What the hit Netflix show can tell us about our fascination with ’80s nostalgia and American suburban gothic

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The word ‘stranger’ can suggest many things. One antiquated definition, used in the 18th and 19th century, refers to ‘things which are popularly imagined to forebode the coming of an unexpected visitor’ (OED). These ‘things’ might refer to tea leaves floating in a cup, a moth appearing suddenly out of the dark, or candlewax that causes the light of a flame to flicker and die. For viewers of Netflix’s thrilling new drama, Stranger Things, this superstition holds a unique significance.

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If you’re a struggling writer attempting to get your first project off the ground, Matthew Weiner has some reassuring life advice
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Christina Hendricks and Matthew Weiner on the set of AMC’s Mad Men

I remember studying Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan” in high school. According to Coleridge, upon waking from a deep, opium-induced reverie, he recalled a vision and immediately wrote the 54 famous lines. But when we started doing the poetic analysis, it became clear that there was no way this poem came out all at once. It has this amazing structure. We learned from letters and notes that had been discovered that it was likely Coleridge had not only worked on “Kubla Khan” for several months, but that he also sent it to friends for feedback.

Artists frequently hide the steps that lead to their masterpieces. They want their work and their career to be shrouded in the mystery that it all came out at once. It’s called hiding the brushstrokes, and those who do it are doing a disservice to people who admire their work and seek to emulate them. If you don’t get to see the notes, the rewrites, and the steps, it’s easy to look at a finished product and be under the illusion that it just came pouring out of someone’s head like that. People who are young, or still struggling, can get easily discouraged, because they can’t do it like they thought it was done. An artwork is a finished product, and it should be, but I always swore to myself that I would not hide my brushstrokes. (more…)

Writing in 2014, James Poniewozik (Time) reviews the first season of HBO’s excellent series, The Leftovers

file_118510_0_theleftoversartBy the standards of fictional global disasters, The Leftovers’ is a teensy one, just a smidgen of apocalypse. Two percent of the world’s population is gone–not dead, but vanished one Oct. 14 in what is being called the Sudden Departure. It sounds like the Christian Rapture, but it’s utterly random. It takes babies and adults; Christians, Buddhists and atheists; the devout and the drug dealer; plus Gary Busey and the entire former cast of Perfect Strangers. All told, 140 million people are gone, enough that some families are unscathed but no one is untouched. It’s enough to leave the species intact but heartsick; to leave society functioning but rudderless; to leave humanity standing but to kick the legs from under every existing belief system. (more…)

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The first board of the title sequence for HBO’s Six Feet Under
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Planting the iconic tree that concludes the Six Feet Under title sequence

“I was taught that design is a type of visual communication and storytelling where a single image needs to say something profound immediately, in the simplest form possible.”

Danny Yount discusses directing the title sequence of the cult HBO television series over at Art of the Title.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me has been scrubbed from the memories of many Twin Peaks fans, but it’s best not to forget that David Bowie was in the film, as Agent Phillip Jeffries. He appears as a dream vision in a weird montage to his former buddies Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Gordon Cole (David Lynch) and provides key information to cracking the case. It seems now that Bowie had signed on to reprise the role for Showtime’s upcoming revival of the show, though his passing in January came too soon for him to film his parts.”

More at Flavorwire.

“Jan Harlan, Stanley Kubrick’s executive producer, revealed some juicy news about Napoleon, Kubrick’s greatest unmade film. During the conference “Stanley Kubrick A Retrospective” held at the De Montfort University in Leicester, UK, last week, he said the project is going to happen as a HBO 6 hours miniseries, directed by Cary Fukunaga […]”

Source: A Stanley Kubrick tumblr.

New promotional montage suggests a darker tone

“Even among those of us who thought the third season saw a decline in quality, the promise of new episodes of the show will never not be enticing, and this trailer does more than merely entice: it electrifies.”

— Source: Flavorwire

What began as an interesting, comic, and politically-engaged drama began to wane in seasons two and three. The latter season, in particular, moved so far into the realm of goofy fantasy that it appeared to trivialise the realities of incarceration in the US Prison Industrial Complex. Here’s hoping Season Four can bring it back from the brink.

Showtime’s reboot hosts a number of new and familiar faces

welcome-to-twin-peaks-new-sign-revealed-david-lynch Actors from the original who are back include Sheryl Lee, Sherilyn Fenn, Mädchen Amick, David Duchovny, Michael Horse, Dana Ashbrook, Miguel Ferrer, Ray Wise, Grace Zabriskie, Peggy Lipton, Everett McGill and David Lynch. The late Catherine Coulson, known to fans as the Log Lady, is also listed.

New additions include Naomi Watts, Amanda Seyfried, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Laura Dern, Ernie Hudson, Michael Cera, Trent Reznor, Jessica Szohr, Jane Levy, Richard Chamberlain, Robert Knepper, Jim Belushi, Tom Sizemore, Ethan Suplee, Balthazar Getty, Bailey Chase, David Koechner, and Larry Clarke. [Read More]

Jennifer Wood (Rolling Stone) presents an oral history of HBO’s beloved landmark series ten years after the finale episode

Life Before Death

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Alan Ball directs Peter Krause (Nate Fisher) in the pilot episode

Alan Ball (Creator/Showrunner): In the fall of 1999 I was working on this television series that I created for ABC called Oh, Grow Up, which, in retrospect, I’m not sure is a show that I myself would have ever watched. But American Beauty [which I wrote the script for] had premiered in September of that year as well. So I got call from [then-president of HBO Entertainment] Carolyn Strauss’ office asking if I would meet her for lunch. That was right around the time I had just discovered The Sopranos, and I was amazed that, like, “Oh, TV can be this?” (more…)

Michael Roffman (Consequence of Sound) on the distribution options for the reboot
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Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne) and Kyle MachLachlan (Agent Dale Cooper) in the original Twin Peaks series

Now that The X-Files has closed up shop once again, it’s time to start salivating over Showtime’s forthcoming revival of Twin Peaks. Though, don’t go roasting any coffee or baking any pies just yet. We still have awhile before David Lynch officially invites us back to the small Pacific Northwest logging town. (more…)

Some interesting parallels between the prophetic American writer and the AMC period drama

Anticipating the release of his 2010 novel, Point Omega, The Sunday Times interviewed Don DeLillo about his life and work, exploring some the American author’s ‘writing tics’, and making note of his contemporary relevance.

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The article mentions AMC’s period drama Mad Men (which aired from 2007 to 2015), and it’s easy to see why it shares key thematic links with DeLillo’s work. Set in a New York advertising firm in the early 1960s, the show explores the consumerist manufacture of American aspirations with a sharp and ironic detachment. It has skillfully addressed the Kennedy assassination in a media climate of Cold War anxiety, and includes a cast of characters struggling with personal neuroses and societal repression. (more…)

Kathryn Schulz (The New Yorker) explores how Netflix’s true crime documentary goes wrong
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A still from the title sequence of Netfix’s Making a Murderer (2015)
By chance, I have known many of the details of the Avery case since long before the release of “Making a Murderer,” because in 2007 I spoke at length with Penny Beerntsen. At the time, I was working on a book about being wrong—about how we as a culture think about error, and how we as individuals experience it—and Beerntsen, in identifying Avery as her assailant, had been wrong in an unusually tragic and consequential way.

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