Thursday, July 31, 2008

Don Draper Is Back, Bitches!

Mad Men returned at the weekend, heralded with breathless articles proselytising about its genius, and interviews with Matthew Weiner treating him like he is the king of all everything ever (not blaming him for that, btw). As I am a sucker for hype, I found myself looking forward to the second season opener quite a lot. Canyon remains unconvinced of the show's legendary brilliance still, and so do I, though I did end up enjoying it a lot more by the end of that season. There were some terrific moments (Don enacting revenge on Roger Sterling by making him eat all the oysters in New York before fooling him into walking up several storeys was vomity genius), and Pete Campbell is one of the best and most weaselly characters on TV right now, but the thing that meant the most to me was the move from focusing on the glaringly obvious comments on the different morals of the era, to concentrating on the characters and their relationships.

After the first episode we had learned that during the 60s, men were sexist pigs, women were oppressed and treated as chattel, homosexuals were closeted, white Americans were racist, and everyone was drinking and smoking way too much and ignoring the health risks. It was enlightening! And then the next six or so episodes did very little to move beyond these points. Thankfully, by the end of that season, the anvil-banging obviousness of the commentary faded into the background, leaving us with the psychological desolation of Betty, the lopsided rivalry between Don and Pete and subsequent destruction of the challenger, Don's identity crisis, and Roger's realisation of his mortality. The character stuff was worth waiting for, and by the end I had started to like the show. Plus, casting Robert Morse in a semi-recurring role was a stroke of genius.

Sadly, the season two opener was business as usual. Even though we have jumped forward two years, we found out little had changed at Sterling Cooper, except that Peggy is now an honorary Mad Man (and total beyotch to the typing pool thanks to her understandable insecurities), and Don can't get it up now he has lost his access to his mistresses Rachel and Midge (well, Rachel was almost his mistress, but he sure wanted to get with her. Oh, and whats-his-name grew a beard. It was very exciting. The references to the mores of the time remain, but the clanging references to the theme of the episode are even less subtle now than they were last year. Every plot thread was about babies, old age, and youth, often with the crashing and gallumphing effect of someone driving a thumb-tack into a corkboard by firing an exploding elephant at it. It's impossible to warm to the show when the writers (in this case, Weiner, who, according to this interesting interview, micromanages the show to the Nth degree) refuse to allow the viewer to spot these thematic threads on their own. Betty's sexual frustration signalled by her sudden obsession with horse-riding a lot? I mean, come on. It's getting all Marnie up in here (which is apt due to her Hitchcock-blonde appearance, but still).

Anyway, despite my misgivings, there were incidental pleasures that made the episode worthwhile. Peggy's bitchiness and subsequent comeuppance at the hands of Joan and Lois, Pete's muttered comment about chocolate prior to watching some sci fi show on TV (the only moment linked to the central theme that I enjoyed), several scenes featuring Don; there was some gold in there. Besides, with Big Love not around right now, this is all that qualifies as "quality acclaimed TV" at the moment. Especially as Tell Me You Love Me has been cancelled, which I'm thrilled and bummed about. Stupid show that makes me have conflicted feelings about its quality!

Of course, Mad Men also featured lots of great Don/Kenshiro Kasumi moments. As I suspected all along (as did anyone who noticed the repeated references to his impenetrable exterior and secretiveness), Don was indeed hiding something about himself, and though it turned out he was hiding the fact that he was a hobo-educated soldier who killed the real Don Draper, I still find that outrageous plot twist less compelling than the thought that inside his head is hiding a second personality that is as violent and dangerous as a man who can make your brain explode just by punching you in the correct spot. At several points during this season opener, this is the commentary I imagined running around behind that rumpled and handsome face of his:

It's like a never-ending maelstrom of hate in there. Which event of the 60s will make him snap? And who will survive his inevitable bloody rampage?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dr. Emma Frost, I Presume

The trailer for X-Men Originals: Wolverine and Sabretooth Snarly Snarly FightyMuch has been leaked onto the internet since its first showing at Comic-Con (which, once more, I have been unable to attend ::sniff::), and I have to say, even though Wolverine bores me greatly, it looks pretty nifty. Things explode, mutants pose in front of carnage and yet seem unmoved by it due to their utter coolness, and Liev Schrieber, my sworn enemy, gets knocked through some windows. To quote Jean-Claude Van Damme, dat's gotta hurt!

Much as I would much rather have a Kieślowski-esque decalogue exploring the psychology of my favourite childhood X-Man Cyclops (what??!?), I guess this will be fun too. I may not be berserker crazy about Wolverine, but I really enjoy Hugh Jackman's interpretation of him (even though, seriously, stop crying in every movie, Logan). Whether David "Mr. Amanda Peet" Benioff's script is better than his work on Iliad-Lite aka Troy, or Gavin Hood's direction extends beyond the growling-into-the-camera or walking-away-from-'splodey shots we saw littered through that trailer, we'll have to wait and see. However, I do have one question. Who the hell is this?

Yeah, I get that it's meant to be Emma Frost, everyone's favourite bitchy psychic who isn't Miles from Lost. She's been in a holding pattern waiting to turn up in an X-Men movie, and now is her chance, and I really hope she gets more of a shot than Colossus or Jamie Madrox, because she is a fantastic character, especially when written by Joss Whedon or Grant Morrison. However, who is the actress? IMDb has no listing for her right now, and she looks really familiar, a bit like Julie Benz, except not (her Marvel involvement so far begins and ends with a part in the surely unnecessary Punisher: War Zone). Can someone help me out? It's been driving me out of my mind. Not unlike what would happen if Emma Frost herself were to use her incredible brainpowers to attack me.

So yeah, I'm glad she's in the movie, and is being played by someone who visually fits the part (i.e. an attractive blonde woman), yet though I understand this is an early leak, and it's a crappy YouTube copy of a mobile phone video, but seriously, this...

...looks like an effect discarded from the Roger Corman Fantastic Four movie. Please let her diamond transformation look better in the finished version. Still, that irked me, but at least I'm not an obsessive Deadpool fan angered to the point of insanity by the casting of a non-disfigured Ryan Reynolds, or a Gambit fan stamping his or her feet at the inclusion of that card-flinging dickhead in the wrong context ("Waaaah! He was never in Weapon X! How is he supposed to fall in love with Anna Paquin now?"). I can handle a potentially improvable effect, and might even overlook the casting of Dominic Monaghan as a featherless Barnell Bohusk (though I love that character, I can understand the reluctance to keep him the same as in the comics). Besides, check this out.

It's Keamy! Playing The Blob! And, from that crappy screen-cap, about to fight Ray Liotta. OMG YAY! I love The Blob. I guess the Kevin Durand fans who checked this blog out a month ago (::waves at Kevin Durand fans::) will be very upset to see the great man obscured by even more latex than Vinnie Jones as the Rubbernaut in X-Men 3: The Last Straw, but hey, it's still terrific news. Consider me excited over yet more mutant shenanigans.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Letter of Complaint (Evan Almighty [3])

Here's the final letter of complaint against the makers of Evan Almighty that I've found online. Apparently it was written on a large stone tablet. Surely by the time this turned up some major warning bells would have been sounding.

Dear Tom Shadyac and Steve Oedekerk,

Re: your recent ode to banality Evan Almighty, I wish to lodge a complaint about how you have interpreted the events surrounding a flood I unleashed upon the heathen scum populating the earth several hundred years before my son was born. In your movie you had this way dumb scene with me talking to Steve Carell, during which I explain that I hit Earth with a huge flood in order to bring Noah's family closer together. I guess you can take that one of two ways; the Bible is a bunch of self-help metaphors and not the Word of Me, which is blasphemous enough to tick me off, or that I'm a total wuss. Well, congratulations, because your efforts to portray me as a cuddly-wuddly My Little Deity have incurred my wrath even unto the ending of the Earth!!!

I didn't create a flood to help a family bond. What am I, Dr. Phil? I hit planet Earth with a billion billion billion extra gallons of water to punish the heathens for their sins. Why wouldn't I? You're just an ant farm with the odd good book by Philip Roth to distinguish you from the rest of the beasts. You'd better believe it. You've only seen what happened back then by watching Cecil B. DeMille's excellent documentaries about the period, but even those didn't show the extent to which humanity had screwed the pooch, with the fornication and idolatry and whatnot. You don't do that on my watch and not force me to bring the thunder, and I brung it. Brought it. Ugh, stupid English. Why isn't everyone speaking French by now? It's a much nicer language.

So yeah, Humanity 1.0 had so many glitches I had to hit Ctrl-Alt-Flood, so you better believe I did the do in order to kill a whole mess o' peeps. I'm the Old Testament God! It's what I do! I tell guys to kill their kids and send nasty plagues down just the fun of it. And believe me, Humanity 2.0 had better start taking a good look at itself, or this asteroid I'm holding is getting aimed right at the Midwest, and Bruce Willis and William Fichtner ain't gonna save your asses this time.

That fluffy-God crap annoyed me more than the fact that the laughs really dried up in the final act of your stupid movie, and that you totally wasted Lauren Graham. Why did you bother casting someone as spunky as her if you're just going to make her the boring wifey who gets mad at her husband? Between this, having noisy sex with Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa (or, as we call it up here in Heaven HQ, Bad Film!!!), and spending eight years being the only non-sucky thing on that P-O-S show Gilmore Girls, she just can't seem to catch a break. Time for an Eleventh Commandment; Thou Shalt Not Waste Lauren Graham's Talent.

Oh, and re: casting Morgan Freeman to play me. Nice work! Who doesn't like Morgan Freeman? He can even make penguins seem noble and interesting. I couldn't even manage that, and I spent .000054 picoseconds longer designing them than I did humans. Those were some frustrating little ice-birds. So yeah, that casting was the one thing I liked about your movie, and that's why I only made the stupid thing tank instead of having you covered with boils and locusts and stuff. You got lucky, jerkoffs. Now make another Ace Ventura film, and I might reconsider letting Lucifer nab your souls. I really loved that pet detective.

Yours sincerely,

Da Old Testament God, yo!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Bridge Too Far

The advent of a new Will Ferrell movie is not cause for quite so much excitement for me as it is for my fellow bloggers, but I am a fan of the Ferrell. He rescued Wedding Crashers and Old School from total mediocrity; he taught Kevin Smith’s coterie a thing or two about comedy in Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back; he turned Elf from a potentially squicky schmoopfest into an adorable festive gem; Anchorman obviously fucking owns, and is a lot cleverer than it’s given credit for; I frequently need more cowbell; and, of course, he invented the piano-key tie. Despite his occasional tendency to coast, generally I think his success is one of the most pleasing things about the US movie industry today. It’s great to see people making risky comedies (by which I mean not that they are somehow ‘dangerous’, but that their material walks a fine line between audience-pleasing yuks and weird, even surreal humour that might easily miss the target) and it’s even better to see that people genuinely like them and go back for more.

It is with some sadness, then, that I must bring an end to my Ferrell appreciation. I was watching The Daily Show this week on More4, and received a nasty shock when Ferrell and John C. Reilly appeared on the programme to promote Step Brothers.

Your eyes do not deceive you, gentle reader: Ferrell is indeed wearing a Chelsea FC replica shirt. Chelsea! Of all the clubs! Chelsea, the upstart, nouveau-riche braggart of the English Premier League. The club bankrolled by a man who bought and bullied his way to enormous political and financial influence. The club captained by that charming John Terry. The club that spent over £50 million in fees and wages on a waning Ukrainian striker just to show off to everyone else that they could. The club that epitomises the rapacious, tawdry, mercenary, ultra-capitalist, self-serving free-for-all that English football has become.

I assume that Ferrell did not grow up on a council estate in southwest London being taken to Stamford Bridge every Saturday by his Blues-mad parents. Had Jon Stewart asked him what he thought about Luiz Felipe Scolari’s appointment as coach or if Didier Drogba had a future at the club, I doubt he could have answered. So why is a 41-year-old American prancing around in a Chelsea strip? Thirty seconds’ further investigation shows that this is not an isolated incident – he’s been pimping that shirt everywhere. Here’s Ferrell at a party for the release of his friend Danny McBride’s movie The Foot Fist Way:

Here he is on ABC News talking about Step Brothers:

Here he is on TRL:

I am baffled as to the reasons behind this newfound support for the most reviled sporting institution in England. While some comedians court and even thrive on hostility from their audiences, Ferrell is not that type. His characters are sometimes aggressive or unpleasant, but his overweening characteristic is “lovable”. He’s a puppy with a hat on, peeping out of a cardboard box and offering to do your ironing. That’s how lovable he is. He’s a jolly, friendly, cuddly, lovable comic… in a Chelsea shirt. No. No, that doesn’t work at all.

So why did Ferrell turn to the dark side? I suppose it’s possible that the club is paying him to wear the shirt for exposure, although this is unlikely because he would have been given the new 2008-09 season’s shirt, rather than the five-year-old version he’s twatting about in. Or maybe he really, really likes to Fly Emirates – but wearing the shirt won’t get him too many free tickets, since Chelsea ditched the airline’s sponsorship deal in favour of a more lucrative offer from Samsung. (Surely Arsenal, whose home is the Emirates Stadium and who play more attractive football and who, you know, aren’t Chelsea, would be a more enticing option.) Maybe he just likes blue. Frankly, that’s not good enough. Why not choose an eminently more likeable team, such as Colchester United? Or Peterborough United? Or Birmingham City? (Well, perhaps not Birmingham.)

The only way I can come to terms with his choice of club is to assume it’s some form of performance, that he’s playing the role of a Chelsea fan to gauge public reaction. Clearly he’s desperate to get one of those roles playing a serial killer or a corrupt police officer or a flawed father figure so that, like so many comedians before him, he can show range and get an Oscar nomination. He can’t be any of those bad people in the real world, so this is the next best thing. Can he walk around clad in his unholy finery and retain that lovable persona? Has he generated sufficient goodwill to prevent the masses turning on him with pitchforks and torches? Are memories of Mugatu and Ron Burgundy and Buddy enough to deflect attention from his apparent journey into the heart of darkness? If so, then he can play a mass murderer without permanent damage to his celebrity!

It’s literally the only explanation that makes sense.

But plenty of likeable actors have done the playing-evil thing and come out unharmed. Matt Damon in The Talented Mr Ripley. Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman. Robert Mitchum in Night Of The Hunter. Ferrell’s got it the wrong way around. I would happily have watched him take on a challenging role – but now I think of him as a Chelsea fan, I don’t think any amount of residual affection can atone for such an egregious misjudgment. He could spend a year wearing the colours of a nicer, fluffier club – like Unicef-endorsing Barcelona or fan-owned Ebbsfleet United or, I don’t know, Hell Bastard Rovers – and it wouldn’t be enough. He’s gone too far. It’s over.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Letter of Complaint (Evan Almighty [2])

Here's more indignation aimed at the makers of the soul-freezing entertainment void that was Evan Almighty, a film that made Bruce Almighty look like The Producers (original flavour).

Dear Evan Almighty creators,

I am writing in protest about your use of the acronym ARK at the end of the movie known as Evan Almighty (EA). Kindness Dissemination Technologies appreciates the efforts of Universal Pictures and the numerous production companies to distance the movie from the generosity generation meme popularly referred to as Random Acts of Kindness, which, as you will know following the correspondence between our lawyers, is a registered trademark of KDT.

However, despite our legal threats, we (KDT) feel not enough was done to differentiate between the two memes, and as such the final scene with the deity referred to as God exhorting the lead character to practice Acts of Random Kindness, which has been a bone of contention between us for a period of months, remains problematic. KDT holds copyright on this meme, and is unwilling to cede intellectual ownership of this meme to a deity, be it fictional or actual.

KDT is also worried that the popularisation of this altered meme will lead to confusion about the dissemination of such generosity, a potentially damaging distortion of our concept and, potentially, ruinous to the public reputation of our company. Random Acts of Kindness denote acts of kindness that are actualised randomly. Examples of such include:

  • Paying for the coffee of a stranger
  • Cleaning the windows of a neighbour's house when they are on holiday
  • Purchasing a computer for a school

  • Regrettably, altering the name of the meme to Acts of Random Kindness, in its attempt to distance your meme from that of KDT's, renders it unusable. It instead refers to acts of kindness that are random in nature, not randomly enacted. Here are some examples:

  • Paying a toll for a car-less tramp
  • Purchasing coffee for a cat
  • Mowing 50% of your neighbour's lawn

  • Literal enactment of this modified meme would render the concept meaningless, which could negatively impact upon the share value of KDT. Such an outcome is unacceptable. While we regret to involve our lawyers again after our previous round of ill-tempered debate, KDT feels it has no choice but to begin further legal action in order to clarify how kindness is to be disseminated throughout the world. Any efforts on the art of the makers of Evan Almighty to jeopardise the random purchasing of coffee or payment of toll charges is seen as an act of corporate hostility, and will be met with the full force of our legal powers. Consider this the beginning of a new legal battle. Keep the example of Pay It Forward, and the subsequent careers of its three leads in mind. Our legal resources are more formidable than you can possibly imagine.


    Ben E. Volence - CEO Kindness Dissemination Technologies (legal letter redeemable for free coffee at all participating Starbucks, coffee must be handed to nearest indigent)

    Final letter to come on Friday.

    Monday, July 21, 2008

    Letter of Complaint (Evan Almighty [1])

    A couple of weeks ago we endured some pretty shoddy movies, and by that I don't mean amusingly dreadful like Cassandra's Dream or The Happening, but just flat-out godawful movies that made us mad. One of them was Dreamgirls, which made me froth at the mouth (those weak, repetitive Motown/Stax pastiches were an insult to the original work), and the other was Evan Almighty, which failed on every conceivable level, but most importantly, failed from the moment of conception.

    I would have complained, but thanks to some internet sleuthing, I found out that far more impressive and forceful letters were sent by people with more clout. With their permission, this week I shall reprint my favourites here. I have no idea whether the makers of Evan Almighty ever responded.

    Dear the makers of Evan Almighty,

    I recently had the unfortunate experience of watching the movie Evan Almighty, starring the former Daily Show correspondent and, I assume from that, member of the Communist Party Steven Carell. Though the casting of someone as gallingly liberal as that would normally deter me from watching such a movie, I was swayed by the thought of a Hollywood project featuring a man of God working within government to better the world through the expansion of housing developments into areas of wildlife protected by those tree-hugging, pagan, sun-worshipping, eco-fascist Wiccan welfare scum who make the otherwise pleasurable job of acquiring billions of dollars such an uphill struggle. At last, the liberal hankie-fluttering nancys of Hollywood seemed willing to show the benefits of combining Church and State into one Holy Temple of Might, Money and Morality, and seemed to be so eager to do so that it dropped a significant amount of dollarage into the project (well, almost as much as a deposit on a Bilderberg Group membership, but a sizable amount for a movie).

    So you can imagine my disgust when the Congressmen in the movie are not affiliated with any political party. What were you thinking? That man from King Ralph was obviously playing a Republican like myself. Did you decide against naming his colours because his actions would offend the righteous American heroes of the Republican party? As a Republican, I would be proud to put my name on such a brave housing bill. But oh boo hoo! The animals might die! Do animals vote? No. So what's the problem?

    Even worse, Congressman Evan Almighty is put in conflict with Congressman King Ralph over the fates of the bunnies or whatever it was. This would never happen. Republicans never fight against each other, not while there are terrorist-worshipping Dummycrats around. And yes, you didn't say that Congressman Evan Almighty was a Republican either, but God talks to him, so it's obvious. The Republican God I worship doesn't talk to Democrats. He makes jokes about their weaknesses and spits on them. That's what rain is. Why do you think we refer to them as "wet"? No Republican has ever been caught in a rainstorm. That's a fact hidden from common knowledge by the liberal media, knowing that their own, inherently treacherous kind would flock to our banner just to stay dry.

    So, if you go ahead with making a sequel, maybe one featuring that Molly Shannon lady like it seemed you were hinting at (Yeah, we caught that she was called Eve!), please be sure to give flag lapel pins to the Righteouslicans and have them properly labelled as God-fearing pro-dollar heroes. We deserve the credit for our endeavours, you deviant Commie schmucks.

    Yours in frothing indignation,

    Quintus "The Moneyman" Zirkman, CEO Dollar Absorption Incorporated (a subsidiary of SoulAnnex plc.).

    More to come on Wednesday.

    Friday, July 18, 2008


    Beware: Mild Dr. Horrible spoilers (but surely you've watched it by now; the final part's been up for about 45 minutes!)

    If you're wise, you will already have been following the wonderful web experiment of Joss Whedon and his Mutant Enemy cohorts known as Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, which has been amusing us greatly this week. In a fit of Whedon-love we stayed up to catch the third and final part of his musical masterpiece that isn't Once More With Feeling or the theme to Firefly, and if the previous two installments were hilarious, this was hilarious and heart-breaking. Really heart-breaking.

    This year we've only seen a couple of Whedon projects come out, and both featured tragedy. The final issue of Astonishing X-Men was gut-wrenching, with Whedon giving his favourite character, Kitty Pryde, a heroic moment that dooms her to eternal torment, and Dr. Horrible ends on a note that echoes the final scenes of both De Palma's Blow Out and Coppola's The Godfather. (Yes, I'm comparing Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog to The Godfather. What of it?)

    So, I ask this seriously. Mr. Whedon, if you accidentally wander across this blog post on your journeys through Netland, I'm offering to come to LA and give you a really big hug and a blueberry muffin if you will, just once, not have one character in your work suffer horribly. I understand that it adds a lot to the impact of the story, and with Dr. Horrible it was a nice play on that awful Women in Refrigerators device lazily used in comics, but really, you're killing us here with your beautifully structured sadism. You big, brilliant, disgustingly talented meanie you. (P.S. Thank you for 45 minutes of genius.)

    ETA: And by Whedon, I of course mean the Clan Whedon, including his brothers Jed and Zack, and honorary Clan member Maurissa Tancharoen. You're all wonderfully evil, and I simultaneously thank you and damn you. Mostly thank you, especially for the Thoroughbred of Evil joke which has delighted us so much this week.

    The Wahlberg Awards - The Usual Suspects

    Though there are no shortage of terrific Wahlberg-Award-worthy film moments out there, I'd like to draw attention to a very interesting candidate; Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie's The Usual Suspects. This notorious and almost obscenely entertaining movie doesn't just satisfy the expectations of the judges in terms of "Oh Shit!" moments, but also manages to meta-comment on those moments, with moments so twisted around themselves that the judging panel had their minds bent out of shape trying to assess it all. It truly is a remarkable movie. The first award is a deviation from the norm: Best Non-Response By Pete Postlethwaite To Repeated Threats By A Born-Again Christian:

    That confrontation leads us to the second award, this time for Best Fake Response To A Revelation About The World's Naughtiest Criminal Made By The World's Naughtiest Criminal Within The Fake Narrative He Has Created To Flummox Chazz "Calogero" Palminteri And, As A Consequence, The Audience:

    At the end of the movie, that fake narrative comes to an end, and a moment later we get the iconic and infamous moment that wins our third award, Best Response To Realising You've Just Spent Ages Listening To A Bunch Of Hooey Woven By The World's Naughtiest Criminal, And Broke Your Favourite Mug In The Process:

    Of course, Chazz Palminteri was only speaking for all of us, and so with that same revelation of the naughtiness of Verbal Kint, The Usual Suspects wins the Lifetime Achievement Wahlberg Award for Services to Generating Meta-Shock in Worldwide Audiences Through The Clever Manipulation of Narrative.

    Truly the awards panel is awed.

    Thursday, July 17, 2008

    No Love For Big Love

    Quick comment, and then I'll eat some more Hot & Spicy Cheez-Its; though we're happy with many of the Emmy nominations, especially those of Michael Emerson, Lee Pace, everyone on the Recount team, and Michael C. Hall (aka the only reason to watch Dexter), there were problems. Eclipsing my astonishment at seeing nominations for those monuments to mediocrity that are The Andromeda Strain and Tin Man, and amazingly, overshadowing even the disgust of the entire Shades of Caruso team at the dismissal of the mighty Connie Britton, who has been peerless on Friday Night Lights, I'm sickened to my actual guts to see nothing at all for Big Love. I'd like to think that's because the season ended before some kind of arbitrary cut off point, but wasn't it on at about the same point as that critical favourite Mad Men? I could be wrong, and if so will bow my head. However, I'm not as wrong as the super-wrong decision to treat Big Love as the embarrassing cousin kept in the shed out back, when in fact it should be showered with lotus petals and given expensive presents. Or, more accurately, lots of awards. If there is a rule forbidding its inclusion in the nomination process, aren't rules meant to be broken? And shouldn't they? As often as possible when it comes to this show?

    We love you even if no one else does, everyone who works on Big Love!

    ETA: Ah hah! It's not all bad news. The proper full list, not the "full" list as promised by stupid stupid Yahoo News, shows Ellen Burstyn has been nominated for her guest performance in the superb episode Take Me As I Am, which is terrific news. However, it also proves the show was in contention for more Emmy nominations, and the lack of them irks even more now. I get that Men What Are Mad and Glenn Close Is Damaged! have taken the Prestigious Cable Drama slots in the main categories (with the other three slots going to network shows, as tradition demands), but surely there could have been some love for the rest of the cast. As good as Burstyn was in that episode (and OMG she was amazing), what about Jeanne Tripplehorn, who was equally amazing? Your day will come, Big Love.

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    Blog Slowdown Commence (2008 Edition)

    It's a holi-holiday, and we're in chillax mode for a little while, meaning some pre-arranged content of varying quality popping up sporadically while we watch movies, play Crysis and Boom Blox (both awesome), and get toasted thanks to the powerful rays of the sun. In the meantime, feel free to ponder these two statements; Wall*E = Idiocracy for kids?

    Plus, Kung Fu Panda > Wall*E < Ratatouille. That said, that statement does not mean I think Wall*E < Cassandra's Dream or anything terrible like that. More that Wall*E < I had hoped, but still > most things. Here is a list of further Wall*E statements.

  • Wall*E > In Bruges
  • Wall*E > Finding Nemo
  • Wall*E = Oobleck
  • Wall*E = Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  • Wall*E > Iron Man > Indy 4 > Jumper > Hancock > Wanted > The Happening > Cassandra's Dream < Dog Poop Soufflé

  • Perhaps that makes things clearer. Or not. I'm all a-dither right now. It's not very often I come out of a movie of such artistry and such powerfully metaphorical or mythical resonance and have a (relatively) mild reaction, but that's how it is. For now, Kung Fu Panda remains number one in the hearts of two-thirds of Shades of Caruso. Let's see if The Dark Knight really is as good as everyone says (i.e. A PANACEA FOR THE MORTALLY WOUNDED WORLD SOUL, YOU WORTHLESS SCUM!!!).

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    Adventures In Awesome: Howard The Duck: Media Duckling

    A while back I came to the defence of the much-derided movie Howard The Duck, explaining that residual fondness for the Marvel Comics character and love of ILM's amazing work had been strong enough for me to look past the lack of satirical bite, but had a bit of a dig at the most recent Marvel incarnation of Howard the Duck, as written by Ty Templeton and Juan Bobillo:
    Marvel have recently started rehabilitating the character, firstly with a Max mini-series a few years back, and now again with Ty Templeton and Juan Bobillo setting him in the modern era, with all of its attendant satirical fodder. Sadly, Templeton is a good writer, but doesn't have the anger that Gerber had, so the first issue of the latest mini is certainly brash but not quite as biting as it could have been... Let's hope the character can shake off the crap surrounding it and be used as an astute commentator on the nonsense of modern life, especially since Warren Ellis stopped writing Spider Jerusalem.

    Seems I shouldn't have spoken so soon. I just saw this interview Templeton did with Newsarama this interview Templeton did with Newsarama, during which he not only admits to liking the movie as well, but has this to say of the criticism levelled at him for taking on the project:

    I'm very aware of a large group of Howard fans who consider anyone who isn't named Steve Gerber working on the Duck, a form of blasphemy. Obviously I don't consider it blasphemous, or I wouldn't have taken the gig, but I get where these uber-Howard fans are coming from, and I'm disappointed I won't be able to reach them with this story. I think, they might actually like it when it's all said and done. The four issues build slowly (the first issue is fairly tame compared to what's coming up) and we're heading towards a big finale that Howard fans should enjoy.

    And how. When I wrote my original Howard post I had only read that first issue, which had seemed mild in tone compared to Gerber's furious work. The following issues are full of satire, righteous anger, comic in-jokes, smut, and anarchic energy. Howard battles the evil M.O.D.O.T. (Mobile/Mental Organism Designed Only for Talking), based on the original, evil M.O.D.O.K. (Mobile/Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing), who has attempted to take over the minds of Americans everywhere by using his enormous brain and a series of radio and TV talk show host-robots to generate a never-ending stream of useless trivia that distorts our perception of serious issues around the world.

    Templeton skewers the ridiculous media and its trivial preoccupations, as well as gun control issues, the war on terror, immigration paranoia, and a million other things that need satirising. Plus, Bobillo's art is just as good, if not better, than his work on Dan Slott's magnificent She-Hulk, and there's even a bit of fourth-wall japery added for good measure, as Ink Destroyed My Brush points out here. It was exactly the Howard we need in this century. Apologies to Templeton for doubting him (I'm sure he's read this [/delusion]). Get this book! It's one of the best things Marvel has put out in years.

    Saturday, July 12, 2008

    A Must-Read Article

    If you have any interest in TV writing, or the creative mind, or the use of art as an escape, you have to read this Guardian interview with State of Play writer Paul Abbott. To say it's inspirational does it an injustice, not only because Abbott would probably tell me to piss off for treating his life story like Finding Forrester or something equally trite, but also because, screw it, it really does give the reader hope that it is possible to escape a desperate situation using creativity as the way out, but without easy resolutions. Abbott's been through hell, and still (by his own admission) suffers now, but hard work and dedication to his craft give him a way out. It's an amazing interview.

    He talks frankly (very frankly) about his young life, his bipolar depression, the anti-intellectualism of his family and the pressure they apply even now he is successful, and yet through it all his intelligence, humour, and work ethic show that yearning to be a writer and just not getting around to it is no excuse. He even manages to rail against the commissioning bods working in the UK TV industry, and defends "populist drama", something that delighted me when I read it this morning.

    He has been accused of snobbery for criticising populist dramas, but the charge only makes him angrier. "I don't think I've ever been snobbish. It's the fact that they started making [Footballers' Wives] like a piece of shit, and laughing at how trashy it was. Don't do that! You can't make a piece of shit, because that's half a million pounds for each episode. That's the audience's money.

    "We can all do crap police series, and London's Yawning type stuff - a child could write that. But we know the audience is brighter than that, and we've never attended to it. We make a police series, with a bit of a maverick copper as the lead. I say, 'Is he called Maverick?' They go, 'No, he's called John.' Why not call him Maverick and let's get it over and done with. I mean, you might as well. It's derelict, it's fucking derelict."

    Channel commissioners frequently want Abbott to spell out his scripts, filling in every gap as if the audience were stupid. It drives him mad. "The distance between what we think and what we think the audience thinks is the biggest problem in the industry. If you make stuff for the audience like you'd make it for you, you won't make many mistakes. But if you wouldn't watch it, then you shouldn't fucking make it."

    Abbott's conversation is exactly like his drama, unmediated by lack of trust in his audience. When people suggest his writing comes from his background, he scoffs angrily, "That's one of the most offensive things anyone could ever say. What, you can only get good from damage?"

    How, then, does he explain why it's so rare in TV?

    "The industry is full of people who'll go for a mechanism before they'll go with instinct. We're surrounded by Cambridge double firsts who are pointedly not using what they know. You just have to write with honesty. Emotional truth is the most powerful thing you've got."

    That comment about writing for yourself is the one that hit home the most, especially as I recently read a short piece on writing by Philip Pullman. It had been included in The Observer Book of Books, a free booklet given away a few months ago, and as a result does not exist online (sorry). In that he had said the same thing; writing for yourself is the most important thing, and books/TV shows/films written for an invisible market will get you nowhere. I have no idea what Abbott or Pullman would think of Doctor Who or Torchwood (though I suspect Pullman might be getting a little bored with Russell T Davies' continual lifts from the His Dark Materials trilogy), but at least as far as I can tell, the best episodes of Who seem to have been written by people who love the show and are excited about what they are creating. Torchwood, on the other hand, often feels like it was written by people who don't have much interest in sci-fi. I'm not saying only sci-fi fans should write sci-fi, but certainly they would at least be writing for themelves. As it stands, the show suffers from not having that passion in its writing. Or much else that would help pull it out of its rut.

    I once used to refer to Abbott as "That Chap What Ruined Cracker," after he had Fitz's son tied to a bed and electrocuted by a stalker, a plot that reeked of absurd melodrama, but since then I have come to appreciate his immense talent (and hey, Jimmy McGovern did an even better job of ruining Cracker with that ill-advised anti-American rant disguised as a murder mystery from a couple of years ago). Now that I've read that interview, I'll think of him as a kind of writing superhero. Now stop reading me blogging about it, and go read the interview. And buy/hire Shameless and State of Play on DVD.

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    End Of Season Review: Reaper

    Best US Alternative Rock Album Produced Between 1990 And 1994. Prettiest Cast Member In Friday Night Lights. Most Powdery Wig In Britain 1752. These are hotly contested titles. Unlike the title of Best New US Show Of The Season 2007-8, which was more like the contest to win England Footballer Of The Year 2007 – all the potential contenders seemed to underperform deliberately, giving the impression it was an accolade no-one wanted to win.

    Reaper takes it, although the victory owes more to what the show wasn’t than to what it was. It wasn’t high-gloss, soapy schlock about a bunch of hateful bastards; it wasn’t a rehash of tired sci-fi tropes aimed lazily at a supposedly easily-pleased audience; and it didn’t coast on a thin premise while besotted with its own insufferable quirkiness. It may not have been perfect, but Reaper remained reliably entertaining throughout its run, while demonstrating the importance of a solid concept and a strong cast.

    One of the reasons I watched Reaper in the first place was its superficial similarity to one of the greatest TV shows of my lifetime, in which a seemingly ordinary young person reluctantly assumes responsibility for combating the threat of supernatural nasties. But Reaper is certainly not Buffy, and signalled this by having Kevin Smith direct its pilot. It’s as much about a bunch of guys hanging out talking shit as it is about evil hellspawn. Almost every episode sees Sam, Sock and Ben drinking pints at the bar, suggesting that for them beer is nearly as important as serving the Devil by trapping escaped souls and returning them to the underworld. And that is my kinda show.

    This attitude underpins Reaper’s whole ethos. Sam may struggle with the burdens of his obligations to the Devil, but he still finds time to goof around at the Work Bench. Ben is thrust into life-endangering situations weekly, but he still loves to daydream about his perfect woman (who of course is independently wealthy, enjoys mixed martial arts and reads Sue Grafton novels). And Sock refuses to take anything seriously – work, the Devil, Sam’s romantic problems – unless it involves his mother. The show’s ambling, amiable spirit feeds into what Admiral Neck diagnosed back in November as Futurama Syndrome – the odd pacing that sees the main plot often wrapped up with ten or more minutes of episode still to unfold. While this was intially weird and unsettling, before long it came to feel familiar and natural, with the realisation that Sam’s adventures in recapturing souls aren’t what Reaper is about. Rather, it’s about Sam’s troubles in balancing his obligations, his responsibilities to friends, family, Andi and work – the problems we all go through when making the transition to adulthood. Their occasionally unearthly nature notwithstanding, Sam’s problems are instantly recognisable for all of us, as is the half-arsed way he goes about trying to solve them. Well, it’s about that and a bunch of guys hanging out talking shit.

    Reaper’s main drawback was that for a long time it didn’t appear to be going anywhere: the guys just bumbled from week to week, being equally inept at bounty hunting, retail and affairs of the heart. This was an unusually long establishing period, and only when Sam stumbled (a) into another relationship that ignited Andi’s feelings for him and (b) on a demonkind plot against the Devil was any significant progress made. An ongoing problem – a surprising one, seeing as Reaper is one of the few shows on US TV created by women – is the female characters: Andi is little more than a vessel for Sam’s hopes and desires, only developing a personality in the final third of the season (and even then it’s mainly a ‘one of the guys’ personality); as for Josie, both her femaleness and her blackness feel tokenistic given that she appears only when soul-trapping brushes up against the law or when a Sock-related C-plot is needed; and when Ben finally gets to have a relationship it’s with the shrewish Sara, who manipulates him, steals all his money and leaves him in jail pining for the Grafton-reading fantasy girl Cassidy.

    The way Sara was written wasn’t her only problem. I did a little cheer when I saw Lucy Davis’s name in the credits but sadly she was dreadful in the role, all eye-rolling and silly tics and incomprehensible muttering. For someone whose major career role has been on the radio, it’s astonishing how poor her diction is (see also Shaun Of The Dead, if for some reason you haven’t). Fortunately this was just about the only casting misstep Reaper made. The guest spots were a delight, from Melinda Clarke as the lonely mistress of the Devil to Jeff Kober as a hardworking neighbourhood demon, but the best was Ken Marino, essaying his usual easy charm as practical, sweet-natured ex-angel Tony.

    But the near-perfect guest casting was no surprise considering the success of Reaper’s main cast. Rick Gonzalez might not be the finest actor on TV but his artless, affable presence is perfect for the sweet-natured Ben. Bret Harrison stands out from any number of blandly handsome puppyish actors not only for his physical comedy skillz – he can take a pummelling like a champ – but also for his hapless ability to inspire sympathy. But these two might have floundered without Tyler Labine, whose energy and gung-ho commitment give Reaper an anarchic edge. Despite his innate – and often hilarious – selfishness, it is Sock who usually provokes the team into action (Sam and Ben would surely remain hopelessly static without him), and Labine has the manic charisma to make this believable.

    Labine may prove to be the breakout star of the show, but its ace in the hole is without question Ray Wise. My co-bloggers have already eulogised about his magnificent grin, but the key to the role is Wise’s astonishing ability to switch between avuncular and sinister in a microsecond. He also brings a subtle poignancy at times, inviting you to feel sympathy for the Devil’s inability to enjoy food or his isolation, before doing something gleefully horrible to remind you – hey! He’s the frickin’ Devil! Evidently Anthony Head auditioned for the part, but although he has a certain roguishness, I doubt even Giles could have managed Wise’s devastating combination of authority, playfulness and outright malice. Ah, fuck it – let’s face it, Head couldn’t have emulated this.

    Like Friday Night Lights, Reaper has benefited from the lack of new dramas in season 2008-9 and been recommissioned (for 13 episodes at least), despite its mediocre ratings. Although it’s been enjoyable until now, it’ll be fascinating to see where it goes from here. Because while it’s a good show, I’m not convinced it can ever be great. Whether deliberately or not, it has virtually no emotional impact, and no evident ambition to make any; even the apparent death of Sam’s dad in the season finale didn’t quite disrupt the good-humoured atmosphere. I’m sure it can go on being an engaging, lovable show with charm to spare, which is far more than many manage. But if that’s the limit of its aspirations, that’s a shame – and it may not be enough to keep Reaper alive.

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    Lost - There's No Place Like Home (3)

    Okay, time to end this obsessive craziness. I've got other things to blog about. I hope.

    Reason 3: The WTF moments

    If I were to put the WTF moments of Lost into order, I think I'd have to put the first sighting of Jacob right at the top. Though the legendary gamechanging moment of the third season turned out to be the introduction of flashforwards in the finale, Jacob's first appearance was just as significant. Just as the show had taken a drastic turn when we first see the inside of Swan station at the beginning of season two, Jacob's ghostly nature injected a supernatural element into a show that had previously been more concerned with psychological experimentation and superscience. It's testament to the skills of the showrunners that this new mystery didn't wreck the show, and in fact has fed into other mysteries in the show that I, at least, had taken for granted, such as the whispers and the appearances of unexpected people or animals.

    I'm debating whether to revise this list. A list I've not yet written, I'll admit, but still. If anything is going to make fairweather fans bleat about sharkjumping or fridgenuking, it's Ben climbing into a frozen chamber and turning a large wooden wheel in order to teleport the island out of harm's way. I can see that that leap into the bizarre would irk people, especially as the show has been pretty careful about introducing really weird phenomena, though that statement might say more about how quickly I have accepted the presence on the show of a magnet powerful enough to pull a plane off course and a seemingly sentient mind-reading organism or mechanism made of smoke. Plus, with the typically masterful performance of Michael Emerson there to sell it, I just went with it.

    Sure, using a shaky looking wooden wheel to activate a force powerful enough to move an enormous landmass is definitely incongruous, but if the island was once home to an ancient civilisation of four-toed time-warping geniuses waiting for their Buddha-like messiah to arrive (or whatever the Hostiles are), then their technology would have involved wood and wheels and such like. Probably. The wheel wasn't the special part of the mechanism, it was just the lever. What lies behind the wall is what is important. Is it the "negatively-charged exotic matter" that Dr. Edgar Halliwax was referring to?A downed UFO? A black hole? Was Ben winding up an enormous spring that boinged the island up into the atmosphere? It could have been anything.

    While that was the most dramatic WTF moment of the finale, there were other headscratchers as well, which open up interesting areas for speculation in the final two seasons. The next biggest event of the finale was the reveal of the true identity of Jeremy Bentham, which caused much anguish in my soul, mostly because Locke dying sucks, but also because the grim pallor and subtle distortion of Terry O'Quinn's face was horribly realistic.

    While we have no idea how it happened, we can futilely speculate until our ears bleed. If he's no longer on the island, either he died while on a mission off-island, or after being exiled in the same way Ben was. If so, perhaps the island has been returned to the same spot it was at before. If it ever actually existed within the space/time continuum the way everything else does, that is. Now that he is dead, who is meant to run the show on the island? Has Sawyer stepped up? Or Richard Alpert? Are the islanders leaderless until Jack returns to fulfill what might be his destiny? And how did Locke die? Was it really suicide? If he knows something about the island being a null-space where death can be beated, he could have killed himself, knowing he would have to be returned to the island and therefore back to life. That doesn't help us understand what would drive him to kill himself, but it would explain why death would hold no fear for him. Though it doesn't explain why Ben has such a weird waxy face as well. Is this connected to Locke's death? Or is he aging backwards like Benjamin Button?

    Luckily, with death seemingly no barrier to keeping actors on the show, we might see more of Locke off the island, as well as on island (if we get to see what happened on the island during the three years the Oceanic Six were in the real world, that is). That post-death existence has certainly made Claire interesting, at last. After three and a half seasons of nothingness, Claire is now finally doing something other than be a moody mom. Even better, she's not just a ghost, she's an off-message ghost.

    Considering how the rest of the spooky visitors are telling their alloted hauntee to get back to the island, Claire is vehemently opposed to Aaron returning. If she is really an emissary of the island, and if Ben is right when he says that the only way to return to the island is for everyone to go back (which surely includes Aaron, Waaaaaalt, and probably Frank and Desmond too), then why is Claire saying Aaron must stay behind? Is it just because the growth spurt that the young actor playing Aaron would go through would render the show unfilmable, which would be understandable and forgivable? Or do the island's ghosts have free will? Harper's ghostly appearance before Juliet in The Other Woman seemed to be on the orders of the island, but Harper herself seemed very angry at Juliet, so maybe the ghosts retain enough of themselves to be considered partially autonomous. It's certainly food for thought.

    If the teleportation was the most dramatic WTF moment of the episode, my favourite was quiet but so out of the blue that it shook me to the core and made me reconsider my apathy towards CS Lewis. Miles' conversation with her, during which he revealed that he knew she had been on the island before, blew my head apart with greater effect than if I had gone brujo-style berzonkers on iboga. All of a sudden her joyous expression upon landing on the island in Confirmed Dead makes perfect sense, and now I feel bad for thinking she was just a dope who liked the pretty trees. Her decision to stay on the island, in order to discover more about her past, was beautifully played, and made me remember one of the main reasons that I love the show; that what I often consider superfluous or ill-judged will almost certainly become important or moving in the future, so surely is it being crafted by the showrunners. Now I can't wait to find out more about her, or see her reunited with Faraday, if he's still intact following the sudden displacement of the island. Still, she'll have supersnarky Miles to keep her company.

    Surely that counts for something, right?

    Reason 2: The fanbase

    To be honest, I'm slightly mad at some of the Lost fanbase, most specifically the fuckbat who put a Lost spoiler video on YouTube on the day the finale aired. As YouTube uses a picture from the video to illustrate what the content is like, I saw "Michael dies" in big letters, thus wrecking that shock. Wonderful. I was being very careful about avoiding spoilers as well, which made the moment all the more frustrating. This happened last year and infuriated the very people making the show, who are the people you really shouldn't be angering. What if they decided not to finish the show in retribution? It happened to Global Frequency!!! Stupid idiot leaking jerkoffs. And for what? To ruin people's day? Vengeance against Darlteluselof because they weren't interested in their spec scripts featuring Jack and Kate having sex on the bonnet of an enormous UFO? Or just a need to show off the level of their access to the show? Yeah, when I had Michael's death spoiled I was really thinking about how impressed I was at how well the person in question had sneakily eluded ABC's guards to bring us this information a few hours early. I totally didn't think about how I would like to give them a Chim-Chim cookie for their trouble. Or strand them on an exploding freighter.

    It's especially annoying as the majority of fans, and the debates that rage between them, seem to delight the showrunners enough to play games with our expectations (as I've gone on about before). The finale had a nice example, with the showrunners addressing their method of keeping the viewers pleasantly confused while still slowly revealing more and more about the island. That battle between what they tell us and what the show shows us is a brilliant balancing act, played out in the Orchid station as Ben speaks for the showrunners and Locke speaks for the audience. We want to know what is going on with the fascinating Dharma guys, but those in a position of greater knowledge keep telling us to get over it.

    To make it even more frustrating, Ben makes Locke sit down and watch another Dharma orientation video, a final cut of the Orchid station video that has been doing the rounds since last year's Comic-Con, which distracts Locke while Ben gets on with the business of making the island (i.e. the show) move. When it's over (or rather, when it rewinds at the most crucial part), Locke is desperate to know more, but Ben insists it doesn't matter. When the Vault explodes, it is as if a veil has been pulled back by Ben. We've been concentrating on that veil for three seasons now, but what lay behind it, i.e. the frozen donkey wheel and whatever the hell lies behind its housing, is where the real core of the show lies. The Dharma members themselves are important, as characters that have interacted with our heroes and villains (whichever they may have been), but what they were doing has no bearing on what else has been happening on the island. At least, that's how I interpreted that scene.

    I also like that, considering how the Lost haters like to make out that the show is constructed to ignore the viewer's wishes (the mythical average viewer seemingly wanting nothing more than the answer to the question "WTF is up with that fuckin' island, man?", if they are to be believed), the showrunners seem to be eager to give the fans what they want, and will gauge their/our reactions to see what we want. At least, that's what this comment on Kristin Veitch's E Online column:

    Dan: I'm part of the ABC Studios Advisory Panel, and they were asking questions about Michael's "fate" on Lost—very vague about whether he died or not, and also how interested I was in seeing him next season. Could this mean that, depending on the results, he might come back?! Also, when Ben says they all need to come back to the Island—is there any way he means Walt, too, and that he'll be a regular next season? Because, dammit, I miss the kid, and I need to know how he's special!
    Kristin: I've unilaterally decided that Ben's declaration means Walt has to go back, too, but whether Darlton or the Island agree with me remains to be seen. As for Michael, well, that there info you have from the advisory panel is what Arsenio used to call a thing that makes you go "Hmmmm..."

    Having been very nonplussed by the death of Michael, I hope that this hint is the real deal, and that Harold Perrineau isn't sulking so much that he won't come back. Fuck it, Lost showrunners, write a completely unearned resolution between him and Walt, if it makes him happy. Just get him back. Having Michael die so suddenly left a nasty taste in my mouth. Fix it! And let me hang out on set with you all and write episodes and everything. I promise my spec script features zero UFOs and lots of talk about free will and existentialism, mostly from the mouth of my new character, psychic French botanist Jean-Paul Heidegger.

    Reason 1: Locke and Linus

    So many plot threads were rushed through in the latter half of the season that some characters sadly got short shrift (and Miles and Faraday's flashbacks have been delayed to a later date), but my favourite aspect of the show, the relationship between Ben and Locke, was allowed time to develop to what has to be its natural conclusion. Little did we know at the beginning of the three-parter, with Locke and Ben traipsing through the jungle and trading jibes with Hurley, that their fractious partnership-of-convenience was soon to be dissolved.

    Their progression from mortal enemies to grudging partners to bickering Odd Couple-style comrades was complete, and while they could never have become friends, Ben's apology to Locke for wrecking his life seemed heartfelt, though premature. Surely this wasn't the end of Blocke? Of course, as the show rolled to a close, and we realised Ben was never going to return to the island, certainly not before Locke dies, that would probably be the last time they spoke to each other. Perhaps there might be an unseen meeting between Ben and "Jeremy Bentham", but it's doubtful. After their hilarious snippy conversations in this episode, that's even more sad than it already was. And no, for once I didn't cry when Ben and Locke shook hands for the final time, but I was greatly ensaddenised.

    To be honest, while it seemed Ben's motive for leaving the island was brought about by some kind of acceptance that Jacob was now communicating with Locke instead of him, the death of Alex seemed to have been a huge contributing factor to his sacrificial decision. His need to avenge her death certainly made him act rashly as he murdered Keamy, asking his foe if Widmore ordered the hit on Alex even though the evil mercenary was busy dying. His need to know who was ultimately responsible for her death indicates he is eager to even the score with Widmore, even though the ultimate cost is losing his hold on the island.

    That's not such a drastic move if his status as Jacob's chosen one really is unalterably changed, though I now wonder if he was ever supposed to be the leader of the Hostiles. While Richard Alpert is willing to seek out Locke in an effort to test him during his childhood, he seemed to just stumble across Ben and choose him with little preamble. Was he just hoping to persuade an insider to help his band of hostiles to get into the Barracks? Perhaps making Ben the de facto leader of his group was the only way to convince him to do it, knowing that Ben's powerlessness was making him unhappy and responsive to promises of greater control over his life. Of course, that means the Hostiles are lumbered with a lame duck leader, but if our suspicions are true, that Alpert and the rest are immortal, then the time spent putting up with Ben's craziness would seem short compared to how we would experience it.

    Ben being a placeholder leader certainly explains why he always seemed so frustrated with Jacob, and his parting shot, "I hope you're happy now, Jacob," makes sense in the context that Jacob communicated with Ben out of necessity rather than because Ben was his chosen one, and thus was less than happy with the liaison with humanity that he had been allocated. No wonder Ben has been so miserable and homicidal for the last season and a bit. Who knows, maybe he didn't even need to move the island. Maybe he did that as a screw-you gesture to Jacob.

    As for Locke, he's in a weird position of being a leader of a group that knows more about the environment they are living in than he does. It's only by the acceptance of Alpert that he has any chance of being seen as a saviour by the Hostiles, though we do not know if his selection by Alpert is because he is a reincarnation of someone powerful, or is the past incarnation of Jacob (and therefore the only one who can properly hear Jacob in his shack).

    Of course, Locke's obliviousness serves another purpose. He has been left ignorant of his destiny as a contrivance by the showrunners, keeping him unaware of the truth of the island as we see events through his eyes and any knowledge he has would be seen by us too. If I stopped to think about it I'd probably find a million contrivances in the show that would conspire to annoy me, so I'll leave it there. I'm happy not seeing the strings being pulled, and besides, I've been enjoying the games Ben has been playing so much I'm happy to be manipulated by the show for a long time yet.

    There is something I'm tentatively unhappy about, though. As I hinted earlier, I had one problem with the finale that I couldn't get over, and has only served to trouble me ever since. While I loved the finale, and have watched it several times since just because it was so much fun and featured so many great moments, I'm finally becoming concerned about the amount of ground they have left to cover. The list of mysteries left unexplained remains enormous, and yet we only have two 17 episode seasons left to go. That might seem like a lot now, but this season was not much shorter but felt like it flew by. If next season manages the difficult task of running straight through with no breaks, it'll seem to fly by. Though I have no doubt we will finally understand the reason for the four-toed statue, and the electromagnetic anomaly, and the donkey wheel, and the true nature of Smokey, and any number of other mysteries, I've begun to worry that dozens of minor mysteries that have intrigued me will be ignored, or turn out to have been much more prosaic than I had imagined. Disappointment at the resolution of any story, especially one I have expended so much time and energy in following and thinking about, is inevitable to some degree, and I've been realistic about how the final episode will leave me feeling disappointed, but perhaps now it's beginning to hit home, that this wondrous story is coming toward a natural conclusion. I'm approximately this worried and upset...

    In case you were wondering, that's not good. I'm not suddenly convinced the show will end up sucking; I still expect a satisfying ending. I just dread having no closure on some of the little things, especially some of the Dharma details, especially as they have been treated like a joke by Ben. We shall see.

    But yeah, that minor concern doesn't alter the fact that season four was breathtaking, definitely the best one yet, with at least two absolute classics episodes (The Shape Of Things To Come and The Constant) and numerous astonishing moments. I'm sad that it's over, my obsession will be fed for some time to come. Once we have finished watching The Shield (two seasons in and we're deeply in love with it), we're going to go back and rewatch from the beginning, and see how much foreshadowing there is, and I might even join in with Darlton and ABC's Lost Bookclub, a lovely idea considering how densely layered with literary references the show is. Maybe this blog will be Lost-lite for a while. I think a few weeks of reading books by B.F. Skinner, Aldous Huxley and Nabokov might do me a world of good. ::picks up copy of Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy when no one is looking::