In celebration of Harry Dean Stanton

Harry Dean Stanton has passed away, and the acting world is a little bit lesser for it. Stanton was in my mind one of the finest actors of the last 50 years, and not as the BBC would have it, a ‘cult actor’. In fact it’s only when you look at his C.V. that you realise the man didn’t stop working for six decades so you can’t call someone who appeared in huge mainstream films and on massively popular TV series as a ‘cult’ actor. He was an actor who didn’t look like a leading man, but instead looked like ‘normal people’ and this was his attraction in a medium where people look extraordinary.

Like most people of my age I first noticed him in Alien. where he enjoys a great death scene.

Imagine Alien though without Stanton (or indeed any of the cast) and with traditional Hollywood actors and it wouldn’t work as well. In fact you only need to look at Alien: Covenant to see what that looks like. However as my education into film progressed it wasn’t hard to see Stanton seemingly everywhere from the glorious Cool Hand Luke to what’s still one of my favourite WW2 films, Kelly’s Heroes.

It is safe to say though that after Alien, Stanton became a higher profile actor and during the 1980’s carved himself a niche playing roles in some of the best (and in some cases vastly underrated) films of the decade. From The Rose, to Escape From New York, Stanton would appear in crucial roles but three films he appeared in during the 80’s also happen to be in my mind three of the best films ever made.

Death Watch is a SF film shot in a Glasgow still blacked by the industrial revolution and still dragging itself into the 20th century. It’s a fantastic backdrop for a story that seems prescient as reality TV vomited into the world a few decades later.

Repo Man is one of the few films that hits a perfect Punk attitude. The film shares some of its DNA with the comic Love and Rockets, and is wonderfully seedy in a way we never seem to get in film anymore.

Paris, Texas is one of the best films ever made.Stanton makes the film soar with one of the best openings you’ll ever see in a film.

In 1990 Stanton and director David Lynch finally linked up with Wild at Heart, then a few years later with Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

He later worked with Lynch in a small, but crucial role in The Straight Story and Inland Empire, while seemingly never stopping working in films good, bad and just plain bloody awful or popping up in cameos in mega-blockbusters like The Avengers.

A few weeks ago the Twin Peaks return finished on a high with Stanton returning playing the same role as he did in Fire Walk With Me 25 years ago.

I could list more and more, but Harry Dean Stanton had a career like no other and will never be replaced because he’s a one-off who leaves us an amazing body of work. He’ll be missed.

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Twin Peaks explained?

Over a week since Twin Peaks finished and people are still trying to make sense of it. Even I’ve tried to garble some sort of theory that I’ve pulled out of my arse, but two theories stand out with one providing some hints and the other being the best explanation I’ve read so far as to just what on earth Twin Peaks was about.

This long, and fascinating theory by David Auerbach is essential reading for fans, and indeed any viewers of the programme as it is without doubt the clearest, most convincing theory out there. Revealing the series has a symmetrical structure isn’t a massive revelation, but a lot of what Auerbach theorises isn’t just convincing, it seems too good not to dismiss as what Twin Peaks was about.

Next is this video that shows that the 2017 series isn’t just wrapped round the original series, but something on the road map to where we got to at the quite chilling ending.

I love the fact that we’ll be talking about this for years, even decades because Lynch never reveals what his films are about so we’ll have to rely upon people to come up with their own interpretations and so far, these two are ahead of everyone else.

Trying to understand the Twin Peaks finale

The return of Twin Peaks came to a conclusion this week and to say people are polarised is, well, a massive fucking understatement. Trawl the internet and you’ll find people praising it or decrying it in around equal numbers, but the agreement is that nobody actually knows what the series actually meant, but watching the final two episodes something clicked in my brain: A DC Comics series from 1985 has a hint as to how to understand what David Lynch and Mark Frost have done here.

From here on in lies spoilers. Be warned.

Crisis on Infinite Earths was a DC Comics mini-series designed to tidy up DC’s convoluted continuity that had built up over the decades, and to destroy all the multiple Earths into one. Central at the core is the idea of parallel Earths separated only by ”vibrational frequency”. These different realities all had an Earth where something is different, or history developed differently, or even history moved at a slower, or faster, rate than ‘our’ Earth. Basically the idea of parallel worlds is a tried and familiar concept in science fiction and Lynch and Frost are playing with these concepts so remember that what we’re seeing is a story being told. Sounds obvious but there’s a point where certain characters in season three become aware they’re in a story and I’ll get to that point in a minute.

In the Twin Peaks finale, Dale Cooper travelled back in time to the point where Laura Palmer was murdered and stopped it and in doing so created a parallel world where Laura never died.

Cooper creates a doppleganger Earth by his actions and remember, we’ve been told all series this is about doubles and duplicates, and not just that. From the opening shot it becomes clear we’re watching something that isn’t just not in chronological order, as this scene could easily slot into any of the final two episodes.

The series has always played with dopplegangers and played scenes that could be from any time in the character’s lives.

However the opening scene of season three sets out the road map. Whether one can interpret it to give us a clear road map is a matter of some debate, but the story of the finale shows Cooper saving Laura Palmer ensuring she’s never murdered and everything that comes after that event changes.

But ‘Judy’ is still around even though BOB is destroyed so Cooper’s job isn’t over so he and Diane travel to another world where they become Richard and Linda. Cooper changes to become a strange hybrid of himself, Dark Coop and Dougie Jones even though he’s still doing his mission which is to find Laura, something he eventually does except she’s not Laura, she’s ‘Carrie Page’, but even in this reality she’s corrupted (Laura was created in Episode 8 to be the opposite of BOB) by violence but she’s still alive.

By the time we get to the final shot it’s clear the evil of ‘Judy’ can never be escaped as ‘Carrie Page’ remembers who she is and what was done to her.

The reality Cooper and ‘Carrie’ are in could well be ours, or it could be a dream within a dream as alternate realities open up where Laura is brutally murdered, only to be saved by Cooper who is then thwarted by the ultimate evil, ‘Judy’ in an never ending cycle of evil defeating good as they move from one Earth through the frequencies forever. Cooper can never win. Laura will always die. Evil will always win but good (in the shape of Cooper) will always fight it.  The End.

Of course this is one theory and anyone with half a brain can work out a way for this to carry into a season 4, but if Lynch and Frost want to end on a grim, scary but oddly positive note (good will never give up fighting) then this is it. If they want to carry on there’s enough for them to come back and carry on telling their story, but part of me would like it to end now with the mysteries (and there’s enough to fill dozens of blogs) continued. Twin Peaks season 3 is a unique piece of television that challenged the very act of watching television and as such making more of it challenges the point of it so I’d like it to end with all these loose threads dangling forever.

Avoiding Twin Peaks spoilers…

The return of Twin Peaks has been a disturbing joy and the last two episodes are broadcast tonight in the US, which means a day tomorrow of avoiding spoilers before being able to sit down in the evening and soak in two hours of whatever David Lynch has in store for us. It can’t however beat this moment from Episode 16 can it?

Or realising that he’d turned David Bowie’s character into someone/thing floating in a tin can.

Then there’s Episode 8 which is the single greatest bit of telly in the 21st century.

Or the music which has been superb.

And how Lynch and writing partner Mark Frost have strung together the original series, the film, Fire Walk With Me, and strung them all together  for an 18 hour film that may, or may not, come to a satisfying end, assuming of course it does end. There’s no guarantee it will end or even whether it’ll come back if it doesn’t.

But whatever, this has been extraordinary telly at a time when that phrase is overused. What Lynch has done is challenge the viewer to actually watch what’s going on and if they don’t get it, I don’t think he gives a single fuck and in an age where the audience is spoon fed answers, and people demand art is exactly as they want Twin Peaks has been a fantastic surprise.

Now there’s only two hours of it left and I’m now going to avoid spoilers by avoiding the internet til tomorrow night when I’ll have the chance to finish off something unexpected and glorious…

Silence is golden.

Jonathan Ross on David Lynch

With Twin Peaks proving itself a spectacular piece of television and David Lynch reminding everyone just how a great director he is, it’s worth looking back at the time when Lynch was still a cult figure.

For One Week Only was a documentary series presented by Jonathan Ross for Channel 4 in 1990, and even 27 years later stands as possibly one of the best documentaries on Lynch you’ll see. It even discusses his comic strip, The Angriest Dog in the World. So enjoy, this is a cracking bit of archive.

The magnificent world of David Lynch

The return of Twin Peaks has been a pretty wonderful affair that’s managed to mix the mystery of the plot with the quirky weirdness with whatever is in David Lynch’s head to produce something unlike any television probably produced on either side of the Atlantic this century.

In an era where the cliffhanger is king and ‘Netflix and chill’ is the mantra, the idea of a television series that doesn’t just tell a story, doesn’t just work as a piece of art, but pushes the medium in a way that it rarely has ever been pushed. Episode 8 of Twin Peaks starts following the ongoing plotline with the evil Dale Cooper and his scheming, but then it takes a turn around 15 minutes into the episode after this Nine Inch Nails song.

Now I suggest watching the episode in its entirety because it is simply a spectacular bit of television, especially after the above song where Lynch totally cuts loose and pours his visuals on our stinging eyes and because we’ve been starved of watching art we soak it all up.

See as much as programmes like The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Preacher and the likes are all entertaining, even artistic explorations into the world they inhabit but they don’t push it and don’t push the expectations of the medium as it stands. We know most episodes will end in some sort of cliffhanger or question that will be answered next episode because you’ve got to keep people watching. With Twin Peaks Lynch doesn’t give a fuck about cliffhangers or how television should be so we get insanely long takes of people sweeping floors or Nine Inch Nails popping up or the 45 minutes of episode 8 after the aforementioned NIN song. I can safely say that my favourite film/TV moment of the year so far is the eighth episode of Twin Peaks as it is so unique, so bizarre yet does so much with the confines of the medium that watching it again I was stunned by what Lynch managed to do as much as I was the first time.

And what was so glorious is that what is essentially a series of art films and images strung together to make an experimental narrative told a story and even then every single expectation you have as a viewer is subverted and played with to the point when it ends you want more not because there’s a cliffhanger, but because you know you’re watching something so special that you have to see what Lynch does next. Too often on television a creator is given total freedom and we end up with a crushing disappointment but this isn’t the case. This is brilliance and I want to see how Lynch tops all of this and that’s the best sort of artistic cliffhanger.

What I thought of Twin Peaks episodes 1-4

Twin Peaks has returned to an utter lack of advance knowledge of what happens in it, and this frankly is the best way to approach this new series so massive great honking SPOILER WARNINGS from now on. Also, if you haven’t seen the TV series you’ll be totally lost here. If you’ve not seen Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me then go see that as this draws upon a lot of that film, including even the deleted scenes. Basically go consume everything Twin Peaks before seeing this. Also it may be an idea to watch Lynch’s films too, even Dune as there’s visual references to all of Lynch’s previous works going on here. So, if you’ve done that crack on…

First up anyone who comes to this expecting quirky humour and weird, but still funny, characters will suffer a serious shock as the first two hours especially owe less to what people mainly think Twin Peaks is (quirky, funny, charming, sometimes scary, weird) to David Lynch unleashing his full creative forces. There are moments in the first two episodes especially that are some of the best images Lynch has even put on screen but there’s a lot of times when you the viewer will be made uncomfortable, and this is a good thing.

Far too many programmes end up pandering to keep viewers happy. There’s nothing of what one would expect of a Twin Peaks revival til near the end of the second episode, and the fourth episode features the sort of scenes (Andy and Lucy provide much of the fun quirkiness here) you may expect. Mainly though you’ll be bombarded with confusing, disturbing and sometimes grotesque images that actually helps tell what is a complex story.

The jist of that story is that Good Agent Cooper has been trapped in the Black Lodge for 25 years until Laura Palmer appears again to him as promised.

In the world outwith the Black Lodge, our world, the Bad Agent Cooper is doing bad things as this is Cooper’s doppelgänger inhabited by the evil Bob at the end of the TV series.

Evil Cooper involves Kyle MacLachlan wearing a dodgy wig while doing seriously vicious things to people, and here’s another thing (and I hate using the term ‘political correctness’) this is not a programme that restricts itself to current moralities. This is a programme where Evil Cooper is amoral and brutal, where middle aged men leer after younger women and where oddness abounds. It’s designed at times to challenge you and it will because we’re used to a level of sanitisation in our television but that’s not going in here and this is a good thing. We’re not seeing a toned down or restrained Twin Peaks here, we’re seeing something that will delight, astound, shock and scare you as much as the visuals and sound (I recommend watching this on earphones as the sound mix/design is amazing) is stunning.

The opening episodes deal with Good Cooper’s escape from the surreal world of the Black Lodge, Bad Cooper’s murderous plans, the slow introduction back into the community of Twin Peaks, and the FBI being involved which means a welcome return for some old faces. The plot hinges on Lynch’s fascination with duality and multiple personalities as well as the idea that evil can be a real force which in this case in Bad Cooper. I won’t bother explaining the rest of the plot beyond that as frankly, we’re only seeing part of it right now and the main jist is just what I’ve said. I won’t go into the nightmare monsters, or episode three’s brilliantly incomprehensible scenes, or the fact a plot point hinges on the words ”blue rose” which only makes sense if you’ve watched Fire Walk With Me, or the fun little cameos that pop up or even the fact there’s more Cooper doppelgängers than just Good and Bad Cooper.

What is brilliant is the pace in which Lynch and Mark Frost slowly unwind the threads of the plot and the pacing (unlike many programmes today) is at times, glacial but this isn’t something to forward through. This is about building up the creeping sense of unease in these scenes.

Twin Peaks is a welcome return. It gives Lynch a chance to create one huge story and hopefully resolve it in a way that suits him and Frost but it may not suit us which is fine by me. In an age where TV programmes are made to ensure fans are not frightened off, the new Twin Peaks isn’t scared to go onto ground that will scare people off but this is art mixed with horror mixed with so many genres that it can only be described as Lynchian and that’s a glorious thing…