Emboldened

Meghann Fahy as ‘Sutton’, Katie Stevens as ‘Jane’, and Aisha Dee as ‘Kat’ in “The Bold Type” (S1)Despite identifying myself as a non-materialistic male metal-head, and scruffy country bumpkin to boot, there’s a part of me that yearns for the glossy metropolitan glamour of shows like Sex and the City and Cashmere Mafia… because apparently my “feminine side” is a frustrated fashionista, with a weakness for lifestyle-porn!? For better or worse, it’s been almost a decade now since any show/movie really scratched that itch for me… but the pilot for a show called The Bold Type just reset the clock. Created by Sarah Watson, this shiny new Freeform series was inspired by the life of former Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles, and centres on three photogenic young gal-pals working at a global women’s magazine in New York City, where (according to the blurb) they will “learn to find their own voices and explore their sexuality, identity, love, and fashion.” Woo, and indeed, hoo!

The lead trio (Katie Stevens, Aisha Dee, and Meghann Fahy) are all very winning, and I appreciate the fact that their characters are smart and established insiders, already working their way up the career ladder, rather than a bunch of clueless newbies stumbling around asking “What are ‘fashion’?” Of course they aren’t always on top of their game, otherwise there’d be no drama or character development, but they still manage to demonstrate enough general competence and professionalism to convince their bosses (and me, as a viewer) that they’re worth investing in over the long haul.

Melora Hardin as ‘Jacqueline’ in “The Bold Type” (S1)By the same token, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, played by Melora Hardin, isn’t some cartoonish villain, bullying and belittling her underlings on a whim… she’s a tough cookie, who knows what she wants and doesn’t have time for excuses, but also acts as a compassionate mentor to the men and women under her command, who repay her with their energy and inspiration. Even the trio’s “office nemesis”, an executive-editor played by Emily C. Chang, is really just doing her job (and making some valid points in the process), rather than actively trying to crush their dreams, or sabotage their careers. They clash, but it’s not personal or petty… they’re co-workers who loudly disagree, rather than children squabbling in the playground. In that respect this show actually seems a little more “mature” than some others that I’ve seen aimed at an older/swearier audience.

Of course, at this point I only have a single episode to go on… but if the rest of the season is as fun and affirmative as the pilot was, then this could well become my second fave show of the summer (after Game of Thrones, natch).

[Note: Confusingly, the series doesn’t officially “premiere” until July 11th, but the first episode was given an early “preview” airing on Tuesday (June 20th)]

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Flashes Of Finch: Fully Funded!

Jennifer Finch (circa 2017) with the Pentax camera she’s had since she was 11!Hurrah! Jennifer Finch’s Kickstarter campaign to fund the preservation of her epic/historic photographic archive via digital scanning has crossed the metaphorical finish line with 284 backers, and a purse of $12,463 (well over the $9,100 she was hoping for). I must admit, I got a little worried a couple days ago, when the prospective pledge total seemed to drop dangerously close to the cut-off point again… but thankfully it recovered, and continued moving upwards after that nail-chewing dip. Phew! To quote the lady herself: “I am happy as a clam! (a clam with a broken foot and a lot of work ahead… but a happy clam non-the-less)!” Bless.

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Repower(less)ing

[Contains a bucket of unspecified power-enhancing “chemicals” and SPOILERS!!!]

Vanessa Hudgens as ‘Emily Locke’ in “Powerless” (S1)Thanks to a New Zealand-based streaming service called TVNZ OnDemand (and some kindly pirates), I’ve now been able to watch the final three unaired episodes of Powerless… which included such highlights as ‘Emily’ (Vanessa Hudgens) cuddling a puppy (pictured), ‘Jackie’ (Christina Kirk) gaining super-speedster-powers via a careless prank gone wrong, and a very funny cameo by the late Adam West (R.I.P.) as an addled, fourth-wall-breaking Wayne Enterprises executive (ep #1.11). Sad fact: This would have been the actor’s final on-screen appearance, if the episode had actually aired in America.

Despite the absence of “Green Fury”, and a continuity-confusing re-appearance by “Crimson Fox” (Deanna Russo) in the not-really-a-finale, I really enjoyed these left-over episodes (especially ep #1.10 (aka “No Consequence Day”), in which the characters all started acting like irresponsible a-holes, in the belief that Superman would reverse time in the wake of Lois Lane’s death, and thus spare them any negative repercussions that might otherwise result from their jackassery), and still find it a little hard to understand why this show got cancelled so quickly, when NBC let Heroes lumber on for four seasons. Ah well, that’s the way the Bat-cookie crumbles, I guess…

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Flashes Of Finch [Updated!!!]

Jennifer Finch (circa 2017) with the Pentax camera she’s had since she was 11!Jennifer Finch is a multi-talented woman… not only is she an “axe”-wielding-singer-songwriter (with bands such as L7, Other Star People, and The Shocker), she’s also been an “amateur” shutter-bug since the age of 13, taking thousands and thousands of photographs of punk bands, fans, and venues around the world, from the 1980s up to the present day. Unfortunately the vast majority of these images are currently “stored” on old-timey plastic negative strips and slides, which are starting to deteriorate… and so she’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the preservation of her archive, via digital scanning. To quote her project description: “My long-term goal/dream is to make this archive accessible and free to anyone who wants to use these images to tell their own stories”… although the legalities of that might get a bit sticky when it comes to certain celebrities and such, it’s a noble quest which I am happy to support… both with this plug, and with actual moolah!

[The image above was stolen from her Instagram page, and apparently depicts her with the Pentax camera she’s been snapping away with since she was a youngling! Bless.]

Update (11/7/17): Hurrah! The project is now fully funded (theoretically), but there are still four days to go before the campaign closes… and Finch is now offering a new lower tier reward of a signed postcard for pledges of $4 of more!

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Wrapped In Paper

[Contains re-classified dossiers and SPOILERS!!!]

“The Secret History of Twin Peaks” by Mark FrostTo properly prepare for the imminent arrival of Season Three, I decided to pick up a copy of Mark Frost’s epistolary novel The Secret History of Twin Peaks (2016), to read alongside the Entire Mystery boxset. However, I’d seen some rather mixed reviews for it online, and opted to borrow the hefty hardback from my local library, rather than buy it blind… and I’m glad I held back, because it’s not a book I’m ever likely to read again for the “story”, and half of it isn’t even about the eponymous town! I can’t help wondering if Frost got a little confused between his own landmark series and The X-Files (which do both feature David Duchovny playing an FBI agent, after all), because there’s an awful lot of UFO/Masonic/Illuminati conspiracy stuff in there, which eventually feeds back into the established mythology of the TV show, after taking you on a slightly tedious amble through an animatronic waxwork museum of former American Presidents (Nixon!) and English occultists (Crowley!). In my own mind I credit Frost with keeping David Lynch on a more even keel, genre and plot-wise, but I find his presentation here painfully prosaic… so I’m glad that the forthcoming revival will be a collaboration between the two of them, rather than a solo project like this novel or Fire Walk With Me.

Heather Graham as ‘Annie Blackburn’ in “Twin Peaks” (S2)Possibly the weirdest diversion from what we’ve seen (or believe we’ve seen?) in the TV series, is the retconning of aged newspaper editor Douglas “Dougie” Milford (a very minor and short-lived character who wasted precious screen-time in the second season with that whole old-man-marries-bewitching-gold-digger bullshit) as a bad-ass “Man in Black”, and his succubus-bride as a secret assassin sent by the Deep State to sex him to death! Frost also pointedly elides the character of Annie Blackburn, despite a lengthy section about her sister Norma’s thwarted romance with “Big Ed” Hurley, and a couple references to the ill-fated “Miss Twin Peaks” contest (from which she was quite noticeably kidnapped). Likewise, Windom Earle only earns a brief namecheck or two, as a former FBI agent (and mentor to Dale Cooper) who subsequently went insane… but there’s no mention of him ever infiltrating the town itself, or littering the place with giant corpse-filled-chess-pieces! Maybe the author’s saving all that for his second book, The Final Dossier? Considering the apparent absence of both characters from the forthcoming season, I’m thinking maybe not…

The mysterious markings seen on Major Briggs (left) and The Log Lady (right) in “Twin Peaks” (ep #25)On the other hand, more popular townsfolk do receive substantial and reverential coverage here… such as Margaret “The Log Lady” Lanterman’s introduction in a newspaper report about three children being “abducted” in the woods (p. 143-6)*, which is followed later in the book by a five-page editorial feature laying out her backstory and making a strong case for her general/undeniable awesomeness (p. 315-9). Incidentally, we also learn that her maiden-name was “Coulson”… presumably in honour of Catherine E. Coulson, the late actress who brought her to life so indelibly on the screen. Bless. Curiously, the book includes a “physician’s intake exam” that was written shortly after young “Maggie” returned from the woods, stating (along with a diagram) that she was marked with a mysterious scar resembling three triangles… which in the TV series was actually the brand that Major Briggs bore on his neck, following his “abduction”, while her markings resembled a simplified drawing of two mountain peaks (ep #25). There’s a great article about the book on the Twin Peaks wiki-site, which details all of these continuity discrepancies and also highlights some interesting “easter eggs” hidden in various entries. It’s suggested that some of the inconsistencies may be intentional, as they appear in unverified documents written by unreliable witnesses… or that Frost may be playing some sort of mind-game with the reader…? I guess we’ll just have to give him the benefit of the doubt… for now…

Joan Chen as ‘Jocelyn Packard’ and Piper Laurie as ‘Catherine Martell’ in “Twin Peaks” (S1)Meanwhile, I was relieved to discover that Audrey Horne survived the explosion at Twin Peaks Savings & Loan that was part of the season-closing bumper-pack of cliff-hangers (p. 223-4)… though she wasn’t in particularly fine-fettle when the attending fire-crew found her, it’s worth remembering that she did once shake off an involuntary opiate-addiction like it was nothing more than a slight case of the sniffles, so she clearly has some sort of superhuman healing ability! There were also some great stuff about the shady shenanigans of Catherine Martell and Jocelyn Packard… though frankly I found the latter’s lengthy “rap sheet” as a patricidal triad enforcer (p. 172) stretched my credulity to breaking point. Then again, she did end up trapped in a hotel-room drawer-pull for all eternity, so… whatever…

In theory, this novel sets up a shiny new character, FBI Agent Tamara Preston, but we don’t learn much about her from the marginal notes she makes here, beyond the fact that she’s kinda snarky/sceptical… though she is now fully up-to-speed on all the folk-lore and conspiracy theories surrounding the town, and may even be aware that Cooper is “not what he seems”, so it will be interesting to see how she comes into play in the third season. According to IMDb, she’ll be portrayed on-screen by Chrysta Bell, who previously recorded an E.P. of songs with Lynch, and starred in a bunch of music videos that he produced, but hasn’t had much other acting experience…

———–

* One of the other children was supposedly Carl Rodd, the trailer-park manager from FWwM, played by Harry Dean Stanton… which is a nice conciliatory nod to Lynch, though I personally felt making him a former resident of the town was a bit of a stretch.

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Wrapped In Plastic – Pt. 3

[The conclusion of my lengthy ramble about Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery. Contains “sultry rock music” and SPOILERS!!!]

Moira Kelly as ‘Donna Hayward’ and Sheryl Lee as ‘Laura Palmer’ in “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me”Although I’ve seen Fire Walk with Me (1992) several times in the past, it’s always been in isolation from the TV series, usually separated by a handful of years… so watching it straight after the show that spawned it was a novel experience for me, but also quite a jarring one. There were, it has to be said, several behind-the-scenes snarl-ups, that negatively affected the finished film… first was David Lynch’s estrangement from co-creator/writer Mark Frost… second was the reticence of Lara Flynn Boyle, Kyle MacLachlan, and Richard Beymer to return to their well-established roles, resulting in the recasting of ‘Donna’, the reduction of Special Agent ‘Dale Cooper’s involvement in the opening investigation (with Chris Isaak taking up the slack as a substitute agent), and the total absence of ‘Benjamin Horne’, despite his close connection with both Laura and Leyland Palmer, who are the central characters of the piece. This results in numerous narrative contradictions/disconnections between the series and the film… but there’s also a severe tonal discontinuity, with the film taking a much more sombre (some might say “turgid”) approach to the material, which is peppered with graphic gore and nudity. It’s no wonder that many Twin Peaks fans were outraged when it was first released, resulting in a box-office belly-flop, which scotched Lynch’s plan to produce a trilogy of prequels/sequels.

Sheryl Lee as ‘Laura Palmer’ in “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me”Overall, I do find FWwM a bit on the boring side, at times… it probably doesn’t help that we already know most of the facts about how/when/why Laura died, so seeing it all acted out, like a reconstruction on a crime-stoppers show, isn’t exactly the most gripping way to spend two hours of your evening… but there are just enough disorienting blasts of Lynch’s trademark dream/nightmare-logic to keep you glued to your seat, with eyes and ears wide-open… even when your brain is taking a quick cat-nap. As Al Strobel notes in one of the interview featurettes, you’re better off approaching it as a piece of challenging video-art, rather than easy-going entertainment.

As for the cast, Sheryl Lee delivers a bravura performance in the lead role of tormented teen-prostitute/“homecoming queen” ‘Laura Palmer’, doomed to die a miserable and untimely death, but still praying for redemption via the angelic painting on her bedroom wall. The series had never allowed her much opportunity to play Laura as a living, breathing human being, and she clearly relished the opportunity to exhume the character… even if it meant channelling all of the loneliness, shame, guilt, confusion, and self-destruction that weighed Laura down as a victim of demonic/domestic abuse. In a more successful/accessible film, Lee’s courage and commitment might have bagged her a brace of trophies, but sadly she was only nominated for two awards (a Saturn, and an Independent Spirit), and didn’t win either one of them… while the intense and demanding nature of the experience (not to mention the subsequent backlash) might well explain why Lee hasn’t pursued the high-flying acting career that she more-than-earned during her time in Twin Peaks.

Moira Kelly as ‘Donna Hayward’ in “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me”Meanwhile, Moira Kelly is suitably doe-eyed/adorable as Laura’s bewildered BFF ‘Donna Hayward’… and Phoebe Augustine‘s sparky cameo as Laura’s partner-in-crime ‘Ronette Pulaski’ made me wish we’d seen more of her character when she was still “compos mentis”. Mädchen Amick scored a disappointingly brief (but still very endearing) appearance as Laura’s apathetic co-worker ‘Shelly Johnson’… and newcomer Pamela Gidley made a strong impression as ‘Teresa Banks’, an unfortunate mutual acquaintance of Laura and Leyland, whose foolhardy attempt at blackmail led to her getting murderised. Catherine E. Coulson’s cameo as ‘Margaret Lanterman’ (aka “The Log Lady”) warrants particular attention, partly because of how much I love her character/performance, but also because of how hard I was pulling for Laura to simply turn around and follow Margaret back to her cabin for a nice hot cup of tea and some cookies, instead of carrying on into the Roadhouse, and date-rapey oblivion. In fact, I wish we could all follow Margaret back to her cabin and hide out there listening to her uber-earnest sermons, while the rest of the world goes to Hell… though, I imagine she’d probably have something disapproving to say about that too…?

Kimmy Robertson as ‘Lucy Moran’ in “Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces”The major selling point of the Entire Mystery boxset is that it contains 94 minutes of extended/deleted scenes from FWwM (edited together, and exhibited as The Missing Pieces)… many of which feature characters from the TV series who don’t appear in the film, as well as call-backs (forwards?) to events from the pilot, which might have made it much more “of a piece” with its progenitor. Although the sheriff-station slapstick in scene #26 (starring the otherwise AWOL Kimmy Robertson as ‘Lucy Moran’) would have felt rather out-of-place amidst the darker material, and has no bearing whatsoever on the plot, there were a couple lighter scenes that could have helped to leaven the film, while also adding to its story… specifically scene #10 in which the Palmers enjoy a hearty/hysterical laugh over Leyland’s attempts to teach them Norwegian (to impress a group of visiting investors), in stark contrast to the more fraught and terrifying dinner scene we see later in the film after Laura identifies her father as her abuser… and also scene #13 in which a tearful Laura flees to Donna’s house for some respite, and shares a genuinely sweet and tear-jerking moment of wholesome familial warmth with the Haywards (including Mary Jo Deschanel as ‘Eileen Hayward’), again providing a counter-point to the horror lurking in Laura’s own home.

Joan Chen as ‘Jocelyn Packard’ in “Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces”There’s also a classic bit of Lynchian comedy in scene #15 with ‘Pete Martell (Jack Nance) and ‘Jocelyn Packard’ (Joan Chen) debating the value of an American dollar with a disgruntled customer… and a freaky-as-hell super-slow-motion close-up of Laura becoming partially-possessed by Bob (Sc. #16), that will give you nightmares for weeks! Oh, and there’s even a couple scenes set after the events of the series finale, including one with ‘Annie Blackburn’ (Heather Graham) being wheeled into hospital, where she delivers her drowsy plea to Laura (which is seen in the film, as a prophetic vision), before a nefarious Nurse steals the Owl Ring off her patient’s feeble hand (Sc. #29). Boo! Whether Annie died or not, I couldn’t say… but Graham has lamented the fact that she wasn’t asked to return for the new season, so we won’t be seeing much of her character this time around, and may never have an answer to Evil Dale’s question: “How’s Annie?”

There are a couple interesting extras on the final disc, including the rather bizarre “Between Two Worlds” featurette, in which Lynch interviews Lee, Zabriskie, and Ray Wise in-character as the Palmers, bringing viewers up-to-date (sort of) on what’s happened to them since the events of the film/original series. It was recorded in 2014, specifically for the boxset, so it must have been quite a challenging acting exercise for them, to try to reconnect with those characters after so much time had passed… but at least it gave them (and Lynch) a head-start on the rest of the cast who’ve returned for the third season! On a purely logical/pedantic level, it does bug me a little that Leland and Laura have aged naturally (albeit beautifully), despite being dead all this time… but using fiddly de-aging FX doesn’t seem like Lynch’s style, and you can’t really apply real-world “logic” to what happens to people in the Black Lodge anyway… in theory, things appear in a form that the observer can understand, so (if pain and sorrow can become creamed corn) there’s no reason why spirits/echoes/doppelgangers of departed/trapped spirits can’t appear to age in real-time. Right…?

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The Pervy People’s Princess

Nikki Glaser in “Not Safe with Nikki Glaser” (S1)I know I’m a year (or more) late to the party here, but I just discovered the joy of Nikki Glaser’s sex-centric comedy, via her 2016 stand-up special (modestly titled “Perfect”), and her short-lived talk-show Not Safe with Nikki Glaser (both of which were produced by Comedy Central). Besides being a naturally funny performer/story-teller, and a warm and appreciative hostess, Glaser is also passionate about promoting an open-minded and sex-positive outlook, and combatting shame… her use of the word “pervs” as an all-inclusive term of endearment for her guests and audience members, while cheerfully/curiously exploring all kinds of kinks and erotic occupations, genuinely made me feel better about my own dirty little secrets, and helped me laugh away some of my pesky prudishness. Her zealous proselytising and quippy/snarky monologues made me think of her as “The Samantha Bee of Sex”, though obviously there’s some overlap between them when it comes to the political aspects of sexuality, health, and gender, which Glaser also addressed with gusto and playful teasing.

Still, for all the admirable investigative work she did, I think the highlight of Not Safe for me was the recurring “Tinder Tapout” segment (eps #1/5/10-11/16/20), in which Glaser adopted the persona of a smoking-hot-but-highly-unstable “Party Bitch” named Kayla, to test the patience of male admirers on the eponymous “dating” app, and see how much straight-up insanity they were willing to excuse/ignore, in the hope of getting laid. The horrifying stream of casual (often criminal) confessions, neck-snapping non-sequiturs, and inappropriately cute emojis that spewed forth from her filthy fingers, had me laughing so hard it physically hurt, and I had to keep pausing the show so that I could recover before the next bombshell dropped. Overall, I’d rate the show a solid “A”, but those Tapouts were a gold-plated “A++”!

Nikki Glaser in “Perfect” (2016)My only negative criticism of Not Safe would be that Glaser sometimes flubbed her lines during the monologues, which spoiled the scripted jokes and dulled her barbs a little… but her off-the-cuff humour more than made up for it, especially during the field-pieces and interview segments. Speaking of which, she managed to “perv out” with an impressive array of celebrity guests across the first season, including: Rachel Feinstein (ep #1.1), Kristen Schaal (eps #8/12), Natasha Leggero (ep #1.10), Mary Lynn Rajskub (ep #1.11), Riki Lindhome (ep #1.13), Maria Bamford (ep #1.14), and Margaret Cho (ep #1.19). Sadly, the series wasn’t renewed, and won’t returned for a second run this year… but there are still 40 episodes of the spin-off podcast for me to listen to, so that’s some comfort, at least. I will miss Glaser’s little shoulder-shimmy as she danced to the intermission music though… :(

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