By Shawn Stone
by David Lynch
A man and woman enter an apart ment. We can’t see their faces;
the faces have been blotted out using a crude video trick.
The man tells the woman to take her clothes off. She does.
She says she’s afraid. He tells her she should be afraid.
Three actors are on a stage. It’s an apartment sitting-room
set. One actor, in a pink dress, is at the rear, stage left,
ironing something at an ironing board. The other two are seated
on a couch, one in a blue suit, the other in another pink
dress. A phone rings. The actors exchange enigmatic, unfunny
lines that prompt a chorus of canned laughter.
All three actors are wearing full-head, furry bunny masks.
A woman welcomes a stranger into her palatial suburban home.
The butler and maid serve coffee. After some cheerful small
talk, the stranger tells a bizarre fable about the origin
of evil and begins, Tourette’s style, spouting inappropriate
language. She is asked to leave.
The scene is a Hollywood studio office. A director tells the
assembled actors and crew that this will be a star-making
film. This film will be the one. Everyone is smiling and happy.
David Lynch’s latest movie does begin with a straightforward
plot. A movie is being made. The leads are Nikki Grace (Laura
Dern) and Devon Berk (Justin Theroux). The director is the
very British Kingsley Stewart (Jeremy Irons); the assistant
director is crusty Hollywood vet Freddie Howard (Harry Dean
Stanton). Shortly after production begins, it is revealed
that a previous attempt to film the same script ended in a
double murder. Next, Nikki’s creepy husband (Peter J. Lucas)
warns Devon not to fool around with his wife. Filming starts,
Nikki and Devon may (or may not) begin an affair—and then
the story goes completely out the window. You know, Alice
in Wonderland, over-the-rainbow gone. One minute
the characters are on Hollywood Boulevard; the next they’re
in snow-covered Warsaw. Actors appear out of nowhere: You
find yourself wondering, “Was that Mary Steenburgen? Nastassja
Kinski? That was Julia Ormond, right?” Bits of dialogue are
repeated in new contexts. A roomful of hookers sing and dance
“The Locomotion.” Someone goes up the stairs in a theater
and ends up in a low-rent tract house.
And then Lynch cuts to the actors wearing the bunny heads.
Empire is a ritualistic fantasy; it’s an extended meditation
on acting and the acting process; it’s a phantasmagorical
blurring of the line between reality and fiction; it’s a nightmare
you don’t want to end. Shooting for the first time with cheap,
low-res digital video equipment, Lynch creates smeary, frightening
images that exploit the alternately harsh and fuzzy attributes
of the format. (The dude’s an artist; Lynch could paint watercolor
on celluloid and it would be worth checking out.) Funny thing
is, Lynch never loses the audience on this journey. Emotional
threads connect scene to scene, locale to locale, with a mix
of terror and longing and humor that is, well, distinctively
Lynchian. (For lack of a better phony-baloney term.)
It’s a three-hour-long trip into an alternate universe that
leaves you strangely exhilarated. Inland Empire defies
It’s Lynch’s show, but it all hangs on Laura Dern’s towering
performance. Dern plays a dozen characters in one, and is
on screen for most of the picture. Her look of delight during
the jubilant end credits sequence says it all—this was the
acting ride of a lifetime.
Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters
by Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis
retrospect, one can only marvel at Mike Judge’s achievement
with Beavis and Butt-head Do America. He took a short-form
TV ’toon and expanded it into a credible feature film. Judge
solved the problem of “re-sizing” his dysfunctional duo for
the big screen; sure, all he did was put them into the “road
picture” template, but it worked. In other words, he expended
some effort. The creators of this lo-fi mess didn’t.
That said, the not-giving-a-crap attitude is the bedrock principle
of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim division. And they’ve done
well with it. Now out of production, Aqua Teen Hunger Force
was one of the original Adult Swim programs. The characters
are mutant fast-food creatures: Master Shake, Frylock and
Meatwad. Designed, primarily, to entertain late-night-TV-watching
stoner college students, each episode packed a concentrated
combination of gross-out humor, pop-culture detritus, bad
puns, and visual non sequiturs into 11 minutes of cheap cartoonage.
Often, it was hilarious. Who could forget their encounter
with the Broodwich, the most evil sandwich in the universe?
Or the hilarity that ensued when the 2-D moon creatures brought
the “Foreigner belt” to earth, granting each successive wearer
the wondrous “Cold as Ice” powers of the “Dirty White Boy”?
With the TV show over, all that was left to do, it seems,
was to cash in with this miserable failure of a feature. While
each episode of the show was fast-paced and overstuffed with
gags, the film is draggy, and stingy with the jokes. That’s
not to say that there aren’t some good bits, like Rush’s Neil
Peart (as himself) bringing the dead to life with his magic
drum kit, or the indolent Mooninites, indulging themselves,
as ever, in petty criminal acts. But even the flaming chicken
can’t compensate for the tired plot and endless in-jokes.
Turns out that the cleverest thing about this picture was
that nutty, Lite-Brite viral marketing stunt that cost Time
Warner a pile of money and made a lot of Massachusetts politicians
look like idiots. While those Mooninite light boards weren’t
bombs, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters