“This was important to me and I’m trying to figure out why.” Heard there was an overlooked Laura Dern trauma drama this year, so obviously I’m all over it. Premiered in competition at Sundance, with Blaze, Blindspotting, and Sorry to Bother You. A quarter of my top twenty movies of the year played there, but it’s still a scattershot festival so it’s hard to trust it. Hard to trust this movie too, when we’re already seeing flashbacks to earlier in the movie at the 18 minute mark.

Present Jenny + Past Jenny = the poster image

Dern is as good as expected, and Elizabeth Debicki (lately of Widows) is perfect as her riding instructor/molester, with handsome rapist husband Jason Ritter (Jeb in Oliver Stone’s W.). Documentary filmmaker Jenny’s mom Ellen Burstyn finds a disturbing story Jenny wrote years ago, wants her to come home and figure some things out, so we hang with Young Jenny (Isabelle Nélisse of both Mama and Mother) for half the movie and watch how she got into a relationship with a sexy attractive couple, which would be cool if Jenny wasn’t 13 at the time. Ends with Present Jenny talking with Past Jenny (given away by the movie poster). This is based closely on the filmmaker’s life, but The Rider it ain’t – the writing is obvious, and despite all the professionalism on display, it feels like a TV movie that scored a great cast.

Lovely, wholesome molesters:

Of our original trio, Han Solo has died in part 7, Leia now leads the resistance with second-in-command Laura Dern and Han-like hotshot flyboy Poe (Oscar Isaac), and Luke is secluded on an island refusing to help would-be protege Rey (Daisy Ridley) because he lost control of his last protege Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). John Boyega (Attack the Block) apparently had a larger role jumpstarting the narrative in part 7 – here he’s paired with engineer/love interest Rose (Kelly Tran) trying to help the rickety remains of the resistance escape from Kylo and howling ham sandwich Domhnall Gleeson in their attack fleet. Benicio Del Toro is a smooth traitor to both sides, there are computer-animated characters who don’t quite work, appearances by Yoda, Chewbacca and the robots. I appreciated Rian Johnson’s commitment to filming it all in well-designed visual frames, and this would probably rival the Guardians of the Galaxy movies in rewatchability, but that doesn’t make me happy that Rian is committed to a decade of Star Wars instead of original stories.

“Is it future or is it past?”

This was pure pleasure. If the show’s original run taught us anything, it was to enjoy the mystery, because if you’re just enduring a show for eighteen hours waiting for clever answers at the end, you’ll be deservedly disappointed. The blu-ray has already been announced, so I’m saving the thinkpieces and episode recaps and conspiracy theories for after a second viewing.

“It is in our house now.” The Tall Man appears in the first scene, and almost everyone from seasons one and two and Fire Walk, whether characters or actors are alive or dead or refused to appear in the show, will be present in some way or another. And I really need screen shots with updates for each character and situation. Lynch merges the casts of Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me with Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire, brings in new mood music and his own paintings as visual design, forming an Expanded Lynchian Universe. Each episode is dedicated to a different departed actor (or character) which combines with the resurrections (Don Davis, David Bowie) and final testaments (Catherine Coulson, Miguel Ferrer) of its cast, and the limbo/afterlife storylines of the Black Lodge and Laura Palmer, the aged actors and out-of-time (“what year is this?”) feel of this belated sequel give the whole thing a sense of death and mystery beyond the storyline alone.

Some people not in the original show lineup:

Dougie “Mr. Jackpots” Jones (Kyle MacLachlan) works in insurance, lives in the Las Vegas suburbs, married to Janey-E (Naomi Watts of Mulholland Drive), with son Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon, dangerous telekinetic kid of Looper).

The Mitchum Brothers (Jim Belushi, and Robert Knepper of Carnivale) run a casino insured by Dougie’s firm, assisted by comic-relief Candie (Amy Shiels, Luna in the Final Fantasy games). Dougie’s boss is the very patient Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray, Marilyn Monroe’s costar in Bus Stop), and his coworker/rival is sweaty Tom Sizemore, who is working as a spy for Mulholland Drive‘s Dinerbrows (Patrick Fischler) trying to frame Dougie.

New FBI agent Chrysta Bell works with Gordon Cole and Albert, along with the previously unseen Diane (Laura Dern in a wig), on the case of Bill (Matthew Lillard) who appears to have killed a woman he was having an affair with, or possibly her body was replaced with that of the late Major Briggs by interdimensional gas-station-dwelling black-faced woodsmen.

Young, serious Sam (Ben Rosenfield of Person to Person) and his girl Tracey (Madeline Zima of Californication) are paid to watch and videotape an interdimensional box, but instead they have sex, and in classic horror movie tradition, get brutally murdered for it.

Evil Cooper/Bob (Kyle MacLachlan) drives around with minions Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tim Roth and Ray (George Griffith), beginning in South Dakota.

Londoner Freddie (Jake Wardle) got turned into One Punch Man by The Giant (aka The Fireman), now works as a security guard with James Hurley, who still sings his hit song “Just You & I” at the Bang Bang Bar some nights. Fate brings Freddie to Twin Peaks to destroy Bob, which emerges from Evil Coop as an orb.

Some series regulars:

Andy and Lucy (now with son Wally Brando: Michael Cera) still work at the Twin Peaks sheriff’s office with Hawk, and now with Truman’s brother Robert Forster (with naggy wife Candy Clark of American Graffiti), Deputy Bobby Briggs, and traitor Deputy Chad (John Pirruccello of an upcoming hit-man comedy)

Log Lady Margaret speaks with Hawk on the phone from her death bed, feeding him cryptic clues. One-armed Mike appears to Coop-as-Dougie, feeding him pretty straightforward clues.

Nadine runs a silent drape shop, religiously watches the pirate TV broadcasts of Dr. Jacoby, who sells gold spray-painted shovels. Norma is franchising the diner with help of her guy Walter (Grant Goodeve of Eight is Enough, Northern Exposure), while Big Ed still pines for her.

Amanda Seyfried (daughter of Shelly) is dating psycho cokehead Caleb Landry Jones (son of Audrey Horne), who runs over a kid then tries to murder a witness living in Harry Dean Stanton’s trailer park.

Walter Olkewicz, who played the late Jacques Renault, runs the Bang Bang Bar as an identical Renault relative.

Jerry Horne is looking more like Jerry Garcia, gets lost in the woods, fights with his own foot, is finally discovered naked in Wyoming.

Bobby Briggs is a level-headed, good-hearted policeman, and the best surprise of the new series.

Laura Palmer’s mom doesn’t do well in social situations, freaks out at the convenience store, watches TV on a time-loop, her house a screaming dim red hell.

I never figured out who Judy is, where Audrey Horne was or where she ends up, who Balthazar Getty played, or various other threads which a second viewing will probably not enlighten.

Plus cameos by Ray Wise, David Duchovny, Jack Nance, and almost everyone else, living or dead (except Harry Truman and Donna) and some fifteen music acts, Ethan Suplee, John Ennis, Ernie Hudson, etc.

Other things:

an eyeless woman with a connection to Diane… Diane is Naomi Watts’s half-sister… the picture glitching back and forth like a Martin Arnold film… an obsession with numbers… digital spaces like Chris Marker videos, and effects completely unconcerned with looking realistic… the green ring from Fire Walk With Me… Lucy doesn’t understand cellphones… the best closing songs at the Bang Bang Bar… “hellllOOOooooOOOooo”… a short stabby hit man with his own theme music… a kung-fu drug dealer who does intense magic tricks… inside a 1945 atomic bomb… alien vomit… flickering lights and a giant tesla diving bell… a galaxy of firefly ghosts… beetle-moth-frog crawls out of a desert egg… “this is the water and this is the well”… references to “The Zone”… teens at the Bang Bang Bar with random teen problems and other scraps of side-character drama… Ashley Judd searches for a the source of a droning sound in Ben Horne’s lodge… a history of the FBI’s involvement with UFOs… Dougie electrocutes himself… Evil Coop gets taken out in the best possible way… the final Lynch/Frost logo noise scares the hell out of my birds… “We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream.”

I’ve been rewatching Reichart’s films and checking out the ones I missed (River of Grass and Night Moves) in prep for this – not only a new Reichardt film but an in-person visit and Q&A in little ol’ Lincoln. Katy liked Certain Women more than she expected to, and between the build-up, the Q&A and after-film discussions, I’ve put much offline energy into this movie, so will keep this post relatively short, leaning on quotes.

Three episodes, based on stories by Colin Meloy’s older sister. Laura Dern is a lawyer representing Jared Harris (I Shot Andy Warhol) who accepted a worker’s comp settlement and now won’t accept that he can’t sue. When he storms a city building and takes a hostage in order to review his file, Laura is sent in to talk him down. Next, Michelle Williams is trying to buy sandstone from elderly Rene Auberjonois (Deep Space Nine), but she and husband James Le Gros are having trouble forming a unified strategy. And third, lonesome rancher Lily Gladstone finds Kristen Stewart teaching night classes and starts attending in order to get closer to her.

Paula Bernstein: “Though the three segments of the film are only peripherally connected, they share the same pensive tone and convey a palpable sense of loneliness.” I thought they were just barely connected (Dern is glimpsed at the end of part three) until Katy pointed out that Dern is sleeping with Williams’s husband in the opening scene.

Alice Gregory:

While a lone man can be a hero — readily and right from the start — a lone woman is cause for concern. Despite their painterly settings and near-silent soundscapes, Reichardt’s films are animated by a sustained unease. The viewer anticipates a threat that could but never quite does progress to a state of emergency … It’s the low-grade but unrelenting sense of hazard that is a woman’s experience of merely moving through the world, an anxiety so quiet and constant it can be confused for nothing more than atmosphere.

D. Kasman:

With the exception of Gladstone’s lone rancher, these certain women are actually doing much better in their lives than Reichardt’s Oregonian outcasts she has so movingly introduced us to in the past, yet they each are united in a common feeling, emotional and existential, of just being on the outside, of being held on the cusp of what would make them happy and fulfilled.

Better than expected (because I expected Into The Wild with a happier ending). Reese Witherspoon goes on a life-cleansing solo voyage, encounters friends, admirers and dangers, a benevolent shoe company, potential-rapist hunters. Flashbacks to her mom Laura Dern dying of cancer and Reese’s ensuing descent were very well integrated into the present-day story. I am a fan of this movie’s editing. Vallée made last year’s Dallas Buyers Club, Nick Hornby adapted the memoir, and Reese might’ve won more awards if Julianne Moore hadn’t made an alzheimer’s drama the same year.

Didn’t stick with me very well the first time, maybe because it didn’t make enough narrative sense for my brain to properly hold on to, like a wacked dream that I remember clearly when I wake up but is already gone by the time I hit the shower, not related enough to reality to survive my beginning to ponder my work day. Should have watched it a couple times originally. But now I see I should watch more than a couple times, maybe annually from now on. Lynch’s most free, most trippy and loose movie, existing almost entirely in dream state, but also his most dirty and real looking because the DV photography feels like a home movie. Completely inexplicable and entirely worthwhile.

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Hard to watch at home. The three hour runtime, the almost entirely black scenes, and the very dynamic audio levels (quiet whispers turn into sudden shock sound effects and screams) work best when I’m home alone and wide awake on a winter’s night. I think it freaked out my birds more than anything else I’ve watched. Next time I’ll watch on my laptop, in accordance with Lynch’s dreams of an all-digital cinema.

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The plot, thanks to Cinema Scope:

Dern’s first incarnation, Nikki Grace, is an actress who lives in a cavernous Hollywood mansion and lands a coveted role in a Southern melodrama titled On High in Blue Tomorrows opposite suave ladies’ man Devon (Justin Theroux). She soon learns that the film is a remake and that the original Polish production was aborted when both leads were murdered.

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Nikki begins to merge with her character, Sue, and the script’s adulterous affair spills over into real life. But what’s real, and who’s dreaming whom? The boundary between the film and the film-within-the-film — indeed between all levels of reality — vanishes completely. Besides Nikki and Sue, Dern plays at least two other overlapping variations on the character: One lives in a shabby suburban house, sometimes with a harem of gum-chewing, finger-snapping young women. The other, a tough-talking Southern dame, is spilling her guts out in a dank room, telling floridly vulgar tales of sexual violence and terrible revenge. Interspersed throughout are scenes from a Beckettian sitcom with a rabbit-headed cast. Certain phrases, often pertaining to identity confusion (“I’m not who you think I am,” “Look at me and tell me if you’ve known me before”), repeat in varying contexts and start to acquire talismanic power. (The key to transcendental meditation, which Lynch has practiced for over three decades now, is the repetition of a personal mantra.) Meanwhile, the film we are watching is beamed to a TV in a hotel room, and a mystery brunette watches along with us, silently weeping.

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Did I write this weeks ago, or was I quoting from a website?: “Dern changes identities and locations, each with only a faint memory of the others, giving her a constant sense of unease.”

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The neighbor who visits her is awfully good in a Twin Peaks sort of way. A choreographed dance to “The Locomotion” manages to be one of the spookiest parts. Seeing father Rabbit leave his locked-down living room set is thrilling. Cameo by the girls from Darkened Room (actually only Jordan Ladd is strictly from Darkened Room, but I like to think they’re the same characters). William H. Macy in a big cheesy cameo as a radio reporter and Harry Dean Stanton as Irons’ sad assistant, always bumming money off people.

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Bright Lights:
“It sounds complicated, but it makes clear emotional sense, just as Mulholland Drive did.”

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House Next Door calls the ending hopeful, and I guess you could say that. Dern escapes from at least one of the films she’s trapped within, wakes from the dead and goes back home where, per HND, “Lynch returns to the face of Grace Zabriskie’s Neighbor and, before our jaundiced eyes, this formerly intimidating and ugly figure becomes suddenly beautiful and ethereal. Moreso than Dern’s final close-up (a stunner in its own right) I think the answers to the film’s many mysteries, for those who need them, are contained in Zabriskie’s sideways glance and virtuous smile.”

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Extras on the UK DVD are all interview-style. One is by The Guardian, one is by Mike Figgis at a hotel in Poland.
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Interviewer: “If T.M. creates positiveness… some people might ask: what about all the darkness that’s in the films?”
Lynch: “Exactly.”

On the inclusion of Rabbits in Inland Empire: “Sometimes we start something and we think it is that, and later… it sprouts and becomes a bigger thing.” Okay it’s not a great quote.

“Really the only difference [between IE and the earlier films] is Inland Empire was shot with DV… and it was a low-grade, bad DV.”
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“It is true that the 50’s gave birth to rock and roll and that early rock and roll holds a very special power, I think. It started the whole thing rolling, but in my mind it drifted away a little too quickly. And I think there’s more gold to mine from that feel of the first rock and roll.”

Repeats the same information over and over, not saying much for long periods, interviewers asking stupidly general questions hoping Lynch will tell them a nice story. He does tell a couple light ones, but three times each. So the final segment, The Air Is On Fire, comes as a happy surprise. It’s a biographer (who knows enough about Lynch not to ask pedestrian questions) viewing and discussing Lynch’s paintings and sound installations.
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“We’re cooking quinoa.”
“This pan is unbelievable.”
The U.S. DVD is already better than the U.K., with a b/w video of Lynch in his kitchen and a nice stills gallery, and that’s before I even get to the meat of the disc. Hey, he times his cooking the same way I do, by yelling out numbers from the clock instead of setting a proper timer.
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More Things That Happened is outtakes from IE. First 20 minutes are scenes with Dern’s circus husband. He comes home late. He sells a girl a watch.
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Dern continues talking to the man at top of the stairs. She has a crossed out “LB” tattoo on her hand. A girl with earrings talks to Dern about meeting Billy at a bar. Mostly people telling each other stories.
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Ballerina
A ballerina performs behind cloudy overlays and blobby digital soft focus to ambient music. Some neat effects in there but too long by half.
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Lynch (one) is a full-length documentary by BLACKandWHITE, whatever that is, company or person, on the making of Inland Empire. Lots of behind-the-scenes dealings, set construction, some talk with the actors, Lynch in every scene. Lynch 2 on the IE disc is presumably deleted scenes from that doc, another half hour of material. Not tremendously eye-opening, just gives you the impression that IE is completely Lynch’s artistic vision, if you couldn’t have figured that out before, down to the smallest detail. He yells at his crew on set then praises them up and down in interviews. We hear a lot about the improv nature of the film and script, but we see careful planning and scheduling of shots and scenes. Watching David choreograph the closing credits musical number, telling the lumberjack not to cut all the way through the log because “we’ve only got one log,” you realize that all the backstage footage in the world might be fun to see, but still wouldn’t explain a thing.
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“It’ll be more than a mouthful, which will look real, and it looks great. And you can throw up a lot of blood. Two times you’ll throw up.”

“There was a thought for a long time that you had to suffer in order to create, and this is just about opposite of the truth. If you’re suffering, even a little bit of suffering cuts into your creativity. In fact, the happier you are, and the more wide awake and rested you are, the better it goes… then the ideas can flow way better, way smoother and faster, and more of them.”

Stories is Lynch talking for 40 minutes, maybe excerpts from the website Q&A segments, about IE and digital and meditation, the usual topics. This is where the famous quote about watching a film on a fucking phone is from. His hatred extends to computers as well, but I think if he was here and took a look at my television setup and laptop setup, he’d have to grudgingly admit that I’m getting better picture and sound off the laptop.
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On a separate disc, Room To Dream: David Lynch and the Independent Filmmaker is mostly Lynch talking about himself and his working methods, and partly an advertisement for Avid systems. Best of all, it includes an extra scene related to Inland Empire. Windowboxed and interlaced, unfortunately – nice going, Avid.
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Sur la route de Mulholland Drive is a half-hour behind the scenes, interviewing all the principals and watching the filming. More interesting than most backstage press-kits if only because I’m unusually interested in the film. Following that is a cutdown of the film’s Cannes press conference.
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Le Son de David Lynch, another doc, from French television in 2007, interviews Lynch and a bunch of people I didn’t understand. Hmm, Wild at Heart was called Sailor et Lula over there. He and Badalamenti (below) recorded music for Twin Peaks and Lost Highway before shooting, and he’d play the music on set… wonderful.
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On the Lime Green box set, Out Yonder is a three-actor stilted-humor throwback to The Cowboy and the Frenchman, only Lynch is one of the actors this time. Not really interesting at all, a conversation where all forms of the verb “to be” are replaced by “bees bein'”, with fart jokes, tooth pulling and a distant cavalry. In the next episode, a girl with gonorrhea seeks her missing chickens.
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Scissors is a Cannes short previously known (to me) as Absurda. A Flash-looking dream-cinema piece incorporating bits of the ballerina footage.
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A couple of greetings for film festivals, both in b/w, filmed in reverse, starring Lynch himself and just awesome.
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Fictitious Anacin Commercial is exactly that, a half-minute gag commercial. A Real Indication is an amateur music video (if amateurs had a crane). And Early Experiments is 16mm footage from the Grandmother/Alphabet/Six Figures era set to overdramatic string music, with some cool motion paintings and lots of mirror symmetry.
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Then there’s Dynamic 01: The Best of Davidlynch.com
David answers member questions about favorite pieces of music, how to write a screenplay, his box full of ideas on scraps of paper, Marilyn Manson, coffee vs. cappucino, and meditating with Roy Orbison.

Intervalometer Experiments:
Ambient videos with slow, rumbling music. The first consists of trees and a distant mountain at sunset, the video grain threatening to destroy everything. The second is a spooky set of stairs molested by an encroaching shadow. The third is the corner of a sunroom in time-lapse, with scary trees and a dormant alarm system.
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Industrial Soundscape is a lock-groove computer animation three times as long as it needs to be. Maybe we were supposed to use it for meditative purposes. Bug Crawls is animation of a bug climbing a mad science house in slow-motion as a blimp passes by. Lamp is a half-hour doc of David making a lamp, which isn’t as funny as when he makes quinoa. And there’s another episode of Out Yonder, which I think I’m gonna skip. No, I guess I’ll watch it. “You bees bein’ barkin’ right up the tree which bees bein’ the wrong one!”

Darkened Room
A Japanese girl dances with the camera, talks to us about bananas before introducing her crying fried (must be Jordan Ladd of Death Proof) in the other room. I think I hear the Rabbits music. Third girl (Ladd’s Cabin Fever co-star Cerina Vincent) comes out to torment the crying girl. Hmmm, my note three years ago said this is six minutes long, but now it’s ten. Maybe last time I lacked the intro with the bananas. A few visual cues and mention of a mysterious watch purchase tie this in with Inland Empire and More Things. Little did I know the first time I watched it. Little did Lynch know, probably.
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Boat / “When things go wrong, it gets like this.”
David takes his boat (the “Little Indian”) out for a spin, takes low-grade blown-out video then adds a woman-in-trouble descriptive voiceover. He goes fast enough to go into the night.
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Nic Cage goes to jail. Twice.

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Harry Dean is a lovestruck sucker, gets killed by three characters who are far more prominent in the deleted scenes: Quiet Dropshadow (Jerry Horne in Twin Peaks), talky, over-friendly Reggie (black islander Calvin Lockhart, who played “Biggie Smalls” in Sidney Poitier film Let’s Do It Again, which I must see sometime), and creeeepy cane-walkin’ woman Juana Durango (Grace Zabriskie, even creepier in Inland Empire, also Laura Palmer’s mom). Álex de la Iglesia made some sort of a sequel featuring these three characters called Perdita Durango or Dance With The Devil. I guess it’s not really a sequel, but both films are based on novels by Barry Gifford, who also cowrote Lost Highway and Hotel Room.

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Lynch has plenty of contenders for Creepiest Character In Film History – there’s Robert Blake in Lost Highway, Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet… my personal pick is Willem Dafoe in Wild At Heart.

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Crispin Glover also gets a bigger part in the outtakes, including the scene below where he’s almost discovered by our heroes working at a gas station. I can’t remember if the revelation that he impregnated cousin Laura Dern when they were younger was in the movie or not… I’m thinking it’s from the outtakes too.

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“How many stars you think are up there, baby?”
“There’s a couple.”