Thursday, August 16, 2012


I just watched "Submarine," a 2010 British indie film about a melancholic teenage boy who learns for the first time what it's like to fall in love and schemes to keep his parents marriage from falling apart. Complete with all the irony, whimsy, disaffected-youths-behaving-like-adults, Super 8 film montages, and vintage nods to cassette tapes and Betamax players you could stand. And while Wes Anderson basically invented and trademarked this aesthetic and tone, it's interesting that these tropes have become so universal that, in a few places, 2012's "Moonrise Kindom" feels like it's borrowing from 2010's "Submarine." Specifically when the protagonist in "Submarine" discovers his parents have hidden a book about raising a mentally troubled child. The same plot point occurs in "Moonrise Kingdom, although I've read that Wes Anderson claims to have found such a book in his own house when he was a child.

It was a solid reminder, in case anyone had forgotten, that yes, indie films are still exactly like that. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it. It wasn't great. But worth a watch if you like that sort of thing.

However, throughout the film, I could not help imagining that if I had a teenage son right now, he might discover "Submarine" and latch onto it a touchstone for his own life -- being melancholic, falling in love, and so forth. It might be a watershed moment in his appreciation of film. It might seem like a breakthrough piece of art. I wouldn't want to rob him of that moment.

That being said, it would be unfair to let him appreciate this film without being exposed to the direct lineage of similar movies and characters, without which we couldn't have "Submarine." Here's a few films whose influence I couldn't help see in this one. (There are many other examples and knockoffs. This is sort of greatest hits list for the archetype.)

Napoleon Dynatime

Rushmore (See also, "Bottle Rocket," "The Royal Tenenbaums," and "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou")

Harold and Maude

The Graduate

Also, I spent the whole movie thinking the next door neighbor character, a mullet-wearing mystic who believes our souls are prisms that refract the colors of the universe, was played by Sam Rockwell. I was disappointed to think Rockwell still had to play these doofy bit parts. However it wasn't rockwell, it was this guy who looks almost identicle in a mullet wig.

If you're interested in who directed "Submarine." Interestingly enough it was the guy from "The Watch" poster who is not a famous white commedian.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Top 10 Films of 2011

Continued from my complete list of 2011 films started yesterday.

10. Thor (4 Stars)

I loved the production design of Asgard, but the story felt flat. There never seemed to be much as stake on Earth. And very little on Asgard. In fact the only real threat was against the evil Ice Giants, upon whom Thor attempted to commit genocide. At the end of the movie nothing had really changed for Thor. He was no longer exiled to Earth, nor had he ascended to the throne of Asgard. (Daddy was still alive!) His brief tenure on earth did not convince me he was in love with Natalie Portman, nor that he cared enough about humans to ever return (ya know, in later movies).

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow: Part 2 (4 Stars)

In general, I have liked each successive Harry Potter film more than it’s predecessor. A pretty good trend for an 8-film series. While this a last movie is a fun and satisfying conclusion, its “Part 2” nature makes it feel like an extended third act of the previous film.

8. The Muppets (4 Stars)

A strong return to the big screen for the long absent Muppets. Jason Segel and company manage to not botch the spirit of original films or the beloved characters. New Muppets – Walter and 80’s Robot – were great additions. Unfortunately, the film spends too much time telling us to feel nostalgic for the Muppets without giving us much new to be nostalgic for down the road. With a couple exceptions the music was unremarkable, as were most of the human casts’ performances. The biggest problem is that the story belongs to Walter and Jason Segel as opposed to Kermit, Piggy, Fozzy, Gonzo and the gang. Still it’s got all the silliness, bad jokes, and good-natured zaniness you hope for from the Muppets.

7. X-Men: First Class (4 Stars)

I could watch a whole movie of just this young Magneto traveling the globe exacting revenge on his foes. Loved seeing him and young Xavier working together then becoming enemies. However, didn’t much care for the so-called first class of other new mutants. Special effects are sub-par here and there.

6. Captain America: The First Avenger (4 Stars)

This movie had the thankless task of tying together all the other Marvel films – Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor – before the upcoming Avengers. I thought it did that delicate dance perfectly. The film was fun and struck a tone of All-American heroism without being cheesy.

5. Super 8 (4 Stars)

Those darn kids were great in this homage to E.T. and all things 1980’s-Speilberg! The monster was okay too, I guess.

4. In Time (4 Stars)

Director Andrew Niccol’s latest sci-fi thriller has similarities to, but is not quite as good as, his previous film Gattica. But I’m a sucker for dystopian future sci-fi with themes of class warfare, immortality, and the like. Justin Timberlake (almost) always takes on interesting projects, but he usually has a stellar cast to prop him up. Here he’s the lead and most everyone else’s performances are average. The film takes a strange, unearned turn toward future-Bonnie and Clyde toward the end. I’m giving this film a high ranking simply because it’s an original, thoughtful, beautifully shot piece of sci-fi.

3. Drive (4 Stars)

This film is flawed, and at times, even felt sophomoric. However it’s original, and I’ve spent more time discussing this film’s merits than any other of 2011, so I’m giving it my number three ranking. First, for something called “Drive” there very little actual driving. Second, it’s problematic that the getaway chase during the opening 10 minutes was more interesting than the rest of the film. Third, sometimes the story’s internal logic felt compromised for the sake its extreme violence. (Common gangsters would, I believe, kill each other with guns, not stab each other with forks or down a guy in the ocean – very difficult.) But director Nicolas Refn makes bold choices as he unravels his dark tale. And I’ve had plenty of conversations about whether the film is moody and cool or cheap and gimmicky, and whether Ryan Gosling’s character is brave and heroic, demented and violent, or just a fella in love.

2. Real Steel (5 Stars)

I don’t have any kids (yet), so it’s rare that I get this excited about a PG-rated kids movie, unless a.) it’s by Pixar, or b.) it’s based on something form my childhood, like The Muppets. Despite what the trailers would have you believe, this is actually a touching father/son story that would be cool for an actual father to take his 6-11 year old son to see. Plus it’s got awesome boxing robots. What else do you need?!

1. Bridesmaids (5 Stars)

From PG-rated family fare to this – an R-rated comedy where one woman takes a dump in a sink while another woman takes a dump in the street. It’s embarrassing putting this “chick-flick” (but really it’s not) at the top of my list, yet it was one of the best movie-going experiences I had this year. I’ll console myself with the fact that there is serious talk about nominating Bridesmaids for “Best Picture” at the Oscars this year. This film was purposefully (and smartly) mis-marketed as “The Hangover for chicks.” But (despite what was advertised) the movie is not about a gaggle of girls who suffer the consequences fom a weekend of debauchery. It’s about one woman’s struggle with friendship, rivalry, and attempting to be someone she’s not. (But how are you going to market that stuff to guys?) Plus it’s frickin’ funny.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Films of 2011 (23-11)

My yearly rankings, rantings, and ravings about the films I saw from 2011.

23. Gnomio & Juliet (Ughh)

The ads for this Shakespeare/Garden Gnome CGI mash-up did not communicate that it was executive produced by Elton John and that every 10 minutes or so Elton John songs would be sung with revamped gnome-related lyrics. CGI design was unpleasant. Why does this exist?

22. Red State (0 Stars)

Kevin Smith gets political. Or more political than usual. In what the writer/director has said will be his final film, Smith has a group of horny teens hunted down by a group of hyper-conservative religious zealots in their Waco-like compound. Not funny and completely joyless to watch.

21. Sucker Punch (1 Star)

To understand just how unthinkably bad this film is, one needs only to read the plot synopsis (Spoiler Alert!): After murdering her pedophile father, a teenage girl is committed to mental asylum. To escape the daily horrors of the asylum, the girl imagines that she and her fellow inmates (all sexy teenagers) are actually erotic dancers (prostitutes?) in an old-tymie saloon. However, (as if this weren’t strange enough) whenever the girl dances, she imagines that she and her cohorts are some kind of badass warrior women fighting giant samurai robots, zombie Nazis, and the like. In this dream-world within a dream-world, she concocts a plan to help her friends escape. But before she can join in their freedom, she receives the titular “sucker punch,” getting lobotomized by Don Draper.

20. Take Me Home Tonight (1 Star)

Some comedies are so generic, so by-the-books and uninspired, they make me think that, given a million dollars or so, I could direct that movie in my sleep. I wish someone would let me try. Here Topher Grace, famous for playing a ho-hum, nice guy high schooler in the 1970’s, plays another ho-hum, slightly post-high school, nice guy going to some kind of post-high school, high school party, set in another slightly retro era – the 1990’s.

19. Scream 4 (2 Stars)

Didn’t care for the new crop of young people made to be slaughtered in this unnecessary sequel. Didn’t feel the horror tropes parodied in this film took into account the drastically altered horror landscape during the 11 years Scream 3 – post-Saw, post-Hostel, yadda, yadda.

18. Water for Elephants (2 Stars)

If you thought maybe Robert Pattinson probably isn’t a bad actor, maybe he just chooses to act strange because he’s playing a sparkly vampire and all. You’re wrong. He’s even worse here. Unfortunately, Reese Witherspoon isn’t much better in this one.

17. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (3 Stars)

Thoroughly watchable, but all too familiar tale of man creates monster while trying to cure Alzheimers, monster brtrays man for keeping monkeys in cages. Tale as old as time.

16. Your Highness (3 Stars)

It’s quite a feat that what amounts to a fart/poop/penis-joke filled dramatization of a Dungeons and Dragons game was given this seemingly large-budget, effects-driven, epic treatment. The fact that Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel were tricked into participating earns this a solid 3 stars.

15. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (3 Stars)

I’ve never cared for Guy Ritchie’s take on Holmes. But this movie is as action-packed and fun as its predecessor – more so even. The first half is a little confusing and clunky – understanding why Rachel McAdams is entangled with Moriarty and so forth. But once she dies (Spoiler Alert!) things really start moving. Jared Harris is always delightful as Lane Pryce on Mad Men, and he’s also great here as Moriarty. Robert Downey Jr. is, presently, probably my favorite working actor, but Holmes is not among my favorite characters he’s played.

14. Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon (3 Stars)

The most outlandish, and therefore the most fun of the Transformers films, the third installment crystallizes all things that make director Michael Bay a singular cinematic force and reviled by film-lovers: nonstop action, explosions, female objectification, crass patriotism, and no-holds-barred, robot-on-robot, limb-ripping, head-smashing murder – all dressed up as PG-13, family-friendly entertainment!

13. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (3 1/2 Stars)

A nice straightforward standalone adventure, following the convoluted train wreck that was Pirates 3. While the previews for this one looked less than promising, it’s got every bit as much high adventure and absurdly-choreographed swashbuckling as its predecessors. For being among the world’s most notorious pirates, Jack Sparrow spends most scenes here pleading that innocent lives be spared. Guess he’s gone a little soft.

12. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (4 Stars)

I keep saying I would have paid the $18 IMAX ticket price just to see the scene where Tom Cruise scales the outside of that Dubai tower. Filmgoers are so inundated with action scenes these days, it’s difficult to do create never-been-seen-before action sequences. Director Brad Bird (of Pixar fame) manages to pull that off multiple times in this fourth MI installment.

11. Immortals (4 Stars)

This movie has pretty much everything I want from one of these re-imagined, hyper-stylized takes on the Greek myths. Like the best cinema it transports you to a unique time and place where characters face quests and foes that are truly epic. But this is not your grandpa’s Jason and the Argonauts – the violence in this one is brutal, and some of the imagery is as creepy as anything from The Cell. The movie’s fault may be not establishing the pantheon of gods better. Only three gods have names (Zeus, Athena, and Poseidon). During most of film it seems there’s only about six of them living up in Olympus… until the epilogue where it looks like there are about a gajillion of them.

I’ll forego the usual list of films I still want to see/should have seen from last year, and just mention that, as always, the list below consist of only what I saw. I know many other worthy and better films came out last year.

In fact, what strikes me as valuable about the list is not my mini-reviews – these are, after all, merely opinions, the snarkings of a film snob. What stands out to me is the type of films I chose to see.

My number one genre is clearly the so-called “genre film” (shi-fi/fantasy/action-adventure/horror-thiller). I also like comedy, but rarely go to see them in the theater. Comedies play just as well on DVD at home a year later.

You’ll notice I didn’t see a single “serious” drama or art house film this year, despite, in the past, being a defender of such fare. I still appreciate those films, but despite critical hype, I now feel fine seeing them when I see them.

When people ask what type of films I want to write/make, the answer should be obvious. Look at the list of what I like, instead hemming and ahwing and sawing, well, I like a bit of everything.

Come back tomorrow for my Top 10 of 2011!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My 9/11 Story

Here on the tenth anniversary of Sept 11th, 2011 my 9/11 story seems hardly remarkable compared to what so many went through. And yet, if my singular perspective is worth setting down, then today might as well be the day to do so. Ten years ago the world changed for my generation. We had no Pearl Harbor, no JFK assassination to remember. The Cold War had been over since before I was a teenager. 9/11 was a shocking wake up call from what now seems like one of the most peaceful and prosperous times in American history. Ten years later it's hard to remember what that time was like, looking through the lens of the divisive and cynical America we live in now.

As well as I can remember it, this was my experience on that day and the time that followed.

I was 19 years old. A sophomore attending Ball State University. That Tuesday, of course, started like any other. I woke and headed from my dorm room in Dehority hall to Noyer for breakfast. Entering the lobby I remember finding it odd that the usual pop radio station was not playing. Instead, there was some kind of serious news program on the loudspeaker. I didn't catch what was going on and headed into the cafeteria. I ate breakfast alone. I remember the room was quiet, but I didn't think anything was particularly unusual. After breakfast I headed out through the opposite lobby. This time catching those important words from the radio newscast: "Attack on America" and something about the World Trade Center collapsing.

Crossing from Noyer to the theater building my head was swimming. My world was already different. We didn't even know who the enemy was, but I remember thinking America is going to war and I was ready to fight for my country if I had to. This was important.

I went to my theater lighting class to find that the professor had the news projected on a big screen. The order of the news events that day has, for me, always been sketchy. It was already past noon in NYC, and most of the big shocks had already occurred before I started watching the news. But I made it to class just in time to watch the second tower collapse live on TV. By that time we knew two planes hit NYC, one hit the Pentagon, and another crashed in Pennsylvania. This was huge.

I had a presentation to give that day. Some kind of lighting analysis. The prof turned off the news so I could give my quick presentation. A couple other students followed. Then we were dismissed early. I headed back to my dorm room to start watching the new like everyone else seemed to be doing.

So many people comment on how eerily clear the skies were that day. But it's true. In central Indiana, seven hundred miles away from the tragedy, the weather was beautiful. Solid blue skies with hardly a cloud. And everyone was looking up to see if something else was going to happen. But there was nothing. Not a vapor trail to be seen since all the planes were grounded.

Many classes were canceled that day, but I went to my next class just to make sure. This was an American Government class. If anyone knew what was going on a government professor would, right? Government class consisted of some speculation about who was responsible for the attacks. I remember strong suggestions about China being responsible. The idea being if we were to go head to head with China in an old-school war, America would be terribly out-manned. We just didn't have the numbers.

This seems so naive to me today. While China may be an economic adversary of sorts to the US, modern nations aren't in the business of physically attacking each other anymore. We just can't be. But that's how we thought about wars back then. Nation states attacking each other. Borderless terrorist organizations just weren't in the cultural consciousness at the time. This professor also dismissed class early, and it was back to the dorm room for more news.

Eventually I got on the phone with my mom. I don't remember who called who. But I remember her crying. She was certain there would be a war and she was afraid I'd be drafted. It's funny remembering that I was ready to go to war, but that my mom obviously didn't want that for her son.

I got antsy watching the news in my own room, and headed to a hall where my friends lived. The behavior in the dorms was usually silly, crazy, crass. But this afternoon it was somber. Wandering from room to room it was more news. More speculation about who was responsible. Waiting for more towers to fall. Who knew there were more than two towers in the World Trade Center complex? Guesses about how many casualties there would be. I remember early guesses that it could be tens of thousands of people killed. Eventually the number was lowered to less than 4000.

Even back then, before each of us had a camera on our phone, it seemed remarkable how many camera angles came flooding into the news stations. Countless videos of the same events. People running through the streets away from clouds of smoke. It's remarkable how earlier disaster movies got that sort of scene right. Then there were the people who jumped out of the towers. That was somehow the most awful sight because there was no fire or steel to hide the death. Even that first day we were asking how many times are they going to show this footage?

By the evening we just wanted to know what was going to happen? What we were supposed to do? But there wasn't an answer. I guess we had to go on as usual. It was my friend Lynn Downey's birthday. We decided to get out of the dorms, unglue ourselves from the TV, and go out for her birthday as planned. We went to the Mezza Luna in downtown Muncie, which is one of the nicer joints in town and sort of like stepping out for young college kids. There were about eight of us there that night. We ordered Italian food, drank coffee, and tried to act like grown ups. We tried to act like this was a normal night even though the only certain thing was the common feeling of uncertainty.

I don't remember when the details of how the perpetrators carried out the attacks was first reported. Despite the reports that this was a sophisticated, complex, and highly-orchestrated attack, I couldn't help thinking how perfectly simple it was. I mean, a few razor blades and a few guys who knew how to fly a plane. That's all it took. And they got us. They in spectacular fashion. And whatever the government is or isn't doing to protect us since 9/11, clearly the enemy hasn't pulled of anything like this again. Bombs on trains and subways across Europe haven't had the scope or impact of what happened that day.

Over the following decade, a feeling has crept in that America is involved in some ideological war with Islam. Or course, politicians try to color that notion by saying that we at war with radical Islam, or better yet, just ideological extremists. The current feeling is that it's been that way ever since 9/11. But I don't remember that feeling cropping up right away. At the time it seemed unclear who these attackers were, let alone what they were. Our enemy was the groups that supported these terrorists, who just happened to be Muslim, not the so-called "Muslim world" as the sentiment seems to be today. Maybe other people remember America turning against Muslims that day, but I don't. As a boy from Indiana, interaction with the Muslim faith or actual Muslims was so far from my personal experience, it hardly seemed like part of this equation to me.

In the days and weeks that followed there was a pervasive spirit of solidarity with New York city. Groups from all over the world were making banners to show their support for NYC. These banners got hung on the sides of skyscapers all over the city. Ball State got in on the act, and I remember painting my name on a giant banner being made outside Pruis Hall. Coincidentally, I hitched a ride on the truck that would carry the banner to NYC. The truck dropped me off at the remote football stadium parking lot where I kept my car at the time. The truck then presumably went on to NYC. Although I heard our banner never actual got displayed anywhere. There was just too much support, I guess.

Six months later, during spring break, three friends and I took a whirlwind tour of Washington D.C. and NYC. We visited the Pentagon on the six month anniversary of the actual day of the attacks. The wounds were still fresh and everyone was still on edge. Cameras were not allowed (and still probably aren't) in the immediate proximity of the Pentagon. I got yelled at for carrying a video camera by some guys in cammo with automatic riffles. Lynn snapped a few photos in defiance of the "no camera" signs. You had to stand across the freeway if you wanted to take pictures with permission. There was still a lot of construction equipment outside the Pentagon. The wall that had been struck, I believe, had been mostly rebuilt. Lynn was interviewed by news cameras about why college students had decided to visit the Pentagon on this day.

Ground Zero in New York was even more dramatic for me. Looking into the giant holes that were still being excavated. The cross that was erected from two steel beams. The charred and mangled globe that had once stood at the WTC, but was moved to Battery Park as a monument. And mostly strikingly, the fences near Ground Zero, which were layered with notices of missing persons, pictures of lost loved ones, and letters of support for the victims and their families. Six months had passed, and even late at night it was difficult to make it through the crowds that surrounded these fences praying, singing, and showing respect for the tragedy that took place there.

In the aftermath of 9/11 and as the facts became known, I clearly never enlisted in the military. Obviously there was no draft. The wars that followed were not the type we had known before or were expecting. This never-ending and objective-less "War on Terror" was not the sort that the masses were eager to enlist in, like they did after Pearl Harbor. Certainly many thousands did enlist as a result of 9/11, but the reasons for war and who the enemy is was often less than explicit.

How my life is now "different" is not as clear for me as it is for so many who were direct victims of the attacks. I didn't know anyone on the planes, in the Trade Center, or at the Pentagon. I haven't lost anyone close to me in the wars that have followed. I've had cousins and old friends from school who have fought, but to my knowledge, they've all made it home in tact.

I've experienced the same changes as everyone else. The increased security at airports, museums, and other public places. As the inevitable government surveillance has increased, I've been part of the somewhat ironic public reaction. As fears of cameras monitoring us everywhere we go increases, so has everyone started to carry cameras on themselves at all times, making their own photos and videos public. As we fear that our personal details will be tracked by the government, so we all willingly make every detail of our lives public through social media.

For me, the "spirit of the nation" has changed. We are less optimistic. We are more divided. More spiteful of ourselves, of our fellow citizens, and of the rest of the world. This is not all a direct result of 9/11. There are political, cultural, financial, and technological shifts that have contributed to this "post-9/11" world.

It's perhaps most ironic that America was never more beloved by the rest of the world than immediately following 9/11. But ten years later we are perhaps more hated than ever. In the time after the attacks there was more unity in our country than any time in my lifetime. But how quickly that turned to become a more divided and ideologically entrenched country than ever.

Those are my memories of the events of 9/11. Somehow both remote and dramatic. And this is how I've experience the world changing since then. In ways both meaningful and ephemeral.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Relevant 5 - Feb 6-12

A re-cap of the best stuff I watched last week.

LOST SEASON 6 Rewatch Complete!
Finally knocked out the last few episodes: "The Candidate," "Across the Sea," "What They Died For," and "The End." Jo and I finished our rewatch of Lost Season 6. The season is so generally disappointing that we really felt no urgency to push through it. Actually, the final 3 episodes and the ending they crafted worked much better for me on a second go round. I was more inclined to buy their whole Jacob replacement justification, and the notion of "moving on." It's too bad these ideas doesn't really have much to do with the majority of the rest of the series. So many of the characters were so mishandled in the last season, and so much vital information was ignored, which is why S6 is such a bummer.

In case you didn't get enough Lost-related humor in the last 6 years of your life, my buddy Eric Branscom did a stirring musical tribute to LOST.

A Korean western I had read about some time ago. None of us had seen it, and it turned out to be a real winner. Totally different than I expected. I was anticipating a small and quirky, something more avant-garde, and, quite frankly, something weirder. Instead it was a pretty spectacular epic, and very much a take on the story of THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY -- had a lot of the same broad story beats. This was set in the late 1800's Cambodia at a time when the Japanese army was occupying much of the far east continent -- an unusual and surprisingly effective setting for a straight up western. I'm always impressed with how so much Korean cinema has a unique energy and aesthetic to its action sequences and a different set of expectations as to how narrative should play out. This was a good one to stumble upon.

500 DAYS OF SUMMER (2009)
Starring indie pixie princess Zooey Deschanel. Goes to great lengths to remind us all just how precious and perfect she is. Great flick chronicling various snapshots of a sometimes beautiful, but ultimately imperfect and temporary relationship. A movie trope I hate is when two cahracters cute-meet and bond over movies and music. You're IN a movie, find something to talk about other than movies! (Also, you're a screenwriter writing a movie, find something to write about besides movies!) They also bonded over looking at architecture. Don't get me wrong, it's a great moive, but it's like the screenwriter read "Stuff White People Like," didn't understand it was ironic, and decided to include all that stuff.

Pretty great flick in which the bad guys totally kill everyone at the end. It's about the end of the "bounty killer" era in the American west, based on a true life mass slaughter that took place in Utah. Sergio Corbucci directed. Not quite the visual masterpiece of a Sergio Leoni film. Ennio Morriconi score. Film could definitely stand to have an update. Remake should parallel the silent hero with the silence of the American people to the unjust laws that made the slaughter of a religious group (the Mormons, in this case) legal.

I thought I had seen all three hero-with-no-name films by Sergio Leoni, but apparently missed this one. This one somehow seems the most "mainstream" of the trilogy. Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef have an almost BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID buddy-bandit vibe going on at times.

And, in case you missed it, here's the super-classy opening number The 2011 Writers Guild Awards, which I associate produced. "Write it Gay" performed by hosts Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

And if you've got a better name than "Relevant 5" for these possibly-recurring posts, please make a suggestion!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Essential Lost

Ever since May’s inner conflict-inducing series finale, I’ve been unable to bring myself to watch Lost again, write about Lost, or write about anything else if you haven’t noticed. Just kidding, the real reason for lack of blogging has to do with projects keeping me busier than ever. However, right after the finale I developed a theory – a method of rewacthing and a way to direct the uninitiated who ask “Should I watch Lost?”

When people ask what the show is about, you usually have to launch in with: “Lost is about plane crash survivors who end up on a deserted island… Well, not really deserted. And there’s a monster. And then they start time traveling… for some reason. And there’s these two brothers who are immortal… or something… and they are engaged in some kind of unending struggle to… well, it’s complicated.” Then you wind up saying you just have to watch it, which elicits the response, “I don’t know if I’m up for all that.”

The Rules

So here’s my theory for boiling Lost down its essential story to make a less daunting challenge for first timers and rewatchers. The rules for what episodes to watch:

1.) Every season premiere and season finales. They always pack the biggest game changers and wildest cliffhangers into the bookends.

2.) Every Jack, Locke, Desmond, and Ben episodes. Let’s face it – these characters’ journeys are the story of the show.

You could stop right there and probably have a pretty essential Lost experience, but I’ve added in a few more rules:

3.) The first and last centric episode for each major character. Since these characters are around all the time, you at least need a little info on who they are and how their stories end.

4.) All Character-centric episodes. There's a couple of these.

5.) Episodes including deaths of major characters. You’ll miss these characters if they’re suddenly gone without explanation.

6.) Plus, I’ve thrown in about a few other episodes that contain essential exposition or that fill in major gaps.

The uninitiated can get through Lost in like 75% of the time, and for rewatchers it leaves out the many ultimately irrelevant storylines.

Certainly I recognize that some of the notoriously worst episodes (“Stranger in a Strange Land”) make the list, while beloved characters like Hurley, Sawyer, and Sayid get shortchanged, but at least you get rid of most of Kate’s terrible back story. What I’m concerned with here is overall essential story.

Essential Lost Episodes

So here’s the breakdown of what episodes you’re left with:

Season 1 (20/24 Episodes – 83%)

1x01 The Pilot, Part 1 – Season Premiere & Jack-centric

1x02 The Pilot, Part 2 – Season Premiere

1x03 Tabula Rasa – First Kate-centric

1x04 Walkabout – Locke-centric

1x05 White Rabbit – Jack-centric

1x06 House of the Rising Sun – First Sun-centric

1x07 The Moth – First Charlie-centric

1x08 Confidence Man – First Sawyer-centric

1x09 Solitary – First Sayid-centric

1x10 Raised by Another – First Claire-centric

1x11 All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues – Jack-centric

1x13 Hearts and Minds – First Boone-centric

1x14 Special – First Michael & Walt-centric

1x15 Homecoming – Major Character Death

1x17 …In Translation – First Jin-centric

1x18 Numbers – First Hurley-centric

1x19 Deus Ex Machina – Locke-centric

1x20 Do No Harm – Jack-centric & Major Character Death

1x23 Exodus, Part 1 – Season Finale & All Character-centric

1x24 Exodus, Part 2 – Season Finale & All Character-centric

Season 2 (14/24 Episodes – 58%)

2x01 Man of Science, Man of Faith – Season Premiere & Jack-centric

2x03 Orientation – Locke-centric

2x06 Abandoned – First Shannon-centric

2x07 The Other 48 Days – Major Expositional (Talies)

2x08 Collision – First Ana Lucia-centric & Major Character Death

2x10 The 23rd Psalm – First Mr. Eko-centric

2x11 The Hunting Party – Jack-centric

2x15 Homecoming – Major Expositional (Claire)

2x17 Lockdown – Locke-centric

2x19 S.O.S. – First (and Only) Rose & Bernard-centric

2x20 Two for the Road – Last Ana Lucia-centric & Major Characters Deaths

2x22 Three Minutes – Major Expositional (Michael)

2x23 Live Together, Die Alone Part 1 – Season Finale & Desmond-centric

2x24 Live Together, Die Alone Part 2 – Season Finale & Desmond-centric

Season 3 (14/22 Episodes – 63%)

3x01 A Tale of Two Cities – Season Premiere & Jack-centric

3x03 Further Instructions – Locke-centric

3x05 The Cost of Living – Last Mr. Eko-centric & Major Character Death

3x07 Not in Portland – First Juliet-centric

3x08 Flashes Before Your Eyes – Desmond-centric

3x09 Stranger in a Strange Land – Jack-centric

3x13 The Man From Tallahassee – Locke–centric

3x14 Expose – First (and Only) Nikki & Paulo-centric & Major Characters Deaths

3x16 One of Us – Juliet-centric (Okay, so here I’m cheating by including this instead of “The Other Woman” because this is a much better Juliet episode and much more important to the overall Lost-mythos.)

3x17 Catch 22 – Desmond-centric

3x19 The Brig – Locke-centric

3x20 The Man Behind the Curtain – Ben-centric

3x21 Greatest Hits – Last Charlie-centric

3x22 Through the Looking Glass – Season Finale & Major Character Death

Season 4 (10/14 Episodes – 71%)

4x01 The Beginning of the End – Season Premiere

4x02 Confirmed Dead – First Freighter Four-centric

4x05 The Constant – Desmond-centric

4x08 Meet Kevin Johnson – Last Michael-centric

4x09 The Shape of Things to Come – Ben-centric

4x10 Something Nice Back Home – Jack-centric

4x11 Cabin Fever – Locke-centric

4x12 There’s No Place Like Home Part 1 – Season Finale

4x13 There’s No Place Like Home Part 2 – Season Finale

4x14 There’s No Place Like Home Part 3 – Season Finale

Season 5 (13/17 Episodes – 76%)

5x01 Because You Left – Season Premiere

5x03 Jughead – Desmond-centric

5x06 316 – Jack-centric

5x07 The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham – Locke-centric & Major Character Death

5x08 LaFleur – Major Expositional (Sawyer)

5x09 Namaste – Major Expositional (All Characters)

5x10 He’s Our You – Major Character Death (Sorta)

5x12 Dead is Dead – Ben-centric

5x13 Some Like it Hoth – Last Miles-centric

5x14 The Variable – Last Daniel-centric

5x15 Follow the Leader – First Richard Centric & Major Character Death

5x16 The Incident Part 1 – Season Finale

5x17 The Incident Part 2 – Season Finale

Season 6 (17/17 Episodes – 100%)

6x01 LA X Part 1 – Season Premiere & Major Character Death

6x02 LA X Part 2 – Season Premiere

6x03 What Kate Does – Last Kate-centric

6x04 The Substitute – Locke-centric

6x05 The Lighthouse – Jack-centric

6x06 Sundown – Last Sayid-centric

6x07 Dr. Linus – Ben-centric

6x08 Recon – Last Sawyer-centric

6x09 Ab Aeterno – Last Richard-centric

6x10 The Package – Last Jin & Sun-centric

6x11 Happily Ever After – Desmond-centric

6x12 Everybody Loves Hugo – Last Hurley Centric

6x13 The Last Recruit – All Character-centric

6x14 The Candidate – Jack & Locke-centric

6x15 Across the Sea – Jacob & MIB-centric

6x16 What They Died For – All Character-centric

6x17 The End – Finale

In total 88/118 episodes = 75% make up what I call Essential Lost.

I suppose the biggest irony is that this plan includes watching the entire 6th season, of which I love very few episodes. That said, I think this boils off some of the fat, might be less daunting for the un-watched, and possibly an interesting rewatch experiment of the over-watched.

I know the Lost-purists will hate this idea and that it robs the series of some of its great memories, but I’m not talking about ditching these episodes forever, just about looking at what’s really important after everything we learned about the series.

Just got Season 6 for Christmas and will probably attempt this soon.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Top 10 Films of 2010

Turns out I only saw 20 new films last year, which means a full 50% made my top 10 list, not a very discriminating percentage. Films 1-7 are worthy contenders. Films 8 & 9 make the list because I'm an unapologetic fanboy. Film 10 is a kind of a surprise for squeaking its way into the last spot. I imagine had I seen either 127 Hours or Black Swan, the list would have look a little different.

10. How To Train Your Dragon (3.5 Stars) - Dreamworks brings its A-game with this one. A lot of fun. Character design still inferior to Pixar, but the action-adventure here is pretty great.

9. Tron: Legacy (4 Stars) – A surprisingly satisfying sequel to a 28-year-old classic that in no way needed a sequel. You can pick apart the story, but it looks and sounds truly unique. The Daft Punk score made the film.

8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (4 Stars) – You can enjoy all the Harry Potter films without actually knowing what’s going in them. Same thing this time, only worse. (What’s the deal with Voldemort? Who cares.) There were about a dozen places in this one where, if I had not recently read the book, I would have been lost. The film’s breakneck pace, in an attempt to cram in as many details from the book as possible, causes it to rush past some major emotional beats and brush over important plot details. They could have benefited from the clarity brought by a bit more exposition. While heavy exposition is usually a bad thing, this is undoubtedly a nerd movie and nerds eat exposition for breakfast. Why not pour it on?

All that said, this is perhaps my favorite of the Potter flicks so far. It’s an amazing feat that they kept this cast of child actors and major British thespians together for a full decade of 8 films. Also amazing that they’ve let what started as a kiddie movie franchise get this mature and dark.

7. True Grit (4 Stars) - Jeff Daniels and Matt Damon depict a couple most fun-to-watch movie characters I've seen in ages. The kid's pretty great too. Wonderful dialogue. The climax (or lack thereof) is a little less than satisfying. It's my theory the Cohens' bleak philosophy doesn't allow the fulfillment of the little girl's revenge plot to have the emotional weight it deserves.

6. Kick-Ass (4 Stars) – One of the coolest most fun films in a long time – that is until I saw Scott Pilgrim. A foul-mouthed 11-year old girl inflicting massive violence ain’t for everyone, but if you’re down with that, this is a raucous deconstruction of the superhero film.

5. The King's Speech (5 Stars) - A small little story, very well acted, beautifully shot, delightful and uplifting. Deserves the great buzz it's getting. However, I feel that people are giving it "Best Picture" credit simply because no one makes movies like this very much anymore, not because it's actually the best picture of the year. Colin Firth does deserve Best Actor through.

4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (5 Stars) – This movie slipped though the cracks without getting the credit it deserves – quite possibly changing the game for what we can expect from visual effect. This film was a non-stop special effects onslaught, and all the effects are perfect and super stylish. Not only was it cool but it was tons of fun and actually quite funny.

3. Toy Story 3 (5 Stars) – This is the part where every year I marvel about how these Pixar dudes are able to pull it off again! This is the third film in the Toy Story franchise and manages to possibly be most heart warming. Sad, scary, and fun in all the right places.

2. The Social Network (5 Stars) – Morally complex. At various points in this movie I picked sides with everybody, I wanted each character to screw the other characters out of the deal. It was like a modern day strike-it-rich oil tycoon tale, but instead of finding oil, the protagonist creates the next Internet sensation, something many a modern businessperson dreams they could do. The film deftly traverses the pitfalls of working in a speculative and creative business.

1. Inception (5 Stars) – What more can be said about Inception? It looked cool, right? It didn’t change my world immediately upon viewing as much as it did for others. However the following days and weeks filled with discussions and articles, impressed on me just how intricate and thoughtful the movie really is. Chris Nolan has got to be the most impressive working director of the last five years or so.

And, of course, here are some of the titles I need to see:

127 Hours, Black Swan, Never Let Me Go, Alice in Wonderland, Despicable Me, Tangled, The Expendables, Date Night, Due Date, The Book of Eli, Prince of Persia, Get Him to the Greek, The Runaways, Hot Tub Time Machine, Date Night, Machete, Wall Street 2, Buried, Frozen, Twilight Eclipse, Let Me In, Exit Through the Gift Shop.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Films of 2010 (11-20)

Wost to best, here's my take on the year in cinema... or, what I saw of it anyway.

20. Cop Out (1 Star) – I actually had high hopes for this one. Tracey Morgan and Sean Williams Scott, always hilarious. Bruce Willis, always solid. Kevin Smith venturing into his first mainstream comedy. Should be a fun ride, right? If this was supposed to be a purposely-bad movie, then it didn’t really commit. Kevin Smith apparently can’t do parody. He can only do Kevin Smith movies. You pretty much feel sorry for Bruce Willis as he suffers his way though every not-funny scene.

19. Youth in Revolt (2 Stars) – The Cera charm is wearing thin. Actually, the idea of Michael Cera playing two version of a character – one his usual nerdy self and the other a rebellious badass – should be hilarious. Unfortunately this swerves far into arty-farty territory and lacks the emotional depth to make the hipster pretentions palatable.

18. The Wolfman (2.5 Stars) – Because we need more werewolf movies.

17. RED (2.5 Stars) – Was this supposed to be a comedy or spy thriller? Couldn’t tell, but it was definitely annoying in places. The old guys didn’t seem old enough for a film whose name means “Retired Extremely Dangerous.”

16. Robin Hood (2.5 Stars) – What’s most interesting about this film is figuring out what parts of the script remain in tact from when the film was called “Nottingham,” and was to star Russell Crow as the Sherriff, with the man in tights as the villain.

15. Cyrus (2.5 Stars) - John C. Riley and Jonah Hill play quieter, subtler (if not a little more psychotic) versions of their usual manic on-camera personas in this unique little indie comedy. John C. Riley’s character is an editor, and I’d venture a guess that the film’s writer/director is probably a real-life editor based on the way Cyrus was cut. In many key moments the story is moved forward entirely through voice over montages, an interesting editorial maneuver.

14. Clash of the Titans (2.5 Stars) – Didn’t manage to capture the sense of wonder and awe in its far away mythic universe the same way the original does. Remarkably, what I liked most about the new Tron is that it managed to do just that.

13. The Other Guys (2.5 Stars) – This movie is 35% better than Cop Out.

12. The Town - This film gets a lower score less because it's not a great film (Affleck pulls major double duty by directing and starring here). It has more to do with me being generally unexcited about its two main concepts: 1.) being a straight-up gritty crime drama and 2.) being set in Boston. Boston folks is real cuz they grew up on the streets where it's tough and stuff. I get it already.

11. Iron Man 2 (3 Stars) – Call me old fashioned, but I always like when superheroes do a little more day-saving than what happens here. Cool. Fun. But not as good as the original.

Check back tomorrow for my Top 10!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

LosTalk: The End (6 x 17 & 18) and a Lost Post Mortem

So Dead is Dead, and Whatever Happened Happened, and the full emotional weight of Lost withdrawal has set in.

It's Tuesday night and there's no new Lost. Not this Tuesday, not any Tuesday, not any other day of the week ever again. I'm sitting here, head still spinning two days later. After years of arguments, thoughtful discussions, and countless words written, I'm still trying to process how I feel about the finale.

This post is long. How could it not be. Read it in chunks if you have to.

So what just happened Sunday night? I spent the first two hours of the finale absolutely loving it. The island was crumbling, Jack was throwing down with Flocke, Kate was saving the day (for once!), Frank was surviving, people were escaping. Over in the Flashsideways World everyone was converging, people got to fall in love all over again.

I was right there with them. I could live with this ending -- even if it didn't explain why Mikhail wouldn't die, or how Dharma knew to contain Smokey behind a sonic fence, or why the Others bury their dead at sea, or why the ancient island dwellers worshiped a fertility god. Forgetting all they stuff, I could live with what was happening. All the right heartstrings were pulled.

I loved it right up the moment with Jack walked into the little Unitarian church room with his father's coffin. I thought, please let Christian Shepherd be up and waking around -- that would be the perfect weirdness to drop into this second universe that had been mostly void of hocus pocus. I don't know how they'll explain it, but just do it...

And they did. And then I kinda hated everything that came out of his mouth... the explanation of what was really going on... how the story was really ending.

I know some people loved this ending, found it emotionally fulfilling. I know other people are furious about it. I'll try and get down why it's left me queasy, and maybe it's best to start by asking what I would have wanted from "The End."

So-called "answers" aside, what I really wanted was the Losties to save the day and to save themselves. (They don't all have to live obviously, but it'd be nice to see some of them make it home and happy.) You might say, yo, what's wrong with you? That's exactly what DID happen! Jack saved the island and at least six people survived.

Saving the Island

Sure. Jack did save the island (and in the process redeemed Locke's memory). But after six seasons, it's never been clear what saving the island means. So the island has the energy, the light that's in all of us. So what? What does it mean if the island is destroyed? What happens to the world if Black Shirt escapes? What happens if the light is extinguished? Oh, the light goes out in all of us, you say? Wait, the light was extinguished and I'm pretty sure we're not mean to believe the whole world died, or went evil, or became soulless or something.

Just last week we were told THIS was the reason the Losties came, suffered, and died. But there's nothing really tangible about what, at the very last minute, became the main stakes of the show. Usually in these ticking clock scenarios we understand the terror of what might happen. We know what will happen if James Bond doesn't disarm the nuclear bomb, or if the Rebels don't destroy the Death Star.

Here I don't know what will happen if the island sinks. In fact, I've already been shown a world where the island IS sunk, and that world doesn't seem so bad -- everyone's falling in love over there. And with a half hour left in the show my mind is still racing to connect the two worlds, and to figure out how the Losties might save the day in a world where the island is destroyed.

Surviving the Island

And yes, a rather random assortment of characters did fly away and presumably lived full lives. Thank goodness the important characters of Miles, Alpert, and Frank made it! It is interesting that Claire and Sawyer got to go home. After all, when Jack wanted the Oceanic Six to go back and rescue everybody, Sawyer and Claire were really the only major characters left behind that they knew were alive.

But these characters getting to live happily ever after is somewhat diminished when THE REAL END is revealed for what it is... purgatory and heaven (or some permutation thereof). And EVERYONE is there, or almost everyone.

The After Life

The mythos of Lost was recently expanded to tell us the island is not just a source of time travel, teleportation, and healing, but it is THE source... of magic, and light, and, I don't know, the Force or something. Like I've said, that's a big mythos.

Now the mythos is even bigger because we've got concrete proof of an afterlife, one that comes in two phases: a temporary purgatory-like phase, and a final happy heaven-like phase. That's a spicy meatball!

I know that sometimes as an audience member you've got to turn off the literal mind, and just appreciate what they want you to feel and appreciate what it's supposed to mean. I have a tendency to lean on the overly analytical mind (duh!). At the same time you've got to ask what's really going on here and how does it relate to this story we've spent so much time with.

Purgatory and Heaven

So what is really going on here? Apparently in the world of Lost you've got a soul, and after you die it goes to this purgatory place, a purgatory that looks an awful lot like your real life (except your plane doesn't crash!). And the best part -- all your buddies' souls are there too. Not all your buddies, just your closest buddies. And somehow all your buddies' souls knit together a matrix of their collective consciousness that plays out together in real time.

Now this purgatory isn't about paying penance per se. It's about "letting go" of your past life, so you can move on. How do you let go? By bumping into your soul mate, a.k.a your Constant. Once you've found your old soul mate you're ready leave purgatory for the happier heaven place, and it's best if you go together will all your old friends. This doesn't sound quite like "letting go" of the old life to me.

It should be mentioned that not everybody gets this purgatory/heaven experience. Some people (like Michael) who have done questionable things (like killing a couple ladies) get their souls stuck on the island. I'm not sure if that's unique to the island or if souls can get stuck elsewhere.

Also, certain people in purgatory seem to doing a little penance. For instance Ben (who's killed countless people) gets the purgatory/heaven combo, but he (like Ana Lucia) isn't quite ready to head into the light with the rest.

Finally, not everyone from your real life who appears in the purgatory matrix is really there. Take Mikhail, who was shot and killed in purgatory. What happens to you when you die in purgatory? Or take the reborn baby Aaron. He's more of a soul prop for his mother Claire. Surely the real Aaron, who we assume lived to adulthood in the real world, would get his own purgatory where his soul is an adult. Who wants to be stuck as a baby for eternity? (Or maybe that would be nice, dunno.)

No idea why in purgatory Eloise Widmore believe that Desmond's actions are a "violation," and why she, Dan Widmore, and Charlotte are not ready to move on the heaven.

Also, somehow physical scars from the real world can open up on your purgatory body: Jack's neck and side wound.

After seasons of speculation that the island might be purgatory (a pretty good theory), it seems cheap to say the island isn't purgatory but there IS a purgatory you've just never seen for five seasons.

I know there's a lot of room for interpretation with what we were shown. And I know I'm leaning on over literal analysis. Let's just say it is what is. Now how does this ending fit with the rest of the story?

Whatever Happened to Flashing Sideways?

I suppose what frustrates me most about this purgatory/heaven scenario is that it's the most flagrant misdirection yet in a show full of red herrings. When the curtain was pulled back, the reveal felt cheap instead of brilliantly satisfying.

(BTW, I was always more a fan of Sayid/Nadia than Sayid/Shannon.)

Compare that to the Season 5 finale when we learned that Locke was dead and Black Shirt had been masquerading in his body for half a season. In one moment we learned the man of faith, who's special insight we had been following since day one turned out to be wrong! It was devastating, but Lost can be a harsh mistress. It was also brilliant because, standing on the doorstep of the final act, the bad guy was at his most potent and our characters at their most helpless.

Alternatively, the reveal that the Flashsideways World was in fact purgatory lacked the brilliant "gothca" effect. It was melancholy and, frankly, didn't make sense with the story leading up to it.

In S5 our main question was can you change the past? Our heros most desperate action - detonating a nuke and creating the Incident - was taken in hopes of doing just that. And now we know their actions were in vain. The nuke did nothing.

Faraday was wrong, there are no variables, you can't change the past, and whatever happened, happened. No one can come back from the dead, not even in alternate timelines.

(Yes, the nuke zapped them back to the future. Again we have to plug our ears and go "nah, nah, nah" ignoring who or what controls the time travel. Add it to Jacob's kinda sorta powers list.)

Then in S6 the main question is which timeline will be Jacob's one true end? Did Jacob create this timeline as a backup plan? Do Jacob and Black Shirt even know or care about this Flashsideways timeline?

Well you can throw that whole debate out the window because the two timelines never coexisted. The Flashsideways wasn't even a timeline. Just the collective consciousness of a bunch of lost soul buddies, a.k.a. purgatory.

The fact that the plane never crashed in purgatory doesn't matter. These events have no bearing on the real life events of the story. In fact you don't even need this whole magical island story to have this ending. The story could have been about two plumbers who died and go to plumber purgatory until they let go of plumbing and "move on."

It's ironic that in the spirit world everyone's lives are rather mundane, compared to the real world in which their lives were literally filled with supernatural, miraculous, pseudo-science, conspiracy, and gobbledygook.

Sunken Island

Add to the list of red herrings. The sunken island we were shown in the first minutes of Season 6 is absolutely meaningless. None of the main characters in this "world" had ever been to the island (except Ben) so why does it exist and why is it at the bottom of the ocean?

This image exclusively fueled a season's debate over how the worlds were connected, how they spawned from the same moment (the Incident), who would sink the island and how. All this debate was for naught!

Just How Special Are You?

Learning that Desmond was Jacob's failsafe, last week we could assume Jacob wanted Desmond to arrange the characters' "enlightenment" over in the Flashsideways world. That Desmond would be responsible for the timelines convergence, etc.

However that's obviously not true. The Flashsideways not-actually-a-world had nothing to do with Jacob's plan. Apparently Jacob needed Special Desmond only to do exactly what he did, a reletively simple feat -- remove the stone and put out the light -- so that Black Shirt could be killed. How Jacob knew this would work when Black Shirt did not is beyond me.

Yet Desmond did so much more! Not only does Desmond's special reaction to electromagnetic energy allow his consciousness to travel between times, it also lets his consciousness travel INTO THE SPIRIT WORLD!

Somehow when zapped by Charles Widmore's machine, Desmond's mind flashed into his purgatory-bound soul and came up with a plan to round up his friends and tell them this isn't their real life. Is this something Jacob wanted him to do or even cared about? If Desmond hadn't had this miraculous intuition, who knows how long it would have taken our wandering Losties' souls to reconnect and move on.

That's a pretty special ability if you ask me.

"It Only Ends Once"

Very true. But with the debate out the window over which timeline would be Jacob's one true end, what do Jacob and Black Shirt's philosophizing amount to?

"Across the Sea" showed us Black Shirt's cycle. The earlier island protector had to find her replacement between candidates. The seemingly special candidate became Smokey (like Locke), and the reluctant candidate eventually took the mantle (like Jack). The selfish humans seemed like a threat to the island and had to be purged (like Dharma and so many others).

But did that cycle really end? The island still has a protector, and won't Hurley have to find his replacement when his time is over? And did Jack's self sacrificial choice during his brief tenure as top dog somehow equal "progress" for mankind at large?

The series ultimately seemed just as concerned with our character's choices to find each other in purgatory as their choices in the real world, choices that have no bearing on actual mankind. Offering a choice to everyone in purgatory makes their dramatic choices during life feel meaningless (although, I suppose the real notion of purgatory has the same implications).

What I liked

I did like that we got both Jack sacrificing himself to save the island and Hurley becoming the good-willed new protector -- fates they both seemed headed for. I didn't think we'd get both though.

I like that Frank survived, somewhat justifying that none of the Losties batted an eye or even mentioned his name after he seemed to blow up in the sub. He got to fly the plane home as he seemed destined to do.

(Hopefully there was enough gas left to make it anywhere.)

(And hopefully they left on a correct bearing so they're not stuck in the island's time travel bubble for a millennium. Is the time travel bubble a natural property of the island, or was is put there by Jacob and disappeared when he left?)

I like that Kate took the final shot that did away with Smokey and saved her man Jack.

I liked that we got nearly everybody back this week, including Rose, Bernard, Boone, Shannon, Charlie, and Vincent. (I guess Nikki and Paulo were too expensive to get.)

I liked all the reunions during the Flashsidways. I could have seen more Juliet/Sawyer, but now I'm revealing my true stripes a bit too much.

I liked that the whole affair was appropriately melancholy and joyful to conclude a story six years in the making.

What I Missed

I'm not going to attempt some kind of list about what Lost left "unanswered." Lots of other bloggers have done that. But I will mention my biggest four unresolved issues, all hearkening back to Season 1 and 2 mysteries:
  • Walt, his special abilities, and mysterious appearances got no resolution.
  • Aaron's prophesied birth and the importance of him not being raised by another.
  • Who are the Others really? What's their special relationship with death? What do they really know about the island and Jacob's purpose? If nothing, then why are they so freaking weird?
  • What did Dharma really know about the island besides it's time travel energy. They somehow knew how stop Smokey with that fence. They even built a house over the Smokey summoning toilet. Why are there hieroglyphics on the hatch countdown clock? Why do some of their members carry the ankh - a symbol of eternal life. Seems to be some crossover with the Others that was never clear. Were they really trying to save the world with the Valenzeti equation and how does that relate to Jacob's one true end?

I appreciate the fact that there are uncontrollable factors that affect TV production and story lines -- actor's schedules, actors leaving for other shows, writers coming and going, production budgets, number of episodes ordered, etc. The complexity of Lost's many plots is part of the appeal, and I would never expect 100% of everything to be wrapped up nicely in a bow.

But at the end of the day, winding down plot lines isn't like controlling an oil spill. They're not a force of nature that must be fought. These are just plot lines that were created by someone, surely someone should have had some idea how to finish them!

It's under-whelming that these brilliant writers and producers who crafted compelling and thought-provoking moments throughout the years, didn't at least imagine up resolutions for as many of their mysteries as their fans have.

You might say, dude, more was answered than you want to admit. Sure, you can take any aspect of the show, and looking at it through five hazy lenses of what "might" be going on, and speculate about the reason for things. But you can also swap out those lenses for five different ideas of what "might" be going on and get a different picture. There's a dissatisfying lack of clarity to it all. That same lack of clarity is what's made the show so fascinating and worthy of discussion over the years.

Alas, sometimes I feel that Lost has been so thought provoking to me because its murky forest-for-the-trees focus, its muddled paths of cause and effect, its here-one-minute-gone-the-next quality of significance -- all remind me of real life more than just about any other work of fiction I know. Lost deserves kudos for enabling discussion among the masses about faith, science, freewill, fate, and Patsy Cline music.

Thanks For the Journey

Many a blogger has focussed their final analysis on thanking those that shared the journey with them (perhaps in leu of feeling truly satisfied with the show, which to me feels like enjoying the icing without the cake). I'd be remiss if I didn't do the same.

Lost truly has been a journey, and it's been a focal point for my LA-based "family." Those who made the commitment to be there most weeks really shared something, and became part of the inner circle of friends.

Thanks to those who introduced me to Lost. I was a late Season 2 bloomer.

Thanks to my wife and friends for hosting Lost night over the years and throwing some really spectacular parties.

Thanks to the people I've met online and shared conversation with.

Thanks to my LA readers who want to argue with me each week.

Thanks to my readers from back home and from growing up. I'm glad we got to share a common interest after all these years.

Thanks to those readers I don't even know but have decided to chime in from time to time.

It's because of all of you that writing any of this was worthwhile, and because of you Lost became the encompassing life experience it has been.

(I kinda doubt this is the final word I'll ever write about Lost, and I do hope to post pics of the finale party asap. Thanks to the "Lost Media" site for letting me steal their screencaps without permission!)

And now I'll succumb to ending this post like every Lost blogger is supposed to...