Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Dear Blake Berris,


It would've made more sense for me to write this letter last week, so I could give you a physical copy at this past weekend's fan event. I probably had it in my head that I'd be able to have an actual conversation with you this time - since it'd be the third time I'd be meeting you - and not just stammer and stare and go all red in the face like before. I would have the presence of mind to ask you about the Kubrick exhibit you saw at LACMA last year (and which my husband and I are hoping to see later this year in Toronto). I would finally remember to ask you what it was like to meet Werner Herzog, because it must have been incredible. But I'm not sure why I thought I'd be able to pull any of that off. Every time I'm anywhere near you my brain shuts down and my thoughts scatter away and hide from me. And I end up kicking myself afterwards for being such a silly, cliche fangirl. It was maybe kinda cute when I met you for the first time last August but, at this point, it's incredibly embarrassing.

But in the grand scheme of things it probably isn't all that big of a deal. I've been vocal on this blog and on various forms of social media about my affection for your alter ego, Nick Fallon, and my admiration for your work in the role but I'm hardly the only one who feels that way. Though it's still worth repeating that you've got a wicked talent, young man, and there's no doubt in my mind that you've got great things ahead for you. Which means that us fans have great things to look forward to as well and that makes me supremely happy.

But as much as I've written about and tweeted about your work on Days of Our Lives I always feel like I'm dancing around what I really want to say. I tend to stop short of explaining my affection for Nick by saying "I'm not really sure why I love the character so much, I just know that I do." But I think I do know, I think I've always known. It's because I see myself in him. Maybe not the parts of me that I like to acknowledge but parts that are there all the same. There's a hunger and a loneliness to that character that speaks so clearly to me. There are times when it damned near hurts to watch you in the role because it rings so true and it's so honest and raw. And I can't justify or condone most of Nick's actions but I can't bring myself to condemn him for his mistakes because who's to say I wouldn't act the same way as him in certain situations? The bitterness and the contempt he feels, the way he tries, against all odds, to get what he wants, those are qualities I can understand. I just want to say to him "I hear you Nick. Loud and clear."

This is why I get so upset with the show when I feel like they won't allow Nick to grow and change, just a little bit. We only ever see him at his worst but, even still, he's the most compelling and relatable character for me. Despite the fact that he's usually calm and calculating I think he's a man who's not fully in control of his emotions. I don't think he wants to do wrong, he just gets carried away. I still wish he could be given a chance at redemption, because if the show treats him as a throw-away villain it says to me that there's no place in the world for people like Nick. And that breaks my heart. 

And, look, I know Nick isn't real and that you are not your character. Obviously, I know that. But I so appreciate you for bringing Nick to life, the way I appreciate Donna Tartt's writing or Robert Rauschenberg's passionate expressive works of art. It makes me wish I were talented enough to create something you could admire as much as I admire your work. I feel like I owe you that. But, for now at least, you'll have to settle for my admiration. And my gratitude, because, even though I'm just a flush-faced, tongue-tied fangirl when I'm in your presence, you are always so gracious and kind and generous. You, sir, are simply the best.

Monday, April 14, 2014

"The Lonesome Foghorn Blows . . ."

Twenty-four years and six days ago Twin Peaks made its television debut as an ABC Sunday Night Movie. I remember being not particularly excited about it but, oddly enough, my mom was really keen to check out the heavily-advertised special "about the homecoming queen being murdered." It took Mom exactly one episode to conclude that David Lynch's take on Peyton Place wasn't really her cup of tea. I, on the other hand, fell hard for the show in a matter of minutes. And as I took another look at that first episode last Tuesday night I found that it still cast a strong spell over my psyche. It's more than nostalgia, although that certainly has something to do with it. I remember feeling something akin to a sense of nostalgia for the series almost immediately after I began watching it, as if it were something I was always meant to watch and love.

Love it I did. It's not an overstatement to say that I obsessed over the show. And during that first brief season everyone seemed to obsess over David Lynch's foray into network television programming. There was nothing else even remotely like it on television at the time. It was odd and moody and, even though it was set in the present day, it had a decades-old feel to it. The town and its denizens were like something out of another era. Laura Palmer's troubled, brooding friends had more in common with the angst-ridden teenagers in Rebel Without A Cause than they did the beach bums and brats of Beverly Hills 90210. And the heroes were reminiscent of straight-shooting, awe-shucks types like Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper. But in addition to the classic, old-fashioned trappings there was an undercurrent of weirdness that pervaded the series. Angelo Badalamenti's haunting score could lend the scenes an air of gravitas or melodrama. The camera would cut away to things like sawmill blades slicing through logs and Douglas Fir branches blowing in the breeze, because Twin Peaks was as interested in establishing a quiet, peculiar mood as it was about advancing the story. A woman carried a log around with her everywhere because she believed her dead husband's spirit was trapped in the wood and the show's primary protagonist, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, was both a by-the-books professional, hard-working and gifted with amazing powers of deduction, and an eccentric iconoclast, wild about Tibetan Mysticism and unconventional crime-solving techniques. Dream sequences, visions, portals into other dimensions hidden deep in the forest - Twin Peaks had all of those things, too.

When I took another look at the pilot episode last Tuesday night I realized how much Twin Peaks defined my personal aesthetic and my interests. Surely my affection for hiking in the forest and rustic log cabins is due, in part, to the beauty of the show's locations. Twin Peaks devoted a lot of time and energy to exploring the dual nature of most of its characters, to peeling back the presentable layers and exposing the rot or the fragility or the secret desire hidden underneath. Even the town itself had a light, wholesome side and a dark, foreboding, unknowable side. I find that I seek out, on a regular basis, art that explores this theme. Movies like Shadow of a Doubt and Lynch's own Mulholland Drive are among my personal favorites. One of my favorite authors, Shirley Jackson, covers similar ground in her novels and short stories. And the movies of Luis Bunuel, with their dream logic and their biting social commentary, spoke very clearly to me when I started watching them in my twenties. I can't help but think of Bunuel and Lynch as kindred spirits. 

I love a lot of television shows but I was at just the right age when Twin Peaks came along for it to have a profound impact on me. That's one of the reasons I will always love it, because it helped make me who I am today.