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Elvis Presley (#110 of 6)

Summer of ’90: Wild at Heart

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Summer of ’90: Wild at Heart

The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Summer of ’90: Wild at Heart

The power of David Lynch’s Wild at Heart is the endurance of an Elvis Presley song (or two), the staying power of a children’s movie, and the sight and sound of a match being struck: romantically mellow, wackily comic, and deadly, darkly serious.

Lynch gets more and scarier mileage out of fire in Wild at Heart than he did out of Frank Booth’s lighter in Blue Velvet. In between the two came the game-changing Twin Peaks, which, soon after Wild at Heart, Lynch would round off with Fire Walk with Me. It’s easy to see the whole arc from Blue Velvet to Fire Walk with Me as part of a single centralizing vision, an identifiable phase of his artistic development—his “fire period,” if you like.

Review: Lana Del Rey’s Short Film, Tropico

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Review: Lana Del Rey’s Short Film, Tropico
Review: Lana Del Rey’s Short Film, Tropico

From Bowie to Madonna to Gaga, pop music has always been as much a visual medium as an aural one. To wit, the successful launch of Lizzy Grant’s Lana Del Rey persona can be attributed not just to her songs, but to the DIY music videos that accompanied them. As the singer graduated to the majors, so too did the scope and budgets of her videos, culminating in a “mini-movie” for “Ride,” the first single from last year’s Paradise. And in a perhaps inevitable move in light of her fascination with movies and, specifically, short film (she recently donated to the Kickstarter for a new short film project starring Daniel Johnston), Del Rey has re-teamed with “Ride” director Anthony Mandler, who also helmed her cinematic “National Anthem” clip, for a short film titled Tropico.

On Location Las Vegas

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On Location: Las Vegas
On Location: Las Vegas

Like many, I did my vacationing first by way of the movie screen, making all subsequent traveling the realization of romanticized visions. When I moved to New York, it was a thousand cinematic moments made real, an excitement that still continues in spurts, despite the inevitably of the city having become, simply, the place where I live. But wherever I go, for the first time, specifically, there’s some kind of filmic attachment. In Rome, there was the evocation of countless Fellini scenes, and in Iceland…well, there wasn’t much in Iceland, really, save the Blue Lagoon spa, a high-tech, seemingly impossible haven that I’ll always compare to a Bond villain’s lair. Las Vegas, where my partner and I recently went for our fifth anniversary, has its own unique link to the movies. One might even say the town has spawned its own subgenre. Defined by glitz and excess, it’s a place that was built to be photographed, so much so that I even started to feel guilty, as it inspired more snapshots from me than the whole of Vatican City. It’s also a veritable theme park for adults, preferably for those willing to, if I may quote the Showgirls tagline, “leave [their] inhibitions at the door.” The entire atmosphere is one of fantasy, which, thanks to film, has evolved through various stages of glorification. And the city, in an almost otherworldly way, welcomes those chasing that fantasy with, big, outstretched, glittering arms, standing as a mecca of gluttony, temptation, and, of course, sin. You don’t have to be bad to do Vegas right, but it helps, as the movies have certainly taught us.

Summer of ‘87: Eat the Peach: The Sillier the Dream…

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Summer of ‘87: <em>Eat the Peach</em>: The Sillier the Dream…
Summer of ‘87: <em>Eat the Peach</em>: The Sillier the Dream…

Peter Ormrod’s only feature film is so modest as to seem designed to be stumbled upon rather than actively sought out. Judging from its longstanding out-of-print status, it thoroughly succeeded. Released in the US thanks to Jonathan Demme’s backing, Eat the Peach came a bit too early to partake in a streak of spectacular successes that Irish movies were just about to enjoy, courtesy of My Left Foot, The Commitments, In the Name of the Father, and their like. Still, if you only manage to find it on a worn-down VHS, the film can make you dizzy with its quiet riches.

Unraveling in wide, ashen-brown Irish plains, the story starts with the main character, Vinnie (Stephen Brennan), losing his job in a local computer factory run by Japanese owners. Unemployed and forlorn, Vinnie hangs out aimlessly with his brother-in-law Arthur (Eamon Morrissey) until he’s struck with a vision: a VCR left behind in a bar by one of the Japanese businessmen is playing the 1964 movie Roustabout, in which Elvis Presley’s daredevil drives his motorcycle up the Wall of Death: a wooden cylinder enabling the driver to make horizontal loops as if he was suspended in midair.

Of Living Obsolete Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams

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Of Living Obsolete: Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams
Of Living Obsolete: Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams

Despite its mostly linear cradle-to-grave movement, Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams makes two very notable exceptions to make clear what it’s after, introducing us to its subject well past his birth and receding from his death at the book’s conclusion. The subject is Robert Grainier, a Depression-era laborer who makes a living on the construction of railways, but the framework is his curse—its placement and its lifting.

The novella opens with Grainier on the site of a railway in progress, where a Chinese laborer has been accused of theft; seeing a group of whites struggle to wrestle the Chinese laborer up the slope of a cliff, Grainier joins in, eventually handling the victim’s feet and asserting himself as primary among the captors. The Chinese laborer escapes anyway, maneuvering the partial trestle of cliffside tracks like monkey bars, and the assaulters go their own ways. Grainier’s own way is through the woods and back to his young wife and daughter at home, along which he pauses to consider what he just did and almost did. Over the course of a two-mile detour, he decides that the Chinese laborer must have placed a curse on him, and that tragedy is in store.