Tag Archives: blue velvet

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Dennis Hopper Performances

One of Hollywood’s most infamous screen outlaws, Dennis Hopper’s career stretched all the way from black and white 50’s westerns to voiceovers in PlayStation platform games. His epic and resounding career saw him take on countless roles including cowboys, psychos, politicians, detectives, terrorists and all manner of extreme portrayals. He had an intense way about him, a clear and distilled form of verbal expression and half mad gleam in his eye that made any scene he appeared in fiery and memorable. Here are my top ten personal favourite performances!

10. Victor Drazen in Fox’s 24

One of the more heinous and tough to kill villains that Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer ever went up against, Drazen is a genocidal warlord from a fictional country who turns up near the end of Day 1 to make life hell for everyone. Cold, dead eyes and hellbent on escaping captivity so he can resume ethnic cleansing and blow shit up, Hopper gives him a formidable edge and makes a terrific final boss baddie for the season that kicked everything off.

9. Paul Kaufman in George A. Romero’s Land Of The Dead

Even in a post apocalyptic zombie world there are still greedy billionaire developers, Kaufman being the chief one in a ruined, decaying Detroit. He presides over the coveted skyscraper community Fiddler’s Green with an iron fist of elitism and Donald Trump megalomania, isn’t above wantonly discriminating against the poor or murdering shareholders in the business to get ahead. His response when the zombies finally bust down his doors and invade this sickened utopia? “You have no right!!!” It’s a darkly hilarious, deadpan, tongue in cheek arch villain role that he milks for all its worth and steals the show.

8. Billy in Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider

A seminal 60’s counterculture biker picture, Dennis directs and stars as an outlaw of the road who along with his compadre (Peter Fonda) embarks on a strange, prophetic and ultimately violent journey across an America that seems to resent and coil towards the two of them at every turn. This film didn’t strike the profound chord in me it seems to have in most viewers and while I’m not it’s hugest fan, the impact that Hopper’s words, direction and rowdy performance has made on cinema and pop culture itself is remarkable.

7. Deacon in Kevin Reynolds’ Waterworld

Another post apocalyptic villain in a very misunderstood and under appreciated film. Deacon is essentially the big daddy of an aquatic desolation after water covers most of the planet and forces the dregs of the human race to adapt to marine life. He’s got one eye, legions of henchmen at his beck and call and runs his operation from an enormous derelict freighter ship. Deacon is a larger than life and a definite scenery chewer but Hopper calibrates the work just right and doesn’t go too far into ham territory, which he has sneakily done so before (remember that weird ass Super Mario film where he played King Koopa? Lol).

6. Feck in Tim Hunter’s River’s Edge

A crazed, one legged drug dealer with a blow-up doll for a girlfriend, Feck is just one of many maladjusted small town rejects in this arresting, challenging drama. Forced to confront an act from his past when a local teen murders his girlfriend for the sheer hell of it, his true nature comes out and he arrives at the ultimate decision. It’s a performance that’s terminally weird and off the wall but there’s a strange gravity in amongst the madness, a juxtaposition that Hopper handles like the expert he was.

5. Lyle from Dallas in John Dahl’s Red Rock West

Texas hitman Lyle doesn’t even show up until midway through the film and at least two characters are mistaken for him before then. When he does show up though, this deadly desert neo-noir really kicks into gear and churns put some darkly funny scenarios. Lyle is killer good at what he does but at first he’s just baffled at how all the other players managed to muck things up so badly while he was on his way there, and there’s some delicious comedic bits to go with the fiery violence he brings into play.

4. The Father in Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish

This angelic arthouse gang flick sets up a hypnotic tone for an ensemble cast to dreamily wander in. Hopper is a rowdy drunken dad to Mickey Rourke and Matt Dillon, two wayward street kids on a collision course with inevitable trouble. The father/son banter between these three has a beautifully improvised, organic feel to it and you really get the sense that this trio rehearsed, spent time together and wanted to make their collective dynamic something truly special, which it is and can definitely be said for the film overall as well.

3. Clifford Worley in Tony Scott’s True Romance

A stubborn, tough as nails ex cop and father of the year, Clifford and Christopher Walken’s mobster Vincent get some of the best passages of dialogue from Quentin Tarantino’s script in their brief but blistering standoff. It’s a galvanizing, hilarious and now iconic scene in cinema with Hopper in full on Hopped up mode.

2. Howard Payne in Jan De Bont’s Speed

LA’s finest ex cop turned mad bomber, Howard is disappointed by the department’s meagre pension fund. His solution? Arm a city bus with enough C-4 to level an entire block and detonate it if the vehicle slows below 50 MPH. It’s up to super cops Keanu Reeves and Jeff Daniels to nab him, but both his plan and Dennis’s performance are something to be reckoned with. “Pop quiz, hotshot!” He taunts Reeves with that maniacal glee only this actor could bring out.

1. Frank Booth in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet

What can I say about Frank. He huffs oxygen to get high, prefers Pabst Blue Ribbon over Heineken, loves kinky S&M sex and is an unstable, volatile psychopath who engages in every kind of reprehensible behaviour and illegal activity you can think of. It’s an unhinged piece of acting work that carries both Lynch’s and Hopper’s distinct brand of eccentric sensibilities and off kilter lunacy.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!

-Nate Hill

“I didn’t want to be Mr. Werewolf.”: An Interview with Philippe Mora by Kent Hill

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Back when I was just new around here at PTS, I had the opportunity to interview Philippe on one of my favorite movies under his direction, The Return of Captain Invincible (which you’ll find here: https://podcastingthemsoftly.com/2016/10/08/what-the-world-needs-now-remembering-the-return-of-captain-invincible-with-philippe-mora-by-kent-hill/). Since then, I’ve wanted to sit down with one of my country’s truly unique artists, who has really done a little bit of everything.

Philippe was born in Paris, but after a long journey his parents ended up in Australia. With his multicultural background, surrounded by a cosmopolitan locale, as a young man I can image Philippe surrounded by inspiration.

As a man destined to make some truly wonderful films, he like us all who aspire to it, started by making short films and documentaries. Then he went and made a classic. He convinced the Easy Rider himself, the late, great Dennis Hopper, to go bush and take on the guise of one of Australia’s most colorful outlaws, Mad Dog Morgan.

What would permeate from that thrilling debut is an extraordinary, eclectic list of credits that has action, aliens, werewolves, and even Pterodactyl women.

Of late, Philippe has returned to the documentary scene, bringing us stories both powerful and confronting. He also, being a talented artist, has turned his hand to graphic novels like The ABC of the Holocaust and Monsieur Mayonnaise which you can check out here:

He is a gentleman and a scholar, as well as the maker of some great movies. He has rubbed shoulders with the top echelons in the both the arenas of art and cinema. And, he has what I consider the best spin on a Merchant/Ivory title for a comedic-horror film.

Here he is, my guest (again), the fun and the fascinating . . . Philippe Mora.

PTS Presents the Raymond Benson Auteur Series: DAVID LYNCH Volume 1

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Podcasting Them Softly is incredibly excited to continue our Raymond Benson Auteur Series with our first of a two part chat about the works of David Lynch. Frank, Tim, and Raymond discuss Lynch’s early works continued through his features ERASERHEAD, THE ELEPHANT MAN, DUNE, BLUE VELVET, and the first two seasons of TWIN PEAKS. The three of them will be back soon covering Lynch’s filmography from WILD AT HEART to TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN. For those local listeners, please check Raymond’s website for upcoming book signing appearances for Raymond’s new novel, THE SECRETS OF CHICORY LANE.

“I hate to admit this but I don’t understand this situation at all.” An appreciation of David Lynch’s impenetrable entertainment, Twin Peaks and all- by Josh Hains 

These days, when I watch anything David Lynch has filmed, be it Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart, Inland Empire, or even his flawed yet hypnotic and deliciously crazy adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, I check my brain in at the door. I let my mind become invaded by the alluring sights and sounds that populate his stunning body of work, letting them burn themselves into the deepest parts of my soul. I don’t over think what I’m watching, and I don’t allow myself to obsess over such cerebral, intentionally puzzling works. Above all else, the images tend to stay with me like dirt under my fingernails, or a ghost lurking in an old house.

The point of Lynch’s life’s work is breaking convention, trying truly new things with the form, narratively or visually, that most people in the movie or television businesses will never think of in their lifetime. Ever. Taking cinematic standards we’ve become comfortable with and breaking them like a sledgehammer against concrete, dismantling what’s considered safe, easy, and profitable, his works always risky, provocative, difficult, and confounding. I find just about everything he’s made confounding to varying degrees, and just like any great puzzle, the necessary pieces to solving any given mystery in any of his works are always right there in plain sight, staring me right in the face, taunting me. I’m reminded of a quote from Christopher Nolan’s brilliant puzzler The Prestige: “Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled.” Except that I don’t want to be fooled, at least not entirely.

I have a tendency to want to know what pieces go where and watch them all slowly fit together, though an equal part of me doesn’t want to completely kill the mystery, doesn’t mind the ambiguity and relishes in being challenged on such deeply psychological levels. The first time I saw his Mulholland Drive, I disliked it because I couldn’t make heads or tails of what I’d just witnessed. Nothing I’d seen made any amount of sense, or could easily be summed up in a quick sentence. It was impenetrable, and I hated it. A couple years ago I learned that the impenetrable, confusing, ambiguous nature of everything that is Lynch, is the point. Whether or not I can solve the puzzle of Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, or Twin Peaks, isn’t the point of those and most of David Lynch’s filmography. That’s never been the point. You’ll only drive yourself mad trying to solve something you aren’t meant to solve, or find yourself underwhelmed and ungrateful if you do somehow manage to decipher the code that solves the mystery and don’t like the results. The point is the journey, and just like any grand adventure, everything he’s made has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s not the destination that matters, but how we get there, and though the journeys Lynch takes us on between those points on the map is different from what we’re used to, in the end it’s actually a really good thing.

All great art should be more than just disturbing to the comfortable and comfortable to the disturbed. It should be challenging. It should make us think deeper than we’ve ever thought before and inite us to continue to think deeper. It should make us look at the art and ask why, make us take a deeper look inside ourselves and ponder why we didn’t think if it ourselves, and what we can do to be more creative and open minded. It should open a wide assortment of doors to all kinds of endless creative potentials and ideas, and challenge us to tackle subjects we’ve been too afraid and comfortable to explore. Twin Peaks: The Return, is this year’s prime example of taking the standards we’ve become so accustomed to, and breaking them for 18 episodes straight. 

I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around most of what happened this season on Twin Peaks, and though repeated viewings of Twin Peaks when the Blu-Ray arrives some months from now will surely unlock a few secrets and tie up some loose ends I didn’t immediately comprehend, I doubt I will ever be able to fully understand everything that happened over the course of The Return. I also don’t fully understand what the hell happens in Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, or Inland Empire, but that’s quite alright with me. I’m not supposed to understand the plots, I’m supposed to be swept up in everything else that’s going on. The acting, the symbolism, the trippy nightmarish images, the sudden graphic violence, the sensuous love stories, thunderous pulsating scores, the sublime aura of it all. Like I said before, it’s not the destintion that matters, but how you got there, and how I got there was a magnificent achievement. 

My biggest takeaways from Twin Peaks: The Return, as of right now because I’m still processing what I watched, are that David Lynch is perhaps the foremost essential artist of our times, and a truly brilliant one at that, willing to break rules and conventions for the sake of experimentation and trying to provide more sophisticated entertainment to us all. My other takeaway is that though the battle between good and evil in fiction or our reality never truly ends, as long as the world is occupied by Dale Cooper’s, the light stands a chance of winning.

David Lynch’s BLUE VELVET

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BLUE VELVET may just be one of the most depraved and transgressive love stories ever put on film. It’s a complex narrative that ushers the audience past their comfort zone into a dark and dangerous world of obsession and perversion. Not only do we enter this world through our innocent protagonist, Jeffery Beaumont, but we see and experience what he is exposed to. As his innocence erodes, as does ours.

Like anything David Lynch, the film is richly layered. The color scheme can be overanalyzed, as can the vague shadow world crime story, and especially the shifting timeline. When we’re in Jeffery’s world, we are in this overly nostalgic “good old days” of Americana and once we enter into Frank Boothe’s life in the fast lane all of a sudden we are thrown into this overly stinging and lightspeed paced contemporary (the 1980s) world of drugs, violence, and sexual perversion.

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Lynch constructs a deeply layered world by his own aesthetic and his brilliant casting strokes. Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern’s star-making performances zigzag back and forth between the two worlds that Lynch creates, showcasing their brilliant range as actors as they carefully hold the audience’s hands during the build up of the story only to rip away once they enter the world of Frank Boothe.

Dennis Hopper is incredible in this film. His embodiment of Frank Boothe is not only one of the finest performances on film ever, but it is such a bold and daring performance. Frank Boothe is nearly irredeemable. He’s disgusting, he’s dangerous, he’s insane – yet he has a very empathetical trait. Everything he is doing, he’s doing because he is so very much in love with Dorothy Vallens played by Isabella Rossellini who matches and outdoes Hopper when it comes to giving a deeply brave performance.

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With Lynch’s casting of Priscilla Pointer, Frances Bay, and George Dickerson he builds his pure vision of the idea of America, only to tear it down with the Hopper and more specifically former Golden Age of Hollywood child star Dean Stockwell in one of the most unique and scene-stealing performances ever. Stockwell’s overly caked on makeup, 70’s powder suit, and lip syncing Roy Orbison’s IN DREAMS using a work light as a microphone is one of the most memorably haunting scenes in Lynch’s canon, and that’s saying a lot.

Once the rip cord is pulled in the film, it is an incredibly exhilarating ride. How this film got made, or better yet distributed to the degree it did upon its initial release is gobsmacking. It’s a piece of cinema that will never be outdone. It propelled Lynch into a stratosphere of auteurs that not many can even approach.

Top Ten David Lynch Characters: A list by Nate Hill

The cinematic universe in which legendary director David Lynch has chosen to tell his stories is a yellow brick road which leads the way to a rabbit hole, wherein can be found dreams, nightmares, horror, love, spirits, small towns, psychological torment, offbeat humour, danger and endless gallons of hot black coffee. Within this mesmerizing realm lives a whole armada of strange and wonderful human beings, often with antennas extended out into both the metaphysical, the supernatural and the just plain undefinable. This makes them some of the most richly fascinating, deeply felt individuals to ever dance across our screens. If you have clicked on this post, you will see below a list of my personal top ten characters to have ever wandered out of the one of a kind mind of Mr. Lynch and been brought to life by the intuition, grace and startling gut instinct of many fine actors. Enjoy!
 
10. Marietta Fortune, played by Diane Ladd in Wild At Heart

  

Diane Ladd plays the ultimate mommy from hell in Lynch’s wacky, colourful romance road trip flick and livens the proceedings up no end with her mental instability, overprotective mania and frequent banshee screams that echo the terrifying melodrama of an exaggerated and psychotic Joan Crawford. Ladd rightly earned an Oscar nomination for her feral work, and one only needs to witness the unnerving sight of her sprawled across the bathroom floor with a liver full of martinis and a face smeared with crimson lipstick to appreciate the work funnelled into both the performance and direction to give us this horrific harpy.  

9. The Man From Another Place, played by Michael J. Anderson in Twin Peaks 
  

No other character solidifies Lynch’s pipeline to the collective subconscious like the red suited, inter-dimensional man of limited stature, a haunting presence who dances, speaks backwards and is always one step ahead of every fellow character and watching audience member who lays eyes on him. He serves as an image of what lays beyond, and no doubt an experimental choice for Lynch, one that would go on to become a token image of the television series, and his career as well. 

8. Bobby Peru, played by Willem Dafoe in Wild At Heart
  

The uniting forces of Willem Dafoe’s brand of creepiness morphed together with Lynch’s intuition for everything weird resulted in Bobby Peru, a disgusting psychotic whacko who only shows up in the last quarter of the film, yet dominates every frothy frame. Peru is a scary son of a bitch, and Dafoe lends every Joker grin, sallow grimace and harsh syllable he can muster in a very discomforting scene in which he abuses Laura Dern’s character to squirm inducing effect. This heinous outburst only makes the explosive end he meets all the more satisfying. A true Lynch monster, a Dafoe creation to remember and spin yarns about in years to come beside the cinematic campfire. 

7. Nikki Grace/Susan Blue, played by Laura Dern in Inland Empire
  

Dern turns the performance of her career in what is perhaps Lynch’s most peculiar film to date, a purposefully meta, altogether perplexing soul bender of a tale that revolves around two incredibly strong female characters, both played by her. There’s a galvanizing monologue buried within the heart of this dense saga that’s at once both a savage outcry and a self reflective summary to the character, Dern nailing every sharp turn of both that passage, and her work in the film as a whole. Lynch sat on Hollywood Boulevard with a cow and a sign advocating an Oscar nomination for her powerful work here, and upon viewing it it’s easy to see why. ‘A woman in trouble’ cries the DVD cover. Dern cries out into the dark and lets us know this character is exactly in that place, but her and Lynch lay out the breadcrumb trail in an ambiguous fashion that never really lets us in on the how and the why of said trouble. Such an achievement is pure collaboration, and worth every penny spent on the cow rental. 

6. Margaret Lanterman, aka The Log Lady, played by Catherine E. Coulson in Twin Peaks
  

The Log Lady is the symbolic lynchpin of Twin Peaks, a woman who lost her husband in a fire long ago, and quite literally carries a log around in memorial, speaking to it as if it were a person. Such a concept could be seen as silly, but in Lynch’s hands it simply is compelling. Coulson too treats it with reverence, giving her the undefined gravity that is a key ingredient in the Twin Peaks mystery and will be remembered by fans, loved by veterans and discovered by newcomers for eons.

5. Frank Booth, played by Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet
  

The third scariest person on this list comes in the form of Booth, an oxygen loving, volatile kinkster played with primordial menace by a wild eyed Dennis Hopper. Booth took audiences by storm when Blue Velvet was released, showcasing a villain’s ability to completely shatter the idealistic and womblike notions of small town, old world bliss that came before him. He barges into the film and immediately flips the table as far as tone goes, catching everyone off guard with his criminal and very twisted antics. A true Pabst Blue villain and force of perverted nature that we won’t soon forget. 

4. BOB, played by Frank Silva in Twin Peaks
  

No demon has shivered the timbers of viewers quite like Killer Bob. He was a fluke, a lightning bolt of creative energy that Lynch channeled into what would become the scariest and strangest villain in his stable. A nightmarish and all too real apparition who feeds on rape, murder, fear, abuse and all the tools which reside within the darkest corners of humanity’s toolkit. Silva is a salivating horror, feeling his way through a performance that is rooted directly within the forces of undiscovered nature and firmly committed to scaring the pants off of us. 

 3. Mystery Man, played by Robert Blake in Lost Highway
  

Blake unsettles big time as a pasty faced, hollow laughed denizen who torments the protagonist at the most unexpected of moments and can’t help but utter a grinding giggle every time he can harvest an iota of confusion from his quarry. Whether the accusations against Blake in real life are true or not, the guy just has a corrosive vibe to his work and it kills me that he never got a chance to live out more years in cinema. This was one of his last two roles, and he’s the acrid soul of the piece, a snarling symbol of mental instability and otherworldly nastiness within the main character’s psyche.

2. Special Agent Dale Cooper, played by Kyle Maclachlan in Twin Peaks
  

Ahh, Dale Cooper. No one puts a big old smile on my face like him. In a career that has a whole bunch of lunatics and weirdos running amok, Lynch has given us the ultimate good guy, a comforting, likeable lawman with a keen sense of character and a deep love for both coffee and copious amounts of cherry pie. Maclachlan soars into pop culture legend with his winning smile, delightful idiosyncrasies and unyielding dedication to the law. 

1. Laura Palmer, played by Sheryl Lee in Twin Peaks
  

The battered angel, the homecoming queen, the beauty wrapped in plastic. No one represents both the decaying, corrupted human spirit and the same purity that wages war upon the sickness as well as Laura. When Twin Peaks was cancelled and Lynch launched plans for a big screen follow up, he stuck with the one element that made the show so special: Laura. Through hell, high water and every horror in between he stuck with Laura, turning the film into a final loving ode to her that would be seen by many as too much, and a stark deviation from the show. He was simply following through with the uneasy themes which mean so much to him, represented by the ultimate girl in trouble, whereby spiritual forces or simply the malfunction within humanity. Lee has never been better, serving as the rose within the centre of the dark bouquet of characters which Lynch  draws forth from his dreams.