THE LEFTOVERS is an Arduous Journey Worth Taking

e6828160-e9f3-0131-c05b-0eb233c768fbIt’s been something of a “rough ride” sticking with HBO’s new series THE LEFTOVERS through its ten episodes. The premise of a world (specifically a small town in New York) gone mad after 2% of the population literally disappears without explanation starts dark, and gets only darker as the show progresses. “Life goes on” they say, and so it does… or so it appears. Three years after “The Departure” is where the story begins, and we immediately see that even though the world still turns, people still go to work, and everything has the surface appearance of normality, that there is a festering wound just beneath the surface, threatening to erupt in tragedy. In each successive episode we see people sinking further into depression, lashing out in violence, deliberately provoking others, exhibiting self-destructive behavior, or just trying to pretend that nothing ever happened. At one point, I asked myself “Is wading through all of this human misery going to pay off, or is this just an exercise in pointless masochism?” Well, it DOES pay off, but probably not in a way that one might expect.

786821559921729828I will not spoil the show here for those who haven’t watched THE LEFTOVERS yet, although the word “spoiler” doesn’t really apply here in any kind of narrative sense. Summation of the show’s thematic climax in mere words would leave it sounding cheap and tawdry, and could not possibly envelop the “big picture” that can only be experienced through watching THE LEFTOVERS from beginning to end. What we get at the end of Season One (the series has been green lit for a second season), is a kind of emotional and thematic resolution that is satisfying in a way that no plot twist could possibly match. It’s one that will certainly be divisive among viewers, but one that I found to be bordering on brilliance. This episode emotionally floored me in a way that I’m not sure that I’ve ever really experienced before. While there are still many mysterious aspects of the series that have yet to be explained or illuminated at this point, the logic – such as it is – behind “The Departure” starts to reveal itself somewhere around the sixth or seventh episode, but doesn’t fully emerge until the finale. I must warn you here and now that getting to that finale will take a certain degree of perseverance and patience. I have a few friends who gave up with the show along the way, and I’m hoping to persuade them into giving it another chance.

intense-trailer-for-hbos-new-series-the-leftoversTHE LEFTOVERS is based on a book by Tom Perrotta, which was adapted to television by the author and Damon Lindelof (of LOST fame), and it *feels* very much like a work of literature. This series will not be everyone’s “cup of tea”… If you are a person who prefers a definitive hard narrative over nuanced vagaries, you might want to sit this one out. THE LEFTOVERS is weird. There… I said it. That’s not a bad thing – not at all. “Weird” simply means that it’s different from what I am accustomed to from a television series. “Weird” means that it’s frequently unsettling and often upsetting in a deep, under-the-surface kind of way. “Weird” means that THE LEFTOVERS much of the time eschews realism for a dream logic to get its point across. Many of my favorite filmmakers – like David Lynch – create “weird” films. This is nothing like a David Lynch film… it’s not that heavily stylilzed, and falls much more into the realm of realism that most of Lynch’s oeuvre. This story is told much more by coloring with emotions, instincts, and leadfeelings that typically elude being encompassed by words, and the Season One denouement is almost ineffable in its impact. If asked to describe exactly why THE LEFTOVERS affected me so deeply, I doubt that I could find the words to do it justice, but it’s there, just out of reach, but nonetheless undeniable.

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Emmy’s Biggest Mistakes

As we prepare for the 2014 Emmy awards, I thought it was a great time to look at some of Emmy’s biggest blunders.  The reason right now is a great time to look at them is because this year they made what I consider to be the biggest blunder of all.

TOP EMMY MISTAKES

1. Not nominating Tatiana Maslany from Orphan Black.

Not only is Tatiana turning in the best performance of the year, I would say she is turning in the best female performance of all time.  I hate to ever use any kind of sexism, but if a man was playing 6 different roles, he would be nominated and wining every year.  I seriously do not understand how she didn’t even get nominated?  Her performance of Helena alone should be worth two Emmy’s.  This season she took each character to a new height.  Each clone is a three dimensional character.  This has been done with superb acting.  Shame on who ever wins best actress. (unless it is Kerry Washington because I love Scandal)

2. David Lynch doesn’t win for Directing.

I can almost understand Twin Peaks getting snubbed the first year because the show was so new and Emmy is so old.  I am sure dancing midgets and silent curtain rods were above the voters in 1990, but Lynch’s directing of the pilot episode of Twin Peaks is a masterpiece.  Whenever a movie director does a pilot today, (Martin Scorsese for Boardwalk Empire, Barry Sonnenfeld for Pushing Daisies) they give out an Emmy in a moment.  Lynch earned his with the shot of Ray Wise finding out his daughter is dead.  The camera uses every spot on the screen as we see the Sheriff pull up in the background and we dread watching a parent get the worst news they can receive.  Ray Wise should have won an Emmy in season 2 no doubt, but it is Lynch’s directing Emmy that still gives me Garmonbozia.

3. Martin Sheen doesn’t win for arguing with God….in Latin

For seven season Martin Sheen led our fictional country.  For seven seasons he lost the Emmy.  Mostly to Tony Soprano who really didn’t need three wins.  In my perfect world, if you won an Emmy this year, the following year you would not be eligible for winning for the same show.  I think after losing the award, Aaron Sorkin decided to take matters into his own hands.  He wrote Martin a monologue where the president, alone in a church, argued with God.  To top it all off he did it in Latin with no subtitles.  We didn’t need to understand the words, Martin was telling us with his acting.

4. Patrick Stewart doesnt win for Star Trek.

I understand that it is easy to discount science fiction from an awards point of view.  I will never understand how Patrick Stewart didn’t win for playing Captain Piccard.  He may just be the best actor to ever work on television from a training and back ground stand point.  Year in and year out he played a captain with a level of respect that had not been displayed on television before.  In season 6,  Chain of Command part 2, he took everything to a new level.  Not only did he not win for this episode, he wasn’t even nominated.  He should have won just for his last line of, “There are four lights.”  Watching the way he played this scene is a lesson in acting.  Ask yourself would most men have screamed this with anguish instead of anger?

5. Jason Alexandar doesn’t win for Seinfeld.

A trivia question for you to use at the bar.  Which NBC Sitcom did all the cast members win an Emmy for?  Most will guess Seinfeld, but the answer is Will & Grace.  Nothing against that show but the answer should be Seinfeld.  The first three years of Seinfeld, Jason was the best actor on the show.  His performance in “The Note” when George is given a massage by a man has subtleties that none of the rest of the cast could ever have pulled off.  I will freely admit that his acting just became a series of yells in the later years but Jason deserved to reach the podium at least in those early years.

6. Joss Whedon doesn’t win for writing original music.

You could totally do a list of why Joss should have won a million Emmy’s.  Producing, directing, writing and more.  (Not to mention Sarah Michelle Gellar) But the one that baffled me is in the original song category.  When he wrote a complete musical episode of Buffy with all original music, it seemed like a great way to give him his Emmy due.  The songs were not cheap and simple like other shows sometimes do with Musical episodes.  The songs were comical, emotional and multi-layered….just like Buffy.

I could go on, but I will stop at 6.  What are your Emmy Snubs?

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82 Twin Peaks Box Set Missing Pieces

82 Podcast

A Group discussion about the new Twin Peaks deleted scenes.  The Red Room gives you all the explaination you will ever need.  Do you want to know who Judy is?  Do you want to know what the final scenes are about?  We tell it all.  You have music questions?  We have Music Answers.  What are the new tracks in the scenes?  We have Ross Dudle a Twin Peaks Music Specialist.  We have Pieter from Welcome To Twin Peaks to talk about the Lip Sync issues.  We have Brad Dukes (Author of Refections) who went to the world premiere of the scenes with Lynch himself  (No, they didn’t car pool.)  Wait till you find out where Brad was when we interviewed him. David Bushman from the Paley Center gives his Donna opinions.  We have fan Harold Wallin to give us his perspective.  We have Red Room La Corespondent Courtenay Stallings who covered the USC Event.  This is a huge undertaking and it is all for you.  Please order the set, or one of the books we mention from the links we provide below to help fund the fourth season of the Red Room.  The Brad Dukes book really is a must own. Enjoy.

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The Missing Pieces were Missed

1400169317000-TwinPeaksBluRayCoverThe Red Room Podcast mentioned the deleted scenes from Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me on our second Podcast.  We have had 8 podcasts about Twin Peaks and we are prepping the 9th right now.  We will have a huge panel to dissect the missing pieces, the deleted scenes, and the box set of Twin Peaks.  I have watched the 90 minute “movie” once and I have some first thoughts to share.  Remember, I have been waiting 22 years for these so I am sure there will be many thoughts that change and grow over the years.   These are my first thoughts.  So please join us this weekend when we publish episode 82 with Bring Back Twin Peaks, Brad Dukes (Reflections Author Click here to order this book), David Bushman (Paley Center), Welcome To Twin Peaks, Ross Dudle (Music expert), Courtenay Stallings (USC cast reunion), Harold Wallin and Josh and I.  Subscribe at iTunes and follow us on Twitter to get more information.

1. The scenes make Fire Walk With Me are wonderful and had to be cut.

Film Threat coverI love FWWM more than the series and I always have but I don’t think it should be 4 hours long.  Lynch had to make a tough choice.   He had to decide what needed to go.  Either he told Laura’s Story or the town’s.  He made the right choice.  The deleted scenes are wonderful and they even clue you into more deep dark secrets and connections, but they would have made the movie a jumbled mess.  The way it plays now, it is a story of two women who are murdered, Teresa Banks and Laura Palmer.  What would Big Ed and Norma have to do with that?  These missing pieces show that David Lynch might just be the most pure artist ever.  He made cuts he knew his fans would love to tell the best story he could.

2. Big Ed and Norma are the heart of Twin Peaks, musically.

Yes, I know I just said that he should have cut the scene with Big Ed and Norma in the parked truck.  Musically, this scene is amazing.  If you remember, in the pilot of Twin Peaks, Norma and Ed have a discussion while a song plays.  This scene is repeated in a truck in FWWM.  In the pilot, Falling is playing, which is the theme to the series.  In this new scene, a saxophone version of She Would Die For Love is playing.  This is the theme for the movie.  I like this tie in.  And before you tell me that this is coincidence, watch the closing credits and see how important music is to Lynch.  Over 50% of the credits is dedicated to music.  When is the last time you saw an all instrumental score listed in the end credits with names of the songs?  Never.

3. Sheryl Lee is the hidden Meryl Streep of her generation.

28-laura-sees-her-fatherHer performance was already legendary.  These scenes take it to a new level.  There is something about watching an actor kick ass and take names in a Master Shot. I will be discussing my Master Shot theory more on the podcast.  Let me just say Sheryl’s heart breaking performance is taken to a new level with the dinner scene, rejecting Dr. Jacoby (a man she went to for help) and all the scenes with her mom.

4. Grace Zambriskie got hosed the most.

The actor that really got screwed by these scenes sitting on a shelf for 22 years is Grace Zambriskie.  She never had many important scenes in the series or the movie.  She was always fine.  These twinpeaks-595-1395861017scenes show what she is capable of.  Sarah Palmer might have been a more popular character if these scenes were released.

5. My love for Twin Peaks will never die.

The other day I saw someone post that Twin Peaks is the greatest show ever put on television.  I can’t say that I agree.  The greatest show ever put on television cannot have a sub plot like Little Nicky, Dick and Andy.  Twin Peaks is too flawed to be the greatest.  I just love it more than I love any show or any artist.  Is it because I saw it when i was in college when I was young and impressionable?  Is it because the imagery is so stark you can’t look away?  Is it because it is filled with beautiful women?  Is it because at it’s core it is just so damn sad?  I really don’t know.  But my excitement at looking a the packaging, the Blu-Ray menus and these new scenes means that it is at least the show that I love the most.  I thank David Lynch and Mark Frost for giving us a world that keeps giving even 25 years later.

Tune in to Episode 82 of The Red Room Podcast for more information about the Missing Pieces

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The Lady Who Lunched : Elaine Stritch

73 PodcastAs soon as the final chords were played at Elaine Stritch sings Sondheim at the Carlyle Cafe, I got up from my front row seat and made my way to the back of the bar.  I had spent a month’s salary to get to see Broadway legend Elaine Stritch sing my favorite composer’s songs in New York City.  That was not enough for me.  I was bound and determined that I was going to meet her as well.  As I stood with my program in hand, here she came.  She smiled at me with that smile that only Elaine could give, then she whipped her head around to her assitant and yelled, “Where the hell is my pen, people.  I can’t sign without a pen.”  I held out my black marker and she signed her at that time 85 year old name to my poster.  She never gave me my pen back.

imageOn Thursday, July 17th Elaine Stritch passed away.  The world of show will never be the same again.  If you don’t know the name you will recgonzie the face, the voice or the pantless legs.  You might know her from The Cosby Show, Law & Order or 30 Rock.  I knew her as Joanne from Sondheim’s Company.  Her version of the Ladies Who Lunch will live on just like The Beatles’s Twist and Shout or Billy Joel’s Piano Man.  Some things are imprinted in pop culture for ever.

Elaine’s last year of life is documented in Elaine Strich Shoot Me.  I was lucky enough to interview the director of the movie Chiemi Karasawa for Episode 73 of The Red Room Podcast.  That interview was later published in the magazine The Sondheim Review.  Elaine pushed Chiemi into directing and shaped her life.  Elaine indirectly helped me get published.  She inspired people with her bravery of alcholism, diabeties and aging.  She braved the stage in her final years not knowing if the words would come to her or not.  Any performer will tell you that is an amazing act of bravery.  Her life and stories are also documented in her one woman show, At Liberty.  If you even have a passing interest in Broadway or old time Hollywood, I know you would love it.  She pulls you in with a story teller’s abilty that I will be jealous of for life.

There are really only a handful of performers that truly amaze me.  Most people in this era of acting confus fame with talent.  Elaine was someone who had more talent than fame.  Her view on acting, the stage and what it means to be a “Star” has passed on.  But her songs, her performances and her standard is captured on film.  She will not be replaced.  It reminds me of when we lost Johnny Carson.  You just know a bridge to the past has been permantly closed.  I shutter to think of what will replace it.  But when it worries me, I will watch her performance at the end of the Sondheim Birthday Concert.  After two and half hours of show stopping performances, a 86 year old woman stood up and sang I’m Still Here to close the show.  It was the only standing ovation of the evening up to that point.  She stood surrounded by today’s leading broadway stars all at least a quarter of her age and she stopped the show once again.  “I’ve run the gamut, A to Z, three cheers and dammit, C’est la Vie.  I got through all of last year, and I’m here.”  She may be gone, but she will always be here.  And I’ll drink to that.

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New Twin Peaks Promo

1400169317000-TwinPeaksBluRayCover

Here it is.  The new preview for the Twin Peaks Blu Ray set.  Watch it and pre-order it here.

 

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81 Twin Peaks Reflections Interview

81 PodcastSeason 3 comes to a close just like it began, with us discussing a new Twin Peaks Book. In episode 81 we welcome Brad Dukes, author of Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks.   Click here to order this book. He interviewed everyone you can think of from Twin Peaks.  From Mark Frost, Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, Angelo Badalamenti, Julee Cruise, Kyle MacLachlan, to the executives, directors, set designers and probably the mail man that brought your TV Guide to your house back in the 90’s.  Brad takes you through the roller coaster ride that was Twin Peaks not with his opinions but the actual opinions of the people who created the show.  We also discuss the upcoming Blue Ray release with the Holy Grail of Twin Peaks, the deleted scenes. (Order the upcoming set from the link below)

We then wrap up this podcast with a quick TV discussion as this episode serves as our season finale.  We discuss Orphan Black, Fox’s Cosmos and HBO’s Last Week With John Oliver.  We will be back for one summer episode when the Blue Ray of Twin Peaks is released.  Thank you so much for listening to 22 episodes of the Podcast this season.  It was our most ambitious year and we really appreciate every listener.

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