Saturday, March 21, 2009

ron moore Q&A about the BSG finale

I will write my thoughts on the Battlestar Galactica finale (as soon as I go through two more boxes of tissues and accept the fact that the greatest thing to ever happen to me is over)... but in the meantime, I have pasted a Q&A that Alan Sepinwall had with Ron Moore, both one-on-one and also at a Sci-Fi screening. Details are below. Do NOT read if you haven't seen the finale!!! Also, any use of the word "I" should be read as Sepinwall. There are some VERY interesting thoughts on how music plays an "eternal" role for humanity.

After Sci Fi Channel screened the "Battlestar Galactica" series finale for the press on Monday evening, there was a brief press conference featuring producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, and stars Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos. Later in the evening, I asked Moore some additional questions about the finale. After the jump, some highlights from the press conference (really only from Moore and Eick), and then a transcript of the solo interview with Moore. To read my review of the finale, click here.

Post-finale press conference

(On what the second Kara actually was, and whether we all went down a rabbit hole when we assumed that Kara was the daughter of Daniel the missing eighth Cylon)

Moore: Daniel was definitely a rabbit hole, and it was an unintentional rabbit hole, to be honest... (Daniel) was always intended to be an interesting bit of backstory about Cavil, as a Cain and Abel allegory. And people started seizing on it as some major part of the mythology... and it was never intended to take that kind of load-bearing weight.

Eick: It's kind of like Boxey in that way.

Moore: It's exactly like Boxy. Kara, I think, is whatever you want her to be. It's easy to put that label on her: Angel, or Messenger of God, or whatever. Kara Thrace died and was resurrected and came back and took the people to their final end. That was her role, her destiny on the show... We debated back and forth in the writers' room for a while on giving it more definition, and saying, definitively, "This is what she is," and we decided that the more you try to outline it and give voice to it and put a name on it, the less interesting it became. We just decided this was the most interesting way to go out, with her disappearing without trying to name what she was.

(On whether any of the Cavils, Simons or Dorals survived the attack on the Colony)

Moore: The final (edit) came out a little less clear on that level than I sort of intended... The idea was that when Racetrack hits the nukes, they smack into the Colony and it takes it out of the stream swirling around the singularity, and it fell in (to the singularity) and was torn apart. But as we were cutting the show for time, and taking out frames, one of the things that became less apparent was that the Colony was doomed. The intention was that everyone aboard the Colony perished.

(On when and why he decided to have the fleet wind up discovering our Earth in the distant past)

Moore: We decided that a couple of years ago... I don't think we ever had a version of the show where they wound up in the future, or the present. Those didn't seem as interesting. In the early going, we started talking about the fact that we would see a lot of contemporary things in the show, from language to wardrobe to all kinds of production design. That only made sense to us if a lot of the things we see in the show you feel are taken from our contemporary world were actually from their world and spread through the eons and came to us through the collective unconscious, or from (what Lee said about) "We will give them the best part of ourselves."

Eick: There was a time we were talking about, "They land and there are pterodactyls and tyrannosaurus rex." But it was the idea that they were part of the genis of humankind, and this seemed the more affordable way to do it than going "Jurassic Park."

Moore: The image of Six walking through Times Square, we came up with a long time ago.

(On what happened to destroy the original Earth)

Moore: The backstory of the original Earth was supposed to be that the 13th tribe of Cylons came to that world, started over, and essentially destroyed themselves. There was some internecine warfare among the Cylons themselves that was supposed to be another repetition in the cycle of "All this has happened before and all will happen again." Even they, who were the rebels and split off, left to their own devices, there was enough of humanity left in them that they destroyed themselves.

(On why Cavil killed himself)

Moore: Cavil killing himself came from Dean Stockwell, to be honest. As scripted, in that climactic battle in CIC, Tigh was going to grab Cavil and fling him over the edge of the upper level, and he was going to fall to his death. Dean called me himself and said, "I just really think that in that moment, Cavil would realize the jig is up and it's all hopeless and just put a gun in his mouth and shoot himself." And I just said, "Okay."

(On the history of "All Along the Watchtower" in the "Galactica" universe)

Moore: The notion is that the music, the lyrics, the composition is something divine, it's eternal. It's something that lives in the collective unconscious of the show, it's a musical theme that repeats itself. It crops up in unexpected places, and people hear it, or pluck it out of the ether. It's sort of a connection of the divine and the mortal -- music is something that people literally catch out of the air... Here is a song that transcends many different aeons and cultures across the star, and was reinvented by one Mr. Bob Dylan.

Eick: It was a simple way to communicate the idea clearly that this is not the future. This is the story of a culture that gave birth to ours. There was an episode in season one in which Helo and Sharon are running for their lives and they hole up in a diner, and there's a Cylon centurion cornering them, and for the longest time we planned to have an old jukebox in the diner that would play, "Yesterday," or whatever we could afford.

Moore: Probably not "Yesterday."

Eick: Okay, something from The Guess Who. I think we felt it was too soon, and would confuse things. It would be so non-specific that people would just be thrown by it. But we were thinking about it that far back, that music would be a great way to tell the audience about the cyclical theme... All the colloquialisms and slang that you hear, and how people interrelate... we get that from them, not the other way around.

(On whether Head Six and Head Baltar are angels or demons)

Moore: I think they're both. We never tried to name exactly what the head characters were, we never looked at them as angels or demons. They seemed to periodically say good things or evil things, to save people or to damn people. There was a sense that they worked in the service of something else... that was guiding and helping, sometimes obstructing, sometimes tempting. The idea at the end was that whatever they're in service of is eternal and continues, and whatever they are, they too are still around, with all of us who are the children of Hera. They continue to walk among us and watch.

Ron Moore interview

When I talked to you at summer TCA, I ran through that checklist of unanswered questions.

Oh, yeah! What do you think?

You nailed pretty much every one. I think people are going to debate about Kara.

I accept that. I knew, when I decided this was as much as we were going to say about Kara, I said, "People are going to be pissed."

I don't want to spend too much time on Daniel, but did you realize that you were giving Kara's father this name that was so similar to Daniel?

That I had no idea. I only found that out online. I went, "Is that true? I guess it is." It's one of those things where you're inside the show and doing it, you don't realize that people are going to seize on this detail and it gets a life of its own. When I saw that stuff spreading online, I was really astonished. "Really? Daniel? They're obsessed with Daniel." So I started telling every interviewer, "Please tell people not to focus on Daniel, because they're really going to be disappointed."

This was a very dark, very bleak show, that had, for the most part, a happy ending. Were you ever tempted to go the dark way? Why did you decide to end it the way you did tonally?

I guess I always assumed it was going to end on some sort of note of salvation -- that they would find a home and be okay, at least some of them. I didn't want to end the series like "Beneath the Planet of the Apes," with the destruction of everybody. Although that's what Eddie wanted to do. Eddie kept pitching me that they come to Earth in contemporary times, and everyone's cheering and happy, and cut to the White House and the President goes, "Nuke 'em!" And they destroy Galactica -- cut to credits. And people say I'm dark!

I was literally never tempted to go that way. I always felt that however brutal the show was, and how bleak it felt in moments, it was never nihilistic. It was never about saying that people are irredeemable. It was about trying to be honest about people, saying, "Look at us. We are capable of all these things. Really good people do horrible things and horrible people do good things."

Given how often you used the show to comment on current events or, at least, draw current events in the show, do you feel that the finale in any way speaks to what's happening now?

Only in the sense of where it finally ends up in the very end: the robotics and where we are about to be technologically. I just saw something the other day with a scientist saying we're going to have a true (artificial intelligence) within five years or something crazy. Or these Japanese robots that look like the woman in the finale, they're getting more currency. It's been an old saw in science fiction for a long time, since Frankenstein, that we're going to create life that's going to turn on us. Well, we're right there, and we should probably really think about these things and understand the door we're about to go through.

I'm curious about a few characters' final fates. You very easily could have gotten away with Helo sacrificing his life so Athena could go after Hera, but they got the happy ending in the end.

There were two things. One, originally when we were breaking the story, Athena and Helo were both going to die to save Hera. And then I felt sort of unsatisfied about that. I really wanted that family unit to survive to the end. So in the script, when Helo gets shot in the corridor and he's left, I didn't intend it to be a cliffhanger of "is he going to die?" I just kept writing it, and there wasn't a moment to establish he was okay. And when Tahmoh read the script, he got that point and said, "Oh, (bleep), I'm dead." And when he got to the end, he was surprised.

And then it becomes this tearjerking moment when you see the three of them off in the distance (on Africa) and you realize he survived and they're intact.

And when Tahmoh had that reaction, I decided, "Well, now I definitely don't want to establish that he's okay," because I wanted people to have that same reaction.

Well, did anyone else almost die and then you gave them a reprieve in the end?

We did talk, for a long time, that Adama and Laura were going to get in a Raptor together and fly off into the stars, and Adama was going to show her the universe, and that would be the last we see of them. And before I ever even wrote it, Mary got wind of that and called me and said, "You know what? In our very first conversation about the show, we agreed Laura would die. I feel it's important to actually show it," and I said she was absolutely right, so she died on camera and Adama lived on camera.

Because when he said goodbye to Lee like that, I assumed he was going to wait for Laura to die and then crash the Raptor or something.

I knew people would have that reaction.

So he's going to be like Tyrol, just live off by himself?

He's going to build that little cabin, and who knows what.

Aaron Douglas keeps saying, "Well, you know what? They're going to get a message. Someone's going to trudge up the hill to Adama and hand him a note, saying, 'Tyrol needs you in Scotland!' And Adama will put on his pack and go off to Scotland!"

Given how much of the show was made up on the fly by you and the other writers, looking back, how well do you think everything hangs together with the finale factored into it?

I think it hangs together better than it has any right to. I do feel good that the process I always believed in and really defended -- about feeling the story instinctively as you go through it, and not being tied to, "Oh, we know exactly how it's going to end up" -- that that was true. We were able to get there and could say, "We've been making this mosaic, and now we just need to put the final touches on it and we'll have a complete picture." There's loose threads and things that don't quite work, but I think that's in the nature of almost any show. By and large, I think we did a pretty good job of it.

The thing I wonder about is the head characters and how (important they were). There's that moment at the end where Caprica Six says something like, "That's it? You just needed us to carry Hera into that room and protect her?"

Well, if you look over the life of the show, they certainly did more than that. But ultimately, that was the key moment that makes everything else possible.

Some of what Head Six is doing is keeping Baltar alive and free, but when she's encouraging him to start the cult, and get the cult armed and all that, is that just her screwing around for her own amusement?

No, I think that she's moving him towards an acceptance of the divine. Baltar could not make that speech in CIC unless he had gone through a religious conversion. If he didn't have a belief in something greater than himself, he couldn't have made that argument to Cavil in that moment.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

episode: lost, "namaste" (5.9)

Some quick thoughts on this week's Lost episode, "Namaste."

• Interesting role reversal with Sayid, eh? In Season 1, Sayid interrogated Sawyer about Shannon's asthma inhaler (which he didn't have) and did some excruciating things to Sawyer's fingernails, and here, Sawyer gets to play Pretend Interrogator. Of course, Sayid's not in any real danger with Sawyer, but the irony was not lost on the viewers. Also, Sayid interrogated Ben (as Henry Gale) at the Swan back in Season 2, and now Ben has come to offer Sayid (as prisoner) a sandwich. (Was the "I didn't use mustard" line some sort of code from the Others? Surely Ben has already interacted with the Others at this point.)

• For those of you worried about Sawyer being a victim of the Purge, it doesn't happen until 1992. I don't think death by genocide is a real concern of his, and I can understand why he dismisses Hurley's paranoia about the event -- it doesn't happen for another fifteen or so years.

• Sawyer's always been the leading type, but we needed to get rid of the "reactionary" leaders like Jack, Locke, Sayid, Ana Lucia, and Ben in order for him to come to front of the line. I don't think this is an existential character development (as in, Sawyer burns his letter to the real Sawyer, the man who killed his family, and then takes a new name, James LeFlour, as a way of reinventing a new alias for a new life of redemption). I think it's much less interesting than that, but just as satisfying. As Sawyer tells Jack, he's a thinker. Thinkers don't order other people to do "what's best right now." They think ahead in long-term planning.

• Speaking of Sawyer, how amazing was it that Sawyer didn't use Kate or violence as a means of insulting Jack? Those are both barbaric and primal means of competition that work on a two-dimensional level of a now fully fleshed out three-dimensional character. Calling Jack reactionary cuts a lot deeper than perhaps Sawyer even realizes. Jack likes to fix things (as we all know too well by now), and not only did people die because of Jack's reactionary decisions, but Jack lost Kate and his job to alcoholism, and as a doctor, he always took it personally when he couldn't save people. Calling Jack "reactionary" was spot on. And the self-professed comparison of Sawyer to Winston Churchill, who played the ever-important role of a wartime Prime Minister, was especially profound. This scene was the best part of the episode, mostly because it showed Sawyer's layers. He's not just a brute. I always thought it was contradictory that this one-note character made so many cultural and historical references, and even though he read during a lot of his time on the island, I never understood -- until now -- how these things were interrelated. He was a vengeful character, but only when it came to finding and killing Sawyer*. Now he doesn't have a reason to be angry, and he's settled quite nicely into a domestic space with Juliet.

* Now that he has moved on from Vengeful Sawyer to Domestic LaFleur, should we start calling him Jim now? "Sawyer" just doesn't seem to fit anymore.

• In relation to this scene, I think Jack is only momentarily accepting Sawyer's position as the one who's calling the shots. I think that next week, "Reactionary Jack" will do something to undermine Sawyer's well-thought out plan, and Kate will join because she, too, is reactionary... oh, and because she likes to screw things up. (Quick mention: I appreciated how little screen time Ms. Austin had this week.)

• On that note, I always thought that out of the original love triangle -- Jack, Kate, Sawyer -- that Sawyer would be the one to die. His archetype called for it. The bruting, hypermasculine character sacrifices himself for the woman he loves, and the greatest selfless sacrifice one can make is to die on their behalf. But after realizing that (1) Sawyer already made this sacrifice by jumping out of the helicopter so that Kate can be rescued and that (2) he also redeemed himself by settling down with Juliet, perhaps it is Jack who is the archetype slated to die. Jack definitely needs a moment of redemption. I think he's starting to realize how much he's screwed everything up...

• We finally meet Radzinsky! Here's a quick refresher on Radzinsky... we first learned about him in a Desmond flashback where Kelvin explains the procedure of entering the code into the Swan station's computer. Radzinsky used to be Kelvin's partner, that is, before Radzinsky shot himself in the head (and left a big ol' blood stain on the ceiling). So not only did Radzinsky live in Kelvin (though I'm still uncertain if they were under lockdown because of "the sickness" -- what information did these guys have in the Swan, which was obviously in operation after The Purge?), but he was also the architect behind building the Swan. While living with Kelvin in the Swan, he was able to figure out how to mimic lockdown procedure and began creating the blast door map, which he worked on with the aid of his photographic memory. Radzinsky was also the one responsible for editing the Swan orientation video, and we later find out (in the Arrow station, I believe) what was edited out of the video. Eko finds the missing film strip, and Locke then splices the frames back together. This new clip reveals that the computer should only be used for inputting the code and not for contacting the outside world. Why Radzinsky took it out (and how it ended up at the Arrow station, and why the computer's only function is for inputting the code, and why the code needs to be entered at all*) is still unexplained.

* I thought that perhaps entering the code had something to do with the burial of Jughead so close to the electro-magnetic center of the island, but Jughead was buried in the 50s or 60s and the Swan wasn't built until the late 70s. Were people "entering a code" somewhere else on the island previous to the Swan station, or did something happen in the 70s that required the task of entering the code?

• On the note of Radzinsky, Alan Sepinwall notes, "He had been Kelvin's partner at The Swan before Desmond, and painted the map of all the Dharma stations on the blast doors. Assuming that one of The Others didn't assume Radzinsky's name after the purge, then The Swan was still technically under Dharma control in the 21st century, which might help explain why Dharma planes were still doing supply drops after the Oceanic 815 crash." I had been wondering about those drops, and this makes a lot of sense. But again, why were Radzinsky and Kelvin out of the communication loop from the rest of Dharma? Or did Radzinsky know about the Purge (and that's why he shot himself) and made up a story about a "sickness"?

• Where is Faraday? I don't think he's dead. My guess is that he found a way to travel back to the current era -- I mean, our Losties have to make it back to 2009 somehow -- but I am curious, judging by Sawyer's reaction to Faraday's whereabouts, did Faraday still try to alter the future (re: Charlotte)? Even with the time-is-a-record theory, we know that Faraday still tries to convince child-Charlotte to leave the island. But I'm wondering if he goes even further than that, if he somehow physically removes Charlotte from her situation? Knowing that Charlotte searches for the island because she remembered it and wanted to prove her mother wrong, does this alter how Faraday interacts with Charlotte's mother?

• Annoyance of the week: Still, nobody's talking to one another. A simple "Locke said he'd bring you back" isn't a sufficient exchange for Sawyer understanding how Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sayid return to the freaking 70s. Nobody wonders why or how they're in the 70s, and Jack isn't curious as to why Sawyer and Juliet stayed on the island for the past three years? (I mean, honestly, if I had been through what these guys have, I would get the hell off that island ASAP. Speaking of, why is Miles still on the island? What convinced him to stay?) Also, if I were Jack, Kate, and Hurley, I would be asking SO MANY questions about Dharma -- who they were, all of the stations that exist, what each of the stations are for, who is charge, etc. I would also ask if Sawyer had run into Smokey (or any other island booby traps) or Rousseau in the last three years. Come on, guys. This isn't a high school reunion. When thrown into a new situation, you need to ask questions.

• Continued annoyance of the week: I still don't understand why the 06ers had to return to the island. Jacob/Christian/the island better have a good explanation for why they had to come back. For Locke, the island told him to jump, so he did without asking questions. "I need to bring back these people who don't trust me and are living their old lives again? Sure, no problem!" And for Ben, there really hasn't been a good explanation for his interest in returning to the island. (I definitely think he killed Penny and exacted revenge on Widmore and is now ready to come back to the island, but did he needs the 06ers in order to return to the island? Could he not have "gone back" on his own?) And NONE of the 06ers have a good reason for coming back. They didn't know about the time flashes. Locke just told them they had to go back with no real explanation why. The only people who can explain this are Christian, Jacob, and Eloise -- and my money is on Eloise. Someone has to convince Desmond to go back to the island, and my best bet is, after discovering that Penny was killed (or injured) by Ben, he seeks out Eloise and she tells him what he needs to do next... and hopefully provide some exposition along the way.

• I appreciate the following quote from Isaac_Spaceman over at Throwing Things: "My favorite part, of course, was LaFleur going meta and delivering the audience's verdict on Jack's leadership. I never was a Sawyer fan (he always seemed like the stock TV renegade to me, a half-step removed from Lorenzo Lamas), but the Churchill-emulating LaFleur, with a long-con man's respect for the setup, is dramatically more interesting than either the old Sawyer or the eternal Jack. Because I like where LaFleur is now, personally and professionally, I'll be sorry to see the romantic tension over the next few weeks and the inevitable escalating pissing match with Jack over the next season and a half, but the last few episodes have been nice for both the character and the actor."

• From commenter Russ over at Throwing Things: "I presume that Hurley or another 815 survivor plays a role in selecting the numbers for the Swan's "botton"? Will we learn that the musician who programmed the code in The Looking Glass was also a time-displaced survivor? I've assumed for a while that it was Charlie, but of course bringing Charlie back would require more than simple time travel. Unless, of course, Charlie is (1) Charles Widmore or (2) the son of Des and Penny or (3) both."

Overall, this was a decent enough episode. It seemed to be a narrative filler, though -- as in, they needed to dedicate an episode to explaining how the 06ers are integrated into Dharma life. But it was also a bit of a creepy episode. There was a lot of foreshadowing (is it really foreshadowing if we're in the past looking at the future, but we know about the future because we experienced it as the present? is there another literary term for time-travel foreshadowing?) regarding unfortunate events in the future: eight-year-old Ben (who is on board for the next few episodes), baby Ethan (Juliet's reaction was PRICELESS), and Hurley's mentioning of the Purge. Since Sayid hasn't been around for Faraday's time-travel theorizing, will Sayid try to kill the young Ben? What ramifications will that have? (He can't die, of course, if Lost is going to be consistent with their time travel theory.) How will the 06ers try to alter the past so that the future does not unfold like it does?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

film news: march 2009

The Movie Blog gives us a look at the new Spike Jonze Where the Wild Things Are movie poster. I can't remember the last time I've been so excited about a movie. (And no, Watchmen was never a site for geekiness for me.)

• Via Film School Rejects: Watchmen Legos!

The Movie Blog reports Linda Hamilton will offer her voice for Terminator Salvation. Hopefully it's as mind-bendy as her classic voiceover in the first movie.

• According to Cinematical, Time Traveler's Wife will be released August 14th. It's about time. (Ha!)

I Watch Stuff reports: "Natalie Portman and Brad Pitt have signed on to star in an adaptation of the Leanne Shapton lengthy-titled book Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry. Romantic comedy just got incredibly pretentious." As much as I love long titles, this one's not doing much for me, and I think the mock suggestion for Bidding on the Heart as a title is both hilarious and appropriate.

• Via Cinematical: Seriously? Seats with synchronized motion? I understand the importance of "dreaming of a better tomorrow," but can't this tomorrow involve a cure for cancer instead of a needless toy intended to generate more money for the culture industry? (Thanks, Adorno!)

Film School Rejects give Best Worst Movie, a documentary about the adoration of Troll 2, an A+. I have been waiting forever this documentary to come out, so hopefully it will find wide distribution after SXSW.

Cinematical is irritated by Sci-Fi's switch to Syfy. I concur. It's a stupid name, and it's insulting to sci-fi fans. (Not to go all Adorno on you again, but the Sci-Fi channel can't really trademark a genre... it's always about money, isn't it?)

Screen Rant has a look at David Fincher's new animated film, The Goon. My favorite part of the film's press release? "There is a heavy slant on the paranormal." The poster looks pretty awesome.

Away We Go trailer, starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph

• As if the sudden surge in remakes and sequels isn't frustrating enough, I Watch Stuff explains that Chris Rock will be remaking Death at a Funeral. You know, that movie that came out in 2007 (!!!).

• Speaking of remakes, will Rihanna and Channing Tatum fill the shoes of Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner is a remake of The Bodyguard? This is one of the few remakes I'm actually okay with. My main problem is that studios are remaking GOOD films simply because they're older (The Day the Earth Stood Still, ahem). I'm fine with them remaking bad movies. And let's be honest, guys, The Bodyguard is not a good movie. You know what other movies are bad? Pretty Woman (it's sexism masquerading as female empowerment!) and Ghost.

Film Junk had a poll for Best Time Travel Movie, and Back to the Future came out on top with 45% of the votes, followed by 12 Monkeys (15.6%), Terminator 2 (11.8%), and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is in 5th place with 4.3%. I think Bill and Ted's should higher, and as much as I love Back to the Future, 12 Monkeys is a perfect science-fiction film.

sepinwall: BSG and the UN panel discussion on human rights

In lieu of writing on last Friday's BSG episode, "Daybreak," I am copying and pasting Alan Sepinwall's breakdown of the BSG/United Nations panel discussion.

Last night, I had one of the coolest/geekiest experiences of my career, as I got to attend a panel discussion on "Battlestar Galactica" at the United Nations' Economic and Social Council Chamber, featuring Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell and producers Ron Moore and David Eick and several UN reps, moderated by Whoopi Goldberg.

Sci Fi Channel went to the trouble of dressing up every seat in the room with placards designating the 12 Colonies. Caprica, naturally, was the primo seating area. I wound up getting a very good view but a very uninspiring colony by sitting in the Leonis section. At first, we wondered if they were maybe pre-existing props from the series (maybe from season one's "Colonial Day"), but the corners weren't cropped, and a friend who used to work on the show pointed out that for that to be true, someone would have needed to know this event would be happening before production wrapped almost a year ago so they could be saved, and that's unlikely. By the end of the evening, a lot of the placards had disappeared into people's bags.

Three things to keep in mind before I get to summarizing the event:

1. The evening was as much about the UN as about "Battlestar Galactica," if not moreso. There were four segments, devoted to issues like human rights, terrorism, and children and armed conflict. After a clip reel illustrating how the series at one point or another tackled that issue, the UN rep gave a long speech discussing the current state of that problem in our world, often making a token attempt at best to connect their subject to the show. Then Whoopi tried her best to balance discussing the issue currently and discussing it in the context of "BSG." Some of the panelists admittedly had never watched the show before they were invited to do the event, and some of the subjects had only a tangential connection at best ("BSG" really only dealt with kids and human trafficking in "Black Market"), and it felt like a lot of the night was an attempt to introduce "BSG" fans to issues that the UN deals with as opposed to introducing the geo-politically-inclined to "BSG."

2. Eddie Olmos likes to talk. The guy's opinionated, and he's passionate, and he'll go on a while. (Whoopi had to cut him off a few times.) But he also has a sense of self-deprecation about it. "You should've never invited me here," he admitted, right before he went on a rant about his hatred of the concept of referring to different ethnic groups as "races." (Said rant climaxed with him leading the crowd in a call-and-response of "So say we all!")

3. Considering 1 & 2, Whoopi did a very good job. Obviously, part of her job on "The View" is to try to maintain control of a chaotic discussion among strong personalities, and she's an unabashed sci-fi fangirl, so she was well-suited to keeping the conversation moving and trying to find a balance between "BSG" talk and UN talk.

Human Rights

We started off with clips of Kara torturing Leoben in "Flesh and Bone," then The Circle conducting their executions in "Collaborators," and then Lee's speech in "Crossroads, Part 2" about how they've become a gang. Craig Mokhiber, Deputy Director of the New York office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, seemed the most plugged-in to the show of all the UN reps, making several references to the show -- "We are all Cylons," he said at one point, while discussing the idea that we dehumanize our enemies to allow ourselves to do horrible things to them, "Every one of us is a Cylon, and every one of us is a Colonial."

Moore and Eick talked a lot about Leoben getting waterboarded, and Eick noted that they went out of their way to make it ambiguous whether he actually had the nuke Kara was looking for, which made it even harder to get on her side as she tortured him.

This segment is when Eddie's rant about race happened, because Mokhiber quoted the founding documents of the human rights office in his speech, and it contained references to different races. When the mic got turned back to Mokhiber a few minutes later, he seemed mortified and went out of his way to explain that the document he was quoting was 60 years old, and featured other outmoded terminology like referring to the two "sexes." And he said he would support any effort to get that language changed.

"When a bug doesn't like you," Eddie said in response to the offer, "that's racism."

"That is so deep, I'm going to take a question (from the audience) now," Whoopie interjected.

There were a few hundred NYC high school students in the crowd, and they were occasionally allowed to ask questions, starting with one about whether our current obsession with technology could lead to the creation of actual Cylons. Moore cleverly brought this back on topic by noting that we're a few years away from actual artificial intelligence, and that there's going to come a point where we have to decide whether to extend human rights to artifical but self-aware creations.

Children and Armed Conflict

Again, this one had very little connection to the show, and the UN rep, Radhika Coomerswamy, admitted she had only watched a couple of episodes to prep for the panel, and was pleasantly surprised to find it was "a deeply moral show" and not just a showcase for special effects.

Whoopi adroitly picked up on some of Coomerswamy's stories about horrific things done to young girls in war-torn countries and used that to spin the discussion around to gender on "Galactica." Moore and Eick talked for a while about how, once they made Starbuck a woman, they decided they wanted her to not be the first female Viper jock, but one of many, in a gender-neutral society, in which all the female officers were called "sir," and in which gender-related epithets were never used. (The closest they came, they admitted, was whenever someone would dismiss Laura Roslin as "a schoolteacher.")

One of the student questions went back to the human rights discussion, asking Mary whether she thought that Roslin was committing crimes when she threw people out of airlocks. Mary said she did, and that it troubled her personally, but that in character, she was absolutely committed to the belief that it was necessary.

"Mary can say she was haunted by airlocking," said Eick, "But she was the one who made it a verb."

Eddie noted that they had deliberately made Laura "the 214th person in line to get this job," and Mary, mock indignant, interrupted to check with Moore that she was, in fact, the 43rd person in line for it.

After another monologue about whether the UN should intercede with the problems in Mexico, Eddie talked about how he as Adama never listened to Roslin on military-related decisions, "And that was a mistake." Moore said they wanted to explore how fragile the law is at times of war, and Eick noted, "You get a brief glimpse into the dynamics of the set when you hear Mary refer to the President as 'Laura,' and Eddie refers to the Admiral as 'I.'"


Whoopi noted that we were running way behind at this point, so the last two segments were briefer than the first two.

The clip reel, not surprisingly, focused on the New Caprica arc and Roslin and Saul Tigh's debate about suicide bombing. Moore said he wanted Tigh to have a strategic rationale for ordering the bombings, that it would be much more frightening if he was logical than if he was crazy.

Reconciliation and Dialogue Among Civilizations and Faiths

There was a lot of talk here about the decision to make the Cylons (the ostensible villains) the monotheists and the humans the polytheists. Moore said it happened almost by accident. He was writing a Caprica Six scene in the miniseries and, on a whim, had her say, "God is love," and a Sci Fi Channel executive liked the line and told him to run with it.

"The network wanted more religious tension," said Eick. "How often do you hear that?"

"Other than on my show," said Whoopi.

They started wrapping up. Moore said that he wanted the show to entertain, but also to make people think -- that even if people came out of episodes like "Flesh and Bone" or "Occupation" with the same beliefs they had when they went in, "at least you thought about it."

Eddie talked about the incredible journey, how they made 84 hours of television. There are some shows or movies that you spend time watching, or working on, where you might regret those lost hours when you're on your deathbed, and he didn't think either those who watched or worked on this show would feel that way.

Mary said she felt "honored to have participated in such profound simplicity," and she and Eddie both expressed their gratitude for being able to participate in an event like this.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

website: film in the blanks

At Film the Blanks, this artist, John Taylor, has created these abstract movie poster homages. I will post the film titles in a couple of days, but in the meantime, see if you can figure out which film they belong to. It's surprising how you can still recognize an image even as abstract as these are. Eventually, there will be a shop where you can purchase limited edition, signed screen prints of selected "blanks." My fingers are crossed for some of the Kubrick prints!

Thanks to Mattson Tomlin for the heads up!

Monday, March 16, 2009

intense public guerrilla marketing posters

Thanks to Carrie for these intense public guerrilla marketing posters. See the others at the Web Urbanist website.

Witness Against Torture Elevator Ad
An otherwise blank set of elevator doors features two sets of fingers peeking out from the seam, as if someone inside is trying to escape. Once you’re inside the elevator you see the owner of those fingers: a man in a prison jumpsuit and leg-cuffs. Witness Against Torture, a human rights group, used this ad to campaign for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

Feed SA Shopping Cart Posters
You’d have to have a heart of stone to avoid being affected by the images of poor, starving children sitting in the bottom of your shopping cart. Any food placed in the shopping cart appear to be delivered right into the needy child’s hands. Feed SA, a South African charity dedicated to feeding disadvantaged people, put these decals in shopping carts and saw a marked increase in donations and a significant boost in website traffic.

Anti-Smoking Stick-Ons
Tailpipe smoke is gross… and the same goes for the carcinogen-loaded clouds that erupt from the mouth of a cigarette smoker. An anti-smoking group equated the two by placing posters of people’s faces with the cut-out mouths strategically placed at the end of tailpipes.

episode: kings, "goliath" (1.1)

For the most part, I enjoyed the series premiere of Kings, a modernist update to the David and Goliath/rise of King David Biblical account set in a parallel Manhattan, known as Shiloh (in the country of Gilboa), that is ruled by a recently developed monarchy. I enjoyed the acting well enough -- Ian McShane was amazing, but he's amazing in pretty much everything, so that comment is both obligatory and obvious. The actor who plays David, Chris Eagan, is a decent actor (although I didn't like the scene, I enjoyed his delivery of "You want blood? Come and take it!" while carrying the bloody sheet his brother recently died on), but he is a little too pretty boy for me. His face doesn't have any wrinkles, and his eyes are very small, so I only ever caught two expressions from him: either confused/unhappy (furrowed brow) or happy (smiling). The actor playing the king's son Jack, Sebastian Stan (who is apparently Leighton Meester's boyfriend), was phenomenal. The conversation where Daddy King berates him for his homosexuality nightlife is terrifying, but only because there was such animosity and disgust, such horror on Stan's face, it was a wonderfully acted scene. But the real reason to watch this show is for the cinematography. The look of the show is brilliant. The muted, monochromatic tones really allowed for the (predictable) crown of butterflies to really pop against the background. It has a real gritty feeling to it, and for a show that's focusing on politics in Biblical measures, the audience needs gritty.

And now for the things I didn't like. I understand that the Bible is the main source for this narrative, but did they have to be so obvious with it? First of all, Gilboa is the location where Saul and his son Jonathan, David's possible lover (in the same ambiguity of Achilles/Patroklos), were killed in battle. And the city Shiloh was a place of assembly for the people of Israel. David's brother (the one who dies) is named Eli, possibly after the Israelite Judge who lived and judged in Shiloh. The only thing I can remember worthy of noting is that Eli's sons were cursed because of "bad behavior" (the Bible is very loose on what constitutes bad behavior... drunkenness of Noah, anyone?). And King Silas (Ian McShane's character) was a leading member (Silvanus) of the first Christian community in Jerusalem, and he accompanied Paul on some of his missionary journeys. I don't know of any significance of naming the king Silas except that it's a name from the Bible. And lastly, there's David. Shepherd. SHEPHERD! As if Jack Shephard wasn't over the top, we now have David Shepherd, with the correct spelling and everything?

There was one particular line near the beginning of the show (possibly after the first commercial break in the two-hour pilot) that I chuckled at, but that was before I knew how blatantly Biblical this episode would be. After a secretary lists off the food items for the banquet, King Silas's wife (I don't know yet if she has the title of queen in this setup) tells her to take lamb off the menu. Get it? The lamb of God? Of course you got it. Everybody got it. But I think what irritated me the most about the obvious Biblical references is that they didn't update David's slingshot. Technically, he didn't use a slingshot to kill Goliath -- a military tank* -- but he attached a grenade to a wrench and slung it at the tank. Little weapon, big enemy. Okay, but couldn't he have used something more creative? We're introduced to David as a mechanic who can "fix anything." Why couldn't he come up with some sort of Macgyver gizmo? Not only was the war aspect of the episode way, way too short (seriously, only ten minutes?), but David's defeat of the tank was over so quickly. And it didn't seem like David faced much opposition during it. He cuts open a tent, and there's no one there to greet him? Didn't we see armed guards hanging around that tent? I had no time to really understand (1) why the Goliaths were undefeatable, (2) why David took it upon himself to suddenly go after the tank and/or the hostages (as far he knew, there was no good reason to attempt a lone rescue operation, that was expressly forbidden, for hostages he didn't know), or (3) what the war was really about. So the whole "David Slays Goliath" was over too quickly for me to understand the importance of this brave deed. Yes, yes; David does admit to his dying brother that standing up to the Goliath (at the point the picture was taken) was a moment of surrender and not bravery, but certainly he understands that going in to the enemy's camp without any gear is considered heroic. I don't think the "confession" scene was all that convincing.

* The name "Goliath" was attributed to a series of tanks from the country of Gath, but in this analogy, the war is Goliath. There is not one tank that David defeats; there are many. Those tanks are symbols of the war, and at the end of the pilot, David does indeed stop the war. Originally, I was annoyed that the tanks were named Goliath because it was too obvious, but I'm pleased that they took that reference one step further.

I shall watch it again next Sunday, but they need to ease up on the references, explain the setup of their government, and flesh David's character out a bit more.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

fun with graphs

I hope to put up my thoughts on Battlestar's Series Finale (part one) and the series premiere of Kings eventually, but in the meantime, waste your time the way I have -- by reading hilarious charts. [Via Graph Jam.]

("Gummi Bears, bouncing here and there and everywhere...")

Thursday, March 12, 2009

christopher campbell's ten defenses for howard the duck

Christopher Campbell offers ten defenses for Howard the Duck, as if this gem actually needs defending. (Yes, yes it does.) And yes, that is the entirety of the movie above. Watch at the risk of too much ridiculous awesomeness.

1. It’s No Longer the Worst Lucasfilm Production

Take your pick — there’s The Phantom Menace or there’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, either of which could certainly take the prize for being the worst movie to come from George Lucas in his 40 years producing films. Well, maybe not worse than More American Graffiti. But both films were far bigger creative and franchise disappointments than Howard the Duck (financial success is another story, of course), and so they have a relative sort of wretchedness that places them in the bottom of Lucas’ Sarlacc pit of a career. Even if you’re one of those defend-to-the-end Star Wars fanboys who will argue the pros of Menace, at least then consider Willow to be worse than Howard the Duck. The blatant Lord of the Rings rip-off has its historical relevance, but looking back on it now, it’s even more dated than Howard. And regardless of how groundbreaking it was, Willow’s visual effects don’t hold up quite as well as Howard’s old-fashioned, and oft-celebrated craftsmanship. But that’s another point…

2. The Special Effects Are Technically Brilliant

3. The Duck Suit is Still Better Than Most CGI

4. Parallels, Puns and Playful Philosophy

Some fans of the original Howard the Duck comics could argue that the duck suit is hardly the worst offense of unfaithfulness. Other complaints might be the alteration of Beverly’s career or the occasional sacrifice of the comic’s tone in order to pander to younger audiences. But real sticklers may take issue with Howard’s origin, the inclusion of Duckworld (which did come from the comics but wasn’t Howard creator Steve Gerber’s idea of what the character’s home world was like) and the punny parallels that came with it. Yet for those of us who love corny jokes and puns, the idea of an alternate world where everything’s the same, just with descendants of ducks rather than apes, is a lot of fun. It’s the same appreciation that allowed me to enjoy the ska scene and the similarly parallel worlds of The Flintstones and Dinosaurs and the parodies in MAD Magazine. In the first few minutes, we get treated to the following cheesy but delicious sight and audio gags: a Rolling Egg magazine, a Playduck magazine, movie posters for “Splahsdance,” “Breeders of the Lost Stork” and My Little Chickadee (starring W.C. Fowls and Mae Nest), and commercials for feather fungus treatment and the Crazy Eddie spoof “Crazy Webby.” This, plus the opening credit narration and theory of Duckworld evolution were enjoyable to a kid in the midst of learning about Darwin and pondering the existence of alternate worlds.

5. Jeffrey Jones as Dr. Jenning/Dark Overlord

6. The Diner Scene

Although it’s mostly thanks to Jones that this scene is so memorable, it’s not just his performance alone that makes it so terrific. Every time I watch the movie, I look forward to the entire episode, from Jones/Jenning/Dark Overlord’s exposition to the waitress’ interactions with the “family” to Howard’s pie and quack-fu fight with a bunch of rednecks. And I will always recommend the movie for this scene alone. It includes a lot of disturbing elements, such as Beverly’s claim that she’s Howard’s girlfriend and the angry mob’s desire to kill and cook a talking duck man, that might have worked better had Howard been represented as an animated character rather than a guy in a suit (bestiality and homicide is just fine in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Looney Tunes cartoons), but it’s also one of the weirdest and funniest scenes from any comic book adaptation ever.

7. Lea Thompson as Beverly Switzler

8. Cherry Bomb and the Howard the Duck soundtrack

9. It’s For Kids

10. It’s Not Redundant

Unlike some comic book adaptations, Howard the Duck isn’t a straight lift from the pages of the source material, and it’s better off for it. Some fans of the comic may be annoyed with Howard’s appearance or Beverly’s occupation or the absence of any of Howard’s usual foes, but those of us who saw the movie first can appreciate the differences, because these allow for a better introduction to and curiosity about the comic. In a way, it’s to the original Marvel series as The Incredibles is to the graphic novel of Watchmen (though it’s certainly not anywhere near as smart nor well-crafted as The Incredibles).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

as if you need another reason to love jon hamm...

Admittedly, this starts off a little slow. Jon Hamm as Lex Luthor is a bit like Jon Hamm as Don Draper... BUT once he gets into his Superman rant, it's absolutely hilarious. What's he going to do with a $100B bailout? "I'm going to kill Superman. I'm Lex Luther. It's what I do."

tv roundup: big bang theory, HIMYM, and castle

The Big Bang Theory: This episode was really quite fantastic and I may even place it as one of the top episodes of the entire series. The major aspects working in favor of this episode were the fact that Penny had very little screen time (as much as I appreciate her female -- but not feminine -- presence, she's not particularly interesting), and Sheldon was less over-the-top and more grounded (albeit in an obsession with trains). This episode was also able to highlight Leonard's sarcastic coping mechanism to counteract Sheldon's absurd behavior ("We took it to a vote. Three of us wanted to take a plane, but Sheldon wanted to take the train. So we're taking the train."), Howard's epic crash-and-burn flirtation with Summer Glau (recalling his dream was particularly enjoyable: "And then I ripped off your legs and you turned into sausage. What do you think that means?"), and lastly, Raj's genuine charm as he becomes the victim of a placebo non-alcoholic beer ("Did you see Slumdog Millionaire? That was based on my life.") was very funny. It's hard to imagine Summer Glau as anyone other than River or a Terminator, and her bored state of mind looked very similar to an approaching desire to kill everyone. Which, actually, worked for her. But the best running gag belonged to the phone conversation between Sheldon and Penny. In allowing Penny one-time access to his room in order to retrieve a paper from his flash drive, Penny discovers a secret box of letters from his grandmother ("Only Meemaw calls me Moon Pie!") and destroys a difficult ten-step Chinese puzzle box by stomping on it ("Did you hear the click?"). I think this show works best the fewer locations they use. What's better than having Leonard stuck in a small confined space with Sheldon for eleven hours? What's better than Howard reciting his pick-up lines to himself ("It's hot in here, so it must be Summer!")?

How I Met Your Mother: This episode had so many honest-to-God laugh-out-loud moments that I don't even know where to begin. If you want an episode breakdown, I redirect you to Alan Sepinwall's wonderful recap, but here, I'm just going to list my favorite gags. First, the alternating time perspectives was fantastic. I don't know of too many shows who are able to manipulate in quite a seamless way as HIMYM, but here they managed to have flashbacks to college, flashbacks to earlier in the day, and a story that spoke about the potential future when it was really talking about the recent past. ("I'm not going to call her.... because I already did. I'm not going to have lunch with her... because I already did. I'm not going to have sex with her..." You get the idea.) Second, Neil Patrick Harris's forced laugh is completely contagious. What should be a very simple plot -- Marshall forgot his pants at work and had to sneak around in very short gym shorts -- ends up being gut-busting funny all because Barney cannot get past how much fun it was to ridicule his colleague and friend. Mocking Oliver Twist, he asks Marshall, "Please, sir. Can I have some more... pants?" It's a bad joke that NPH makes so deliciously funny that you can't help but laugh. (You know what, stop reading. Go over to Fancast and watch the episode.) Third, Laura Prepon did such a wonderful job being a "douche zombie." For example: "Salt? That's so bougeois." "What's that? Oh... I don't watch television." And my personal favorite, she pronounces van Gogh "van Gochk," the pretentious -- albeit correct -- pronunciation. Fourth, Marshall's rundown of the worst things in the world. One, a supervolcano erupts. Two, an asteroid heads to Earth. Three, all footage of Evil Canival is lost. Four, Ted calls Karen. And five, Lily gets eaten by a shark. ("I'm Lily, and I approve the order of that list.") And lastly, quite possibly the funniest sight gag I have EVER seen... due to taking sleeping pills in preparation for her early job, Robin engages in some unexpected behavior. She talks to herself in her sleep, catches but doesn't remember Ted making out with Karen ("Hey Ted. Hey Lily. Don't worry, I won't tell Marshall), and then... she's on the floor in the kitchen, belly-side down, devouring ribs. It's at the 14:40 mark. It's worth watching... over and over and over again.

Castle: I think we're all aware by now of my unabashed crush on Nathan Fillion. He brings such charm and easiness to his roles that it's really difficult not to absolutely love him. (And if you don't like him, you're just not human.) My thoughts on the premiere are pretty much the same from my earlier post -- I love Susan Sullivan's role as Castle's loose mother ("I performed Mousetrap eight times a week for one year and I still don't know what it's about.") and the female lead, Stana Katic, doesn't annoy me because she's tough but also soft, masculine but also feminine, and I appreciate her casual delivery of certain lines (that other actresses, like Robin Tunney) would over-deliver. As for the other thirty minutes of the pilot, I also enjoyed that the show did not "dumb down" the clues so that I could figure everything out immediately. The killer was predictable, yes, but how Castle and Beckett discover that truth was not as transparent as Bones or as random as House (seriously, some of his diagnoses come out of left field). I know some people may find Castle to be a little too charming or a little too goofy, but I think it's legitimate that an egotistical writer wouldn't take things seriously. I also felt like their "pilot flirtation" (how the series ultimately supplies the foundation for a future romantic arc) was well done. They both they would only be working with each other for a certain amount of time, and so their flirtation was very school yard pulling-on-pigtails that I think it set up a good relationship for future episodes. I hope that other episodes do not try to recreate the blatant flirtation like this episode did and focus more on their two conflicting personalities working together, and how that friction is what ultimately makes them cute together. You can't force chemistry; you have to build on it. All in all, I'm a fan and I'll be back next Monday.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

episodes: united states of tara, secret diary of a call girl

United States of Tara: I haven't really watched this show beyond the first two episodes, and with only four episodes to go, I doubt I'll go back and watch the ones I missed. But this last Sunday's episode was really fantastic, and it almost made me forget how oversimplified and stereotypical the alters are. I don't know much about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), but I doubt it's as simple as "Alice deals with the maternal stuff, T comes out when there's too much adult stuff to deal with," etc. And although I LOVE the addition of Gimme -- a primitive, animal-like alter, complete with poncho and grunting sounds -- I don't know how realistic that is. I can understand an alter reverting back to a child-like state of mind, but an animal? My ignorance on this disorder allows me a double-function as a viewer: I can enjoy the projected images and situations, but I also have to question them. And one of the more interesting parts of this episode was Alice's announcement that she controls the other alters -- including, it seems, Tara. That makes sense, as Alice is the maternal 50s housewife, but it's interesting to think of "normal Tara" in the same realm as "hillbilly Buck."

But back to Sunday's episode. I thought it was well-written, as in, it had a really great flow throughout the singular narratives. The transition from Tara to Alice over vomiting was especially inspired; a moment that triggers a repulsive reflex turns into a revelatory moment, "I'm pregnant!" I enjoyed Max and the other children humoring Alice's fake pregnancy because this dismissive attitude really turned full circle at the end of the episode (when Tara gets her period and Alice thinks she's miscarried) and Max comes to comfort her on the bathroom floor. The episode also allowed some bonding between Alice, daughter Kate, and sister Charmaine. I think Charmaine has some underlying sexual chemistry with Max, and I don't know if the show is going to explore that, but her rejection of Tara's identity disorder has always been interesting to me. Tara's "chosen" family loves and accepts it, but her blood relation doesn't? I feel like there might actually be some truth to Tara faking it (which I don't think Showtime will do because they would get so many complaints from the medical community). Last week Charmaine bonded with Buck, and now she's bonded with Alice. These have been interesting situations to put Charmaine in. I also have to comment on Marshall's church show -- which, as anti-organized religion as it was, I know people like this, people who would put the Village People in hell and demonstrate a demonized version of getting an abortion. It honored this mindset (people at the show were disgusted, which was the point), but it also made fun of their oversimplification of morality. Also, as a last note, Nate Corddry plays creepy really well. His postmodern video sonnet was ten shades of disturbing.

Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Here is my biggest problem with this show. Nothing substantial ever happens, and when it does, it's as though it didn't. Case in point: I missed the last two episodes, and in one of those, Belle broke up with Alex (the very scrumptious Calum Blue) and then rebounded with Ben, her best friend. I watch Sunday's episode -- the second season finale -- and it's as though Belle never slept with Ben. They're still friends? There's no fall out? There are no lingering feelings? And according to the recap at the beginning, Ben broke up with Vanessa. So where does this leave his feelings for Belle? Not only that, but because this show only has ten episodes per season,* something like the Ben-Belle hookup should have been a monumental forward-driving plot point. It should NOT have been contained to one or two episodes. It's very frustrating the way this show absolutely refuses to develop its characters. Belle isn't likable, and there's not much to recommend her. Ben is fine, but he's only given three-to-five minutes of screen time each episode. The story arc of Belle falling in love and giving up her career as an escort should have been monumental, but instead it was just "something that happened." And the reveal that Alex was testing her, seeing if she had really given up her career for him, should have been shocking but it was predictable and not sad. I should've felt bad for Belle. I should've felt bad for Alex. But I just. didn't. care. I've finally decided -- I'm not going to watch this show anymore. It has such potential to be really good, and instead, it insists on being crap television. And why -- why -- is the makeup department so hell-bent on making Piper look as ridiculous as possible? The bright pink and purple lipstick wasn't enough? They had to give her clown hair? Does that somehow hide her pregnancy...?

* I don't know if future seasons will also have ten episodes. The first season had ten, I imagine, because it was a new show and Britain was testing out its watchability factor. The season season, though, should have had more episodes, right? But perhaps Billie Piper's -- very obvious! -- real-life pregnancy kept the episodes at a minimum? Either way, ten-episode seasons are not nearly long enough to develop any character arc.

Monday, March 9, 2009

snl: "the rock" obama

Dwayne Johnson does a great Barack Obama. Who knew?

And, because I never get tired of a sweet-voiced tattooed muscle man singing, here is Dwayne Johnson's monologue. He sings a song to prove how tough he is. Keep your eyes peeled for the scene involving chairs.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

episode: lost, "lafleur" (5.8)

Wow. That was an amazing episode. For those of you who haven't figured this out about me by now, I focus more on the storylines and character development than anything else, more than any individual scene or any clever editing trick. With that being said, it's about time that we put the mysteries of the island on the back burner and spent large quantities of time with a central trio of characters (Sawyer, Juliet, and Horace). Now, I don't particularly enjoy Josh Holloway's acting (I've analogized him to Christian Bale's "Batman voice" in the past, and I'm standing behind that), and some of his deliveries were just too "I have a gruffly voice and therefore have authority" for my taste. But it was the actual execution of this episode -- switching between Three Years Earlier/Later -- that really made his transition into the sheriff (with a gruffly voice) interesting.

Daniel: The best shot of the episode has to go to Daniel watching Amy mourn the loss of her husband, Paul. She is crouched over his dead body in the grass, a visual mirroring Daniel's recent mourning of Charlotte. The reason this shot was so heartbreaking was, one, it only lasted a second or two, and two, Lost put Daniel in the background instead of closing in on a close-up of his sad eyes. (And boy, Jeremy Davies has some sad eyes.) For once, Lost wasn't hitting me over the head with its visual metaphors. It was an honest scene, and one well-played by Davies. As for Daniel seeing the little red headed Charlotte... it's 1974, but didn't Ben mention that her birthday was in the late 70s? That red-headed child is around four years old. So unless that child is jumping through time (which is actually possible, hmm), she is just a red herring.

Sawyer/Richard "Eyeliner" Alpert: This exchange was particularly interesting because Sawyer lies to Horace and the others in the Dharma Initiative about how he and his people got to the island. (Of course, Sawyer's the boat captain...) He explains they were looking for the Black Rock -- which is where he killed Locke's father (a surrogate for the real Sawyer that James Ford wanted to kill) -- which is probably where Horace gets his dynamite for the alcohol-induced explosive Three Years Later opening. This lie aside, I find it very telling that Sawyer uses the truth with Richard. He explains that it was the Hostiles (as the Others were known to the Dharma Initiative) who broke the truce by killing Paul and putting a bag over Amy's head. (Technically, Sawyer says that the truce hasn't been broken because he's not part of the Dharma Initiative, but I think the implication is that the Hostiles originally broke it.) He mentions John Locke by name, and poof, Richard has built a foundation of trust with Sawyer. But the reason why this scene makes me so sublimely happy is... finally -- FINALLY -- we have characters who TALK to one another and ask questions. No more of Juliet evading questions. (It still really annoys me that Ethan shot Locke in the leg, and Locke didn't have the chance to explain that to anyone.) No more of Jack neglecting to ask questions in the first place. (His initial meeting with Mr. Friendly, back before we knew his name was Tom, brings back anger.) Richard actually asks, "If you're not Dharma, then who are you?" Although Sawyer doesn't mention that he's a time-traveler from the future (it would be pointless to argue that truth at this point), he does give Richard a fair understanding of why he's on the island. He pretty much said, "Your messiah? Yeah, I'm waiting for him too," and that was all that needed to be said.

Sawyer/Juliet: I love Juliet; I really, really do. But let's be honest. She is written in the exact same way as Kate. This love quadrangle is beyond absurd. One, Jack and Sawyer are just recycling these women. (And how is Kate going to explain to Sawyer that she had sex with Jack right before they left for Guam? Hmm?) And two, Juliet is being forced into relationships for the sake of the masculine narrative. (And yes, I am of the thought that the patriarchal code of cinema is still relevant to modern televisual narratives. This is a male-driven show, and the women only exist to support the male characters' storylines.) With that being said, Juliet is intelligent and cautious. While it does make sense that after three years, she would develop a relationship with someone at the Dharma compound (let's not forget she was "the other woman" with Goodwin back in the day), did it have to be Sawyer -- and did it have to progress to the point where they were saying "I love you" to one another? And again, that scene proves my earlier point about it being a masculine narrative. Yes, this episode is Sawyer-centric, but Juliet's character is used at the expense of Sawyer's. The "I love you" scene was meant to demonstrate that he no longer has feelings for Kate... but what about Juliet? Was her brief relationship with Jack little more than a way to pass the time? Juliet's become the island whore -- and it's absolutely, entirely unbelievable. Cruse and Lindelof, I beg you. Please stop pairing her off when it makes no sense for her character to be with someone.

Enough of that rant. I thought it was sweet that -- with his alias "LaFleur" meaning flower in French -- Sawyer gave his homemaker hippie lady Juliet a sunflower. I do like the two of them together (honestly, I do!). I just wish that the previous relationship entanglements didn't previously occur.

Sawyer/Kate: Boring. I was SO angry at the last three minutes of the episode. So unbelievably angry. Lost gives me an excellent episode and then does the top three things that piss me off about the show, all within three minutes. One, Sawyer gets a phone call from Jin that Hurley, Jack and Kate have been found. Does he tell Juliet? Of course not. Sharing information is frowned upon on Lost. Did it even occur to Sawyer that Juliet might want to know that Jack is back? Two, when Sawyer sees Kate, Lost pulls the only heart-tugging trick it knows. No talking. No ambient sound (not even of the waves or the wind!!). Same few notes playing over the images. Extreme close-ups on faces. Boring. Boring. A thousand times boring. This has never -- not ONCE in the history of Lost -- brought tears to my eyes. Stop. Doing. It. And three, Kate is still alive. I know, I know. She's not going to die. (And I know that they won't ever kill her character, but until they write her better, I'm going to continue to wish that she dies.) So... Sawyer tells Horace that he's forgotten Freckles's face. (Lie.) Sawyer tells Juliet that he loves her. (Most likely true.) And then at the very thought of Kate coming back, he lies to the woman he loves, leaves her on the bed, and goes to a romantic cliffside to reunite with the woman he claims to have forgotten? No. It belittles Juliet as a love interest. It denies me the ability to ever take Sawyer seriously in a relationship. And it just makes me want Kate to die.

Horace: But I said that I enjoyed this episode, so let's get back to some of those reasons. I don't think that Lost is interested in explaining the Dharma Initiative, but I do think that they are going to explore some of this group's missions through living with them in the present. The D.I. is more like a backdrop for the events that happen on the island, not the other way around. The island is the real mystery, and the D.I. were just a bunch of scientists who inhabited it for a while. Because of this, Lost will only provide a few more answers about them -- mostly revolving around Ben and the upcoming Purge -- but other than that, the primary focus is on the island and the Others. If you remember, we first saw Horace back as the welcoming committee for the young Ben and his father, Broots. (According to Kristin at E!, we're going to see more of the young Ben in a four-episode arc. Huzzah!) But in that earlier episode, which is later than our current time, Horace isn't married to Amy. So what happens to Amy? (My guess is that she dies, and I suspect that it's due to a double-crossing nature of hers. There was something eerie about the way she led our Losties through the sonic fence and pulled out her ear plugs. I don't trust her.) But I did enjoy the Horace-Sawyer exchanges, and I think these two actors worked really well off one another. I found a mutual respect in those scenes, and I hope we see them again in the future.

The statue: Finally, we get to see remnants of an ancient society again. Judging by Paul's ankh necklace, the hieroglyphs on the Temple, and the statue's skirt, this was most likely an Egyptian civilization, which makes sense considering their location. And the statue was probably Anubis. Blah, blah, blah. You know, for someone who loves Greek and Egyptian mythology, this aspect of the show just isn't that interesting to me.

All in all, a very enjoyable episode. I'm happy that we got to see more character development... even if the episode did end on a faux reunion of unrequited love between Gruffly Voice and the Girl Who Just Won't Die.

first thirteen minutes of ABC's show Castle

ABC has released the first thirteen minutes of the Nathan Fillion crime-comedy Castle, and I have to say, it's a bit more charming than I was anticipating. At first glance, this show seems to be stealing the heterosocial "cop-buddy" formula of Bones, The Mentalist, and Fringe (whereby the goofy playboy male is juxtaposed with the intelligent and rational female), and this was a major turn-off for me. I'm happy that females are being represented as logical, but do they also have to be shown as cold-hearted and unable to let things roll off their backs? I also feel like pairings in this manner constrict the characters to certain boxes as a means of forcing the inevitable will-they-or-won't-they dilemma. I find this to be a terribly boring plotline when that's set up as a major premise, rather than unfolding naturally in the narrative. The original trailer for Castle, which can be seen at the end of the thirteen-minute promo, pretty much screams "SEXUAL ELECTRICITY! THEY'RE MADE FOR EACH OTHER!"

But, having said that, the first thirteen minutes shows promise. For one, the leading actress, Stana Katic, doesn't annoy me (at least, not yet). She's very fluid with her lines, and she doesn't seem to be putting on the tough act in every single one of her scenes. And then there's Nathan Fillion -- who is perfectly cast in this role -- who allows for serious moments, such as with his mother and daughter, in an otherwise absurd role. First, I'm pleased that he has a family of women around him. This will allow him to have heterosocial relations with women outside of Katic's character. Also, it will ground him as a character and make him seem more three-dimensional. If he were just a playboy with no moral foundation*, his schtick would get really old, really quickly. Second, I thought the incorporation of Castle into the police's work seemed natural and convincing. I hate that the original trailer makes the exchange in the questioning room seem so flirtatious, because the scene's actually better written than that. And third, Fillion is really bringing his A-game here. He's making sure that his character is likable, but also not a complete idiot. As soon as he's done joking with his new cop buddy, he goes home and starts looking through his old books for answers. It shows that he takes himself -- and his copycat psychopath fan -- seriously.

* The fantastic part about this -- other than casting Susan Sullivan (of Dharma and Greg) as Castle's mother -- is that Castle's daughter will play the adult in their relationship, and yet he will no doubt play the adult in his relationship with his mother. A fantastic scene in the promo involves his mother singing "I'm just a girl who can't say no," which Castle suggests be her theme song. There's a real boy-in-a-grown-man's-body issue here, and I think that will develop into something interesting.

The premiere is Monday at 10pm on ABC. I'll be watching the first few episodes. Hopefully the rest of the episode will maintain my interest.