Sunday, April 30, 2006

United 93 Review

Well, I thought I'd keep this entry focused on one topic, that being Paul Greengrass' new film, United 93, which I saw this weekend at a screening at Universal. So here are my thoughts - if you too have seen the film, let me know what you think.


Up until recently, I was in the camp of people who thought it was way too soon for Hollywood to start cranking out the 9/11 movies. I remember last year, when I attended NBC's upfront presentations as a member of the NBC Page Program. At that time, NBC rolled out a huge preview for 9-11 - the TV miniseries - and the reaction in the room said it all. As the bombastic music played and the list of big-name Hollywood players rolled - Ron Howard was set to exec-produce - the room was filled with groans, head-shakes, and murmurs of "I can't believe they're doing this." Since that time, NBC scrapped the project, and it was probably a wise move. Nobody wanted to see the still-fresh horror of that day made into an over the top, melodramatic TV show. And you know, it's tricky, because in the current political climate people are so skeptical of Hollywood. IT's too liberal, it's too focused on the profits. Nobody looks to Hollywood anymore as a source of real art, of real politics, of real food for thought. And that is pretty sad. Because what we have in United 93 is not like ANYTHING that Hollywood has ever produced. This is WORLD'S APART from the bombastic WWII movies of old, miles away from the head-trip stylings of the Vietnam films like Apocalypse Now. This is a YOU-ARE-THERE movie, totally removed from what one expects from a typical movie or television show. No real politics, no artificial melodrama, no scenery-chewing actors or overly scripted dialouge.

And that's why, as I read more about the movie, I saw that the questionable marketing campaign of United 93 betrayed the true importance of this movie. In general, I agree with many others that it IS too soon to make 9/11 into a typical Hollywood movie. I have little desire to see Nicholas Cage running around playing the hero in wartorn New York City. Cage had better give the absolute performance of his life for that one to be watchable. But United 93 is different. It's a wake up call, almost a reminder of how REAL those events were and how they were NOT merely the biproducts of some screenwriter's imagination. And that, in my opinion, is an important message that is not too soon to put out there - in fact, I'm glad it's been said before it's too late ...

After 9/11, one of the first big media responses actually came from the comic book industry, when Marvel put out a commemorative magazine called HEROES - basically a collection of pinups by top artists and a few short text pieces. There were some amazing pieces of art in that magazine, and seeing some of those works really was an amazing catharsis following the events of 9/11. We were all looking for heroes in the wake of the tragedy, and books like this one and the subsequent volumes produced by DC and other companies transplanted these comic-book derived heroic ideals from the realm of fiction into the real world. In any case, that magazine HEROES had this one amazing piece of art, by a guy named Igor Kordev, that imagined what the passenger-led revolt against the terrorist hijackers might have looked like, and I remember at the time how that picture blew me away.

It was a powerful reminder of the capacity of an ordinary person to be a hero in the face of an extreme situation. And United 93 brought with it a huge jumble of emotions, but aside from everything else, it brought back that same feeling of pride mixed with terror as that picture evoked. Pride that ordinary people could be so brave, and terror that unlike the movies or the comic books, their story did not have a happy ending even if their heroism did help to save the day.

That is the power of the movie - it so perfectly captures the everyday experience of flying on a plane - it puts you right there. The camera captures the little details, it notices the little quirks, that you yourself might notice when at an airport. The guy next to you is dressed well. The girl across from you is really immersed in her music. That elderly couple looks stressed out, that one guy is talking too loudly. By the time flight 93 took off into the air in the movie, I literally felt like I had just taken off with it - I even had the slight queesiness in my stomach from liftoff and eveything. That's how immersive this movie is -- it really is amazing.

A similar feeling of immersion occurs when the film focuses on the crew at the FAA or in the military. Everything feels so real, every detail is so natural, that you begin to imagine yourself at your own workplace, and then you transplant that experience into the movie. You see yourself working at the FAA - how would YOU react to the news that plane was possibly hijacked? How would you react to the news of the World Trade Center collapsing? How DID you react? This movie forces you to transplant your own experiences into the movie due to its naturalism, and that is why it is so effective. The lack of name actors is a huge asset to achieving this immersion, as is the inclusion of actual people playing themselves in key roles rather than using actors. There is chaos, confusion, overlapping dialogue, messiness - the way people look, talk, act - it's all natural seeming, no hint of hair stylists or makeup people or the like. It really is a complete 360 from what you've come to expect from a movie, especially one of this magnitude.

And man, Paul Greengrass is just awesome. I had never seen a Paul Greengrass movie before this one, but I had followed his career a bit due to his involvement in the Watchmen movie that now won't happen with him as the director. After seeing this, I would love to see Greengrass tackle Watchmen, not because he shows anything in particular here that would translate into that movie, except maybe for a keen eye for little details. But from this point on I will have a vested interest in anything this guy does, because his direction here is simply astounding. The tension this movie creates is almost nauseating in its power, if that makes sense. The movie is utterly naturalistic, and yet the way Greengrass shifts from scene to scene, from plot point to plot point, the way he contrasts the ordinary realities of day-in-the-life minutae with the extradordinary, ripped-from-the-movies unreality of 9-11 - well it is almost too much to take at times. This movie will make you want to leave your seat at times - to get up and yell at the FAA officials to get with the program and realize the magnitude of the threat. You'll almostbe hoping against hope that the day will be saved, that the inevitable tragedy will somehow be avoided with a touch of Hollywood magic. You'll wish that Jack Bauer or Superman or your hero of choice would magically insert themselves into the reality of this movie and bend the rules to conform to the typical hero-saves-the-day-at-all-costs expectations we have of a typical Hollywood drama. Watching this movie though, you are forced to ride this ride that has one inevitable ending - it really is like watching a nightmare play out, a nightmare that you know the ending to that you can't change no matter how hard you try.

When the passengers on the plane finally decide to unite to take down the terrorists, everything to that point has been played so realistically that the ensuing chaos is like no other "action" scene you've ever seen. By that point you've been put on the plane - you're one of the passengers, and you're sitting there thinking about how you're going to attack this knife-wielding hijacker without getting stabbed in the gut.

And I think that that is why this movie is not too soon. That may not be true for other 9/11 movies, but United 93 is a poignant, wrenching reminder of the true terror of that day. It's the oppossite of escapism, which really is quite jarring. Even a fact-based movie like Munich had enough cinematic flair to provide a certain wall between the viewer and the action on screen. Paul Greengrass shatters that wall. And it's funny how all of a sudden, a MOVIE of all things becomes a more shocking reality check than what we encounter in actual life. In a culture where we quickly in a mtter of years try to pretend we're NOT living in a world filled with terorrists and murderers and that we're NOt still reeling from the unprecedented attack against our country and ideals on 9/11, this is a necessary reality check. Sure, some people don't need it. Some don't want it. But for me this was a valuable reminder that this isn't the same world as is depicted in the early part of United 93. We pretend to be, but we're not as innocent anymore. Osama is still out there. Iran has nuclear weapons and talks of destroying Israel. Thousands have lost their lives in a bleak war in Iraq. Our patriotism has turned to cynicism, and maybe rightfully so. But here is a movie with no real politics, no real agenda, except to simply remind us of what happened. And I think I and a lot of others needed that, needed to be taken back momentarily to a time when we were shocked into reality by the events around us. Well, prepare to be shocked again.

And one other thing -- I know that we don't know exactly what happened on that plane. The 9-11 Commision report is sketchy, and yes, there is the contingent who believes that the plane was actually shot down by our government rather than grounded by the heroics of the passengers onboard. Well, all that is debatable, and I don't give much credence to most 9-11 conspiracies, as most of what happened on that day is fairly well-documented. But I think that it's not really important in the context of this movie - it's not a documentary, it has the right to take some artistic license when necessary. And while i don't know exactly how each passenger on the flight 93 actually reacted during the flight, I want to believe that the narrative of this movie is close to the truth. Because there's a huge power in that. That these were ordinary people, forced to go into fight or flight mode, forced to kick into survival mode. And Greengrass puts us there, so that one passengers' squint of the eyes, one guy's look of determination, one man's decision to play the odds and make a go for it, the sheer desire to fight in the face of death itself -- wow, that's powerful stuff there. I think in those passengers' determination is the embodiment of what everyone felt on 9-11 - we can't just sit around anymore, we have to DO something.

So I know that there are those too cynical and fed up with Hollwood's tendency for sensationalism to give this movie a chance. And more importantly I know there are some who will not want to subject themselves to the sheer brutality and realism and immersiveness of it all. But if you can stomach it, I really do recommend United 93. It's an amazing movie. It latches on to your subconciousness and says there. It is life-changing, mind-altering cinema. If it hadn't been this good, it would have been a creative failure, and yes, it likely would have been too soon - but it is really that good and that powerful and that well done that the movie is an unquestionable artistic milestone, and I have to commend those involved for doing right by this difficult subject matter.

My grade: A

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

METAL GEAR: BAUER -- 24, Prisonbreak, More!

Well, it looks like the producers of both Prisonbreak and 24 have been playing the Metal Gear Solid lately. How else to explain how in the same week, both FOX shows unveil sinister cabals of "patriots" who are secretly manipulating a vast web of world affairs, including our own American government? Pretty interesting, but hey, I am pretty much a sucker for any and all "secret conspiracy of men controls the world" storylines, so you won't hear me complain. I mean, who needs Solid Snake when you've got Jack Bauer -- hey he's even got his own Revolver Ocelot in arch-rival Henderson and his own Otacon in the form of steadfast tech-geek Chloe O'Brien. All we need is for Jack to seemingly perish after being spotted by enemy thugs and hear Chloe yell into her headset: "Jack? JACK! JAAAAAAAAACK!"


Like I said, even if we've seen it before I am pretty much a total sucker for all storylines about secret syndicates controlling governments. So even if they are kinda ripped from Metal Gear, among other things, and even if the exact same reveal occurs on both 24 and Prisonbreak in the same night (!), I still marked for it, I admit. And the plot thickens ...


This ep of 24 FRIGGIN' ROCKED!

Possibly my favorite overall episode of the year after the pilot, this one had it all. Jack mano y mano with Henderson. Henderson being utterly Robo-like in his cold-hearted ruthlessness, with one last desperate attempt to pull at the strings of Audrey. Jack vs. Robocop has just been an awesome cat and mouse game throughout this season, and it finally came to a head right here, with Jack being forced to simply break down after Heller's death and scream to Henderson and to the 24 gods above: "WHY?!?!"

And what about "SECRETARY OF GRAVITAS" HELLER? Holy crap - best death scene ever! We know from last season that the man is not afreaid to take one for his country, and this time he did, pretty much exonerating himself from his betrayal last week (ps - how kickass was Jack saying to Heller "With all due respect Sir, you betrayed me!"). Heller went all Thelma and Louise on us in the name of true patriotism, and though we never saw a body we must assume that everyone's favorite crusty old ass-kicker is no longer among the living. RIP Mr. Heller - you went down fighting.

And howsabout Mrs. Logan's INTENSE scenes with her increasingly insane husband? Pure greatness, and we can only wonder where SUPER-AGENT PIERCE is and if he can return soon to kick ass Secret Service style. Hmm .. could he be aboard the plane ...?

The plane! The plane! Jack is about to freaking hijack a plane! No snakes on this MF'n plane, just Jack by-God Bauer! Jack Bauer doesn't give two craps about political correctness when he's trying to save our country!

Speaking of snakes, sweet John Carpenter-style music to open the episode. "Call me ... Jack." Dammit all, get Kurt Russell to guest star, with eyepatch please.

And speaking of eyepatches, who else wants Henderson to get transported back to CTU only to be met by a eye-patch sporting, near-zombified TONY ALMEDA ready to exact some sweet soulpatch vengeance?!?! Make it happen!

And speaking of prisoners at CTU, WTF ever happened to Bierko?

Oh yeah, great RETURN by one bad motha CURTIS as he saved Audrey and saved the day from Henderson's robo-squad.

Hmmm ... who was the incriminating tape of Logan handed off to ... coudl it be ... CHASE?!?! Nah, wouldn't happen. Or would it ...?

Bill Buchanan may not have a decent computer setup in his Hall of Justice, but he takes orders from Chloe like a champ!

Is there anything Jack's P.D.A. of D.O.O.M. can't do?!?!?!

Jack flips on his HOOD while boarding the plane and apparently it's a HOOD OF INVISIBILITY! Sweet!

Aww .. a tender moment between Jack and Audrey. Hmm .. he had a bad feeling about leaving her ALONE WITH HENDERSON ...? Duh!

Man, I think Novick may be a goner next week. But dammit all, let him at least land a punch on Logan before he bites it. With one last "This is for David Palmer, bitch!" for good measure.

BTW, what happened to Wayne Palmer?

- Overall, 24 was simply awesome this week. The story built to a magnificent crescendo, business has long since picked up, and all the players are in place for an amazing last few episodes. This is dramatic TV at its best.

My grade: A


Very nice episode this week, and again, although it's pretty out of left field, I am intrigued by the new developments regarding Lincoln's father and his involvement in some crazy conspiracy that controls the government (obviously the creators of the show have been drinking the same Kool Aid as those behind 24 ...).

Oh man, how crazy was it when the rat guy tries to make a deal with his man-loving cell-mate, only for Big Bubba Love to close the curtain and say something like "Sorry son, but I ain't got but one use for you." Geez ...

Awesome confrontation between T-Bag and the returning Abruzzi - intense!

Pretty good stuff with Michael and his rock n' roll nurse ... hmmm I wonder what he did to make sure he can enter the infirmery even though they changed the locks ...?

Nice standoff with Lincoln and the prison guards / the VP's right hand man.

Overall this ep not only set up the imminent prison-break, but also seemingly planted some seeds for a possible second or third season by introducing the whole government conspiracy angle. Very good stuff, can't wait for the next few episodes. My grade: A -


NBA -- See, I told you that the Bulls might put up a good fight, but would still mostly be dominated by the Heat. MAYBE they will get one game, but even that is looking doubtful at this point. Wow though, the Clippers looked awesome last night - could they make it to the Western conference finals? A few more dominating games like that one and I may be a believer.

- You know, you'd think that being on the Universal lot here there'd be some excitement going on around me, but not really. It's pretty dead here, and all the exciting stuff is going on inside giant enclosed wherehouses that serve as movie and TV studios.

- Veronica Mars tonight @ 9 pm -- catch it!

- That's it for now -- check back soon for more.

- Final thought: I want to see a modern day League of Extraordinary Gentleman with like Jack Bauer, Michael Scofield, Snake Plissken, Quinn Mallory, Fox Mulder, Frank Black, La Femme Nikita, and Robocop. That would rule.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"Just a Little Battle-Worn." 24, Prisonbreak, Thank You For Smoking, Brick, AND MORE

Well, Kiefer Sutherland has signed on for three (3~!) more years of 24, which means that Jack Bauer is in store for at least a few more really, really bad days.

And as far as last night's episode goes .... daaaaaaaaaaaaaamn!

Now THAT was some vintage 24 goodness. You had Jack breaking into a bank, tag-teaming with Wayne Palmer and RANDOM CIVILIAN GUY against Robo-Henderson and his goons, the LAPD, and, oh yeah, the US MILITARY in a stand-off worthy of a Kurosawa film.

Aaron Pierce saying "Just a little battle-worn" in response to the First Lady's concern = GRAVITAS.

Pseudo JAMES BOND-ESQUE MUSIC kicking in towards the end = AWESOMELY CHEESY and KICKASS.

Inevitability of the RANDOM CIVILIAN BANK OWNER becoming yet another casualty in Jack Bauer's quest for justice? Pretty damn inevitable. Becoming a trusted ally of Jack to the point where he actually tells you everything he knows = CERTAIN DEATH for a civvie.

Vice President Green Lantern is ready to kick some Presidential ass, and I like it.

Who among us does not applaud the return of William Devane as everyone's favorite crusty yet still-kicking Secretary of Defense? I think the GRAVITAS METER just got cranked up a bit with Heller's return.

And yeah, I think this ep quelled the fears of those who were concerned that President Logan was now suddenly an evil mastermind when until this point he had simply been an indecisive incompetent. Well, I think it's now clear that good old Logan is the same as ever, just slightly more EVIL than we initially expected. Because it seems from this ep that it's he who is being manipulated and controlled by Henderson (duh, he's freakin' ROBOCOP), and not the other way around.

My one annoyance with this episode: How did they find that bank-owner so fast?

The little girl breaking down and calling 911 = drama. But what happened to her mother? We never find out. Hmmm ...

Where's Curtis?

Chloe = hacker extraordinaire, and a damn good liar.

Is Tony still dead?

Nice ending with Jack putting things into perspective as only he can. "We have to bring down the President." Indeeeeeeeeed.

Overall, a great episode, with things really coming into focus and with the mission now clear: bring down Logan. Awesome stuff -- 3 More Years! 3 More Years! My grade: A


Nice, another excellent installment of everyone's favorite ridiculously over the top prison saga. If anything, this episode reminded us of the cold, cruel realities of being locked away in the Joint -- the loneliness of Solitary, the sadistic prisonguards, and the giant grinning guys named Bubba who want nothing more than fresh meat to break in. Disturbing ...

Cool stuff with Scofield in solitary, and the conclusion of his plan to get himself into the psych ward was pretty cool, if not totally improbable. But hey, this show ain't exactly about realism, so I guess it's okay. Michael's cellmate trying to escape, and failing was really cool. But once again everyone's favorite psychopath, Teabag, steals the show. "So I hear you like to party." Oh. Man. As Austin Powers would say "That's a man, baby!"

Excellent stuff, if not gratuitously campy. My grade: A -



Missed most of FOX's Sunday Night lineup this week due to a long-awaited viewing of Conan The Barbarian on DVD (By Crom!), and yes, I of course recorded King of the Hill, Malcolm, and The Simpsons for later viewing. But I did catch Family Guy, and I have to say ... just as I was getting ready to write a huge Family Guy owns South Park diatribe ... along comes this completely craptacular episode that pretty much represented everything that is NOT COOL of late about this once-great show. First off, this episode was NOT FUNNY. The jokes were tired and lame, and I barely laughed at all throughout the whole thing. And literally every sentance was "Remember that time when ...", "It's not as bad as the time when ...", or "This is like that time when ..." followed by a so-random-it's-NOT-funny cutaway. And too often the cutaways were simply gags that were NOT ACTUALLY JOKES. So Stewie and Brian try to expose mayor Adam West. They find a shady informant. And -- oh my god HAHAHA it turns out to be Kermit the Frog! Hilarious? No, that's not a joke, it's just supposed to be funny because it's Kermit. Now, every so often, these jokes are funny when you hit upon the right punchline. Who doesn't fondly remember the classic FG moment where a bunch of ppl are screaming Oh No! and suddenly the Kool-Aid gu crashes through a wall and screams "Oh Yeah!" THAT was hilarious, because the timing, the surprise, etc, was so well-executed. Now this type of gag happens every few minutes, but on episodes like this one where the writing isn't as sharp, nobody is laughing. This ep sucked. It had nothing going for it plotwise, terrible gags, and just came off as a frail shadow of the show this used to be. I know this show can do much, much better, but this was just pathetic. My grade: D



Movies that are legitimately funny yet also intelligent are few and far between, so it was great to come out of this movie having been thoroughly entertained in a number of ways. I laughed, a lot. I enjoyed the satirical aspects of the film. I enjoyed almost all of the performances. And it made me think. I know, that sounds cliched, but it was cool to see a comedy that actually tackled a particular issue, without being too preachy or boring, and still managed to focus on character and humor. Aaron Eckhart was great here - perfect for the lead role as a smarmy, fast-talking tobacco lobbyist. We immediately recognize that he is not exactly a saint, in fact he is in many ways just a step removed from being a criminal -- morally bankrupt and always looking for the next angle to play. And yet we grow to like him - we sympathize with his desire to spend time with his son, and his drive to succeed at his job. All thanks to Eckhart's great performance. The supporting cast is also excellent. William H. Macy, of course, is outstanding as a short-tempered, crusading anti-tobacco Senator from Vermont. Sam Elliot brings his gravelly cowboy voice to a part he was born to play - that of an aging former Marlboro Man who is dying of cancer. Rob Lowe is hilarious as an eccentric Hollywood agent -- reminded me of his role as a similarly worldly power-player in Wayne's World. And The OC's Adam Brody is really funny also as Lowe's eager to please assistant - definitely reminded me of some of the types I've encountered here in LA. While the style wasn't quite the same, this movie's sharp wit and free-wheeling stle kind of reminded me of a Cohen Bros. type of film, which is always a really good thing. The movie can get a little talky and oddly-paced at times, but I was mostly glued to the screen thanks to the smart script and excellent acting. Again, I really enjoyed this movie and think it's a must-see for anyone who enjoys good satire. Check it out. My grade: A -


My senior year of college I took a great class at BU called Detective Fiction and Film Noir. I read the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and watched the adventures of Sam Spade. I read Daschel Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and was exposed to great films like The Killing, Touch of Evil, Out of the Past, Double Indemnity, Laura, The Maltese Falcon, Chinatown, and The Long Goodbye. Though I had already had a small appreciation for the shadowy world of noir, the class really opened my eyes to what was out there beyond modern takes on the genre like Memento and The Usual Suspects. So I was excited for Brick - a movie that promised to take the sharp dialects and shady characters of Hammet and transpose them into a modern high school setting. Veronica Mars has shown us that high school can be just as shadowy and dangerous as any urban cityscape or remote border town, so it was definitely a juxtopasition that can be made to work. And as for Brick? Well, it really is an entertaining and interesting movie. While at first it was pretty jarring to hear modern high school kids talking in some weird, Maltese Falcon-meets-Sin City-esque dialogue, the strange rythms and patterns to the dialogue soon really grew on me and became a lot of fun to try to interpret and figure out. Like the classic noirs, the plot kind of becomes secondary to the characters -- and Brick has some good ones. The crime kingpins and femme fatales of classic film noir are reimagined as high school drama queens and juvenile delinquints. Brandon, Tug, The Pin, et all were all really fun characters, and I loved going along for this ride and getting sucked into the crazy world. I also loved that there was a lot of humor, and some of the more absurd moments were kind of done tongue in cheek, knowing that you can only take some of the more outlandish moments so seriously before you have to laugh - and Brick embraces that. Take The Pin - the "old, like 26" leader of the local drug trade, who runs a shady gang of teens by night, lives in his congenial mom's house by day. Pretty funny stuff. Sure, this movie is mostly based on a gimmick -- high school kids acting out a film noir -- but it's a really, really fun gimmick. Definitely check this one out as well. My grade: A -


- Tommorow morning, 7 am, I'm off for Bloomfield, CT. I'm only going to be home for a few days, and I am beginning to realize just how short a time that is. While there is no way I'm going to have time to do much outside of a few mandatory appointments / visits, I am hoping I do just have a chance to relax and veg out. I've mostly been working nonstop since December with only a few days off since I went home in the winter, and I am just kind of burnt out from my daily routine. To have a few consecutive days off (if you can call it that) should be a very good thing.

- It's Passover, and once again let me reitirate how there is no better time to be home where someone can cook for you. While I do make a mean matzoh pizza, that gets pretty old pretty fast.

- This past Monday, a new NBC Page class started. What does that have to do with me? Pretty much nothing, which is a really weird feeling in a way. I can barely even keep track anymore of which of my friends are actually still pages. But I know the number is steadily dwindling.

- Things to do in CT: beat my brother in basketball and videogames, get a new cell phone (finally!), I would say go to Luna's Pizza but it'll be Passover so no ... oh, recite the word "dunghill" at my Passover seder without bursting into uncontrollable laughter (yeah, not gonna happen ...). NOTE: See last year's Passover-related entry for all the dunghill details. Sidenote: Speaking of that, I can't believe how long I've had this blog.

- Speaking of THAT, let the countdown to 10,000 hits begin. But don't get too excited, according to this blog is only like the 860,000th most popular on the 'net.

- Thanks to (which due to my job I should probably, like, not be supporting, but oh well), I have relived some great TV comedic moments. Borat from Ali G being interviewed, in character, on Conan, for one. And on a whim the other day I typed in The State and lo and behold -- there was Barry and Levon, Louie ("who's got something for me?!?!"), the sideways House, The Bearded Men of space Station 11, etc. Damn, The State was and still is amazingly hilarious. DVD's please!

- I Wanna Rock (ROCK!)!

- Once again, I'd like to reitirate how fantabulous Conan the Barbarian is. Great movie. "What is best in life?" "To crush your enemies, to see der children driven before you, and to hear de lamentations of de women!"

- And that's all I've got for now. Tommorow I'll be seder-ing in CT. Bloomfield represent what what.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

LOST: Okay, now I'm kinda Lost myself ...

So wow, it turns out that the secret mastermind behind all of the strange events on Lost is in fact ...


Drop Dead Fred!


No, no, i kid. But seriously, I am not quite sure what to make of last night's out-there episode. While it was not exactly obvious, I am pretty sure that the point of this episode was not to legitimately make people think that the whole show is just a figment of Hurley's imagination, but instead was intended as kind of a satire of the whole "it's only a dream" cliche. As a satire, it was okay, except it was mostly played straight. In a way, it wasn't even quite a satire but kind of a bone thrown by the writers to the fans as if to say "look, this is DEFINITELY not where we're going with the show, so we'll have some fun with the premise as a kind of "what-if" scenario. So as a one hour piece of entertainment, this WAS undeniably entertaining and captivating. Because any fan of Lost had to see where the hell they were going with it. Would they actually have the balls / stupidity / chutzpah to say that the entire show was just a dream? Of course not, that would be terrible and they'd never live it down. But you had to keep watching, just in case, just in case.

But the problem is, this episode was yet another totally random tangent. And unless everything gets tied together somewhat neatly, it just is emblematic of the lack of direction with this show. For example, the big cliffhanger is that ... LIBBY was ALSO in the same nuthouse as Hurley. Now, it has previously been implied that the flashbacks are NOT tied into the show's main mythology. And therefore any connections between islanders that occur in flashbacks are more fun and incidental than integral to the plot. But now a whole cliffhanger is predicated on us being both shocked and amazed that a.) two of the survivors have an intertwined past, and b.) one of the survivors is not who we thought.

And yet, we have come to EXPECT that both of those will be the case. So what WAS going on here? I think that this episode was all about playing with the audience's expectations. It was about saying "look we know a lot of ppl have speculated that we're going to go with the "it was all a dream" route, but we're NOT going that route ... BUT, we WILL have some fun with the idea before we dismiss it completely."

Because the way the episode was set up, it was obvious that Hurley's friend Dave was imaginary from the moment we saw him. Too obvious. And it was clear that something was off about Libby as well. And that's why I say it was kind of a play on the whole "it was only a dream" sci-fi cliche.

But in a way, it was kind of one giant cluster as well. It opened up a number of new questions, while STILL doing little to answer previous ones. So let's see what we can imply from this episode:

a.) The people on the island are not random, but were either chosen by man, fate, or some other force to be on the plane -- they are all interconnected. This would lead us to believe that the Dharma group or some other organization has played a hand in the fates of all of the survivors, and manipulated events to ensure that specific people would be on that plane.

b.) Multiple people on the island have seen manifestations of people or things close to them that only they would know about. Jack's dad, Kate's horse, and now Hurley's imaginary friend. Also, we have seen ths "smoke monster" or whatever projecting images of people's memories. So we can assume that whoever is controlling the monster, nanobyte construct, whatever it may be, is collecting memories somehow and creating manifestations of those memories. For what purpose we don't know.

c.) When Henry Gale referred to some mysterious "Him" he may have been referring to the same person mainpulating these events and / or controlling the smoke monster.

So here's my theory. Basically, think of the famous Twilight Zone episode where a little boy who happens to be omnipotent creates a virtual island for himself, where his friends and family are helpless to oppose his will for fear that he could simply make them disappear if he so chose.

Okay, so the Dharma Group or whatever was doing all these genetic experiments on this island -- and they in essence created a monster -- someone with the ability to alter reality. So this experiment gone wrong is abandoned on the island. But he soon figures out how to pull people to him and his island. Why is he doing this? Because he is looking for a new host body to imprint his conciousness in, preferably a baby. But he is not yet strong enough to do this. He needs to populate his island with psychic energy, with people who have a hidden or latent or not-so hidden power to manipulate reality. Locke has it (healed his legs). Jack has it (healed his wife). Walt has it. And yes, Hurley has it (can subconciously manipulate numbers to influence probabiblities - ie bad luck) . What about Kate, Sayid, Sawyer, etc? Not sure. Maybe they were just along for the ride. Or maybe they were all on the plane due to some kind of secret involvement with Dharma of which they were unaware they even had (Kate's dad, Sayid's military connections, Sawyer's criminal cohorts, Jin's father-in-law). Perhaps, just as the smoke monster experiment drew people to the island, Dharma was also working to get people to the island to carry out its own agenda.

So that's all I've got for now. I see the show going in some kind of direction that resembles this at least a little bit. But it needs to be consistent and maintain tight continuity in order to make its mythology work and payoff when the time is right.

As of this episode there is not much indication that that will happen. Sure, it was a capticating, enthralling hour of TV, but where is the beef? What does it all mean? Until we get some indication, some solid clues, some well-thought out and developed plotlines that flow and develop, it's hard to give this show ringing approval. I was entertained, yes. But was I satisfied? Not exactly.

My grade: B

Okay, that's it for now.

But soon I have to address the Cartoon Wars, because after last night's South Park business has just picked up. So tune in soon to hear why South Park ain't exactly in a position to critique Family Guy ...