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Inland Empire (#110 of 12)

Video: Nine Inch Nails’ "Came Back Haunted" Directed by David Lynch

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Video: Nine Inch Nails’ “Came Back Haunted” Directed by David Lynch
Video: Nine Inch Nails’ “Came Back Haunted” Directed by David Lynch

Nine Inch Nails have unveiled the music video for their new single “Came Back Haunted,” directed by none other than filmmaker, musician, and occasional chef David Lynch. (It’s technically the second video for the song, if you count the montage of artfully photographed shots of a reel-to-reel player used to accompany the official audio.) This isn’t the first time the band has worked with Lynch; the director commissioned frontman Trent Reznor, who was reportedly an ardent Twin Peaks fan, to produce the soundtrack for his 1997 film Lost Highway. The clip for “Came Back Haunted,” however, is more akin to Inland Empire, largely composed of a weird spider ballerina and shaky extreme close-ups of Reznor and creepy, spotlighted mouths.

Poster Lab: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

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Poster Lab: <em>What to Expect When You’re Expecting</em>
Poster Lab: <em>What to Expect When You’re Expecting</em>

So, apparently David Lynch has added film promotion to his post-Inland Empire activities. How else to explain the certifiable smiling faces and wacko-subversive quotes in the character posters above? The marketing campaign for What to Expect When You’re Expecting reads like The Stepford Wives by way of Twin Peaks—soulless, soon-to-be mommy-bots with naughty, rattle-the-picket-fence speech bubbles. It’s a wonder there isn’t a severed ear resting on Elizabeth Banks’s sofa. Based on a self-help book, a la He’s Just Not That Into You, What to Expect is a yet another indicator of just how desperate Hollywood is to peddle known brands, even if nobody has a clue about how to sell them. Barring the Lynch theory, it’s pretty obvious what happened here: a photo crew got busy with the backdrops, basketballs, and airbrushing, while a “hip and young” writing team started digging through their Someecards. Put ’em together and whaddaya got? Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Bipolar posters.

New York Film Festival 2010: Hereafter

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New York Film Festival 2010: <em>Hereafter</em>
New York Film Festival 2010: <em>Hereafter</em>

Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter is a bad movie, even an awful one. Many critics will write brilliant, funny words about why. Few will discuss the fact that its footage has been processed and projected digitally. But this is by far and away the work’s most fascinating aspect. You can tell that Hereafter print you’re watching is digital for at least three reasons: The camera’s continual speed and agility, the way actors keep melting-streaking in and out of focus while walking, and the ubiquitous white-blue-and-gray color scheme, which differs from the bleached-out look of a printed-on-film film like Minority Report in that the shades are less delineated. You stare at actors’ faces, and see pixels.

This is not to say that film is good, digital bad. Film usually reveals itself to audiences with splices and scratches, while Eastwood has shown how DV printing and projection can look pristine. Both Gran Torino and Invictus made handsome videos, in both cases because he used a more medium-friendly darker color palette, with lots of greens and browns (no overexposure), and because he used actors and situations (Clint scowling, Morgan considering) that lacked vibrant, dynamic motion, meaning technicians didn’t have to worry much about keeping the image in focus. When the action did kick up, like in Invictus’s rugby games, the running camera and recurring blurs added to the thrill by making viewers feel like they were chasing the scene.

Trash Humpers and the Art of Harmony Korine’s Poet-Pranksterism

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<em>Trash Humpers</em> and the Art of Harmony Korine’s Poet-Pranksterism
<em>Trash Humpers</em> and the Art of Harmony Korine’s Poet-Pranksterism

Harmony Korine’s 79-minute feature Trash Humpers is built around the antics of caricatured redneck freakazoids—two men and a woman wearing what look like flesh masks on loan from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. They dance in parking lots and alleys, break glass, dry-hump trash cans, and jerk off (and/or fellate) tree branches, pausing to yowl insults at one another and holler like hillbillies in an old Bugs Bunny cartoon. Returning home to their working-class duplex, the central trio is joined by two more characters that could be friends, relatives, or slaves (maybe all three?). They cook pancakes for the main trio, then join them at a dinner table and eat the pancakes with dish soap. At first I thought we were supposed to read them as conjoined twins because their skulls are tethered by what appear to be sock tentacles, but sometimes they remove the socks and move about autonomously, and in the movie’s lyrical high point, one of them stands in a basement and delivers a monologue about what the world might look like if humans had no heads. There’s one other semi-important character, a prepubescent boy in a black suit who bashes a doll with a hammer. For some reason (his unadorned face, perhaps), he struck me as the most normal person in the movie.

The Conversations: Mulholland Drive

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The Conversations: Mulholland Drive
The Conversations: Mulholland Drive

Ed Howard: David Lynch is a filmmaker who has haunted my mind since the first moment I saw one of his films. This is especially true of Mulholland Drive I vividly remember my confused, stunned reactions the first time I saw this film. It was in the afternoon, and when I stumbled outside afterward, into bright daylight, everything looked strange, somehow subtly changed. I’d spent over two hours in Lynch’s world, and in the time I’d been lost there it was as though the real world had been infected with Lynch’s unsettling aesthetic. It was a unique experience. I can’t remember another film that shook me up and destabilized me so thoroughly, and I’ve returned to it, and to Lynch’s work in general, compulsively ever since.

2007: It’s Okay to Play Catch-Up

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2007: It’s Okay to Play Catch-Up
2007: It’s Okay to Play Catch-Up

Commentary, first.

1. A landmark year for me as well as for the movies. Returning to school proved the right thing to do, despite all the concessions that go with such a decision. Not only did I find the vocabulary I’d always yearned for, and lacked, it keeps growing as I keep writing and reading. I giggle to think of how measly my first attempts at film writing were back when I joined the blogosphere a mere year and a half ago. I giggle more when I realize how right on I was about some movies back then without really knowing why (beyond “that made me cry” or “that was a dope edit” or “Wes Anderson’s wit speaks for me”). What makes me giggle the most is coming to understand how cool it is to change one’s mind. Before 2007 I was a staunch platformist: this is what I believe, deal with it. 2007 taught me some humility, in school and out. Not that I don’t stand by my arguments: I will continue to defend my use and experience with and understanding of the English language. Yet I find myself more willing to have a conversation about a topic, with a topic, to take my time with a topic (films, books, meals, loves, families, etc). This topic of conversation finds its best example, perhaps, in my engagement with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou during the first half of this year. I wrote a big, long paper about Wes Anderson’s fourth film at the end of my first semester back at Berkeley detailing how I’ve come to appreciate the picture. I still think it a fine piece of writing, one I enjoyed revisiting this week, but I view it as a necessary step, a stage of my education, if you will, towards a better understanding of what film is, and how film works, and how to write about both, from my experience. More simply: I would not write the same thing about The Life Aquatic again, now. I would write something more film-specific about its liquid, eternal philosophy. But I may keep that final paragraph.

Versus the Audience: Alien vs. Predator: Requiem & Fanboy Cinema

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Versus the Audience: <em>Alien vs. Predator: Requiem</em> & Fanboy Cinema
Versus the Audience: <em>Alien vs. Predator: Requiem</em> & Fanboy Cinema

Though it probably amounts to the equivalent of cinematic racism, I can’t stand fanboys, and this comes at least in part from having formerly been one. Anyone who knew me during the summer of 2003 must surely recall my gung-ho Matrix sequel attitude, an outpouring of adolescent enthusiasm that I can only hope will never manifest itself again in a fashion even remotely similar to the shamelessness I once exhibited (defend the films, yes; dress up as Neo for the midnight premiere, no). In this mindset, be it for Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or even the broader, artier bases of David Lynch and Martin Scorsese, liking a film/film series isn’t so much a matter of taste (that indefinable beast of burden that reflects as much as it obscures) as it is a religion one defends blindly, nationalism for the cinephile. Hence Kevin Smith’s juvenile (albeit intentionally self-aware, thus self-critical) pitting of his beloved Star Wars against Peter Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations (sorry, Silent Bob, but the ring is mightier than the ’saber), and countless similar confrontations that go utterly nowhere. Question even one hair on Frodo’s left foot, and it’s off to the stocks for the newfound heretic.

Quinoa a la Lynch

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Quinoa a la Lynch
Quinoa a la Lynch

Watch the fuck out Rachael Ray, here comes Iron Chef David Lynch! One of the stranger extras on the upcoming two-disc DVD edition of Inland Empire is an ominously scored, black-and-white feature with the director cooking up a batch of quinoa (he calls it “keen-wa,” but I say “kee-noh-uh”—though both are acceptable pronunciations), a high-protein goosefoot plant native to the Andes that isn’t very popular outside Latin kitchens. The director, who doesn’t appear to own a pair of oven mitts (hence the necessity to use a folded paper towel to grab onto the handle of his copper-lined pot, which he refers to as a pan), absurdly drags out the cooking of this rather rudimentary dish, at times focusing less on the actual ingredients (and how much to use) than on the journey to and fro his stove, refrigerator, and sink. The anecdote he relates to the camera, about a surreal encounter he had some 40 years ago with two different vendors in the former Yugoslavia, will blow your fucking mind, but if you’re interested in having a Lynchian dinner this evening and the director’s instructions to use “this much” of everything are impossible to wrap your head around, here is a less avant-garde guide with a few tweaks that will guarantee a 100% hippie-friendly eating experience.