“[Jonathan] Demme’s dive into the deviant undercurrents of America at the end of the Reagan-Bush era gripped audiences who had been primed by another auteur’s breaking of the barriers between art and exploitation. Moody and visceral as no prime-time series had ever been before, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (1990–91) was a twisted tale founded on the naked corpse of a teenage girl—Laura Palmer. A quarter of a century later, viewers who had been bingeing on the original Twin Peaks as it was released on various digital platforms along with its prequel, the theatrical feature Fire Walk with Me (1992), avidly consumed Twin Peaks: The Return during its eighteen-episode run on Showtime, finding themselves trapped in a wormhole, also known as the Lynchian unconscious, where the homicidal law of the father is forever unchecked and unchanged. The return of Twin Peaks roughly coincided with the appearance of a new restoration of The Silence of the Lambs in theaters, and now in this release. This dialectician of gender in popular culture relishes the timing. […] One major thing that distinguishes Demme’s film from Twin Peaks—and from the vast majority of serial-killer investigative dramas, including those of another contemporary auteur, David Fincher—is the fact that his hero is a woman. “

The Criterion Collection

Joyce Carol Oates, A Book of American Martyrs
Joyce Carol Oates, A Book of American Martyrs

Just read an interesting piece in The New York Review of Books by Ruth Franklin, author of the recent biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life. (I was drawn to the sensationalist headline: ‘A Deep American Horror Exposed‘.) The piece is a review of Joyce Carol Oates‘ new work,  A Book of American Martyrs, a novel that explores the troubled inner life of an anti-abortion activist is driven to murder in the name of his cause.

This is not the first time that Oates’ writing has ventured into pressing contemporary issues. As Franklin remarks, “Oates’s fiction has confronted some of the most morally troubling episodes in the recent American past,” and cites Black Water (1992) and the recent Carthage (2014) as prominent examples. What is significant about A Book of American Martyrs, for Franklin, is its ability to frame social issues with an attention not just to their complexity, but to politically and economically disenfranchised groups: “Like much of Oates’s other recent work, it is clearly an attempt to speak for ‘those unable to speak for themselves’—the uneducated white working class.” (more…)

Chicago University Press releases the final installment of The Great Movies series

Roger Ebert, The Great Movies IV (Chicago University Press, 2016)
Roger Ebert, The Great Movies IV (Chicago University Press, 2016)
Roger Ebert was more than just an opposable thumb. His television appearances with Gene Siskel and regular dispatches to the Chicago Sun-Times made him one of the most well-known and beloved movie critics in America. The fourth volume of Great Movies, recently published by Chicago University Press, showcases over sixty of Ebert’s reviews spanning the history of cinema. Together in one place, these brief essays offer fresh insights into established classics, and draw attention to noteworthy outliers that deserve a closer look.

Among other things, the collection includes discussions of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine (released ‘after the Summer of Love but before Woodstock’), and Hiyao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (written after Ebert’s third viewing). Also included are reviews of Spike Lee’s 25th Hour, Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train, and Spielberg’s deceptively simple science-fiction narrative, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence – a film that Kubrick gave to Spielberg when he felt he could not achieve the special-effects required. (more…)

Few artists have excited me like David Bowie. As a teenager, the punk electronica of Low, the bombast of “Heroes”, and the angular anthems of Lodger helped me acclimatise to living alone in the city.

There was also the glacial paranoid chic of Station to Station, the throbs and screeches of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), a panorama of the 1980s New York, to say nothing of the postmodern murder mystery, 1. Outside. (I can still remember the thrill of hearing songs from the latter album opening David Lynch’s Lost Highway and closing David Fincher’s Seven.)

All of these records, alongside those by Bowie collaborators Brian Eno, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed, became the soundtrack to my undergraduate years. Neurotic, pulsing, existential pop.

I found in David Bowie a fantastic empty signifier, a blank canvas ready and waiting for me to impose and inscribe my obsessions. During these years he became my idol. Not simply someone to identify with, but an idea or an image that I aspired toward: a striking embodiment of the power of art to transform ourselves and the world around us.

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Edward Hibbert, known for his performance as Gil Chesterton on NBC’s sitcom Frasier, was instrumental in bringing Fight Club to the big screen. Hibbert acted as a literary agent to the American writer Chuck Palahniuk during a crucial period of his career. [Source]