Monday, May 31, 2010

The Big 80

LAGuy has been celebrating so many birthdays lately, I'm surprised he missed this one. To help make my day, here's one of my favorite scenes from the movie "The Enforcer". (some mild language)

The Pits

I've complained that Michael Medved used bad numbers to prove Hollywood turned its audience off in the 60s with too much sex and profanity. So I was on my guard when I heard him recently on the radio. He was talking about our current political problems, and said it's not acceptable to sit back and do nothing. He then said Dante put people who did nothing during a crisis in the deepest pit of hell.

This is wrong. The lowest pit of hell is reserved for those who betray their benefactors. In fact, those who are indecisive or neutral on moral issues don't even make it to the first circle of hell, but are stuck in the vestibule just before circle #1.

It's Time

Yesterday I head this song three separate times on the radio. Is someone trying to tell me something?

Another Night Out

So last Friday I saw a movie in Burbank. Doesn't matter what since the interesting stuff happened after.

While driving out of the parking garge, I noticed a bunch of cop cars and an ambulance. Somehow someone had driven a car directly through a huge window into a furniture store. It's the kind of thing you only see in a movie. It was just a side street, and there was no cross street, so I still can't figure how anyone could have driven that car straight in.

Then, driving down Magnolia, I saw this license plate: 5 4 DSNY. As I explained earlier, this time I figured I'd find out what it meant. At the next red, I drove alongside the car as asked the driver. He explained there were five in his family, and they all loved Disneyland. Five for Disney.

Once I got on the Hollywood side of the hills, on Cahuenga, the traffic practically stopped. I could see ahead the cops had closed down the road from Hollywood to Sunset. Another accident? Not sure why. But while I'll slowly inched forward, I got to watch a slap fight between two girls coming out of a club. Maybe they closed down the wrong part of the road.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dan Done

This is interesting--Nearly Dan, a Steely Dan cover band. Hard to believe there's much call for it.

The singer doesn't sound much like Donald Fagen, but then, would you want that?

Intelligent Defeat

Maybe I'm misreading him, but Karl Giberson, Ph. D., seems to be arguing that if scientists want to take down Intelligent Design, they need to say religion is okay.

I don't get it. Perhaps he means it as a strategic move, but if a scientist believes religion isn't true, why would he trade one falsehood for another?

A Bad Scare

YouTube is filled with "scare" videos. Probably the most famous is where you think you're involved in a quiet maze game when a screaming Linda Blair from The Exorcist jumps out.

There are numerous videos showing people react. What I don't get are all those, most presumably shot by parents, showing kids being the victim. Who'd play this prank on their child? And then put it on YouTube for millions to see?

(I'm going to show you a few as examples--I feel the damage has already been done.)





Saturday, May 29, 2010

L&H Productions

As a big fan of Laurel and Hardy, let me recommend Dan Callahan's short essay on their career. Callahan is the best sort of film writer--knowledgeable, rational and, while opinionated, not over-opinionated.

Laurel and Hardy were already experienced film comedians when they joined up in the late 20s at Hal Roach Studio. It took them a few shorts to establish their characters, but from then on they did good work, more in shorts than features, all the way through the 30s. Alas, their films after that at Fox and MGM, where they had no control, are pretty bad--I'd hate to think of newcomers being introduced to the team through them.

Callahan admits their style is old-fashioned. That's true, but even back then, they were different. Where most physical comedians got by through speed, Laurel and Hardy slowed things down. They were as destructive as any clowns, but they did it deliberatetly, with a certain refinement, even daintiness, that set them apart.

Alas, there's a problem all L & H fans have. As Callahan puts it:

It's hard to see their movies on DVD; there are too many scattered collections here and there, and it's about time some reputable company restored and released their silent and talkie shorts in chronological order, in affordable boxed sets.

Since DVDs and other modern media may already be the main way they're seen, I can only hope someone who can do something about it reads Callahan and responds.

Take A Cab

Happy Birthday, Danny Elfman. Who'd have thought the leader of Oingo Boingo could become such a huge movie composer? Well, maybe we had early indications when he channeled Cab Calloway for "Don't Go In The Basement."

The Films Of Summer

Summer has become the time for the film blockbuster. While blockbusters go back at least to The Birth Of A Nation, the idea of a wide-release popcorn movie people see over and over while school is out only goes back to the 70s.

Time Out New York has compiled a pretty good list of the top 30 such summer blockbusters:

30. Independence Day
29. Armageddon
28. X-Men
27. Back To The Future
26. The Dark Knight
25. WALL-E
24. Star Trek
23. In The Line Of Fire
22. Gremlins
21. Pirates Of The Caribbean
20. Gladiator
19. Batman
18. Animal House
17. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban
16. The Truman Show
15. Total Recall
14. Die Hard
13. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
12. Jurassic Park
11. The Bourne Ultimatum
10. Aliens
9. Face/Off
8. Terminator 2
7. The Empire Strikes Back
6. Fahrenheit 9/11
5. E.T.
4. Ghostbusters
3. Star Wars
2. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
1. Jaws

For once, I have to say a list gets it right. I don't love (or even like) all these films, and there are a few that don't seem to me to represent the summer experience (Harry Potter, and what is Fahrenheit 9/11 doing anywhere on the list?), but if you want to know what it's like to go to the movies on a hot day with a big crowd in the past 35 years, you couldn't do much better. I like how the list didn't pull an Entertainment Weekly and insist that most of the top finishers be released in the past decade or so--the top five should be in the top five, even though they're all over 25 years old.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fortunate Sound

John Fogerty, the genius behind Creedence Clearwater Revival, turns 65 today. Don't retire John, we still need you.

Not Crazy

When I watch old films, those I haven't seen in years, I'm often surprised by the small scenes that I've forgotten. It's like discovering a new room--or at least a closet--in an old house.

Still, when I recently watched Watchmen on cable, I was surprised. Moments kept popping up that I didn't remember, but this film only came out a year ago. Some were strong, violent moments. Was I losing it?

Then I checked, and discovered it was the director's cut, with 24 extra minutes. That's more like it.

Infinite Talent

It's the birthday of Richard Rodgers, the protean tunesmith who carved out two full careers in musical theatre, either one of which would have made him immortal.

Let's hear one song written with Lorenz Hart, another with Oscar Hammerstein. Rodgers allegedly hated "interpretations" of his stuff--he wanted to hear 'em as he wrote 'em. Sorry, Dick.



Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rapping With Riff


A fun interview with P.J. Soles, the It Girl of the late 70s/early 80s. She was in a bunch of memorable film then, but she'll always be, to me and millions, the lead in one of the greatest works of art ever, Rock 'n' Roll High School.

The Ramones supply the music, but P.J., as punk fan and songwriter Riff Randell, holds it all together. A new, deluxe DVD has been released and I may buy it, though I already own the old edition.

Some tidbits:

Turns out she was a fan of mellow, mid-70s rock, like Jackson Browne and The Eagles. She had no idea who the Ramones were, but became a fan. That's how it worked out for a lot of people back then.

She spent her minuscule salary on the clothes she wears in the film, especially the music jacket seen in the beginning. She actually fought Rod Stewrat for it at the store.

For doing her own version of the title song (which, in the movie, she writes), she still gets royalties of almost $200 a year. Looking at the statements, she's discovered the Ramones have lots of fans in Brazil, Germany and Sweden.

Not Forgotten

You don't really expect to hear a cover of The Monkees "Forget That Girl," much less a good one. But here's the Blue Meanies doing their version. (Shouldn't they be covering The Beatles?)

Take It Away

I missed Away We Go, but then so did everyone. A 2009 Sam Mendes film, it wasn't loved by the critics and grossed less than $10 million. After watching it on TV, I realize I didn't miss anything.

We start with an unmarried couple (he wants to get married, she doesn't) expecting a baby. His eccentric parents are moving out of the country, so they decide to travel around America (plus a stop in Montreal) to figure out where to move. Along the way, they meet a lot of friends and family, most with kids. They learn lessons at each stop, of course.

The first problem is neither lead character is especially interesting, nor do they have chemistry. Then all they meet are eccentrics and sad sacks. The story is episodic, but these episodes aren't cumulative--they happen and fall away. We're also treated to long scenes where the couple talk (and talk), and bits of scenery as they travel while dreary acoustic music plays on the soundtrack. (When some Velvet Underground comes on, it's like a drink of water in the desert.)

I don't care about the couple's inner journey, so how about their outer journey? That's even worse. The film is shot in various locations, but I don't think Sam Mendes, or screenwriters Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, are able to communicate anything about this country (or my place of birth, Montreal, for that matter). It's odd--Brit Sam Mendes only seems to make films trying to explain a country he has no feeling for.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Miles To Go

Happy Birthday, Miles Davis. He had a long career, and was a constant innovator, but if I had to pick his best period, it'd be the late 50s/early 60s, when he was still using all he'd learned from Bop but had simplified his sound (and hadn't yet gotten into fusion).

Of course, Kind Of Blue is the best-selling jazz album of all, so I'm not alone in this opinion.



Even at ten minutes, this cuts off a bit. If you want to hear the whole thing, let me suggest you buy the album.

What The Fey?

I like Tina Fey. I think she's done a lot of good work. But enough to receive the Mark Twain Prize for Humor? The award is fairly new, and has generally been given to iconic figures who did good work for decades. Former recipients include Richard Pryor, Carl Reiner, Lily Tomlin, Bob Newhart, Neil Simon, Bill Cosby, George Carlin and Steve Martin.

The Kennedy Center (which gives out the award) should have looked at Fey's resume and said call us back in ten years.

On The Fly

Every now and then, Breaking Bad will say to heck with the general arc, let's do a small story. Sometimes it works out really well, like "Peekabo" or "4 Days Out," but sometimes it's more frustrating, leaving you waiting for next week when the story starts again. That was the case with "Fly," one of my least favorite episodes.

"Fly"has the shortest cold open of the series, where we have a close-up of guess what? A fly. We watch a few seconds and that's it. Okay.

We're in the lab, and the numbers aren't adding up for Walt. The net is .14% off. Jesse knows it's because he's skimming the meth, but it's driving Walt to distraction. And, in addition, there's a fly. A contaminant.

The entire episode is Walt obsessing about the fly. He chases after the fly, hurts himself, perhaps even knocks his brain a bit loose. (As he's lying on the ground, the fly comes right up on his glasses. Aeon Flux, anyone?)



Walt stays up all day and night trying to get the fly. When Jesse returns from a night's sleep, there's Walt, still going crazy. I realize it's symbolic of something bigger, of the failure and disappointment Walt feels, but still, this is an hour about trying to catch a fly.

Worse, it's Walt being irrational. Last week, for the first time ever, I was annoyed at Jesse's actions. He's a millionaire thanks to this sweet set-up, he's clean, and his lawyer is teaching him how to launder money. And all he can think of is screwing it up and being a gangsta. I don't get it. In the past, Jesse has been a major screw-up, and shown a startling lack of technical knowledge, but he's not an idiot. I don't buy his need to "be the bad guy." Not when he can sit back and be the rich guy.

So we've already got one character acting like a jerk, and now we have Walt acting crazy. He won't cook? For a fly? It's just silly.

In between the fly chase, they speechify. Walt, tired and drugged, goes on about how he should have died earlier, when he'd have been missed. I can see it, but this monologue would work better in a show with real action. Jesse also suggests Walt might have brain cancer, though Walt assures us his check-up was clean, which mean he has no excuse.

There is one good source of tension. Walt talks about Jane, and how he met her dad the night she died, and you realize he's getting close to dangerous territory. With lack of sleep, and the over-the-counter sleep aid Jesse slipped into his coffee, perhaps Walt will spill he's responsible for Jane's death. We've seen him do this before, when he was going under for surgery and admitted he had two phones. But he goes right up to the edge and pulls back, not unlike last week, when Skyler looked like she was gonna talk about meth, but changed the story.

At the end, Walt explains that if Jesse is skimming (they both know it, but neither will say it) and the management finds out, he can't protect him. Sounds to me like this will be the plot for the rest of the season.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

After The End

Where to begin? How to sum up the final episode of Lost, the two-and-a-half hour "The End"? I don't think I have the time to give my usual, weekly, blow-by-blow account. So I'll give a real-time impression, followed by some thoughts on its meaning. That should be more than long enough.

A short comment on the two-hour special before the finale--it was nice they gave Titus Welliver, aka the Man In Black, the narration chores. They often give the job to the "bad guy," as Michael Emerson has narrated several of theses. Poor Titus, his character so poorly treated and misunderstood, he deserves the gig.

Another thing--I recently cut my neck shaving.

Now on with the show.

Quite a finale. Like "Across The Sea," it's polarized the audience, but I suppose that was inevitable. With any show this huge, and all the diverse expectations, no ending could satisfy everyone. But unlike "Across The Sea," I think "The End" got a general thumbs up. There were some dramatic problems with where they went, but the show had such great emotional payoffs that I'll willing to give it a pass. Indeed, I think the finale got to me in ways that no other TV show ever has.

I've read some comments at websites, but not a lot. What you're about to hear are my direct thoughts after watching the show. They may be a bit confused, and I may refine them later--I may refine them considerably after hearing what others say (especially the producers).

I'm going to assume anyone who reads this has seen the finale, so I won't recount the entire plot. But here is what I thought as I watched it. (Watch along as you read if you like):

This isn't really the final episode, this is a continuation of a longer final episode starting with last week's "What They Died For."

A nice montage of characters on and off the Island--say what you want, Lost has always been a good-looking show with top production values.

I'm usually wary of Lost characters making fun of the odd names on the show, but when Kate mocks "Christian Shephard"--good one, Kate.

Kate and Des haven't done that much together on the show. It's always fun to see different combinations of characters.

Desmond wants "to leave." So he can't till a bunch of others come along?

Jack has drunk Jacob's water (Kool-Aid?), but doesn't seem to have any new knowledge. Does it come when it comes? Jacob seemed to have a lengthy learning curve. Maybe once you're in sync with the island you start to sense things, and can control your knowledge better as you go along. At least Jack knows enough right now about what Flocke wants.

Good Yoda crack, Hurley. (Lotta good lines. I'm not gonna note them all.)

Jack leaves a trail for Sawyer to catch up later. We've established Locke and Kate are good at tracking, but I guess they've all been on the Island so long anyone can do it.
Hurley's with Sayid, driving, like they did in LA before. Hurley is now as awake as Desmond. I might add the hotel where the bass player from Drive Shaft is holed up may bring back memories, but it's incredibly cheap considering the money the Widmore people have.

It's still odd to see a confident Hurley. He shoots Charlie--they always said he was a bit of a warrior. He says Sayid doesn't have to stick with him. Just like Jacob and the free will thing. But it seems like they're not all necessary--not all have to "leave." This isn't another Ajira flight.

They're walking across the island. How many miles has that fat-ass Hurley walked in this show?

Kate says nothing is irreversible. But I thought Dead is Dead.

Ben seems to be working with Flocke. He has before, but hasn't he learned since?

Sawyer smashes Ben once more for old time's sake.

Flocke finally explains his full plan to sink the island--nothing left for Ben to rule. Is this where Ben turns, or was he ready before? We'll never know, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. (I though Flocke could see into men's souls, but not always, I suppose.)

Dog tracks. Vincent is alive! And poor Bernard and Rose. Whisked along to the present during the Incident with the rest of the gang. That must have been unpleasant for them. We didn't need to see them, but ever since we discovered who Adam and Eve really were, that opened up the possibility. They don't know what time it is, but in this show, does anybody really know what time it is--does anybody really care? B & R represent the choice of making no choice, one offered by both Jacob and Flocke. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Des feels confident, I guess, but he goes along with Flocke and is far from sure it'll work, since he's blackmailed into it. He knows enough that they're going to a bright light, which bothers Flocke. Remember, MIB is still a man inside, with all the weaknesses and doubts.

Miles find Richard, still alive. The old rule--no body, no death--still applies. Which means Lapidus....

Richard still wants to blow up the plane. He's way behind, but so is Miles, I guess. Maybe he should go talk to Zoe and Widmore.

At the concert, Detective Miles sees Sayid, a stone cold killer. Takes it pretty well, seems to me. Doesn't run after him to arrest him, just makes a few calls then calls it a night.

The Sun/Jin scene, where they wake up. Beautiful. One of the best the show's ever done. I was disappointed in their death scene. I thought it was rushed--they died (soon after reuniting) simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, not for a higher purpose. Juliet comes in, as we sort of knew she would. It's old home week at Lost. The Kwons get the flashes and not only see everything, but can speak English. Juliet is impressed with their fluency--if she only knew.

This was the first scene of the night that probably had people welling up. It's also one of the rewards of a serial--the penty up joy or sadness you can achieve only through history.

I should add the producers must have been thrilled at all the money they saved using all those old clips.

Sawyer rejoins the gang. Jack doesn't know much, but he knows they're all going to the glowy cave, and that's where it ends.

Locke is scheduled for surgery. That was fast--the altaworld offers excellent heath care. Locke asks Jack if the surgery will work and Jack says yes. So I guess actions for malpractice are rare in altaworld or Jack would know enough not to promise anything. Jack says it's nice his dad's coffin is coming back, but fixing Locke will be enough for him. No it won't.

Miles sees Richard has a gray hair. If Richard thought eternal youth was a curse, wait till he starts aging.

They take the boat and run into a living, breathing Lapidus, stuck on the water. (Take my advice, Lapidus, and never travel on a vessel with Jin.) I'm not entirely clear on the timeline, but hasn't he been in holding on to that flotsam for quite a while? Would it be that hard to doggie paddle to shore?

He explains you can't blow up the plane because he's gonna fly it off the Island. I have to expect someone (the original Ajira people who weren't in Ilana's crew, maybe Widmore's people cleverly setting things up) must have helped fix the plane enough for it to fly. If it had been ready earlier, wouldn't they have flown it off the Island earlier? (How many days since the crash anyway?)

Flocke meets up with Jack and, oddly, they make common cause. Jack is starting to sound like Jacob, lipping off to MIB. Easy enough when you know he can't kill you. In fact, Jack says he'll kill MIB. Wow. Even he doesn't know how, he just feels it.

Jack runs into his wife...Juliet. Yeah, we knew that. (His former wife is now on Modern Family.)
Jacob brought Des back (through Widmore) to defeat MIB, but MIB believes he'll defeat Jacob through Des. Which one is right? Sawyer calls it a long con, which would be a good name for Lost.
They get to the bamboo and Jack, Des and Flocke will go alone from here. (Does the caretaker have to lead people to the glowy cave? MIB walked the Island as a man for thirty years and couldn't find it. But mom still blindfolded him as a kid when leading him there--just how is it hidden?)

The cave is a bit darker, but the light's still inside. All agree Des goes down and extinguish the light--only he can do it. Des believes there's another world they'll go to. Hard to believe he's wrong. Des is the only person who's capable of the difficult double-awakeness. Jack believes fate doesn't make it so easy. Maybe he's right too.

Considering Flocke and Jack want to kill each other, they work pretty well together.

Hurley brings Sayid to a dark street where they witness a fight. Hurley gives Sayid a pep talk--getting to sound more like Jacob every day. Sayid, who is a good guy down deep, has to intercede in the alteracation. He meets the gal who was involved--it's Shannon (fresh from Taken). Nice to see her. They flash and recognize what this world is. Boone got pounded as part of the plan--he's awake, too, and still getting hurt because he listens to other people.

Miles walkies Linus--they're ready to take off. So it's a melodramatic plot--get me to the plane on time. Oh yeah, they also find Claire, who says she's too crazy to leave. Too crazy for Australia?

Flocke and Jack lower Des and we later get an obvious callback to the famous shot of Locke and Jack looking down the mysterious Hatch. Flocke even talks about those days, though Jack has nothing to say to a fake Locke. Locke was right, according to Jack, but not to the man who wears his body. We still don't know who's correct.

Des goes down into Lost's last big, semi-mystical set.

At the concert, the ladies are looking good. Claire seems very pleased with herself, not sure why.

Charlie is awoken (he's sleeping, I mean) by Charlotte. Dan comes in and meets Charlotte, whom he loves. But no flashes. They're not ready yet. Will they ever be ready?

Claire meets Kate. Des seems surprised they know each other. Is he? Pierre Chang intros the act (Change has aged pretty well since the 70s). We hear a bit of Danny and Drive Shaft and all I can say it don't quit your day job.

Charlie sees Claire (ever notice they almost share the same letters). I'm surprised he doesn't rush to her, considering his description to Des several weeks back. Instead she rushes off to have her baby. Claire always has her baby at inconvenient times.

The other Des is in the glowy heart of the island. He sees old bones lying around. This is interesting. MIB couldn't find the place, but others did. I guess they secretly followed the caretaker, or got lucky. MIB's mom did say men would try to take the light, but wouldn't succeed. But Des is a different story--every since the hatch exploded, he's the one man who can take the Island's Excalibur, and that he does. The lights go out and the Island starts cracking up. What's the point of this plan again?

Des isn't happy. He thought he'd go elsewhere. So put it back.

Outside the cave, papier mache rocks are falling. Jack punches MIB and draws blood. Flocke forgot one thing--no glowy cave, no superpowers. He rallies enough to knock out Jack with a rock.

Claire has the baby backstage (too bad Juliet had to leave) while the crappy music continues. Eloise isn't happy with Des's machinations, but he doesn't care. They're gonna leave. But he won't take her son. Did he help prevent Dan and Charlotte flash, or were they just not ready?

Kate delivers the baby and if that won't cause flashes, nothing will. Charlie's backstage and also flashes with Claire. (In real life he actually dated Kate.) Maybe not everything's real in altaworld, but I'm guessing Aaron is.

With the island falling apart (I was hoping for a volcano, but nope), Ben is stuck under a tree. I thought he'd do something noble here, but he's just stuck.

Locke goes to the cliffs to get his boat. Haha, Smokey can't fly any more. Jack followed and we have the ultimate fight. After the commercial break.

Quite a colorful fight. Locke stabs Jack and it looks bad. If only Jack had donated a kidney. He also gets his neck wound.

Locke still believes he's right, by the way. And who knows? We sure don't. Dead-eye Kate saves the day with her last bullet. Ben, none the worse for the wear, led the gang to the boat. (I guess the island crumbling bounced the tree off him).

Let's pause for a second and say goodbye to poor, misunderstood MIB. He probably had a closer connection to the island than anyone, and all along just wanted to leave, but was prevented by his crazy mother, who knocked him unconcious, then had his body removed by his brother, who saw him as evil. He was forced to roam the island as smoke for a couple thousand years and after he finally finds his loophole, and almost makes it off, is shot and killed.

So MIB is vanquished and still an hour to go. How they gonna top that?

After Locke's surgery, Jack gets that neck wound again. And Locke is healing as fast as if he were on the Island. Seeing that toe move brings back memories, of course. Locke is waking up, but Jack, the man of science, looks like he'll be the last to let go.

On Jack's way out, Locke tells Jack he has no son. The truth hurts, but Jack figures it's the meds. Locke hopes Jack will wake up, too, but like all those still sleeping, Jack misinterprets him.

Flocke may be dead, but the island may still crater. Time to leave.

Detective Ford talks to the anglophone Kwons. They're highly amused to see how Sawyer ended up. They know they're safe, and say they'll see him "there." Where's "there"?

Miles saves the jet's hydraulics with duct tape. Is there anything duct tape can't do?

Jack has to go back to save Des and fix the dark Island. Hurley and Ben go with him, leaving behind James and Kate. Kate knows this is the final goodbye with Jack. They kiss--they were always meant for each other (even if she only slept with Sawyer). They say they love each other--that's not a good sign.

Kate and Sawyer have quite a jump off the cliff to the boat. But Kate's no Sundance Kid, and does it before you're even ready. Then in goes Sawyer. Pretty far removed from the carefree swimming in the lagoon of the first season.

In the hospital, Jack sends Ford to the vending machine. He goes for an Apollo bar. Why do they even bother stocking anything else? It's stuck, but Juliet saves him. Really saves him. They meet, touch and flash like no one's flashed before. Juliet saw this world when she was dying, and thought "it worked." I guess it did. Time to get coffee. Juliet cries because now she's stuck on V.

Jack gets to the concert too late for the show. (Once more around on the park--on account of you I almost heard the opera.) He meets Kate, who's awake, and looking good enough to wake up any man. Jack's a hard case, but he sees enough that he'll go with her.

Back at The Cave Formerly Known As Glowy, Jack and the gang go in to rescue Desmond. But first, they realize Jack has to die--he's already halfway there. Which means Hurley will take over. Earlier, MIB, speaking for the audience, thought Jack's as caretaker was an obvious choice, an so it is. Let Hurley do it. All it takes is an Oceanic water bottle--Jack doesn't even need to speak any Latin.

Jack goes down and does the old switcheroo, putting the rope around Des. Then he replaces the stone to get the light going again.

Meanwhile, Sawyer and Kate do some might quick convincing that Claire's not too crazy to fly. The run to catch their flight--we all know that feeling.

They get on the plane and it taxis as the ground cracks beneath them, a la 2012. Will there be in-flight service? The plane hits 88 mph and the flux capacitor kicks in.

Sawyer and Claire are finally getting off the island. This is old hat to Kate.

Jack does his duty and the light returns. Hurley and Ben pull up Jack and....wait a minute, that's Des. Damn you, Jack!

Everyone's arriving at the Church where we saw Christian's casket dropped off earlier. Locke wheels up, awake, and he meets an awake Ben. Boy do they have history. Ben is waiting outside, not ready to go in. He apologizes to John. Hey, all you did was murder him. John forgives him. Not bad. Ben will stick around a while, he says. It clear everyone else is going somewhere. John walks in the rest of the way.

With Jack dead, Hurley's in charge. Hugo's about to start his reign, and it's gonna be different from Jacob. Less mysterious rules, for one thing. And more Star Wars, I'm guessing. Now people can come and go as they please. Besides, unless Bernie and Rose make a run for it, who's gonna threaten the glowy cave? Ben promises to help Hurley. This is Ben getting his wish. He gets to be "special," and gets to hang out directly with the new Jacob. We know it works out right away when Hurley peeks out of the church in altaworld and they compliment each other on how they ran (past tense) the Island.

Kate brings Jack to the church. Just in time for the funeral. Or whatever it is. Kate knows what's going on--sometimes it takes men longer to catch on.

On the Island, we see a still living Jack lying, hurt, up on ground level. What is this, has he become the smoke monster? No, he's still bleeding. Physician, heal thyself.

Jack enters the room where sits the casket. Last time he did this it took us a year to find out who was in it. Along the walls, we see numerous and diverse religious symbols. The stained glass windows have quite a few, including...is that a Donkey Wheel?

He touches the casket and flashes like crazy. He opens it and just like in the first season, it's empty. Huh? But there's his dad right behind him. Double huh? But isn't dad dead? Jack's a smart boy and soon figures out he's dead too. If that doesn't wake him up, nothing will.

Christian explains how it works. They're real. Everything that happened was real. Everyone in the church is real, if dead. They all died, if at different times--time in altaworld (aw the heck with it, I'm gonna start calling it purgatory) doesn't work the same way.

It's a place the Island people made so they could find each other. The Island experience was special, different, and they needed each other--still do. Time to let go. Time to Move On.

Jack follows Christian into the main room and there are a whole bunch of Island people--most of them series regulars--awake and at peace. The last call sheet. Sorry, no Michael. (And Bernard and Rose are there, but not Nikki and Paolo.) They've been waiting for Jack. He was their leader, but he's the last one here. Christian, who's been dead the longest--he's even dead in altaworld--is the first one to go out the door. To the next place.

In the first season, I never liked the big endings in slow motion, but they earned it here.

On the island, dying Jack stumbles back to the bamboo shoots where he first landed. He lies on the ground and Vincent joins him, like the old days. The last thing he sees is the Ajira flight, making it off the island. A close-up on his eye, as it closes for the last time. It's the obvious ending, but I didn't see it coming.

LOST (we see wreckage over the credits)

The flashes were powerful, but nothing compared to the final reunion. Part of the power was it took so long to get to this place, but part of it is that everyone's lost someone special, so this scene speaks to us.

Okay, the series overall had plenty of blind alleys and gaping holes. (They didn't even show us the other side of the outrigger chase. No doubt in one of the recent back-and-forths the Sawyer gang took one from Widmore's people. I still would have liked to see it.) As for unanswered questions, you could write a book. The most basic questions--what is the island, what happens if MIB leaves, where does the magic come from and many others--are unanswered. I wish they at least tried to answer them, rather than thrown up their hands. I bet most people would have hated the answers, but no one said writing is easy.
But they were never going for that (or did they realize they couldn't do it that way). I mean they answered a lot of things, but left us dangling so much elsewhere. They figured character comes first, and they were willing to sacrifice other considerations. That may not be the best way to go--I'll generally take answers over eschatology--but it still paid off so much it's hard to complain. And the story's still there, even if they were making a lot of it up as they went along.

But what about the story? After the show, I read a few comments on websites and was surprised to see people getting it wrong (I think). The most common mistake (perhaps helped by the final shot of the crash) was some interpreted the whole series as taking place after everyone died in the plane crash. This doesn't really make any sense for a bunch of reasons. First, of course, if they'd listened to Christian, he said it straight out--what happened was real. Ben and Hurley congratulated each other for running the Island well. For that matter, there were people in the church who weren't even on the flight. If they all died in crash, then why were they close to each other and needed to have a special place?

Another theory I heard is it all happened in Jack's mind. Really? Then why did 90% of his memories center on other characters, often leaving Jack out of the picture entirely. No, he dies, for real. But not until after doing everything he was fated to do--he finally found his destiny, even if he fought it all the way.

So the altaworld is a sort of purgatory. But what is this purgatory? (I'm not going to explain what happened on the Island since I thought that was pretty clear.)

Well, I don't think it's a conventional purgatory, where everyone can work off their sins. For one thing, it's just for the people who met on (or near) the island. It's ironic we end with a purgatory, since that was the most common explanation for the Island in the first season. In fact, while I'm pretty sure the Island being a special place and a battleground was settled right away, I wouldn't be surprised if altaworld/purgatory was a last-season invention. But does that mean the purgatory adds nothing to the overall story, or worse, renders it meaningless? I hope to explain that, the way I see it, it doesn't. If anything, it's the opposite. Perhaps my interpretation is influenced by the desire to make the whole show dramatically viable, but I think it fits the facts.

So, Q and A about the purgatory.

Is it immaterial? We can't be sure, but I choose to believe it isn't. Didn't Christian say it's real. It's not the world of the island, but it's a real place. It may not follow all the rules of the world we're used to, it may not even exist in time as we understand it, but they really are there, physically.

Can you die in this purgatory? Charlie came close, but no, you can't. Or can you? (How's that for an answer.) Christian may be a special case, but we'll get to that. Anyway, I think all you can do is be awakened to your situation (which is why the fully awakened Des was so reckless with Locke--he can't kill him). It's got all these people who have died in it (including Hurley, so it could be thousands of years in our future) except it exists out of time. Perhaps it can reset, if that concept is meaningful there.

Was Des needed to wake them up? Wouldn't they have figured it out anyway, so what's the big deal? Yes, they needed some outside agent to make the move. They needed some force to break through, and Des, living in two realities at once, was the one who could do it. Otherwise, they don't go forward (or would at least take an awfully long time). Charlie had a vision, near death, but that didn't fully awake him. Only Des was the one who could see what it was, and had the power to wake everyone. Otherwise, nothing might happen. Or, once again, maybe even a reset. Des was also needed to summon Christian, who's dead here. Des gets it, and Jack can't get the body back and have his funeral until someone knows enough to bring in Christian.

We can see some are still not awake. The freighter folk aren't yet. (Neither is Ana Lucia. She's lucky no one shot her.) Eloise seems to know what's going on (she always knows in any timeline), but she's not ready, and they're not ready. She wants to keep them there. She spent her life on the other reality rushing Daniel through his life so she could shoot him, and wants to spend more time with him now. They've still got stuff to work out (as do Dogen, and Ana Lucia, and even the awakened Ben). But eventually they'll be ready. Perhaps Eloise will be their agent.

What created the purgatory? They did it, for their own purposes, as Christian explains. But how did they do it in particular. At first I thought it wasn't related to the Incident, but the more I think about it, that was probably the moment of its creation. Reality did split in two, creating a special place for those who knew each other and were infused with the spirit of the Island (but not stuck behind, like Michael). Jack's choices did make a difference. We see in "LA X" that the island is underwater. Why would that have anything to do with this purgatory unless it was caused by adding a hydrogen bomb to the Incident. That was one split after Juliet caused the explosion. But the other was a time paradox fixing itself, because if it prevented them from crashing on the Island, then they could never have come back to effect the Incident--so the split in the other direction propelled them back to the present on the island, where they were supposed to be.

So this purgatory is to deal with them, and their needs. They may not be any other such purgatory that exists for anyone else.

What if they had not taken action, and there'd been no neo-Incident. There'd be no purgatory, and who knows, maybe they'd still be lost souls, looking for an answer. Maybe they'd never get a chance to fix themselves. Furthermore, they would have failed in their mission and the world would have been (maybe) ruled by evil.

Who is in this purgatory? There are the real people who can be awoken, and the others--let's call them shades. Maybe they have lives, and die, but it's more likely they'll cease to exist when the special people this world was created for move on. (How do they react when only a few leave?) Who are these "real" people? Only people who have been on the Island. (Though some islanders, like Keamy, may just be shades). They shared a special time, and were infused by the special life force of the island, which allowed them to live in this purgatory.

Some fans are complaining that Sayid ends up with Shannon, who was a relative fling, compared to his true love, Nadia. This is probably the toughest case to make, but 1) Nadia isn't a real person in this purgatory, she's a shade. The job of this place is for Sayid to "let go," to recognize, as he did, that he never really had her, and perhaps didn't deserve her. 2) In his real life, he spent most of his time chasing after Nadia. He finally found her after he got off the Island, and they had a happy nine months before she was killed (thanks, Jacob), but it's not like they were together always. 3) The point of this purgatory, and of the show, is the days on the Island were a special time, and the people there and the relationships they forged were special, (sort of a metaphor for the show Lost--which makes you hope there's no sequel, or it won't be so special) so Shannon and Sayid it is. Retrofitting? Perhaps, but it stil works out. (And it's not like they're gonna necessarily move forward as a couple--we're not sure what happens next, just that they needed to meet in this purgatory to deal with things.) Look at Jack--he worked through his problem, which is the point of this place, and learned what it would have been like to have a son. But, as Locke notes, he really has no son. Once he moves on, the son is gone. All the people on the island were broken, and this is a second chance--both to work out their problems, and, as Faraday promised, to show them their lives without the negative influence of the Island (in some ways undoing what Jacob did to them). Look at Locke. He finally got Helen back, even married her. But he has to let that go. She wasn't on the Island (unlike Libby and Hurley, who hardly had a relationship), so it's not about her.

So there were dramatic problems, with the finale, and with the show. I may write about them at a later day, but for now, who cares? Lost was still a show that went places no other ever did, and offered things no other offered.

POOM

Monday, May 24, 2010

End Piece

In case you missed it, Lost just had its finale. I don't have the time to post any analysis right now, but I'll get to it later this week. I quickly checked around the web and the finale seems to be splitting the audience. Perhaps that was inevitable. What surprises me is that a lot of people didn't seem to get it. Good or bad, I thought it was reasonably clear. Or did I get it wrong?

A little bit later, I'll probably do a post about the whole season. And eventually a post about the whole show.

(Also no time for Breaking Bad. I'll get to that, too.)

Out With A Bang

CBS has decided to break up a winning combination and move TV's most successful sitcom (best demos), The Big Bang Theory, from Monday to Thursday.

I suppose Big Bang is big enough to handle the movie, but there may be leakage along the way. Worse, it'll now be going up against the NBC comedy lineup. In particular, my favorite new show, Community. This stinks. Whoever is hurt (and it'll probably be the latter), it's not a good thing. Why couldn't they move Two And A Half Men instead?

PS Now that Bang will be in the same time slot Friends once occupied, here's a short piece explaining how the two shows are similar. Absurd.

Zimmerman

It's Bob Dylan's birthday. Happy 69th, you old bastard. He's been at it for 50 years, and even at his worst was pretty good.

Early in his career, he got more attention as a songwriter than a performer. So someone came up with "no one sings Dylan like Dylan." It's a rare artist (say, Jimi Hendrix) whose cover eclipses Dylan.

Still, let's view a few.






Charles In Charge

In the bookstore I saw something entitled What Darwin Got Wrong. I figured it was either a scientific book about how Darwin missed some things, which he certainly did, or a creationist book about how he's completely off. Instead, it was sort of in-between. It was two academics, Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmerini’s (neither professors of biology), who had scientific and philosophical problems with Darwin--in particular, natural selection, not evolution itself.

Their arguments tended to be technical, but if you dug down, there wasn't much there. As far as I could understand, most of their scientific claims were pretty weak, some having been directly answered long ago. They used recent research (carefully, if not naturally, selected) that didn't really add much to the tired old arguments we've heard before. Meanwhile, their philosophical arguments seemed entirely barren--more playing with words than making serious points.

Indeed, many of their objections to "adaptationism" seemed to be aesthetic: a feeling, not unlike Intelligent Designers have, that there are just certain things something as simple as natural selection can't do. But the science they back it up with lacks rigor. They throw around a lot of terms, but can't close the loop.

They're hardly the first experts outside biology who are so displeased with Darwin that they feel they have to do something about it. Both authors work in cognitive sciences, and it seems they don't like the implications modern evolutioary studies could have on psychology. Perhaps that's why they need to take Darwin down a peg.

Luckily, there have been reviewers up to the task of wading through their arguments and pointing out their weaknesses. For example, Jerry Coyne, who wrote Why Evolution Is True, takes them down pretty well. Michael Ruse also does a decent job.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Corporate Overload

Well look, Foreigner, Styx and Kansas are going on tour together. That's good. If they're all in one place, they're much easier to avoid.

A Few More

Before the month is done, just a few license plates I forgot to mention.

JAG4JD. I think you can figure out what kind of car this is. The only question is did the driver buy it upon graduation from law school, or was it a gift from daddy?

MCODYSY. Odyssey I get. But is this MC Odyssey, who takes us on a musical journey, McOdyssey, son of Odyssey, or just the guy's initials?

O LK O. Very mysterious. The letters to LOOK moved around. Is this some word trick, meaning outlook, or something like that?

EXREEX. Not sure what this is, but is he a former reformer?

DIVERCI. An Italian name? A fan of diversity? A guy who likes Chicago streets?

4LAART. At first I thought this was some sort of Scandinavian thing. But after a second, I realized this guy loves art in Los Angeles.

May You Live During Funny Times

A while ago I read a book about stand-up comedians who arose in the 70s, Comedy At The Edge. I just finished another work on the same subject, William Knoedesleder's I'm Dying Up Here. If you're only going to read one, choose the latter.

The former has separate chapters on each comedian under discussion, while Knoedesleder tells a story. Through the various comedians who forged careers in the 70s, and influenced comedy up through today, we see the ins and out of the stand-up world as it was approaching a new level of popularity. I know enough old comedians that I've heard a lot of stories about the wild times at the Improv and the Comedy Store, but I'm Dying Up Here made me fill like I was in the middle of it.

(I'm willing to overlook the poor editing and fact checking. For instance, "Shecky Greene" is misspelled several times, including in the index. "King Tut" did not go to number one--it hit #17. Howard Cosell's show was called Saturday Night Live, and it was on ABC, not NBC. And Billy Crystal did not appear in Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman--it was Soap.)

Not So Bright, Bart

Rebecca Mead in The New Yorker has an interesting profile of an acquaintance of mine, internet media baron Andrew Breitbart. I recommend it.

Alas, it's a profile written from the outside. This wasn't necessary. Mead's need to keep Breitbart and his politics at arm's length--to signal the reader she doesn't buy what he's saying--gets in the way of the narrative without illuminating its central figure. (The piece is entitled "Rage Machine: Andrew Breitbart’s empire of bluster"--I think that would fit a lot of New Yorker profiles, actually.)

For example, here's look at how Mead describes the work of two undercover people who exposed practices at ACORN and which Breitbart helped publicize:

The hidden-camera footage, which Breitbart has called “the Abu Ghraib of the Great Society,” did not expose endemic corruption at Acorn: though O’Keefe and Giles induced employees to coöperate with an appalling scenario, they did not dig up evidence of any actual wrongdoing by those employees.

What O'Keefe and Giles essentially did was go to various ACORN offices posing as a pimp and prostitute, and ask for help in what amounted to opening up brothels and bringing underage sex workers into the country. Many of the ACORN employees didn't bat an eye, and went about helping them, some even explaining how you'd get around the authorities.

Mead could have simply described the events and left them at that--they're pretty compelling. Or, if she'd had the reaction most people have, could be dumbfounded at this huge and surprisingly easy-to-pull-off expose. But not Mead, and not The New Yorker. In what is one of Breitbart's big moments, she, for some reason, insists on going out of her way to defend ACORN.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bury The Evidence

The Shroud of Turin is on display again. Many thousands are viewing it, including the Pope. If you're a Catholic, I don't know why you wouldn't be embarrassed to see so many venerate a fraud.

I've argued in the past about the Shroud, but mostly it's a waste of time. The evidence is clear, and has been for quite a while. It's not that different from, say, crop circles. They're easy enough to explain, but those who got involved on the other side had to puff them up and claim there are all sorts of mysterious properties that they've discovered, and can't be explained conventionally. Now imagine if millions were emotionally committed to believing in crop circles and you'd have something similar. (A scientific parallel might be N-rays, though not being in the supernatural realm, and never being quite that big, when they were exploded, perhaps it was easier for everyone to drop the subject.)

The real problem, and this happens with a lot of questionable claims, is there's no control. People know going in what is to be believed, and so have no trouble collectively coming up with as much "evidence" as they need, not to mention ways to discount absolutely any disagreement. It's too bad that we can't have some sort of blind test. Imagine if believers, individually, were presented with hundreds of shrouds, some that have adherents, some created by modern hoaxsters, but had no no idea which they were supposed to venerate. Not only would the vast majority not choose the Shroud of Turin (or any other), but would have no trouble coming up with all sorts of evidence to prove it isn't real. But as long as they know the answer in advance, they expend their energy trying to prove its authenticity (including many researchers coming up with a narrative where they claim (and probably believe) they approached the issue objectively, or, more likely, with great skepticism).

It's Nice To Be Wanted

Frank Converse turns 72 today. Back in the 60s, his acting career was hot. He'd shot a show in 1965 called Coronet Blue, but CBS thought it was too hip and didn't air it until 1967. It became a surprise hit, but that was it because Converse was already shooting another show, N.Y.P.D.

I don't really know the show, but it seems like an early version of The Bourne Identity. Man does it look violent. Anyway, love the theme song:





Frank, what's with the fancy talk? You were born in Missouri.

First And Lost

ABC is airing Lost's pilot tonight. Tomorrow, the finale.

As if by fate, Lost debuted the same month this blog started. I've probably written more about Lost than any other subject. Now that it's ending, I don't know what I'll do.

Anyway, if ABC can repeat what they did in September 2004, so can I. Here's my first take on Lost:

ABC's drama, Lost, which debuted last night, had been highly touted. The pilot (which actually featured a pilot) starts with the aftermath of a plane crash on a tropical island. The survivors are trying to pull themselves together.

It was gripping stuff. A group of disparate people were going to have to take care of problems society normally handles for them--food, shelter, medicine, etc. (And, unlike
Gilligan's Island, they might have sex.)

But then, about halfway through, they lost me. It appeared there was some sort of monster on the island. I know this is TV, and you need a thrill before each curtain, but that monster turned the show from serious drama, to
Land Of The Lost. Here I was, looking forward to real people with real problems and they gave me real people with imaginary problems.

By the way, in these sort of situations, there's always a disparate group. Just once I'd like to see a show where they're all middle-aged, male, Presbyterian dentists.

Little did I know.

PS As a reminder of the old days, here's a site with the original auditions.

PPS There's a lot of stuff out there on the web giving away secrets. It hasn't always been easy avoiding spoilers, but just another day and I can stop worrying.

PPPS I watched the showing of the pilot. As with other reruns, they added pop-up notes. It was bizarre--for anyone watching the show for the first time, they were trying to give you all the information you needed to appreciate the finale.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Submissions

My friends Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch at Reason announce the finalists for the Draw Mohammed contest. Some imaginative work here.

Meanwhile, Sam Harris, no stranger to religious controversy, takes on both Islam and the West's reaction to it.

...Muslims appear to be far more concerned about perceived slights to their religion than about the atrocities committed daily in its name. Our accommodation of this psychopathic skewing of priorities has, more and more, taken the form of craven and blinkered acquiescence.

The question becomes which is worse.

Crowded Diner

A while ago I noted, after rewatching Mulholland Drive, that it featured Patrick Fischler, who portrayed among other things LaFleur's assistant Phil on Lost.

I just watched the movie again and this time I noticed there's another supporting character from Lost--Mark Pellegrino, who plays Jacob. He's the hit man, whom Naomi Watts meets at a booth in Winkies. In fact, there's a cut from Pellegrino at the booth to Fischler (who was in the booth earlier) watching.

I'm guessing they filmed that scene together, but I don't think Phil and Jacob were ever anywhere near each other. Of course, it's hard to get to see Jacob.

PS I also recently saw a family movie, Frank, which featured Jon Gries and Cynthia Watros. Imaging that couple, Roger and Libby Workman.

PPS Let me note my delight that my favorite cooking show, Dinner: Impossible, just had a new episode where Chef Robert Irvine cooked for the Lost cast and crew.

PPPS Here's some important news:

Entertainment Weekly has confirmed a TV Guide report that August's season six DVD set will include bonus features that address some of those lingering questions, including as much as 20 minutes of “Why does turning the Frozen Donkey Wheel transport you to Tunisia?”-solving material that may or may not be resolved after this Sunday.

So even after the show ends, it's not quite over. (On the other hand, no spinoffs. The Island wouldn't want that.)

Vanity Fair Game

Doug Liman's Fair Game, starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, just debuted at Cannes. It's the story of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. Since it seems to be pure Bush-bashing, I expect they enjoyed it.

Liman claims "This is not an advocacy film. Fair Game is just trying to tell a story about something that happened. I didn’t have an agenda apart from just showing what the Wilsons went through.”

So, in other words, this is an advocacy film that wouldn't exist except for its agenda.

Producer Jerry Zucker says Wilson was someone who always told the truth, and "a democracy can’t survive unless there’s truth.”

Any film that features Joe Wilson as the central truth teller is pure fiction. Maybe science fiction. (The movie is based on Wilson's and Plame's books--two of the many ways they were able to cash in on their notoriety (though being portrayed as heroes in a movie is even better). I can thus understand it showing things from their point of view, but why should Zucker be taken in?)

Naomi Watts says “the story is about an incredible betrayal and how [Valerie Plame] survived against all the odds.”

Survived against the odds? It was the best thing that ever happened to her. When The New York Times outs a CIA agent or releases classified information, everyone celebrates and prizes are awarded. (They also editorialized against the specific law that made outing certain agents illegal.) But when Bush opponent Richard Armitage outed Plame, it turned her into a celebrity so lionized she and her husband got a spread in Vanity Fair.

No Decency

I've been reading an excellent book by Francine Prose (great name for a writer) about Anne Frank. Some of it is hard to take, as we see the lead-up to the Holocaust, where Jews living anywhere within the range of the Nazis had their rights taken away, bit by bit, ultimately leading to their slaughter. (For an idea of what it was like, this timeline is helpful.)

This is why it's stomach-churning when people casually compare how some are treated today to the Holocaust. Nevertheless, it's become a common rhetorical device in condemning Arizona's new immigration law.

There are plenty of ways to attack the law without invoking Nazis. Yet here's what LA Council member, and fellow Jew, Paul Koretz said recently:

This is very frightening stuff. If this was being proposed at the federal level, I would think we're absolutely at the very beginnings of what went on in Nazi Germany [....]

And you may think I'm overstating it, but I'm not, because SB 1070 — the immigration law — is just the tip of the iceberg.

Koretz should apologize (at the very least).

I have a simple flowchart for those who wish to compare things to the Holocaust.

1. Should I compare this to the Holocaust?
2. No

PS A friend of mine recently confronted Koretz over his comments. Rather than apologize immediately, Koretz kept trying to make excuses, blaming other and saying he was misunderstood. He also misstated facts, but that's not important, because even if he had his facts straight, they wouldn't offer the slightest excuse.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another Thirty Minutes Spoken For

I've been catching the second season of Party Down, an original sitcom on Starz. It's a bit like Taxi, but instead of following a group of cabbies, we watch as caterers go from party to party. None of them see catering as their life--they're mostly young people who want to make it in Hollywood. Each week is a different event, and they usually get mixed up with the host and guests.

It's actually pretty smart. The writing is fairly sharp and the performances are fine. It's apparently been created by people associated with Veronica Mars, a show I never watched but was rumored to be smart as well.

For years I've been hoping to see the return of the sitcom. While they're don't rule the ratings roost as they did in the 80s and 90s, I'm surprised to realize how many half-hour shows I actually watch (when I get the chance--they're not all appointment TV, but then, when you can watch whenever you want, what is?). The biggest difference from the glory days of sitcoms is with few exceptions (Big Bang Theory comes to mind--and it's a bigger hit than any of the others), they're all done without a live audience, or a laugh track.

Party Down is usually shown right before Gravity, a half-hour show (with some comedy, but I don't think you'd call it a sitcom) about a support group for people who have attempted suicide. It features Krysten Ritter, who's quite beautiful, but the show itself is not particularly clever or compelling. I blame co-creator Eric Schaeffer, who also plays the (unnecessary) role of Detective Miller. Schaeffer is a mystery to me. He's written, directed and starred in a number of movies (often with hot models as costars), none of which are much good. I admire the guy for getting projects made, but who keeps backing him?

Hints

When I see all those vanity plates I write about, what I think they mean is usually a total guess. But sometimes there are clues.

I saw M CRAZY. I guessed it might simply mean "I'm crazy," but then I noticed on the window "D+M." So M is a person in a relationship He's also crazy. Good luck, D.

I recently saw MY FSHG. The "my" seemed clear enough, but FSHG? I thought it might be Yiddish. But then I saw a Christian fish symbol on the car, so I guess it's referring to that.

Finally, I saw 5 4 DSNY. I know exactly what it means. How? Well, I broke the rules. I pulled up beside this car at a light and asked. The guy driving explained there were 5 in his family, and they all loved Disneyland. Five for Disney. Okay, if you want to buy a plate to announce that to the world, that's your business.

119 Down

"What They Died For" returned Lost to where it ought to be. The hour zoomed by and I wanted more. Maybe it didn't have the highs of the greatest Lost episodes, but it avoided the lows--it moved forward clearly and quickly in both worlds, and got all the characters poised for the finale. The fans in general are giving it a thumbs up, especially after last week's break when we left the present-day action behind. The title suggested we're going to get answers, and that we did--maybe more than in "Across The Sea."

The show starts with Jack's eye, fluttering a bit more than usual. This season has been a reflection of season one, and a lot of things are coming full circle, so this only makes sense.

Jack wakes up in altaworld. He goes to the mirror and sees a cut on his neck. The Island keeps getting closer, but Jack isn't yet awake. He has breakfast with his son, and they talk about the concert. Mom's coming! I still think it's Juliet, but maybe they'll shock us and make it Shannon. (If not, does she work with Boone on parties, like the concet, or is she high class enough to be invited?) Claire's also living with them now. The circle is getting tighter.

Jack get's a call. His dad's corpse has been found. But it's not the airport, it's Desmond putting on an American accent. What Jacob is to the other world, Desmond seems to be here. And he's more hand's on.

Speaking of the Island, the gang is still on the shore, thinking about their lost friends. Jack sews up Kate. This is a callback to the pilot where she sews him up. (Also, it's the second time this week, after House, where some sort of surgery is done without anaesthesia.)

Kate states, and Jack agrees, they have to kill Flocke (okay, she calls him Locke). It's the endgame.


The final four watch as lifejackets wash ashore. I guess they knew it all along--that the only regulars to make it all the way to the finale would be Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley and Locke.

Thank goodness Sayid told Jack where to go or they'd just stand there till Flocke found them. They'll go to Desmond's well.

In altaworld, Locke is better and back at school. Des is ready to run him over again, but Ben stops him. Des says he doesn't want to hurt him, he wants to help him let go. Then he beats the tar out of Ben, just like he did at the docks. Which gives Ben a quick sense of enlightenment. (I guess when this world is fake, anything goes.)

Back on the island, we finally see team Ben/Richard/Miles! It was as if they'd dropped off the face of the Island. They're still walking back to the barracks. The plan is to pick up Ben's C4. Miles stops--he hears dead people. In particular, they're in the spot where Richard buried Alex. I expected Miles to tell Ben what she was thinking at this point (that she hopes daddy will save her?), but he didn't. Either he's saving it for later, or the producers figure Ben's been through enough.

In Ben's secret room, they spot a bit of his "secreter" room--the cosmic toilet that allow Ben to summon the Monster. But, as Ben explains, he discovered the Monster was summoning him. I have to wonder who was it that first explained how to call Smokey? I suppose it was MIB's plan all along, but how did he get the info to the Others?

There's plenty of C4 left (isn't there money there too--Miles should pick some up, or does he figure those diamonds are enough?). There are also some people around. Zoe. Then Widmore. When you think about it, this reunion is as big as Sun and Jin. And since we don't necessarily see it coming, it's more satisfying. They've been fighting over the island all their lives, and it's far from clear who--if either--has the upper hand.

Widmore tried to enlist Ben. He sends Zoe to the outrigger to sink it. (Oh boy, more outrigger.) He explains the plane is already rigged (so it was him, in case there was any question). Then he claims he's come to the Island at the express order of Jacob. He says he's changed his way. I'll take him his word, though you never know with any of these guys. Wouldn't this represent the first time either he or Ben actually met Jacob (aside from, you know Jacob's murder).

Turns out Flocke is coming--he's at the shore (it's never been clear how close the docks are--Zoe got there fast). So Widdy doesn't have time to explain his plan. He barey has time to hide.

AltaBen is being patched up. He meets with Locke, and Ben is turning into a believer. Locke seems ready to believe as well.

Meanwhile, at the LAPD (which Locke almost called), Des turns himself over to Sawyer. BTW, James and Miles are going to a big concert--the museum benefit. Couldn't be the same concert Jack is going to? The one hosted by Eloise?

Des admits to his crimes and Sawyer tosses him in lockup--where he meets Sayid and, next door, Kate. It's not clear how much Des knows, but he seems to be aware of where all the chess pieces are. (The music in this scene is somewhat reminiscent of the main theme in Catch Me If You Can.)

On the island, the core four are walking to the well. The talk about MIB's rules--why and how he kills. They're as unclear as the fans.

Sawyer blames himself for the sub disaster, but Jack says it's not you, it's Him. A short scene, but interesting. The central conflict of the show has been Jack and Locke, but one almost as important has been Jack and Sawyer. The talented good guy who needs to save everyone, and the conniving bad boy who's only looking out for himself. THE woman, Kate, has bounced back and forth between them. But they've also gone through major changes, and both have blamed themselves for screwing up. Both have certainly been humbled, and Jack became confused about his place, while Sawyer became the good guy who couldn't save everyone any better than Jack could. In the early episodes, Kate could lecture Sawyer on what a great man Jack was, and how Sawyer wasn't worthy to compare himself (and it hurt). Last season they finally had it out in one of Lost's longest fist fights, but now they talk to each other as simple equals, and even friends.

Behind them is Hurley and Kate. Kate moves on while Hurley sees something. It's boy Jacob's ghost. He wants his own ashes, which Hurley took from Ilana. The boy takes them and runs away. So Jacob's ghost is corporeal enough to grab and carry a bag. I guess if anyone had a tough ghost, it'd be Jacob. Hurley follows (not quite as fast) and runs into adult Jacob, whom he's been waiting to see. He asks "where you been?" and Jacob replies "it doesn't matter, I'm here now." That's your classic Lost answer--don't give out any information, just state the obvious.

Jacob's burning his ashes in the fire (can you burn ashes?), and apparently when they go he's gone. We don't quite know the magical property of ashes--especially Jacob's--on this show, but they mean something. I wonder if Ilana knew. (Probably not. Jacob liked leaving his helpers in the dark.)

Jacob says "we're very close to the end, Hugo," and all Lost fans nod.

(We got to see the winner of the fan promo contest. Not bad.)

Flocke is on the dock. Zoe returns and Widdy says let's hide in the secret room. Ben doesn't want to hide, he wants to confront MIB. He takes Widmore's walkie and gives it to Miles, who's gonna run for it. Charles thinks Flocke will just kill them, but Ben says why put it off, and Richard says he just wants to recruit him. (That's an old offer, Richard--is it still good?)

They go outside. It's a calm day. Too calm. Richard goes out to greet the only guy in the world who scares him. But it's not much of a meeting. A column of black smoke carries him away and kills him like Lapidus (i.e., may still be alive).

Ben sits in the chair outside his home and MIB again in human form sits down next to him. They have a nice little talk. Flocke says he needs Ben to kill some people for him. Ben's sort of been through this before last season.

Ben's acting a little tougher this episode, which is nice to see, but we honestly don't know what side he's on. His own? Widmore's? Flocke's? Jacob's?

Flocke repeats his offer to give Ben the island when it's all over. Ben agrees. Then he drops a dime on Widmore.

Does Ben have a plan? He always has a plan. But we just don't know what it is.

In altaworld, "nicest guy ever" Ben Linus, arm in sling, gets a ride home from Alex and her mom, Danielle! She's cleaned up and looking pretty good. (She's supposed has a French accent, but it sounds like it's from somewhere else.)

They have dinner at Alex's place. Her dad is dead, turns out, and it looks like there may be some action in altaworld. Who knows, maybe Dr. Linus will have a stepdaughter. Anyway, Ben is really moved.

But Island Ben leads Flocke into the secret room. I don't feel sorry for Widdy--he's willing to make sacrifices. But what did he tell this poor geophysicist Zoe?

They're at Flocke's mercy, and when Widdy tells her not to talk, Flocke slashes her neck. Bye, Zoe, we hardly got to know you. I think you lasted longer than Caesar, though.

Flocke concentrates on Widmore. He says once he's off the Island, the first thing he'll do is kill Penny. This is quite a threat, but doesn't Widmore already believe everything is over if he gets off the Island?

Flocke promises he won't kill Penny if Widdy cooperated. (Great, so everything in the world is over except Penny.) Widmore actually starts talking, explaining why he's there and why he brought Des. He explains Des is a measure of last resort, but, oddly, while he doesn't mind talking to MIB, won't talk in front of Ben. Who cares? He starts whispering to Flocke and Ben shoots him dead. "He doesn't get to save his daughter."

1) The old Ben is back! (Though is this part of a bigger plan?)

2) Isn't this breaking "the rules"? (Hey, if the island didn't want him dead, he'll survive. Or are those rules out the window too, now?)

3) I thought Ben got over the daughter-killing thing last time he met Penny (and Charlie). Perhaps being reminded of Alex recently changed that.

4) MIB believes men are corrupt, but even he keeps getting shocked by Ben.

Anyway, it didn't matter. Widmore told Flocke what he needed to know. Ben reminds him there are some others left to kill.

Over at Jacob's campfire, Hurley's rounded up Kate, Sawyer and Jack. They can see him. I assume this is some effect of burning his ashes--these are his last hours, when he burns most brightly, and can be seen by all. Or maybe he could always selectively appear (which is not as good since he liked Hurley's talent of seeing dead people, and used it). Or maybe they always had the ability to see but had to go through some rough times first. (Didn't Sawyer see one of the ghost kids?)

Kate wants to know about the names on the wall. The Kwons, Sayid. She wants to know if that's why they died, and Jacob says he's sorry. Kate starts lipping off and Hurley tries to stop her. (It could be worse. To Ben he said "what about you?" and got stabbed.) But Kate won't be stopped. I like her being feisty here. We've waited six years for answers. She says she wants to know if Sun and Jin and Sayid died for nothing.

Jacob's reply: Come and sit down and I'll tell you what they died for. I'll tell you why I chose them, and why I chose you. And then I'll tell you everything you need to know about protecting this island because by the time that fire burns out, one of you is gonna have to start doing it.

Commercial.

Hot damn, we're finally getting some big answers, and we'll even get to watch the characters react.

But we won't find out right away. We go back to altaworld first. Mr. Locke wheels into Dr. Shephard's office. Locke's been through a lot lately, but he's also been noticing all the odd coincidences. This Locke is starting to be like the old Locke--he has a destiny. Yeah! If we can get back season one Locke, all is forgiven. Jack, like season one Jack, is skeptical. But Locke is ready to get better, and Jack will certainly oblige.

Now we cut back to Jacob. I half-expected to hear "...and I hope that clears up all your questions" and have them say "yep, thanks, that's what we needed to know." But even Lost wouldn't dare pull that on us.

So Jacob starts explaining. And while it's almost pure exposition, it goes down better than "Across The Sea." Why? Because there, you had a new characters telling things to other new characters. And the things she said weren't even straight answers.

He says he doesn't know where to start. Damn straight. But start somewhere, you'll be gone soon. He explains he made a mistake--creating Smokey. (Now we see why we needed "Across The Sea" to understand what's going on here.) He explains how he and the Monster have been fighting, and now he's been killed, and needs a replacement. That's why he brought them. Sawyer bridles--why should we be punished for how you screwed up?

Jacob has a tough but honest response. None of them were doing fine. They were flawed. They were alone. They needed to find something. They needed the Island.

Kate wants to know why her name was crossed off. I always figured, considering how the Others were so into lists of who's "good" and not, that maybe she was no longer morally fit. She's not Mr. Friendly's type, but she's not Jacob's type either. But no, it's because she became a mother, and didn't need the Island any more.

Let's stop for a second. I understand what he's getting at. He wanted people who had holes inside them that the Island could fill up. So when Aaron filed that hole, Kate was off the list. But she sure gave up Aaron for a return flight. And the Kwons have a kid (so does Sawyer). A lot of them might arguably find fulfillment. So the show goes a step further and has an explanation for this--Jaocb is imperfect. He's not a god, or even a demigod. He's got powers, but he's still a man. He tells Kate it's just a line of chalk in a cave--the job is still yours if you want it. I guess he didn't even cross it off for her, but for himself--if she won't take the job, why offer it? (I guess he won't refer to the Lighthouse any more now that Jack wrecked it. BTW, did he have to put the chalk list so far away from the Lighthouse? Seems like they could have been in the same place. Though Jacob has his odd rules, just like MIB.)

So she can still have the job. But what is the job?

It's protecting the light at the center of the island, making sure it never goes out. Sawyer speaks up and says Flocke told him there's nothing to protect it from. Jacob says they have to protect it from Flocke. What's interesting is we still can't be sure who's right--and we're not even sure if Jacob knows.

He wants them to do something he can't--kill MIB. He knows MIB will try to kill them (they already know that, too). But Jacob, of course, won't pick. He never had a choice, but he believes others should. Kate asks what happens if no one chooses, and Jacob says this will end very badly.

I was worried at this point we'd spend the finale wondering who'd be the choice, which isn't that exciting. Instead, Jack steps right up. This just about completes his arc. He always needed to save others, he just wasn't sure how. He came to the Island the man of science, but for all his bravery just managed to get about everyone killed. Then he became the man of faith, searching for his purpose. He also spent three seasons with nothing in mind except escaping. So now he's spent three seasons figuring how to come back and what to do once he's there. The man who once thought of nothing but getting off the island will commit to being its permanent caretaker.

Good thing. Jacob was running out of candidates. It's time for the Latin ceremony. Jacob leads him to the water where he says some mumbo-jumbo, just like his mom did, and gives him something to drink. (Jacob's ghost, once again, very corporeal, filling Jack's cup with water and giving it to him.) First he explains where the light is (which no one can find). It's near the bamboo field where he first woke up on the island--Jack remembers nothing there, but after the ceremony, he'll be able to find it.

Since Jack drinks water from a stream, it must be the ceremony that transfers power. (Or it could still be Wizard of Oz stuff that he's always had the power, but had to recognize it). Jack drinks, and Jacob says "now you're like me." (Just like his mom said--bet her name was Jacqueline.)

AltaSawyer ships Des, Kate and Sayid off to county. He won't cut Kate a break, even though they have a connection. During the drive in the police van, Des says it's time to leave, and asks the two if they'll work with him if he gets them out. They jokingly agree. Just then, the van stops and the cop lets them out. It's Ana Lucia (fresh from Avatar). Good to see her, actually. She's being paid off. (The old Ana Lucia was a good cop, aside from the occasional murder.) The money guy isn't there yet. At first I figured altaDes is Widmore's fixer, so he has access to any amount. But I forgot, even better, is Hurley, who's got money, and now seems to be fully awake.

Hurley drives up and hands over the cash. He recognizes Ana Lucia, but she's still sleeping, and doesn't know him. Pretty cool. Des takes Kate, Sayid goes with Hurley. Des tells Kate they're going to a concert. Sure, why not, everyone will be there.

Ben and Flocke walk through the jungle. Smokey explains he likes walking, rather than flying--reminds him of the days he was human. I didn't need an explanation, but fine--now what about the outrigger?

They got to the well, and Des is gone. Sayid failed him. But Flocke takes it well. Widmore told him that Des was a fail-safe--Jacob's last resort if all the candidates die. But that's good. Now Flocke figures he'll find Desmond who will do the one thing he can't do himself--destroy the Island.

LOST

The ending isn't quite as shocking as, say, unknown Flocke in season five announcing he'll kill Jacob, but it's a nice capper to an event-filled hour. And it's hard not to believe Smokey can't make good on the threat, since we saw the capsized island back in the first episode this season.

The best thing is everyone's plans and motivations are clear. We may not know everything, or how smart the plans are, but unlike much of this season, where people seems to be marching around waiting for something to happen, now everyone has a clear course of action.

Really this sort of episode should have been somewhere around the middle of the season. Maybe the producers didn't figure they had enough plot afterwards, but it would have been nice to see all the characters moving forward like this soon after the destruction of the Temple.

Same with altaworld, where we're no longer being introduced to the characters, but seeing them take action.

A word about dispatching characters. Originally, it would be a big deal to kill anyone, and they'd lead up to it, and then even feature the character for the hour to give him a decent send-off. Now they're killing them right and left, so quickly there's hardly time to say goodbye. I don't mind this, necessarily. It's a nice jolt when someone just up and dies (like Ilana). And I get that they need to prune the show as it comes to and end. (And because it's coming to an end, I'm more likely to believe dead is dead.) But is it right that major players like Richard (assuming he's gone) and Widmore go out like Frogurt?

We're still not sure what the altaworld is, and who'll end up where--not to mention dead or alive. (Though it now looks like Sawyer may get Kate, the way Han got Leia.) But the show is starting to point toward certain endings. Still, I hope they go in a direction no one expects. There are certain potential outcomes that are almost stock. An end with Jack as the new Jacob, possibly protecting the island against a new monster--eternal recurrence. That's a common ending, and while thematically satisfying, a bit boring.

Even worse would be leaving things too open-ended. The season one finale, where we ended with Jack and Locke looking down an unknown hatch, was frustrating, but we knew we'd eventually get answers. If they do the equivalent on the Finale Ultimo, it'll be a lot harder to forgive.

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