Horror Film Review: Nadja (dir by Michael Michael Almereyda)


When we first meet Nadja (Elina Löwensohn), the title character of this odd, 1994 film, she is walking around New York, wearing a cape and picking up men in bars.  She speaks with a thick, Eastern European accent and when she’s asked what she does, she explains that she comes from an old and very wealthy Romanian family.  As we quickly guess, Nadja has lived for centuries.  She’s a vampire, a daughter of Count Dracula.  Everything she says and everything she does is drenched in the ennui of someone who wishes to be set free but who knows she is destined to live forever in the prison of her existence.  Even when she has visions of her father getting a stake through the heart, it doesn’t provide her with the relief for which she was hoping.

It probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that it was a member of the Helsing family that drove the stake through Dracula’s heart.  However, having killed the vampire, Van Helsing (Peter Fonda) finds himself in trouble with the police.  Apparently, the cops don’t believe Van Helsing when he insists that he was just killing a vampire.  As far as they can tell, Van Helsing just killed a man with a sharp piece of wood.  Fortunately, Van Helsing’s nephew, Jim (Martin Donavon), also lives in New York and can bail his uncle out of jail.

While Jim is dealing with his uncle, Nadja is meeting a woman in a bar, a woman named Lucy (Galaxy Craze).  Both Lucy and Nadja feel empty and unfulfilled.  Lucy, who happens to be married to Jim, is soon inviting Nadja back to her home and becoming obsessed with her.  However, Nadja is more concerned with her brother, Edgar (Jared Harris).  Edgar lives in Brooklyn with his lover and nurse, Cassandra (Suzy Amis).  When Nadja visits Edgar, she decides to take Cassandra away from him.  Of course, Cassandra just happens to be Van Helsing’s daughter and Jim’s cousin!

Nadja is an odd film.  On the one hand, it’s pretentious in the way that only a mid-90s, New York art film can be.  Director Michael Almereyda shot the majority of film at night and a good deal of it with a PXL-2000, which was basically a toy video camera that was specifically marketed to children.  As a result, the black-and-white images are usually dark and grainy.  Sometimes, it’s a bit of struggle to tell just what exactly is happening on-screen.  And yet, at the same time, it kinda works.  Those hazy images, combined with the largely deadpan performances of the cast, give the film an undeniably dream-like feel.  When we see Nadja walking through the city, we feel her ennui and otherworldly presence.  At its best, the film achieves a hypnotic visual beauty.  If ever there was an American city that benefits from being filmed in grainy black-and-white, it’s New York City.

The film plays out like a satire of the typical decadent vampire film.  (Nadja even has a Renfield of very own.)  Nadja is so obviously a vampire that it’s impossible not to be amused by the fact that hardly anyone else seems to pick up on it.  However, the film’s most subversive element is Peter Fonda’s performance as Van Helsing.  With his long hair and a demented gleam in his eye, Fonda totally upends all our assumptions about who someone named Van Helsing should be.

In many ways, Nadja plays out like an elaborate inside joke but it’s just strange enough to always be watchable.  David Lynch, whose influence is obvious, has a cameo as a morgue attendant and he feels right at home.  This deadpan vampire film many not be for everyone but then again, few worthwhile films are.

Book Review: Room to Dream by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna


It’s been a few months since I read Room to Dream and I’m still thinking about it.  It’s definitely one of the most fascinating and frustrating Hollywood memoirs that I’ve ever read.

It’s fascinating because the book is not only about David Lynch but it’s also by him.  Lynch, in his own words, tells us about his childhood, his time as an art student, his struggle to complete Eraserhead, and all the rest.  He tells us about directing some of the greatest British thespians of all time in The Elephant Man and also shares with us the frustrations of directing Dune.  He tells us about Twin Peaks and how Mulholland Drive went from being a rejected pilot to being an award-winning film.

All of the familiar stories are here.  He tells us about the time when he was a child and he saw a naked and bloodied woman stumbling down the street.  (This image would later reappear in Blue Velvet.)  We hear about how he was essentially homeless while directing Eraserhead and how, during the casting of Blue Velvet, Dennis Hopper called him up and announced that he was Frank Booth.  Not surprisingly, Lynch writes extensively about the importance of meditation in both his life and his art.

At the same time, there’s also a lot of new stuff in this book.  Did you ever want to know who Lynch believes to have been behind the Kennedy assassination?  Well, it’s right there in the first chapter.  Want to know how Lynch actually feels about using drugs as a creative aide?  It’s in there.  Did you know that among the films that David Lynch has been offered (and turned down) were Return of the Jedi, American Beauty, Tender Mercies, and The Ring?  You do now.  He writes about his occasionally difficult but very real friendship with actor Jack Nance.  He writes about some of the legendary actors and producers that he’s met and what’s interesting is that he rarely has a bad word to say about anyone.  Even when he writes about how difficult Anthony Hopkins was on the set of the The Elephant Man, Lynch still allows that Hopkins may have just been dealing with stuff in his own life.  Lynch comes across as being as generous, artistic, and eccentric as you would hope that he would.

Clocking in at over 600 pages, the book has an interesting format.  The book is divided into sections, each one dealing with a different period of Lynch’s life.  Each section opens with Kristine McKenna discussing what was happening in Lynch’s life at the time and interviewing Lynch’s friends and collaborators.  It’s only after McKenna has given us the facts of what was going on in Lynch’s life that Lynch then gives us his interpretation and recollections of the facts.  It makes for a challenging but often interesting read.  One thing that immediately becomes clear is that Lynch is far more comfortable talking about his art than talking about his relationships with other people.  Lynch comes across as being the epitome of the artist who spend almost of all of his time in his own head.  Room to Dream gives us a chance to see the world through Lynch’s eyes and he tends to remember most of the events of his life as if they were just another atmospheric scene in one of his movies.

Lynch discusses his work with such enthusiasm that it’s impossible not to get carried away with him.  At that same time, this is not the book to read if you’re expecting Lynch to explain what’s going on underneath the surface of some of his more surrealistic films.  If you’re expecting Lynch to explain why Bill Pullman turns into Balthazar Getty in Lost Highway, you’ll be disappointed.  If you’re expecting Lynch to explain what’s real and what isn’t in Eraserhead, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire, it’s not going to happen.  And if you’re expecting to understand the finale of Twin Peaks: The Return after reading Room to Dream, you’re out of luck.  If anything, Lynch seems like even more of an enigma, albeit an incredibly likable enigma, after you read Room To Dream than before.

And yes, it can be frustrating but you know what?  That’s okay.  In fact, it seems appropriate.  The brilliance of David Lynch lies in the mystery.  When I first heard about Room to Dream, I feared that Lynch would reveal too much and the mystery would be lost.  Instead, it’s even more fascinating than ever.

Here Are The 70th Annual Emmy Winners!


To be honest, I didn’t actually watch the Emmys this year.  For one thing, I was upset that Twin Peaks was not nominated for Best Limited Series and I was even more upset that Kyle MacLachlan was totally overlooked.  It’s hard for me to take seriously an awards show that snubs Twin Peaks but honors Alec Baldwin’s uninspired Donald Trump impersonation.

However, I did kind of follow the ceremony on twitter.  I was happy, for instance, to learn that Bill Hader and Henry Winkler won for Barry and that Thandie Newton won for Westworld.  The Emmy that should have gone to Twin Peaks went to The Assassination of Gianni Verscace, which was good but uneven.  (The first five episodes were brilliant.  The final three felt somewhat superfluous.)  Ryan Murphy beat David Lynch for Best Director.  I mean, what the Hell?

Anyway, here’s the winners!

Best Comedy: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)

Best Drama:“Game of Thrones” (HBO)

Best Limited Series: “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” (FX)

Best Actress, Comedy: Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Best Actor, Comedy: Bill Hader, “Barry”

Best Actress, Drama: Claire Foy, “The Crown”

Best Actor, Drama: Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”

Supporting Actress, Drama: Thandie Newton, “Westworld”

Supporting Actor, Drama: Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”

Supporting Actress, Comedy: Alex Borstein, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Supporting Actor, Comedy: Henry Winkler, “Barry”

Best Actress, Limited Series or TV Movie: Regina King, “Seven Seconds”

Best Actor, Limited Series or TV Movie: Darren Criss, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

Supporting Actress, Limited Series or a Movie: Merritt Wever, “Godless”

Supporting Actor, Limited Series or Movie: Jeff Daniels, “Godless”

*Television Movie: “Black Mirror: USS Callister” (Netflix)

Variety Sketch Series: “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)

Variety Talk Series: “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”(HBO)

Reality Competition Program: “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (VH1)

*Reality Host: RuPaul, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”

*Structured Reality Program: “Queer Eye” (Netflix)

*Unstructured Reality Program: “United Shades Of America With W. Kamau Bell” (CNN)

*Guest Actress, Drama: Samira Wiley, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

*Guest Actor, Drama: Ron Cephas Jones, “This Is Us”

*Guest Actress, Comedy: Tiffany Haddish, “Saturday Night Live”

*Guest Actor, Comedy: Katt Williams, “Atlanta”

*Documentary or Nonfiction Series: “Wild Wild Country” (Netflix)

*Animated Program: “Rick And Morty” (Adult Swim)

Writing for a Comedy Series: Amy Sherman-Palladino, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Pilot)

Writing for a Drama Series: Joel Fields & Joe Weisberg, “The Americans” (“Start”)

Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Drama: William Bridges & Charlie Brooker, “Black Mirror: USS Callister”

Directing for a Comedy Series: Amy Sherman-Palladino, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Pilot)

Directing for a Drama Series: Stephen Daldry, “The Crown” (“Paterfamilias”)

Directing for a Limited Series: Ryan Murphy, “The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” (“The Man Who Would Be Vogue”)

*Directing for a Variety Series: Don Roy King, “Saturday Night Live” (Host: Donald Glover)

Writing for a Variety Special: John Mulaney, “John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous At Radio City”

Directing for a Variety Special: Glenn Weiss, “The Oscars”

*Awards presented during the Creative Arts Emmy ceremony on Sept. 8-9.

4 Shots From 4 Films That Won The Palme d’Or: Wild At Heart, Barton Fink, The Piano, Pulp Fiction


4 Shots from 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots from 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

All four of these films have one thing in common: they all won the Palme d’Or at Cannes!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Wild At Heart (1990, dir by David Lynch)

Barton Fink (1991, dir by the Coen Brothers)

The Piano (1993, dir by Jane Campion)

Pulp Fiction (1994, dir by Quentin Tarantino)

2017 In Review: Lisa Marie’s Final Post About Twin Peaks: The Return (for now)


“Nothing will die. The stream flows, the wind blows, the cloud fleets, the heart beats. Nothing will die.” — John Merrick’s Mother, quoting Tennyson, at the end of The Elephant Man (1980)

Was Twin Peaks: The Return a movie or a TV show?

As I sit here on January 9th, 2018, that’s a question that’s still on my mind.  There are many critics who insist that Twin Peaks: The Return should be viewed as being a 16-hour movie.  It’s a claim that I, myself, have made several times.  In order to support this argument, we point out that David Lynch and Mark Frost didn’t sit down and write 16 different scripts.  Instead, they wrote one 900-page script which they then filmed and subsequently divided into 16 different “chapters.”  It’s really not that much different from what Quentin Tarantino did with Kill Bill or what Peter Jackson did with both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  As well, Twin Peaks: The Return was such a monumental artistic achievement that calling it a TV show just seems somehow diminishing.

And yet, the fact of the matter is that Twin Peaks: The Return did air on television.  It aired in 16 different episodes, which were aired on a weekly basis.  To many, that fact alone makes Twin Peaks: The Return a television show.

It may all seem like a silly question to some readers.  However, for those of us who like to make best-of lists at the start of the new year, it is a legitimate issue.  Should I include Twin Peaks: The Return at the top of my list of the best 26 films of 2017 or should I rave about it in my list of good things I saw on television in 2017?

My solution is to do neither.  Twin Peaks: The Return was such a monumental achievement that it deserves a best-of entry of its very own.

(Of course, not everyone is going to agree.  For everyone who loved Twin Peaks: The Return, there was someone else who hated it with just as much of a passion.)

Months after the show ended, Twin Peaks: The Return continues to haunt many viewers.  As the Man From Another Place once told Agent Cooper, “She is full of secrets.”  When the show ended, many of the show’s mysteries were left unsolved.  Really, we shouldn’t have been surprised.  As a filmmaker, David Lynch has always been most interested in mysteries than solutions.  What happened to Audrey?  Why did Laura/Carrie scream?  At the end of the show, was Dale trapped in another world or another time?  Was BOB really destroyed?

Interestingly, David Lynch actually provided viewers with two endings.  The first ending, which occurred halfway through Part 17, was an ending that would have been perfect for a television show.  Dale Cooper, back to normal, defeated the bad guys and was reunited with all of his friends.  The second ending — also known as Part 18— was a much more Lynchian ending as two strangers took a road trip to nowhere.  Part 17 gave us hope for the future.  Part 18 ended with a dark reminder that the past cannot be changed, no matter how much we obsess over it.  For me, Part 18 was the most important chapter of Twin Peaks: The Return.  Part 8, of course, is the chapter that got and continues to get all the attention.  And Part 8 was probably one of the greatest stand-alone episodes in television history.  But, when considering the reoccurring themes of Twin Peaks: The Return and all of Lynch’s work, Part 18 was far more important.

What’s interesting is that, while the show ended on a dark note, Twin Peaks: The Return was often Lynch at his most optimistic.  For all the terrible things that happened, the show also featured a reoccurring theme of redemption.  Two of the original show’s most villainous characters — Dana Ashbrook’s Bobby Briggs and Richard Beymer’s Ben Horne — were reintroduced as two of the most sympathetic characters to be found in The Return.  Agent Cooper finally escaped from the Black Lodge and not only got a chance to redeem himself by destroying Bob but he also destroyed his evil Double.  He even got a chance to turn Dougie Jones into a good husband, father, and employee.

In the end, it would appear that Cooper’s only mistake was thinking that he could change the past.  He may have saved Laura but, in doing so, he just transformed her into Carrie, an unbalanced woman living in a house with a dead body on the couch.  As her final scream confirmed, he could save her life but he couldn’t erase her pain.  The past is the past but the future can always be better.

Of course, it wasn’t just the characters on the show who won redemption.  The cast of Twin Peaks: The Return was truly amazing and, by the time the show ended, my opinion of several performers had changed forever.  Who would ever have guessed that Jim Belushi would end up being one of my favorite characters?  Or that Michael Cera would turn Wally Brando into a minor cult hero?   Or that David Lynch would prove to be as good an actor as he is a director?  Or that Balthazar Getty would get a chane to redeem his less than impressive work in Lost Highway with a chilling performance as the newest face of Twin Peaks corruption?  Even the returnees from the original show — Dana Ashbrook, Wendy Robie, Sheryl Lee, Harry Goaz, Kimmy Robertson, Russ Tamblyn, Everett McGill, Peggy Lipton, Grace Zabriskie, James Marshall, Madchen Amick, and others — were given a chance to reveal new depths of character.  Veterans like Robert Forster, Ashley Judd, Laura Dern, Don Murray, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Naomi Watts and Tim Roth shared the stage with newcomers like Chrysta Bell and Eamon Farren and they all came together to create an unforgettable world.

You could even argue that Twin Peaks: The Return was a comeback of sorts for Kyle MacLachlan.  Hollywood has never seemed to really understand how to best use this appealing but quirky actor.  Twin Peaks: The Return provided him with a chance to show what he can do, giving him not just one but three characters to play.

 

Twin Peaks: The Return gave us one final chance to appreciate some talented people who are no longer with us.  Harry Dean Stanton was the face of old-fashioned decency.  Miguel Ferrer provided snarky commentary, letting the audience know that the show understood how strange it was.  Warren Frost returned briefly, still as reliable as ever as Doc Hayward.  And Catherine E. Coulson, who was so often Lynch’s muse, got to play the role one more time.

(Jack Nance, Don S. Davis, Frank Silva, and David Bowie all made appearances as well, a reminder that they may no longer be with us but they will never be gone.)

In the end, it seems appropriate to end this post with a picture of Ed and Norma, finally together.  The world of Twin Peaks: The Return was frequently a dark one but sometimes, love won.

Tomorrow, my look back at 2017 continues with my picks for my favorite songs of 2017.

Previous entries in the TSL’s Look Back at 2017:

  1. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Single Issues by Ryan C
  2. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Series by Ryan C
  3. 2017 In Review: Top Ten Collected Edition (Contemporary) by Ryan C
  4. 2017 In Review: Top Ten Collected Editions (Vintage) by Ryan C
  5. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Graphic Novels By Ryan C
  6. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I saw in 2017 by Valerie Troutman
  7. My Top 15 Albums of 2017 by Necromoonyeti
  8. 2017 In Review: Lisa Marie’s Picks For the 16 Worst Films of 2017

 

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Jack Nance Edition (Eraserhead, Twin Peaks — The Pilot, Whore, Meatballs 4)


In honor of the late, great Jack Nance’s birthday, here are…

4 Shots From 4 Films

Eraserhead (1977, directed by David Lynch)

Twin Peaks 1.1 “The Pilot” (1990, directed by David Lynch)

Whore (1991, directed by Ken Russell)

Meatballs 4 (1992, directed by Bob Logan)

Blade Runner 2049 wins in New Mexico!


Yesterday, the New Mexico Film Critics Association named their picks for the best of 2017!  They also became the first group to pick Blade Runner 2049 as the best film of 2017.

Here are their winners:

Best Picture
Winner: “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: “Lady Bird:

Best Director
Winner: Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Runner Up: Denis Villeneuve, “Blade Runner 2049”

Glenn Strange Honorary Awards

  • Glenn Close
  • Olivia De Haviland
  • John Carpenter
  • David Lynch

Best Actor
Winner: Sam Elliot, “The Hero”
Runner Up: James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

Best Actress
Winner: Jennifer Lawrence, “mother!”
Runner Up: Jessica Rothe, “Happy Death Day”

Best Supporting Actress
Winner: Catherine Kenner, “Get Out”
Runner Up: Maryana Spivak, “Loveless”

Best Supporting Actor
Winner: Harrison Ford, “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: Ewen Bremner, “Trainspotting II”

Best Ensemble
Winner: “Raw”
Runner Up: “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”

Best Original Screenplay
Winner: “November”
Runner Up: “Lady Bird”

Best Adapted Screenplay
Winner: “The Disaster Artist”
Runner Up: “Call Me By Your Name”

Best Animated Film
Winner: “Loving Vincent”
Runner Up: “The Breadwinner”

Best Foreign Language Film
Winner: “November” (Estonia)
Runner Up: “BPM” (France)

Best Editing
Winner: “November”
Runner Up: “Blade Runner 2049”

Best Cinematography
Winner: “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: “Song of Granite”

Best Music/Score
Winner: “The Shape of Water”
Runner Up: “mother!”

Best Production Design
Winner: “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: “The Shape of Water”

Best Documentary
Winner: “City of Ghosts”
Runner Up: “Faces Places”

Best Young Actor/Actress
Winner: Garance Mirillier, “Raw”
Runner Up: Sophia Lillis, “It”

Best Original Song
Winner: “The Misery of Love” from “Call Me By Your Name”
Runner Up: “Prayers for this World” from “Cries from Syria”