Twin Peaks “Variations on Relations” [1991)

The war is not won by logic alone.

Nor solely by florid creativity.

Weaponized love.

Crowbar.

Hearing “where dead voices gather”.

I believe it came out as “oenophiliac”.

Footprints.

Monograph on cigarette butts.

Woody?

No, not really…

With hints of pencil lead.

My favorite.

Carrots for cigars.

King of flowers.

Anecdotal Guam.

A puzzle box.

Die Büchse.

Symbology and petroglyph.

The moral actions of extremely intelligent military personnel.

To prevent loss of life.

The birth of conscience.

Extreme frankness borne of Boy Scout precision.

And yet tact.

Of course.

Gentlemanly.

Palimpsests in cache.

No erasure.

Sous rature.

Under the paving stones, the beach.

Ian Buchanan comes to the fore.

All Cary Grant through and through.

Dear friends, exhaustion.

I beg of you, patience.

This is my therapy.

To watch.

And write for pleasure.

Thank you.

 

-PD

#5 The Trouble with Mr. Bean [1992)

This is more like it.

Perhaps the most classic bit of all.

Getting dressed in the Mini Cooper.

Brushing his teeth.

Rinsing with the windshield wiper fluid.

It’s bloody clever!

The dentist appointment is rather good, though it’s hard to follow the adventurous trip which precedes it.

The final picnic bit is rather lame.

But the very opening…yes, let’s go back to the top.

Bean, apparently, has an immensely difficult time waking up.

I can wholeheartedly sympathize with that.

He has his grandfather clock.

And then a small alarm on his right nightstand.

And finally a tea kettle alarm on the other nightstand to which he has affixed a hose which runs to the foot of the bed…to spray scalding hot water on his foot.

But there are no snooze buttons.

The little alarm is dropped into a glass of water.

The hose is stopped up by the muscle memory of his big toe.

And back to sleep he goes.

Which all explains why he must rush to the dentist in the fist place.

But let’s examine something else.

In this episode, Bean’s childlike nature is on full display.

He sleeps beneath an A-Team blanket (upon which Mr. T’s flannel, pastel head is displayed clearly).

But just as importantly, Bean sleeps with his teddy bear by his side.

For Bean, his teddy bear is a living entity…a toy doll with feelings.

So Bean tucks in the bear for some extra Zzzz…allowing his faithful friend to sleep in.

And thus begins the frantic race to the dentist.

Furthermore, Bean is solely interested in reading a Batman comic book at his dentist’s office.

None of the vast magazine collection in the waiting room will suffice.

And about that picnic scene…

At least it reminded me that Rowan Atkinson is essentially a mime on this show.

Indeed, he says only one word in his basso profundo voice during this episode.

“Bean”, he intones, as he arrives at the opaque receptionist’s window.

For those in search of art, look no further.

The man says one word.  In the entire episode.

Not zero.  And not 571.

But merely one.

Directors Paul Weiland and John Birkin were starting to get the hang of things with this one.

Highly recommended!

But don’t let your nose hair get caught in your Norelco (as Mr. Bean painfully finds out).  Always reminds me of El Sayyid Nosair.  And Meir Kahane.  And the Jewish Defense League.  MIPT (and by extension, Homeland Security) classifies the JDL as merely a “former terrorist organization”.  (Jewish terrorists…imagine that!)  Even the ADL gets it right regarding the similar sounding JDL:  “thugs and hooligans”.

Kahane (founder of this former Jewish terrorist organization) has a nice little monument in Kahane Park in the West Bank.  Which is to say, Israel seems proud of their terrorist martyrs.  What hypocrisy!

-PD

Suburban Gothic [2014)

Dear devoted fans [chuckles heard offstage],

I am still alive.  Battling a serious case of MBA.  And, as such, I was duped into watching what turned out to be one of the finest films I have seen in awhile.

But how did I stumble across this little gem in the first place?  For that I must thank the inimitable Kat Dennings.  [More about her as we go on.]

Let us first, however, start with Matthew Gray Gubler.  As someone who watches very little TV, I was unaware of this rising star in the acting world.  Gubler plays Raymond:  a newly-minted MBA who can’t even lock down an entry-level job.  His character grew on me…from, at first, an American Apparel model come to life…to a lovable outcast with impeccable comic timing.

Circling back, I was curious how Gubler’s 21st-century archetype (the unemployable MBA) would fare in this comedy.  As I found out, Suburban Gothic is actually a film of great depth masquerading as a campy horror send-up.

It’s really remarkable, but this film actually does speak for me in some strange way.  Perhaps it was because I was listening to The Dead Milkmen this morning. [Watch the film and you’ll understand why.]

Yes, Raymond’s town is a “depressing shithole” to borrow Enid Coleslaw’s pithy diction from Zwigoff’s Ghost World.  And the ghosts here are real–literal.  But what most impresses me about Richard Bates Jr. (who needs a Wikipedia page) as a director is that he manages to evoke the crappiest reaches of America…from the bombed-out city center of Albany, New York to the harrowing motel highwayside of Roanoke, Virginia…from the strip malls of San Antonio to…well, you get the picture.

It’s one of those films…like Ghost World.  It’s Anywhere, U.S.A.  [Well, almost anywhere.]  It’s the fake vomit-inducing magic of Orlando.  It’s the sprawl of Los Angeles.  It’s that suicidal ennui which Arcade Fire so deftly encapsulated on their album The Suburbs.

Pariahs of the American south will especially appreciate the wonderful redneck evocation of Raymond’s high-school-football-coaching father (played magnificently by Ray Wise).  Yeah…

This film hits a lot of themes.  People change.  Fat kids get thin.  Sensitive souls can’t shake the wimp label.  Some places are especially difficult for creative types to endure.

And so if your life consists of frequenting your local Starbucks on the edge of a super-freeway (I certainly don’t know anyone like that…wait?  Nope, no one like that around here.  This very minute.  Right here.), then you just might find Kat Dennings to be especially on-point as the salty crowbar-toting Becca.  This film is more about Gubler’s character, but Dennings is indispensable to this moral play.

And what’s the moral?  The moral is this:  no matter how much you know about demand and supply curves (supply and demand to us lowly folk) there is always a more important line to shift outwards.  It’s more micro than microeconomics.  It is, in a word, empathy.  Respect for the dead.  Paranormal.  And, most of all, conscience.  It is that latter word which sticks in my head…falling from the lips of Godard (forever in my mind) in his whispered Swiss French.

Conscience.

Sure, this film makes Poltergeist look like Citizen Kane, but one senses from the opening credits that such is largely intentional.  No big budget here, and yet…this film is frightening and laugh-out-loud.  And like a good Simpsons episode, it is more touching than anything Hallmark rolls out of their platitude factory.

John Waters makes quite a fine cameo, but the lion’s share of credit goes to Gubler and Dennings and their auteur-in-the-making Richard Bates Jr.  Really a worthwhile flick!  Thank you.

-PD

Way of the Dragon [1972)

1770.  Beethoven.  Dragon.  If my math is correct.  I was born in the year of the dragon.  Hour of the dog.  For dragon, I will own eccentric.  For dog, sense of justice and lazy.  Bruce Lee was born in the year and hour of the dragon.

Strong.  Intestinal fortitude is usually used figuratively.  Early in this film we might be disoriented by the clumsy, blurred  mise-en-scène.  Indeed, this was Lee’s first and last completed directorial effort.  The beginning doesn’t bode well.  Just like his character, who accidentally orders five bowls of soup, Lee seems in over his head as an auteur.  As his character Tang Lung deals with a seeming case of the shits, the film moves (on the contrary) very slowly.  Not only do we wonder about the technical proficiency of the cinematographer, we experience a claustrophobic hyper-sensitivity to the passing of time.  Mercifully, this is offset by a cinematic tone which echoes Tati’s Playtime.

But the strength builds up.  The film, literally, comes into focus (albeit slowly).  Lee once again plays a similar character to those he delineated in The Big Boss and Fist of Fury.

You must put your hip into it, he says.  Yes.  This is the secret to power.  Leverage.  Chinese boxing.

We are made aware of Lee’s strength on several occasions when he flexes his taut physique.  Suffice it to say that there is nothing slight about the diminutive Lee.  One senses that every square inch of this man is power.  Strength.

Proud.  Nothing is like back home.  Hong Kong.  Rome doesn’t impress Lee.  On one occasion he seems to see things through the eyes of Respighi for a moment, but then makes a flippant comment about a grand fountain.  Tang Lung (Lee) would build over it.  Make money.

But this façade is at odds with the loyalty he shows to his newfound friends in Rome (themselves likewise expats from Hong Kong).

Direct.  Lee begins to direct.  There is a panache in all of his movements…like a lethal Chaplin.

Eccentric.  Can I buy a gun around here?  Yes?  Good.  I’ll whittle some bamboo darts instead.

He moves in squawking orbits.  Distractions.  Diversions.  Like Muhammad Ali with Tourette’s.

Show off.  More like a selective extrovert.  Beware of the quiet ones.  The humble ones.  When they reach their breaking points, God forbid they be the most genius asskickers on the planet.

Lee refrains until his adversaries ask for it.  Backed into a corner, he turns the tables…every time.

Arrogant.  Sometimes…  It takes a Chuck Norris to remind us that there are other masters in the world.  And if we beat them, we salute them.  But he who seeks not money shall have a superior core to the mercenary.  To protect is more powerful than to attack.

Violent.  Damn right!  You want violence?  You’re about to be dealt the quickest administrations of pain you’ve ever seen.  Calling Dr. Lee.  This is where shock and awe comes from.  And machinery/technology will never ascend to the glorious depths of human creativity.  Endurance is in the mind.

Brash.  Occasionally.  The big boss needs to learn.  The big boss hires his murders–his terrorism–his intimidation.  The big boss runs and hides when the fast bullets fly.  But once in awhile the masters of war find themselves in very uncomfortable circumstances.  The teacher does not love war.  The teacher masters war.  The teacher masters the passions of revenge.  Bruce Lee never distributes a disproportionate riposte.

Controlling.  Control.  First, control yourself.  Seek to master yourself.  Listen to your body.  Control what you can control…knowing that the world is chaos…an indeterminate harmony.  Then you will be ready to think on your feet.  You will be ready to invent and improvise like Thelonious Monk.

This is the way of the dragon.

-PD