World of Tomorrow Episode Three: The Absent Destinations of David Prime (2020, Don Hertzfeldt)

Hertzfeldt comes up with his biggest horror yet: embedded-HUD popup ads. A future Emily backup clone contacts a past David and sends him on a disfiguring journey to retrieve secret messages about the clandestine between-time assassinations of various Davids by other Davids. It’s twisty! And excellent, and full of more wonderful quotes, and I’ll be watching these forever.


Stump the Guesser (2020, Maddin/Johnson/Johnson)

The Odenkirk-looking Guesser (The Editor from The Editor) is renowned for his abilities, but when he runs out of guessing milk, things go bad and his guessing license is revoked. But during this time he falls in love with his long-lost sister, spends some time scientifically disproving theories of heredity in order to marry her, but things go badly at the end when he has to guess which door she’s behind. Some fun leaps of logic and distorted visuals here, but I wasn’t feeling it as much as other Maddin films.


Accounting for some other things watched recently… The Mads from MST3K have been doing monthly live shows. I checked out Glen or Glenda, a movie that’s so busy explaining itself that it never gets to the movie, and told Neil:

That was… really fun. That’s the most I’ve enjoyed a MST3K-related thing since the end of the sci-fi channel years. I don’t know if it’s because of their obvious affection for the material, or if I’m just in the right mood. I’d never seen the feature either – shame on me, after digging the Tim Burton version for 25 years now (oh you just tried to watch it, is it cringey now? Is it Johnny Depp’s fault?) and the Mads nailed it in their intro when they said this movie has everything, but it also has nothing.

Next was The Tingler, which I already just barely remember (also explainy, features Vincent Price)… then the truly baffling, tensionless version of The Most Dangerous Game called Walk The Dark Street. I think the guy from The Rifleman played the baddie. Then some shorts I should track and name, but am not gonna.


Hannah Gadsby’s Douglas is her stand-up comedy special to follow Nanette, which was the special to end stand-up comedy, and yet she pulls off the follow-up by creating another perfectly-constructed show and this time being breathtakingly funny. That sounds like a cliche, but I had to pause the show to catch my breath.

And Katy and I watched something called Australia: Land of Parrots, which is everything you’d dream it would be, and I should just play it on a loop.

After sitting through two stiff early horrors, this was more like it – the voodoo-magic of White Zombie and satanism of The Devil Rides Out thrown into a noir-blender. Unlike The Fly its style and music can’t quite transcend its 1980’s origins, but it’s a good try.

Angel is Mickey Rourke, and I’m not used to seeing him pre-Sin City – he looks more like Mathieu Amalric here. He’s hired by the devil Robert De Niro (“Louis Cyphre… Lucifer… even your name is a dime-store joke”) in 1955 to track down devil-dealing singer Johnny Favorite who disappeared without paying his debts (reminiscent of Hellraiser from the same year). Angel follows the leads to New Orleans, meets Favorite’s ex Charlotte Rampling, Favorite’s daughter Lisa Bonet, and Favorite’s bandmate Brownie McGhee, all of whom end up murdered. But Angel himself is the missing Johnny, and after he tracks down all his old friends and family (and has sex with his own daughter btw), he blacks out and murders them, before the devil reveals all and Johnny/Angel is taken away.

Rewatching this series for obvious reasons, after recently reviewing the prequel film. I remember season two becoming tedious, so I’m only watching the late episodes directed by Lynch and/or written by Frost, which will leave some major plot holes I can cover with synopses from wikipedia or wherever. So many characters to keep track of, and so many actors I haven’t seen since the show ended in 1991, and some I have.

Agent Dale Cooper – loves Tibet, doughnuts, clean air and good coffee. I’ve seen Kyle MacLachlan in Northfork, Portlandia, and that version of Kafka’s The Trial which I don’t remember at all but IMDB says I gave it a 7/10.

Lucy is the police receptionist who has feelings for Andy. Kimmy Robertson did voices in some Disney movies and The Tick.

Deputy Andy is dumb as hell. Harry Goaz worked with director David Lowery before his Ain’t Them Bodies Saints breakout.

Sheriff Harry Truman is a good lawman, secretly (everything in the show is “secretly”) dating Josie Packard. Michael Ontkean costarred in a Disney movie with four monkeys and Wilford Brimley, and was apparently in The Descendants.

Deputy Hawk is a good, quiet cop. Michael Horse was in Passenger 57 and a movie directed by John Travolta’s older brother.

Agent Albert Rosenfield works with Cooper, expresses contempt for the locals. Miguel Ferrer died the week I started season two, also starred in On The Air.

James Hurley is sweet but so dumb, per an audiotape of Laura’s. He runs around with Donna playing detective. James Marshall was one of the murderous privates on trial in A Few Good Men.

Maddy is Laura’s identical twin cousin, who appears in the show immediately after the show-within-the-show (soap opera Invitation to Love) introduces its own identical-twin plot. Sheryl Lee played twins again in the great Mother Night, also costarred in the unfortunate John Carpenter’s Vampires.

Donna Hayward is Laura’s innocent friend who ends up with James after Laura’s death. Lara Flynn Boyle was Ally Sheedy’s predecessor in Happiness, also starred in Threesome and the show The Practice.

Leland Palmer, Laura’s dad and killer and the town lawyer… is complicated. Ray Wise is incredible and prolific but I’ve seen him in too few things (Good Night and Good Luck, Bob Roberts).

Sarah Palmer is Laura’s traumatized mom with freaky hair. Grace Zabriskie got to look freaky again in Inland Empire and My Son My Son What Have Ye Done, was a regular on Big Love.

Will Hayward is the town doctor who ends up discussing dead and comatose bodies with Agent Cooper. He’s Donna’s dad of course, with a wife in a wheelchair and at least one other daughter. Warren Frost, Mark’s dad, did some Matlock, died just last week.

Ben Horne runs the town’s hotel, department store, and a brothel called One Eyed Jack’s over the Canadian border, is always trying to do business deals with rowdy groups of foreigners who get frightened off by murderous town rumors. Richard Beymer was in Angelina Jolie movie Foxfire, earlier Bachelor Flat and West Side Story.

Jerry Horne is Ben’s excitable little brother who loves exotic food, business deals and the local brothel. David Patrick Kelly was the military guy who Lysistrata ties up in Chi-Raq, also in the John Wick movies and played the president in Flags of Our Fathers.

Dr. Jacoby was Laura’s wacky psychiatrist and had an unhealthy romantic interest in her. I don’t think we see any other locals going to his office except Bobby one time, so he’s got enough free time to chase ghosts. Russ Tamblyn, Ben Horne’s best friend in West Side Story, had roles in Drive, Django Unchained and Cabin Boy, and played a “Dr. Jacoby” on General Hospital.

Audrey Horne is Ben’s daughter who has to avoid a horrifying meeting with him at One Eyed Jack’s while she’s retracing Laura’s steps. Sherilyn Fenn starred in Boxing Helena, which I have yet to find a decent copy of.

Major Briggs doesn’t know how to deal with his wayward son Bobby, leaks mysterious military intel to Cooper. “The owls are not what they seem.” Don Davis was a regular on the Stargate TV series, which ran for more seasons that I realized.

Bobby Briggs is excitable boyfriend of Laura Palmer and Shelly, sullen son of Major Briggs, rival of James Hurley, drug dealer friend of Mike (“Mike and Bobby” mirroring the evil Black Lodge “Mike and Bob”) and associate of Leo and Jacques. Dana Ashbrook was in the L.A. Crash TV series and the latest Bill Plympton feature.

Leo Johnson is a drug dealer, spouse abuser and murderer, is in a coma at the start of s2. Eric DaRe appeared with good company (Brad Dourif, Angela Bassett) in Critters 4.

Big Ed Hurley, James’s dad, married to Nadine but thinking about leaving her for Norma. Runs a gas station. Everett McGill was the villain(?) in The People Under The Stairs and appeared in The Straight Story.

Nadine Hurley, James’s mom though we never see them interact, wears an eyepatch and is obsessed with creating silent drape runners. Later she gets amnesia and super strength and falls for Bobby’s friend Mike. Wendy Robie was in Corbin Bernsen horror The Dentist 2.

Shelly Johnson is Leo’s abused wife, working at the diner, dating Bobby and conspiring to frame her husband for Laura Palmer’s death. Lynch’s character, Cooper’s boss, is sweet on her in season two. Mädchen Amick has been on every TV show at least once, plus the terrible Stephen King movie Sleepwalkers.

Josie Packard runs the sawmill, has a suspicious past, and I think was supposed to be a bigger deal but got left behind by the writers. Joan Chen was a movie star from The Last Emperor but wouldn’t fare as well in Hollywood, appearing in garbage action flicks Wedlock, On Deadly Ground and Judge Dredd.

Peter Martell helps Josie run the mill, isn’t as dumb as he looks. Jack Nance’s final film was Lost Highway.

Catherine Martell is married to Pete, resents Josie for owning the mill, which used to belong to Catherine’s brother/Josie’s late husband Andrew, who of course turns out not to be dead. Piper Laurie played Carrie‘s crazy mom, later in The Crossing Guard and The Dead Girl.

Norma Jennings is dating Big Ed, runs the diner, unhappily married to Hank. Peggy Lipton is Rashida Jones’s mom, appeared in modern classic The Postman.

Hank Jennings is a criminal in cahoots with Leo and Jacques. He thinks he killed Josie’s husband, gets out of prison halfway through s1. Chris Mulkey acts in a ton of movies, recently Whiplash and Cloverfield.

Margaret has a log that sometimes sees things. Catherine Coulson starred in early Lynch short The Amputee, died before the reboot filmed but not before appearing as “Wood Woman” in a Psych episode.

Julee Cruise, house musician at the Roadhouse. I have her album The Voice of Love, produced by Lynch and Badalamenti.

The Giant appears to Cooper in dreams and visions, dropping cryptic clues. Carel Struycken played Lurch in the Addams Family movies and appeared in Men In Black.

The Waiter might be an alternate form of The Giant. Only Cooper can see the two of them. Hank Worden did nothing after Twin Peaks but plenty beforehand as a Westerns regular (marshall in Forty Guns, drunk in The Big Sky).

The Man From Another Place is maybe Bob’s boss or partner, speaks in reverse, is somehow connected to One-Armed Mike. Michael J. Anderson played a similarly mysterious fellow in a curtained room in Mulholland Dr., was a regular on Carvivàle.


Season two, Cooper recovers from a gunshot wound. I think Josie ended up being the shooter, but skipped enough episodes that I’m not sure why.

“You’d better bring Agent Cooper up to date.”
“Leo Johnson was shot. Jacques Renault was strangled. The mill burned. Shelley and Pete got smoke inhalation. Catherine and Josie are missing. Nadine is in a coma from taking sleeping pills.”

A bunch of new characters show up… I missed most of their intros, but got to see a few of them die. Sadly I missed cross-dressing David Duchovny completely, and I saw Billy Zane but don’t remember what his deal is.

Annie is Norma’s younger sister, starts dating Cooper then gets kidnapped by Earle. Coop’s searching for Annie when he ends up in the Black Lodge. I haven’t seen Heather Graham lately but it seems she was everywhere in the late 1990’s: Swingers, Austin Powers, Scream, etc., and most notably Boogie Nights.

Dick Tremayne was Lucy’s classy lover while on break from Andy. When she gets pregnant and isn’t sure which is the father, Dick and Andy get competitive. Ian Buchanan starred in On The Air and did a million soap opera episodes.

Windom Earle is Agent Cooper’s rival, who gets tangled up in the crimes and horrors before having his soul sucked out by Bob in the final episode. Kenneth Welsh, seen here about to murder Ted Raimi, seems to be tenth-billed in bunches of horror/action movies.

Andrew Packard returns from the “dead” in season two only to be blown up in the finale, along with poor Pete and probably Audrey who was chained to the vault door at the time. Dan O’Herlihy, Bunuel’s Robinson Crusoe, was also in The Dead, Fail-Safe, Imitation of Life and Odd Man Out.


I was surprised that nothing supernatural happens until the end of episode 3, four hours into the series. Really a top-notch melodrama with excellent casting, at least for a while. Here’s hoping the reboot is great.

“If you’re doing a revolution, you should have the guts to kill a person.”

Theoretically, this kind of thing is right up my alley: four-hour, long-take, wide-shot foreign film-fest fare with an elliptical ending. But I dunno, I feel like it made its point in a few dialogue scenes scattered throughout, and the rest of the movie was either waiting around, or following a relentlessly grim plot to its lack of conclusion.

Crime and Punishment, but Fabian (Sid Lucero of Independencia) is our Raskolnikov who does the crime, and Joaquin is his neighbor who receives the punishment. It’s hard to know if Fabian is tormented by his crime, or if he’s just an asshole – after all, he seems equally tormented in the first hour of the movie before killing the moneylender woman and her daughter as he does at the end. After the homicide, the middle half of the movie follows imprisoned Joaquin, locked up with a bunch of not-bad guys and one violent psychopath named Wakwak, and Joaquin’s family led by Eliza (Angeli Bayani of Ilo Ilo and Lav’s Melancholia).

Prison visit:

I think Eliza’s sister Ading isn’t too bright, so Eliza is caring for her two kids and the sister, barely making ends meet by selling vegetables. We think a turning point has come when washed-up Fabian finally confronts Eliza after four years, guiltily giving her the cash he got from selling his murder-scene loot, then coercing his former law professors to take up her husband’s case. We assume the movie’s heading towards Fabian turning himself in (as did Peter Lorre and Markku Toikka). Instead he takes his war on society to a new level, visiting his family home only to rape his sister and kill his dog. Meanwhile Eliza visits her imprisoned husband for the first time in years then dies in a bus crash on the way home. Then Fabian goes for a boat ride, the end.

Played Cannes UCR with Stranger by the Lake and Bastards and Manuscripts Don’t Burn – semi-comprehensible stories with unpleasant characters were in vogue that year.

Fabian sleeping with his best friend’s girl:

Eliza fails to find sympathy from the doomed moneylender:

B. Nelepo in Cinema Scope:

An angry narrative by any definition, Norte portrays a country accursed, whose curse, by extension, spills over onto its people; around this curse, furthermore, the backstories of two families weave a subplot of marked importance. In order to prove that their family was doomed to fail from the start, Fabian torments his sister at the end of the movie (the girl is also in a cult, which seems to be a common practice among Filipinos: see Century of Birthing). Their parents, as it turns out, had moved to the US, leaving the kids in the care of hired help. Joaquin’s wife blames his subsequent misfortunes on herself for not letting him work abroad. Rejecting those who have left, the country is twice as harsh on those who have stayed, a theme Diaz has developed before, particularly in Butterflies Have No Memories.

M. D’Angelo:

If Fabian and Joaquin are meant to be distinct individuals, the film is “merely” endless and pointless; I very much fear, alas, that Diaz intends them as class representatives, in which case it’s insultingly schematic verging on outright stupid.

V. Rizov:

Diaz is a formidable talent, eliciting flawlessly naturalistic performances and exhibiting casual visual panache. At 250 minutes, Norte is extremely watchable, and there’s the rub: it’s reasonable to expect transcendence at that sustained length, but instead we get a relatively straightforward tract on political abuses, Christian dogma and social inequity in Filipino society.


The Day Before The End (2016, Lav Diaz)

Also watched this short I found online. Not sure that Norte justified its apocalyptic subtitle, and this short is no Last Night either. Nice b/w photography but not too fun – I think I prefer narrative Lav to experimental. People are rehearsing Shakespeare in public, then wading through torrential rain. This has an IMDB entry, and its description is better than the actual movie: “In the year 2050, the Philippines braces for the coming of the fiercest storm ever to hit the country. And as wind and waters start to rage, poets wander the streets.”

yelling Shakespeare in unison:

I started watching Masters of Horror shortly before starting the movie blog, so in my season one round-up, three episodes are mentioned but got no writeup. Well it turns out MoH blu-rays are cheap, so now I own those three episodes, and am gonna rewatch the two good ones – Mick Garris’s Chocolate is doomed to be the odd man out.

Imprint was the episode I remembered the least. I wanted Miike’s English-language debut to be better than it was, and now that I can enable subtitles I didn’t miss any part of the story, but it seems like he and writer Shimako Iwai were trying to impress by throwing in every shocking thing they could come up with: pregnant prostitute murder, sibling incest, parental rape, aborted babies tossed casually into the river, a syphilitic dwarf (actor familiar from Zebraman 2), birth defects, Audition-reminiscent needle torture, madness, hanging and strangling and… this:

But there’s great color and some arresting images – more than any other MoH episode, I’d guess.

And the actors all acquit themselves well enough with the English dialogue, even native speaker Billy Drago (Papa Jupiter in The Hills Have Eyes Remake). Drago has made his fortune and returned to Prostitute Island to rescue his lovely Komomo (Michié of R100) but is told that she’s dead by a facially-deformed woman (Mystery Train star Yûki Kudô), who proceeds to tell him why, changing the story multiple times making herself more and more guilty of Komomo’s torture (at the hands of an evil needle woman played by the author Iwai) for supposedly stealing a ring from the house madam (Toshie Negishi of Over Your Dead Body and Audition), until Drago has heard enough stories, murders the woman and goes to jail.

Rebellious young Judy (Marta Alicia of Body Chemistry 4: Full Exposure) is rebelling against Infinisynth, the mind-control company that provides her family with virtual-reality escapism via a data port in the back of their necks. She’s chastised by the Systems Operator for invading her mom’s dreams and soon expelled into the wastelands outside their cushy VR-fueled apartment building, where she’s discovered and protected by post-apocalyptic survivalist Bruce Campbell and threatened by a cult of underground mutants led by Angus Scrimm.

Angus displays his ID card:

Bruce displays a possum:

So it’s Ash vs. The Tall Man in a post-apocalyptic virtual-reality sci-fi/horror… in HD. But it’s poorly made, dingy looking and dull, all those promising ideas and cast members wasted on a movie that doesn’t quite work. At least it continues to get weirder, Angus having his mutants comb through the ruins of civilization for useful junk, occasionally sacrificing a mutant via his person-juicing-machine. He reveals that he’s Judy’s father and reveals his plan to repopulate the earth with her in the same scene. Bruce proves an ineffective protector, is fed to pirahnas. Then Angus says it was all a test, that he’s the SysOp of the VR universe and he wants his daughter to take over. Then that was all a dream – then that was all a dream. The Matrix and Existenz would use similar ideas with improved cinematography.

Judy’s mutant army:

Sleep pods from Je t’aime, je t’aime:

SysOp Guy Fieri:

Produced by the short-lived Fangoria Films, who at least attracted good casts, with Oliver Reed and Karen Black in their other early-90’s movies. From the director of Scanner Cop II and Hollywood Boulevard II (no way), written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris (Terminator 3 and 4, The Net). At least something good came out of this movie – Bruce Campbell married the costume designer. Also, it appears to have invented the roomba.

Can’t figure out why this was made – straightforward haunted-house murder story with predictable twists, feeling at times like a remake of The Devil’s Backbone minus the evocative wartime setting. One character sees ghosts that lead her to the truth behind some murders, ghosts have similar look to the earlier film, phantom blood emanating from cracked-china holes in their translucent faces. But it’s undeniably a beautiful film, sumptuously designed with gorgeous candlelight and shadows and snowy mist, falling leaves, costumes, big creepy crumbling house, and so on. Nice iris-out effects complete the period look. Definitely good to see Guillermo returning to his gothic-horror roots – an enjoyable film to soak in, leaving me satisfied without that post-Martian malaise.

Mia Wasikowska has become a fave of scary/creepy movies (Stoker, The Double), plays a bookish New Yorker with rich dad Jim Beaver (TV’s Deadwood and Supernatural). Incestuous baron siblings Loki (Mia’s Only Lovers Left Alive costar) and Jessica Chastain (Take Shelter, Interstellar) are in town raising funds for their clay-excavation machine. Loki marries Mia and takes her home to England where she discovers he does this a lot, and the bodies/ghosts of his previous rich-girl wives are buried in red clay pools in the basement. Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam is Mia’s friend from home who comes to her rescue. Did I mention that Jessica Chastain is an axe murderer? That’s something you don’t expect.

Another talky, low-budget incest drama. Sallitt’s style is closer to Lena Dunham’s in Tiny Furniture (or a more naturalistic Wes Anderson) than to the indie dramas I’ve watched lately by Azazel Jacobs and Alex Ross Perry. The dialogue is well written and hilarious, and the image is super clean. And unlike the Jacobs and Perry movies, this one is fully engrossing, with a terrific lead performance.

Jackie is in love with her brother Matthew, who is leaving for college soon. She talks with her brother, with her mom (who is somewhat vacant and removed, has a mysterious past), with her therapist – there’s a lot of talking, and no music. She has sex with some hat-wearing dude at school who seems to barely care about her after her brother tells her about his girlfriend Yolanda (whom Jackie grudgingly likes). Jackie calls her desire “the unmentionable act,” never quite saying the title.

D.S. taken out-of-context from a Gorilla interview:

To me, movies are photographs and are therefore about the outside of things, surfaces that we can’t see past. .. I think I’m just trying to increase the sum total of mystery in the world, trying to hit the viewer with some fact that conveys forcibly how little access we have to people’s inner lives.

Amazing: Sallitt might turn this into a trilogy, though he’s not optimistic about finding the funding to make part three, so maybe not. Guess I didn’t realize how much I loved the movie until I read that news and couldn’t make myself stop smiling.

C. Marsh:

But what’s perhaps most striking about the film is that, despite being narrated in reflective voice-over by Jackie and more or less totally confined to her point of view, she remains something of a mystery throughout, seemingly unknowable no matter how close to her the movie encourages us become. This isn’t a failure of the film — as Sallitt describes her himself, Jackie is designed to be “fundamentally an unsolvable puzzle” despite being “wrapped in layers of plausible-looking psychology.”

JR (Carmen Altman, whose twitter reveals that she’s a stand-up comedian, and that yes she’s the daughter of Robert Altman but not THAT Robert Altman) has just broken up with her professor/boyfriend and enlists her brother (writer/director/star Perry) to help her pick up some stuff from her apartment. I think they go from Pennsylvania to Boston – something like that – annoying the hell out of each other the whole way, berating each other’s lives and careers (he writes copy for focus group presentations, she is an aspiring news anchor). He has a Michael Cera voice with a relentless rapid-fire delivery, eventually gets in a minor fight with her Henry Chunklet-looking ex and helps carry her two measly cardboard boxes away. Then they have sex in their hotel room.

Shot in grainy black-and-white with no particular style besides “cheap indie”. Katy seemed to find it exasperating, says she saw the incest bit coming since the beginning. The dialogue is mostly funny, but otherwise I’m not sure why this is getting much attention – maybe funny dialogue is enough.

M. Sicinski

We soon begin to recognize the real pain these two are carrying around. Their pathologies, the film argues, are unique; those all around them are crushingly typical. By the end of The Color Wheel, J.R. and Colin are somewhere well beyond the reach of cultural or cinematic domestication, as is the film itself.

but later:

Alex’s films are designed to be hard to like. They are about people and scenarios and environments that are deeply offputting, about humor-in-inverted-commas that makes you feel a bit unclean. Part of what I find deeply intriguing about The Color Wheel is that for so much of the first half of the film, I want to get away from it.

Perry had author Philip Roth in mind.

People say you can’t make an honest film from one of Roth’s novels because it would be nothing but people talking, characters who only live inside their own heads, followed by unforgivable and reprehensible sex. Which is basically exactly what The Color Wheel turned out to be. … I think cynicism is sorely lacking from independent films. There is an edge that is missing, which confuses me because most of us are making films with no stakes. You can get away with anything when you raise your own budget as a passion project so I’m not sure why people seem unwilling to push things in a more aggressive direction.