J. & C.'s Movie Reviews

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Archive for May, 2010

Lost Season 6 and Overall Lost:The Series Thoughts

Posted by J on May 25, 2010

So Lost has concluded.   Here is a review of Season 5, Season, 4, Season 3, and Seasons 2 and 1.

How did it end?  Unfortunately this has to be explained, with a bit of (easy) exegesis.  It shouldn’t be so confusing.  Season 6 starts when Jack drops the bomb down the hole.  It explodes and prevents a catastrophy, which leads to the building of the hatch.  Everyone timetravels to 2007.  Jack becomes the protector of the island, kills the smoke monster, then dies after saving the island.  Hurley becomes the new protector of the island.  The plane with Kate and Sawyer fly away safely (how they had so much extra fuel, I can only speculate).  Then the flash sideways we see throughout season 6 is some kind of afterlife.  We know this because jack realizes that he died, and Ben and Hurley have an exchange about being a good #1 and #2.  It seems that everyone is really dead in the sideways.  In this afterlife they all have to “let go” and “move on.”  Make sense?

And now to my concerns. Let’s put aside the numerous small loose ends that the show never tied up.  These are preoccupying too many people who want their insignificant questions answered.  There are massive narrative problems to look at.  The first is this: we just spent an entire season watching an afterlife. Half of the season consisted of the characters in an afterlife world that ended in a sort of redemption, with them all sitting in a church and a bright light entering the sanctuary.  But this plotline is totally unnecessary to the action.  There is nothing in particular about the Lost story that calls for characters to enter an afterlife.  Yes the Island is mysterious and we see dead people, but the show has no internal justifications for what it does in Season 6.  Frankly, any story could add on a Coda with its characters in an afterlife, finding some kind of peace.  The fact that Lost concludes — in fact climaxes — with an unnecessary plotline is troubling.

A further problem is the syrupy New Age version of purgatory portrayed in this Lost afterlife.  The final scene, where Jack meets his dad, was critically important to a show where Jack’s dad’s person was a deep mystery.  But we are treated to mumbo-jumbo about the purgatory being a placed “that you [the characters] all created, so that you could let go.”  In this final scene, we are in a room filled with religious symbols.  It’s an extremely heavy-handed scene, screaming RELIGOUS SYMBOL, RELIGIOUS SYMBOL.  At best, this last episode of Lost is really the last episode of Touched by an Angel.

And then, why would the characters want to create an afterlife reality where they all meet and reminisce about a place that was ultimately troubling?  The nostalgic flashbacks that the characters envision in the final episode are absurd.  They remember the few happy moments, but forget all the lying, conniving, and undermining of group cohesion that characterized this entire TV series.  And they all love each other, which is bizarre, since the lovefest atmosphere rarely occurs on the show.  (I wonder what Sayid would think of seeing Ben Linus in his afterlife.)

The final show was hyper-emotional.  The music swelled, people cried, but ultimately the final show treated the heart and not the head.  Plotlines were not resolved.  The story was not fully realized.  Perhaps worst of all, it offered a definitive conclusion about the characters but not the plot.  The question of “Why are we on the island?”, the show’s abiding major question, was not addressed.  There is so much talk of fate and purpose and destiny on the show, but what has created that purpose and destiny, and for what purposes?  The show demolished its god figures in the final season when Jacob and the Smoke Monster were revealed to be flawed humans.  This left a deep void.  There is no god on the show, which is a problem when the show is about providence.  Any notion of “fate,” at least in a story, has to have an agency behind it.

I believe this: Lost is not a purgatory story.  It is not about characters on the Island who all find some relief in the afterlife.   It is John Locke pounding on the hatch door, asking “What do you want from me?”, and then the light pours up through the hatch door window.  It is Desmond telling Jack that he too was nearly at the brink, when all of a sudden he heard Locke pounding on the hatch door and turned on the light.  It is John and Jack fighting about whether or not to press the button.  It is Desmond turning the fail-safe key.  It is Jack, inspired by Locke’s faith, desperate to go back to the Island to fulfill his purpose.  It is Jack saving the island, and then dying.  That’s the heart of the show, and hopefully that’s what it’ll be remembered for.

Five Worst CGI Moments on LOST

For a show that employed hundreds of people to write scripts, edit, make music, find clothes, make props, design sets, coordinate stunts, and so on, Lost was mostly terrible at major CGI shots.  Let’s recount them.

1) The Island Underwater — In the first episode of Season 6, we see Jack look out of the plane.  Then the camera zooms downwards, breaks the surface of the ocean, and peers into its depth.

2) The Black Rock ramming the Egyptian Statue — Exactly how did a wooden ship smash into a hundred-foot tall rock statue, break the statue, land in the jungle, and survive in tact?

3) The Golden Light in the cave.

4) Any submarine in motion.

5) The reveal of the Egyptian statue.

Five Best Characters

1) John Locke

2) Jack Shepherd

3) Ben Linus

4) Mr. Eko

5) Tie: Hurley, Sawyer, Sayid, Desmond — It’s telling that no female characters make this list.  Would any even make a top-15 character list? I find the charge against the Lost writers true enough: that they weren’t successful at writing female characters or dealing with female issues.   Sun was their best effort, but any complexity she had was demolished when in Seasons 5 and 6 she was reduced to a husband-hunt, having nothing to motivate her but that, and when she did find him, they both died in the very next episode.  The female problem probably started with Kate, who in the second episode of the entire series is revealed to be a dangerous criminal.  Eventually we find that she’s a murderer.  The implausibility of this set up contrasts that were too jarring to be taken seriously: Kate’s background is always at war with what she wants and believes in on the Island, and also with her motives off-island.

Five Unresolved Mysteries

1) How, when the Oceanic Six returned on the Ajira plane, did some of the passengers travel back in time while others did not?  — This is most annoying mystery for me.  The writers tried to give explanations for the plane crashes and shipwrecks, but there is no explanation for this.  Time travel only occurs on the show when the Island is moved.  This by itself requires a lot of suspension of disbelief by the audience.  In the case of the Ajira plane, there’s no explanation at all for why some people travel back in time and others do not.  No electromagnetic event, no moving island.  Jacob never showed any such power.  Neither did the smoke monster.

2) Why aren’t babies born on the Island after the 1970s?  — The obvious answer is that the hydrogen bomb that Jack detonates in the 1970s emits radiation that gives defects to fetuses.  But this doesn’t make sense in numerous ways.  Wouldn’t the Dharma Initiative have figured out real quickly that radiation levels on the island were extremely high, causing fertility problems?

3) How did the Smoke Monster turn into the Smoke Monster? — In “Across the Sea,” we see Jacob throw his dead brother into the Golden Light cave.  He emerges from the cave as the smoke monster.  But then, in the final episode, Jack and Desmond go down the cave and nothing happens.  There doesn’t appear to be anything that could instantly turn someone into a smoke monster.  It didn’t seem possible, either, for a dead body to float down the cave, then into the pit of golden light and electromagnetism.

4) How can you timetravel to the perfect time after detonating a hydrogen bomb on top of a pocket of electromagnetism?  –  Anyone who attempts to answer this needs professional help.

5) How did certain people get special powers?  — Hurley can see dead people, Miles talks to dead people, John Locke’s spine is fixed, Rose’s cancer is cured, and Walt is supposedly special beyond belief.  The only explanation is that the Island has a Golden Light.


Posted in Silly but Entertaining, TV Series | Leave a Comment »

The Blind Side

Posted by J on May 4, 2010

We wanted to dislike The Blind Side, and we do, but let’s give it props.  This is one of the few movies of the last thirty years in which rich white Southerners aren’t portrayed as scumbags, nor are Southerners portrayed as “Deliverance” wannabes.  Of course the Deliverance joke has to be made in this movie.  But we find sympathy with the main characters, a wealthy family that adopts a teenage black male, who turns out to be a great football player.

And, even better, the movie has fine morals: namely, the adoptive love of the family, which offers charity, hope, and forgiveness.  Perhaps the family is too much a cookie-cutter family, but then it’s a relief to not have intra-family tensions that dominate any kind of family drama.  This family is happy.  It’s happiness rubs off on Michael Oher, a practically abandoned teenager who thankfully hasn’t been corrupted by his upbringing.  For Oher, it’s a rags-to-riches tale in two ways.  He immediately becomes wealthy after his adoption, but he also becomes wealthy in that he takes advantages of opportunities that his new life affords him.

But family dramas like this can be done well without all the fluff and corniness that’s inserted into such movies.  Perhaps fluff and corniness garner a wider audience, and thus more profit, for all involved.  Yet did any of the following need to be inserted into this movie, for any reason?

1) Sandra Bullock’s character, the driving force behind the adoption of Oher, drives nonchalantly into the slums with Oher.  He warns her, she says it’s not a big deal, then she looks out the window at the gangbangers sitting around a rundown apartment complex.  Suddenly she locks her door, as if she didn’t have a clue where she was.

2) Later, Bullock’s character confronts the same gangbangers, by herself, dressed in a revealing outfit, in the same slums she had previously visited.  She talks smack to them.

3) Bullock’s character runs onto a high school football practice field, tells the coach to butt out, and instructs Oher in how to play the offensive tackle position.

4) Later, Bullock’s character calls the high school football coach’s cellphone during an actual game, and the coach answers, then takes her advice.

5) Bullock’s family invites no one over to Thanksgiving dinner — it’s just the five of them — and their idea of Thanksgiving is watching college football around the TV.  No ceremony, no nothing.  But Oher sits at the dining room table — he’s never had a real Thanksgiving dinner — which prompts the entire family to turn off the TV, sit at the dinner table with Oher, and pray on camera.  While lots of people love the sentiment of such a scene, it is so contrived that it should put off any viewer who has a teaspoon-full of decent aesthetic taste.

6) Product Placement.  This movie is sponsored by Pepsi, Ford, and the SEC.  In a movie that tries to play up certain morals, we are also told to buy buy buy the products that the characters used.  Product placement is ubiquitous these days, but it’s more blatant here than normal.

7) A seven-year-old spends an entire summer training Oher in football conditioning and techniques.  This seven-year-old, like other movie kids, is wiser than just about everybody in the movie.

We could add to the list, but you get the point.  The Blind Side uses so many family drama cliches that it can’t be taken seriously.  Any viewer will have to mine out the few good nuggets of material out of the vast caves of nonsense that make up this movie.

Posted in Modern Drama, They Spent Millions on This? | Leave a Comment »