Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Michelangelo Antonioni (1912-2007)

First Ingmar Bergman, now Michelangelo Antonioni.

I'll be honest. Antonioni has never been my cup of tea, but he still deserves tribute upon his passing.

While I liked Blow-Up quite a bit, for me watching L'Aventura was like watching paint dry and I thought Zabriskie Point was just silly.

That's the extent of my experiences with Antonioni, so I don't have much to say, but I encourage Antonioni's proponents and detractors to use this post to share their thoughts on him.

To read the AP obit, click here

Labels: , ,


Twin Peaks Tuesdays: Episode 21

By Edward Copeland
"Windom Earle has been in this room," Cooper tells Truman as the survey the bizarre scene left in the sheriff's office. Doc Hayward moves to examine the body and Cooper predicts the cause of death: a single stab wound about one inch below the aorta. He's right. The still-suspended FBI agent tells them not to bother looking for prints or fibers: his former partner doesn't make such mistakes, but the unidentified body, strapped in the chair and pointing at the chessboard, is a sure sign that Windom Earle has come to Twin Peaks.

At the Great Northern, Audrey has a meeting with Bobby about her father's condition. Ben Horne must be brought back, she insists. Jerry already is on his way and Dr. Jacoby has taken the case as well. Audrey uses an ice cube to symbolize her father's fragile state and emphasizes to the younger Briggs that they have to rescue her dad but, until then, Audrey is the person that Bobby needs to remember to be sucking up to. Bobby certainly picked the wrong time to abandon Shelly, who is being terrorized by the reanimated Leo as an owl watches outside the house. Leo's not saying much, but he's making it clear that he is not happy with his wife and intends to punish her, this time for good. He even hauls out soap in a sock as a reminder of the bad old days.

Fortunately, Bobby does decide to return to the Johnson homestead and Leo pulls him into the melee, ready to kill his wife's lover once and for all. Before he can though, Shelly manages to get a kitchen knife and stabs Leo in the leg and the wounded villain rips through the plastic that covers unfinished portions of the home and disappears into the woods. At the sheriff's station, as Cooper predicted, Earle left no clues behind. It is clear that he was responsible for the explosion at the power plant and the fire there. Hawk comes in with more news of particularly bad timing: Hank missed the drug buy because he was hospitalized, claiming to have been hit by a bus, and they also learn that Leo is up and around again. In the lobby, Andy tells Lucy about his and Dick's suspicion that little Nicky killed his parents and an appalled Lucy can't believe, telling Andy that neither he nor Dick are fit to be parents.

Back in the ever tedious noirland, James actually meets Jeffrey Marsh (John Apricella) for the first time and he certainly doesn't appear to be the monster Malcolm and Evelyn have been describing. Jeffrey thanks James for the fine work he did repairing his car and prepares to take it out for a spin. As he drives away, Evelyn imagines the sounds of a crash. Back at the Double R, Ed sits down with Doc for a serious talk about Nadine: It seems she wants to date boys. Hayward asks Ed if Nadine is sexually active. "I wake up every morning feeling like I've been hit by a timber truck," Ed tells Doc, who advises patience and a 9 p.m. curfew, adding that it isn't easy being a parent. Norma tells Ed about Hank's hospitalization (his story to her was that he ran into a tree). Ed lets Norma in on the fact that that tree was named Nadine.

In noirland, James suddenly decides that it wasn't right of him to be boinking a married woman but Evelyn tells the idiot that she loves him and urges him to stay. Cooper decides to finally let Harry in on the full story of his history with Windom Earle. He repeats the story he told Audrey, adding that the woman's name was Caroline and that she also was Earle's wife. Cooper has come to believe that Earle killed her and was the witness she was to testify against. Dale says Earle's "mind is like a diamond: cold, hard and brilliant" He and Windom played chess every day for seven years and Cooper never beat him. Donna shows up at the bar in noirland and runs into Evelyn, who lies and says that James has already left town. Donna has another one of her annoying crying jags and recalls that god-awful song she, James and Maddie recorded while we see the tormented James slumping in anguish back at the Marsh place and we still don't care.

In Ben Horne's office at the Great Northern, his recreation has grown more and more elaborate and it shocks Jerry upon seeing it for the first time, with Bobby playing along and Jacoby watching from a perch on high. "Only God can stop us now and I believe God is a Southerner," Ben declares. Jacoby explains his theory that what Ben is doing is a positive thing. If he is able to reverse the course of the Civil War, perhaps he can overcome his own setbacks. A disheveled Major Briggs staggers into the sheriff's station and collapses. Once he's up and around again, he admits to Truman and Cooper that he has begun to doubt that the Air Force's motives for finding the White Lodge are "ideologically pure" based on the paranoid nature of their interrogations. He tells the lawmen that for now, he will remain in the shadows.

In another part of the sheriff's station, Jacoby reports that he's interviewed Lana and that finds there is no way she could have murdered Dougie but that she contains a heightened sense of sexual energy that explains her bewitching power over men. The shrink then tells the law officers that he and Lana plan to go bowling but as they exit the room into the hall, they discover the mayor aiming a shotgun on them. The mayor promises that he'll blow Lana away "and the hippie too," referring to Jacoby. Cooper suggests that perhaps Lana and the mayor should have some time alone together to talk things out, so they put them alone in the conference room and wait. A little while later, they go back in to discover the mayor covered in lipstick with Lana on his lap. The mayor announces he was wrong about her and says they have plans to adopt a child.

At the Packards, Catherine lets Pete in on the secret of Andrew's resurrection and on Josie's connection to Thomas Eckhardt and the plot to kill Andrew. Pete remains skeptical but simultaneously at the Great Northern, Thomas Eckhardt (David Warner) is checking in. Lucy has Doc Hayward set Andy and Dick straight about the tragic life of little Nicky and how the boy in no way killed his parents. Andy and Dick both crumble into tears. Harry gets a fax from Seattle that seems to show that Josie's cousin or assistant or whoever he was, Jonathan, was found shot to death. Even Harry wonders if Josie is involved. Evelyn comes into James' room as he's packing to inform him of Jeffrey's death and that Malcolm isn't her brother. The ever-slow-on-the-uptake James realizes he's been set up and bolts, finding Donna in the yard and running off together. The wounded and still physically shaky Leo wanders through the woods, barely missing being struck by an owl, when he finds a cabin and goes in. He sees a hand holding a gun, but the voice seeks to reassure him and the man (Kenneth Welsh) sits down in front of a chessboard and tells Leo, "You can call me Windom. Windom. Earle."

Labels: , ,


Monday, July 30, 2007


Tom Snyder (1936-2007)

Broadcasting legend Tom Snyder has succumbed to leukemia at the age of 71. His eccentric, one-of-a-kind interviewing style, parodied so brilliantly by Dan Aykroyd on the original Saturday Night Live, is much missed on television today. His one-on-one audience-free interviews were often the best in the business on NBC's Tomorrow, which ran after The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from 1973-1982.

Even when things got out of control with guests such as KISS or Wendy O. Williams, Snyder always was fun, often conducting his interviews through a fog of cigarette smoke. Unfortunately, after an ill-fated teaming with gossip columnist Rona Barrett, Tomorrow was canceled to make way for Late Night With David Letterman and Snyder returned to local news.

He got an interview show back on the fledgling CNBC in the early 1990s that offered more of the one-on-one interviewing TV sorely lacks. (Larry King doesn't count anymore since he's become old and doddering and had his once interesting style destroyed by the increasingly irrelevant CNN.)

In one of the great punchlines on top of punchlines, an episode of The Larry Sanders Show had Larry trying to find someone to host a show after his and he got Letterman to say he was tapping Snyder, so Sanders steals him, though they find no proof that Letterman was telling the truth. Ironically, he was because Letterman really gave Snyder his own CBS show The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder which ran from 1995-1999.

Snyder will be missed. RIP.

To read Tom Shales on Tom Snyder, click here.

Labels: , , , , ,


Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007)

What a startling way to wake up in the morning. Just weeks after I wished the great filmmaker good wishes on his 89th birthday, he has lost the figurative chess game with Death. Still, Ingmar Bergman will live on forever with his remarkable body of film work. What worries me is how his stock has fallen over the years and how many younger film buffs have little exposure to his works. Sadly, not one of his many remarkable films made the final 100 on the list put together by The Online Film Community announced yesterday. Hopefully, in my just-waking-up haziness, I can do at least a somewhat reasonable tribute to the Swedish filmmaker.

Even though Bergman began making films as far back as 1944, the first feature that grabbed me and one of my very favorites, even though it's somewhat uncharacteristic of his later works, is 1955's Smiles of a Summer Night. In fact, I already had been planning a tribute to this romantic romp later this year to mark the 50th anniversary of its arrival in the United States. The roundelay of loves both thwarted and consummated bears resemblances to my favorite film of all time, Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game, but Smiles deserves its reputation on its own. In fact, as far as I know, Smiles remains the only Bergman film to inspire a musical, Stephen Sondheim's exquisite A Little Night Music which gave the world the song "Send in the Clowns" (though please ignore that awful, out-of-context Judy Collins version). Smiles though was a brief flight of whimsy as Bergman's filmmography turned more internal, concerned with issues of humanity and the soul in an often dreamlike way.

In 1957, two of these more meditative films (and two of his best) entered the world. First, The Seventh Seal, with its knight heading home from the Crusades (one of his many collaborations with the great Max von Sydow) and literally sitting down to a chess game with Death. On a more earthly playing field, an old professor memorably looked back on his life in Wild Strawberries on his way to a tribute. His film The Virgin Spring, which won the 1960 Oscar for foreign language film, later inspired Wes Craven's suspenseful film debut, 1972's The Last House on the Left, and everyone can see his influence on Woody Allen, for both good and ill. The 1960s also brought us Bergman's great trilogy on faith: Through a Glass Darkly; Winter Light and The Silence. The 1960s also marked a turn toward the more abstract which I'd be dishonest if I didn't acknowledge often failed to work for me. Persona and 1971's Cries and Whispers have many fans, but both left me bored silly.

Still, this period did offer some films that I did enjoy such as Shame and Hour of the Wolf. 1973 brought one of the first examples of Bergman making a phenomenal work for Swedish television and transforming it into a remarkable feature as well with Scenes From a Marriage, which even spawned a pseudo-sequel in Saraband, made for TV in 2003 and released as a feature in the U.S. in 2005. In 1983, Bergman made what he swore was his "last film" and what a great one it was. Fanny and Alexander, a semi-autobiographical film about two children in a large theatrical family under the boot of a minister stepfather. Even though he stopped directing features, he continued to work in TV and theater and wrote more autobiographical screenplays which he turned over to other directors such as Bille August's The Best Intentions and Sunday's Children, helmed by his son Daniel, and Private Confessions, which was directed by his former lover and frequent lead actress Liv Ullmann. He also wrote the script for another film Ullmann directed, Faithless.

Rest in peace, Ingmar.

To read The Washington Post obit, click here.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Thursday, July 26, 2007


All in all, I'd rather be watching Fields

By Edward Copeland
Thanks to an insanely good deal on one of the W.C. Fields DVD collections, I've recently gone on a spree of watching and re-watching the works of the late comic actor. It's been a fascinating exercise. I've learned a few things and, needless to say, I've been entertained a lot.

I can't put an exact date on the first time I actually saw W.C. Fields in a movie, but I certainly remember the first time I saw him: It was in that classic poster with him in a hat sitting behind a hand of playing cards. In my childhood, it seemed to be ubiquitous: In restaurants, department stores. Everywhere you looked, W.C. seemed to peering from behind those cards.

It wasn't until years later that I saw my first film of his (I believe it was The Bank Dick), but it wasn't until I was an adult that I really started examining his creative output. Since I don't recall the order I originally saw things in and I've re-watched most of the films and shorts I'm going to discuss recently, I've decided to divide the shorts and features into rough categories.


The great Criterion Collection DVD of six of his classic shorts actually provided me the first exposure to all of these, despite being very familiar with their reputations. It includes his 1915 silent short Pool Sharks, which is funny even with its somewhat primitive special effects depicting miraculous billiard shots.

What was so fascinating watching these shorts after I'd watched and re-watched the features is how many of his most famous routines he used over and over again, with a little twist here and there. His hilarious sequence with the caddy that I first saw in 1934's You're Telling Me originated nearly word for word in the 1930 short The Golf Specialist. The main difference is his character in the short is wanted by the law (If you watch it, read the list of his "crimes" closely: It contains some of the best jokes including "Eating spaghetti in public" and "Teaching the facts of life to an Indian." 1932 brought a controversial short, The Dentist, which still seems to be pushing boundaries today when you consider it is 75 years old. He even tells someone to go to hell. 1933 brought three more shorts: The Fatal Glass of Beer, The Barber Shop and The Pharmacist, though by then he was moving into full-length features. Both of those shorts had routines he'd return to again. In The Barber Shop, it sets up the premise of him unwittingly being credited for capturing a crook as in The Bank Dick. In The Pharmacist, it was the first of at least three instances where an on-screen child accuses W.C. of not loving them anymore and he starts to haul off and hit them because he's not going to let them say he doesn't love them.

Looking at most of his work, the characters Fields played usually fell into two types: the curmudgeon of a con man or the henpecked husband suffering at the hands of ungrateful families. I thought I'd divide his works into those two camps, for further discussion.

Conning Curmudgeons

1934's The Old-Fashioned Way is one of the main instances where Fields takes on the role of someone running a carnival, in this case The Great McGonigle, always one step ahead of creditors and the law. The film is hardly one of his best, but it does allow Fields to display his juggling skills and to re-create one of his fabled stage triumphs, "The Drunkard." 1936's Poppy again placed him in the carnival, this time as Professor Eustace P. McGargle. It also sets up the recurring theme of a father out to make a better life for his daughter (played in this case by Rochelle Hudson). The highlight of the film is his con involving a "talking dog" and a barkeep, in order to steal some quick cash.

The same theme takes hold in 1939's You Can't Cheat an Honest Man where this time Fields' shady circus owner is named Larson E. Whipsnade, who schemes to get his daughter hitched to a wealthy man and away from ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and the dummy he despises, Charlie McCarthy. The sparring between Fields and McCarthy is fun, but as disturbing as it is now to see any human being putting on blackface in old films, it seems doubly disturbing to see that racist gag trotted out on a ventriloquist's doll. There was no circus involved, but he was all con in his fabled teaming with the great Mae West in My Little Chickadee. West and Fields reportedly hated each other, but this comic Western still has a lot of highlights, including Margaret Hamilton as a world-class prude out to drive West out of town.

Henpecked Husbands

While W.C. Fields' image usually is one of the con man and the curmudgeon, a great many of his best films portray him as the put-upon husband, abused by his wife and other family members. 1934 offered two examples of this: You're Telling Me and It's a Gift. It's a Gift has the stronger reputation, but watching both again in close proximity, I actually find myself preferring You're Telling Me. In it, Fields plays would-be inventor Sam Bisbee, eager to make his fortune with his ingenuity such as puncture-proof car tires only to be thwarted time and time again by fate. He is even driven to the point of leaving town and attempting suicide until he mistakenly believes he's saved another downtrodden person (Adrienne Ames), unaware that she's really a princess. She takes a liking to poor Sam and accompanies him back to town where he finally earns respect. This is where W.C. repeats the caddy gag from the short, only here he sharpens it and improves on it to even greater results.

It's a Gift while great, didn't hold up as well for me, though we do get to see for the second time the use of "I'm not gonna let this child tell me I don't love him" gag. In this one, he's general store owner Harold Bissonette, dreaming of life on a California orange grove where might find peace and get his family off his back. When Ivan at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear recently compiled his alternative to the AFI list, he made a point of singling out Fields' 1935 film Man on the Flying Trapeze, since it is a lesser known title and it shouldn't be. It's one of his very best. Memory expert Ambrose Wolfinger (Fields) just wants to take a day off work to go see a wrestling match, but it's easier said than done, thanks to misunderstandings, another ungrateful family and all-around bad luck. It's truly amazing to see how soft-spoken Fields is in this outing. There's barely a trace of the misanthrope here and the audience's sympathies lie totally with him. For those who haven't seen much Fields, this is one of the top titles to seek out. Man on the Flying Trapeze also is notable for being directed by Clyde Bruckman, who co-directed the silent masterpiece The General with Buster Keaton. For me though, the best example of Fields as henpecked husband is his role as Egbert Souse. It's amazing how many elements get stuffed into The Bank Dick, starting with perhaps his finest take on an ungrateful child, an unlikely stint as a film director and once again taking credit for foiling a crime when he didn't that gets him a job at the grateful bank. The gags come fast and furious and The Bank Dick never slows for a second. For me, it remains my favorite Fields comedy.

The Exceptions

Finally, of the Fields films I've seen, there are the ones that don't easily fit into either of the earlier two categories, with Fields often in supporting parts. The great Pauline Kael often used to cite 1932's Million Dollar Legs as her choice for the greatest film ever made, but I'd like to think she was joking. Still, it is entertaining, even though Fields takes a back seat to the film's real star, Jack Oakie. Fields plays the president of a nearly bankrupt small country who hopes to use Oakie's athletic prowess to gain Olympic glory and perhaps lift his country out of the economic doldrums.

The same year, Fields starred with Alison Skipworth in one of the many sequences of If I Had a Million, which recounts how different people take advantage of a sudden cash cow, in their case seeking revenge on road hogs. It's quite funny, though the sequence starring Charles Laughton is really the uneven film's highlight.

1933 put W.C. in one of those 1930s curiosities International House, where there is very little plot and just an excuse to toss comics and musicians together for a diverting short feature. Fields gets some nice moments as Professor Henry R. Quail, who mistakenly finds himself landing at the title hotel. There also are fun comic turns by Bela Lugosi and George Burns and Gracie Allen. It's mystifying now though to see the virtually forgotten actress Peggy Hopkins Joyce play herself as a big deal in the film. However, as is often the case, getting to see Fields play opposite another comic master, in this case the marvelously daffy Gracie Allen, makes the whole enterprise worthwhile.

I wish I could have seen Fields play Humpty Dumpty in 1933's Alice in Wonderland, but I did get to see him play it relatively straight as Micawber in 1935's David Copperfield and it really makes me wonder what he would have been like in other roles outside his usual range. His final starring vehicle, 1941's Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, may be his oddest film. In a way, you can spot the seeds of the type of strange, mind-bending films of Charlie Kaufman as Fields plays himself pitching an idea for a screenplay to a movie executive, mixing the surreal and the real so frequently and so often you are never quite sure what is his storytelling and what is really happening. Either way, it's funny and unusual and worth repeated viewings.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Wednesday, July 25, 2007


This isn't Chicago after all — it's London

BLOGGER'S NOTE: In order to truly compare and contrast why the original British miniseries of Pennies From Heaven is superior to Herbert Ross' 1981 film version starring Steve Martin, many spoilers are necessary. So, if you plan to ever watch either and don't want plot details revealed, read no further.

By Edward Copeland
When I recently reviewed the 1981 film version of Pennies From Heaven, I guessed that the original British miniseries would work better and feel less truncated and now that I've seen it, I see that my intuition was correct. Whereas the movie focused so heavily on Steve Martin's version of sheet music salesman Arthur Parker that it seemed odd when other characters burst into song (or more accurately burst into miming songs). The 1978 British miniseries while still focusing on Arthur as the main character (here played by Bob Hoskins) also makes the characters of his wife Joan (Gemma Craven) and his eventual lover, schoolteacher turned prostitute Eileen (Cheryl Campbell) equally pivotal, so their musical turns make sense. In fact, the viewer meets Eileen before Arthur even does.

Also, the very minor character of The Accordion Man gets much more development and significance as played by Kenneth Colley in the miniseries version. Granted, it's easier to add depth when you are given six episodes running between 70 and 90 minutes each than when you are trying to squeeze everything into a two-hour film, but even then some of the choices the film version made seem counter to writer Dennis Potter's original vision. In the DVD commentary track of the miniseries' first episode, director Piers Haggard discussed the insistence by Potter for the first song to seem to come out of Hoskins' mouth be the version of a song by a female singer. Haggard told Potter they could find a rendition by a male singer, but Potter would have none of it because his goal was to create as much dislocation for the viewer as possible. The title for this post comes from a moment late in the series when Arthur goes missing, wrecking his music store ahead of time, leaving the impression of foul play. Joan tells the police investigator that Arthur couldn't have just gone missing because "This isn't Chicago after all — it's London" and that draws real contrast to the movie version which is set in 1938 Chicago as opposed to 1935 England as in the miniseries.

What really provides the crucial difference in making the miniseries superior (though I still prefer Potter's miniseries of The Singing Detective with Michael Gambon) is Hoskins and his portrayal of Arthur versus Steve Martin's Arthur. While both Arthurs certainly are selfish, Hoskins' Arthur proves much more sympathetic as a "right bleeding washout" who "dreams of a world where songs are true." Even more important, with a few exceptions, the miniseries avoids the film's tendency to make each musical number a lavish production that wouldn't seem out of place in classic 1930s movie musicals. For the most part, the songs are staged within the confines of the period setting. (An interesting television note, which was slightly distracting at first: All interior scenes are on videotape while exteriors are on film, but you get used to it after awhile.)

The plots of both versions mainly follow the same throughline, though the miniseries has room to add more story strands that didn't make the film and is all the richer for it. For one thing, the evolution of Eileen from naive schoolteacher to hardened prostitute seems less abrupt in the miniseries than Bernadette Peters' Eileen was able to do in the movie. In fact, Eileen in the miniseries becomes the hardest, most calculating character of them all, not only embracing prostitution as a way to make ends meet but even eventually committing a murder of opportunity. The character of Joan also gets much more to chew on in the hands of Gemma Craven than Jessica Harper got to work with in the movie, where she was entirely prudish and only turns on Arthur late and suddenly. The TV Joan has true misgivings about her husband from the beginning, including fantasizing with her friends about killing him. Even more touchingly, even after her betrayal sends him to the executioner for a crime he didn't commit, she still loves the cad anyway.

The miniseries also downplays more of the romanticized moments of the movie. Whereas Arthur and Eileen's first encounter is framed by a heart in the movie's image, the miniseries stays closer to its theme by inserting the new lovers within a piece of sheet music that Arthur keeps peddling. The pimp Tom, so well played in a single scene by Christopher Walken in the movie, only appears in one episode of the miniseries, but that allows him to achieve more importance in the hands of Hywel Bennett and to even interact with Arthur. The main plot turn, namely Arthur's arrest and conviction in the murder of a blind woman, plays much better in the series. The movie shows you the murder immediately, so you know that The Accordion Man is responsible. In the miniseries, you don't know for sure that Arthur didn't do it until a later episode when the guilt-ridden Accordion Man starts confessing to strangers and is haunted by the dead girl. In fact, it appears that Arthur has an alibi at first, making me think that perhaps he will get off without being implicated, but that still comes about once Joan talks too much about his unusual sexual preoccupations.

Hoskins truly is remarkable, especially for those more familiar with him from his later film work. He's much slimmer, but his more ordinary bloke plays much better than Steve Martin's, who never quite sells the idea that he's a complete putz creating his own catastrophes. It's also interesting to note how even nearly 30 years ago, British television was so much more mature than its American counterpart in terms of language and nudity. (If you ever longed to see Hoskins nude...) Pennies From Heaven the miniseries is well worth your time, especially if you've seen Herbert Ross' version. It makes clear what could have been.

Labels: , , , , ,


Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Twin Peaks Tuesdays: Episode 20

By Edward Copeland
"Everything is known to me, yet somehow beyond my reach," Major Briggs tells Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman about his disappearance in the woods. His only clear memory is that of a giant owl. They also find a strange mark on Briggs' neck. Briggs clearly is shaken by the events. "Is this meant for the soul?" he asks nervously.

Despite his past insistence on sticking to his oath concerning classified material, the major admits he thinks this "transcends" classified material and begins to tell of his unofficial work on the Air Force's defunct Project Blue Book, the unit devote to investigating UFOs. He says recently their mission had changed to a search for the White Lodge but before he can say anymore, someone from the Air Force arrives to take Briggs away. Truman tries to stop them, but Briggs tells him not to fight it and goes off. As Cooper looks again at the photo of the marks on Briggs' neck, water from the sprinkler head in the ceiling drips on it. Since the sprinklers allowed BOB to be freed from Leland, is there some kind of connection between water and the spirits in the woods? Meanwhile, an extremely nervous Ernie is hesitant to set up the drug buy for Jean, fearing the setup will get him killed, citing a condition that causes excessive sweating.

At the Double RR, Ed slips Norma a note, saying they need to talk. At the Johnson household, sounds we haven't heard in a long time emanate from the TV: "Invitation to Love." However, Bobby and Shelly are too busy fighting to notice. Shelly is tired of having to clean up after Leo and wants Bobby to help more, but instead Bobby tells her that he's not coming back now that he's Ben Horne's golden boy. Ed gets a call from James asking him to clean out his savings account for him and send it to him, even though Ed informs him that it totals $12. James laments how everything used to make sense before Laura died before Evelyn approaches, asking him for his help.

At the Double R, Nadine continues her pursuit of an uninterested Mike, even planting a big kiss on the teenager. Meanwhile, Norma tells Hank that she has to go run some errands, but Hank doesn't buy the story. Bobby's new boss has drifted further into his Civil War fantasies. After Bobby and Audrey have departed, Catherine sneaks into Ben's office. Ben assumes she's come there to gloat over his fall and Catherine admits that she did, but that despite everything, she's still hot for the slimy rat bastard. At Ed's house, he and Norma resume their affair after a very long dry spell.

At the sheriff's station, Cooper expresses disappointment that he can't take part in the raid on Renault since he's still suspended from the FBI but Harry says he's going to rectify that and deputizes Dale. Just then, Agent Bryson arrives to play his role in the drug buy and he's dressed as a man. Andy and Dick's suspicions about little Nicky lead them to the Dorrit Home for Boys where Dick searches through files for clues to how Nicky's parents died, but they are interrupted by a couple there to adopt a child. Donna shows up at Ed's, asking if he knows anything more about James. He tells her of the phone call and gives Donna the money to deliver to him. Donna doesn't notice that Norma is there and the lovers bid each other farewell as Norma head backs to the diner.

Unfortunately, Hank is in the house. "Oh Ed, the things we do for love," he says before proceeding to beat the hell out of Ed. Fortunately, Nadine comes home from school and seeing Ed under attack, proceeds to annihilate Hank with her pompom and her fists before sending him sailing through the display of figurines. Ben Horne tries to get Bobby to hand him his sword in surrender. A confused Bobby says he needs to go check with President Lincoln. In the hall, Bobby tells Audrey he has good news and bad news. The bad news is that her father has "bought a condo in flip city." The good news is he thinks he's about to win the Civil War. Ernie's excessive sweating blows the setup, causing the wire he's wearing to start smoking. Jean and the mountie bring Ernie and Bryson out at gunpoint and Jean calls for Cooper. Dale offers a trade: Give up Ernie and Dennis and take him as a hostage again. Jean accepts. In noirland, James sleeps like a baby after boinking Evelyn. She leaves the bedroom and confers with Malcolm in the hall about how well the plan is going and the supposed siblings kiss passionately.

Jean asks Cooper if the police will let him get away and Cooper answers honestly: No. Renault laments what has happened to Twin Peaks. He says life was simple for him as a drug dealer until Cooper arrived and once Laura died and Cooper came to town, the simple dream became a nightmare. Perhaps, Jean theorizes, if Cooper dies, he'd be the last to die. Maybe he brought the nightmare with him. Cooper's look leads one to believe Jean might be right. The mountie asks Jean if he ordered any food and he says no, but a woman is approaching with a tray of food, only it's Denise. Jean is aroused, but asks if he knows her. Denise hikes up her skirt, revealing a gun in her garter which Cooper grabs. Denise takes out the mountie and Cooper shoots Renault.

Strange things are happening to the electricity in Twin Peaks, causing the lights to flutter at the Johnson household, but something worse is going on. Shelly hears music and finds a toy clown running in a bed. She turns around Leo's wheelchair and finds it's empty. She turns around and screams as she sees her husband is awake again. Back at the sheriff's station, Lucy informs the lawmen that there was an explosion at the power station and then a fire at the sheriff's station, forcing an evacuation. Cooper looks around in the dark carefully and then calls for Truman to come to his office ASAP. In it, they find a man's dead body posed above a chessboard, a sure sign of Windom Earle.

Labels: ,


Monday, July 23, 2007


Not ready for liftoff

By Edward Copeland
I suppose you should expect that an "inspirational" story helmed by the Polish brothers, who previously brought odd films such as Twin Falls, Idaho to the screen, would be a little different. However, I didn't expect The Astronaut Farmer to be so downright boring.

Brothers Michael and Mark Polish split duties on The Astronaut Farmer, with both sharing writing duties, Michael directing and Mark playing the small role of an FBI agent assigned to keep watch on Charles Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton), a nearly bankrupt farmer with a dream to launch himself into space with a homemade rocket. It's not nearly as interesting as it sounds.

Farmer once was a NASA astronaut, but he never got to go on the big ride but his dream persists to the point of mental illness. He's about to lose his farm, is putting his family's home at risk but he's got this obsession that must be fulfilled! Be prepared to be inspired (assuming you can stop yawning long enough).

The performers (in addition to Thornton, there's Virginia Madsen, Tim Blake Nelson and an unbilled Bruce Willis) all do what they can, but making this story takeoff requires more heavy lifting than even the biggest supply or rocket fuel could achieve.

There also is a terribly obtrusive score by Stuart Matthewman, but since it drowns out much of the would-be sappy dialogue, perhaps that's a good thing. One thing in the film's favor though is the cinematography by M. David Mullen, which is exquisite. Too bad there's not a good movie to go with the great pictures.

Labels: ,


Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Twin Peaks Tuesdays: Episode 19

By Edward Copeland
Is it too soon to say that I'm starting to join in the naysayers who feel that the wheels are coming off of Twin Peaks as it marches on after the revelation of Laura's killer and the death of Leland Palmer? I'm not as critical of all the storylines like others are: Ben losing his mind is amusing me as is Nadine in high school. The scenes involving mysteries surrounding Major Briggs' disappearance and Cooper's continued legal problems with the foreboding of Windom Earle hold my interest. However, the feuding Milford brothers, Dick and Andy and little Nicky and, most especially, James' by-the-numbers film noir storyline are trying my patience.

Thankfully, this episode begins with one of the better threads as Bobby once again tries to get Ben Horne to put him to work. A disheveled Horne has created an odd structure atop his desk, which he feels indicates balance. Bobby tries to keep Horne on subject and asks him if he received the tape where he and Leo discuss burning the mill. "Frankly," Ben says, "I'm surprised Leo could master the technology." Still, Ben relents and gives Bobby an assignment: Follow Hank and take photos and see what he is up to. As Bobby exits Ben's office, he nearly runs into newlywed Lana Milford, who is running down the hall of the Great Northern shrieking at the top of her lungs.

At the sheriff's office, Cooper is meeting with a real estate agent, assuming that Twin Peaks could become his permanent residence. The agent asks which property he'd like to see first and Cooper lets a coin decide. When it lands, it rests on the photo of a property called Dead Dog Farm. The agent apologizes, saying she didn't realize that house was in there as it has a reputation for bad luck. That doesn't discourage Agent Cooper, who says that's the one he wants to see first. In the lobby, Andy, Dick and Lucy are getting a rundown on little Nicky's tragic past from a woman (Molly Shannon) who works for the orphanage that placed him with Dick as a foster parent. Nick has had a past filled with tragedy involving the death of his parents and other misfortune. The visit is interrupted when Harry calls Andy away on a call to the Great Northern: It seems that Dougie Milford has expired in his honeymoon bed, surrounded by all sorts of sexual books and devices. Mayor Milford says his brother never could say no to a woman and then tosses one of the sexual tomes at Harry, saying that it is the murder weapon and Lana should be arrested. Outside the room, Lana insists she is cursed, telling a story about how her first kiss with a boy with braces ended up with the young man having a broken jaw. Hawk is obviously smitten nonetheless, but he looks none too smooth when someone opens the door behind him and he falls backward.

At the high school, Coach Wingate gives an inspirational speech about breaking the color barrier in sports as he announces that he's breaking the gender barrier by allowing Nadine to join the wrestling team. To prove her skill, she takes on the team's best wrestler, Mike. Throughout their match, Nadine tries to get Mike to go out on a date with her while Mike tries to help her through the match, afraid she'll get hurt, but of course he's the one who ends up getting slammed and pinned. Later, he begs Donna at her locker to pretend that they are still dating so he can get rid of Nadine, but Donna won't help. Perhaps an older woman is what he needs, she suggests, but Mike doesn't want to date someone who can body slam him. Meanwhile, in the ever-tedious noir storyline in another town, James meets Evelyn's brother, Malcolm (Nicholas Love) who works as Jeffrey Marsh's chauffeur. The real estate agent shows Cooper the rundown property known as Dead Dog Farm and Coop soon realizes that coin brought him there for a reason as he finds evidence of a recent meeting as well as traces of baby laxative and cocaine.

Dick takes Nicky out for another outing, only he encounters a flat tire and has to get his hands dirty to fix it. The rambunctious child keeps steering the wheel, honking the horn and generally annoying Dick. He orders him out of the vehicle. When Nicky asks if he's mad, Dick says no and the kid goes off and sobs. Suddenly, the jack slips and Dick is nearly crushed. Nicky comes running back and hugs Dick, saying he was afraid he'd lose another parent. A senior officer in the Air Force drops by to talk to Harry and Cooper about Major Briggs. He asks specifically about any wildlife in the area and Coop mentions hearing an owl. Dale inquires about the White Lodge, but the officer insists that is classified. Dale mentions the message that Briggs brought him from their outer space monitors, but the officer corrects him: The messages came from beneath the woods. He says that Briggs has hardware most could only dream of and his disappearance could make the Cold War look like a case of the sniffles. Meanwhile, James grows seemingly dumber by the minute and starts making out with Evelyn, just as Jeffrey comes home. Bobby delivers his photos to a very pleased Ben, who has now dressed himself in a Confederate uniform and seems to be re-enacting the Civil War with toy soldiers.

Back at the Packard homestead, Catherine and Pete sit down for a celebratory meal with Josie serving as their maid. Pete admits he thinks Catherine is being too hard on Josie, but Catherine reminds him that Josie played a role in Andrew's "death" and tried to destroy her as well. Pete still can't believe Josie could be capable of such things. Cooper receives another chess move from Windom Earle, only he's startled because Windom's response to his move arrived before his move was even published in the paper, meaning Earle knew what he would do. Audrey visits Dale and shows him the photos Bobby took for her father, photos that show Hank and Ernie meeting with Jean Renault and the mountie at Dead Dog Farm. Coop says that Audrey may have just saved his life. Agent Bryson arrives and Cooper shares the good news and Audrey displays some jealousy, not realizing he isn't really a woman. After Audrey gives Cooper a big kiss and leaves, Denise asks who the babe is, surprising Dale who figured Bryson wouldn't be interested in the opposite sex anymore. "I may be wearing a dress but I still put my pants on one leg at a time, if you know what I mean," Bryson replies. At the sheriff's station, the mayor still insists that Lana be charged in his brother's desk but the young woman annoys Lucy as well, exhibiting some sort of entrancing power on all the men who cross her path.

Ed and Norma share a quiet talk at the Double R, a talk that is watched by Hank, though Chris Mulkey obviously wasn't available for the episode since he wasn't in the credits and Hank is depicted only by a hand playing with his signature domino. Following his near-death experience with little Nicky, Dick tells Andy that they need to do some detective work to learn how his parents really died. At the Double R, Denise corners Ernie in a booth and tells him he's ready to send him away for life for parole violations unless he helps them set up Jean Renault with a fake drug deal. Back in noirland, James hears what sounds like a brutal beating and Malcolm pays a visit to his room, telling him that Jeffrey has always abused Evelyn and he's always vowed to kill him one day. At the Briggs residence (whose living room happens to have a lamp in the shape of an owl), Bobby comes home to find his distraught mother. He does his best to comfort her about his missing dad when suddenly lightning flashes and Major Briggs is standing in the living room in an old-fashioned pilot's uniform. He tells Bobby to put out his cigarette and fix him a stiff drink as he hugs his wife. She asks if everything is OK to which the major replies, "No, not exactly."

Labels: ,


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Follow edcopeland on Twitter

 Subscribe in a reader