Em, not your finest moment, Mr Reindeer.
Once again we're left with the suspicion that were Lynch not involved you'd be responding quite differently. If the above is no big deal I'm sure you can list plenty of other works you really admire that have a clash this extreme between theme and execution. Bonus points for listing a few greats where the cause of this clash is the artist's narcissism.
It’s tough to think of precise analogues to S3 because it is such an idiosyncratic work. But, taking your “bonus point challenge” out of the equation, Clockwork Orange comes to mind as a film that has a fascinatingly ambiguous/ambivalent push-and-pull between theme and execution: while Kubrick seems interested in attacking the way society in general and film in particular desensitize us to violence, the movie also gleefully indulges the protagonist’s gory debauchery. Milton’s Paradise Lost also comes to mind, a religious epic by a pious man which, probably unintentionally, makes Satan the most sympathetic character. Arguably in “bonus point” territory, Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation and Synecdoche, NY are films which stylistically give in to exactly the sort of artistic excesses they are preaching against, to sad and funny effect, reflecting Kaufman’s own frustrations with his craft and process. Even the original TP, which was initially about a small town’s culpability in ignoring the signs of Laura’s abuse and addiction (“You want to know who killed Laura? You did! We all did”), spent way more time glamorizing the appeal of an insular small town than dealing with how their complacency led to the inciting tragedy.
I’m not sure if any of these are quite apples-to-apples comparisons to what you’re seeing in S3’s treatment of nostalgia, and I'm also not claiming that S3 works as effectively as the above mentioned works. But that's where my mind went at the end of a very long workday!
I love the anti-sequel nature of S3, and I agree with bowisneski that this approach feels refreshing and exciting in this era of endless sequels and reboots. It's almost impossible to think of another instance where a film/TV series was revisited/revived with such a sense of freedom, a lack of concern for bringing back conceits and ingredients simply because they worked 25 years ago. S3 may have run itself aground on a sandbar or two creatively, but IMO, it at least effectively avoided all the usual traps that befall most sequels. That in and of itself is a remarkable achievement. And for me, the brief glimpses of nostalgia (such as the wonderful townie bar feel of the Chromatics scene in Part 2, or Ed & Norma’s resolution), far from undermining the themes of anti-nostalgia, serve as a wonderful counterpoint, acting as a brief poignant reminder of what a more traditional sequel might have offered in larger doses. When I see those scenes, I can't help feeling a slight twinge of sadness in spite of myself that we didn't get that version of S3. That sense of loss adds another layer to my complicated reaction to the show. The targeted uses of nostalgia feel like an effective deployment of the quintessential show biz strategy, "leave them wanting more."
You and I may be talking across purposes when we refer to the show's uses of "nostalgia." It seems you're primarily talking about the "career retrospective" aspect of the show, which I think you're rather overstating. Yes, I'm the person who started the "References to Lynch's Other Works" thread, and I almost immediately regretted my poor choice of words. I wish I'd written something along the lines of "recurring themes and imagery" rather than "references," because by and large, I don't think he's necessarily deliberately calling back to his own works any more than the use of lumber trucks in TP was a callback per se to Blue Velvet. Rather, I do think he is fascinated by certain ideas that he returns to again and again. Bob Dylan has talked about writing down fragments/lines that he thinks of, even quotes from books or movies that he likes, and throwing them in a box full of these shreds of paper. Periodically, he goes through them, and from a line here and a line there, he ends up with a song. I think S3 represents DKL taking a similar patchwork approach, pulling old ideas from throughout his life, some previously used and many unused (the frogmoth), and putting them together. And I think more overlap/resonance with his other films than usual was inevitable given the sheer length of this thing. While I've had a lot of fun spotting parallels to his other works, not many of the "references" felt so overt that they had to be intentional shout-outs (the main exception is the fact that he clearly used many of his paintings as inspirations in composing certain shots...but I view this less as an act of nostalgia than taking advantage of the opportunity to see his paintings move, long an obsession of his).
It's interesting how it seems that many in this thread seem to believe that Parts 17/18 reboot/erase the original continuity. My interpretation is that, far from being a refutation/negation of the original continuity, that portion of Part 17 is a loving tribute to the original series, particularly the Pilot. While a major theme on DKL's mind seems to have been the inability to recreate/revisit the past, the flip side of that is that the past remains sacrosant and untouchable. While he is unable and/or unwilling to revisit the style of his beloved Pilot, the Pilot itself will always exist as a work we can all revisit anytime. Cooper tries to mess with that, and (to my mind) fails.
As to how I would react to S3 if it weren't a DKL production...I've thought about that, and it's a pretty tough question to answer. One thing I can safely say: I would have invested less at the outset if it hadn't been the work of a director whose work has consistently connected with me. I might have become frustrated rather than trying to find ways in to the material. But I still think I would have found it frequently hypnotic and captivating. If anything, Dougie, the gold-shovel-painting and similar anti-narrative choices might have seemed even ballsier and more exciting coming from an unknown, up-and-coming director. I do think the stuff that bothered me (the over-reliance on exposition and overly-literal hand-me-down mythology, the lame attempts at comedy in the sheriff's station) might have weighed heavier in the equation and made me question whether the minds behind the show had a consistently firm grasp on their craft. It's impossible to tell, though. I came to the original show with no knowledge of DKL, and the surreal/dreamlike/horror elements won me over in spite of the soapy/corny elements I disliked (many of which I have since come to love). I honestly think S3 had enough quirkiness, horror, humor and murky dreaminess that I would have fallen in love with it even without DKL's name in the credits, and despite its flaws, if I gave it a chance. But we'll never know, will we?