Archive for February, 2012

Review: The Walking Dead – Season 2, Episode 10: “18 Miles Out”

Shane: "Look Rick, I know the world has come to an end and all, but I still feel the need to kill you over a woman". Rick: "Well, that's no good"

There are only three more episodes left on the second season and it has all pretty much taken place on the Farm of Their Discontent and been about Rick, Shane and Lori. That’s pretty bad. I have said this several times with my reviews and I think it is finally dawning on people that this show really is no longer what it started out to be. Gone are the excitement, urgency and somber mood of the first season. Gone is the terrifying setting, the struggle to survive, to find answers, to dig deeper into questions about the human soul and the consequences of days gone by in the zombie apocalypse. The zombies and the apocalypse as such are just purely incidental at this point; a diorama, a facade, a backdrop. They had a perfect angle at the CDC and with Dr. Jenner and they crapped all over it with taking the show in this direction.

The characters have all been facing a slow death, just as the show itself. T-Dog, Daryl, Dale, Carol and Glenn don’t even appear on this episode anymore (that is half the principal cast) which I think is symbolic, more than anything else, as these characters have pretty much stopped mattering a long time ago vis a vis the petty, Lifetime Television for Women problems of the other three. The show has become all about Rick, Shane and Lori and that stagy, soapy love triangle between them.

Rick: "Shane we are not killing him. Let me think about it and we can always execute him later."

Lori: "Andrea, why aren't you doing dishes like the rest of us.", Andrea: "Because I am out there protecting the farm against Walkers...?" Lori: "That's so useless. We don't need that. We got big, strong men for that. A cozy bed your man can come home to is much more important. Isn't it a wonderful world. I get laid on a regular basis and if you did you'd feel as good as me." Andrea: "Um, Lori, you DO realize that the world has come to an end right?" Lori: "I can't think about that right now Andrea; I have several sandwiches to make"

Rick and Shane – in a scene that reeked of Old Spice and balls – pull over on a deserted road 18 miles out (why 18?) where they get to – in a very testosterone loaded way no less – man it up and talk about their feelings and ownership claims over Lori; Lori – an unlikable, selfish and moronic character with no redeeming qualities and someone who has been the cause and source of a lot of misery and grief for a lot of people in this group – especially between Rick and Shane who are willing to kill each other over her. Kill each other.

Rick: "Too bad it isn't Shane lying on top of me. I could totally shoot his brains out from this angle. What's the world come to that two best friends can't even kill each other in peace anymore"

 

In fact, watching these two beat the living hell out of each other 18 miles outside of the farm in some random location ravaged by the APOCALYPSE, as in END OF THE WORLD, over a woman, made me seriously question whether they both still deserve to live. That and the fact that Rick is actually seriously considering whether he should murder the boy. At this point it wouldn’t of course be murder, but an execution. At least when Shane killed Otis, it was on a whim and not because he planned it, like Rick.

Back at the good old homestead, where women know their place in the kitchen, Lori and Andrea have a profound conversation; the kind of conversation misogynist men imagine women should have with one another in an ideal world, which for the writers of this show seems to be the post apocalypse. That entire conversation Lori and Andrea had in the kitchen was cringe worthy and insulting.

It was like two 8th graders had written that lame, ineffective dialogue. It had no power and did not make any point or evoke any kind of intelligent thought. In fact, it made Andrea look bad, which is ridiculous, and from the way they have portrayed her all throughout the show – you know, as a screw up and rebel – we were apparently to side with that idiot Lori. I couldn’t believe Lori, as a woman of the 21st century, was giving Andrea a hard time for not sticking around the house washing clothes and cooking and thus basically for possessing insufficient skills to be dude property.

And I couldnt believe that the writers had seriously nothing better to write about than reciting outdated, Victorian notions about how as a woman Andrea should basically know her place and let the big, strong MEN take care of the important stuff while she devotes her time to knitting and making a comfortable home for said protectors. Really? I mean no…REALLY? R.E.A.L.L.Y??

With the way these people behave, let’s face it, they are unworthy of being the last survivors and pretty much represent the worst of human kind and – along with the writers – deserve to be gutted already and put out of their misery.

It also seems like they are artificially extending the whole “Shane is the villain” story arc to make up for a lack of direction and originality that’s been plaguing the show since the beginning of season 2.

The world has come to an end and Shane and Rick have nothing better to do than drive to an abandoned warehouse, beat the shit out of each other over a woman and draw attention to themselves. I guess they are the reason this extinction event took place

Firing Frank Darabont was a huge mistake. A Hollywood Reporter article was talking about huge budget cuts imposed on the show and how the network repeatedly dumped all over Darabont’s creative vision by imposing things like 50% of the shots occurring outdoors and 50% indoors (indoors being cheaper to film) and another note asked whether or not the audience had to always see the zombies – couldn’t they simply hear them sometimes. It’s been said that Darabont was involved in constant battles with the network to maintain the creative vision that drew so many fans to the series in the first place and that those fights eventually led to him being fired altogether.

Cast members, who were not happy by Darabont’s departure, and especially outraged at the network’s calculated move to fire him right after Comic-con, were also reportedly harassed and warned about making any public comments on this. Afraid to be killed off the show and also pink slipped, they all obliged.

All this would explain why the entire season has taken place on one farm instead of them moving and why there have been a minimal number of new characters – all of which would have greatly contributed to the quality of the show.

Rick "Shane, get out of the bus. I know you tried to kill me just now and want to replace me, but I can't tell the difference between right or wrong anymore and I am totally willing to take you into my warm bosom of brotherly love, until you try to kill me again (why again are we going extinct?)"

Darabont had managed to perfectly convey the mood of a world post apocalypse. The world he imagined, in conjunction with the interesting characters he created and developed, further aided in making that vision a reality, ultimately creating an exciting and thought provoking show. Not so much this season which, for the reasons mentioned, leaves much to be desired.

This season just gives the whole show a bad name, which is a shame because Darabont did an amazing job introducing us into the zombie apocalypse and these characters who were all multidimensional and caught in bad situations when their journey began.

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Twin Peaks

palmer

Laura Palmer

***This article contains major spoilers. If you have not seen Twin Peaks and don’t want to know what happened, do not proceed***

What a mind bender. Twin Peaks is one of the strangest and most innovative TV shows ever made. It is lurid, eerie, surreal, terrifying, quirky and absorbing. It is an odd little saga with odd components, including the usual mundane stuff and the paranormal – along with strong performances that make it all work. It is a genius mix of soap opera, parody, mystery/detective show, and horror film, all thrown together to create something insanely complex, surreal and entirely original. It is symbolic, it is insane and it is tragic.

In an interview David Lynch said “What’s special about it to me is that its a bit of a dream. Its a warm and tender dream, a place you can go to. I love the mood of the place–its based a little bit on the B-Movie.”

…the homecoming queen. The brilliance of this show lies in the fact that it can completely parody and mock its characters at one moment, and take them and their feelings completely serious the next while at the same time creating an unexpectedly terrifying and somber mood.

The tragedy surrounding Laura Palmer’s death is palpable and heart breaking, resulting in the show creating an emotional resonance that reveals that Lynch is not to be taken lightly. This show will make you sit down in amazement, trying to figure out what Lynch was smoking and how you could get some.

Marilyn Monroe and Laura Palmer – Kindred Spirits

I was not sure if this was intentional or purely incidental, but I noticed that all of Laura’s contemporaries in Twin Peaks are brunettes (Shelly Johnson is sort of like a red-head/dirty blonde). This prompted me to research the inspiration Lynch had for Twin Peaks and indeed there is quite a story behind this mysterious lady whose cheerful eyes harbor dark secrets.

Marilyn Monroe

In late 1989, David Lynch and television producer Mark Frost decided to work together on a biopic of singer and actress Marilyn Monroe based upon Anthony Summers’s book, The Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe.

Of Monroe, Lynch said: “I always, like ten trillion other people, liked Marilyn Monroe and was fascinated by her life. So when this came along, I was interested, but you know the drill. I got into it carefully… We met with Anthony Summers, who wrote the book. The more we went along, the more it was sort of like UFOs. You’re fascinated by them, but you can’t really prove if they exist. Even if you see pictures, or stories, or people are hypnotized, you never really know. Same thing with Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys and all this. I can’t figure out even now what’s real and what’s a story. It got into the realm of a bio pic and the Kennedys thing and away from this movie actress that was falling. I got cold on it. And when we put in the script who we thought did her in, the studio bailed out real quick.”

Laura Palmer, a teenager harboring dark secrets

Laura Palmer, a teenager harboring dark secrets

No one ever really seemed to know Monroe; she appeared somewhat of a mystery during her lifetime which turned into myth after her death. Similarly, no one really knew who Laura Palmer was when she was alive, and much less after her death which revealed a side of her completely unknown to even her closest friends.  In fact, it is not until her death that we find out who she might really have been.

When Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) finds cocaine residue in Laura’s diary, Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) is astounded and tells Cooper that he must be mistaken as Laura was not that kind of a girl.  

Yet, as the mystery surrounding Laura’s death unravels we find out that she was so much more than that kind of a girl.

But Marilyn Monroe and Laura Palmer were also empowered women in a sense. Monroe radiated a sex appeal and vulnerability that rendered her extremely attractive and desirable to the opposite sex and she was quite aware of her power in that regard and she used it to get out of Hollywood what she wanted.

Similarly, Laura exhumed a certain kind of mesmerizing and relentless sexual power over men without much effort. As she said in one of her recordings to Dr. Jacoby: “why is it so easy to make men like me?  And I don’t even have to try very hard.

As we are to find out while looking deeper within the life and death of Laura Palmer, Laura was not quite the victim everyone believed she was. She was a fighter as she opposed Bob’s attempts to posses her and bend her, as he had done with her father; an opposition that cost her her life and sanity as she tried to escape Bob’s influence but which is still a testament to her inner strength and determination.

Audrey (Sherilynn Fenn) and Laura (Sheryl Lee)

Audrey (Sherilynn Fenn) and Laura (Sheryl Lee)

It was interesting to see that Laura had a dark side to her; a deviant, mischievous side; with desires that most people wouldn’t think a precious teen like her, the prom queen, does or should not have. Was she forced into kinky threesomes with strange men in the woods or did she in fact enjoy it?  The scene in Fire Walk With Me where she dances topless in the bar and has a man give her oral sex while sitting at a booth show us a side of her completely unbeknownst to everyone else, including the viewer. Her secret diary further reveals a side of Laura rather foreign to everyone, including her very best friend Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle).

Ultimately, the dark secrets she was harboring and the agony she was enduring drove her to seek out peoples’ weaknesses and prey on them, tempt them and break them down, making them do terrible, degrading things.  She corrupted people because that is how she felt about herself.

Sheryl Lee 16In the end both Marilyn and Laura were broken women, haunted women,  chained by their demons and lost. And as much as both drew the admiration and lust of every man they met, they were never able to overcome their profound loneliness, ultimately facing an untimely and tragic demise under mysterious circumstances that drew an equally mysterious aura around them long after they were gone.

Origins of Twin Peaks and the Story of Laura Palmer

When Lynch’s project based on Summer’s book fell through due to lack of studio support, Lynch’s agent suggested that he should do a show about real life in America, similar to Blue Velvet. Even though Lynch and Frost did not immediately love the idea, talks with studio execs convinced them to give it a try. It was whilst Frost and Lynch were talking in a coffee shop that they both had the idea of a corpse washing up on the shore of a lake, an image they began using as the basis for their next project Twin Peaks. They watched Peyton Place (1957) as the inspiration for the town of Twin Peaks and its inhabitants.

James and Donna

As they thought about their story and began mapping it out (they even knew there would be a lumber mill, just as in Peyton Place), they realized that a lot of the elements of Summer’s book Goddess and their planned Marilyn Monroe which they had wanted to use before but which never came to fruitioncould be salvaged and used in this show. Frost and Lynch came up with the idea of the girl next door who had a sweet tooth for nose candy and prostituted herself in order to finance her habit, thus leading a double life that would end in murder and the gradual exposing of dysfunction and terror in sleepy small-town America.

The feature-length pilot’s screenplay for Twin Peaks was finished in only nine days and ABC Entertainment’s President, Brandon Stoddard, ordered the pilot to go into production. Seriously worried that the pilot would never actually hit te airways given network television’s constraints, ABC asked Lynch and Frost to film a “closed ending” to the pilot (now available as alternate ending/European release on the DVD) for direct to video release in Europe to help recoup losses on the $4 million investment in case the pilot never made it in the United States.

The_Twin_Peaks_Bird_by_pinkythepink

Opening Shot of Twin Peaks

Robert Iger, who had become the show’s new advocate at the network fought hard for the show to be picked up after the pilot and after Stoddard’s departure. However, because of the show’s risky thematic, Iger could only secure seven hour-long episodes that would form the first season.

David Lynch filmed the pilot in only 23 days, but in spite of this accelerated schedule he remarked, “I didn’t feel we compromised, and I felt good.” And he later added, “We lucked out on the pilot, and everything fit just right. But any time limit is arbitrary and absurd.”

Lynch and Frost wanted to mix a murder mystery in the form of a police investigation with soap opera elements in order to create a series that was scary and sexy, funny and decadent, mundane and surreal. The mystery of who killed Laura Palmer was going to be the main plot element which – over time – was to gradually recede to the background as other townsfolk and their stories were unfolding. In fact, the murder was never really supposed to be solved, as was actually done half-way through season 2, and the aim for Twin Peaks was to expose the gruesome underbelly of the Leave it to Beaver and apple-pie America.  Thus, Twin Peaks was born and the rest, as they say, is TV making legend.

Unraveling the Mystery 

Laura’s evil doppelgaenger in the Black Lodge (Episode: Beyond Life and Death)

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Laura had secrets and around those secrets she built a fortress that no one seemed able to penetrate.  Everytime she tried to make the world a better place, something terrible came up inside her and pulled her back down into hell, taking her deeper and deeper into the darkest nightmare and everytime it got harder to go back up to the light.

As FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), with the help of Sheriff Harry S. Truman (!) (Michael Ontkean) and his local law enforcement team set out to solve Laura Palmer’s murder and get to the bottom of those secrets, they also tap into the lives of these seemingly ordinary townsfolk who each harbor not only great secrets of their own but also entertain severe dysfunctions on a multitude of levels.

There appears to be a whole layer of subtext underneath the surface of this simple town and its inhabitants; a dark, ugly subtext with sinister undertones that slowly creep to the surface as Cooper investigates. As Lynch explained: “I didn’t try to make ‘Twin Peaks’ realistic – it’s sort of a mythical town and it’s a desire town. It’s where you’d want to go at 10 at night to just float and see what was gonna happen. The story revolves around what happens when the most popular girl in high school is mysteriously murdered – she’s found floating face down at the Packard Sawmill. We then get to know the secret lives of all the people in the town as an FBI agent attempts to unravel the crime.”

The Ugly Face of Small Town America and Owning One’s Shadow 

When Cooper – quite early in his investigation – tells Special Agent Albert Rosenfeld (Miguel Ferrer) that in his short time in Twin Peaks he has seen “decency, honor and dignity” it is quite ironic because this town is filled with everything but decent, honorable people who posses dignity.

Ben and Jerry Horne at One Eyed Jack’s

This brings us to an important theme of Twin Peaks, which is that of double lives that lead to the concept of Doppelgängers: paranormal doubles of a living person, typically representing insidious alter egos. A concept that itself is similar to Carl Jung’s concept of the “shadow”, which personifies in the subconscious everything that a person refuses to acknowledge about himself and represents “a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well” (Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (London 1996) p. 284 and p. 21)

If and when an individual makes an attempt to see his shadow, he becomes aware (and often ashamed of) those qualities and impulses he denies in himself.

In Jung’s assertion, the unwanted and repressed desires of our subconscious always follow us like a shadow and the more we suppress them in our conscious lives, the more overwhelming they become and cross over into that conscious mind.  The conscious personality has to integrate the shadow and not vice versa. Otherwise the conscious becomes the slave of the autonomous shadow.

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Confrontation with the shadow, during what Jung called the “time of descent”, genuine courage and strength are required with no certainty of emergence. Such descent, while dangerous, Jung believed would eventually be followed by an ascent – enantiodromia – and assimilation of, rather than possession by, the shadow becomes at last a real possibility. In other words, one has to own one’s shadow – acknowledge and let it in –  otherwise it will overwhelm the conscious mind making ascent impossible.

We see that duality, that doubleness everywhere in Twin Peaks – from the actual twin peaks of the mountains to the duality present in the characters of Twin Peaks and the shadows that inhabit them.

Twin Peaks quite expertedly explores the concept of shadow selves to varying degrees. This dichotomy can be comedic, like the two Horne brothers being named Ben and Jerry, or nightmarishly terrifying, such as Laura’s outward appearance as the homecoming queen and straight girl vis a vis the dark slide into Jung’s “descent” in the form of a desperate double  life in which she is caught in a vortex of drugs, sex, incest and crime dragging her down.

As the story of Laura Palmer unfolds and as we get to know each and every character in the seemingly Norman Rockwellian town of Twin Peaks, we become gradually acquainted with these characters and their shadows, their Doppelgängers.

Leland Palmer and BOB. Or Leland Palmer and his shadow?

Leland Palmer and BOB. Or Leland Palmer and his shadow?

Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer), the town’s richest and most powerful citizen who has everyone’s respect, runs a drug trafficking scheme and brothel on the other side of the Canadian border, the latter of which he frequently employs with young teenage girls he hired for the perfume counter of his department store (Laura and Ronnette Pulaski both worked there); he cheats on his wife with those teenage prostitutes, he even had sexual relations with Laura Palmer and he sleeps with Catherine Martell (Pipe Laurie), who is married and whom he later orders to be murdered  just to get the land she owns. He isn’t much of a father to his mentally incapacitated son and ignores his daughter Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) to the point where she puts (herself in harm’s way just so he notices her.

Leo Johnson (Eric Da Ra), who helps smuggle drugs across the border and engages in various criminal activities for Benjamin Horne,  gruesomely beats and abuses his wife Shelly (Madchen Amick), a young high school drop out whom he married only because it was cheaper than hiring a maid. Shelley, in turn, cheats on Leo with Bobby Briggs, who used to date Laura Palmer and whom he in turn was cheating on with Shelley.

Laura’s  popular quarterback boyfriend Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) is a drug pusher who also leads a shady double life vis a vis his law-abiding, Army General of a father who always appears to speak in sermons.

 Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton) cheats on her career criminal husband, Hank (Chris Mulkey), who is spending hard time in the slammer, with Ed Hurley (Everett McGill) – who is a married to an insane woman who  – for most of the series – suffers from amnesia and thinks she is a teenager.

Ed Hurley himself is the stand up guy who – as a member of the secret society the Bookhoue Boys helps apprehend dangerous criminals and fight the evil forces believed to be lurking in the woods, yet he is scared of his wife, Nadine, almost turning to a frightened adolescent boy when she is around.  What’s more, while he acts obedient and faithful to his wife, he is cheating on her with Norma Jennings and deep down holds Nadine in deep contempt, resulting in him to lead a double life.

James (James  Marshall), Laura’s secret boyfriend first tells his uncle Ed Hurley that Laura was “the one” and next evening is seen kissing Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle), telling her that he had been in love with her all along, even when he was with Laura.

Finally, Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) – Laura’s father – as we find out in  Fire Walk With Me – while on the outside portraying the loving husband to his wife Sarah and an upstanding member of the community as the attorney for the Horne’s, cheats on his wife with girls looking like his daughter and is involved in a incestuous relationship with Laura, not to mention the ultimate duality within him, namely possession by BOB.

All this poo-poo platter of intercoiled relationships sound soap operaish? Yes, because that was the intention. While on the one hand Lynch shows the deep psychological chasms that exist within the characters, he also touches upon them in a lighter way, such parodying the soap opera theme he introduced into Twin Peaks with Invitation to Love, which was a “series-within-a-series” popping up in nearly every episode of the first season, acting as some kind of a commentary on events unfolding in Twin Peaks itself.

It is interesting how Lynch took that picture of the prom queen with the perfect smile and the small, sleepy town she was living in and painted all black over it. As the audience gets to know the people of Twin Peaks and Laura Palmer, it becomes clear that there were terrible secrets and a dark facade hidden underneath that perfect smile and those sad, haunting eyes.

Twin Peaks is as much about the mystery of this surreal, secluded town, its eerie, mysterious woods and its lurid characters as it is about the life of an American teenager having lost her bearings, entangled in a web of deceit, drugs, promiscuity, crime and sheer terror.

Twin Peaks. Population 51,201

Twin Peaks

By creating Twin Peaks, Lynch ventured into creating a soap opera but of nightmarish proportions. At times it is light as air and mundane, at other times it is terrifying and sinister. We are introduced into a beautiful and sleepy small American town that has, beneath the surface, crossed over into a very real nightmare.

As the narrative of Twin Peaks unfolds, we become intensely drawn into the lives and drama of its multifaceted characters and realize that while there is an element of terror in there, there is also familiarity; a bizarre kind of reality that cannot be described easily but can always be felt when entering the world of Twin Peaks.

View from the RR Diner

Unsatisfactory Developments

Unfortunately, with the revelation of Laura’s murderer and the resolving of the main story arc less than halfway through Season 2, the pace changed and the series seemed to drag on a bit only to meet an unsatisfactory cliffhanger ending.

Some of the characters began behaving in a way designed to service an extended plot instead of the plot responding to the characters. It was like they let out all the air at once and then suddenly they had about 12 episodes to go with nothing to do, since, after all, the show was mainly about Laura’s death and the mysterious circumstances under which she died.

The truth about who killed Laura should really have come last, not half way through. The connection Lynch drew between the evil that is lurking in this town and its woods, Laura’s death, the concept of the Black and White Lodge and Cooper eventually being inhabited by Bob at the end of the series, were brilliant and everything fell together, but the order should have been reversed and the revelation of who murdered Laura and the demise of Cooper should together have made for an explosive finale. Lynch blamed network pressure for the decision to resolve the Palmer storyline prematurely.

Clockwise from top: James (James Marshall), Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) and Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle)

The final episode was terrifying and it makes you wonder just how far down the rabbit hole Lynch would have taken us in subsequent seasons had he been given more creative control.

The possible romantic relationship between Cooper and Audrey was also never resolved and instead they had him more than half way through season 2 fall in love with a random girl named Annie Blackburn (Heather Graham), Norma Jenning’s (Peggy Lipton) sister. It was an abrupt deviation from a story arc that had so naturally developed over time and was just awaiting its conclusion.

Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn)

The official story for why they did not pursue the romantic storyline between Cooper and Audrey was that MacLachlan himself had objected to the idea because he believed it would have been out of character for Cooper to be falling for a teenager.

But the reality seemed to have looked differently, as reportedly Lara Flynn Boyle (Twin Peaks’ Donna Hayward), who was dating Kyle MacLachlan at the time, objected to co-star Sherilyn Fenn being paired together with MacLachlan in a series of romantic scenes, especially considering their considerable on-screen chemistry. Boyle seemed to have been further irritated by the fact that Fenn’s character Audrey was gaining prominence in the storyline while Boyle’s character Donna was given little to work with and had gradually been moved to the background.

Audrey and Cooper

In a recent interview Finn recalls that David Lynch, by creating Audrey, had “made a character that got bigger than his original characters that were the important characters [in the show]. And those girls were not happy about it […] this was supposed to be the Lara Flynn Boyle show.

Finn’s increasing popularity on and especially off screen as well as the immense chemistry she and McLachlan had were apparently too much for Boyle to handle and so it is believed that she pressured McLachlan to convince the writers that a romantic relationship between Cooper and Audrey was out of the question.

Of course,  it would not have been out of character for Cooper to have fallen for Audrey; he was only a few years older and it was obvious that he had already fallen for her throughout the show, so following through would have just followed the natural course of how things had been set up.

Whatever the reason for it, the abrupt ending of Audrey and Cooper’s romantic relationship and the introduction of random love interests for both was probably the worst misstep of the series, creating a disconnect.

Michael Ontkean, Frank Silva (BOB) and David Lynch discussing a scene

Twin Peaks – After 20 years

Twin Peaks still stands the test of time, however, and in fact rivals, if not supersedes, a lot of the even “smart” network TV shows out there today. Lynch truly is a master. Every character he created truly inhabits their role and I don’t think they could have picked anyone better than Kyle McLachlan for the part of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper.

In fact, one can clearly see the template of the The X File’s Agent Fox Moulder (David Duchovny, who also had a guest role in the show) in Agent Cooper. In many, ways Twin Peaks paved the way for a lot of the detective/mystery shows to come later and set a new standard for television shows in that regard.

The ultimate question Twin Peaks poses, and never answers because that is not Lynch’s style, is what is that mysterious, evil that lurks in the woods, or the soul of men; is it insanity or evil? What even is insanity, what is evil? When we say someone is a schizophrenic, like the One Armed Man in Twin Peaks, what does that really mean? What is schizophrenia and mental illness? Chemical imbalances? Possession by evil? 

Did people imagine BOB? Can anyone believe BOB existed given how fantastic the circumstances surrounding his presence seem? As Agent Cooper said “is it easier to believe a man would rape and murder his own daughter?” Is it more comforting calling it that and expressing it in terms we understand?

“How is Annie? How is Annie? How is Annie?” – BOB finally inhabits Coop

Twin Peaks is all about that little space – the line between insanity, evil and the surreal – the very fabric of which things are made, secrets kept, actions towards each other informed. because what really is the definition of evil in relation to the human condition? When someone commits an evil act, while others never break the law their entire lives, you wonder what separates the latter from the former. Is BOB, as Major Briggs suggests, just the evil men do?

In this saga David Lynch is showing us – in his very own peculiar way – that there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in our philosophy…

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Review: The Walking Dead – Season 2, Episode 9: “Triggerfinger”

Rick (Andrew Lincoln) protecting what is his

With this episode, it becomes clear that Shane’s mask of sanity is lowly slipping and that he has turned almost delusional with regard to Lori and the baby that he thinks is his. Delusional in the Fatal Attraction sort of way. He is starting to think that he and Lori really had something deep and meaningful going on during those couple of weeks where they thought Rick was dead and it looks like confrontation with Rick is going to be inevitable as Shane is slowly losing it. In fact, it looks like Shane is going to mix it up with someone soon and pull the trigger again.

Lori stuck in the car

 

Maybe it is the trauma that ensues from living in a world post apocalypse where everything you have ever known is gone or maybe it is because Shane has always been kind of an unstable, violent asshole and it is all surfacing just now that this thin veneer we call civilization has vanished. Whatever it is, Shane is “falling down” and it becomes increasingly more clear to everyone that they’re gonna have to worry about him just as they have to worry about Walkers. I used to root for Shane because what he said made sense and he had guts, but he has pretty much crossed the line into instability and psychosis and he will be dangerous.

As I write this, I realize how truly ridiculous and boring this show has turned otherwise. I mean, the main point of contention seems to be the love triangle and the otherwise petty quarrels of a bunch of people who seem to have missed the memo that the world has come to an end. As a result, the show has taken on a whiny, cranky soapy tone with zombies thrown in to appear original as soap operas are generally associated with a negative stigma of lameness and chick flick. The apocalypse and asking the tough questions have become secondary, if they haven’t disappeared altogether, to accommodate the Rick, Lori, Shane, Maggie and Glenn’s relationship problems.

At the same time, the remaining characters and their personalities have been moved to the background as we hardly ever hear anything from them anymore. At this point they all seem to be serving in a merely ornamental capacity or to move the storyline along, such as Dale who every now and then serves as a voice of caution to warn others against Shane, just so he can go back to what he was doing (whatever that might be),  or T-Dog whose role has been reduced to that of scene filler at this point. Or Andrea whose character and its agony, which had been so beautifully initiated, have been reduced to some one dimensional “extra” almost, loading dead bodies into trucks or running errands.

Carol and Darrell also always seem to be having the same “conversation” – and with that I mean Darrell throwing a hissy fit like a child who lost his puppy after a week’s search and don’t want loving nobody no more, calling everyone a “bitch” – while Carol gives him teary eyed looks or throws a line at him and walks away, just so they can resume where they left off the next time.

Yes I understand Darrell is hurt that the search for Sofia ended so tragically, but he’s been  just grunting into the camera for the past three episodes.  There is no development in his character.

Carol lost her husband and her daughter and is still seen just lurking around the camp, washing clothes and tidying up or alternately taking Darrell’s abuse. I mean we just saw her daughter turn into a Walker and have her brains blown out in front of her by Rick, and she is going about her business as usual. For whatever reason, she now has made Darrell her project and I still can’t figure out if she is after him in a motherly or romantic way.

“Triggerfinger” is 2 stars tops, mainly because it no longer really seems to be about the undead and a world ravaged by illness and thus the apocalypse. It is about peoples’ petty interpersonal quarrels; short sighted people who fight each other even after the world has gone down, over concepts that don’t mean anything anymore in this new world order (maybe that is the point?). I mean what happened to being worried about survival and finding some answers; what happened to driving through desolate landscapes marred from the apocalypse, encountering the destitution and horror in the aftermath of days gone by?

Glenn and Rick

 

Whereas season 1 and even the beginning of season 2 (i.e. before they landed on the “Farm of our Discontent”) were looking at the problem of a world ravaged by disease and having come to an end (note the flashbacks they had about how it all started), most of season 2 has unfortunately been about the marital problems of Rick and Lori and Shane’s insanity. How the apocalypse began, what Jenner said, the discussions they had about the human soul vis a vis such a horrific disaster, wondering whether this is even a world worth living in or whether there are any last outposts left and just the setting, which after all is one of zombies, have been muted. The show has lost its sinister, mysterious tone and zombie encounters are thrown in in a strategic manner, as if they were fulfilling a requirement and had to run down a checklist of necessary genre elements to put in before they can resume with their melodrama.

Where is the journey, the adventure, the terror, where is the desolate landscape or walking into other people (such as Vatos in season 1), human interaction, tragedy (Amy’s death, leaving Jim behind, Dale talking about his wife), finding abandoned buildings and landmarks.; making a connection with people and each other. I am interested in looking into this disease, asking the tough questions (see Jenner and CDC), not watch people engage in petty personal quarrels amid the damn fucking apocalypse. It’s like these people just don’t get that the world is over and that it really doesn’t matter anymore who is doing whom or who said what and when.

This show was phenomenal in the beginning, because it looked at the theme of the zombie apocalypse in a smart way that was never done before. It balanced drama with action, originality with believable writing and multi dimensional characters; it was tragic but without venturing into soap territory. It was great during season 1 because it struck the perfect balance between the interpersonal (i.e. the characters) and the bigger picture (i.e zombie apocalypse), thus illuminating the grander canvas if their tragedy, instead of looking st it from this narrow lens of interpersonal struggles of the characters.  Now it is all just about these people and their feelings. At this point you could easily replace zombies with the ebola virus or WWIII or a natural disaster or hey, even Melrose Place and nothing would change.

When you reach a point in your story where one of its main premises (i.e. zombie apocalypse) can be easily exchanged with something else (like viral outbreak or flood or nuclear blast) and nothing about the story and the characters within would change, you know you have met a dead end in terms of originality.

People who enjoy this kind of thematic of the Days of our Zombie Lives kind will be just fine and really like where the show has gone. But if you are looking for more depth and originality instead of cliches and predictable story lines, I am afraid you will be disappointed. I don’t care for Lifetime Television for women.

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Atheist Billboards in Dallas Spark Controversy

Billboard to be displayed in Dallas

A Dallas minister and the members of his religious community were outraged this past week about the national organization of African Americans for Humanism‘s plans to display an atheist message on a prominent billboard in Dallas, Texas. The billboard was proposed by the organization as part of their country-wide Black History Month campaign aimed at encouraging African Americans to look critically at their faith, according to KDAF TV. This, of course, resulted in a deluge of protests by community members who feel threatened by such “ungodly” messages that “[support]  gays and lesbians” and else apparently constitute a threat to society and  – according to one of the hate emails sent to the organization – “screw up lives”.

Pastor Kyev Tatum, chosen by god

The World Through the Eyes of Religious Nut Jobs

I find Pastor Kyev Tatum, who is the head of the Fort Worth chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference who also calls himself  “God’s appointed leader” and who is one of the entities outraged by these ads, and his response quite symptomatic of the disease that is plaguing this nation in particular and the world in general: religion. He said: “It’s a sad indictment on the state of affairs for us as a community. We got major issues going on within our community that we need to address, and this is an unnecessary debate.” He pointed to things like high incarceration and high teenage pregnancy rates in the black community, issues “that we could be working on that are more critical.” He went on to say that “When you rely on freethinking, [<— I really love that] “and you rely on your own individualism to make your decisions, you oftentimes make unrealistic and irrational decisions. It’s irrational, in my thought process, for them to put those kinds of signs up,” when they could be focusing on more pressing social problems.

Atheists that are clear threats to society and the American way of life

He has a thought process? Doesn’t look like there is much going on up there.

I must say it is also quite amusing hearing someone like him, who essentially believes in the talking snake, a man walking on water and coming back from the dead, criticize anyone for irrationality.  The fact that most people, including his deluded constituents, don’t get that, is disturbing.

Furthermore, what Pastor Tatum doesn’t realize in his deluded wisdom,  just like most religious people I guess, is that those problems he recites, such as teen pregnancy, are a problem because  of religion and the actions the church endorses.   The Planned Parenthood and contraception debates of late are just two examples to the point. In fact, if it wasn’t for religion these teens would get actual, fact-based sex education instead of being taught abstinence, which we all know doesn’t work. It. Just. Does. Not.

Not only does it not work but by not teaching about contraceptives, such a policy often results in teens coming back with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HPV – which can lead to cervical cancer –  as well as the very unwanted pregnancies Pastor Tatum complains about.

So, for this man to step out and quite ignorantly state that religion was the cure for the disease it and people like him create is not only ridiculous but, jokes aside, supremely ignorant.

That he finds “freethinking” a problem doesn’t surprise me at all.  Religion is anti-intellectualism and independent thought that allows you to discover facts and learn about new ideas are abhorred. But it is always stunning to actually hear someone spew this much unfounded crap in one go. “How dare you do some thinking of your own instead of relying on fairy tales, anecdotes and hocus pocus essentially to guide your decisions“.

Let me just say that if god appoints someone like him as a leader, I am not sure if I would wanna have much faith in that god.

When Religion Becomes Part of the Problem

Reverend Tatum and his kind are part of the problem. This man is essentially endorsing and encouraging ignorance and has turned intellectual curiosity into a liability rather than a strength and an asset.

It also makes you wonder whether these “religious” folks are actually grounded in their beliefs much given how threatened they feel by some words on a sign. In fact, it often seems like religious folks try to convince themselves more than anybody else that they are right and their way the only way.

It is also ironic to see these nut jobs fear that their right to religious freedom is threatened in any shape by these billboards when it is in fact their faith that has been infesting the public sphere and with it public policy for centuries, making everyone’s life miserable. Attacks on Planned Parenthood, women’s reproductive rights in general, defunding stem cell research, prayer in schools, teaching intelligent design, abstinence and a myriad other public policies as a direct result of religious doctrine represent just some of the few issues that us non-religious folks have to endure at the hands of the religious Right or religion, period.

Insecure, evangelical Christians also seem to need constant visual and verbal reminders and validations. After all, that is why we have “God” on our money and in our pledge and in our schools and public buildings.

It all somehow feels like they are hanging on by a thread, like children trying to keep believing in Santa Clause out of fear that they won’t get presents otherwise.

The same Constitution that guarantees these Churches the right to practice their faiths freely, also guarantees the right of atheists and non-believers to display that Atheist billboard.

The Best Way to Become an Atheist is to Read the Bible

Someone once said that “the best way to become an atheist is to just read the Bible” cover to cover. And it is true. The thing people don’t realize is that atheism, science,  evolution or liberals are not the things that give religion a bad name: religious people and religion give religion a bad name.

Studies have shown that people who turn away from religion don’t do so because of atheism or evolution taught in schools, but because at some point they just get fed up with all the backwards, narrow minded crap they read in holy books and their applications in life. They are so appalled by the bigotry, hypocrisy and narrow mindedness of religion and its followers that they turn away. As one reader once wrote me:

“I turned away from religion because I got tired of all the prohibitions and self-censo­rship involved: don’t think this, don’t read that, don’t go here, don’t talk to those people, etc.

It was like trying to look at the world through just one tiny, limited, mono-color­ed lens. I knew the world was bigger, more beautiful, more interesting, more dangerous, more ugly and more complex than this little lens would let me see. I just couldn’t sustain the pretense anymore. 

It was not until I was much older that I began to really see the dark side of religion and be glad that I left it behind.”

Should We Respect Other Views?

One of the things I often hear from religious people who don’t take kindly to being criticized about their faith is that one should respect other peoples’ faith, as if both views were equally valid and it just so happens that one person believes in Jesus and god while another doesn’t. Or as if this was a matter of taste, like preferring chocolate flavored ice cream over strawberry flavored one, or blonde hair over brown. The difference of course is that preferring one flavor over another doesn’t generally result in detrimental consequences for those who prefer the other flavor.

No one in their right mind should ever have to respect anyone’s fairy tales and backwards beliefs, however, as fact. Especially if those fairy tales and the beliefs that inform them have serious detrimental consequences for society and everyone living in it. And I am not even talking ancient history, such as the Crusades and witch burning. I am talking United States in the twenty-first century. Imagine how many lives could have been saved, for example, if our idiots-in-chief George W. Bush and Reagan before him hadn’t defunded stem cell research based on their….yes, religious beliefs.

Religious people also say that one  cannot generalize from a small group of what they call “fanatics” or “extremists” to all religious people. As if their kind of religiosity was rational and made sense as opposed to the “zealots.”

But the truth is that if you are religious there is no grey area: you are automatically disqualified as a rational human being whose views on the subject ought to be respected. I don’t have to respect or accept your faith, I merely tolerate it and that only as long as it does not infringe upon my rights. But alas it does, so I judge you and dismiss you because frankly there is no acceptable level for irrationality, ignorance and bigotry.

Religious people are all insane – there is no difference between the “extremes” and moderates.

Everything about religion is extreme. If you believe in a man walking on water or Noah’s arc and that a woman was made by taking the osteopathic tissue  of a man, not to mention the pile of unfounded crap to be found in religious scripture that just reek of bigotry, racism and misogyny,  you are fucking insane and that is a non-negotiable.  I don’t have to tolerate people believing in fairy tales and bigotry and then imposing it on others and this bad habit of being forced to give credence to peoples’ fantasies that have very real life consequences for the rest of us, is not something to be proud of strive for. It is stupid.

Preaching the Gospel of “I Don’t Know” 

Earth (circled): the pale blue dot, suspended in a beam of sunlight across the darkness of the universe

Only a fool claims to have all the answers. Religious people are fools.

Atheism is not a “religion” or“faith”; in fact, atheism is irreligion. It simply means that one does not believe in god any more than in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Pink Elephants, Bigfoot or the Healing Power of Crystals. There is no difference in believing in Jesus or in Santa Clause, only that we have been conditioned to believe the former to be true and the latter just a fairy tale. A child born to Catholic parents will grow up Catholic, while that same child, if raised by a Muslim family, would grow up being a Muslim.

Do non-believers have all the answers? No, but that doesn’t mean that the Bible, Koran or Torah are the truth. We may not be able to “prove” that god does not exist, but we don’t need to. The burden of proof is not on the skeptic. It is like saying, ‘there is a pink elephant in the room and if you cannot prove it, then it means it is real.”

The fact that one does not currently know what came before us, if anything, or before the Big Bang or how all the details of evolution work does not mean that one “must” believe in god or Jesus or Mohammed. I, for one, am perfectly willing to accept that I do not know everything and that some things are yet to be discovered by human kind.

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Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt at the Sarajevo premiere of “In the Land of Honey and Blood”

Angelina Jolie having a moment at the premiere of her movie in Sarajevo

Whenever I think of Angelina Jolie, I think of a spoiled, pampered incredibly wealthy young woman who dabbles in good deeds to fill the time between shopping sprees, world tours and endless parties. At the Sarajevo premiere of her movie In the Land of Honey and Blood, Angelina Jolie was right on track with that mantra when she got all emotional talking about her movie and her hope that it would be a wake-up call and inspiration for politicians and leaders around the world to do something about what is happening in Syria right now.

I am all for giving, humanitarian aide and just doing things for others; we need more of that in this world driven by selfish, narcissistic people posing as human beings, but there is just something so insincere about these two assholes. I am tired of their self righteous, sanctimonious crap and this pretending that they are not overpaid actors who shot to fame based on their looks, addictions and the number and nature of their sex partners, rather than because of their talent, intelligence and hard work.

On the one hand they want to keep it all private, on the other hand they flaunt it every opportunity they can, such as making out on the red carpet or inviting camera crews over to their house so they can photograph Jolie nursing one of her babies.  Angelina goes to an African village talking about the plight of the people and then three days later is seen carrying a $5,000 Louis Vuitton bag that could feed the village for a couple of months.

The holy couple taking it all in

It almost feels like they get a kick out of going to impoverished countries and “helping” out (i.e. self promoting); like it was a sexual arousal thing that gets them both off. It honestly woudn’t surprise me given Angelina’s sordid past and her fucked up habits like carrying a vial of Billy Bob Thornton’s blood around her neck. Sort of like in The Postman Always Rings Twice, where Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson fuck right at the scene of the crash where her husband is bleeding to death and dying. I really think these two get some kind of a pleasure or arousal from this adopting children from some third world shit hole thing and going to deeply troubled and impoverished countries with their luxury handbags, designer clothes and half a dozen mansions, chalets and estates around the world to their name. It is almost like the more impoverished and destitute the country, the higher the arousal and appeal factor for this pair of assholes.

They say that “sincerity is everything. Once you learn to fake that, the rest is easy.” I must say it is quite ironic that these two, despite their alleged tremendous acting skills, have not been able to fake that at least so that when they do take the high ground, it is believable. How in touch with reality can two millionaires a hundred times over with egos the size of entire nations really be? Exactly…

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Review: The Walking Dead – Season 2, Episode 8: “Nebraska”

Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Hershel (Scott Wilson) debating the point of going on

With this episode, The Walking Dead has finally picked up in intensity. “Nebraska” is reminiscent of the kind of breathtaking and gripping episodes we got to see in the first season as it was intelligent, thought provoking and tackled some of the tough issues from the inside out. It also finally got off that sanctimonious tone we had to endure for the most part of the second season where everyone sort of agreed that Shane was wrong and the bad guy and Hershel had a valid point. Rick also finally gets some things about the reality of their situation into his head and reaches a pivotal moment.

Burying loved ones

The line of who is good and bad and what is wrong and what is right is a thin one, at least in this show. Dale walks around warning everyone that Shane is dangerous and that he murdered Otis, but the bar scene with those two shady guys with a murderous agenda showed us that they were going to need someone of Shane’s attitude to handle the situation; Rick had to do what needed to be done. Simple as that. For the first time he stood on the other side of the fence where Shane usually stands, where tough decisions have to be made. It was clear from the way the two guys behaved that they were going to be worse than the Walkers: the fat dude was already talking about pretty much raping women if he got his fingers on some and the other one gave off a creepy, dangerous vibe and pulled the gun on Rick. Rick had to act in a split second and make that call and he made the right call. The question now is: is Shane really a bad guy? What is good and bad anymore in this world? In this reality? Had Shane not sacrificed Otis, Carl would have died just as Rick, Hershel and Glenn would have died had Rick not killed the two intruders.

Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) trucking a load of Walkers to burn

This show is great at showing us how humans behave, on the deepest level, when their existence is threatened. It was very realistic and it begs the question of whether you can afford to still live by the old rule book in a world that has no rules anymore; no societal ones at least (hence that guy pissing right in the corner of the restaurant, like an animal in the wild, and not even bothering to step out. He doesnt need to. Who is going to stop him? The owner? The cops?)

Rick (Andrew Lincoln) fights back

Shane was a man of the law before the fall, yet after the world came to an end, he just had to make some tough decisions – first small ones, then big ones, such as sacrificing Otis to make it out; he did things he would never have done before. This show is doing a great job at getting to the bottom of that pit and digging through what is the human aspect; the human heart. The desperation and existential desolation these people are facing in a world gone under and ravaged by disease is palpable, especially during the conversation Rick and Hershel have in the bar about hope and what to live for anymore in the face of such apocalyptic devastation. I mean heck, even Hershel finally got the desperation of their situation and understood the sheer ignorance in his views.

Bada Bing Bada Boom

Lastly, I loved that hopefully with Lori’s accident, they might actually put an end to this stupid and ridiculous pregnancy story line that’s just degraded the show to soap opera level. The only misgiving I have is more of an afterthought really, which is that I hope they really will NOT stay on little house in the prairie much longer. I dont think most people would want to see another 12 episodes of these people working through their feelings and emotions with zombies thrown in for fun. I don’t expect action but I also dont expect intimate mental exposés.

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Review: The Island

This won't hurt a bit

The story in The Island is quite intriguing. It depicts a future in which human beings, very wealthy human beings, order clones of themselves with a corporation that grows them in a vast underground city. The clones are clueless, grown into adults and then memories implanted, and they are told that a certain kind of “contamination” has killed everything on the planet and that aside from the underground sanctuary, there is one last place that is still safe: The Island. For reasons unknown, not everyone can go to the Island and so every day there is a lottery in which someone’s number is pulled to be the lucky winner. The clones dont know they are clones and they really believe this to be the reality.

Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) and Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor)

The movie is about slowly deconstructing that fantasy, that almost utopian future and revealing some of the ugly truth inherent in the human condition. The humans depicted in this future are so obsessed with youth and living forever, just like today I think, that they have deliberately turned a blind eye to what is happening to other human beings in their society. There is a powerful scene in the movie where a pregnant woman is supposed ot go to the island, but of course that is not going to happen. She gives birth and immediately after is given an injection and disposed off.  The business woman finishing up the transaction holds the baby in her arms and watches the mother die, before delivering the baby to the parents that ordered it. The new mother that holds the baby is the genetic original of the clone that was just killed. The business woman then closes the deal by offering to bring them the “termination papers” of their “insurance policy”.

When their live organ is running out on them

However, while this movie started strongly, it ended on a rather slow note. Of course not literally – which is precisely what the problem with this movie is. I feel as if there is almost a clear division  and that it can be divided into two parts: the first part entices us quite intelligently into this fascinating future and there is a lot of potential that is set up here, trying to answers questions about morality, the limits of science and the human soul. But the second part, which goes into overdrive, ends up being a lot of bang bang, super action, one long car chase scene with crashes and explosions. There is a pause and then the quality of the film emerges again. But as soon as the car chase scenes a la Michael Bay style begin, everything goes downhill. I really wish they had continued on that strong beginning instead of allowing it to fizzle into mediocrity. The ending was pretty good though and connected the beginning with it.

Despite the one short coming I think this movie is quite underrated in the message it attempts to convey and the quality with respect to *how* it was done. The actors truly inhabit the roles they are portraying, and so they are believable. The chemistry between McGreggor and Johansson is great and I thought the cinematography and soundtrack were amazing, truly conveying the mood of the movie about a future not too far from ours.

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