In two days, the final season of Lost will be launched and we’ll find out if the brilliant trip so far isn’t all a ruse. It’s the journey that counts, right? Well the story is complex enough that it may be necessary to play catch-up on all the interpersonal connections and heavy allegory alluded to in the first five seasons. The New York Times put a Lost timeline together, including short video clips and commentary from the show’s producers.
For a more detailed breakdown on the characters, if you have the patience, sit through this bad song:
After reading a bit of revisionist hype for Patrick McGoohan’ UK series The Prisoner, I decided to finally watch one of the main inspirations for Lost. Beware, for there will be spoilers. The introduction credits shown before (almost) every episode lay out the main character’s plight. He’s trapped in The Village, assigned the name No. 6. Leaders of The Village (specifically the shifting character No. 2) are trying to dissect why No. 6 resigned from his post for an intelligence organization.
No. 6′s questions are: Who is #1? Why am I here?
Comparisons to Lost can definitely be made, such as protagonists trapped in a geographic area (island vs. The Village), tracked by an omniscient object (smoke monster vs. Rover), and brainwashing of citizens by leaders (Dharma vs. unnamed Village hierarchy). The Prisoner doesn’t have quite the same character development, with episodes having a one-off feeling. Hell, most characters of the No. moniker have a changed actor every week.
Most of the early stories involve No. 6 finding limitations in The Village’s universe, in how he communicates with fellow citizens or attempts to escape the sea and mountain-locked villa. The series’ arc really doesn’t pick up in the last 4 of 17 episodes. The show was originally supposed to be 7 episodes but the producer forced 17 to sell the American airing rights to the US. They knew the show itself would be cancelled by the time these last episodes were written, so maybe that gave the proper motivation to wrap things up rather than milk the premise (say hello to the philosophy of American television).
While the show had multiple sci-fi themes, these final episodes really do fall into a downward spiral of psychedelic madness. Minds are swapped between bodies (“Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling”), No. 6 is forced into dreams set in an episode-long Western (“Living in Harmony”), a Sherlock Holmes/Bond chase of a mad villain (“The Girl Who Was Death”), a hypnosis sound stage theatre set (“Once Upon a Time”), and the most bizarre trial I’ve seen aired on television (“Fallout”). The only way to describe the storytelling in these is surreal.
It all finally does get around to unveiling who lay behind the curtain and it ain’t conventional. The Hungian reveal of No. 1 (that wasn’t the silent dwarf butler after all) really set in stone the classic psychological nature of the The Prisoner‘s writing. The opening credit’s quote, “I am not a number, I’m a free man!” and protagonist-also-as-antagonist expose themes of an individual’s freewill vs. unavoidable state hegemony. You can even fit in Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey arc of a character coming to terms with his subconscious and his resulting transformed enlightened and peaceful mindset.
That isn’t to say the series didn’t have issues. I found the tone to be a bit off in scenes, especially near the end. The soundtrack was mostly playful and silly, with nursery rhymes like “Pop Goes the Weasel” and “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” used to to represent The Village’s innocence. A theme of a single discordant electric guitar was used in scenes of distress or tension. Then there’s the finale, which is an uneven set of scenes themed by “Dem Bones” and The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love”.
Not to mention the outdated hand-to-hand combat and trampoline fights (!!!) being good for a laugh.
But he really shines in going the South Park route of over-the-top tongue-in-cheek offensiveness, but it’s completed by crowd participation. It’s obvious only the best interactions were included where he uses wit and charisma to mock the audience while keeping them along with him. The 90 minute runtime might wear down the conservative with a constant barrage of gags involving rape, pedophilia, sexual dysfunction, mockery of the mentally disabled (see above), and misogyny, amongst other sunny themes. In the encore, Jimmy attempts to offend as many people in the audience with a series of escalating jokes, so of course the Holocaust is busted out. It’s a gas.
Yesterday I came across completely absurd but gut-laugh-inducing humour in Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis. You’ve seen him as Fat Jesus in The Hangover and HBO’s new literary-detective comedy Bored to Death, but this series takes the cake for uncomfortable laughs that go beyond the most cringe-worthy scenes in BBC’s original series The Office. My highlights are the initial Michael Cera episode and the below one with Charlize Theron.
Also check out the podcast he did lately for WTF with Marc Maron where he reveals Sean Penn loves bait-and-switch jokes about obese women:
I guess Microsoft’s sad attempt at playing catch-up on the social media game led them to start pushing Messenger status updates on their rarely-visited Windows Live user profiles in order to force an activity feed that nobody will follow. No biggie, except by default they’re published to anyone.
As Conan’s time winds down before moving in Leno’s slot, I think I’ll most miss the obscene bit characters and hilariously inappropriate on-site shoots. Last night’s episode contained yet another terrific sequence involving alcohol and an awkward Irish man, but the episode went into side-splitting territory once Norm MacDonald and Gordon Ramsay got together. Late Night always had a low-budget vibe to it that allowed anything goes, so it’ll be disheartening if his humous has to be toned down to fit in with the pedestrian Leno demographic (hey, tell another fecking Lewinsky joke!)
Here’s a pretty fascinating documentary on the 1989 crash of United Airlines Flight 232 created for the TV series First Person. You may recognize this story as being the inspiration for Peter Weir’s Fearless starring Jeff Bridges but this is a very different perspective on the story.
Ageless art begets poor parody. Now everyone can agree that Daniel-Day Lewis’s portrayal of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood was one of the most solid acting performances in recent memory. While trying to deny the fact I wear conversation pieces, I came across a couple great impressions that I thought deserved attention.
Why not ring in the New Year with a post on the upcoming remake of Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left? From the trailer (which tells the whole story, of course), you can gleam, “Rated R for sadistic brutal violence including a rape and disturbing images, language, nudity and some drug use.” Fascinating. Sounds like a must-watch.
During some downtime here, I’ve been passively thinking up projects to occupy my time. Yesterday, I wondered whether there was a web app to properly track films I’ve watched, books I’ve read, etc. Specifically, I want to make a WordPress plugin for storing the history of each film I’ve watched ala the flog link at the top of this page, which is now a flat page I manually update. So I would like a web app where I can just enter a date and movie name where the system would handle retrieving the movie poster, Amazon link, and IMDB link with any meta info that is configured to display.
Watching documentary Helvetica and short clip Trajan is the Movie Font both bring to light the intents of designers when they attempt to communicate simple pieces of information, while I blankly pass over it all. I think I will now forever be haunted by these typefaces at my every turn. I just browsed to the web site for music artist Bitcrush (who have a new album Epilogue in Waves, coming out in January!), glaringly seeing the obvious usage of Helvetica in the act’s logo. It’s the same aesthetic used in Cadoo’s prior project, Gridlock, and even seems to be the central theme of their record label. Knowing the music has a lush layering of pads and acoustic sounds, with modern glitch cuts, they decided on a thick typeface that expresses it as bold and passionate while firm and solid, so we don’t doubt its statements. It all reminds me to pick up Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, and Student, especially since I work in web development; mostly back-end, but I’m always reliant on graphic designers to finish the product whereas a higher level of workplace autonomy would be more optimal.
While Helvetica is usually used to promote overlords as comforting friends for consumption, at least some of them have a sense of humour like Amazon and BMW.
Have you ever heard one of those test tones on TV when the station is off the air? Notice how it becomes painfully annoying in a very short time? That’s essentially what you do to a song when you super compress it. You eliminate all dynamics.
This was the main annoyance I had with Front Line Assembly’s 2006 album, Artificial Soldier, mastered by Brian “Big Bass” Gardener. For such an underground band, I don’t understand why they would destroy the whole recording when they aren’t even competing for records sold. Hell, people that enjoy the band listen with headphones or hear the songs in a club. We don’t need to hear digital clipping. Furthermore, the article goes into why this paradigm shift has taken place:
We listen to music in completely different ways than we did 20 or 30 years ago. For most people, music is listened to on the go, in cars, on headphones while running, on computers at work. Music has to compete with the sound of your car’s engine, has to punch through the background noise of street traffic or a loud office.
This is pretty much true for me. The couple hundred CDs I own are stowed away in my parent’s basement and now I only listen to MP3s on my computer or MP3 player. I don’t even own a standalone stereo. Sound quality also deteriorates by the subsequent compression placed on music by FM radio and MP3 player equalizers. Ever notice television commercials are much louder than the actual program? That’s due to the compression placed on the sound to make them jump out from the program. It’s just a marketing tactic to do the same on music, stressing a lack of subtlety in the art.
Now for some asides, it looks like there will be no Deadwood movies to close up the story. Those HBO cocksuckers. There’s also some Scrabble OUTRAGE! over the term lesbo being a valid word in the video game. I guess this dude hasn’t seen the South Park parody of 300? Move on, sugartits. Simon took the time to uncover other slang accepted by the game when he came across:
Nedette (noun): derogatory name for a female adolescent hooligan
The hooligans are loose, the hooligans are loose.
Seeds in fruit should be made illegal in the Western world. Also, please don’t eat citrus fruits near an LCD monitor.
Take a glance at Quirking Around to find out how indie fags drool and dick jokes courtesy Judd Apatow rule. Wes Anderson’s shtick has been pretty tiring from the get-go and it looks like The Darjeeling Limited’s characters only continue the trend of banal details that aren’t even smirk-worthy. Next up is Juno which all its Little Miss Sunshine whackisms. Even Michael Cera yet again playing George-Michael Bluth can’t save this from only being another flavour of the week. But we have Richard Kelly’s clusterfuck Southland Tales to look forward to! You should read this above article if only for this quote:
He still believes Second Chance will be bankable, once the bull gets the testicle-goring out of his system.
Speaking of Judd, I spent last month watching the full season of Freaks and Geeks leading up to the Superbad/Knocked Up marathon. I guess I didn’t grow up around a cliquey high school so I didn’t really relate to the “it happened to you, didn’t it!” humour (Trailer Park Boys did enough of that for me). I probably most appreciated the ignorant father played by pseudo-Canadian Joe Flaherty for such cold war gems as:
Lindsay Weir: Dad, give me one good reason why there can’t be a woman president. Harold Weir: It’s called three irrational days per month. Now, I would have no issue with the other twenty seven, but we’re talking about the atomic bomb here.
I also took the time to watch season one of Friday Night Lights in one go and managed to do it in 4 days. I really need a life. On the plus side, since Demonoid is now blocking all traffic from Canada, I didn’t have to seed the 8gb file to get an even ratio. Yarr, me booty. I actually didn’t find the constant ShakeyCamâ„¢ (even during dialogue) as distracting as I find in action films (Batman Begins, I’m looking at you). However, I doubt I’ll be watching season two since there’s already whispers about it being canceled when the premier only airs next week. I can also say that it’s fucking odd watching a prime-time show scored by post-rock band Explosions in the Sky and supplemented by TV on the Radio, LCD Soundsystem, and Isis, amongst others.
Finally, you must acquire the new Oceansize album Frames as it’s the best of the year. Notice my not so diplomatic verb.
Yeah, I just wrote a post using the term “paradigm shift”.
Showtime’s Dexter premier season completed at the end of 2006 and was likely the best new television series of the year. It stars Michael C. Hall, best known for previously playing David Fischer on HBO’s Six Feet Under. Some of Dexter’s vibe is similar, in the style of dark humour and high-quality cinematography. The almost two minute intro credits sequence matches most HBO series with playful plucked strings juxtaposed with interesting visuals rather than the usual weekly reintroduction of character faces that television follows. The credits also contain one of the most disturbing visual match cuts in my recent memory, with an extreme close-up of Dexter’s scruffy human neck being shaved transitioning into a boneless piece of rare cooked meat efficiently sliced by a steak knife. Meat is murder! Meat is murder! But rather delicious.
I guess I took an initial interest in the show after taking a sociology course on serial murder at a university level and I wanted to see how this show plays out the stereotypes people usually assign to serial killers. Of course, the main character is an anomaly when compared to the real world of criminals, to the point where you actually begin to agree with his heinous actions. Based on a series of books by Jeff Lindsay, the story follows a Miami forensics investigator specializing in blood splatter that moonlights as a serial killer of criminals that believe they have beat the legal system. So rapists, murderers, molesters, and other serial killers get the surgical treatment. He’s a kind of avenger that at points you can agree with, skipping the bureaucracy to make evil individuals realize the consequences of their deeds. It’s also funny to see these dark themes soundtracked to Latin and salsa music. This is not CSI.
The best part about the series is the character development, which is a cut above anything on television (yes, even Lost, and this is where I snap my fingers). Throughout the first season, the main character is searching for a serial killer of prostitutes who is also playing games with Dexter, sending messages that other members of the police department cannot interpret, except for one cop that is always suspicious of Dexter’s behaviour. Dexter’s sister Deb is also a member of the police force, but I’ll just gloss that over because her character’s much too annoying (needy women, who needs them? Nooooobody!). Dexter’s inner monologues and childhood flashbacks focused on the relationship to his foster father, who was aware of his adopted son’s true nature, characterize why Dexter developed into his sociopath state. The build up to the season finale is also mad awesome.
In late May, I took it upon myself to catch completely up on the revised Battlestar Galactica. I managed to watch the three hour mini-series and three seasons of episodes over a month period. I guess a downtime between work-related projects had its perks. I think the most surprising aspect was the quality of the writing for a sci-fi series. Joss Whedon’s Firefly certainly raised the bar and their are some easter eggs connecting the two series, due to Zoic Studios working on the visual effects for both. There is a Battlestar Wiki for all your nerd needs. Now on to the spoilers.
The basic story is the remaining few members of humanity on the run from its robotic inventions called Cylons, which are bent on destroying the existence of humans. However, they have evolved to look human, and their overall behaviour seems to indicate they have a higher purpose for people. Since it’s science-fiction television, you just know there will be the token hot chick, in this case Tricia Helfer who is a bit too porn star for my liking. Much of the interesting dialog involves political maneuvering by members of the military and public as society attempts to regain its ground, operationally and morally, while lost in space and chased by Cylon raider ships. The finale to season one introduces the complexity of possible Cylon sleeper agents on human ships resulting in paranoia being a constant vibe throughout the series.
However, the main themes seem to concentrate on the spiritual beliefs of all individuals. Humans believe in polytheism, with religious scriptures depicting humanity being almost annihilated before discovering their new haven, Earth. Cylons instead believe in one true God that created the universe to work in cycles, and at the end of season three, it is revealed that they too are searching for Earth. By majority, both parties believe in some sort of fate. Of course, they are skeptical characters too. I think my favourite section of the story arc was the Eye of Jupiter, for its effects and satisfying payoff the previous episodes were building up to.
There are negatives too. The Karl/Starbuck and Lee/Dee love triangle storyline was rubbish that made the whole saga too soap opera-ish, especially the boxing episode. The show really loses its weight in these weekly one-offs, but plays to its strength when it fully embraces the serial nature of its complex story. Not-so-far-from-modern-day-Iraq themes from early season three were a bit aggravating too. However, momentum is regained as they escape back into the depths of space. The season three finale reintroduces Starbuck, who was thought to be dead but now claims to have seen Earth. Some people are theorizing she will act as a guide to Lee ala No. Six to Baltar.
There has been a decision to complete the series in four seasons, with producers claiming this upcoming final season will focus on the spiritual nature of the characters, which I’m predicting will be its rating downfall. Since season four doesn’t start until early next year, in November we’ll get a two hour TV movie, Battlestar Galactica: Razor, which will explore the back story of Pegasus’ crew, who fought the Cylons alone before finding the rest of the human fleet. You can see a Razor preview clip already.
So the show gets the nerd thumbs up. But we need more Firefly, plz.