Thursday, January 29, 2009

zombies: philosophy, jane austen, and porn

There are just some things that make me instantly/infinitely happy... monkeys, robots... and zombies.

Zombie Survival Wiki -- including a page on the anatomy of a zombie.

• A comprehensive list of zombie movies, A-Z.

5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Happen. Umm, yes please. My vote's on neurogenesis.

Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy's guide to zombies. Questions to consider: (1) Are zombies conceivable? (2) Do zombies presuppose epiphenomenalism?

• Are you interested in gnawing, lumbering or groaning? Whatever your preference, Zombie Harmony can find a match for you. It's a free online dating service... for zombies.

• This is not a joke: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

• Lastly, for your viewing pleasure, zombie pin-ups. (Don't worry. They're safe for work.)

episode: lost, "jughead" (5.3)

So... first thing's first. Charles Widmore is a frakkin' Other. Now, I'm not usually one to mind spoilers -- I don't watch things for shock value or twist endings, so spoilers don't actually "spoil" the narrative for me -- but since losing interest in Lost over the last two seasons, I've stopped looking up information about the show... and boy am I glad I did. It never even crossed my mind that Widmore was an Other -- which certainly sheds light on his extended Mexican standoff with Ben. Both men claim that the island belongs to them, and they are the rightful owner. So, to put this in perspective, Widmore has been on the island since 1954 (possibly when he was in his early 20s), where eight-year-old Ben doesn't join the Dharma Initiative until the 1970s. I'm still not certain on who the Others' leader is in 1954, but it's clear that Richard doesn't age and that he answers to Jacob. So Locke replaces Ben, but who does Ben replace in the chain of command? Certainly not Richard, considering their civil relationship later on. (Of course, "later" is relative.)

This brings me to the second most interesting point in the show... the exchange between Richard and Locke. It explains why Richard showed up at the hospital when Ben was born, and it gives us an insight as to why the Others had been "waiting" for Locke when he first encountered them and why they were so in awe of him. (For those of you trying to keep track, the Others have always been the Others. They've never switched sides. Ben, however, did. He switched from being part of Dharma -- after mass genocide -- to being part of the Others. But remember, the Others of 1954 were originally referred to as the Hostiles because of their attacks on Dharma. We thought there were two separate Others camps -- Ben's and Richard's -- but Ben only takes over the Hostiles/Others as his own.)

But here's my question... does Richard actually age? Is he immortal? I have been assuming that he time travels or that the rules Faraday laid out don't apply to him. But judging from Juliet's (annoyingly) evasive answer to Sawyer's inquiry, we can infer that "he's really old" actually means that he doesn't age. In the episode "The Man Behind the Curtain," Ben says the creepy line, "It's a birthday present. You do remember birthdays, don't you?" So perhaps Richard stopped aging once coming to the island in or around 1954...? He used to age, but now he doesn't -- and hasn't for a long time.

By the way, can I just mention how much I love Nestor Carbonell? He is a thousand times more engaging than Ben (though I do love Ben, his story arc was a bit silly last season), and Carbonell leaves so much ambiguity in his scenes that he really brings a strong presence to a small role. This episode really benefitted from omitting the Oceanic 6 and focusing on Desmond, Faraday, and Locke. Can we pretty please have more episodes on the island, rather than off? This time travel business -- with my favorite characters, including Miles! -- is infinitely more interesting than people trying to get back to the island.

And now for some mad Desmond love... I don't consider myself a shallow person or one to really focus on physical attributes of TV actors (I'm in for the character development -- honestly!), I have to admit that Henry Ian Cusick was looking damn fine during this episode. His Oxford outfit -- a blazer, a scarf, those matching fuchsia-purple shades -- looked extremely hot on an already dead sexy actor. I could hardly control myself during his scenes. He has to be one of the most beautiful actors I can think of.

But on to more important things... I think Alan Sepinwall really sums up my feelings in his episode recap:
And they are absolutely going to give me a heart attack waiting for something bad to happen to Desmond, or Penny, or both. It's amazing how this couple who've had a tiny sliver of the shared screen time compared to any combination of the Jack/Kate/Sawyer triangle, or of Jin/Sun, have become the romantic pairing I care most about. That's a testament to Henry Ian Cusick and Sonya Walger's performances, and to the brilliant heartstring-yanking climax of "The Constant," and to the way their story seems so integral to what the show is revealing itself to be about. I felt moved by the childbirth scene, even though I've seen variations on that about 9,000 times over the years, and I misted up a bit when I found out they'd named their son after Charlie (whose life Desmond had worked so hard to save, and whose sacrifice helped Penny find Desmond).
Indeed, it just breaks my heart knowing that this wonderful couple is heading for a less than happy ending. I don't think either of them will die -- I refuse to believe the writers would be so cruel (KILL KATE, ahem, KILL KATE) -- but I would feel the same level of heartache I feel when HAL sings "Daisy" while being disconnected. There is such truth, such honest emotion in the Desmond-Penny coupling that I need them to have a happy ending. And yet, she agrees to go to LA with Des... where a certain evil man is waiting to avenge his daughter's death... But between this episode and "The Constant," Desmond is definitely the central figure at my favorite episodes of Lost. Besides being unbearably handsome, Henry Ian Cusick brings such sincerity to his role. His exchanges with Charlie about his impending death(s) were so hypnotizing, and the scene where Desmond tells Penny that he's leaving all of it behind them, I just can't think of another actor who could make my heart swell with such a simple scene. When Lost is over, he should have his own show. And he should be on a boat and shirtless.

Two last things to note... I don't think there's any doubt that Faraday's mom is that creepy clairvoyant woman Desmond spoke to during his time-travel episode (see inset). And lastly, Desmond named his son after Charlie. Everybody now: awww.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

lost: mavin candle is... pierre chang

Ever wanted to know more about our friend Marvin Candle? The following video was released at ComicCon 2008 (the video released at CC in 2007 was about the traveling bunnies, if you'll recall), and you need to skip to the :55 mark as to avoid the obnoxious fanboy who is so excited with his illegal footage. (Although, my friend Matt thinks the kid was "staged," and it's a valid point. There's really no way someone could have gotten away with this, and the Lost crew needed this footage leaked somehow.)

And the Lostpedia Blog deconstructs some of the opening scene from season five for us... but warning, there be potential spoilers below (depending on what your definition of spoiler is).
We saw Chang wake up with a woman - so it's probably not much of a stretch to assume she might be Lara (though the ABC press release helpfully credits the actress as playing "Woman"). Then we saw the baby, who we knew existed from the Comic Con video. I'll let you all speculate about who the baby might be in this crazy time messed up world... but my money is on Charlotte.

Furthermore, it seems pretty much proven now that the man behind the camera is none other than Daniel Faraday. Faraday was always the front runner because of the voice, and now with the opening S5 scene - we can all accept this chain of events. We can also somewhat explain why Faraday describes Chang's comments as "useless" in the video - as his speech in S5 about being unable to change the future would naturally make him cut-off Chang's pleas about us finding ways to change the timeline.

Lastly, we can gather that Faraday must make some form of contact with Chang in his time, and that he will tell him intimate details about the DHARMA Initiative's future (including that Chang will lose a hand judging by the way he cradles it).

So what will happen next? We can be sure to look forward to 1970s DHARMA scenes for sure - which personally I think is very exciting. What's even more interesting though is the possibilities it throws up - will it be Bernard who leaves a glass eye in the Arrow station? Will Faraday help build the sonic fence? Will Juliet and Sawyer be the Adam and Eve skeletons? With time relative, anything is possible!
My only question is... why would Faraday tell Chang about the purge and about losing his hand? Wouldn't he think that this would mess up the space-time continuum? Did he have some foreknowledge that he would and should interact with the Dharma Initiative?

pushing daisies movie?

Rumors of dead but beloved television shows making it to the big screen will always make their rounds on the internet, and, since Firefly was eventually translated into Serenity, there will always be that hope for truth in these rumors. Personally, I will hold on to the idea of an Arrested Development and Veronica Mars movie until we're all swallowed by the hellmouth. (Some of you reading that statement just realized how much of a geek I am. But if you got the hellmouth reference, it means you're a geek too, so shut it.)

Well, now there are rumors rumbling about a Pushing Daisies film. Slash Film reports Daisies star Kristen Chenoweth has spoken of the cast's desire to make a film, noting that creator Bryan Fuller already has a storyline mapped out. If this ends up happening, it won't be for a while because Fuller is now back working on the show Heroes. My only thought on this development is... as long as Lee Pace gets work. I want to see lots, lots more from that man.

Besides pointing out this rumor, this post allows me to refer to more geeky goodness. Bryan Fuller, as some of you may recall, is the creator of Showtime's Dead Like Me. I've only seen the first season, but I highly enjoyed it. It was killed after two short seasons, and I don't believe there was a conclusion to the series. So... Dead Like Me is coming to the little screen (your DVD player) with Dead Like Me: Life After Death. It will be released in February 2009, and because Mandy Patinkin dropped out as the Grim Reaper's right-hand, Henry Ian Cusick -- yes, Desmond from Lost -- is stepping in as a new head reaper named Cameron Kane. So be sure to add it to your Netflix queue if black comedies about death are your thing, or you just need a Desmond fix.

Monday, January 26, 2009

review: high school musical 3, appaloosa

Admittedly, these reviews are coming a bit late because, being the pennyless sitar player that I am, I've been waiting for movies to go to the dollar theater. I find that I'm less annoyed by movies if I only have to pay a buck for them. It's like the Fast Pass at Disney. Rides are always better when you don't have to wait in line.

High School Musical 3: Not that the plot of this movie matters, High School Musical 3 follows the classless, raceless, sexuality-less troupe of well-behaved teens as they move through their senior year. The movie's bad. I mean, it's really, really bad, but in an amazing way. The plot rings completely false and is borrowed from every other teen program ever (namely a Saved by the Bell episode where Zach and Kelly break up just because it's the end of the year and it makes no sense), but the movie blatantly abuses the ridiculous rules of musicals, and somehow it works to their advantage. Because the plot doesn't matter and because all the characters are your typical ideological Disney archetypes, I'm not going to go into those boring details. Instead, I want to list the scenes that put this film on my Best-Worst Movies list.

5. Somehow, Troy (Zac Efron) is on the school's roof, and for some reason, there's a gazebo and a plethora of just-in-bloom flowers that make it an ideal setting for a duet with Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgeons). It's perfectly sunny outside, but during the middle of their duet, it starts raining. RAINING. Because what's more unpredictably romantic than dancing in the rain? You could certainly analyze this scene as the rain being a metaphor for bodily fluids (since the rain stops them from kissing, and Disney only allows for one kiss and it has to be at the end of the film), but I think it was just an excuse for getting Hudgeons and Efron wet.

4. After another sappy (and poorly written) duet in Troy's treehouse, Gabriella leaves his awkwardly blocked embrace to mock his treehouse toys. This is a beaming example of how horrible the acting and editing are. Efron has a future in acting, but Hudgeons should never be allowed to talk again.

3. Confused and angry over his breakup with Gabriella -- and the impending decision of choosing a college -- Troy goes to school (at night!) and dances in the hallways. You know this movie is awesome when the set begins to rotate and Troy dances on the ceiling. He's bruised and hurt, and I know this not because of Efron's amazing acting capabilities, but because it's lightening outside. This scene is fierce.

2. While in a salvage junkyard, Troy and his best friend Chad (Corbin Bleu) start dancing. And using tires as dancing props. It's like Jackie Chan and Bob Fosse collaborated on this gem. Not only do they dance, but they dance as if they're children who are pretending to be airplanes and ninjas and samurai. The dances are so ridiculous that you can't look away, and then Troy and Chad are turned into younger versions of themselves, your brain blows up.

1. "Now or Never." This is a music video for a song from the movie, but it's the song itself that's unbelievable. No lie; I downloaded this song and listen to it every morning. Sixteen... sixteen...
Troy Bolton: Right now I can hardly breathe.
Gabriella Montez: Oh, you can do it just know that I believe.
Troy Bolton: And thats all I really need.
Gabriella Montez: Then come on!
Troy Bolton: Make me strong! It's time to turn it up. Game on!
'Nuff said.

Appaloosa: I love Westerns. I really, honestly do, though I suppose I should say that I love the Western genre. I think it's unfortunate that Westerns hit the height of their popularity during an era of speedy production and underdeveloped technology. I love the themes of Westerns... juxtaposing the Old and New Worlds (nature vs. civilization), the code of the West (moral ambiguity and the hero), and the isolation of our loner hero. These concepts are still relevant today in our world of simulacra because we are on the brink of fully moving into the Post-Modern era. So although I love to engage with these themes, I prefer them in modern Westerns, like the remake of 3:10 to Yuma or Brokeback Mountain -- and, for what it's worth, even There Will Be Blood. Which is why it's so upsetting that Appaloosa let me down.

Two unorthodox lawmen, Virgil (Ed Harris) and Everett (Viggo Mortenson), come to Appaloosa to fix the corrupt power Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) and his men have over the town. (Think Shane, 2.0.) Unfortunately, this movie is less about Virgil and Everett's relationship and even less about Bragg. Instead, this movie focuses on one of the most unattractive performances from a female actress I've seen in a long time. Virgil is smitten by Mrs. French, played lazily and without any depth by Renée Zellwegger, a floating seductress who loves men in power. Instead of dealing with themes of isolation or morality, the main theme is Virgil's rocky affection for Mrs. French. She cheats on him (repeatedly), and he still stays with her anyway. Narratively, the story is fine. It's typical. The movie just didn't expound on the narrative in any engaging way. And Mortenson is thoroughly underutilized in this film.

Some things I liked: I love Ed Harris and Viggo Mortenson together. They have good chemistry, though I feel like their relationship could have been explored further. They have a backstory, but the movie doesn't go into that at all. There were no genuine struggles between them as friends or as law men, and it lacked the emotional pull that should have been there. When Mrs. French kisses Everett, what was I supposed to feel other than absolute hatred for this nondescript minx? And as far as taking-the-bad-guy-to-the-train sequence is concerned, 3:10 to Yuma does it so much better (though, to be fair, that comprises the entire plot of 3:10). And I love Jeremy Irons in almost everything I've seen him in. He, as well, was underutilized in this film. He wasn't a very scary bad guy, and he wasn't exactly on my radar as a difficult problem to solve. There were hints that he was influential and had connections, but they seemed to be convenient rather than elaborately orchestrated. When he escapes from capture, do I really care? I only saw him kill one man at the beginning of the movie, so it's not like he's a terror on the loose. In addition to these three actors (who all do well in their roles, despite lacking any development in the script), I also appreciated the look of the film. Directed by Ed Harris, the film is very beautiful. I didn't like the set very much, even if it's more realistic, because houses built on stilts just looks like a set. But the saturation of color was welcomed and the location shots of the west were beautiful.

Some things I disliked (and in some cases loathed): The pacing was way off. It felt like nothing was happening for a majority of the film, but when I reflect back on it, I can recall specific scenes that moved the narrative forward. So how did this movie move forward without telling me? It's because it focused so much on Mrs. French. Once she was introduced, she was in nearly every scene. And all of those scenes were awful. Joining the company of Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler, I'm going to file Zellwegger as someone who should never make another movie. She was part of Empire Records -- a glorious B-movie of epic nostalgia ("I don't feel that I need to explain my art to you, Warren.") -- but after that, nothing. Jerry Maguire was good, but not because of her. Seriously, rewatch it. Her performance is grating and borderline obnoxious. And her performance in Appaloosa lacks warmth, intelligence, or any remote definition of beauty that I have a hard time believing that any of these men would even care about her. Lastly, I was hoping for a moment of sacrifice or change, and I never got it. It was as if none of this ever happened. The only difference between the beginning of the movie and the end of the movie is that Bragg is no longer a threat. But these two men are still together (after a semi-comical show down where both of them are crawling on the ground after being shot), and there's no grand gesture of triumph. This film could have greatly improved from the death of Mrs. French...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

review: the day the earth stood still

This is not going to be a review so much as a lesson on how to write a better movie. Though, the following comments will seem a bit obvious considering how The Day the Earth Stood Still remake completely missed the mark in its genre and its message. The movie was bad, and I blame 90% of it on the script (the other 10% on directing and editing). But I make all sorts of justifications for science-fiction, my chosen poison, and I don't think Keanu Reeves is a bad actor. Is he a good actor? No, but he fits well into the roles that he plays. And let's not forget that he was part of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures, one of my favorite late-80s comedies.

So instead of focusing on all of the ways this film failed, I'm going to write about how it should have been rewritten (though I don't think the original needed to be updated).

This modern take on the alien-visitor-with-a-message-of-peace story involves two simple concepts: why the earth needs protecting and why humanity deserves to be saved. This film does not answer either of these questions. Instead of explaining all of the ways humans have been disregarding or destroying the earth (I, for one, am pretty anti-plastic, considering they don't decompose and sit in landfills forever), this film focuses on CGI effects. And instead of showing us human compassion -- which is presumably something that is specific to humans (aliens never seem to understand this concept, do they?) -- this movie shows missile attacks and aggressive action without cause. Before Klaatu even comes out of his ship (I admit, a cool looking translucent sphere), someone shoots him. There's no reason for it. Someone shoots him because that's what humans do. We attack the foreign, and we destroy the unfamiliar before it can destroy us. So not only do we not get an environmental message that offers solutions to our wasteful ways, we don't really get the feeling that humans deserve to be saved. (This, of course, is a permeating theme throughout Battlestar Galactica, beginning with Adama's speech from the "Miniseries." But I digress.) Why save a species that is so intent on destruction?

In the film, compassion is shown in one scene and one scene only. And it's not a very good example of it. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) is the step-mother to Jacob (Jaden Smith, who is an excellent crier but cannot deliver a line to save his life), and they have a rocky relationship because Jacob feels like his dead father left him all alone in the world. At his father's grace, Jacob asks Klaatu to bring him back from the dead, and when Klaatu says that he can't, Helen enters and hugs and comforts her son. Klaatu watches and suddenly he thinks humans can change their nature. Wait, what? Helen and Jacob may have a rocky relationship, but neither of them really change, at least not in a way that Klaatu would observe. But this was the moment where Klaatu goes, "Okay, maybe these humans aren't so bad after all." No offense to humanity, but if I were Klaatu and I turned on the television and saw all of the riots and thievery, I would think, "So in this moment of crisis, this is how you spend your last moments? Good riddance."

So here's how to fix the story, which seriously comprises 90% of the problems...

I buy Jennifer Connelly as an intelligent, so she can stay in the role as Dr. Helen Benson, but she needs to lose the sad face. Throughout the entire movie, she has this look of maternal worry, and it was really distracting. To fix this, she should be the stoic scientist, someone who cares only about facts and data, and this is why she retains a distant relationship with her son. Her son tries to reach out to her, but she just doesn't have time for feelings. On paper, this would seem to be a cliché for scientists, but the actress would have to flesh it out on screen. When Klaatu first lands in Central Park, Connelly played Benson as mesmerized by something shiny rather than inquisitive at the awesomeness of this alien object. Jodie Foster in Contact comes to mind. That has to be one of my favorite female roles; she's intelligent and logical, and yet still very feminine and caring. (Intelligent doesn't have to mean heartless. Hollywood, take note.) Also, I'm reminded of the stripper friend from Independence Day who looks upon the spaceship's light beam and says, "It's so beautiful" (right before being blown up). There needs to be that curiosity and appreciation for difference, otherwise I won't buy her as a serious scientist.

So the first thing is to make Dr. Benson more science oriented and less motherly. In emphasizing this characteristic, her reunion with her son would be that much more compelling. In the moments before the world ends, she chooses her son over science, and as Klaatu watches her do this, it is then and only then that he realizes there is more to human life than excessive selfishness. There are choices that people have to make, and even though Dr. Benson would be more inclined (or predetermined) to choose science, she chooses her son, she chooses that human connection. And this choice would involve something like going with Klaatu to his planet after the destruction of earth or being able to see something that no other human would have the opportunity to see, and she chooses to be with her son, someone she sees every day. The film would be less about the humans trying to attack Klaatu's biological robot protector GORT (which this film spent way too much time on) and more about Benson's detached and removed relationship with Jacob.

Similarly, the film would focus on Klaatu having human experiences. He meets an Asian man in McDonald's (hey, nice product placement, 20th Century Fox) who has lived on earth for seventy years and chooses to die when they do because he feels that earth is his home. Now, I don't think Klaatu should go around living the full human experience -- because, after all, his entire purpose is to eliminate the human species -- but that he comes across them unexpectedly. For example, someone gives up their seat to him on a bus or train, and he doesn't understand why someone would do this for him. Or he comes across religion, something his race doesn't have. Or he gets a cramp in his leg, and this is a type of pain he's never known before. There's something to be explored in an alien living in a human body, and the film doesn't take this any further than Klaatu drinking water for the first time and having difficulty synchronizing his eye-hand coordination.

In short, this film should have been a character study. It should have been Dr. Benson and the family/compassion of humanity on the one hand, and Klaatu and understanding how humans live on the other. (Perhaps Dr. Benson tells Klaatu a sob story and she's crying but Klaatu doesn't know what tears are, and then later he cries. Although, come to think of it, I may have seen that already done in a movie before. But something along those lines.) The movie should NOT go back and forth between what Benson is doing and what the military is doing. (And Kathy Bates as the Defense Secretary was laughable. Seriously, I laughed.) The movie should be a character study. And it should have at least explained -- in a more direct approach -- how the humans have mistreated the earth and some suggestion as to how they will change their future actions. When the movie ended, I got no resolution on the environmental front. There was no indication that humanity at large even got the message that their race was almost destroyed because they're too lazy to recycle. I'm not saying the movie should be as blatant as WALL-E, but if you're going to bring saving the earth into the mix, you need to show me that the humans will eventually save the earth on their own.

And there you have it.

episodes: lost, "because you left" (5.1) and "the lie" (5.2)

I'm not going to recap this episode for three reasons. One, I'm posting this five days after it premiered, so any recap would be silly since everyone and their mom has already watched the double-episodes. Two, recapping Lost is not easy to do, and telling you the plot is not the same as experiencing the episode. And three, Alan Sepinwall already wrote a recap, and it's much better than anything I could ever write. So below I'm offering a few thoughts on Lost as a whole, now that we have some concrete answers (emphasis on some) concerning time-travel and the island.

• There was some underlying creepiness during Sun's exchange with Kate. Although Sun says she doesn't blame Kate for Jin's death, I think Sun wants revenge, and I think it is Sun who is coming after Kate with the maternity test for Aaron. Some of my friends think Claire's mother might be behind this, but she doesn't have the money or clout to remain an "anonymous client," and there was no sign at Jack's father's funeral that Claire's mother would think the baby was alive. (By the way, in remembering back to that episode, I think Matthew Fox did an excellent job at reacting to the news that Jack had spent so much time with his half-sister without even realizing it.) Also, I found it suspicious that Sun was in LA and called Kate. The only problem with this storyline is... why would Sun be coming after Kate after three years?

• Speaking of Sun, something happened between her and Widmore. They are cooking up something together (or allying together, at least) against Ben. That scene in the airport security room seemed very out of place narratively, so there should be something more to be explored later.

• It really bothers me that no one's looking for Claire. If Kate went out into the jungle or was captured, they would look for her for as many episodes as needed until they got her back. But Claire? If Locke says she disappeared, then no one cares. This seems like very convenient (i.e. lazy) writing. Just because Claire's not planning an appearance until next season, her name and existence should not be forgotten by the other characters.

• First, I really appreciate that Lost is going the time-travel route of 12 Monkeys and not Back to the Future. In the latter, the past can be altered to create alternate timelines, so you could in theory kill your grandfather. In the former, however, you cannot interact with the past if your past self did not interact with your future self. Thankfully, this episode explained how Desmond knew Faraday but Faraday didn't recognize Desmond. It seems that present Daniel encountered past Desmond. (And then present Desmond, who is in bed with Penny, wakes up from the dream and realizes that Faraday was actually a memory. Did I miss something here? Does this mean that Desmond didn't even remember meeting Faraday in the past because present Faraday hadn't met his past self yet?) So I appreciate this notion that the present cannot conflict with past events or create new timelines. Besides, that would be hell for Lost's continuity guy.

• Second, I love time-travel, and I was excited that this not-so-new element was brought into full fruition, but it still doesn't explain how Richard is ageless. (And if you recall, Richard visited a young Locke, who chose the knife instead of the compass, and Richard said he wasn't ready yet. That compass had a cameo appearance in the premiere.) When the Losties first jump through time, Locke is no longer surrounded by the Others, from which it can be concluded that Richard doesn't jump through time either. So how is Richard ageless, and how can he pick and choose where he's going to be?

• Another question about Richard: After Locke is shot in the leg by Ethan, Locke jumps and Richard finds him and heals his leg. Richard explains that Locke told him where to find him (obviously talking about a future Locke), but how did Richard know when to find Locke? There was no time frame from which Locke could calculate what day it was. So how did Richard know when to find Locke?

• This theory belongs to my mother, and I really hope that it's true (because it makes sense), but I don't have enough faith in the writers to actually pull this off. This can be filed under The Donnie Darko Theory. In the "correct timeline," Oceanic Flight 815 really did crash into the bottom of the ocean and everyone died. (This means that Widmore did not set up this elaborate and expensive hoax.) But something created an alternate timeline -- perhaps the crash itself or something else -- and so a new timeline has been created. (This goes against what Faraday believes to be the rules of time travel.) No matter what the characters do, bad things happen. This is why Hurley goes back to the asylum when off the island, and this is why Jack becomes an alcoholic (as part of discovering he has a half-sister), and this is why Kate never seems to be a at peace in her new life with her fake son. This could also explain why "the island" won't let anyone kill themselves in the real world. Nothing they do will be good or better -- not until they "correct" the timeline. This could involve Ben's ominous message that Jack cannot return. (Of course, "return" is delivered ambiguously, but I don't think there's any doubt that Jack will die by the end of the series. In the Jack-Kate-Sawyer triangle, one of them has to die, and Sawyer's character needs to be redeemed, as does Kate's, so Jack, ever the hero, will eventually sacrifice himself.) The main reason why this theory probably isn't true has nothing to do with the various plot holes, but rather... no audience wants to learn that these characters that they love and care for are all dead. ABC (who is owned by Disney) would not like that very much.

• This is another thought from my mom, but it's a valid one that I keep pushing to the recesses of my brain (as to alleviate my problems with this show). When Flight 815 crashed, why did Ben keep everyone on the island? Why didn't he put them on a boat and send them far, far away? He had the means to do it, and he could have avoided a lot of the problems and suffering he's encountered/caused as a result of all the mysteries and lies. And they better explain -- soon! -- what the deal with Goodwin and Ethan's lists were.

• Writers, please stop with the stunt casting. Bringing back Ana Lucia was gimmicky, and the "Libby says hey" line was cheap.

• Lastly, I think it would be fantastic if we encountered scenes of the past in the present (rather than just creating new scenes, like the Locke-Richard-leg-wound scene). For example, during season one, the Losties heard whispers in the jungle, and when we discovered there were "Others" in the second season, we assumed the whispers belonged to them. But what if the whispers actually belonged to the Losties' future selves? And on this note, I think it's a smart move that the Dharma Initiative will be explained in the present tense. As in, we will learn more about them as they are building and constructing all of the stations. It's much meatier than discovering new orientation tapes every season.

poll: what'd you think of the LOST premiere?

Season five of Lost premiered last Wednesday, and now that you've had time to search the message boards and exhaust your geeky Lost fanaticism, I wonder: what did people think of the premiere (and I'm referring to both episodes as a whole)? So cast your vote on the left. I think we all know where I stand on the issue...

Update, 1/27: I'm surprised and warmed that other people hate Kate Austin as much as I do. If only Jack had let her carry that damn dynamite back in season one, we wouldn't still be dealing with her destructive incompetence today...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

mo ryan's interview with ron moore on "a disquiet follows my soul"

Read Maureen Ryan's full interview with Ron Moore here. I've included the bits concerning Tyrol and Cally, mostly because I think they have one of the more engaging relationships on the show. Tyrol was with Boomer, Boomer shot Adama... Tyrol beats up Callie, one year later and Tyrol's married to Cally and they have a baby together... Cally gets airlocked after going crazy because she learned her husband's a Cylon... and then, with Cally's death, one of the most annoying characters on Battlestar became well-loved and lovingly remembered.

Why did you need to establish that Nicky is not the Chief’s baby?

Well, we’re starting to sort of resolve some of the plot threads and provide answers to things and one of the questions was, “Is Hera the only hybrid, the only Cylon-human child, or not?” If Nicky was a Cylon-human child, what does that mean? Now there’s two of them. It was important to the mythology of the show that only Hera be the only one. We had always sort of said that.

So you had to sort of retrofit...

Yeah, we had to retrofit that. We knew that was going to be a problem back when we decided that Tyrol was a Cylon. We said, “OK, how are we going to deal with that?” And [someone] said, “Well, maybe at some point we just find out Tyrol’s not the father.” And we all kind of laughed. And then we said, “Actually, that’s a very elegant solution to it.” We just say, “Tyrol’s not the father,” and we move on.

And that’s kind of how the show is. We take these gambles, then we take time to make sure it fits in with what we’ve got. Or we try to at least address it and make it fit into what we’ve got, so the mosaic is still consistent.

You know what, honestly, I would feel bad if, retroactively, Cally was a cheater. She went through enough.

I don’t think she was cheating. The intention was not that she was cheating on Tyrol. It was that she had some kind of relationship with Hot Dog, you know, before or concurrent with, as she and Tyrol were getting together. In my mind, Tyrol, like, in a moment, proposed to her. And she was stunned and said yes, but she had probably slept with Hot Dog three weeks before or something like that. It was one of those kinds of circumstances.

Got it. Because, you know, the Compendium of Bad Things that Happened to Cally ...

[laughs] I know.

I’ve been re-watching the earlier seasons, and I developed this theory that you guys would sit around and go, “What’s the worst thing that happens in this episode? Can it happen to Cally?”

[laughs] I know.

Just switching gears completely, does Laura want to die? I mean, obviously, she’s got this post-meds euphoria....

I think she’s embracing the fact that she’s gonna die. And in “Disquiet,” she’s just decided, you know, “I want to live a little before I die.” And she just doesn’t want to spend her remaining time caught up in fleet politics and responsibility and all the rest of that [expletive]. She’s just checked out.

She led them to a place that turned out to be false and in her mind, she has nothing more to offer. She was going to take them to Earth, and she did take them to Earth and it was all for naught. OK, now what? Now she’s still dying. She still has cancer. And she doesn’t have any of the answers for anybody else, and she just wants to live her remaining days the way she wants to live them, and “Leave me alone.”

I sensed some anger in Mary [McDonnell]’s performance too, you know, Laura’s angry at herself, the world, the circumstances, the universe. And that’s part of the reason she’s like, “I’m done.”

She was the face of the search for Earth, she was the voice. She was the president. She was the one saying, “It’s all going to be OK. Believe in me. Believe in the prophecies. Believe in Earth. There is a better tomorrow. Come on people, get up. Let’s go.” She was that person. And when it turns out not to be true, I think there’s a huge amount of guilt, of anger, of just incredibly conflicted feelings for Laura.

Baltar’s scene is getting very dark. Is that meant to evoke a Jim Jones/People’s Temple sort of thing, like, “Something bad is going to happen here?”

It’s certainly coming right up to the edge of that, yeah. It felt right that, again, with Earth turning out to be nothing, Baltar has invested in this idea of God, that God will protect His children and take them somewhere. “We all have to give ourselves over to God.” And then God takes you *here*. And Baltar’s response is, “Well, [expletive] God! Maybe he should come down here and apologize to us!”

I thought he was maybe advocating some position like, “We have been unworthy children. What sins have you committed, what have you done wrong?” That kind of thing. Is there that element of it too, perhaps we brought God’s wrath down on us?

There’s a bit of that, but mostly he was saying that, “Is this your fault, what dark thoughts have you had, what evil thoughts have you had? Nothing? Then maybe it’s not your fault.”

So... atheism! It’s Baltar’s new thing!

“Atheism! [laughter] Let’s go back to that!” Because this God thing isn’t working out so well either.

episode: battlestar galactica, "a disquiet follows my soul" (4.14)

Whereas last week's episode mainly concerned itself with philosophical character developments, this week's episode, "A Disquiet Follows My Soul," very much moved the plot forward to the next logical step. When the Twelve Colonies were destroyed, there was despair and anarchy, so now there is no more "road to Earth" (i.e. hope), there is going to be despair and anarchy once again. The main storyline revolves around the politics of Galactica, how Roslin, who is no longer taking her medications and wants to die now, has checked out, leaving Zarek in charge, and how Zarek uses fearful language to influence the Quorum of Twelve's vote to deny any Cylons board amongst the fleet. This story took up a bulk of the episode, but other storylines included Tyrol finding out he's not the father to young Nicky (meaning Hera is still the only hybrid Cylon-Human child in existence) and Gaeta's increasing nihilist thoughts (which seem to be leading into the next episode's major storyline).

Some interesting notes from Alan Sepinwall, who is just fantastic with his recaps:
• "In some ways, this incarnation of Laura is more disturbing than last week's silent, fetal-positioned mess, or the vengeful robot she let herself become for much of the first half of this season. At least then, she allowed herself to feel something about the plight of her constituency, even if she overreacted to those feelings, curling into a ball or curtailing civil liberties. As Laura freely admits, she just wants to live a little before she dies, and the fleet can go crying to some other mommy the next time it stubs its toe. The moment when Bill and Laura finally consummate their relationship, finally give into their feelings even more freely than when she declared her love for him at the end of "Hub," should feel triumphant, the release of four years of anticipated build-up. Instead, it feels sad. I wouldn't begrudge either party their desire to get some before the apocalypse comes, to find some kind of happiness amidst all this tragedy, but I wish they could have reached this point before Laura gave up on humanity, both her own and everyone else's. I look at her glowing, and wish I could share in her happiness, but I can't."

• "It was one thing for the fleet to go along with a short-term alliance, when it seemed like everyone's happy ending on Earth was just around the corner, but Zarek has a point: why should the fleet throw in its lot with the people who put it in this current horrible predicament?"

• "This was Ron Moore's directorial debut after four years of running the show, and several decades as a TV and film writer. A few of the sequences (Adama's multiple bouts of dental hygine obsession, Roslin sprinting through the corridors, Baltar's sermon) called attention to themselves, this final season has become more visually adventurous, so these didn't feel out of place."
Personally, I thought that, although this episode was plot-heavy, it was really well-executed and Ron Moore gave enough visually compelling images to compliment the story that I didn't feel bogged down while watching it. And while I thought the scene between Dr. Cottle and Tyrol was incredibly awkward -- "his father" should have been more ambiguous, but it was obvious when first uttered that Tyrol was not the father -- I thought that the scene between Gaeta and Starbuck was phenomenal. There was such animosity between them, and it was smart of the writers to draw in issues from all of the seasons, rather than current problems. Gaeta wonders what Starbuck's husband Anders was doing on Caprica before they "so conveniently" met; did he set off a few nukes? Gaeta also brought up the irony of the secret council (who almost airlocked him) being comprised of two Cylons and a woman married to a Cylon. Gaeta's bitter, and actor Alessandro Juliani really sold this scene.

I also agree with Sepinwall's assessment that Roslin's story arc is really sad to watch. I really love her character, but during the first and second season, I really thought she was the bad guy -- especially during the whole Cain conflict. She makes decisions without telling anyone, and these decisions come from very selfish reasons. She even tried to steal the election away from Baltar! However "right" her intentions are, she's not a good democratic leader. She and Adama are very much running the show on their own, and I absolutely agree with Zarek over Adama. No, they should not collaborate with the Cylons. They killed 50 billion people and have been manipulating the humans from the start. If I were on one of the civilian ships and I didn't know any of the Cylons personally, hell no, I would not want to be anywhere near these "things" that destroyed my entire way of life. Right, back to Roslin... I think she will die by the end of the season, but I also think -- or hope, rather -- that the prophecies are false. Religion has factored very prominently in this show (in forms of mysticism and mythology), but now I think it would be rational and realistic for people to still maintain hope, even though these prophecies turned out to be completely false. People will read into religious texts and believe in them... but that belief doesn't necessarily make them true. And I think Moore and the writers should stay away from making religion "true."

I'm really looking forward to next week's Gaeta-Zarek-centric episode. Starbuck points a gun at someone!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

complete oscar 2009 list of nominees

Here are the (snooze-worthy) 2009 Oscar Nominees, and because I've been underwhelmed by the movies of the past year (other than Wall-E, In Bruges, and The Dark Knight), any predictions would be merely guesses so I won't be predicting the winners this go around... although last year I correctly predicted that The Bourne Ultimatum would win both Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing, to which Jon Stewart commented, "Someone just got ahead in their Oscar poll." That someone was me. My only thought on the following list is... why in the world wasn't Australia nominated for Best Cinematography?!?

Best Picture
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Reader”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Director
David Fincher, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Ron Howard, “Frost/Nixon”
Gus Van Sant, “Milk”
Stephen Daldry, “The Reader”
Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Actor
Richard Jenkins, “The Visitor”
Frank Langella, “Frost/Nixon”
Sean Penn, “Milk”
Brad Pitt, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”

Best Actress
Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”
Angelina Jolie, “Changeling”
Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”
Meryl Streep, “Doubt”
Kate Winslet, “The Reader”

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin, “Milk”
Robert Downey Jr., “Tropic Thunder”
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, “Doubt”
Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”
Michael Shannon, “Revolutionary Road”

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, “Doubt”
Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Viola Davis, “Doubt”
Taraji P. Henson, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Marisa Tomei, “The Wrestler”

Best Adapted Screenplay
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Reader”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Original Screenplay
“Frozen River”
“In Bruges”

Best Animated Feature Film
“Kung Fu Panda”

Best Foreign Language Film
“The Baader Meinhof Complex”
“The Class”
“Waltz with Bashir”

Best Documentary Feature
“The Betrayal (Nerkhoon)”
“Encounters at the End of the World”
“The Garden”
“Man on Wire”
“Trouble the Water”

Best Art Direction
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“The Duchess”
“Revolutionary Road”

Best Cinematography
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“The Reader”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Costume Design
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Duchess”
“Revolutionary Road”

Best Film Editing
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Makeup
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“Hellboy II: The Golden Army”

Best Music (Original Score)
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Music (Original Song)
“Slumdog Millionaire”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Sound Editing
“The Dark Knight”
“Iron Man”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Sound Mixing
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Visual Effects
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“Iron Man”

Best Documentary Short Subject
“The Conscience of Nhem En”
“The Final Inch”
“Smile Pinki”
“The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306″

Best Short Film (Animated)
“La Maison de Petits Cubes”
“Lavatory - Lovestory”
“This Way Up”

Best Short Film (Live Action)
“Auf der Strecke (On the Line)”
“Manon on the Asphault”
“New Boy”
“The Pig”
“Spielzeugland (Toyland)”

films news: late january 2009

In honor of Obama's inauguration, 8 years of Bushisms.

[Via Cinematical.] Buffy alum Eliza Dushku is producing a Robert Mapplethorpe biopic, starring her brother.

[Via Film Junk.] Howard the Duck is finally coming to DVD. You may all rejoice now that you have human-on-duck sex at your disposal.

Film School Rejects reviews Sundance films Paper Heart, Don't Let Me Drown, and Dare. It might be worth noting that Paper Heart stars Michael Cera and his real-life girlfriend Charlyne Yi (best known for her role as Martin Starr's stoner girlfriend in Knocked Up).

[Via Throwing Things.] "In a rare nexus of the Sorkinverse, Whedonverse, and Abramsverse, Sorkin Family Player Bradley Whitford is apparently about to sign for a lead role in Cabin in the Woods, a horror/thriller to be directed by Drew Goddard (who wrote Cloverfield as well as a bunch of episodes of both Lost and Alias, and who played "Fake Thomas Jefferson" in Dr. Horrible) and co-written by Goddard and Whedon. (Perhaps even stranger is that the movie will co-star Richard Jenkins.)"

Above, "the writer of Forrest Gump brings you the touching story of a man-child told through flashbacks using thick New Orleans voiceovers." Others have previously noted how similar The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is to Forrest Gump, but this video from really sells this idea with split-screen. "If you only see one version of Forrest Gump this year..."

[Via The Movie Blog.] The Veronica Mars movie might actually be made, now that creator Rob Thomas has some spare time between Cupid scripts.

[Via Film School Rejects.] Really? Judd Appatow wants to make a horror film with SNL cast member Bill Hader?

[Via Variety.] And now, the news I've been waiting for... Matt Weiner has signed on to produce/write two more seasons of Mad Men. Season three is set to premiere in July. I think season two is one of the greatest seasons I've ever seen on television, so I'm extremely interested to see where Weiner takes Don Draper next, and especially to see if they jump ahead another two years to 1964.

And now, one of the funniest things I've seen... and it's only funny to true die-hard Star Wars fans... Star Wars as told by someone who's never seen the films.

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

in memoriam: heath ledger

April 4th, 1979 - January 22nd, 2008

Monday, January 19, 2009

episode: america's best dance crew, season 3 premiere

Holy crap, America's Best Dance Crew Season 3 has begun... and I almost missed it. (It premiered on the 15th, and I've been catching up on Freaks and Geeks and The Pretender, the first three seasons of which are on Hulu!) Here are my thoughts on this season's crews, though it should be noted that I know very little about the technicalities of dance. I'm only commenting on the aesthetics, so flips and tricks aren't really going to impress me. Let me just say, though, that I have missed Lil' Mama's impeccable glitter matching. Her ridiculous outfits are always a highlight for me.

Strikers All Stars: Wow, these guys are from my hometown! They had a lot of energy and were in sync, but I can't help but wonder if the step climber was supposed to flip at the end. I enjoyed their performance, but I take issue with Shane Sparks' comment about these guys being different and versatile... their performance was deeply rooted in fraternity step shows, which is neither different nor versatile. That's not to say it wasn't good -- because it was -- but that those adjectives do not mean what Sparks think they mean. (Inconceivable!)

Beat Freaks: Girl power. Geez. Why do women always feel like they have to win something for their entire gender? Still, there was some popping and some locking, and I thought it was a well-choreographed set. Shane Sparks made the comment "America's Best Dance Crew will be a female group this year" and the ladies went wild.

G.O.P. Dance: Really? GOP stands for Group of Peace? (And did it bother anyone else that MTV transcribed what they were saying, even though their accent wasn't difficult to understand?) I thought these guys were kind of sloppy, and I'm probably the only person who associated their robes at the beginning to Jawas... but I appreciated Lil' Mama's comment about wanting a more cultural style of dance. These guys are coming from Puerto Rico, and they show us the same ol' stuff.

Quest Crew: These guys were AWESOME. They really knew how to work with the music, and they had a lot of high points throughout their set. There was a lot of time spent on individual members -- and it opened on an over/under trick that actually impressed me. To come off the ground in a Matrix-like slo-mo with two bodies passing by from opposite directions was something I'd never seen before, and the handstand shaker was a really simple way to make the shaking move more interesting.

Fly Khicks: First of all, what a stupid name. Secondly, their outfits were obnoxious and their dancing subpar. Not to mention, the choreography was underwhelmingly simple. And Shane Sparks' overtly sexist comment was unnecessary. And what was with Lil' Mama saying, "You were sexy, and I don't mean that in a gay way"??? Every now and then, homophobia creeps onto the show, and I wonder

Ringmasters: These guys are from Brooklyn and know that they look like hoodlums (their word), but think that once you see them dance they won't seem like hoodlums anymore. Does that even make sense? Can hoodlums not also be dancers? Are they antithetical? I didn't care for these guys, mostly because they used unnecessary props and I don't remember any of the choreography. There were just those two guys whose entire bodies are double-jointed. (Did anyone else laugh at Lil' Mama's breakdown? She was crying just because they're from her hometown. Is no one else concerned about this blatant bias?)

Boxcuttahz: Honestly, I don't remember these guys. But I remember their awesome clothes. And I remember Lil Mama calling them "characteristic," whatever she thinks that means.

Dynamic Edition: Combination tap-dancing and clogging to Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps"? I'm definitely sold on these guys. Their lines and formations were exceptionally clean, but I was bothered by their arms being glued to their sides. I know that's characteristic of clogging, but hip-hop requires a lot of full-bodied motions and they should include arm movements into their footwork if they want to survive future rounds.

Team Millennia: These guys lost out last season to Fanny Pak! I thought the best part of their routine was the incorporation of "The Carlton," as random and unfitting as it was, and even though I understand that their set was intended to showcase their versatility, but it came off like a hot mess. It was a bit too scattered for me.

As of right now, my favorites are Strikers All Stars (I do love step dancing), Quest Crew, and Boxcuttahz (their theatrics were fantastic and something the other groups are lacking.) I don't know how often I'll comment on America's Best Dance Crew this year, since I don't think I'll be watching it regularly, but I'll comment when I can.

episode: desperate housewives, "best thing that ever could have happened" (5.13)

Sunday night marked Desperate Housewives's 100th episode, and instead of drowning in convoluted plots or big name guest stars, the show finally went back to its roots and reminded its viewers why they ever cared about these women in the first place. And surprisingly, "The Best Thing That Ever Could Have Happened" is probably one of my favorite flashback episodes (meaning, episodes intended specifically to fill in missing details) because it gets so much of it right. It's an episodic plot that exists outside of the season-long narrative, and it reflects on the death of handyman Eli Scruggs, a one-time character played so charmingly by Beau Bridges, and how his life touched all of the main characters, including (very smartly) the deceased narrator, Mary Alice Young. Eli Scruggs changed these women's lives in the following ways (listed in order of appearance in the episode, though definitely not chronologically):

For Gaby, when she and Carlos moved to Wisteria Lane, Eli encouraged Gaby to get over her judgement and boredom of suburbia long enough to get to know the other women on the street. At their first poker game, Gaby tells the other women that Wisteria Lane is awful enough to make her want to blow her brains out, and she playfully hits Mary Alice Young, whom viewers know ended up shooting herself in season one (as part of that season's storyline). It was a nice ironic moment, though the sadness was still present. But the other women don't enjoy the stuck-up and self-centered Gaby, and Eli shows her that it's okay not to be guarded around these women. In the next scene, easily one of the sweetest moments for Eva Longoria as an actor, Gaby appears at another poker game, uninvited and with a basket of muffins. She confesses that her husband's never home, that she's lonely, and what she really needs right now is some friends. Bree steps out from the background and softly says, "Now that is how you make an entrance." It was smart for the show to tell Gaby's story first because it explained how Gaby was integrated into the group, when she for so long stuck out like a sore thumb. Also, it reminded viewers that Mary Alice Young was very much a part of this group for some time, and it made me extremely happy that creator Marc Cherry found a way to incorporate actress Brenda Strong physically into the cast again.

For Bree, I'm not quite sure because I was in the bathroom at this moment, but it had something to do with Eli returning a book of recipes to Bree after her husband Rex died. In the typical Bree fashion, she mourned in silence and solitude in her kitchen as Eli returned the book, and Bree looked at it fondly, saying, "I can't believe you kept this." He mentioned to her that his favorite recipe was the cajun chicken, and the flashback cut to the present to show Bree holding her published cookbook and muttering, "I know exactly what I'm going to fix." Bree definitely didn't have the strongest flashback, and I thought the inclusion of Bree's desire to publish a cookbook one day seemed forced, but it didn't bother me and the scene still rang true to Bree's character.

For Edie, Eli was there when she found out that her husband was gay -- a subplot that I had completely forgotten about! (I'm not entirely sure, but I think this subplot had been mentioned but never visually expressed before.) Eli comforted Edie and told her how beautiful she was, and in true Edie fashion, she sleeps with him. The scene was not without humor, of course, with Eli saying, "Are you sure about this? I don't want to take advantage of you." The image of Nicolette Sheridan on top of Beau Bridges is enough to make anyone smile.

For Lynette, she found out she was pregnant with Penny right as she was trying to secure a job at an advertising firm (the same one she worked at in season one). Even as her water broke, she was still trying to sign at the dotted line, and a few weeks later, she ends up leaving baby Penny in the car as she walked inattentively talking on her cell phone. Eli was down a few houses and watched Lynette's carelessness, so he went to the car and retrieved the baby. When he returned the child to Lynette, her face froze in horror and awe at what she had done, and as apologetic as she was, as much as she tried to excuse her behavior, she started crying but Eli did not judge her. He just stood there, nodding in understanding, and from that moment on, Lynette decided to put her family first. Eli showed her what was most important.

For Susan, Eli was there during her divorce from Carl, her divorce from Mike, and her split with Jackson. And when Eli announced his retirement from the job, Susan told him that he was the most consistent male relationship in her life and that she would always value that about him. He agreed to fix a falling shingle for her as his last job, and while she was out buying him celebratory wine for his retirement, he suffered a heart attack on her roof. This was a particularly interesting sequence of events because, when Eli dies at the beginning of the episode and Susan comes home with a bottle of wine, you're not quite sure who that wine is for but you certainly don't assume it's for Eli. But this sequence was very well done because it showed Susan evolving as a person -- in divorcing Carl, she threw his clothes and belongings on the front lawn, and in divorcing Mike, she cried on the staircase, and with the breakup with Jackson, she accepted and chose her life as a singleton. As with all of the flashbacks, Susan's was very much a window into her as a real character.

But the show does not end with Susan's flashback but with Mary Alice's. She is the first person in Wisteria Lane to meet the town newest resident, Eli Scruggs. She says that she does not have work for him but takes his business cards to pass out to her friends. When she notices a hole in his shoe and how much he could use a job, she tells him that he can glue a broken vase back together for her. This was a great scene because it showed the heart and humility of Mary Alice, why she is the voice of the show and why she would come back as a voiceover to watch over her friends. She's a character who cares, who feels and empathizes with others. And so when Mary Alice shot herself, Eli Scruggs watched from a distance. (In this scene, the characters are all standing outside of her house, and although I'm not positive, I'm pretty sure that each of the characters are in the same positions and clothing as they were in season one when they panned over the heartbroken residents.) Eli Scruggs sat in his truck for an hour in dismay, and he vowed to always help others whenever they needed it because he wished that he had helped Mary Alice.

And thus, Mary Alice's kindness effected Eli, who in turn changed the lives of all the women on Wisteria Lane. I think the sweetest moment of the whole episode -- which is, without a doubt, the best of this season -- and this episode had a lot of sweet moments, is the wide shot of all the mourners at Eli Scrugg's funeral. He was a simple and honest man, but he had touched so many lives (a la George Bailey) just by being kind of caring. And seeing all of those people at his funeral, it reminds you as the viewer that there is a reason for being good to others, and that reason is because it makes the world a better place.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

title origin of "sometimes a great notion"

[Via Maureen Ryan.] As suspected, the title "Sometimes a Great Notion" comes from the title of Ken Kesey's novel. As the writer of the episode, David Weddle, explains:
The day the staff finished putting the cards up on the board with Ron, and the day before we began writing, I flashed on my favorite American novel, Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey. It is a much underappreciated and towering work. Anyone interested in fine literature and great story telling should read Kesey’s masterpiece.

The book opens with a childish rhyme that enunciates the theme of the book and what to me was the theme of our show. “Sometimes I live in the country. Sometimes I live in the town. Sometimes I get a great notion. To jump in the river and drown.”

In Kesey’s book, the hero --Hank Stamper, an Oregon logger -- does constant battle with the river that runs past his home, a river that has claimed the lives of pets and loved ones and comes to symbolize the vast and indifferent power of the universe that both gives life and cruelly snatches it away again. In his notes to himself as he was writing the book, Kesey scribbled something that has become one of the shorthand phrases Brad and I use while writing scripts. Kesey wrote: “Try to make Hank quit.” By that he meant: take this strong, heroic character and pile one misfortune on his back after another until he finally falls. What happens in that moment? Does he despair? Does he get up and go on? For me, there is no more defining moment for a character.

We tried to do this with almost all the characters in this episode: Adam, Laura, Kara, Lee. We ripped everything out from under them then sat back to see what they would do. What were their individual breaking points? And if they did break, would they stay broken or grope toward a recovery?

mo ryan's interview with ron moore

Excerpts from Maureen Ryan's interview with Battlestar creator Ron Moore (read the full interview here). It's very long, but as per usual, Moore gives fascinating answers.

Why Ellen?

There’s a certain logic to it. I sort of figured out early on that I liked the pairing of her and Tigh. [I liked] that there was something deeper to their marriage and deeper to their relationship, that it was literally a relationship that had transcended time and space, that it was very ancient that had gone on for a very long time. It was something that was [mentioned] in the pilot for “Galactica.”

In the miniseries, Tigh is burning her photo, right?

Yeah, and the very first scene that he’s in, he gets upset because Starbuck is pushing his buttons about her, “What about your wife?” And he kicks over the table and then she slugs him.

There was something really appealing about the idea that of the final five, the two of them were a pair, and they were THIS pair -- you know, as drama-ridden as their relationship had been, the idea that there had always been something deeper and more profound at its center, I always really, really liked.

When did you make that selection?

It was somewhere in the course of the third season [that the possibility was first raised.] We killed Ellen early that season and we didn’t have an inkling of that at that point. But at the point that we killed Ellen, around the same time frame, I was starting to come up with the idea that there were five Cylons that had yet to be revealed.

At the beginning of the third season, Baltar had gone to live on the Cylon base ship for a string of episodes. And it was really that plot move that threw into relief -- well, once Baltar’s over in the Cylon world, why wouldn’t he see all 12 of them? How could we get around that and parcel that out? Then I had this idea, well, what if it’s not random? What if there’s a meaning to the fact that we haven’t seen the five of them? And that’s how the Final Five became part of the mythos.

Over the course of the third season, Ellen came and went in my thinking in terms of who the final five were. It probably wasn’t until we settled on the final four that I knew it was Ellen. When we got to the final four -- Tigh, Anders, Tory and Tyrol -- then it felt like, “and Ellen has to be the fifth.” Because Tigh being revealed as a Cylon was such a profound shift in that character, such a big leap for the show, that it felt really natural that she was also a Cylon.

And he had killed her for collaborating with the Cylons! There were layers and depths to that I felt were really fascinating, about guilt and blame and memory and responsibility, and I just really liked the way that all tied together.

Of the first set of seven (Cylons), how many of them knew? There’s part of me that wonders if Cavil knew and was just messing with Ellen on New Caprica because he could. Obviously you didn’t know then that she would be a Cylon, but the possibility of Cavil or others knowing and then playing that complication out in future episodes, did that help you make your decision?

Yeah, the Cavil thing plays in quite strongly. That will be revealed as we get deeper into the season. But that did all flow together really well.

So we will come to know, in this next set of episodes, who knew that Ellen was a Cylon, and that will play out in what’s coming?


So we’ll see her again. Does she figure prominently in the season?

I don’t want to give too much away, but it won’t be the last time that you see Ellen.

It seems as though a lot of the final Cylons were leading people or important people on New Caprica. Is there something to that?

That was more just watching how their characters behaved in those circumstances. They had no knowledge of their true nature. What were the actions they would take as human beings in those situations, given who their characters were? That’s how they developed. It was the irony of the fact that they were all fundamentally involved in the resistance against the Cylons was interesting to us.

So in writing Season 4, you had a semi-solid idea that it would be Ellen?

Yeah. As we went into Season 4, we had the writers retreat over the hiatus, we talked about what the general storyline was of the last season, we talked specifically about the first half of Season 4 and we talked about it being Ellen and getting to the place where we would reveal it to be Ellen.

So you gave us a clue, then, when Tigh is visiting Caprica Six in the brig in the first half of Season 4 -- he keeps seeing Ellen’s face instead of Six’s. Was that an acknowledgment of that connection or was that just Tigh being in some kind of fog?

It was about both. It was about his innate sense of longing for the woman he truly loved, and it was also sort of hinting that there was a deeper connection between the two.

[On the idea that someone would not handle the news well.] Was there a discussion of who that would be, the person who would pay that cost? How did you settle on [Dualla]?

We did talk about it, and it felt like in some ways, I mean, unfortunately, it was [a case of,] she was kind of the sweetest character. It would be the one that you would expect the least. It also felt right. Her journey had [been] -- she was in love with Billy and then she was in love with this other man and neither one worked out. And all she really had in her life was this hope of getting to Earth some day. Some day it would all be OK.

Her whole family, her whole world, everything had been shattered. After Billy died and after she splits with Lee, probably all Dualla has is [the goal of Earth]. The job doesn’t mean anything -- what does the job mean at that point? There’s no career, it’s just getting through the next day. So what she had is to get to Earth. And she got to Earth and it turned out to be nothing. So it felt like, she’s done. It’s overwith.

That’s the impact of her death, though -- she’s the professional. It’s not like she’s unfeeling, but she’s going to compartmentalize and get the job done and be an officer and do what she needs to do. And then when she couldn’t do that at all... I mean, she could, to have that date with Lee, but then she was done. For someone like that to just end it, that’s very unsettling.

She just said, “My story ends here. I end here.” It gave her a measure of control, it gave her a measure of decision, she was able to say, “My life is going to end at this point.”

That’s what makes the episode so painful, in a way. Nobody can step up. Nobody can get back up off the floor. We’ve seen them pull themselves off the floor so many times, but they can’t do it this time. Adama’s walking into Tigh’s quarters drunk, with a loaded gun. Roslin’s just checked out. Dee kills herself.

It felt like, if we were going to get to a place where we’re going to find Earth mid-season and it’s not going to be what they’d hoped, it’s all going to be ashes, you had to play it truthfully. You had to say it’s really going to devastate them. It’s going to hit them in a way we’ve never seen before. Our heroes are not going to be heroic. They’re not going to be able to come back from this easily. It’s going to take their fondest hope away from them.

[Discussing the chronology of the 13 Tribes of Kobol.] We see the flashback of Tyrol in that marketplace, and it seemed like a planet full of lots of different kinds of people, not just 12 different models. Is that right?


That planet is Earth? We’re not going to find out, “Oh, there’s this other Earth over here...” This is the only Earth we’ll see?

They have found Earth. This is the Earth that the 13th Colony discovered, they christened it Earth. They found Earth.

What I really found surprising about that scene where she appears to find her own body is -- Leoben seems taken aback. Normally he’s the guy who’s spewing this mixture of [not-truth] and truth and getting in her head. But he seems severely freaked out.

Oh yeah. I love the fact that Leoben gets to a place where he says, “I was wrong. I don’t know what to do. I thought I saw streams and rivers and I thought I saw stuff [this refers to Leoben’s dialogue in “Flesh and Bone”], but I don’t know.” That makes him mortal, in a certain sense.

In general with this episode, did anyone at the network or studio say, you know, this is too dark?

I think they had qualms. There were questions about, “Wow, this is really dark. Is anyone ever going to come back and watch the rest of the episodes?” I said, “Well, it is the end of the show.”

My attitude was pretty much, “Look, we’re in the last chapter here. Anyone who’s come this far and doesn’t want to watch the rest -- they’re a minority at best.” People are going to want to see how this turns out. And yeah, this is a very dark chapter. This may not even be the darkest chapter.

battlestar galactica, reflections on "sometimes a great notion"

I've been reading some of the comments left on Alan Sepinwall's "Sometimes a Great Notion" recap, and it really amazes me that there can be so many people out there who love this show as much as I do, and who can formulate connections and search for the meaning of what it means to be human in such deeply touching ways. So below, I've posted some of their comments. Most of them are reactions to Dualla's suicide, which, really, is one of the most heartbreaking moments of the show (see the last comment below).

One of the most interesting facets of the show that I don't feel is discussed enough, is this fluid, impermanent understanding of identity. And not just the ol' "am I human or am I machine" posthuman crisis, which has been prevalent ever since Baltar created a Cylon detector in the first season. But this question of who am I -- is it my actions or my thoughts who determine who I am? How much does my childhood determine my future adulthood? Thinking of Kara's childhood abuse and her mother's lack of love, or reflecting on the effect of Zak Adama's death, I can now add Dee into the mix. She looks at a photograph of her as a child and says she doesn't even remember her then. And when Dee holds Hera, she says softly, "You have no idea what's going on, do you?" It's a haunting portrayal of a character who has tried so hard to hold onto hope -- first through Billy, then through Lee, despite his affections for Kara -- and now she understands, she knows there's nothing left. And this is not entirely unlike D'Anna's wanting to stay behind on Earth to die. Everything that she knew about her species, about who she is -- her identity -- is false. Although at the moment I could predict Dee's death (there were signs pointing the way), I didn't realize how affective it would be in the long-run. Having just watched the episode again, I have to say -- in the history of the show -- she might be the most humanizing portrayal of any of the characters.

Dee's death comes with a great deal of symbolism for the series. I don't know if this is what the writers intended but it struck me that Billy and Dee's innocent love on the ship in the midst of complete devastation was what prompted Adama to choose to save humanity rather than fight to the death at the start of the series. It was that love that was the hope of the human race.

Now Billy and Dee are dead -- and Dee killed herself. It really has come full circle. The hope of humanity now the despair.

The only positive image now is Helo, Athena and Hera. Human, cylon, and a mix together.
(Although I disagree with this commenter, I do think it's a beautiful idea, deeply rooted in mythology) I am wondering right now if the Final Five are "angels" of sorts and that a "God" of some sort gives birth to civilizations across the galaxy. People are given free will to decide how they live. If their civilization should get troubled, the Final Five are sent to try and offer assistance of some sort. If all else fails, a harbinger of death is sent. All along, though, people have free will and the ability to change their destiny. Some societies don't, and they end up dying.
The suggestion that Saul and Ellen may have spent 2000 years in a series of dysfunctional marriages is pretty beautiful.

What happened to Dualla was perfect. It's not just that she was a case study in post-Earth fleet grief, it was the logical end for her character arc: she went through losing Billy to a bullet, and then Lee sporadically to whatever Lee and Starbuck had going on, and then Lee again to the Quorum. And she kept all of that inside. It gives that seemingly a little overplayed farewell ceremony where she and Lee said temporary goodbyes back in episode 2 (I think) of this season a lot more meaning in retrospect. Actually this episode makes virtually everything meaningful in retrospect. Even the love quadrangle tons of people didn't like in S3 now has some tragic resonance. The only things that come to mind that this episode doesn't excuse are Black Market and Romo's ghost-cat. (Haha!)
And then Dee took off her wedding ring, put a gun to her head, and pulled the trigger--my jaw hit the floor. The first feeling was shock, I think, and then almost a guilt...guilt for never understanding her character, guilt for blaming her and dismissing her without reason...

Just like you said, everything, EVERYTHING relating to Dee's character now carries a special resonance, speaks to the immense tragedy of a woman clinging to every vestige of happiness that she can, in order to not fall into the void of despair. Even her miniseries spontaneous kiss with Billy-a desperate attempt to grab onto a handhold of happiness in love in the face of unspeakable tragedy and loss.

And her love for Lee-dumb, yes, and weak, maybe, and also unwarranted. But why did I blame her for that? The same argument could be made for Lee and his feelings for Kara, and I love them together. Was I being sexist, or just irrevocably committed to my fervent love for Starbuck and Apollo as an entity...who knows. All I know is that I misunderstood Dee as a person, and that her death sheds light on a measure of hopelessness of which I was before unaware, a deep-rooted despair coupled with a desperate desire to cling to happiness that makes me feel for her character. And for the first time, I looked at Lee, grief-stricken with Dee's jacks, and blamed him-blamed him for marrying her, for trying so hard to be in love with her when he must have known he could never be, blamed him for cheating, blamed him for turning to her in the midst of an apocalypse when he needed a shoulder to lean on, relying on her and taking her support for granted when they both knew, deep down, that it was never going to be. And again, my blaming of Lee, in this situation, is not completely warranted (part of what makes BSG such an emotionally rich, thought-provoking show-but that's another discussion). All I know is that I always thought Dee's departure from the show would be a positive thing, and that tonight I am very, very sad, and deeply moved, by her tragic death.