Movie Monday: Parallel Universe in Washington?

I watched “Twin Peaks” for the first time three years ago. I was instantly sucked in by the bizarre world of David Lynch: the small Washington lumber town, the fascinating characters, Kyle MacLachlan. Kyle MacLachlan. Kyle M– ok, you get the idea. But he’s awesome. (whisper) Kyle MacLachlan.

I also had the feeling I’d seen something really similar before, and it turns out, I kind of had. About two years before I was sucked in by another show, “The Killing.” It also takes place in Washington. It also has dark undertones and a lot of mist. I tried researching these coincidences to see if anyone else had talked about them, and I found disappointingly little internet chatter. Which is why I’m taking up blog space to do it.

With the return of “Twin Peaks” (I’ll reserve my thoughts on that for another post),  I thought I’d take a minute to point out some of the parallels between the two shows.

What “Twin Peaks” and “The Killing” have in common:

  1. The echoey, eery intro music.                                                                                          When I first heard the “Twin Peaks” intro, I thought it was taken from “The Killing.” Then I realized it was obviously the other way around– having been made 15 years earlier, “Twin Peaks” probably influenced the sound of “The Killing.”
  2. Both are set in Washington state. I realize I already pointed this out.
  3. The dissapearance and murder of a young girl.
  4. Strange goings-on at casinos.
  5. Actress Grace Zabriskie. She plays Sara Palmer in “Twin Peaks” (Laura’s Mom) and Mama Dips in “The Killing.”

Despite these surface similarities, the two shows are pretty different. “The Killing” is like a “Law and Order SVU” that draws the crime out through two seasons laden with (*spoiler alert*) red herrings. “Twin Peaks” is dramatic, often creepy, and contains Lynch’s trademark departures from reality and dream sequences that we aren’t really sure are dream sequences. I’d still like to think that the creators of “The Killing” did not accidentally include so many parallels but that they also really like “Twin Peaks” and wanted to give a nod to the similarities.

Also, if you’re a Twin Peaks fan and ever watched How I Met Your Mother, did you notice the two TP actors who make an appearance in later seasons? Check it out.

twinpeaks

Image from http://flaneurs.it/author/giovannibusellato/

 

Movie Monday: Finding Mike Birbiglia

As I embark on my comedy-writing journey, I’ve been on the lookout for comedians whose work challenges and inspires me.

A while back, a friend suggested I check out Mike Birbiglia. I forgot about his recommendation, until one day, I heard a Terry Gross interview where Birbiglia was discussing his new film about improv, “Don’t Think Twice”. It was one of those serendipitous moments: I remembered the conversation I’d had with my friend, I remembered I’d been meaning to check out Birbiglia’s standup for months, and, I’d recently fallen in love with improv.

That NPR interview was my red pill, and I went down the Birbiglia rabbit hole. Later that day, I listened to the This American Life episode featuring Birbiglia’s story. That night, I watched “Sleepwalk With Me” on Netflix. I fell in love with his storytelling style and penchant for clean, deadpan humor.

I’ve been considering a lot lately what makes a comedian funny. Often, it’s because we can relate to some aspect the storyteller is sharing– we find the truth in comedy. Birbiglia’s autobiographical story, and the resulting visualization of it, “Sleepwalk With Me,” is relatable. “Sleepwalk With Me” boils down to the hero’s journey as Birbiglia fights his demons and recognizes his goals. We can all relate to that.

gettyimages-510439208_wide-08a5e7fe9b6a40ffa038a7df279c4c734d8cd225-s1600-c85

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Movie Monday: Swooning for Swanberg

For today’s edition of Movie Monday, I want to highlight a director whose work has been inspiring me for the last few years: Joel Swanberg.

My Swanberg obsession start with my sister’s recommendation of the movie Drinking Buddies. I had less than high expectations: just seeing the cover image on Netflix brought to mind frat boy comedies and overconsumption. And then I watched it, and I was happily surprised by the dynamic relationships it explored and the unexpected choices characters make.

Since then, I’ve watched Digging for Fire and Win It All, and his films continue to present the complex relationships that I enjoy seeing actors dive into. They are dialogue heavy, which is a personal preference of mine, especially when the dialogue feels like it could be taken from everyday conversations. Swanberg also has a skill for bringing together entertaining groups of talented actors: Jake Johnson (most known from New Girl), Brie Larson, Mike Birbiglia, and most recently, Keegan-Michael Key. I’m already looking forward to his next work.

2400

Image from Win It All, taken from the avclub.com, via Netflix

 

 

Movie Monday: Creation of Classics

I watched Annie Hall for the first time today. I enjoyed it for myriad reasons: Diane Keaton’s humor and style. Woody Allen’s jokes (which I now see have influenced so many other variations on the romantic comedy). The literary references. The pokes at the extravagance of Hollywood and the neurosis of New Yorkers.

When I make the time to watch a movie or tv show these days, I’ve been trying to focus on those that inspire me and have inspired countless others: classics, whether that be the Criterion Collection or a new classic. Last week, I watched Chinatown. I loved the mystery, the cinematography, shots of California, and seeing a young Jack Nicholson.

Watching these movies gave me a new connection with my mom: these are two of her favorite movies, and she recommended them both to me.

Then I remembered what the directors of both movies, Woody Allen and Roman Polansky, are most known for today: their infamous (and  in Polansky’s case, illegal) relations with women. Of course, when my mom watched them, Polanksy and Allen hadn’t yet committed the acts that would put one in exile. Still, I started to wonder, does their behavior outside of the studio take away from their art?

3722583121_f310d53c98_oI’m not so much trying to answer this question as to present it for discussion. Maybe there are two lenses through which we can approach any creation: as independent of its creator, appreciated solely for what it represents to us, and secondly, as a backdrop for the person who has created it.

In Defense of the Breakup: when romance doesn’t work out on the bigscreen..and everybody is still (mostly) ok

If there’s a pattern we are happy to see repeated in art, it’s the culmination of a romantic relationship: the moment when the girl gets the guy, the wedding, that heart-wrenching scene when the characters realize they are in love with one another in the same moment, and will live happily ever after. As much as we might say we enjoy surprise endings, there’s a lot of comfort to be found in a story where our expectations for the characters are met, and a relationship is forged in cinematic eternity.

So it’s rare to find movies, especially those that fall into the ‘romantic comedy’ genre, where characters don’t (gasp) end up together. And I’d like to make an argument for this story. Because in ‘real life,’ we don’t always end up with the guy, and you know what? It is ok. We are ok. As much as I do want movies and tv to represent a glorification of real life– a glossier, high-def version of what I am experiencing, I also like it when a movie reflects my own experiences in romance. So, here are some movies to check out when you need a reminder that romance doesn’t always end in a trip to the church, and sometimes for the best. “Just because something good ends doesn’t mean something better won’t begin.” 

5 not-so romantic Romantic Movies:

5. 500 Days of Summer

etapa-1

I’d watch this movie simply to gaze at Joseph Gordon-Levitt and emulate Zooey Deschanel’s wardrobe. Hip as hell, the both of them. Not to mention an addictive soundtrack. And to be honest, I did not like this movie the first time I saw it. It was one of the first romantic movies I watched where the protagonists don’t end up together, and I think I struggled with the concept. I was also a little in denial about my own relationship at the time, and the possibility that it might not work out. I ended up watching it a while later and I realized how great this movie is exactly for those reasons: accepting the reality that not every relationship is going to work out, and as challenging as they experience might be, you can learn so much about yourself through it.

    4. Begin Again

Focal point on music, and being true to yourself. Spoiler alert: Keira Knightley doesn’t end up with either Adam Levine or Mark Ruffalo. And she is (another gasp) ok. In fact, you get the feeling she’s better off for finding her independence and following her heart, not in the arms of a dude, but in her career aspirations.

     3. Drinking Buddies

Man, director Joel Swanberg loves his sexual tension. He is so good at depicting the pivotal situations we find ourselves in and the choices we get to make about our relationships in those moments. As adorable as Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde are in their exchanges, I was really satisfied that they remain, in fact, drinking buddies, and not romantically entangled. Hey, Harry and Sally: guys and girls can be friends.

     2. Her

HER

I did not think I would fall for a movie about a man falling for a piece of technology. As much as I enjoy perusing Instagram, Snapchat, and other people’s blogs, it also bums me out how entranced people become by all of it– when I’m at a restaurant with friends and we are all looking down at our phones. And that’s exactly why this movie is worth watching. It’s a reminder both about how our desire to be loved and seen and heard is so intrinsically human that we might be willing to find it in any form, and how important it is to cultivate the relationships right around us, whether romantic or otherwise. The dangers of technology, at its rawest. Also, Joaquin Phoenix is pretty lovable, even at his most desperate moments pining after his computer operating system.

  1. Celeste and Jesse Forever

celeste1

“It recognizes that the hardest part of breaking up is losing a partner” – Gyan Yankovich, via Buzzfeed

I love Andy Samberg and I love Rashida Jones, and so, of course, watching them together is delightful..even if very early in the movie, you learn this is not a ‘girl met boy’ story. This is a ‘how do you deal with the unwinding of a relationship when you still care about each other,’ kind of story. Of all the movies on this list, this one resonated with me the most. Having been in a similar situation (and really, who hasn’t?), I could relate to the pain you feel as a relationship is ending, but also starting to recognize the possibility and room for growth that you give yourself when you end a relationship that isn’t functional. This is a well-written (Jones is one of the main writers) and relatable story that anyone struggling with a breakup can find perspective in. Buzzfeed summed it up well: It doesn’t have a perfectly packaged ending, “and that’s important, because not everything does.” Whoa.

celeste-and-jesse-forever-the-pair