Friday, 29 February 2008

Yet Another Important Message From Will Graham

From the case-log of FBI Special Agent Will Graham:

This job, it never ceases to amaze me. As a psychological profiler for the FBI, I have to deal with some real wackos. This week I've been researching a case, a tough one, trying to get into the head of some guy who likes to wrap houses so tightly in tinsel that the brickwork bulges. I get into his mindset, see what made him into the sick son-of-a-bitch he is, and I realise he wasn't allowed to wrap his Christmas tree in tinsel when he was a kid. It was okay for him to hang ornaments and lights and angles and whatnot, but not tinsel. So now he's the West Coast Tinsel Terrorist, and five innocent victims had to claim insurance on their bulging houses. There's no such thing as a victimless crime.

While I've been dealing with all this crazy, I get to thinking about childhood, and what it means to be a kid in this day and age. The world's a scary place, believe me. I'm an expert on this. That's the thing, though. You need a little scary, like a vaccine against the world. You need to rub up against weird stuff when you're that small. It makes you a better person.


So what do I find out when I get home to my wife and kid? That the internet has been tearing itself apart over Where The Wild Things Are, a film adaptation of Maurice Sendak's book about monsters. I never read it. Too busy reading and re-reading Mark Felt's book about the FBI, which my young brain interpreted as being kinda hinky. I read it over and over and over, and for some reason I couldn't explain at the time, it struck me that this guy was someone who would not be able to keep a secret, would you, you son-of-a... Anyway, I never read the Sendak book. Maybe I should have.

Seems a lot of film lovers out there, people who understand art and think that this Spike Jonze guy is the real deal thanks to those amazing Charlie Kaufman adaptations, they're getting upset because you guys at Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures are rumoured to be considering reshooting the move, because kids think it's kinda scary. Well, I say scare them. Reading all of those books on serial killers when I was a kid freaked me out, but look at me now. The FBI's top criminal profiler. I caught The Tooth Fairy! And Hannibal Lecter! What has your kid done today, faceless corporate art-hater, other than watch Spongebob and drool a lot while you stare at Bloomberg on another TV and count huge numbers in your head?

So, you get a little worried because you showed the movie to some people and they didn't like it. Fine. Be worried. You should be. Investing in movies is never a sure thing. It's a gamble. You're all gamblers. Anyone is who puts up money. The difference is that this time, yeah, you may win or lose, but there's a damn good chance you'll be creating something of lasting value anyway, something that might pay off big-time in the long run. Jonze and Eggers are no slouches. They've been doing pretty good for a while now. Have you seen Being John Malkovich? Have you read A Staggering Work of Heartbreaking Genius? And by "read" I don't mean "optioned because you saw it on the New York Times bestsellers list". We're talking some serious talent that is only now beginning to bloom. You're obviously used to taking a chance. Hell, you invested in a truly crappy script by Shyamalan even though other executives backed off, so why can't you just take a leap of faith and stick by a film made by a talented director with an acclaimed script that has already been shot and just needs some post-production work done on it?

But you're not going to do that, are you? Why take chances creating something different when you already have an idea in your head of what kid's movies are like. They're garish. They're not realistic. They're noisy. They're not contemplative. They talk down to kids. They don't treat them like perceptive beings. They have a lot of fart gags. They're not bothered with addressing what it's like to be a child. They have a soundtrack by Danny Elfman. They don't have a soundtrack by Carter Burwell and Karen O from The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.


They star some loud formerly funny actor bellowing tacky jokes and winking at the camera every two minutes. They don't feature voicework by the brilliant Lauren Ambrose and James Gandolfini. They wreck a beloved book by adding ad-libs that "appeal" to adults that you think would be horrified by the thought of having to sit in a cinema with their kids watching something they might not understand. They don't adapt a book by honouring the themes and tone of that book, or risk alienating the adults by making something that will speak to the intended audience in a visual language they might find appealing, thus sticking in their minds and affecting their lives for the better.


But that's understandable. The last kid's movie that I remember treating children with respect was Babe 2: Pig in the City. It was released poorly by a studio scared of angering the audience that had turned up to see a carbon copy of that wonderful original only to find animal death and sadness and surrealism and bleak honesty. It failed at the box office. It cost a lot of people their jobs. Not what a studio that has been damaged by the writers strike wants to think about, especially during the absorption of Bob "Shady" Shaye's New Line.


Forget that movie, right? Except no one who saw it could, because it is a work of goddamn genius, you sons-of-bitches! It was like nothing made before, and it treated kids like smart, growing, curious, resilient human beings who love to be challenged way more than adults do, and its fanbase has grown over the years, enough so that a discussion about Richard Kelly's overrated Lynch-lite Donnie Darko will get derailed by excitement over the thought of this lost classic being reappraised by a classy hipster from the AV Club. But what chance does love of a work of genius have against the possibly of the third quarter of 2008 showing a drop in revenue that can be attributed to one of those gambles you are always making? I'll tell you, you son-of-a-bitch! No chance! That's right, isn't it, you son-of-a-bitch! No chance at all!!!!


Well, it doesn't matter in the long run. Even I know it's just a film, even though I'm pissed at you all. Hopefully this is worry for nothing. Perhaps the movie really is crap and it has nothing to do with your cowardice, and you're actually right for a change. Perhaps you do intend to release it properly, and all this worry is for nothing. But we're watching you. There are those of us have been alerted to your possible strategies, and we're aware you're capable of doing to Jonze what you did to Paul Schrader on that crappy Exorcist movie, and we're already getting mobilised, albeit slowly. So know this. You're on notice, executives.


[In background, voice heard telling Graham there is a package waiting for him.]

Oh wow! It arrived! The new Lost game from Ubisoft, Via Domus! I've been looking forward to this for months. Everything's going to be alright. Everything's going to be just fine.

::Cue "Heartbeat" by Red 7::

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Lost - Eggtown

I tell you, not having a computer at home has made this very difficult. My beloved screencaps, which I take so much pride over, have had to be taken from YouTube, so the quality is a bit poo, but then to be honest this was far from my favourite episode. I had great difficulty mustering much enthusiasm for it, not helped by guessing what the twist ending would be as soon as I saw Kate giving Aaron the stink eye when Claire suggested she hold the baby. That is what I hear is known as "foreshadowing", which sounds like "flawshadowing", a word that, according to the Shades of Caruso dictionary, means, "Pointing out that something is going to happen later in a story either with some shaky writing or a sledgehammer-subtle visual". This is a genuine word. I didn't just make it up.


It was an especially disappointing episode as it was co-written by the hugely talented Elizabeth Sarnoff, who has previously worked on Deadwood and some of Lost's best episodes, including The Man Behind The Curtain. However, she did also co-write Stranger in a Strange Land, possibly the worst episode of Lost ever, so let's hope she only writes one of those a season and now Eggtown is out of the way we're back to the usual superb standards.

Sarnoff worked with another writer this week, a chap called Greggory Nations, who previously worked on Nash Bridges and apparently wrote the Lost show bible, which must have been a frustrating and time-consuming experience. On the production side of things, we were treated to the return of Stephen Williams and Cort Fey, who last shot the incredible Confirmed Dead. That was a visual tour de force, but this week was comparatively restrained, either because of the nature of the script, or because the shooting schedule didn't allow for more time to be expended on it.


This week was primarily about Kate bartering for information and freedom, either through trades or trickery. Hurley and Locke came off worst, with Miles and Ben doing fairly well with their own trade-off (Ben will give a tantalisingly exact amount of money to Miles so that he will keep his mouth shut, possibly by killing other characters, including C.S. Lewis). That theme was reflected in the title, which appparently referred to trading in the old West. That said, the definition was listed as fact on Lostpedia, and repeated around the blogosphere, but now it's missing from the Lostpedia page altogether. This was what it said, as far as I can recall:
Egg-town is a pejorative term that refers to the days of bartering during the Great Depression. A traveling salesman would have to barter his candy or tobacco or shoelaces for different commodities. A poor exchange would be for eggs, a relatively common item that was also highly perishable. Nobody wanted to trade for eggs from a traveling salesman because they had their own, so the salesman who accepted an egg in exchange was forced to accept a bad deal. Salesmen would tell each other things like, "If I were you, I would stay away from Bogart. That's an egg-town." Of course, salesmen often didn't trust each other, and it was likely that one salesman would lie to another about the quality of a town's customers to keep them for himself. Invariably, the second salesman would venture into Bogart only to find it truly was an egg-town. He was either persuaded to not visit a town that had good customers or was tricked into visiting a town that could only offer eggs. The term "egg-town" represents a deal with undesirable outcomes in either case.

That they have taken it down makes it seem like it might not have been true, or was a joke. Detached from the possibly genuine meaning, calling a place an egg-town sounds fake, like saying, "You wouldn't want to invest in that company. Those are pickle-juice stocks. They'll just quack your portfolio into a zinc-box." Of course, I could be wrong about this.

Whatever the meaning (many think it has to do with the eggs Locke brought Ben prior to killing the island's last chicken -- in which case, why wasn't the episode called "The Last Chicken"?), it was a Kate-centric episode, and much as I don't want to join in with the usual internet shrugging whenever the show concentrates on her, I often find it hard to give a damn about her and her woes. This has nothing to do with Evangeline Lilly, who I think is just fine in the part. However, she obviously has considerable charm and liveliness outside of her stinky Kate garb, as shown when she was interviewed by Letterman recently. Her tales of failing to travel to China due to oblivious disregard of international visa laws charmed his horrible white socks off, and us too. Why doesn't she get a chance to shine like that in the show?

To be honest, there are only two times she interests me. Firstly as an action lady, kicking ass and taking names, as shown here in a murky screencap of her knocking the shit out of a padlock while Miles watches in bemusement behind her.


Secondly, as a member of the Kate-Jack-Juliet-Sawyer quadrangle of loaded looks and occasional lust. This aspect of the show has often annoyed fans, but I started to enjoy it in the third season, mostly because I love Sawyer and was happy to see him receive some attention from the islander of his dreams. I still get choked up during the scene when he nearly gets killed by Michael Bowen and she pleads for his life.


Another thing that damaged my potential affection for the character came early on, when we found out she was on the run from the law. It's a horrible cliche in TV and film that if we're going to side with a character who is a fugitive, they either have to be innocent, or guilty of one of the "lesser" crimes (car theft, or self-defence murder). A friend could never enjoy Con Air, as even though Cameron Poe killed a man defending his pregnant wife, it was still murder, and he couldn't get past it. It doesn't bother me anywhere near as much (and certainly didn't affect my love for Con Air, which is a classic half-spoof/half-full-on actioner filled with flights of absurd genius), but it can be very obvious. In the first season, Kate was shown doing some incredibly stupid and reckless things, getting the love of her life killed and robbing a bank just to get a memento of him back, but her first crime was left unexplained. I suspected it would be something to do with killing someone who abused her, and it struck me as a reasonable way to have her be a fugitive but still be accepted.


However, it turned out to be a horrible cliche, and a total non-surprise, and smacked of a lack of imagination, as if her character hadn't been fully thought through. Her flashbacks have been less revealing than anyone else's, featuring only the odd cool moment (her "good dad" knew Sayid in Iraq!). This meant I was less than invested in her flash-forward, and if the big moment of the episode was the shocking reveal of her "adoption" of Aaron, then that got spoiled too, so we were totally onto a loser.


Even worse, the trial scenes were rushed through so fast that they were littered with illogicalities. Though I was glad to see Big Love's Shaun Doyle defending Kate, he seemed to get her off with some bizarre tactic that involved going on and on about being a hero. Never mind the fact that she was involved in at least two deaths and a bank robbery. Never mind that she spent years on the run. Never mind that the US Marshall escorting her died in the 815 crash (that really doesn't sound at all dubious). She looked after a bunch of people on the island. And we only have Jack's word for it! No testimony from Hurley or Sayid, though that might be because Hurley is in an institution and Sayid is hunting The Economist, and the sixth survivor (if Aaron counts as number five on that list) is hiding until the forthcoming reveal. Also, I didn't like her hair during the trial. She looks better with it down. [/catty]


While watching it, we were incredulous that the prosecutor asked Jack if he loved Kate. Would that really be a question during a big murder trial? "Do you have noogy-oogy-boo-boo feelings for the defendent? Remember, you're under oath!" It struck us as silly, but thinking about it now, knowing that apparently the prosecution only had one bit of proof up their sleeve (Kate's mom's testimony), and the defence only had one thing to exonerate Kate (Jack's shifty testimony), I guess they really needed to crush him with some hardcore legal manoevering. Even so, it was a weirdly awkward moment in Lost history.


Good job Kate's mom finally tried to revoke her Lost-Gupta status by changing her mind, although seemingly doing it so she could see Aaron was a bit of a screw-up. The character has long annoyed me. I might not like Kate's backstory much, thinking it the least fleshed out of all the Lost characters still living (let's not get into the Shannon/Boone stuff), but it did have that frisson of featuring some rare mother issues in a show so dominated by father issues. Sure, Kate had those too, but her mother was particularly nasty, so seeing her soften in this episode was a welcome change. Beth Broderick played the hell out of her short scene, showing a mixture of contrition, indignation and bemusement. Kate's rejection of her was all the more affecting for it.


In the past few weeks I've tried to look at the visual choices made by the directors, but this week, as I mentioned before, was rather muted. That said, while going over the YouTube clips, I noticed a lot of third-person shots throughout Kate's scenes. Sometimes it was subtle...


...and sometimes it took over the frame.


I guess it's to do with Kate's connection with those around her, especially the men in her life. For a lot of the episode she is trying to figure out if getting off the island is a good idea or not, and so is doing her own thing. She needs Sawyer's help, but it's her plan, and she gets what she wants, though perhaps she isn't going to be too happy about what she finds out. Not to mention having to put up with Miles's lame come-ons.


Nevertheless, while she's seeking an answer to her questions, Jack in the future and Sawyer in the past try to (benevolently) impose themselves on her, and as such crowd her in the frame. She acts reluctant to let them in, but she is in the frame too, just to show her complicated feelings for the men.


In one scene, while she is alone in the frame, ostensibly visiting Sawyer to discuss the outcome of their plan to get Ben and Miles together, we can see her reflection in a mirror behind her, together on the bed with Sawyer. It's as if we're seeing what's in the back of her mind (i.e., some sweet island sex with her hott bad boy).


Of course, by the end of the episode she pushed Sawyer away and leapt on his relief over her non-pregnancy so she had an excuse to leave (not to mention Locke banishing her from the Barracks in an echo of Juliet's branding and shunning by the Others). Well, that's one reading. The other is that she wanted to be with Sawyer, but on her own terms. Sadly, he didn't see it that way. That certainly seems to be the case with Jack in the future, so obviously besotted with her but unable to do what she wants out of some unknown reticence over her adoption of Aaron. These hott men just won't let her be herself, and she's willing to be alone if necessary, and by the end of the show the only male sharing the frame with her is Aaron.


So, in retrospect, a frustrating episode, mostly treading water while setting up future episodes with Sun and Jin, showing Faraday suffering from a mysterious case of amnesia, and giving Ben something to do other than be tied up and sarcastic. I didn't hate it (it's an impossibility), but it didn't fire my imagination the way Confirmed Dead or The Economist did. Oh well, I don't expect every episode to be a masterpiece. It was still worthwhile, and Kate still had her good moments. For a start, she has finally removed the stinky clothes that have been dominating the screen every time she appears. Canyon was most pleased by that turnout. Also, she did get to be a badass (when the show started I often thought of her as Spock to Jack's Kirk, but that didn't work over time). I love that she is meant to be easily as tough (if not tougher) than the guys around her, and the most startling moment of the whole episode came as she reacted to Sawyer's snide taunting with a vicious backhand that knocked him across the bed.


He made a few good points, even though he was being unnecessarily spiteful. To be honest, the show is definitely featuring much more violent behaviour from our heroes, and the internets are buzzing with talk that the castaways are now far worse than the Others ever were. If it's not Hurley turning on his friends, Jack attempting to shoot Locke, everyone kicking Ben around as if he were a sneaky football, and Kate knocking Sawyer's hair flying, it's Locke turning into a pure psychopath by putting a grenade in Miles's mouth, a WTF moment that is running the risk of being purely absurd.


Hopefully that grenade is fake; otherwise Locke is crossing a line. Of course, the news that Miles won't be around in the last five episodes due to Ken Leung having other commitments makes me mad enough to look the other way on this. To quote Carlton Cuse:
We have one actor we very much need who is doing a play and another actor doing an HBO series. But we also have some opportunities. Nestor Carbonell, who played Richard Alpert last season, was on Cane. But now we'll be able to use him. Another unforeseen advantage is that we'll be able to respond to confusion the audience might have about the season so far.

Yay regarding Carbonell, but it sucks that Miles won't be around. I totally understand Leung's need to find work, though. This is mere frustration that this excellent character won't be around. Rumour has it the other missing actor will be Sonya Walger, who will be off obsessing about babies on Tell Me You Are Available To Finish Filming Lost Please.

Anyway, I'm still freaked out by Locke's utter craziness this week. I bet he killed the damn chicken out of fury. I'll even bet he'd named the thing Ben, and tore its head off in frustration. To make things worse, Locke's attitude to Miles' predicament was obnoxiously blase. He pissed me off with his little ring flip.


Man, just because Ben is being particularly accurate with his little barbs of disdain doesn't mean Locke can get away with being a jerk of this magnitude. That said, Ben sniffed at Locke bringing him a copy of PKD's Valis, saying he had already read it. Dude! That's a total masterpiece! It rewards further reading, and you should know that, you pouty douche. I'm conflicted!

Still, we get a break from the island violence and PKD-snubbing tonight, with the broadcast of The Constant. I saw a quick clip from it on YouTube while looking for these clips, and it looks like the most fascinating and headbending episode ever. Watch out for Minkowski's first appearance. It will drive the internet wild with speculation and worry over Desmond's fate, if it hasn't already. Speaking of driving people wild, we very nearly had a wardrobe malfunction in Eggtown. Sawyer was being more open than usual while wooing Kate in his bedroom. If you know what I mean.


It's at times like this that you really miss being able to get HD screencaps. I can imagine I just disappointed a lot of Sawyer fans with that crappy and frustrating image.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Questions Raised By Ashes To Ashes Episodes 1.1-1.3

1. Isn’t it lucky that all of Britain’s race problems were solved between 1973 and 1981?

Life On Mars occasionally addressed the racial issues that Britain faced in the mid-1970s, notably in episode 2.2 when Sam Tyler offered support to a black detective who had joined the division, and episode 2.6 in which the team investigated violent incidents involving south Asian drug dealers. It also had Nelson, the barman who disguised his Northern accent with a Caribbean one so as not to confuse his Mancunian regulars. In Ashes To Ashes, we have already met Viv (Geff Francis), the black desk sergeant in the London station, and seen a couple of other non-white officers lurking in the background. In episode 1.3, a white man was accused of raping and murdering one black woman, and raping and assaulting another, and not a word was said about the racial aspect of the crime. Hmm.

Are the showrunners attempting to contrast 1973 and 1981? Or Manchester and London? Or 1973 Manchester and 1981 London? No doubt race relations had improved in the intervening period, and I’m inclined to believe London would be ahead of other UK cities in diversifying its police personnel successfully – but not enough that viewers should be prepared simply to accept Viv as a respected, even popular, member of the team. As episode 1.1 was at pains to point out, 1981 was the year of the Brixton riots, for goodness’ sake.


And what about the sensibilities of the characters? Is it credible that the same detective who greeted DC Glen Fletcher in Mars episode 2.2 with comments such as “You here to do the spade work?” and “First women, now a coloured. What’s going to be next – dwarves?” has been completely reconstructed in a matter of a mere eight years? We’re only three episodes in, of course, but I hope that this glib treatment of the race issue isn’t all Ashes To Ashes has to offer, because it’s far from satisfactory.

2. Is Chris Skelton now just silly comic relief?

Improbably, Ray Carling – who gave us the discomforting lines quoted above – has proven to have layers lurking under his gruff exterior. After his touching explanation of how Tyler returned to the team in its hour of need in episode 1.1, last week he took a shine to a victim of abuse who refused to leave the station and ensured that she was looked after. Skelton, meanwhile, when he’s not mooning around over the fickle affections of Shaz Granger, has variously punched an unmoving goon in the guts, sat in the midst of a horde of garden gnomes, gone to a New Romantic club in full-on eyeliner and Flock Of Seagulls hair, and dressed up as both Clark Kent and Superman at the same time.


This doesn’t even make sense. Why would anyone be Clark Kent and Superman? Skelton may be sweet, naïve, cautious, even a little slow sometimes, but he’s not an idiot and surely doesn’t need telling that Clark and Superman are never seen together. Especially within a year of Superman II’s theatrical release.

Worst of all, he threw aside his customary prudence to rush headlong into a gunfight when Granger was threatened, only to dive behind the traditional pile of abandoned crates when he realised he was in over his head. This is now repeated every week in the credits, with a freeze-frame as Marshall Lancaster’s name appears. Is this how we’re meant to think of Skelton? A slapstick stooge who needs protecting? Skelton’s progression from cheerful lunkhead to perceptive investigator as he embraced Tyler’s methods was one of the best things about Life On Mars. Don’t abandon him to a predictable romantic storyline, showrunners!

3. What is everyone’s problem with Keeley Hawes?

Various critics commented negatively on Hawes’s performance in episode 1.1. In his Sunday Times review, AA Gill said of the show’s star:
Keeley Hawes couldn’t arrest an audience if she came on naked with a “This Way Up” sticker on her bottom.

I bet you’d like to see her try though, you old lech! The Guardian’s Sam Wollaston (“awful… very unconvincing… just really irritating”) and The Observer’s Kathryn Flett (“either spectacularly miscast or woefully misdirected… just short of hysteria”) were similarly uncomplimentary and both, perhaps inevitably, compared her unfavourably with John Simm in Life On Mars.

Naturally anyone’s enjoyment of a given actor’s performance is subjective, but I think (a) Hawes has been terrific and (b) people have been exceedingly quick to forget what Simm actually did in Mars. There was enough wailing, whooping, hollering and howling in those scripts to fill a series of Most Haunted. Despite the critical carping over her “hysterical” or “shrieking” performance, Hawes has actually been relatively restrained, at least since episode 1.1. Oh, apart from that moment when she thought the car she was in WAS ABOUT TO EXPLODE! She got a bit fidgety then.

Even in the admittedly below-par episode 1.2, which tried to cram in far too much (sexual politics! The royal wedding! Class warfare! Drake meeting her mother! The development of Docklands! Drake’s liaison with the first ludicrously caricatured Thatcherite she met! He even drove a DeLorean!), we got several bravura moments from Hawes. Chief among these were when Drake refused point-blank to have her arse stamped by her colleagues, supposedly a long-standing tradition for “plonks”, and then her subsequent submission – when she was doing it on her own terms, because she wanted something from Gene Hunt in return.

The excellent episode 1.3 vindicated both Hawes and her casting in the show. Faced with a struggle to get Hunt to understand that a prostitute who reports a rape should not be dismissed out of hand, Drake’s incredulity and outrage were palpable. In dealing with sort-of-bogus complainant Trixie (a fiery guest turn from Claire Rushbrook), Hawes went effortlessly from motherly sympathy to quiet exasperation to resigned despair without a false note. And in one scene she made it clear why Drake needed to be a strapping lass rather than a diminutive type who might be easily cowed by Hunt.


I also liked her fiercely shameless response when Hunt accused her of acquiring a “reputation” after sleeping with another smarmy City trader in red braces. (Perhaps this is a fetish she was unable to indulge among the chest-waxed, floppy-fringed girly-men of 2008.) It’s no surprise that Ashes To Ashes is more upfront about gender politics than Life On Mars was, and Hawes – especially when Drake confronts Hunt’s prejudices about prostitutes in episode 1.3 – is handling this, um, manfully.

4. Will Gene Hunt get something to do soon?

Most of the publicity for Ashes To Ashes has focused on Philip Glenister and, if you watch the show on BBC iPlayer, the blurb on its front page actually says, “Drama series following the exploits of Life On Mars’ DCI Gene Hunt.” Now there’s just a tiny chance that the marketing department has told a wee fib here, having decided that an established character is more of a draw than a new one. But it seems perverse that Hunt has had very little to do yet apart from react to Drake and her crazy feminine ways. There was a funny scene in episode 1.2 in which he weeded out a villain by getting a load of blokes to strip naked in a snooker hall, but other than that Glenister has had to be satisfied with looking alternately smug and frustrated.

The trailer for episode 1.4 suggests it’s going to be a Drake/Hunt two-hander, which augurs well. Because I’m concerned that if the people who tune in to see their favourite politically incorrect old-school copper switch off when they don’t see him enough, Ashes To Ashes won't last even as long as Life On Mars did.

5. Is Keeley Hawes related to former Sunday Telegraph editor Sarah Sands?


I think we should be told.

6. How much better is Ashes To Ashes than BBC1’s other big new drama, The Last Enemy?

Much, much better. Although Ashes lacks the slickness and high production values of The Last Enemy – there’s certainly no sign that it escaped the BBC cost-cutting that reduced Life On Mars’s budget between the first and second series – it’s tightly plotted and coherent, and everyone involved seems fully committed to it. The Last Enemy, a vaguely futuristic conspiracy thriller, is hamstrung from the start by its casting of Benedict Cumberbatch in the central role. He may have the best name in all of Equity but he also has Amazing Permanent Blankface. In fairness, he’s not meant to know what’s going on, but he could at least try to look interested in finding out.


In fact, no-one in this show seems to know or care much about the plot. Faintly familiar people keep dropping in and out to offer up moderately cryptic titbits of non-information – look, there’s Geraldine James! Hello, David Harewood! – and, even after two and a half hours, I’ve only the dimmest inkling who or where or why they are. This indecipherable hotchpotch is further disgraced by a performance of surpassing awfulness from Eva Birthistle as a misguidedly idealistic government minister. Birthistle, whose Ulster accent is even less convincing than her English one in 2006’s similarly frenetic but far superior The State Within, is evidently of the Briskness Indicates Authority school and seems to be going for a sort of distaff Don Logan effect, even when she’s trying to gently cajole Cumberbatch into doing something for her.

Thank goodness for the marvellous Robert Carlyle and Anamaria Marinca, whose emotional, wholehearted performances are keeping the show afloat for now. Their characters met for the first time in episode 2 when Carlyle forced Marinca and Cumberbatch into the back of his van and ordered them to strip because one or both were bugged, and the crackling tension between the two almost physically pushed Cumberbatch off the screen. The episode ended with Carlyle striding off through a graveyard, ignoring Marinca’s passionate entreaties to come back and tell her what was going on (and the rest of us for that matter, thanks Bob!). I fervently hope it isn’t their last meeting.

The quality of these two actors has allowed them to overcome the handicap of an app-ar-ent di-rec-tive to ov-er en-un-ci-ate at all times, presumably so our friends in overseas territories will be able to understand them when the show is exported. Those wacky foreigners and their crazy accents! Another actor who suffered this indignity was Paul Higgins, who made a brief appearance (as a professor of um ah er yes) but did not get the opportunity to forcibly insert an iPod in anyone’s urethra.

Which is a shame.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

The Internet Is Pissed Because I Complained About It Recently

Along with the other million bad side effects of not having regular relaxed access to a computer, I've found there are drawbacks to sending large emails to Blogger from my once wonderful, now evil TyTn phone (yes, my excitement has palled considerably in the last few weeks, as its buggy software and habit of hanging up mid-call has outweighed the benefits of having such a wonderful keyboard). For a start, writing tags manually in Word Mobile means you end up with all sorts of nonsense when Blogger tries to translate this < and this > into normal characters. Secondly, there appears to be a character limit, because even though I made predictions for all categories, only eleven appeared. This would have been the event that made the small readership of this blog realise I was some kind of dumbhead chump-man, but seeing as this was easily my worst year for accurate Oscar predictions, I would have been tarred with that brush no matter what.

In the interests of completion, here are my choices for the last few categories (including the tough categories). I promise, these are the original picks I made in the original post (written from memory, as emails from the TyTn disappear instead of hide out in a Sent Items folder; another annoying feature), and the one or two I got right were really right. I know, there really is no need for me to be posting this two days after the fact, but I'm a completist, and I spent ages doing it only for technology to screw me, and my OCD won't allow me to leave it alone. Feel free to ignore it totally.
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Best Actor in A Supporting Role:

Will win:
Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Should win:
Casey Affleck - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Should have been nominated:
John Carroll Lynch - Zodiac / Sam Rockwell - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Best Actress in A Supporting Role

Will win:
Cate Blanchett - I’m Not There
Should win:
Cate was seriously great in I'm Not There, but as Canyon pointed out after we watched it, almost any actor would have been able to make a meal of those scenes. They were the most interesting moments, and featured some terrific playful dialogue. On the other hand, Saoirse Ronan's performance in Atonement was probably my favourite thing about it, and makes me very excited about The Lovely Bones (in addition to the usual Peter-Jackson-created excitement).
Should have been nominated:
I'd like to think Robin Wright Penn and Marcia Gay Harden wouldhave been given some attention for their excellent performances in Beowulf and The Mist respectively, but which choice would be more improbable? The Oscar winner "slumming" it in a horror movie, or the Oscar nominee in a performance capture suit?

Best Animated Feature Film

Will win:
Ratatouille
Should win:
Ratatouille
Should have been nominated:
Paprika

Best Art Direction:

Will win:
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Should win:
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Should have been nominated:
Zodiac

Best Costume Design

Will win:
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Should win:
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Should have been nominated:
Zodiac

Best Documentary Feature:

Will win:
No End in Sight
Should win:
No End in Sight
Should have been nominated:
The King of Kong

Best Documentary Short:

Will win:
Salim Baba
Should win:
Again, I have no informed idea.
Should have been nominated:
Do DVD extras count?

Best Makeup:

Will win:
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Should win:
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Should have been nominated:
Grindhouse (specifically Planet Terror)

Best Music:

Will win:
Dario Marinelli - Atonement
Should win:
Michael Giacchino - Ratatouille
Should have been nominated:
The rules that have excluded Jonny Greenwood's ominous and oppressive music for There Will Be Blood are a sham of a mockery of a joke, as Gustavo Santoalalla's Oscar-winning Babel soundtrack featured music from previous films (one of which went as far back as The Insider, and perhaps earlier than that), but even without taking that into account, no nomination for David Shire's excellent Zodiac soundtrack is shocking.

Best Short Animated Film:

Will win:
Peter & The Wolf
Should win:
Peter & The Wolf
Should have been nominated:
Lifted, of course.

Best Live Action Short Film

Will win:
Il Supplente
Should win:
Il Supplente
Should have been nominated:
No idea. Some YouTube clips have made me laugh this year. (Short films are very poorly represented on TV, is my excuse.)

Best Sound Mixing:

Will win:
The Bourne Ultimatum
Should win:
Transformers
Should have been nominated:
Again, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was horribly horribly robbed.

Best Visual Effects:

Will win:
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Should win:
Transformers
Should have been nominated:
Sunshine
---------
So yes, it's the day after the day after, and we watched the recorded ceremony last night. Unfortunately Canyon got spoiled like crazy during the day, though I was luckier, hiding from the news and not looking at newspapers during a trip out of the computer-less house to gape in slackjawed astonishment at the brain-and-gut-soaked carnage that is Rambo IV: Infinite Blood (it made Mad Mel Gibson's brilliantly berserk and hyper-violent Apocalypto look like an episode of Dora the Explorer). I was horrified by my mistakes, and pleased for the Coens (though that adapted screenplay award really stuck in my craw), not to mention thrilled to the core by the award to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova (who I wanted to hug until they popped).

However, Transformers was totally totally robbed, and I wonder if there was some trouble or controversy within the FX community. I know that sounds like I'm being mean-spirited and unable to take it when a personal favourite loses like some kind of bratty kid, but it was the one movie of last year that never ceased to amaze me. That incredible finale alone justified the award. Hell, the shot of Megatron slamming Optimus Prime though a building should have won!

Oh, and Tilda Swinton rules the entire world. I've been saying it since Orlando, and her quirky and mischievous Gabriel in Constantine cemented my admiration, and everyone* ignored me! The last laugh is mine!

* Shades of Caruso Dictionary definition of "everyone": An exaggeration referring to a few select sceptics due to lack of perspective by over-excitable blogger.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Is It Too Late To Make Oscar Picks?

::Fixed tags but not the wrongitude of some of our picks. Oh well. At least Atonement didn't win. Suck it, Britain! (Note: this did not keep UK papers from declaring, as they always do, "Brits sweep at Oscars!" Apparently a "sweep" counts as "more than one win.") -- Canyon::

In terms of things I love to do that mean absolutely nothing in the longterm, Oscar speculation comes a close second to writing enormous lists of films I've liked, and this year I feel especially psyched because, for the first time I can remember, I've seen all of the Best Picture and Director nominees, and as many of the other movies nominated that I could. We ended our unprecedented run by catching Michael Clayton yesterday, and had differing opinions about it. I love that kind of corporate thriller, while Canyon thought it was a rote and uninteresting example of an okay-but-potentially-interesting genre, so we agreed on its flaws and shortcomings but I was more responsive and forgiving.

Missing the movies we did was regrettable but inevitable (for example, the Best Actress nominees were in movies I had little interest in), but if Lars and the Real Girl, Into The Wild, and In The Valley of Elah are only going to get a few nominations between them, they had to be sacrificed for the more likely winners. Plus, in the case of the latter, Paul Haggis in full-on worthiness mode is my Kryptonite, and not even the Mighty Tommy Lee Jones is enough to pull me into the cinema. The other two are definitely on my to-see list.

In years past my experience of Oscar sweepstakes has been that watching the movies means little if you're ready to make a lot of educated guesses based on Academy voting patterns and previous winners, but nevertheless it's only right I should try to do this without flying blind. Sadly (or not, because I've had a lot of fun as a result of all this moviegoing), of all the years to do it, I choose this one, the best year for movies that I can remember, a year so good that I honestly have no confident idea of what will win.

I've done well in the past, but a lot of that was lucky guesswork (which can go horribly wrong if, for example, you think Babel is going to win big because it's a worthy and Oscar-baity movie. Ahem). This year I think I'm gonna miss big-time. And yet I'm going to blog about it, just so the world can laugh at me! What the hell am I thinking?

The choices I've made might seem counter-intuitive, but the presence of two muscular, violent movies about men doing uncompromising things to other men for money or vengeance or because of the whims of fate may have caused problems for the voters. Though Country and Blood obviously have differences, they feel of a piece, showing the darkness in the American soul through the actions of driven, ambitious men-folk. With The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford included, they present a historical trilogy, from the mythological period of the Wild West to the Depression, and ending in the post-Vietnam Reagan era, all times of American tumult that come around cyclically, arriving again here in the 21st Century, where artists are eager to look to the past to comment on or explain the present.

I can't help but think that Assassination was snubbed because there is already a battle royale between Country and Blood, and that ruck was already dominating the Best Picture category. Standing tall within that category, representing their respective parent movies like perplexing über-human avatars, Daniel Plainview and Anton Chigurh are in battle for an Oscar that might well elude them both.

Both films approach similar themes, and Academy voters might become conflicted when trying to decide which film is better because of that unintentional twinning. The most fascinating characters in each are inhuman forces as much as they are men, their philosophies destroying those around them due to their inability to even consider the possibility of compromise. The films feature motifs that reflect the building blocks of modern America; oil, drugs, money, guns, religion. Roger Deakins and Robert Elswit shoot the American landscape as a desolate, flat horror, offering either opportunity or doom, encapsulating the conflicting messages at the heart of the capitalist system (you'll either sink or swim, and your success depends on how hard you're willing to chase it), as well as considering the external forces that can interfere with that quest. Also, as Stephanie Zacharek would no doubt attest, women barely feature in these macho worlds.

However, it's the differences that will split the vote enough to decide the winner. Some voters will resent the craziness, melodrama and oppressive eccentricity of Blood, and others will be turned off by the violence and coldness of Country. Though they are the most respected films of the year, I have a strong, horrible feeling that they will not amass enough votes each to fight off Atonement, which was a dark horse at the Golden Globes, and has the "class" and safety that appeals to older voters. We've both suspected this for a while, but I have to admit, the consensus view, that No Country For Old Men will win, is making me doubt that belief.

I may very well be wrong. I hope I'm wrong. In a perfect world the astonishing Blood would win Best Picture, but the Coens should get the directing nod. Country was more a feat of directing than writing. That screenplay is a clever trimming down of the book, but is notable mostly for the bravery shown in slavishly adapting something so bold. It has some of the tightest direction in the Coens' career, and as such was a joy to watch. I just have a bad feeling Crash's egregious, baffling, galactically wrong win was not a one-off.

That said, I suspect Julian Schnabel will win for directing, and that's a good choice too. I know there is some controversy about the choices made by Schnabel and screenwriter Ronald Harwood, but if those choices were ethically dodgy, they were perfect from an artistic viewpoint. If I were smart enough, I would have done the same thing.

Okay, enough stalling or The Idiot Seacrest will be making vacuous small talk with Daniel Day Lewis before I get this up. You will notice that I have repeatedly pointed out how incredibly pissed I am that Zodiac was totally snubbed. Every year there is a nominated movie that I love that wins nothing, and I hold a grudge about it. This year I believe every film I like will win something (other than The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, which might win nothing), but I will still hold a grudge, because Zodiac was a masterpiece, and its shut-out is a disgrace (on this pointless, unimportant level). Anyway, feel free to laugh at my speculation.

Best Picture

Will win:
Atonement
Should win:
There Will Be Blood
Should have been nominated:
Zodiac, Ratatouille, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Best Achievement in Direction

Will win:
Julian Schnabel - The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Should win:
Joel and Ethan Coen - No Country For Old Men
Should have been nominated:
Brad Bird - Ratatouille / David Fincher - Zodiac

Best Original Screenplay

Will win:
Diablo Cody - Juno
Should win:
Brad Bird - Ratatouille
Should have been nominated:
Gerard Souteman - Black Book

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will win:
The Coens - No Country For Old Men
Should win:
P.T. Anderson - There Will Be Blood
Should have been nominated:
James Vanderbilt - Zodiac

Best Actress

Will win:
Julie Christie - Away From Her
Should win:
I dunno. Marion Cotillard? Not Ellen Page, though. Sorry Kitty Pryde, your Oscar time will definitely come.
Should have been nominated:
Carice Van Houten - Black Book

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Will win:
King Deakins - No Country For Old Men
Should win:
The nightmare category. I just can't pick a clear winner. Maybe King Deakins for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Should have been nominated:
Robert Yeoman - The Darjeeling Limited / Harris Savides - Zodiac

Best Actor

Will win:
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood (Stephanie Zacharek may disagree, but his performance is a wonder. We still debate what Daniel Plainview's motivations were. He gave a lot, and hid a lot. It will be discussed and pondered for decades to come.
Should win:
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Should have been nominated:
Chris Cooper - Breach / Will Smith - I Am Legend

Best Film Editing

Will win:
The Bourne Ultimatum
Should win:
The Bourne Ultimatum
Should have been nominated:
Grindhouse

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

Will win:
No Country For Old Men
Should win:
Transformers
Should have been nominated:
The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford. A disgrace that this was snubbed. King Deakins has been rightly praised for the glorious photography, but the sound design was just as memorable.

Best Foreign Language Film

Will win:
The Counterfeiters
Should win:
Regrettably, I have no informed idea
Should have been nominated:
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly / Black Book

Best Original Song

Will win:
"Happy Working Song" - Enchanted
Should win:
"Falling Slowly" - Once
Should have been nominated:
Almost the entire Walk Hard soundtrack, which was horribly snubbed

Friday, 22 February 2008

Truly We Have Experienced A Miracle

Be warned, for a little while this blog will be operating in an image-lite mode due to the catastrophic terminal malfunction of our hard drive, which has broken our hearts. So iPhone is our only link to the Internet, which has made us so grateful to Apple that today has featured way more speculation about buying an iMac than we ever thought we'd do. However, as great as the iPhone is, it's a pain in the ass to use it for editing posts, so apologies if this looks like an unfortunate Scrabble accident.

However, I want to talk briefly about this week's episode of Torchwood, or should I say last week's episode if Lily Allen And Her Dwindling Supply Of Friends didn't put you off watching BBC Three forever. It featured the return of MARTHA JONES, who was a big part of why the third season of Doctor Who was so wonderful. We were worried that appearing on this show would ensuckenise her, just like what happened to Jack. As ever there were some regrettable choices. A sciencey montage scene was straight out of CSI: Miami, with the rapid cuts and annoying music, and there were the usual stupid macho moments and bizarre John Barrowman line readings. All of these things would be causes for celebration, as they would represent the comedy highpoints of the episode, but this week they were a distraction, because...

::drumroll::

...this week was good. Not just good by Torchwood standards, but actually just flat-out good. With someone less frivolous behind the camera than Ashley Way, someone who knows how to frame a shot and restrain the actors when they are tempted to go into melodramatic meltdown, it would have really good, but even taking that into account, we were gripped. The script, by Between The Lines creator J.C. Wilsher, featured the strongest concept and most dramatic plot construction of the series so far. It even had sub-plots! And callbacks! Unprecedented. Okay, so there were some terrible lines (Ianto's comments about Jack's penis powers were silly, and Alan Dale should never say the word "funky"), but this was still a huge improvement over previous weeks. Can we make Wilsher the showrunner now, please?

Even more amazing, they totally fixed Owen in his last half hour of screentime. Okay, so it was only a manipulative conceit so that his death at the end of the episode was more emotional, but if it works as well as it did here, it should be praised. Kudos also to Burn Gorman for bringing some charm to the table. Again, nothing more than a device to generate some emotional power at the end, but it worked, because we saw that he could be a likeable character without betraying his dour persona, and then he goes and gets plugged and dies in Tosh's arms. It wasn't Fred and Wesley, but it did the trick. We were gutted that he died, even though we've always hated him. That glimmer of potential made that transparently mechanical plotting work. I really can't believe I've written that and meant it instead of being a snarky jerk.

Maybe Martha helped. Partially because herarrival meant much less time spent dealing with Gwen's usual bullshit, but mostly because Freema Agyeman is a naturally likeable actress whose liveliness transformed the atmosphere of the show for the better. Jack was happy, Gwen had someone to talk about sex with (yeah, screw you, Tosh, you are the anti-gossip), and poor Owen finally made a friend. It doesn't bode well for when she leaves the show; everything could revert to normal sucky levels. The next episode might be a Meat-level debacle for all we know. I hope not. Not just because it was engaging for once, but because Martha might get back to her parent show unscathed. It's more than I had hoped for. Here's the highest praise I can give it; if we had a working laptop that didn't explode in our faces, we would be watching that next episode on iPlayer right now.

Still don't see the point of Tosh or Ianto and his ubiquitous iantaser, though.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Lost: The Economist

It's Lost day!!! And how cool is this? As if by magic, my complaining on behalf of angry Naveen Andrews paid off (several months ago, when the episode was filmed), with last week's The Economist representing the best Sayid-centric episode yet. Maintaining the outrageously high quality of this season, we saw Sayid as ruthless killer and hapless romantic who is liable to fall in love with his mark to such an extent he will even improbably cover her boobs in a considerate post-coital move prior to getting into a gunfight with her.


So, he's another one of the Oceanic Six, which pretty much ruins my theory that they are the ones who have been visited by visions on the island. As far as I can remember, Sayid has not seen anything weird, so perhaps the chosen ones are selected by a more mundane process than being picked out by a sentient land-mass. I will say this, though; he certainly scrubbed up well.


In another internet venue Diane Court made an interesting point. Post-island, our heroes are becoming the things they least wanted to be. Hurley is institutionalised again, Jack is a drunk loser just like his dad, Sayid is forced to use his considerable skills as a killer to fulfil the wishes of his new boss, Ben Linus. As I've said before, Lost is a sci-fi show about the psyche, and it seems like the Oceanic Six left the island before their therapy was over. Could the island / psychiatrist's-couch-with-trees-on-it have influenced their lives once they left? Is it that sentient, that powerful, that mean-spirited? His first scene, facing off against a terrified Mr. Avellino, was one of the most shocking Lost moments yet. Note the sprinklers; rain often accompanies important moments in Lost, and this artificial rainfall makes up for what would have been a narratively inconsistent appearance of water at this point (why play golf during a rainstorm?).


However it happened, it's an immensely satisfying twist, and this week Sayid got to be James Bond (as pointed out by Doc Arzt and Jeff Jensen), travelling to the Seychelles and Berlin (i.e. Hawaii and Hawaii respectively), wearing tuxes, having very nicely styled hair (seriously, it was distracting), and getting to ice people with extreme prejudice followed by Casino-Royale style remorse. I complained that Sayid was not getting enough to do, but that's been resoundingly dealt with. So far, his is the most intriguing and shocking post-island story yet.


As this week was directed by Jack Bender (with 300 and Watchmen DoP Larry Fong on photography for the first time since the first season), the episode had a markedly different look. Whereas last week featured enigmatic medium shots, glowing vistas and unusual lighting choices, this week was all about the close-up. While going through the episode to select screen-caps, I realised almost every shot was filled with pretty faces, usually in a state of some misery. When we weren't seeing faces, we were getting close-ups of objects or parts of the body, often in a really tight focus. It was a striking visual template.


Considering the theme of this episode seemed to be honesty and deceit, it made sense to focus on faces and eyes, both of which were open and/or closed throughout. The most honest moment of the episode came when Sawyer painfully explained his feelings to Kate, who responded weakly and delayed her answer, while in the background we saw masks in ironic counterpoint to Sawyer's openness. She has yet to lower her guard, even though he has finally shown who he really is (she even calls him James throughout the scene). Or maybe it's because she still doesn't know who to choose.


There was far more deceit than honesty. Most obviously Sayid lied to Elsa, who lied to Sayid, and Hurley lied to Sayid and Kate and Miles. At the landing site, twitchy scientist Faraday kept his theories about the island really close to his chest, making sure to avoid speaking to the mysterious Minkowski. Hell, even Jacob's shack lied to Locke by not being around where he thought it would be, and most amazingly the island deceived time itself with the mind-blowing 31 minute delay thing.


For the first time the episode opened on closed eyes as Sayid prayed, before respectfully closing Naomi's eyes, which was echoed in his flashforward as he closed Elsa's eyes after shooting her. Of course, this was also ironic. If Sayid is really the badass he needs to be to protect the island, he should be more observant, as Elsa totally played him and used his weaknesses (any woman who pays him even the slightest bit of attention) against him.

That said, the close-up style didn't run through the entire episode. At the end Sayid and Desmond took a ride with Frank Lapidus, with Michael Giacchino's stunning music in full effect, and we got to see vistas of the island from the air. It's not the first time we've seen it from a higher viewpoint; the shots at the start of season three come to mind.


However, this is the first time any of the characters have, and having the majority of The Economist shot from eye-level in such close up made those first airborne wide shots all the more impressive. And moving. Even though we were heading towards the big shock reveal at the end, with Sayid broken and Ben back to full evil power, it was still a glorious moment (and yes, I did choke up).


It's not the only moment that made me get all teary. The aforementioned Sawyer/Kate scene made my bottom lip quiver all over the place. For the first time I saw the power of the flashforwards, as Sawyer's plea is shown to be futile. Kate will leave the island, and there is the distinct possibility that he will not make it off. Internet rumours of an imminent death have got me a-scared. His character is rendered somewhat defunct now that he has killed Original Flavour Sawyer, not to mention him being usurped as King Bitch of the island with the introduction of Miles who, as Hurley memorably pointed out, is another Sawyer. To make things worse, Josh Holloway's performance in that scene was heart-rending. Sawyer looks like he's reaching the end of his tether. ::sniff::


The irony is that if he does get written out, the role that many thought was his, i.e. Gambit in the Wolverine movie, has gone to FNL's Taylor Kitsch, which is not as perfect as getting Holloway to do it, but is still pretty great. If you like Gambit, that is. I think he's a Cajun douche with freaky eyes, but the casting is still spot on.

Back at the landing site, poor Jack had to contend with the news that his decision to send Kate to the Barracks had led to her staying behind with Sawyer. To be honest, I was unsure if she had stayed because of Sawyer or Sayid just couldn't be bothered to let Jack know she was being held captive. I'll have to double-check that one. Whatever the outcome, his reaction was one of intense sadness and disappointment.


It's taken me a long time to emotionally connect with the love triangle / quadrangle, but by the end of last season, with Sawyer depressed and Jack practically having a nervous breakdown, it all suddenly made sense. I was rooting for Sawyer to keep the relationship going with her, but torn over Jack, who was obviously hurt by the whole thing (the men on this show sure are sappy romantic fools). At the same time I was worried about Kate and how her jealousy towards Juliet would manifest. What had once seemed so dreary suddenly vibrated with emotional power.

Canyon feels differently, partially because she is totally siding with Sawyer (not helped by her antipathy towards Jack), and yet also disgusted by Kate's grimy clothes. She reckons there is some serious stink coming off her, as expressed in cries of, "Have a shower! You sicken me!" whenever she appears onscreen. Canyon is not squeamish about hygiene, I hasten to add, but she's right. There is a terrible sheen of ick on Kate right now.


All the scenes set in the Barracks were great. Sayid finding Ben's hidden cache was a terrific moment, proving once and for all that our dangerous hero is the islander with the most common sense. Many people have noticed that the £20 notes were out of date by a few years (having been phased out in 2001), but it's apt as the face on it is that of electromagnetism guru Michael Faraday.


I thought there was something significant about those notes but couldn't put my finger on it. However, I forgot all that when the next shot showed Sayid rifling through Ben's passports, which made me think that if he is meant to be on a James Bond kick, Ben is more like Jason Bourne, with his awesome stash of travel documents and world currency.


Considering the amount of punches he has taken this season, I don't think he's going to be killing anyone with books and towels any time soon. Canyon was getting anxious about how bloodied his face was. EW recounts his beatings, but misses out the time Jack nicked his kidney during surgery and almost let him bleed out. Thank the island for being all supernaturally healy and stuff. Without that he would not have made it this far. Thankfully he looks fine in the future, if rather Dr.-Christian-Szell-like.


Ben had a couple of my favourite moments this episode. When Sawyer discusses shooting Ben's toes off Locke elegantly smacks him down, but the best thing about the scene is that even with his face bloodied and bruised, Michael Emerson can still project Ben's amusement over Saywer's humiliation.


Later on Ben is held in the rec room / barracks brig, and I loved his "I'm thirsty!" line. It was perfectly delivered, as if he is the kid who no one likes but keeps hanging around trying to attract attention with pointed comments loaded with obnoxious confidence.


It begs the question why would he have Sayid try to protect the castaways left behind, which I strongly believe is what is going to happen (I doubt he's protecting the Oceanic Six). The castaways have treated him about as badly as a human can be treated and not be dead. I doubt I would want to save them. I guess Ben needs Sayid's help to protect the island by killing the people on his list, and is merely using Sayid's empathy as a lever to make him do his bidding against his will. He may have been killing people with his ankles last season, but the sudden bout of praying and his treatment of Naomi's corpse suggest he is trying to atone. Unfortunately he has been pushed into a corner upon leaving the island, and that has put the kibosh on that plan. Oh Ben, what a glorious bastard genius you are.

Enough about that. Other things about this episode that occurred to me: Frank, Jack and Daniel seemed awfully relaxed considering an enormous missile was heading towards them at an absurd speed. I would have hidden behind the volcano at the very least.


Much as I thought this was an incredible installment of the best show on TV, there was one thing that happened that really got me down. That old chestnut, the bullet to the shoulder. I've railed against it happening in other shows, and though I'm tempted to not mention it just because I love Lost so much, it's unfair to Torchwood and Terminator: TSCC and a million other shows to act like nothing happened. I can see why Elsa would wound Sayid, so that she could contact the Economist and be sure of her mission before plugging him, and it's not like he was running around at the end as if nothing had happened, but still, it irked. TV characters who get into gunfights should wear metal shoulderpads or something, because apparently clavicles attract lead.


Almost as bad as that, in the restaurant scene, why did Sayid ask for an "expresso"? Another of my personal bugbears!


Is the barrier that has failed to keep Jacob's shack in check made out of Bisto gravy granules?


I love that the iconic swing set got mentioned by Miles as they arrived at the Barracks. It's been the site of many significant Lost moments. That said, why didn't his ghost-whispering go into overdrive? Enough people died there during the Purge. Surely there would have been some ghosts, or were the Dharma chaps not interested in hanging around to avenge their brutal murders?


Doc Arzt saw a preview tape of this episode, and apparently there was a deleted scene showing the trio arriving at the sonic barrier. A pretty significant scene, especially as Miles could somehow tell that the fence was off. It seems from that transcript as if he could hear it, which seems apt as Faraday was able to see a difference in the light of the island, and the new arrivals might represent different senses (which means CS Lewis, Frank and Naomi would have to represent taste, touch and smell, and I don't want to know how those would manifest, thank you very much).

That said, it could also be Miles using his psychic power to get guidance from a victim of the fence, perhaps even Mikhail, although he didn't die (or his other world parallel self did, or something). Or maybe the fence kills by firing ghosts at people's heads! You could sit and ponder this for days, which is why I'm so surprised that this scene was cut out. Surely there was something else that could have been left out. Maybe about fifteen of the shots of Sayid's lovely glossy post-island hair.


Locke is looking old lately. This is not really significant. I just thought he has looked odd this season. His neck freaked me out. It's like he aged four years between seasons.


Oh, hello Desmond and Juliet! I almost forgot you existed. Luckily we have flashback episodes for them soon, which is a relief as I had thought they were about to go the way of Mr. Eko and Ana-Lucia. Though that could still happen. ::sulks::


I love that Jack and Frank are bonding. Jeff Fahey is playing Lapidus as a genial laid-back character straight out of a Stephen King novel, and I love it. I think he might be my favourite new character, though my opinion changes from scene to scene (no Lance "Intensity" Reddick to freak me out this week, sadly).


Is it R.G. or R.C. on the bracelet? No one seems to be sure. Perhaps the recent podcast cleared it up. I'll listen to that at some point. (What kind of a Lost fan am I?) It blew one of my pet theories out of the water. Elsa was so obsessed with her beeper that I thought her evil boss was actually Dennis "Beeper King" Duffy from 30 Rock.


One of the things that was brought up during the after-episode speculation was that The Economist is also the name of a UK magazine about money that is written by anonymous hacks working as a collective, which was kind of apt. However, I take the magazine for granted to such an extent that I couldn't imagine it having any significance in the context of the show, but a Google images search uncovered this.


Eggtown in a few hours! Rumour has it it has a "killer" finale. Not Sawyer! Anyone but Sawyer! Waaaauuugh!