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Twin Peaks: The Return Recap Part 16

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Twin Peaks: The Return Recap: Part 16

Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

Twin Peaks: The Return Recap: Part 16

“Part 16” of Twin Peaks: The Return is perhaps most remarkable for its numerous arrivals and departures, some of them quite literal, some a bit more metaphorical. In a more rules-oriented series, the second-to-last episode of the season would be spent mostly marking time, given over to scrupulously setting the stage for the finale. There were traces of that here, of course, but rendered wonderfully rich and strange through David Lynch’s meticulous attention to off-kilter audiovisual textures and details.

Twin Peaks: The Return Recap Part 9

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Twin Peaks: The Return Recap: Part 9

Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

Twin Peaks: The Return Recap: Part 9

Showtime gave viewers of Twin Peaks: The Return two weeks to process the epically unsettling excursion into cosmic tone poetry and splattery monochrome horror that constituted much of “Part 8.” It seems likely that, given the show’s fondness for delaying the connection of its many plot points, those events will only bear their strange fruit a few episodes further down the line. And so last night’s installment resolutely picked up where the previous episode’s present-day first act left off, with the miraculously resurrected but still blood-soaked Bad Dale (Kyle MacLachlan) hoofing it along a dusty country road, until a blood-red bandana shows him where to turn off.

15 Famous Movie Hotels

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15 Famous Movie Hotels
15 Famous Movie Hotels

This weekend offers a little something for the wee ones, in advance of everyone’s favorite make-believe holiday, Halloween (when, you know, you can wear stuff like this). Hotel Transylvania features the voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, and CeeLo Green, and it tells the tale of a five-star resort where monsters can go to—get this—be safe from us humans. Hollywood loves to boost its products’ escapist qualities by setting them in get-away-from-it-all locales. From L.A. to Vegas to Thailand, the stops on our list boast some very memorable hotels, which vary in their abilities to accommodate, relax, and terrify.

Problem Solution Jordan Mintzer’s James Gray

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Problem Solution: Jordan Mintzer’s James Gray
Problem Solution: Jordan Mintzer’s James Gray

James Gray has achieved a small measure of success in the American film industry, and yet he remains elusive. He’s critically lauded, but he’s not a figure centrally discussed in the context of the independent or studio-film landscapes. He works with big stars like Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, and Gwyneth Paltrow, but years pass before he’s able to get projects off the ground. He’s a darling of the Cannes Film Festival, but is a niche flavor in the already niche world of cinephilia. He’s often labeled a “classicist,” but he has more in common with the post-classical mode of Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. So, what the hell is James Gray, anyway?

That’s the question Paris-based Hollywood Reporter critic and Gray enthusiast Jordan Mintzer attempts to answer in his new book, James Gray. Comprised of interviews with Gray and his collaborators, along with storyboards, annotated script pages, production stills, and frame grabs, Mintzer’s volume is the first full-length study of Gray in any language. It is, unfortunately, only being published in France. But fear not: Synecdoche has released a bilingual edition that can be purchased on their website for a cool $65 USD.

What emerges most saliently from Mintzer’s interviews is Gray’s commitment to the idea of problem solution in creating his style. Gray is no proverbial Hitchcock, dreaming an ironclad vision of his films that then must be laid out to the letter. (“I don’t believe in vision. I think vision is overrated,” says Gray.) Instead, Gray’s style remains fluid and open to the necessary conditions of the production itself. A famous example concerns Little Odessa being set in the wintertime. “…It was written for the summer, with all the laundry lines during the final shootout,” Gray says. “But you have to make the movie when you get the money, so I made it then…I realized that the snow looked amazing, that it was something you couldn’t really reproduce. So I decided we should go shoot outside whenever it was snowing.” Anyone who’s seen Little Odessa knows that the deep melancholy of its characters’ struggles finds a rather apt metaphor in the falling, whipping snow that fills many gorgeous widescreen compositions.

Funny Like a Crutch: Funny Games U.S.

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Funny Like a Crutch: <em>Funny Games U.S.</em>
Funny Like a Crutch: <em>Funny Games U.S.</em>

Michael Haneke is a clever guy. I promised myself I’d never revisit his 1997 film Funny Games, yet he’s tricked me into doing just that by remaking it, shot by agonizing shot. In Funny Games U.S., the grim Austrian auteur brings the original’s hectoring scald to this side of the pond, changing the story’s location to America while keeping virtually every line, camera setup and movement exactly the same. Conceptually, the shift is clearly significant to Haneke, who has in interviews identified the subject of his critique (i.e., the use of cinematic violence for unthinking entertainment) as an essentially American one. Furthermore, there’s a certain inside-job subversion to the film’s advertising campaign, including a trailer which (unintentionally?) illustrates Haneke’s point by attempting to palm this intellectual distress-machine as a darkly comic thriller. In execution, however, the project amounts to nothing more than a stunt, and a particularly lazy and unilluminating one at that.

My Tarantino Problem, and Yours

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My Tarantino Problem, and Yours
My Tarantino Problem, and Yours

1. The Air of Unreality

Keith Uhlich: Here. Read this. It’s from Jorge Luis Borges’ Selected Nonfictions.

Matt Zoller Seitz: All right. (Reading aloud from text:)

“Objections of a more general nature can also be leveled against City Lights. Its lack of reality is comparable only to its equally exasperating lack of unreality. Some movies are true to life: For the Defense, Street of Chance, The Crowd, even The Broadway Melody, and some are willfully unrealistic, such as the highly individualistic films of Frank Borzage, Buster Keaton, Harry Langdon and Eisenstein. Chaplin’s early escapades belong to the second type, undeniably based as they are on depthless photography and accelerated action, as well as on the actors’ fake mustaches, absurd false beards, fright wigs and ominous overcoats. Not attaining such unreality, City Lights remains unconvincing. Except for the luminous blind girl, extraordinary in her beauty, and for Charlie himself, always a rake, always disguised, all the film’s characters are recklessly normal. Its ramshackle plot relies on the disjointed techniques of continuity from 20 years ago. Archaism and anachronism are literary modes too, I know, but to handle them intentionally is different from perpetrating them ineptly. I relinquish my hope, so often unfulfilled, of being wrong.”

Okay!