I’ll see you again in 25 years.
I’ll see you again in 25 years.
Today, Mel Brooks is 94 years old!
Mel Brooks. What can you say Mel Brooks? Not only did he help to redefine American comedy but he was also responsible for bringing David Lynch to Hollywood. Brooks was the one who hired Lynch to direct The Elephant Man. It can probably be argued that, if not for Brooks, Lynch’s feature film career would have begun and ended with Eraserhead. Brooks not only hired Lynch but also protected him for studio interference. When the execs tried to make Lynch remove two surrealistic sequences from The Elephant Man, Brooks stood up to them. When they requested a more conventional biopic, Brooks defended Lynch’s vision and the result was one of the best films ever made.
Of course, Brooks isn’t listed in the credits of The Elephant Man. Though he produced the film, he went uncredited because he didn’t want people to assume that the movie was a comedy. By doing so, Brooks missed out on an Oscar nomination but he also ensured that the film was taken seriously. It’s hard not to respect someone who was willing to go uncredited to help make the film a success.
Though Brooks, as a producers, was responsible for a number of serious films, there’s a reason why Brooks is associated with comedy. He’s a very funny man and he directed some very funny films. In honor of Mel Brooks, here’s a scene that I love from 1974’s Young Frankenstein.
Happy birthday, Mel Brooks!
In a dark, black-and-white station, the train has been delayed. Though we never actually see them, a waitress (Emily Stofle) says that there are cops swarming the station. At a small table, a Capuchin monkey named Jack (voiced, according to the credits, by Jack Cruz) waits for his order. A white-haired Detective (played by director David Lynch) takes a seat across from the monkey. Both the Detective and the monkey are wearing dark suits.
The Detective and Jack have a conversation. At first, it seems like they’re just tossing out random comments. The Detective mentions farm animals and says that he knows why the chicken cross the road. Jack says that he works as a pipe cleaner. The Detective asks Jack if he’s ever been a card-carrying member of the communist party. Jack avoids the question.
As the interrogation continues, we start to pick up on small patterns and a story emerges. Jack is in love with a hen named Toototaban. The Detective thinks that Jack murdered a musician named Max Clegg. Jack says that it was probably the janitor. The Detective is firm in his belief that Jack is guilty. Jack is only interested in talking about how much he loved Tootataban. He even sings a song about her and it’s about as touching as a song sung by a monkey in love with a chicken can be.
What does it all amount too, this 17-minute noir film from David Lynch? Who knows? With an artist like Lynch, it’s always tempting to read too much into what you’re seeing. I’m personally of the theory that many of Lynch’s most debated films and celebrated images were constructed with no particular logic beyond the fact that it would be an interesting film or a striking image. Lynch is an artist who creates cinematic dreams and most dreams are simply a collection of random feelings and concerns. It’s not until we start trying to piece it all together that we find any deeper meaning and that meaning is usually dependent on our own individual thoughts and obsessions.
What is What Did Jack Do about? Personally, I think it’s about exactly what it says it’s about. It’s about a detective interrogating a monkey in a train station. Why is he interrogating a monkey? Why not? Why is the monkey in love with a hen? Even Jack admits that part is weird but I guess it could happen. Personally, I wouldn’t worry too much about the why of it all.
Instead, just enjoy it for what it is, an intriguingly weird 17-minute film. David Lynch has developed into a pretty good actor and he does a great job playing the law-and-order detective. He delivers his dialogue in a rapid-fire, staccato manner. Meanwhile, Jack is as crude as you would expect a monkey to be. The film is both funny and also somewhat ominous. That dark train station is full of shadows and, as you listen to the Detective and Jack try to outwit each other, it’s hard not to think about what might be lurking in the those shadows.
What Did Jack Do? has actually been around for a while. Apparently, it was first screened in France way back in 2017. (The copyright notice at the end of the film lists 2016.) That said, it didn’t premiere in the United States until it showed up on Netflix back in January. So, as far as I’m concerned, this is one of the best films of 2020 so far. Be sure to watch it if you haven’t already. Can you figure out what Jack did?
Frances Farmer is one of the more tragic figures to come out of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
A talented and beautiful actress, Frances Farmer came out to Hollywood in the 30s and quickly developed a reputation for being difficult. She was politically outspoken at a time when stars were expected to either be apolitical or unquestioningly patriotic. She criticized scripts. She argued with directors and studio heads. She had a well-publicized affair with communist playwright Clifford Odets and she also had numerous run-ins with the police. Some say that she was alcoholic. Some say that she was bipolar. Some say that she had a mental collapse as the result of the pressure that her mother put on her to succeed. Frances Farmer ended up in mental institution, where she was subjected to shock therapy. After she was released, her film career was basically over, though she did end up hosting a local television program. She died in 1970, reportedly alone and struggling to make ends meet. In a posthumously published autobiography called Will There Ever Be A Morning?, she wrote that she was beaten, sexually abused, and eventually given a lobotomy while she was institutionalized. Over the years, there’s been a lot of doubt about whether or not Farmer was actually lobotomized but there is no doubt that Farmer was a woman who was ultimately punished for being ahead of her time. Frances Farmer refused to conform to the safe manufactured image that Hollywood prepared for her and, for that, she was nearly destroyed.
The 1983 film, Frances, is a biopic of Frances Farmer, starring Jessica Lange as Frances and Kim Stanley as her domineering mother. It opens with Frances writing a school essay about why she’s an atheist and it ends with her smiling blankly at a television camera, her independent spirit broken by a lobotomy. In between, we watch as Frances goes to Hollywood and has a self-destructive affair with Clifford Odets (played by Jeffrey DeMunn). The infamous moment when Frances was dragged out of a courtroom while screaming at the judge is recreated and Frances’s time in the institution is depicted in Hellish detail.
We also learn about Frances’s relationship with a communist writer named Alvin York (Sam Shepard). It seems like whenever Frances needs to be rescued or just needs someone to talk to, Alvin York pops up. In fact, you could almost argue that York pops up too often. Alvin York was a fictional character, one who was apparently created in order for audiences to have someone to relate to. It’s unfortunate that the film felt that the audience would only be able to relate to Frances if it viewed her life through the eyes of a fictional character because York’s character is a bit of a distraction. Sam Shepard does a good job of playing him and I certainly wasn’t shocked to learn that Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange were romantically involved during the filming of Frances (and for a long time afterwards) because Lange and Shepard do have a very real chemistry. However, from a narrative point of view, Alvin York only works as a character if one accepts that he’s a figment of Frances’s imagination. The film’s insistence that York is an actual person who just happens to show up at every important moment of Frances’s life just doesn’t work.
What does work is Jessica Lange’s performance. Lange is amazing in the role of Frances, whether she’s playing Frances as a hopeful idealist, an out-of-control rebel, or, tragically, as a glass-eyed zombie who has been reduced to appearing on television and assuring audiences that her rebellious days are over. Lange was nominated for Best Actress for Frances. She lost to Meryl Streep for Sophie’s Choice. I’ve seen Sophie’s Choice and Meryl was good but Jessica was better.
Frances was originally offered to David Lynch. He turned the film down so he could work on Dune and instead, the film was directed by Graeme Clifford, who takes a far more straight-forward approach to the material than Lynch would have. Still, Lynch’s interest in Frances Farmer would later lead to him working on stories that centered around a “woman in trouble.” One of those stories became Twin Peaks. Another would become Mulholland Drive.
Happy Twin Peaks Day!
It was on this date in 1989 that Dale Cooper first arrived in the small town of Twin Peaks, Washington to help the authorities with their investigation into the death of Laura Palmer. Here at the Shattered Lens, we’re all big fans of Twin Peaks. Back in 2017, this site was literally a Twin Peaks fan site for a good couple of months. As such, today is a big holiday around these parts and what better way to celebrate than with a special edition of 4 Shots From 4 Films?
So, in honor of Twin Peaks, here are….
4 Shots From 4 Films
Happy Twin Peaks Day!
Happy birthday, Kyle MacLachlan!
Kyle MacLachlan is 61 years old today. While MacLachlan has appeared in a lot of different movies and tv shows and he’s also played a lot of different characters, he will probably always be best known for playing FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper on Twin Peaks. MacLachlan, with his combination of earnestness and darkness, was the prefect choice to play Cooper and it’s impossible to imagine Twin Peaks without him.
Of course, MacLachlan didn’t just play Dale Cooper during the third season of Twin Peaks. He also played Cooper’s evil Doppelganger and, for the majority of Twin Peaks: The Return, he played Dougie. Dougie could barely speak and usually had no idea what was happening around him but he still thrived in Las Vegas. MacLachlan’s performance as Dougie was both funny and poignant. At the same time, I do think that every fan of Twin Peaks breathed a sigh of relief when Cooper finally woke up from that coma, stopped acting like Dougie, and started acting like himself.
Today’s scene that I love comes from Part 16 of Twin Peaks: The Return. In this David Lynch-directed scene, Cooper — who has only recently reclaimed his identity — says goodbye to Dougie’s wife and son. Like so much of Twin Peaks; The Return, this is a scene that could be unbelievably mawkish in the hands of another actor. However, Kyle MacLachlan plays the scene with such sincerity that it’s actually very touching.
In honor of Kyle MacLachlan’s birthday, enjoy today’s scene that I love:
We’ve looked at actors.
We’ve looked at actresses.
Now, let’s look at directors.
But first, a word about David Lynch. The Academy gave David Lynch a special award for his cinematic contributions back in October. It’s not the same as a competitive Oscar but it’s probably the best that a boldly idiosyncratic filmmaker like David Lynch could ever hope to get from the Academy. Normally, I would list Lynch below. I’m not doing so this year because, realistically, Lynch has said that it’s doubtful he’ll ever make another theatrical film. That said, I hope to God that someone gives David Lynch a blank check and allows him to make at least one more movie.
With that in mind, here are 6 other directors who I hope will have finally won an Oscar by 2030!
The Safdie Brothers deserved a nomination this year for their work on Uncut Gems. Unfortunately, that film was a bit too anxiety-inducing for the Academy. The Safdies are exciting filmmakers and I hope that someday, the Academy will realize what everyone who has seen Good Time and Uncut Gems already knows.
2. Sofia Coppola
She was nominated for Lost In Translation. She deserved to be nominates for several other films. Sofia Coppola is consistently one of the most challenging and interesting (if often criminally underrated) filmmakers working today. No other American director captures existential angst with quite the style of Sofia Coppola.
3. Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan has emerged as one of the most influential directors of the 21st century. With The Dark Knight, he revolutionized comic book films. With Inception, he created one of the greatest fantasy/action/sci-fi hybrids of all time. With Dunkirk, he paid tribute to one of the most heroic moments of World War II. Every recent film with a jumbled timeline owes a debt of gratitude to Christopher Nolan. Nolan seems destined to win someday.
4. Denis Villeneuve
Speaking of being destined to win, that seems to also be an apt description of this visionary Canadian director. Some people think that Villeneuve will be an Oscar contender this year with Dune. Maybe. Maybe not. That said, Villeneuve seems destined to win at some point in the future.
5. Andrea Arnold
You might not recognize the name but Andrea Arnold is responsible for two of my favorite films of the last ten years: Fish Tank and American Honey. She deserved to be nominated for both of those films. My hope is that, between now and 2030, she’ll finally get the recognition that she deserves.
6. Werner Herzog
You know it would be the greatest acceptance speech ever.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below!
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!
Today’s edition of 4 Shots from 4 Films is dedicated to four of the best films that I’ve ever seen about Hollywood! I mean, it is Oscar Sunday after all!
4 Shots From 4 Films About Hollywood
So, today is Sherilyn Fenn’s birthday and I figured that this would be the perfect time to share a scene that I love from Twin Peaks: The Return. It’s also one of the most controversial scenes from the entire 18-hour film (and make no mistake, Twin Peaks: The Return is a film). That’s saying something, considering that just about every single minute of David Lynch’s masterpiece was, at the very least, a little bit controversial.
From Twin Peaks: The Return Part 16, it’s Audrey’s Dance!
So, what’s happening here? That Audrey has undergone a great personal trauma is obvious to anyone who compares the Audrey in Twin Peaks: The Return to the Audrey in the original series. The original series ended with Audrey in a coma. In between the end of the first series and the start of the second, she was raped by the Doppelganger (apparently while she was still comatose) and she subsequently gave birth to the thoroughly evil Richard Horne. There’s a lot of horrifying things in Twin Peaks but there’s nothing as horrific as what happened to Audrey.
Where things get murky is what happened to Audrey after the birth of Richard. According to the books that Mark Frost wrote before and after Twin Peaks: The Return aired, Audrey later became a beautician and married her business manager. For that reason, I think we can discount the theory that Audrey is still in the coma and having a dream in this scene. Another popular theory is that Audrey is hallucinating in a mental hospital but again, I think we can discount that because, if she’s institutionalized, how could she become a beautician and marry her business manager?
I think a far more probable theory is that the Audrey who is living in Twin Peaks is another doppelganger and the real Audrey, like the original Cooper, is trapped in one of the lodges. I also think that it can be argued that the Road House, where Audrey dances, is itself a portal. It’s not an actual Lodge but it does seem to have a connection to the Black Lodge. Perhaps the master of ceremonies is like emcee from Mulholland Drive, revealing that everything is an illusion.
Who knows, right?
As for Audrey’s dance in this scene, it’s a callback to a time when Audrey had her entire future ahead of her. What Audrey once did playfully, she now does wistfully and with regret. And yet, there’s a lot of hope to be found in her dance, or at least there is until reality intrudes in the form of two idiots getting into a fight. That’s when Audrey (or Audrey’s doppelganger) is reminded that the world has changed and there’s no more room for happiness.
Hopefully, things have gotten better for Audrey since we last saw her.