Robert Forster (#110 of 9)

Twin Peaks: The Return Recap Part 7

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Twin Peaks: The Return Recap: Part 7
Twin Peaks: The Return Recap: Part 7

This week’s episode of Twin Peaks: The Return uses Mark Frost and David Lynch’s abiding preoccupation with doppelgangers and mirror imagery as an often subtle structural device. Take Hawk’s (Michael Horse) fleeting mention of Jacques Renault (played in the original series by Walter Olkewicz) during his conversation with Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster) about the handwritten pages he found in the bathroom stall door. This brief reference is later echoed by our introduction to Jean Michel Renault (also Olkewicz), the French-Canadian clan’s next generation of sleazy bartender-cum-pimp. Lynch uses a couple of classic rock instrumentals to link scenes set in the wee hours of the night: Booker T. & the M.G.’s “Green Onions” incongruously accompanies the image of a man (reduced almost to a silhouette) sweeping the floor of the Bang Bang Bar, a shot Lynch holds until it becomes strangely hilarious. Set to Santo & Johnny’s aptly titled “Sleep Walk,” the end credits scroll over the late-night patrons of the Double R Diner, only the second time the new series hasn’t concluded with an on-stage performance.

Twin Peaks: The Return Recap Part 4

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Twin Peaks: The Return Recap: Part 4

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Twin Peaks: The Return Recap: Part 4

Watching the first four episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return has been tantamount to participating in an exceptionally gnomic guessing game. Most of the lingering questions that have been raised thus far center on matters of significance—and in both senses of the word. What does this mean? But also, how important is this particular thread to the overall warp and woof of the tapestry that David Lynch and Mark Frost are weaving? “Part 3” offered a seemingly out-of-leftfield scene that lingered over Dr. Jacoby spraying shovels with gold paint, and after “Part 4,” we’re no closer to finding out why.

Film Comment Selects 2015: Electric Boogalo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

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Film Comment Selects 2015: <em>Electric Boogalo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films</em>
Film Comment Selects 2015: <em>Electric Boogalo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films</em>

Schlock films tend to have a certain sort of free-associative, on-the-fly intensity, even if they’re ultimately unwatchable. Their indifference to standard measures of quality can sometimes scan as weirdly honorable, as the films are beholden openly to the hunger for profit, rather than to conventional taste-making or high-art posturing. Most of the movies released by Cannon Films in their 1980s heyday are dreadful, but they’ve earned considerable affection. There are probably many Gen-X nerds who can recall the Cannon logo appearing in front of a film they watched several times as a kid over pizza and a half-dozen sodas, such as The Delta Force, Masters of the Universe, Breakin’, American Ninja, and Cyborg. These movies rip off so many things so desperately and interchangeably that they resemble an act of one-stop-shop channel surfing, which is ideal for an unformed cinephile determined to spend a Saturday in front of the TV.

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

Long before he delivered an über-classy acceptance speech at last night’s Golden Globes, a speech that Oscarcast producers are surely hoping he has the wherewithal to repeat, Christopher Plummer had the Supporting Actor race all sewn up. For his tender turn as Ewan McGregor’s late-blooming gay father in Beginners, the 82-year-old has been racking up the precursors, climbing toward a Kodak Theater standing O that’s been in the cards since his movie dropped last June. If he were to lose, by the freak chance that voters were cool with slighting one of cinema’s most beloved Oscar-less veterans, Plummer’s trophy would go to Albert Brooks, who went way against type in Drive, playing a calculating Hollywood shitbag who cuts throats (Producers Branch? Check.). The third lock in this category is Kenneth Branagh, who hammed it up royally as Sir Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn (a knee-jerk candidate since his gig was announced, Branagh owes much to the casting director, whose thespian-as-thespian stunt exceeds the actual work).

Oscar Prospects: The Descendants

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Oscar Prospects: The Descendants
Oscar Prospects: The Descendants

If George Clooney were someone other than George Clooney, his films’ perpetual good standing with Oscar voters, critics, and just about everyone else might very well seem like a contrivance, a tactical, trophy-minded effort to churn out dependably palatable, largely sophisticated, buzzworthy work. Surely Clooney has a certain awareness of the probable endpoints of his star vehicles (decidedly adult dramas and dramedies that no other leading man can match), but it almost never feels that way, as he unfailingly suggests that he’s intrinsically interested in rich content and sensitive, upscale directorial vision. In short, he’s just that classy. Barring the Coen Brothers, who help fulfill Clooney’s more playful (but no less respectable) side, Alexander Payne proves to be Clooney’s greatest behind-the-camera match to date, ably fitting the superstar’s bill and affording him acres of dramatic, endearing and emotional ground on which to run and stretch. Indefatigable, and in blissful disregard of a film writer’s desire to take notes, the duo’s partnership, The Descendants, is unassumingly superb, and it’s sure to clinch a whole lot of Oscar nominations. Indeed, it’s a Clooney.

New York Film Festival 2011: The Descendants

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New York Film Festival 2011: <em>The Descendants</em>
New York Film Festival 2011: <em>The Descendants</em>

Part Coen brothers and part James L. Brooks, Alexander Payne makes comedies about serious stuff like abortion and midlife crises. His characters may verge on caricature and his scripts on contrivance, but nuanced acting and lingering close-ups make their emotions feel vividly, even painfully real.

His best film since Election, aside from the segment he directed for Paris Je T’aime, The Descendants is based on a novel written by a young woman, Kaui Hart Hemmings, which may explain why the two girls in the story feel so well-rounded. But then, Payne has always gravitated toward interestingly prickly female characters, from the glue-sniffing title character of Citizen Ruth to Election’s endlessly ambitious Tracy Flick and the impetuous biker played by Sandra Oh in Sideways.

The main women in this story are Matt King’s (George Clooney) wife, Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie), and the couple’s two daughters, 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller) and 17-year-old Alex (Shailene Woodley), both of whom are acting out like crazy as the story begins. Elizabeth never speaks a word (we see her first as a gigantic face filling the screen with delight as she rides in a speeding motorboat, then as a comatose husk of a body in a hospital bed), but we get a pretty good sense of her through the things other people say about her—and to her as she lies there, a pale slate for other people to scrawl their emotions on.

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.

Outer Limits, Dead End: Medium Cool

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Outer Limits, Dead End: <em>Medium Cool</em>
Outer Limits, Dead End: <em>Medium Cool</em>

If any movie aspires to capture What It All Meant, you can’t get much more assertive than Medium Cool, which tried to sum up the Summer of ’68 in Chicago less than a year after it occurred. This has to be some kind of response-time record: we couldn’t get 9/11 going on-screen ’til about three years later. The reason, of course, was that Haskell Wexler had heard—like anyone else with half an ear to the ground—that the Democratic convention would probably blow up in a big way, and shot his climactic footage accordingly (the opening title complements, reading “Chicago, 1968” over the sound of a siren). Forty years later, Medium Cool seems like one of the most ambivalent political films ever, which is both good and bad.

Better than you’ve heard: Firewall and The Pink Panther

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Better than you’ve heard: <em>Firewall</em> and <em>The Pink Panther</em>
Better than you’ve heard: <em>Firewall</em> and <em>The Pink Panther</em>

[Author’s Note: Andrew Sarris once ended a review of the Russell Crowe-Meg Ryan kidnap drama Proof of Life by telling his readers, “See it. It’s better than you’ve heard.” I felt the same way about two mostly maligned Hollywood movies that opened this month, Firewall and The Pink Panther. A review of both movies follows, somewhat expanded from the version that appeared in the last issue of New York Press.]

Firewall and The Pink Panther pose the same problem for critics: how to resist writing knee-jerk pans of movies that look an awful lot like Hollywood Product, and that star aging icons who haven’t connected with audiences in years?

On paper, both films seem like tempting targets. The kidnap thriller Firewall expects us to believe that 63-year old Harrison Ford, arguably the most underachieving A-list star in the history of American movies, and very much an emblem of mid-twentieth-century macho, is believable as an early 21st-century computer security expert and a settled-yet-virile husband to Virginia Madsen, who’s 20 years his junior. Added to that, Firewall is yet another example of what I call a Business Class Thriller, tailor made to engross upper-middle-class dads who spend lots of time on airplanes. The hero is usually, and not at all coincidentally, a married forty or fiftysomething suburban dad who spends most of his time filing paperwork but can still kick ass when the occasion warrants, a role tailored for Harrison Ford. The Pink Panther, meanwhile, asks us not just to accept an actor besides Peter Sellers in the role of bumbling French inspector Jacques Clouseau, but to believe that star Steve Martin, whose career took a sharp left turn into New Yorker country about 15 years ago, can still work magic in the type of deranged slapstick romp that hasn’t been central to his career since the early ’90s. Both films seem like the sorts of films for which critics can start composing their pans en route to the screening room.

But there’s a problem with this stock response: both Firewall and The Pink Panther are entertaining, well crafted, somewhat eccentric Hollywood movies.