Bouncing around Brussels


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The lobby of Metropole Hotel, Brussels, is quite something.

226 days left until the premiere of Iron Sky The Coming Race, and I’m sitting in a bed in Brussels, at a prestigious old Metropole hotel, built in 1895. The hotel was designed by architect Alban Chambon, and it truly is amazing. Huge pillars, detailed ornamented roofs and windows, marble floors and stunning lobby and bar, this place is like no other hotel I’ve visited. It feels like a time capsule left untouched amidst modern heart of Europe.

I arrived to Brussels after a night of basically no sleep. I had stayed awake, like I often do before going abroad, which is kinda funny because I travel a lot, but somehow my body prepares me for the uncomfortability of multiple transportation and becomes all tense and mind all clogged with nonesense the night before.

Such was the case last night, too. I tossed and turned next to my softly sleeping wife until decided to get up at 4 AM and went playing Hearthstone to the living room. My head was killing me and I felt grumpy and exhausted. Somehow, I found a 45 minutes of sleep just before my wakeup call at 5 AM, after which there was no time but to pack and get ready to hit the airport.

Annika, my wife, drives me to the airport. She always does that, bless her soul, knowing how much I hate leaving in the morning in a taxi. Being able

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Tired ol’ me, one hour of sleep and hours of travelling ahead. 

to listen to few of your preferred songs, talk this and that with her and go through upcoming schedules really eases my mind. 

Also, god bless the Finnair Gold membership. Dropping my huge bag (I always pack every piece of clothing I own) to the belt and slipping in the lounge in Helsinki truly is wonderful, blissful and mildly luxurious experience. On the plane, I nod

on and off, reading Monty Python’s Eric Idle’s self-written blog-turned-into-diary “The Greedy Bastard Diary”, which prompted me to start writing my own travel diary for the fun of it.

In Brussels, the weather is way hotter and way sunnier than in Finland. I commute a sweaty train and metro ride to the hotel, dragging my huge bag behind me. Somehow, I take a wrong turn – my sense of direction is notoriously bad – and find myself walking across the local red lights district, where amazingly shaped, beautiful women strut in the windows of seedy little houses lining a piss-drenched street populated by hobos, drugdealers and other rather suspicious looking individuals.

Room at Hotel Metropole isn’t ready yet. Simultaneously, China is pinging on WeChat and I’m already late from my meeting with the consulting editor Jan Hameeuw, with whom we are doing finishing touches on Iron Sky The Coming Race.

I stagger through the WeChat meeting and rush with a metro to Jan’s company Fridge TV, where we finally get to work on dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s of the first half of the movie.

The cut feels really, really good. Having deliberately not watching the edit in about a month, it’s good to have fresh eyes and thoughts. We both spot little nooks and crannies here and there we can slice and dice to get the flow even better, but overall, the thing is in mint.

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Some of the architecture in Brussels is mindbogglingly beautiful.

The day winds to an end and I finish it off by having a lonely dinner with mr. Idle on my Kindle at a brilliant Japanese restaurant around the corner, Skype a bit with Annika and finally doze off on the bed to the huge disappointment that Twin Peaks isn’t on until next week the next time.

 

 

 

Smooth sailing (Twin Peaks, Episode 7)


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Finally, the story is finding its’ bearings. This time around, the pacing works perfectly in balance with getting the old story loose ends tied together, while progressing the main story. Most interestingly, Laura Palmer’s diary’s torn pages come back, almost like they were always written to be found 25 years later from Twin Peaks sheriff department’s toilet. The feeling of connectivity is beautiful and unlike in so many cases – be it films or TV – when revisiting old stuff, we try to re-create those moments. Twin Peaks: The Return brings its’ own story, and it’s a well-thought, well-written and truly beautifully acted.

And casted! Whoever thought of getting Laura Dern to play Diane must be a true genius. Her performance is strong as ever – she is one of my all-time favorite female actors, right there with Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron – and she’s pulling a full five star performance. Her looks and intensity also work perfectly with Lynch‘s world, like we remember from Wild At Heart.

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Seventh episode is easily the most accessible of the new Twin Peaks, and had I not seen episode 8, I’d say Lynch is letting us go easy with the rest of the show.

Ha-fucking-ha-ha.

Wait for the bomb to go off.

Slowly, but surely… (Twin Peaks, Episode 6)


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The new Twin Peaks needs two viewings to be appreciated fully. It’s completely different in pacing, storytelling and plot-wise than anything else on TV or in theatres at this moment, so sitting back on the couch and watching an episode after consuming a week full of today’s entertainment in every possible form just isn’t good enough.

The first time I saw the sixth episode, I thought it’s more like a parody of Twin Peaks than Twin Peaks itself. Everything felt so very slow, obscure to the point of being silly and mostly unconnected. But then, the second viewing was completely a different experience. Grabbing a drink and putting on big earphones like Dr. Jacoby when listening to Laura’s tapes in the original run, the episode unfolded completely in a different tone, vibe and feeling.

Having said that, the episode did feel slightly a bottle episode-ish, with plot taking only very careful stride forward – yes, we met Diane for the first time! – and the pacing was slightly predictable. But there were important characters and locations re-visited, my favorite being Harry Dean Stanton‘s Carl Rodd and his trailer park (and the ominous utility pole). There was a traumatic death of a young kid, a magic show of two coins and of course, slow but steady progression with Dougie – this time, he connected with a policeman’s badge and with boxers’ fighting stance, and did some actual work.

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Although mostly everyone in the show is doing pristine job, Naomi Watts‘ character Janey-E gets on my nerves. It’s not really her acting, although that feels rather superficial, too, but mostly the single note performance she’s giving – basically, barking every line at everyone, everywhere, all the time. This takes away layers from the character and leaves her a cardboard figure of a “angry housewife”, when usually Lynch’s characters have much more depth and history, even though they are just some background actors.

We also meet a strange new character, weirdly Vin Diesel -looking person of short stature, a contract killer who goes on a bloody murder spree, and apparently his next target is none other than poor Dougie.

Episode 6 is not necessarily the best of the lot, but not the worst, either. It does the job, and stays safely in a familiar territory, being pretty close to what today’s TV-shows appear to be – but, like I said in the beginning, with a completely different, Twin Peaks: The Return -type of vibe, pacing and atmosphere. Lynch takes his time, and that I would love to see more everywhere.

★★★½

Is that David Bowie? – Twin Peaks, Episode 5


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Story recap: The Good Dale Cooper, who had been stuck in the lodge for 25 years has been replaced by the Bad Dale Cooper to a decoy-Cooper, Dougie, who now roams the Earth as an amoeba-brained shell of a man. The Bad Dale Cooper has evaded being recalled back to the Lodge, but was caught by the police and is using his special BOB powers to conduct a mission  which is still to reveal its’ true nature. Many old Twin Peaks characters make reappearance but don’t seem to be connected at this point – save Twin Peaks Sheriff Department’s native American Hawk, who has reopened the case of Laura Palmer, to look for something that’s gone missing – only, he has no idea what it is that’s missing.

Yeah, there’s the red room, the dwarf-turned-to-tree, weird glass box, messages to strange boxes that suddenly disappear, huge floating heads in space and so forth, but if you look past all that – or, more like if you take it in just as a textures of dreams, the story itself is pretty clear.

It’s been five very, very different episodes, and I’d loved to know how many saw the first two episodes and jumpseated the hell out of Lynchland, but those who stuck around are probably happy they did.

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BOWIE’S SHADOW

Agent Phillip Jeffries, played by the past legend David Bowie, has definitely been planned to have a much bigger role in Twin Peaks, but due to his illness it’s apparent he hasn’t been able to make an appearance. In Lynchian style, he’s still present despite not being able to make it physically – he’s definitely one of the driving forces behind the main plotline of Mr. C., but Lynch found a way to slip him in the show even though he’s not there – his statue stands in front of Dougie’s workplace. Dressed in cowboy clothes and toting a gun, his facial features are clearly recognizeable, although never shown directly in a frontal shot. (Having said that, another angle of the statue taken by someone on the set doesn’t really look Bowie-esque, so it may be a wrong interpretation…)

SEX AND DRUGS AND ROCK AND ROLL

It’s great to see after the stumbling of the third episode that the story really starts to take off and find its’ pace with Episode 5. Characters are revisited and their stories are being pushed forward, carefully, yes, and without too much explanations. It’s great to see Lynch working with elements he’s the strongest at: drugs, mundane city life, sexual violence and tragic comedy, sprinkled with mysterious elements. Also, Angelo Badalamenti‘s beautiful score starts to kick in with more frequent appearances, which definitely helps to float the overall atmosphere forward.

The biggest discussion around Twin Peaks is the Dougie storyline. Lynch is giving small, tiny hints that there might be a way for Cooper to wake up as an agent – his coffee obsession, staring at the gun of the “Bowie statue”, him repeating words he should know (agent, case file etc.), but he’s not hurrying with it, and that seems to be an issue to some. So far, I’m enjoying Dougie’s stumbling around, but I must say, there’s a certain threshold after which it’s bound to become tiresome – let’s hope Lynch finds a new gear to Dougie pretty soon.

All in all, the fifth episode is closest to what brought so many people to Twin Peaks original run with its’ mixture of mystery, comedy and small town drama, and the pace is just wonderful. The fifth episode receives full five Blackstars!

★★★★★

 

Back In Shape (Episode 4, Twin Peaks)


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Once you accept the fact that you’re not watching the latest House of Cards season, Twin Peaks charms you slowly. Yeah, it’s definitely weirdly off, but the charm sets in slowly also for the “real world” sequences. It’s really the combination of interesting (note: not always good, but almost every time interesting) cast and slowly unfolding bigger story behind it all.

Cooper stumbles around the casino, winning 29 mega jackpots, still completely without ability to think, speak or even take a leak when needed. He returns back to his – well, Dougie’s – home, where his wife is pissed off at him – until she discovers the piles of cash he’s carrying. There’s a moment of connection with the Black Lodge, where MIKE tells Cooper that he was fooled, and that now one of the two needs to die.

We revisit some old characters – there’s more on Andy and Lucy and their son, the strange but pretty fun Michael Cera, who plays Wally Brando, a kid living the life of Marlon Brando from The Wild One. We meet Sheriff Truman now for the first time really, only he’s not THE Sheriff Truman, who was played by Michael Ontkean, but rather his brother, now portrayed by wonderful Robert Forster.

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All in all, the episode stays together much better than the earlier one, relying on the strengths of the strange characters, weird setups and hints of supernatural mystery. It’s great to see Lynch in full action also on screen as Gordon Cole, and a reminder that he’s actually not a half bad actor himself at all – at least in this role. The only thing that’s a bit sad, maybe echo of what was to follow, is to see Albert Rosenfield, portrayed by Miguel Ferrer, looking not well at all. At this point his cancer (he died of throat cancer early this year) must’ve spread quite widely, and maybe that’s the reason he feels very like the life has been kicked out of him. Long gone are the days of witty Rosenfield, now he’s just rather sad and sick looking, but big props for him nevertheless returning to the role and wanting to once more do one of the most loved Twin Peaks character, even though it may have been hard for him.

Lynch’s first fumble (Episode 3, Twin Peaks)


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I had a discussion on the bad VFX yesterday on Reddit. My original question was this:

Having watched a lot of Lynch films lately, one of the things I’ve always appreciated is his attention to details. Somehow, this attention doesn’t seem to reach the visual effects of the new Twin Peaks – I wonder, why. Is it because he’s not used to using a lot of VFX – computer-generated visual effects, that is – or is there such a serious budget issue that even simple problems haven’t been fixed. Especially when married with extremely beautiful cinematography, this makes me wonder which one dropped the ball, BUF (the VFX house) or Lynch?

Those who have missed the most apparent ones, you might want to re-watch – for example, the body with severed woman’s head and man’s body just seems fake. Same goes with the head wound of the woman Mr. C shot in the head, the one whose husband got jailed for the murder of the librarian.

Later on, obviously episode 3 has loads of issues with the rooftop floating in space and several other shots in that scene. Later on, Coopers return to Earth also looks rather cheesy – but these effects are more in line with Lynch’s earlier work, maybe that’s meant to be a bit funny/double-exposure/old-school-TV-visuals -style? Also, Episode 2 has few easily-fixable issues like cameraman on the mirror, and Mr. C’s hand when he’s caressing the inner tights of the woman next door to where he shot the other woman in the head, you can clearly see his hand never reaches his private parts, although dialogue suggests it does.

Given today’s VFX standards, the fact that Showtime put all the required resources in the series, as well as gave all the creative freedom to Lynch, and knowing Lynch’s attention to details — these glitches and bad VFX shots are a bit of a turnoff, am I right?

 

Unsurprisingly, the fanboys voted the question down, but there was already some discussion happening there, and some pretty good points were made. It seems most of the people don’t find the what I call “bad VFX” bothering them so much, and even more, one pretty good answer came along, from user /u/hellsfoxes

I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently walking around modern art museums here in London, where they also have a lot of experimental video on display.

It really reminded me that this is Lynch’s wheelhouse and indicative of the approach he takes. Realism or even believability isn’t a goal for him in the same sense as almost every other filmmaker out there. Bad effects are as much a part of the tapestry and texture as say Michael Cera’s pretty ridiculous performance.

It all adds to the surrealism and absurdity at the heart of his approach. Every moment of bad CG and unbelievable corny dialogue juxtaposed somewhere else with frighteningly realistic horror or deeply subtle emotion. Lynch will absolutely sacrifice realism for a meaningful contrast of tones.

It’s certainly offputting in certain aspects but it’s absolutely part of the experimental video culture.

So, the closest relative to the VFX of Twin Peaks is not Game of Thrones, but rather a MoMA exhibition. Looking it from this perspective, it makes more sense. But having said that…

…There are still serious problems. Some of the effects even most of the redditors didn’t really buy, like the fake/CGI corpses and the terrible Disappearance of Doug -scene in episode 3. Which brings me neatly to today’s topic – Episode 3, the first time Lynch fumbles.

There’s so much that’s wrong with Episode 3, that I’d like to start with what’s actually good in it.

The episode begins beautifully from Nonexistence with an eerie scene in a room with a woman (credited American Girl), played by the same actress who played Ronette Pulaski in the original run. Cooper, who was tricked into nonexistence, finds what he believes to be the exit back to real world, and manages to leave the world of the Lodges – leaving his shoes behind.

Shoes have been a repeating element in Lynch’s Twin Peaks. We may remember MIKE inhabited the body of shoe salesman Phillip Gerard, and Leo, after being shot, became obsessed with his shoe. Now, Cooper leaves the Nonexistence, leaving his shoes behind – and reappearing as a tabula rasa of a human being on the other side. This all makes sense, if you think that shoes in Lynch’s mind represent personality, the real ‘you’ inside the shell. “Take a walk in my shoes”, as they say.

What’s probably the most shocking revelation of the new Twin Peaks is that we meet a new character – the third version of Cooper, “Dougie”. He’s a middle-aged real estate salesman in Rancho Rosa (Red Ranch) who uses his estates as a hideout to have sex with prostitutes. The question is: what he is? Why suddenly third Cooper, in addition to Mr. C and Cooper?

The answer is: he’s a decoy, created by Mr. C, to fool the Lodge Dwellers to pull him back into their world, instead of Mr. C – and he succeeds in it. Dougie disappears, and we’re left with the two – Mr. C, still alive and kicking in the real world, and Cooper, who reappeared to replace Dougie instead of Mr. C, and lost his shoes – personality – in the same. All that’s left is a mindless shell of a human who can barely speak, trotting around like a penguin in his spanking suit.

The setup, in simple terms, is interesting: BOB stole MIKE’s food, and escaped. MIKE sends Cooper back to Earth to get him back, but instead of exchanging Cooper to Bob, they mistake him for the decoy-Cooper, Dougie. So now, roaming the Earth are two different Coopers, and things are getting weird.

But like I said, there’s a lot I didn’t like in this episode. To start off with the visuals, although they are more like modern art than modern VFX, it still makes me wonder if it’s Lynch’s inexperience with VFX and inability to communicate it with BUF the VFX house that made so many things look so cheesy, in a wrong way. The worst truly is the disappearance of Dougie -scene, where Dougie’s head turns into black smoke and a badly composed golden ball bearing eats his existence.

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The other thing is the actress of the prostitute. She has fairly big role, but she can’t act. Usually bad actors work in Lynch’s work, because they somehow are just rendered weird and otherworldly, but this character just seems amateurish. Same is repeated later with the female agent, Chrysta Bell, a singer and Lynch’s musical collaborator – and definitely not an actor. It’s rare to see bad performances in such large scale in Lynch’s work, so it’s a bit surprising.

And last, but not least – the comedy of the scenes is weirdly off. We have very similar sequences as we did in the original run of Twin Peaks, goofy and fun and crazy, and we even have the same editor Duwayne Dunham (Wild at Heart, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Twin Peaks pilot and Blue Velvet), but somehow, the fun doesn’t connect. The scenes become firstly strange and abstract, and later on, a bit awkward. It’s hard to say why so, maybe it’s because we’re lacking the suggestive music that used to be a trademark of Twin Peaks whenever something lighthearted was going on, or maybe it’s Lynch’s original intention – whatever it is, it feels strange.

But maybe that’s the whole attraction of the show: everything is a little bit off from what we’ve used to, and we just have to accept it and enjoy the show, because Lynch is taking us for the second ride, so let’s just enjoy it.

★★★

The Evolution Of The Arm (Twin Peaks, Episode 2)


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Everyone who has watched TV during the last quarter of a decade remembers two things from Twin Peaks – even if you didn’t watch the show – the Log Lady, and the dancing dwarf. The dancing dwarf, unforgettably portrayed by Michael J. Anderson, who didn’t return to the show due to payment dispute with Showtime. He played a a character called The Arm, who is actually the chopped-off arm of MIKE, the one-armed man.

One of the things I love about David Lynch‘s work is when an apparent, crippling limitation hits you – like the most important actor not accepting the paycheck and dropping from the show – you take it as an opportunity, not a hinderance.

Instead of writing the character out, you “evolve” it. So, The Arm is back, but he has evolved into what appears to be an electric tree with a lump of a talking brain on top. The new creation is both thought-provoking, mildly nauseating and somehow seems to be fitting the world of Lynch perfectly.

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What’s revealed early on in the episode is that everyone – MIKE and The Arm – are looking for BOB, because he stole something called garmonbozia, the pain and sorrow, fuel of the Lodge-dwellers.

This all may seem confusing, but think it in different terms: BOB stole MIKE’s lunch and disappeared. MIKE is worried as he’s getting hungry, and sends Cooper to get it back.

But then, things turn weird for Cooper. Just as he’s ogling the road to freedom for the first time in 25 years, the evil doppelgänger of The Arm appears, attacks Cooper and throws him into something called Nonexistence.

The careful balance of the Lodges has been altered, and someone is about to get hurt.

In the real world, Mr. C – BOB-infested Cooper – goes on a killing spree. Kyle Maclachlan dives deeper into the murky black waters of evil, and plays his role more intensively than I’ve seen anyone do in a long time: he’s a man on a run, driven by a strong survival instinct, and no-one’s gonna stop him. He’s heartless, cold and scary as hell. Lynch builds his character up carefully, giving ample amount of time to his scenes – and that’s the whole beauty of the new Twin Peaks, you never feel rushed, you never feel Lynch wants to throw you out of the scene and you’re always able to take in all the carefully planted details of each scene.

Promisingly, also, David Bowie‘s character is back – at least, in the dialogue level. It becomes apparent quickly that Mr. C has teamed up with the “long lost agent Philip Jeffries”, whom we met in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, played by Bowie. It’s yet to be seen what comes of this, since when Mr. C tries to call Jeffries, someone else answers.

There’s one thing that’s slightly worrying with the new Twin Peaks – the visual effects. Produced by BUF in France, the visual effects facility is indeed a high-end player, having worked with films like Independence Day: Resurgence and Blade Runner 2049, but Lynch is not used doing a lot of modern VFX, so maybe he’s letting BUF go a bit easy – many visuals are more like from the early 90’s TV than what one is expecting from today’s shows – double exposure style, jumpy disappearance effects and so on. It’s also possible many of the apparent bad visuals are intentionally bad, reminiscent from the Lynch heydays of Wild at Heart and original Twin Peaks run,  but when it comes to wounds and such “realistic” effects – like the body in the first episode, and the head wound in the second – it’s plain bad VFX.

The second episode walks towards the darkening skyline peacefully. It is, yet again, absolutely thrilling to see Lynch taking his time with the scenes, building the little weird moments between characters, and creating the threatening atmosphere with sounds, cuts in dialogue when nothing is said or even done, while sprinkling hints of the bigger plot.

★★★★★