Wednesday, August 22, 2012

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, episode 6, House of the Rising Sun

House of the Rising Sun
Events: At the beach, there is an incident between Jin and Michael; Jin attacks, unprovoked, first punching his face repeatedly and then nearly drowning him as Walt looks on, horrified. Sayid and Sawyer break up the fight and handcuff Jin to a piece of plane wreckage, but as Jin and Sun don't speak English, no one can determine what happened between the two men or why. Jin seems defiant and even unstable after being restrained, but through Sun's flashbacks we see that he was once a gentle, tender man, and a very devoted partner.
Meanwhile, Jack, Kate, Locke, and Charlie head for the caves to get water; Charlie upsets a beehive while trying to get himself a fix of heroin. After runnning from the bees, Jack and Kate stumble upon two skeletons inside the caves, one with two rocks in his pocket, one is light, one is dark. Jack takes the rocks and hides them from Locke, who christens the remains, "our very own Adam and Eve."

Later, when Charlie tries again to sneak away for a fix, Locke stops him and takes the stash but helps him find his lost guitar. When Jack starts to relocate people from the beach to the caves, Sayid, Sawyer, and Kate stay behind.
After exhaustive efforts to find out why Jin attacked Michael, Sun approaches Michael near the jungle and speaks to him in perfect English. Through further flashbacks it is revealed that Jin worked for Sun's father, the work he did was all-consuming and violent, and that she had planned to leave him the day they boarded the flight in Sydney, but ultimately didn't. Sun explains to Michael that Jin attacked him because he was wearing a watch that had belonged to her father, which Michael had innocently picked up on the beach. When Michael scoffs, she says, pleadingly, "You don't know my father."
Greater Meaning: Toward the end of the episode, when Kate inexplicably refuses to move from the beach to the caves, Jack is confused and frustrated. He asks, "How did you get this way?" And while certainly not without his own complexities, Jack (and his question) makes an important point at this stage of the show, and not just regarding Kate. Many of the survivors have issues, problems, and this episode does a great job of uncovering them without seeming overwhelming. It would be easy to just completely write Jin off as a violent, reactionary man if we didn't see that he had once been quite the opposite. Michael might seem like an uninvolved, impatient father and Walt a defiant, annoying child had we not been shown little bits of their histories. And Sun could indeed have been marginalized as a stereotype, a wet rag of a wife, but the writers make sure to show us that she really wasn't. As the episode opens, Sun looks from group to group, understanding every word being spoken but unable to react or participate because of her secret. Whatever happened in her marriage during her husband's employ with her father was significant enough for her to learn English, privately, and to want to leave Jin; what happened between them? How did any of them "get this way?"
Did Old Man Shephard send the beehive, too?
On a different note, those skeletons in the caves? Clear evidence that not only were there other people there before the crash survivors (in the place where Jack's father's clinking ice led Jack to find water) but that there is some connection, even if it's merely aesthetic, to Locke's backgammon explanation from the pilot episode or by association, any game where two opponents face each other. Already there seems to be a division forming on the island and a fair amount of hostility between camps and decisions: Sayid, Kate, and Sawyer on the beach, Jack, The Kwons, and Hurley in the caves. Is this how civilizations form? The beach group still hopes to be rescued while the cave group is "digging in," or as Sayid said, "admitting defeat." Live together, die alone? Not quite there yet.

Further Questions
1. Who were "Adam and Eve?"
2. What were the black and white rocks about?
3. What does Sun's father do?
4. How did Jin get blood all over him?
5. How does Locke know so much about nature?
6. What are Kate's trust issues?
7. Will Locke choose the beach or the caves?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Stallone and company better than ever in The Expendables 2

Good men get better with age. Good action stars even more so.

Sylvester Stallone together with director Simon West has achieved the near impossible with the sequel to his blockbuster action film, The Expendables--not only is it a successful second installment, but a film so remarkable in its own right that there's just no beating it. This is all the bad ass you've ever dreamed of, and more, too.
The film works wonderfully in that it's good writing, great visual storytelling, and above all, fun. This is an incredibly violent story, but done in an unapologetic way that revels in its excess; bad guys aren't just shot, they're shot, stabbed, and occasionally run over, all at once. In one of the early scenes where Jet Li suddenly finds himself unarmed inside a kitchen full of attackers, the fight simply shifts from guns and knives to pots and pans, each metallic bludgeon sounding more like a carefully composed percussion solo than a man fighting for his life. Gamers, are you watching? They're doing all this for real.
Also good for laughs is the continual self-reflexive stand the film takes in not only assembling basically every action star from the eighties onto one screen ("Who's next, Rambo?" one asks another in the midst of an all-out battle) but in that these guys know each other, they know the tag-lines, and they've all seen each others' films (clearly crafted by a screenwriter who knows his film history). The fight choreography is nothing short of amazing, especially in Jason Statham's scenes, and attention to little details like props ("Knock, Knock," on a tank's cannon among other choice stenciled phrases) and classic music ("Crystal Blue Persuasion,")--extremely well done. This stuff made for a literally smashing experience.
Ironic, isn't it? Best-selling books are getting less cerebral while action films get smarter? Keep 'em coming, Sly, keep 'em coming.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, episode 5, White Rabbit

(clink, clink)

White Rabbit

Events: Through young Jack's flashback, we learn that he got beat up after coming to another boy's defense at school, and despite being warned that it would happen, Jack stubbornly did it anyway. As his father relaxes in his den and clinks the ice in his lowball, he shares a story about a child's surgery with Jack and then imparts the following advice on his son: Don't try to save everyone, because when you fail, you just don't have what it takes. Jack's father, in contrast, has what it takes; he washed his hands after the child died on his operating table, came home, watched Carol Burnette, and had a drink, all easily, and with a clear conscience.

On the island, Jack rushes out into the ocean where both Boone and another woman are struggling. He can only save one person at a time; he chooses to save Boone, and the woman dies. As tensions mount over the woman's death, Claire's weakness, and the exhausted water supply, Jack once again catches a glimpse of the man he saw before, (which turns out to be his father) but Kate assures him he's hallucinating from sleep deprivation. After chasing the man into the jungle, Jack stumbles over a cliff and dangles for a moment before being rescued by John Locke, who apparently knew just where to find him. The two have a conversation about what Jack is chasing, which Locke calls "the white rabbit," and before departing, Locke urges Jack to find what he's looking for so he can effectively lead the people. Echoing his father's words from the flashback, Jack says, "I don't know how to help them. I'll fail. I don't have what it takes."

"Crazy people don't think they're crazy."
Through more flashbacks we see that Jack was sent to Sydney by his mother to bring back his father, and that there had been some sort of falling out between the two men, as Jack hadn't spoken to him in two months. As it turns out, the elder Doctor Shephard, in a drugged or drunken condition, suffered a heart attack in Sydney; Jack cries as he identifies the body and then again as he sits alone by a campfire, remembering it. The image of his father doesn't return but through the sounds of ice clinking in a glass, something leads Jack to a water source, where he finds the coffin that should have held his father's body, empty.
Greater Meaning: Isn't it strange, seeing someone with intelligence, status, and leadership abilities, struggling with a confidence problem? The bigger issue here is that Jack is flawed, just like the rest of us! And through having everyone second-guess his choices on the island ("who appointed you our savior?") Jack relives his own father's lack of confidence and suffers for it again and again. The episode is important, not only for what it explains about Jack's history but in that it shows us just how unfair we can be to our leaders, who are human beings, too. Jack's departure from the beach shows that the survivors are lost without him; or as Locke explains in the jungle, "they need someone to tell them what to do." Jack answers back, "I'm not a leader." But he is! Locke, a bit older and clearly more comfortable on the island, suggests that everything that has happened to them has happened for a reason. What is Jack's reason, is he being tested? And how does his father's undervaluing his sensitivities factor into everything else that's happening?
There are overwhelmingly huge references to religion in this episode, and instead of piecing them together in effort to overexplain (or perhaps ruin) future happenings in the narrative, we'll just leave it at that. Should you be interested in the similarities, you can check out Wikipedia and get your geek on over there.

Further Questions:
1. What did Jack do? ("you don't get to say 'I can't,' not after what you did.")
2. Is the man in the suit really Jack's father?
3. What were all those creepy dolls by the water?
4. Why is the coffin empty?
5. Why doesn't "the monster" find Jack in the valley?
6. Does Claire ever find a hairbrush?
And is there more to Sun than meets the eye? Join me next week for House of the Rising Sun.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, episode 4, Walkabout

Events: Opening with a repeat look at the crash, this time from John Locke's perspective, the episode is exciting and busy with a lot of reveals. As the survivors first struggle with what they fear is another encounter with the "jungle monster" in the plane's fuselage (it turns out to be wild boars) they realize that beyond supernatural concerns, they have two very concrete, immediate problems: there are dead bodies everywhere and food has run out. Jack suggests they burn the bodies inside the fuselage to create a rescue signal; John Locke, armed with practical knowledge and about twenty specialty knives, volunteers to hunt the boar for food. Through Locke's flashbacks we learn that he led a uneventful perhaps unsatisfying life, and that he had been planning a trip to Australia for a walkabout, or physical journey of "spiritual renewal." During a hunting expedition with Kate and Michael, a group of boar attack and leave Michael wounded and Locke disoriented on the ground; when Kate protests Locke's wish to continue on alone, he repeats what he earlier told his  boss, "Don't tell me what I can't do."
Greater Meaning: Through this episode we learn a great deal about John Locke---he was belittled by his boss, he was rejected by a woman named Helen, he was a paraplegic---but above all of this, he seemed adamant about making the Walkabout, despite his physical disability, saying several times, it was "his destiny." The episode opens with Locke's eye, just as the pilot episode opened with Jack's; as Kate's episode (Tabula Rasa) in between the two did not open with the same close up shot, we must assume that Jack and John are of greater importance or equality.
Don't tell me what I can't do!
In terms of anatomy, one cannot ignore the symbolism of Locke's connection (through his legs and feet) to the physical world, or in this case, the island, specifically. As Locke wiggled his right toe in the opening shots of the episode, his legs began to function after four years in a wheelchair; this causes not only a physical but also a spiritual renewal (later he tells Walt that a miracle happened to him). Thus, John Locke is a new man on the island. Reborn. It's interesting that despite the physical change, Locke already seems mysteriously at home; he plays backgammon, fashions a dog-whistle, and sits happily in the rain, all within the first few days of the crash. As a would-be leader, his knowledge and abilities are practical, primal. He has aim, skill, strength, and confidence, which is a bit at odds with the man we saw in the flashback; such a significant difference has a way of making the idea of destiny seem extremely relevant.
Jack, who is every bit as important, by contrast, is more at home in the scientific, cerebral world. Where Sayid earlier voiced hesitation in burning the victim's bodies for spiritual reasons, Jack focuses only on the immediate, logical needs of the survivors; "We don't have time to sort out everybody's God." When Claire suggests Jack lead the memorial service he replies bluntly, "It's not my thing." Jack comforts Rose on the beach but can't share her faith that her husband might still be alive. Man of Faith, Man of Science. Both useful, but which will lead?
Further Questions:
1. Who was Helen?
2. Why was Locke in a wheelchair?
3. Why did "the monster" let Locke live?
4. Why is Locke able to walk on the island?
5. Where exactly are they?
6. Why is Jack so anti-faith?
7. Who is the man in the dark suit?
8. How does Rose know Bernard is alive?
9. Why did Locke lie to Michael about seeing "the monster?"

Join me next week for a closer look into the enigma that is Jack Shephard in White Rabbit.