perfect half-cadence conclusion to leave us high and dry, waiting for the next season.

Best Lynch Moment: Leo hiding behind the door with an axe
Best Line: "Be quiet, I'm thinking. . ." --Catherine to Shelly as the mill bursts into flames
Coffee, Pie, or Doughnut References: 1

Friday, April 21, 2017

All the Twin Peaks #7

"Audrey, you're a high school girl . . . "
Twin Peaks Journal
Episode #7, Realization Time
Airdate: May 17, 1990
Written by: Harley Peyton
Directed by: Caleb Deschanel

Summary: Lucy gets the results of her pregnancy test (wait, WUT?); Leo shoots Waldo the bird; Cooper, Truman, and Big Ed go to One-Eyed Jack's; Maddie sets up Doctor Jacoby; Audrey goes undercover at One-Eyed Jack's; someone spies on Doctor Jacoby.

Other Areas of Interest:
*Perhaps if Audrey would have postponed her little surprise-I'm-naked-in-your-bed thing with Cooper she might have been better received. . .

*Madchen Amick's acting is stepped-up as Shelly tells Bobby about shooting Leo, I believe it! Go, Shelly, GO! Red nails just like Lula Fortune in the mirror, crying.

*Unicorn=ancient symbol of purity? How ironic for "freshly-scented" perfume counter (One-Eyed Jack's) recruits. I gag thinking about stuff like this actually happening. I want to take all the exploited girls away in a death rig like Furiosa in Fury Road. And what do the hearts next to each counter girl's name mean? Ronnette got like three.

Jacques: That's Me! 
*Cooper has wealth of good ideas and seems sophisticated but at heart a gleeful little nerd. I bet he was awesome in shit like chemistry and physics. And quite attractive.

*Poor Jacoby. Innocent in all of this but takes a pretty big fall. And James' constant touching of Maddie is a little creepy. They all should have known that getup was a dead giveaway---Laura would never have worn that many layers of clothing. Maddie looks like a padded preschool teacher with all that garb piled on.

Rating: 🍩🍩 (two doughnuts out of four possible)

So here we are, back at the bizarre stuff again: high school girls getting recruited to whorehouses, talking birds, and Josie being an awkward liar. The anticipation of going to One-Eyed Jack's grows, bringing us toward an exciting conclusion!

The loose ties thus far: Jacques Renault/Leo Johnson (did they kill Laura? And what's up with that bird?), Catherine/Ben/Josie (Who will come out of this one on top?) James/Donna/Maddie/Jacoby (Was there something going on with the shrink?) Hank/Norma/Big Ed/Nadine (just unfortunate, all around). LELAND PALMER (getting creepier and creepier).

Best Lynch Moment: Leland, unobserved,  sits erect on the couch and watches Maddie sneak out of the house
Best Line: "I don't like birds,"--Cooper, when declining to feed Waldo
New Characters: Waldo the Myna Bird
Coffee, Pie, or Doughnut References: 2
Journal Entry of the Day: The Queen of the Double R, Norma Jennings

All the Twin Peaks #6

Twin Peaks Journal
Episode #6, Cooper's Dreams
Airdate: May 10, 1990
Written by: Mark Frost
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter

Summary: Cooper, Truman, Doctor Hayward, and Hawk visit the Log Lady and investigate Jacques' cabin; Audrey gets a job at Horne's Department Store; Maddie agrees to help James and Donna; Ben and Josie plot to burn the mill; Leo is assaulted by Hank Jennings and then shot by Shelly.

Audrey greets Cooper in bed (!).

Other Areas of Interest:
*Cooper has no patience for the Icelanders

*Ray Wise really is a genius as Leland. So much crying! All this dancing is just sad, and Catherine just makes it worse by imitating his moves.

*Cooper gets giddy over the Fleshworld situation---"Let's see who's writing to Ronnette!" Sometimes he seems like a little kid.

*Leo's phone call home---I MISS YOU, SHELLY? What, he misses hitting her? I suppose we should assume that he requires service in the bedroom as well as other areas of the house, or maybe Shelly really is just a maid to him? I want to believe that Hank is really just following up on his investment gone bad with Leo, but with the way he was leering at Shelly in the diner, I suspect he might have been thinking of the long game and a future without Leo and maybe a tumble or two with her? Hank is only slightly less disgusting than Leo; his one redeeming factor is that he seems to defer to Norma, who I still cannot believe dated/smashed with/married Hank.

Shut your eyes and you'll burst into flames!
*The Log Lady, Margaret Lanterman, is the first person to openly challenge Cooper in anything, she slaps his hand away from the cookies. How forward of her!

*The lineup shot of the four (Cooper, Truman, Hayward, and Hawk) is really sweet, it makes them all look badass and powerful and it conveys the importance of  Jacques' cabin as they all pause, scoping it out before launching into it. Julee Cruise playing softly on that turntable off in the distance just makes it all the more creepy, because why not? (Where we're from the birds sing a pretty song, and there's always music in the air.)

Rating: 🍩🍩 🍩 (Three doughnuts out of four possible)

After watching these episodes several times, it's been fun noticing little nuances that each new or different writer or director brings to his/her production. For example, this episode, written by Frost and directed by LLG has great emotional range and has a somewhat lesser focus on the strange/grotesque factors--(the episodes Lynch writes and directs are the opposite of this). Cooper's childish side, Leland's anguish, and the repeated encounters with the Icleanders' song are interesting situations with big emotions, and these scenes contribute to how the show manages to stay lighthearted and heavy in perfect balance throughout the first season. Nice work.

Best Lynch Moment: Getting to know the Log Lady
Best Line: "Wait, what kind of cookies?" ---Hawk
New Characters: The Icelandic Investment Group, Emory from Horne's Department Store
Coffee, Pie, or Doughnut References: 4
Journal Entry of the Day: Your favorite and mine, Shelly Johnson! I guess I thought she needed an Airstream trailer with some flamingos or something. Poor Shelly. It always made me sad she had to light her cigarettes on the stove (with all that hair just waiting to ignite) and then had to do all Leo's disgusting laundry OUTSIDE. We all want a better life for Shelly.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

All The Twin Peaks #5

"I saw this man in my dream."
Twin Peaks Journal
Episode #5, The One-Armed Man
Airdate: May 3, 1990
Written by: Robert Engles
Directed by: Tim Hunter

Summary: Sarah Palmer describes the man she saw in Laura's room; the one-armed man is found; Norma's husband, Hank, is paroled; Cooper and Truman investigate Laura's bird bites; James meets Madeline Ferguson; Leo impresses Ben Horne by killing Bernard Renault and promising to burn down the mill; Cooper searches Jacques Renault's apartment and find Leo's bloody shirt; James and Donna can't find the necklace.

Other Areas of Interest:
*There seems to be some weirdness going on between Leland and Sarah when she's talking to the cops. Is Leland making fun of her "visions?" She seems pretty annoyed with him after he brings up the necklace vision . . .

*Ah, Lucy and Andy are "together," or were, maybe.

*Cooper asks Jacoby if Laura had problems, "Oh my, YES."

*Hank is a damned creep. What's up with that domino? Quit putting it in your mouth. Yuck. I can't believe Norma hit that.

*Cooper and Truman stepping up to shoot targets after having emotional conversation about broken hearts is awesome.

Rating; 🍩🍩🍩1/2  (3 and 1/2  doughnuts out of 4 possible)

Things are getting complicated. According to Donna, Laura said her mother was "spooky." How about the fact that both Sarah AND Cooper have had visions/dreams of the same creepy guy? And while Laura's death is the catalyst for the story, it's a far cry from being the only strange occurrence around here. Everyone's either having an affair or plotting to ruin someone's life (with Ben Horne or at the request of Ben Horne). The drama is escalating nicely---at this point really anyone could have killed Laura and it's like a game of Clue over here, trying to narrow it down.

And about the doppelganger theme (introduced first on "Invitation to Love," the soap opera the characters seem to enjoy). See "Mirror Image," on The Twilight Zone for the endgame of all this business.The Madeline Ferguson situation is a giant red flag.

Hey, it's me! Seems legit. . . 

Best Lynch Moment: Ben Horne taking "Little Elvis," for a bath.
Best Line: "File it under "f" for "forget it,"--Cooper to Gordon Kohl regarding Albert's report on Sheriff Truman
New Characters: Gordon Kohl (voice), Hank Jennings
Coffee, Pie, or Doughnut References: 1
Journal Entry of the Day: The one, the only, LEO JOHNSON