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Wild Palms

Review by Hyde ( originally publised on the forum )

Wild Palms (miniseries)

Presented by Oliver Stone

Written by Bruce Wagner

Directors:
Kathryn Bigelow (hour 4 = Rising Sons)
Keith Gordon (hours 3 and 5 = The Floating World, Hungry Ghosts)
Peter Hewitt (hours 1 & 2 = Everything Must Go)
Phil Joanou (hour 6 = Hello I Must Be Going)

Cast:
James Belushi .... Harry Wyckoff
Dana Delany .... Grace Wyckoff
Robert Loggia .... Sen. Anton Kreutzer
Kim Cattrall .... Paige Katz
Angie Dickinson .... Josie Ito
Ernie Hudson .... Tommy Lazlo
Bebe Neuwirth .... Tabba Schwartzkopf
Nick Mancuso .... Tully Woiwode
Charles Hallahan .... Gavin Whitehope
Robert Morse .... Chap Starfall
David Warner .... Eli Levitt
Ben Savage .... Coty Wyckoff
Bob Gunton .... Dr. Tobias Schenkl
Brad Dourif .... Chickie Levitt
Aaron Michael Metchik .... Peter
François Chau .... Hiro
Charles Rocket - Stitch

Review:
This miniseries, presented by Oliver Stone, came about DIRECTLY after the emergence of TWIN PEAKS, and TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME. Instantly, every critic began comparing the two. However, this turned out to be a unfair comparison, since it should be noted that although the CREATION of this series was inspired by EXISTENCE of the Twin Peaks world (the existance of it, and not the Twin Peaks world itself), WILD PALMS itself is a completely different animal. Some critics went as far as to say that TWIN PEAKS was the Elvis of the surreal genre, and WILD PALMS was the beatles. While this is an unfounded comparison (being that WILD PALMS paled when compared to TWIN PEAKS, and the beatles certainly didn't pale in comparison to Elvis) the meaning is easy to understand.

TWIN PEAKS started a genre, and WILD PALMS was the first child of that genre. THERE LIES THE CONNECTION, AND IN HISTORY LIES THE COMPARISON. This connection and comparison cannot be ignored or erased, and therefore this mini-series is often seen as very important to viewers of TWIN PEAKS.

While it is no doubt that TWIN PEAKS paved the way for WILD PALMS, other than the fact that they both are surreal pieces and have some similar visual ideas, the material bares no spiritual or storyline similarity.

WILD PALMS is a political piece which depicts the coming of a Big brother (much like what could have happened BEFORE George Orwell's "1984") but with the threat of virtual reality impending on actual reality! This AMAZING original concept, and the surreal style of directing, (from many differerent directors) is what makes this series an interesting watch, and an important watch for TWIN PEAKS fans.

Especially because of an often overlooked fact:

WHEN RESEARCHING WILD PALMS, IT IS NEAR TO IMPOSSIBLE FOR ONE TO FIND AN ANALYSIS THAT ISN'T ALSO CONCERNED WITH THE ARTISTIC RELEVANCE TO TWIN PEAKS AS BEING WILD PALMS' PARENT IN THE GENRE.

Many have seen this great series BEFORE viewing TWIN PEAKS, but with all the relevance in the criticism, WILD PALMS (much like the X-Files and Northern Exposure) can be a great instrument to start interest in TWIN PEAKS!

There is a level of near certainty that David Lynch and Mark Frost would cringe if anyone suggested an actual connection from the world of TWIN PEAKS to WILD PALMS, yet it is not unreasonable to think they would admit that WILD PALMS would have probably never come about without the strength of TWIN PEAKS to put such life into the Genre of the surreal.

Hence we have the birth...and now....

Plot outline:

A middle aged lawyer (Harry Wyckoff) is having terrifying nightmares, but they seem to bear a connection to his past, as well as to a senator who is running for president.
The senator has a plan to bring virtual reality into every living room, and basically make it a new reality to govern and command.

However, Harry is noticing people being abducted off the street in the name of the senator, and his friends seem to be involved with an underground political movement. Apparently two factions of the political underground have been struggeling to destroy one another since the 1960's. They are called THE FRIENDS and THE FATHERS. And things are starting to come to a head.

Harry's friends are involved in strange conspiracies, his wife's life is being destroyed, and an old flame is igniting him into secrets of his past and plans for his future. As people start dying and children are being stolen and brainwashed, Harry must get involved to try and save our choice of freedom. However, WHAT KIND OF FREEDOM DO WE WANT?

Pros:

  • Great cast, with SOME great acting! (in contrast, see cons)
  • More familiar faces here than one can begin to count.
  • Jim Belushi was good in his first completely serious role, but still managed to get some good jokes here and there. (see cons)
  • Robert Loggia is MAGNIFICANT, and the series is worth seeing purely to witness his performance. (watch for the monologue about the dream of his father...beautiful)
  • Ernie Hudson, Nick Mancuso, David Warner, Brad Dourif, and Charles Hallahan also do a fantastic job in their supporting roles, and bring more realism to the supporting cast then even the main characters.
  • Ben Savage was also fantastic, coming across in an almost anti-christ fashion.
  • The story is very deep, but only in the sense of politics and visual imagery.
  • Set as the writers in 1993 thought that 2007 would look like (they did a good job too) this film also boasts an amazing soundtrack of 1960's music (being the script indicated that the 1960's had come back in style by the year 2007) The Rolling Stones (gimme shelter), The Animals (house of the Rising Sun) and Mason Williams (classical gas) set quite a mood in this unusual piece.
  • Very important commenting on how people in today's society may stop caring about their freedom, because they are more concerned about their leisure. This is how it can come back to haunt us.
  • Comings of a false messiah in the name of politics and virtual reality, make this a haunting and bizzare tale of power, betrayel, and hope.
  • Divided up into several chapters directed by several different directors, the viewer will find that styles of the directing seem to change throughout the story, providing the variety needed to sustain this fulfilling work.

Cons:

  • The problem with this series (and why it PALES in comparison to Twin Peaks) is there is a great lack of personal development of the characters, and the audience's connection with them. It is also not until over halfway through the miniseries that the audience begins to really understand what is going on.
  • The story is VERY complex, and so much is slow moving and character introduction, that the series is a difficult watch.
  • There are obviously a few scenes being weird simply for the sake of it.
  • (When this series premeired, Jay Leno stated in a comedy bit, "Did anybody watch WILD PALMS?" The audience booed, and Leno continued, "I think someone just took a few hits of acid and watched some old episodes of TWIN PEAKS!" The audience laughed.)
  • Even though there was good acting, there were certianly weak moments too. Belushi simply sounded BAD on a few of his lines, and as enjoyable as MOST of their performance was, Dana Delany and Kim Cattrall seemed completely over the top sometimes.
  • Aaron Michael Metchik was simply annoying, as was Charles Rocket playing a non-funny comedian that everyone seemed to like. It is worth noting that Rocket's acting seemed up to par, but the character seemed written in a stale and weak light.
  • Sadly, the final act was fairly weak when compared to the rest of the series.
  • Some of the dialogue and story was forced (last scene with the senator and Harry), and the ending was anti-climactic....however....

PROS REBUTTAL:

DESPITE these Cons listed, this miniseries is still an AMAZING piece of art. The moments of beauty are simply so plentiful and magnificant that the series isn't truly harmed by its moments of weakness. The only real damage done by the cons is:

  1. the fact that the series is a slightly difficult, but yet still entertaining, watch.
  2. much like the Twin Peaks "you and I" scene, there are scenes that make the viewer think, "Why did they do that?"

As far as the anti-climax, it plays as a push for the fact that life often throws out flukes and chances to end and begin stories in everyday life. This is merely a realistic example of what can happen in a very unrealistic situation.

Overall:

This is a VERY important series, which (in total) only runs 4 hours and 45 minutes (without commercials). It isn't commercial audience friendly, but it is intellegent and wonderful.
A meaningful piece of art that was unfairly burned by critics.This is a classic, and it should be hailed as one. I heavily recommend this mini-series to ANY fans of the surreal, and EVERY Peaks Freak should see this series because of the historic and artistic connection it had with TWIN PEAKS.

Suggestions for viewing:

As mentioned above, this mini-series was divided up into 6 parts. Each part was an hour long with commercials(and only 4 hours and 45 minutes without commercials), and was shown over a week's time. Some nights had 2 hours shown back to back, and some nights only had one hour. Therefor, this film can be divided up in many different ways.

A personal and recommended watching key would consist of:

Watching 2 hours and 23 minutes at a time for 2 nights (hard to do, being this series can be a hard watch)

Watching in 4 or 5 installments.
(an obvious chapter flow is used, and while the chapters were each titled when the show was on television, the purchased editions of this series do not always have the title on each chapter, as they blended each installment together, showing the series in 2 parts) However, the viewer can end and/or extend their viewing by these NON SPOILER clues to the openings and closings to several of the chapters:

1 = from opening to a chase on the beach after a familiar line spoken.

2= starting from point left off until a shower, tattoo, and nursery rhym is used within a few moments.

3= from point left off until a few minutes after the HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN when a doctor walks through a door. IF YOU WANT TO MAKE THIS EVENING GROW INTO A DEEPER CLIMAX, then watch the next installment of events leading up to a very monumental television broadcast and Harry in tears. (if the longer option is chosen, then this will be the longer time of viewing, giving way to a more MOVIE feel to the experience)

4= from point left off until the end (if the previous viewing was shorter, then this installment will either be longer/ or the viewer can exercise the option to divide the viewing even further, and watch the 4th installment until the monumental broadcast and Harry is shown in tears. Therefore, there could be a 5th night of viewing, starting from the moment AFTER Harry's broadcast and until the end. PLEASE NOTE, since the mini-series is only 4 hours and 45 minutes in total, 4 viewings give more of a feeling of watching a movie each night, while 5 viewings give the latter half of the series the feel of a television mini-series.)

5 option = from point left off until the end.

(c) Watching the series all at once (as a 4 hour and 45 minute movie - this is the most trying of the viewing processes and is not recommended.)

Conclusion: No matter how you view it, this mini-series will embrace you and keep you held until its ending.

If you are showing a person the entire series of TWIN PEAKS, and you want there to be a break between the TWIN PEAKS series and the movie FIRE WALK WITH ME (since there was an almost 2 years break between the show and the release of the film), I suggest watching this series as something to tide you over between the two.
WILD PALMS may not be our lovely TWIN PEAKS, but whether or not Oliver Stone or the WILD PALM directors wanted to create a tribute, it is a testament nonetheless, due to comparisons and historic acclaim. WILD PALMS is an expression of the genre that began in our favorite town, and it stands as a memory to the surreal world of television in which Lynch and Frost had FIRST breathed life.

Overall Grade: A-

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