Wednesday, June 10, 2020

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, Season 2, Episode 7, The Other 48 Days

As we don't yet know a lot about the tail section other than Ana Lucia having met Jack in the airport bar before the flight, there's not a ton of discussion about this episode. The characters and events are interesting but we do not get any flashbacks.

On-Island Events: A retrospective look at what happened when the tail section crashed onto the beach. Ana Lucia, Eko, Libby, and Cindy scramble to help survivors onto the beach as the wreckage from Oceanic flight 815 sinks into the ocean. Soon after the crash, a man runs out of the jungle in seek of help for a man stuck in a tree, which turns out to be Bernard. Ana Lucia talks Bernard down from the tree and later learns that the man who sought her help is named Goodwin. When the group goes to sleep on the beach the first night, they are awakened by disturbing sounds---Eko has beaten a group of attackers to death with a rock. While the rest of the group tries to determine who the attackers were, Eko has stopped speaking and begins carving things into a long stick.

Days later, others return and snatch the children; Ana Lucia kills one and finds a list with nine names on it. A survivor, Nathan, is gone for more than two hours on his own, Ana Lucia and Libby are suspicious. Eventually Ana Lucia digs a pit which she throws Nathan into, believing he is a spy for the others, feeding them information on the survivors. Some of the survivors sneak Nathan food, and later, Goodwin lets him out, letting him believe he is releasing him, but snaps his neck, killing him. Eventually the group finds the Dharma hatch and inside it, a trunk full of blankets, a glass eye, a bible, and a radio. When Goodwin offers to go to higher ground alone to get a better signal for the radio, Ana Lucia insists on accompanying him. On the way, Ana Lucia asks Goodwin why he thinks the others are attack them and he provides a somewhat alternative perspective on what the others are doing but soon begins to act peculiar under Ana Lucia's questioning.

When Ana Lucia eventually confronts Goodwin about being an "other," he admits Nathan was not one of them and that the children were better off. In a struggle, Ana Lucia stabs Goodwin with a wooden stick, killing him. Later back at the hatch, Bernard fumbles with the radio and hears Boone's transmission. Even after Boone's voice states, "We're the survivors of Oceanic flight 815," Ana Lucia insists it's the others on the radio, trying to draw them out. Near a river, Ana Lucia breaks down crying and Eko comforts her, forty days after he first stopped speaking. A few days later as Cindy and Libby are fishing on the beach, Jin washes up on shore and a replay of events already seen commences, culminating in Ana Lucia shooting Shannon in the jungle.

Further Questions:

1. Why did the others send Goodwin to this camp and not to the other?
2. Would Ethan have eventually taken others besides Claire?
3. What was the purpose of the Dharma station they found?

Television in Quarantine

Sorry this got so long. Since I really don't know when I'll be able to go back to work again, my personal quarantine may indeed be extended into the summer, so I'll keep posting my "in quarantine" series. So many shows . . . so many rants. Funny I haven't started anything new but just rewatched old favorites or got myself caught up on seasons I was behind on, and my kids did this, too. I think we're clinging to times and experiences that reminded us of being safe, or just reminded us of happier times altogether. I still maintain that for the best possible escapism, LOST (which I'm still reviewing one episode at a time) fits the bill better than anything. It's the one show I recommend to everyone who asks.

These are the shows I completed from start to finish:

1. The Handmaid's Tale

In Gilead, women called "handmaids" are forced to submit to ritual rape and humiliation in order to conceive and carry babies for wealthy couples unable to procreate.

I'd read Atwood's novel years ago and then just this year, The Testaments, but seeing it all in action really disgusted me in a way the novels couldn't. This was one of the first series I watched after the shelter-at-home order, and given everything happening in the world under the current administration, it's safe to say I was extra anger-prone sitting through all this ridiculous male bullshit in the name of religion. Most nights I would just fill up my wine glass and scowl, especially those early episodes where there seemed to be little hope and the events were more or less controlled by the commanders of Gilead. I hated those men, I hated seeing their stupid little system, and obviously, I was enraged by all the rape and baby-stealing.

About midway through the first season there comes a shift when the handmaids begin to organize their revolt and begin resisting, and these are the moments that make the show amazing and scary as it may seem to us now, relevant. All three seasons were deeply disturbing, yet not without their moments of hope and tenderness (June's friendships with Moira and eventually Janine, as well as her relationship with Nick, to name a few), but as upsetting as it all was, I did feel like the show validated my anger and served as a somewhat cathartic experience toward everything I've come to detest about men in power who hurt and demean women.

2. Sons of Anarchy

In a twisted, modern-day homage to Hamlet, Sons of Anarchy, a northern California motorcycle club and its vice president, Jax Teller, weather the ups and downs of organized crime in the close-knit community of Charming.

The first season is a little clunky, the last two off-the-rails violent, but for my money, there are no two better characters in television than our two prime movers, the Claudius and Gertrude of Charming, Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) and Gemma Teller (Katey Sagal). I'll give an honorable mention to Nero Padilla (Jimmy Smits), as well as the amazing supporting cast throughout the seasons and a ton of excellent guest stars. If I'm honest I need to say that Charlie Hunnam as Jax Teller, the hero, the Hamlet, definitely looks the part, but his accent, the cringe-y swagger he does, and those ridiculous white shoes he wears, were . . . poor choices, but whatever, it's Hunnam! He didn't need to do much with a cast like this, we were always gonna pay more attention to Perlman and Sagal (who stole every scene), anyway.

I did some thinking about the subject matter of the show, which is heavy into selling guns and prostitution, and shows many instances of violence against women, and admittedly, it's disturbing. A different type of disturbing than what happens in The Handmaid's Tale to be sure, but significantly disturbing, nonetheless. There's a fair amount in diversity in these episodes, but also a fair amount of racism, mostly in the form of epitaphs and stereotyping. Throughout every season, there are rapes, beatings, murders, and infidelities. In this way, SOA is not unlike a mafia film or series; it's about a group of male criminals who, at their best are hyper-masculine, at their worst, toxic and violent, and who live and work within a system where there are differing morals and constantly changing rules among crews and the law. Kind of like politics, when you think about it. If no one plays by the same rules, there effectively are no rules. If everyone is making underhanded dealings behind allies' backs, you effectively encourage your ally to do the same to you. Jax has good intentions but they're not enough, and like all good mafia pictures, we meet him on an upswing but then spend seven years watching it all crash and burn and this is sad, because like Hamlet, Jax Teller is a great character.

There is a moment early on in the first season I'll never forget: the crew is gathered around the table at Gemma and Clay's place, passing food around and bullshitting. The camera lingers on Gemma watching her family and we see her happy, in her element. Would that such experiences lasted . . .

3. Mrs. America

Phyllis Schlafly, conservative mother of six and opponent of the ERA movement, battles celebrated feminists like Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, and Shirley Chisholm as the women's movement gains traction in the seventies.

I grew up in the eighties in a tiny farm community in rural Minnesota, and the first thing I ever heard about any of this was when I took a women's studies class IN COLLEGE, in the year 2001. In elementary and high school, our extremely conservative social studies curriculum focused around civics/law, the big wars, and the evils of communism (without breaching the actual wars that were fought over it); if it didn't cast the white American male in a heroic spotlight, we did not learn about it.

I thought I'd immediately hate Schlafly, I wrote about her with more than a little venom in one of my American Studies classes at the U of M, but considering Cate Blanchett's portrayal and the fact that Schlafly is basically mansplained to by everyone for the first two straight episodes, I first felt sorry for her, and then came to somewhat agree with Bella Abzug's assessment, "Phyllis Schlafly is a f*cking feminist." She's not a good feminist, but she wanted all the same freedoms the real feminists were fighting for. I loved how Bella set a little trap for Schlafly's underlings to walk into, admitting basically the same, and how the idea that they might have more in common with each other than not (shown by Alice's experience with the Christian woman at the bar). In order to be engaging, I feel like many stylistic and dramatic liberties were probably taken by the show, especially with Schlafly (her posthumous publication, The Conservative Case for Trump suggests to me that in the end maybe she wasn't all that intelligent but just good at mobilizing and shouting), but whatever. The show was brilliant, more relevant than ever  (hello, MANAFORT AND ROGER STONE!) and material that young people should encounter before college level electives. Watch it.


After 10 years of writing about it do I really need to make up a synopsis? Fine, here it is:

After surviving a plane crash, a group of people discover connections among themselves and the unique properties of the island they've crashed onto, which was Absolutely. Not. Purgatory.

While it's true that I am watching each episode, taking notes in detail, and writing each one up separately (see LOST), I watched the entire series with my son, ending with the finale on the 10 year anniversary on May 23. The first and final seasons are pretty familiar to me, but many of the middle episodes I'd only seen once or twice, so it was nice experiencing these all over again. I've told the story about how I came to the series many times, but it's such a great one I'm telling it again: In 2006, I was working at a Starbucks on 50th and France in Edina, and many of my coworkers were film and television people. I was in the height of a serious 24 obsession (getting these either through Blockbuster online or eventually Netflix), and was watching The Sopranos and Six Feet Under weekly on HBO. Several of my coworkers assumed I was watching LOST, and when I said I hadn't heard of it, pressured me to start. My sister and brother and law said the same thing, but I always answered that I had too many shows going to start another. Only when my brother told me what he thought ("It's like The Twilight Zone on an island. You need to watch this.") did I actually become interested, but I didn't actually start watching for at least another year, possibly two as I was busy having many babies during this time.

When I did eventually begin watching, I was mesmerized from the very beginning; it was like The Twilight Zone on an island, a series of different episodes and experiences that were strangely ALL CONNECTED. The unidentifiable "monster" (which turns out to be THE DEVIL). Ben Linus as a sort of stand-in "Howling Man" (not the devil, but a dangerous man). Keeping Jack in the cage on Hydra Island and the turnaround scene where he later catches Friendly's football having presumably joined the others. The entire "Expose" episode. The explanation of keeping the smoke monster on the island as illustrated by the corked bottle of wine (straight from "The Howling Man"). It was very much its own story, different than anything we'd ever seen before but still a TZ fan's dream come true. One line that's stayed with me since the finale is when Jack says to Desmond, "trust me, all of this matters." This is something I've come to learn from life, more so in the last few years than any other time, there is a play between good and evil, it never stops, but we really are all connected and everything we do matters. Everything.

Now. I've never really been comfortable enough in the past to just lay out my take on LOST, but after ten years, I'm willing to be blunt about a few things. The island on LOST was meant to be creation. Life began on the island and then through its electromagnetic properties, once it was discovered and manipulated, continued through the donkey wheel exit point into Tunisia, flourishing all over the Middle East. Each protector of the island (Island Mother, Jacob, Jack, Hugo, Walt) is a Jesus/savior figure, human and flawed, the unnamed man in black was a human who became the devil at the hands of Jacob, and the light and energy of the physical island is God/The Universe through which all things are possible. Island Mother and Jacob clearly served the longest tenures as island protectors, but in his wisdom and maybe due to his desire to pass on the position in a timely factor with a gift for planning and unique foresight, Jacob assigned meaning to the numbers 4 8 15 16 23 42 even before the candidates were born, but then, when it was clear that they would eventually factor into his own replacement, linked each number to a candidate. The numbers, the candidates, and the people they connected became united by the island's energy (via Jacob's interest in them) which influenced everything from the relationships they made, the jobs they took, and the internal struggles they faced even before coming together on Oceanic Flight 815 and crashing onto the island.
This, as said by "A Scientist
Explains LOST" about a decade

David Shephard was not a dummy character or flash sideways stand-in for Jack's guilt over abandoning Aaron or having daddy issues but a real, live person, and the son of Jack and Kate (not Jack and Juliet). Being in the flash sideways, David has also died but was not instrumental to the entire island group's moving on, only Jack's, as if the God or the Universe perhaps wanted to give him a chance to meet his son, which is a very Hugo Reyes, empathetic thing to consider. It's the only thing that makes any sort of sense.

After Juliet Burke detonates a nuclear device in the pit of the then-in-process Swan station, the split narrative known as the "flash sideways" was presented in a way that, to viewers, suggested Farraday's idea of sending everyone back in time before Oceanic 815 crashed, worked. In reality, the flash sideways was its own, legitimate series of events experienced by every character after they died in whatever various methods befell them in a common place (I'm okay with using "pre-afterlife" for this) that, according to Christian Shephard during his explanation in front of the stained glass window in the final moments of the finale, they, the survivors had created for themselves. Also not purgatory. Michael and Walt are notably absent from this gathering, Michael having been relegated to the island whisperers to work off his punishment for murdering Ana Lucia and Libby and Walt being busy with island leadership duties after Hugo's unseen death, in whatever form it took. The rest of the survivors moved on together, presumably to the afterlife, proper. The end.

Questions? Let's have a drink and talk. I'm here all night.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, Season 2, Episode 5, Abandoned

The Tail Section: Michael returns to the group as they continue their journey back to the beach camp; Sawyer bullet injury continues to worsen. Eko is sympathetic toward Sawyer but Ana Lucia is not. When Michael challenges Ana Lucia about her attitude, she explains that the others took several members of their group and that the people are smart but "animals." Eventually Sawyer collapses with fever from his infected wound and the group make a stretcher to carry him forward. As they are working together to lift the stretcher to higher ground, Ana Lucia discovers that Cindy is missing. Soon Michael hears whispering and Ana Lucia commands everyone to run.

On-Island Events: At night inside her tent, Shannon sees Walt, soaking wet and whispering, but no one believes her. After digging through Michael and Walt's remaining clothing, Shannon sends Vincent off in search of Walt's scent, convinced she hadn't been dreaming. When Aaron won't stop crying, Locke helps Claire by swaddling the baby and Claire inadvertently lets slip the fact that Charlie has one of the virgin Mary statues leading to awkwardness between Locke and Charlie. Later Shannon admits to Sayid that the reason she needs him to believe her is that she's convinced he will eventually leave her; he assures her he won't leave and tells her he loves her. Just afterward, during a downpour in the jungle, Sayid and Shannon both see Walt. When Shannon runs after Walt, a gunshot rings out and she collapses in Sayid's arms, having been accidentally shot by Ana Lucia, who with the rest of the group, has finally arrived at their camp.

Flashbacks: Shannon's experiences with her stepmother after her father's death were rife with tension and frustration but Boone is supportive. Shannon looks forward to a ballet internship but her stepmother refuses to give her any of her late father's money or estate. Boone attempts to get the money from his mother himself, but is also denied. He offers to give Shannon money once his trust fund kicks in but she decides she'd rather find a way to support herself rather than remaining dependent on him or his mother any longer.

Greater Meaning: Clearly Shannon has shown that she has the skills to manipulate others to her will, and if Locke's advice ("everyone gets a new life here,") is true, Shannon's relationship with Sayid could indeed be a positive thing built on honesty instead of manipulation. Sayid's unwillingness to believe that Shannon has seen Walt does seem a little paternalistic and man-splainy, Sayid after all must know by now that stranger things have happened on the island, but seeing Shannon show her vulnerable side with legitimate emotion instead of spite is kind of nice. Why Walt chose to reveal himself to Shannon is a mystery, maybe her caretaking of Vincent and Walt's acknowledgement of her pain over Boone before leaving on the raft bonded them, but it could also have been a sort of premonition of her eventual downfall (which Ana Lucia may or may not have instigated had Shannon and Sayid not been chasing Walt through the jungle). It's not yet proven if this was actually Walt or just a vision of Walt (ala Christian Shephard in White Rabbit). If only a vision, how is Walt able to appear to people like that? Walt's episode in season 1 was entitled "Special," is this just evidence of his specialness? And if it's only a vision, does this mean that Walt has died?

Further Questions:

1. What are the whispers in the jungle?
2. Is Walt just hanging out in the jungle by himself?
3. Will Charlie begin using heroin again?
4. Will Sawyer be okay?
5. What will Sayid do to Ana Lucia?
6. Is Shannon dead?

Reading in Quarantine: The Second 7

This stack went considerably faster than the first one. They were shorter in length but also very engaging---I tore through these because I thoroughly enjoyed each one and always looked forward to picking them up when it was time to read. I don't think I've ever felt that way about an entire group of 7 before. 

The Poet, Michael Connelly, 1996. 492 pages.

In effort to uncover the truth surrounding his twin brother's supposed suicide, a journalist finds a string of serial crimes linked to a murderer and child abuser with a penchant for the work of Edgar Allen Poe.

I had read only The Lincoln Lawyer from Connelly, which I liked a lot, but I picked this up for fifty cents at a thrift shop in my hometown last year. It was a little slow at first for maybe two chapters, a lot of journalism and cop talk as the main character, Jack McEvoy, deals with the aftermath of his brother Sean's suicide, but once it gets going, it really goes. Details that don't add up, the arrival of the FBI to the story, and the POV chapters from the murderer himself, not to mention Poe and the poetry, all make for very interesting scenes and a compelling mystery, overall. As with any story that deals with child abuse, the subject matter here was dark and disturbing, but it was a very well-done, interesting novel.

The Great American Read project (which I'm still in the first pages of) lists all of Patterson's Alex Cross mysteries on their list, and while I do enjoy the character of Alex Cross, I feel like Connelly does a better, more authentic job laying out the mystery. Written in 1996, this was Connelly's fifth novel, but on the strength of this one I'd really like to start at the beginning of his work like I did with Patterson and CJ Box's Joe Pickett series. Good thing I have all this time on my hands.

Esperanza Rising, Pamela Munoz Ryan, 2000. 312 pages.

After the death of her father, a young girl must leave Mexico with her mother to escape an abusive uncle and find work in California.

I needed a YA novel and one of my kids recommended this one. I really ended up enjoying it, there's so much going on to process. It makes me really happy they give this to kids in elementary school, because on top of being a great story about a girl and her family, there are class issues at play (Esperanza is from a upper class family), labor union issues (many of the workers want to strike for better working conditions), and racial issues (white workers from Oklahoma are given better homes and more pay per hour than the immigrant workers from Mexico). Each chapter heading is a Spanish word for whatever fruit or vegetable the crew is currently picking or prepping, so by the end you've learned the Spanish words for twelve nouns (grapes, papayas, figs, guavas, cantaloupes, onions, almonds, plums, potatoes, avocados, asparagus, and peaches), which is cool, too.

The story itself is told through the main character Esperanza's perspective, and while it does focus on common YA topics such as friendship, material things, and bullying---which I happen to think everyone should read more about anyway, no matter age or gender---the bigger topics described above make it an important story about immigrations experiences with labor and the struggles these workers face. I daresay we as Americans could stand with a bit more empathy for situations like these, and would recommend this book as an introduction on learning about topics that require understanding and compassion for humankind.

The Wild Things, Dave Eggers, 2009. 306 pages.

In a novelization of Maurice Sendak's children's book, Where the Wild Things Are (and also a novelization of the screenplay of the same name), Eggers tells the story of Max, the boy in the wolf suit who escapes his family life to and island of beasts to become their king.

Silly me, I bought this only because Eggers did it, had no idea it was based on Sendak, no idea Eggers had done the screenplay. Only after the wolf suit came into play did I realize what was happening, but even so, the story was wonderful and engaging from the very first page. I don't think you even need to have read or enjoyed the first book or film to enjoy this story, Eggers is a brilliant enough writer to have carried it totally on his own, filling in those back stories of why Max was naughty, what was going on in his family, the unique personalities of each of the beasts he spends time with, and how Max inadvertently learns a lot about himself in the process. It's a great story, and should you already be a fan of its original subject material, you will likely enjoy this, too.

Watership Down, Richard Adams, 1972. 496 pages.

After their warren becomes unsafe, a group of rabbit bucks forge an escape and relocation plan encountering several threats and challenges along the way.

I never really had any interest in rabbits; as a writer and more importantly, a reader, I'm a solid cat person, although I do sprinkle our throwaway produce ends under our deck for the baby buns that hang around the yard. It doesn't matter if you like rabbits or have even thought about them in regard to fiction, this book is really about adventure and relationships, and it's very well done. I really enjoyed it.

As with The Stand, I read most of this about ten years ago when looking for clues about LOST ---people said it might hold clues to the survivors' fate (it was also one of Sawyer's "beach books"). The premise is sort of similar, a group needs to survive and evade enemies, but that's really it. At its heart, this is a sweet story that explores a lot of how wild creatures experience other species and the natural world. I enjoyed all the rabbits' names and personalities (Dandelion, the storyteller, was easily my favorite), the mythology and history of rabbitkind showcased in the stories of old they passed around, and as these were British rabbits, I enjoyed many of their words such as "shan't," "Old Chap," and other traditional phrases. It's a lovely story, and I daresay, one that eventually addresses bigger, relevant-to-humans themes such as trust, bravery, and control. It's pretty long, but well worth the time, and the ending had me in full waterworks.

The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead, 2016. 338 pages. **SPOILERS BELOW**

A woman escapes from the plantation owner who enslaved her through an underground railroad but soon discovers, escaped or free, there are no safe places in America.

This was on a list of novels of supplemental reading for one of my grad classes at Augsburg, the third one from the list that I've finished, and by far the best. I didn't know anything about it before reading, only that it was said to be very good and that it would go on to win many, many awards. I assumed it was about The Underground Railroad as I've grown to know it from history and I was very excited when I discovered the motivation was the same, but this story was about an actual railroad that allowed people to escape. I don't want to say too much, because reading and learning about the railroad, where it goes, how it's made and hidden, should be experienced as it's written, I think the less known in advance, the better.

Cora, the book's main character, is interesting, very headstrong, and written, I think, in a way that details the evils of slavery she experienced while giving equal attention the concept of the long-lasting trauma these experiences caused. I don't know that I've ever read it described so fully (since Toni Morrison, at least)---the idea that these terrible things that have been done to a person, beatings, rapes, humiliations, stalkings, murders, and the memories of these things can and will stay with them, affecting every aspect of their lives. The effects of slavery didn't just stop when those enslaved escaped or obtained freedom.

Everyone should read this.

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, Ronan Farrow, 2019. 464 pages.

Farrow investigates the countless sexual assault and harassment charges against Harvey Weinstein over the years; many people, including his production team at NBC and Weinstein himself, try to kill the investigation but in the end, The New Yorker publishes the story.

I was curious at first, and I knew quite a bit going in, but after "The White Whale," a section about 90 pages in, this became an anger read to the end as I learned about the number of victims, specifics of how they were raped/assaulted/stalked (and not only by Weinstein, Matt Lauer has a section and he's just as disgusting and criminal), and just how deep this coverup really went. It was infuriating, but an important read, and (as with War on Peace) really good insight into the importance of competent journalism. The one happy moment, if there can be one in a story like this, is Farrow's little "okay, bitch ass," (my words, not his) treatment of his producer Noah Oppenheim's pleads for Farrow to make a statement that he, Oppenheim, wasn't the villain in all this. I'll allow that in a story this evil, he wasn't THE villain, but he was definitely A villain. Reminds me of Isaac from Children of the Corn, strapped to the corn cross, crying, because he knew his ass would soon be grass. With any luck, Weinstein is making similar sounds in prison these days.

Unsound Variations, George R. R. Martin, 1982.

A former chess captain and two friends agree to meet the teammate that lost an important chess match decades earlier; the loss has consumed every aspect of the teammate's life, and as it turns out, all of theirs, as well.

This is a short story in the Dreamsongs, Volume 2 collection, and one of my favorites of all GRRM's short fiction. I'm a pretty basic chess player so I knew and understood most of the terms, but honestly, it didn't really matter. Chess is important in the story, yes, but overall, it's a story about bitterness and strategy (both on and off the chess board). I think it would make for a very nice new Twilight Zone episode, if Peele might be looking for material for his third season. I really, really dug this, very clever with a brilliant ending.

Friday, June 5, 2020

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, Season 2, Episode 4, . . . and found

On-Island Events: Sun realizes she's lost her wedding ring and tries to retrace her steps in finding it; she later destroys her garden in frustration. After Kate begins sorting through the messages in the bottle Claire gave to Sun, she finds her ring inside.

The Raft Crew/Tail Section: Michael reassures Jin that he'll be reunited with Sun soon; Ana announces the group will be hiking back to the beach group's camp. Jin impresses Bernard and Ana with his fishing skills while Michael gets to know about the survivors from the tail section; Libby explains the group's "trust issues." As Sawyer learns that the large man who initially snatched them and threw them in the pit is named Mr. Eko, Michael bolts from the group, taking off into the jungle. After Mr. Eko offers to help Jin find Michael, they happen upon a dead body, which Eko identifies as Goodwin. Soon they find Michael's tracks but Eko senses danger; as they hide among bushes a group of dirty, barefoot "others" make their way through the jungle just in front of them, including a child holding a teddy bear. Eventually, Michael emerges from the jungle and demands Jin go back to the others.

Flashbacks: Sun and Jin share flashbacks of before they met during which Sun is set up through a matchmaker and Jin's friend implores him to wear orange in order to meet the woman of his dreams. Jin interviews at a hotel and lands the job despite being belittled for his poverty by his new boss. Jin happens to open the door for Sun and her mother where Sun connects with the man her matchmaker has paired her with but she soon learns this man plans to marry an American woman. When Jin allows a young boy to use the hotel's bathroom against his boss's guidelines, his boss confronts him for it and Jin quits. Later, while crossing a bridge, Jin sees a woman wearing an orange dress, but when he turns around to follow her, he bumps into Sun.

Greater Meaning: While the events in the episode are broad and pretty scattered, the overall theme seems to be Jin's superior moral character and Sun's concern for his well-being. Despite begin shown as a punch-happy control freak in the early episodes of the first season, Jin has shown nothing but bravery and loyalty during the events of the raft and toward Michael and Sawyer. Showing Jin's sympathy for a poor man and his son in the flashbacks suggest that second-season Jin is the true Jin, that he's always been a good man. While Sun doesn't seem to have Rose's level of connection when it comes to the fate of her husband, Sun seems to be rightly concerned about Jin, she just has no way of knowing what the real threat is (she assumes peril by ocean or perhaps sharks, the tail section knows better of course). Beside Ethan, the beach survivors have not seen any "others," but with Eko, Jin got a good look. One has to assume that these others, whoever they are, are able to reach the beach group (as Ethan did with Claire), are still out there, and are still a threat. Whether or not Jin or any of the tail section will still encounter them is a serious concern. Ana Lucia's strict authoritarian manner as leader of the tail section and the frantic way they all carry themselves about the jungle suggests these others are not to be taken lightly.

Further Questions:

1. Will Michael find Walt?
2. Who are the others?
3. Who was Goodwin?
4. Will the two groups of survivors meet?

Why Watch Foreign Films? Pain and Glory

Pain and Glory, d. Pedro Almodovar, 2019.

This felt a lot like a modern-day Fellini film. Everything looked very beautiful, the moments of pain and light-heartedness went hand in hand, and every scene shouted art. I often wonder what items or experiences other people have from their childhood or coming-of-age years that they look back on and enjoy remembering; this film is a lovely reminder that we should do that, if we can.

Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas) is a gifted film director with several health issues that have kept him from exploring new work or interacting with the public. When one of his popular films gets remastered, he agrees to meet with the film's lead, Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia), who he'd shunned for years after a falling out over the actor's heroin use. The two men connect over the exact act Mallo had judged Crespo for decades earlier (which Crespo calls, "chasing the dragon"), and under influence of the drug, Mallo begins a sort of retrospective review of his life and work. He not only begins writing again, but through Crespo's stage performance of his autobiographical essay, Mallo reunites with the love of his life, who inspires him even more. While many of his physical pains persist, Mallo continues his work honoring the people and experiences that shaped him as an artist.

The technical and thematic elements present in this film are equal parts skillful aesthetic and sentimentality. The colors, the landscapes, the interactions between characters, and even the graphics used early on in the film are all engaging and beautiful. The nostalgia and heartbreak shown in the film is best seen and not so much spoken of; this is such a writer's film, one that those of us who spend time wrapped up in our thoughts, reactions, and longing for past experiences will easily recognize. It was truly lovely to behold.

Pain and Glory is rated R for nudity and drug use and runs 1 hour 53 minutes. I got this as a recommendation via Twitter (thanks, LOSTie Laura!) and got the film itself through Netflix disk.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, Season 2, Episode 4, Everybody Hates Hugo

The Raft Crew: The large man who threw the group into the pit returns and assists Jin and Michael out; Sawyer refuses. Eventually, Sawyer agrees and joins the others, who have come to accept that they were on the same crash. Ana Lucia is heavy-handed with the three men, but some of the other survivors begin making conversation and asking questions. After leading them into a bunker with a Dharma Initiative logo on the concrete wall, a woman named Libby explains there had initially been 23 of them but their numbers were now drastically reduced. One survivor turns out to be Bernard, Rose's husband, who asks after her well-being and rejoices in hearing she's okay.

On-Island Events: In the hatch, Hugo falls asleep and dreams of Jin, speaking English, and a man in a chicken suit in the food supply room. After conversing with Hugo (who speaks Korean in the dream), Jin insists "everything is going to change." Kate wakes him up and references Hugo's new job. After his button-pushing shift is over, Hugo attempts to share the news of the hatch with Charlie, who refuses to believe him, so he brings Rose instead, again referencing the job he's been assigned. Jack has tasked Hugo with inventorying the contents of the supply room and devising a plan for making distributing it. As Hugo is lamenting how everyone will hate him for policing the supplies, Kate ignores his protests when he tries to explain the new policy.

Claire walks on the beach where the bottle of messages sent with the raft washes up and Jack and Sayid investigate the hatch's magnetic properties, learning that the hatch is surrounded by eight to ten feet of concrete. Locke tells Charlie the truth about Desmond and the hatch, who says it all sounds a bit "nutty," but brightens upon hearing about the record player inside it and the possibility of peanut butter. Proving Hugo's worries again, Charlie becomes upset when Hugo doesn't give him what he wants. With Shannon's help, Claire presents Sun with the bottle of messages while Hugo tries to get out of his assigned job. When he attempts to rig the supply room with dynamite, Hugo explains to Rose what he believes will happen when word gets out that he's in charge of the food, as flashbacks to his lottery winning and his friend's reaction to it are edited in.

Hugo eventually comes to Jack with a plan he devised, which is to hand out the food, outright and immediately to all the survivors; Jack agrees and everyone enjoys an evening of Dharma-logoed meal items.

Flashbacks: Hugo's lottery win is revisited, where his mother berates him for falling down and eating basura. Hugo hides the winning ticket from her and insists he likes his life the way it is. After getting busted eating on camera by his boss at Mr. Cluck's Chicken, Hugo and his best friend quit their jobs and later Hugo asks his crush from the record store out on a date. Later, the two decorate their former boss's lawn with garden gnomes and in their euphoria, Hugo demands an assurance from his friend that things between them will always stay the same. As news crews gather to report on the lottery winning ticket, Hugo's friend's expression suggests that he is upset with Hugo over the ticket and that things indeed will change.

Greater Meaning: The episode carries on the idea (initiated from the Exodus episodes in Season 1 when Hugo joins the group in search of dynamite) of Hugo as a leader as well how his attributes and experiences have uniquely shaped him. Given his involvement with the dynamite, the loss of Arzt, and the hatch, it's natural that Hugo would be involved in the pushing of the button and later the division of the food and supplies. He was there, he was involved, and he seems willing to remain involved and to do his part in helping out where he's needed. What's interesting about Hugo as a member of the island leaders is his ongoing empathy and honesty, which is at odds with pretty much everyone else on the island. Hugo noticed when everyone needed a distraction and created the golf course. When everyone was busy celebrating Claire as she introduced baby Aaron on the beach, Hugo acknowledged Shannon's return and made sure Jack reached out to her. He takes Arzt's death the hardest and needs time to process, just as he admitted to his psychiatrist that the accidental deaths of the partygoers during the collapse of the deck was something for which he felt personally responsible.

Hugo has committed no crimes and he refuses to lie. Hugo's morals and dedication to doing the right thing make him a perfect candidate for leadership.

Further Questions:

1. Where did all that food come from, anyway?
2. Will the two groups of survivors ever meet each other?
3. How did Rose know Bernard was alive all this time?
4. Where did Desmond go?

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Disney in Quarantine: Five More Shorts

How to Play Baseball, 1942, rated G, 8 minutes.

Over some (maybe) official narration, Goofy models the highlights and rules of the game: field composition, uniform, pitching, and hitting. Two teams (made entirely of Goofys) battle it out in a world series game while providing an over-the-top physical parody of America's Past-Time. End with an all-out brawl under a stars and stripes banner, which was likely fitting for the time, but strange to consider among other, more violent organizations of American sport today. It's a sort of cute, drippy kind of comedy, the kind you'd expect some totally-not-into-sports character doing in a very exaggerated way. Like, "Hey, kids! Look at these dorks trying to SPORT!"

How to Play Football, 1944, rated G, 8 minutes.

Yeah, see above, although there are more gags on the audience during this one (cheers echoing over the rules being told, camera panning the length of the field following a play but obscured by spectators). Taxidermy Tech takes on Anthropology A & M where, again, each team is made entirely of Goofys. Physical comedy includes pants falling down, a butt being smacked (hard), a cheerleader being kicked and beaten, and at game's end, the coach being put into a padlocked straightjacket. The ongoing commentary is sarcastic and blunt, most memorably, "What a dumb quarterback!"

Double Dribble, 1946, rated G, 8 minutes.

In a similar spirit as both previous shorts, two teams of Goofys and one miniature-sized one battle out a game on the basketball court. Gags are mostly the same, exposing underwear and beat-downs among team members although the audience gets involved in this one, grabbing the ball and passing it or preventing shots when the mood strikes. In a moment that would be echoed some forty years later by Pee-Wee in Porky's Revenge, the little guy gets put in after an injury just before the buzzer and gives the game his best try. Nice. It occurs to me that these shorts are basically suggesting that athletes of all sports are . . . not that smart or have little common sense, but they all seem happy and enthusiastic about everything, so at least that's positive.

All in a Nutshell, 1949, rated G, 7 minutes.

Chip and Dale try to overtake Donald Duck's giant walnut-butter factory; things go poorly for Donald. Not a lot here, but good-spirited physical comedy that usually involves one or all characters getting smacked in the head by nuts. Some sympathy for Donald; he's just trying to make his nut butter. There's something kind of silly and charming about these chipmunks, their high voices and carefree attitudes are inspiring in light of Donald messing with them, a lot like Tweety, Road Runner, and Jerry (of Tom and Jerry). Perhaps this is some sort of metaphor for life: try to carry on your happiness even when things seem negative.

Out of Scale, 1951, rated G, 7 minutes.

Donald Duck has a very elaborate toy train setup crafted around the large tree where Chip and Dale live; after he moves the tree, they take up residence inside one of his toy houses. After nurturing them there for a while, he decides to mess with them (pretty innocently) by confusing them and mixing up the weather. When the figure out what he's doing, they shrug it off, squeaking out, "Look at that bum!"

Monday, May 25, 2020

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, Season 2, episode 3, Orientation

The Raft Crew: Michael, Jin, and Sawyer are taken by a large man among a group of others and flung into a pit in the jungle. Sawyer tries to get information from Jin about the others but Jin explains that he was blindfolded. Sawyer tries to escape the pit but the large man returns and pitches a woman into the pit with them. The woman, named Ana Lucia (who Jack met and spoke to in the airport before the flight), claims to also be from Oceanic flight 815. After she notices Sawyer's gun, she grabs it and signals to the man up above, who pulls her out.

On-Island Events: As Desmond threatens Jack and Locke, Kate finds a room with weapons in the hatch and helps herself to one. A struggle ensues between Kate and Desmond and a stray gunshot damages the computer into which the numbers had earlier been entered. Desmond explains the danger this puts them all in but Jack doesn't seem to believe him.

In a flurry, Desmond tries to fix the ruined computer but Jack demands he explain how he came to be in the hatch. Desmond claims he was in a solo race around the world when his boat crashed onto the island; a man named Kelvin showed Desmond how to push the button, stating it was necessary in order to save the world. Locke and Jack then watch an ancient film strip, labeled "Orientation" by something called The Dharma Initiative. Led by a man in a lab coat named Dr. Marvin Candle, the film explains the organization's background and scientific interests, and identifies the hatch as "Station 3, The Swan Station," where studies in electromagnetism take place. Candle further explains the process of entering the numbers into the computer every 108 minutes.

As Jack seems disgusted by the notion that anyone would take any of these ideas seriously, Desmond tries and fails to fix the computer. Desmond and Jack abandon the hatch leaving Locke on his own, wondering what he's supposed to do. Jack confronts Desmond in the jungle, where he admits he remembers meeting Jack in Los Angeles.

Hugo, Sayid, and Kate return to the hatch, where Locke requests Sayid's help in repairing the computer. Just as Locke is about to key in the numbers incorrectly and hit "execute," Jack returns to provide him with the last number. Locke demands that Jack be the one to finish the final keystroke, and Jack resists until the countdown clock on the wall begins blaring out an alarm as the last seconds go by. Jack argues with John about the absurdity of pushing the button but in the end, pushes it himself. The clock on the wall resets itself and Locke offers to take the first shift.

Flashbacks: Locke has an outburst at a group therapy session but meets Helen, someone who seems to connect with him. They begin an affair but Locke breaks away every night to spy on Anthony Cooper. When he finally confronts Cooper about conning him out of his kidney, Cooper bluntly tells him to get over it and not to come back to his house. After six months of dating, Helen presents Locke with a key to her apartment but asks him to stop going to Cooper's house in the middle of the night (which he has apparently continued to do); Locke agrees and accepts Helen's key. Locke breaks his promise, and when Helen confronts him at Cooper's property, he agrees again to get help with his
anger and abandonment issues.

Greater Meaning: As the flashbacks in the episode belong to Locke, it's tempting to focus more on his experiences over anyone else's in regard to the events that occur in the hatch. He tries to help Desmond fix the computer and diffuses the situation when things get tense, he enthusiastically watches the orientation video, and later demands the island tell him what to do next when he's left alone in the hatch. Locke has put his faith in the island in a way he's never put his faith in anything else, and it shows through many of his flashbacks (including this episode's collection). Whereas he was scared and confused before coming to the island, he didn't have the same faith in any of his experiences (the walkabout, the relationship with Cooper, the relationship with Helen) that he seems to have with the island. He's still scared and confused, to a point, but now, because he believes so strongly in the island, he expects answers.

Jack is upset by Locke's devotion simply because the answers of the island are unavailable and because these situations do not make sense to him; Jack chooses not to question anything. As Jack knows nothing of Locke's medical condition pre- and post-crash, it makes sense that his faith in the island would not be as immediate as Locke's, but here it seems he is actively rejecting the significance of Desmond's presence on the island and his own reaction to it (as it is a connection to his own previous vulnerability after Sarah's surgery). Jack becomes tearful in remembering his former wife just as Locke does when he speaks of his father's betrayal in group therapy. Locke's ability to move on and place his faith in the island counters Jack's refusal to do so.

Further Questions:

1. Who was Kelvin?
2. What happens to Locke and Helen's relationship?
3. What happens to Jack and Sarah's relationship?
4. What is going on with Ana Lucia, and who's the man she's working with?
5. What is going on with the hatch, and how does electromagnetism factor in?
6. Is the Dharma Initiative still on the island?
7. Is pushing the button a sham?

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Cinema in Quarantine: Strange Bedfellows

Last week I watched a few different films, did some cleaning and baking, and deactivated my Facebook account because a break was needed (STAY HOME/WEAR A MASK). The funny thing about these three films is that they relate really well to the stack of books I'm reading right now, hope to have those finished next week sometime.

The 39 Steps, d. Alfred Hitchcock, 1935

A man in England gets drawn into some espionage stuff; danger unfolds.

This was probably one of my least-remembered Hitchcock films; I read the book some years ago and didn't remember much from that, either. Now that I'm a more mature person with fewer interruptions, I thought I'd give it all another go as this was the first selection on Netflix's Criterion Collection (disk). It took two separate viewings for me to really get into it, but was worth it in the end because I really appreciated the second. I got to enjoy the little moments that felt very Hitchcock: slow, moving camera to show suspense through varying POVs, the strength of the musical numbers (orchestral, whistling, wavering between the jaunty situations and announcing peril), and sly, witty banters between the principal characters, Hannay (Robert Donat) and Pamela (Madeleine Carroll).

There's a neat little moment that fans of the Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade scene from The Fugitive will recognize about midway through, and the ending, though subtle, is one of my favorite wrap-ups of a mystery story, ever. It's a smart and fun, but have some caffeine and keep the subtitles on. If you don't keep on top of what's being said, you're apt to tune out.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, d. Guy Ritchie, 2017

The son of a murdered king draws a magical sword out of stone; danger unfolds.

This has got to be one of the most underrated films of the last decade. The only complaint I have about it is that I wish it was either longer or done as a trilogy or series. So much happens that's amazing and impressive but is presented as exposition or an afterthought that really leaves one wanting more (Uther Pendragon and Merlin, to name a couple), and the end scene especially hints at more shenanigans in the future, but whatever. As an action film with supernatural elements, it still gets everything right. The banter and nicknames are great (use subtitles), the fight choreography is amazing, and the music on this one (composer Daniel Pemberton) is absolutely among the best in soundtrack history.

I know people will come after me about Hunnam, but I'm sorry, I love the guy. He does in this what he mostly always does--looks amazing and does great physical acting while his supporting cast does most of the emotional heavy lifting. The accent in this is decidedly better than the Jax Teller we all came to love (and cringe at), and no weird swaggering around, so bonus. I'll also say that it was this film that took him up a level as an actor, and that he's only gotten better in everything he's done, since, so I think del Toro and Ritchie have both brought about positive effects in CH. Take a look:

Django Unchained, d. Quentin Tarantino, 2012

A former slave joins forces with a German bounty hunter in effort to locate his wife; danger, disgusting racism, and extreme violence unfold.

I saw this in the theater when it came out and had a hard time with it. It was put together well, amazing aesthetic, performances, and music as all of Tarantino's films, it's just . . . difficult to watch and difficult to talk about, too. I hated DiCaprio as Calvin Candie the first time around, this time I wasn't bothered by his performance as much, I just was uncomfortable with pretty much everything going on, as was meant to be the point, clearly. No matter how idiotic the Klansmen plantation owners are shown to be (which is very), we're still watching idiotic Klansmen and plantation owners commit violent, dehumanizing acts, and it's troubling enough to be sickening. I guess what I'm trying to say is, as competent a film as it is (these types of things indeed happened, and as Rod Serling once said, we shouldn't look away), I couldn't be entertained by it, even as a sort of get-what-you-deserve fantasy tale like Kill Bill or Inglourious Basterds. There's just too little distance between how racism was portrayed or acted upon from this film compared to the enslavement that this film is about; the fact that the same words are still being uttered by racists and many of the same violent actions are still happening today in 2020 is ridiculous and horrifying. I agree that we shouldn't look away, I just don't know how a conversation about this film should go, considering.

I very much enjoyed Django (Jamie Foxx), I loved his lines, his attitude toward the racists, the bounty hunter outfit and hat, and his tear-assing around bareback on the horse after the exchange with the Australians. More than anything else, I loved his words to his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) when the two finally reunite:

Monday, May 18, 2020

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, Season 2, Episode 2, Adrift

The Raft: In the aftermath of Walt being taken, Sawyer lifts Michael onto some of the raft's floating remnants while Jin remains unaccounted for. Michael shouts for Walt and argues with Sawyer, whom he blames for their predicament. Sawyer's gunshot wound is bleeding and attracts sharks, which charge the raft. Sawyer removes the bullet but passes out. Sawyer discusses the idea that the men who took Walt were the others Rousseau earlier referenced.

Sawyer attempts to retrieve the pontoon section of the raft; a shark returns, which Michael shoots. Eventually Michael breaks down weeping, admitting to Sawyer he believes Walt's abduction was his fault. As the two men float on the current they realize they've been brought back to the island. Once they reach its shore, they find Jin running out of the jungle. He shouts their names and then, looking behind them repeats "others." When they turn around, several people with weapons are approaching them.

On the Island: Through several replays of the events leading up to Jack's experiences with Desmond, we see John and Kate enter the hatch. Desmond seems happy to see John but soon realizes John is not who he thinks he is. Locke ties Kate up at Desmond's demand and throws her in an enclosed room within the hatch, but Kate easily wiggles free. Kate discovers the room she's in is filled with food and supplies; she helps herself to a candy bar and then escapes through a vent.

John explains the plane crash to Desmond, who is concerned about sickness among the survivors. After a computer beeps out, Desmond forces John to enter the familiar numbers 4 8 15 16 23 42 into an ancient-looking system. After he does this, a box with a series of numbers counting down flips itself to 108. Soon Desmond hears Jack calling for Kate and Locke, which leads to the interaction and recognition of each other at gunpoint.

Flashbacks: Michael meets with an attorney to fight Susan's demand that he relinquish parental rights of Walt. Susan implores Michael to let go of Walt, explaining the life she'll provide him in Italy will be in everyone's best interests. Michael agrees and brings Walt a stuffed polar bear as they say goodbye.

Greater Meaning: Continuously throughout the episode Sawyer contradicts his earlier statement to Michael, "I ain't no hero." First, he saves Michael from drowning, hauls him onto part of the raft and performs mouth-to-mouth. Next, he (painfully) removes the bullet from his own shoulder when it won't stop bleeding and draws the sharks. Last, he swims off to the pontoon/bamboo portion of the ruined raft and brings it back for Michael to share when the other remnants begin to unravel. Sawyer may not desire the status, but he has indeed acted heroically during his time out on the raft.

Michael's anger, guilt, and acceptance of responsibility for Walt's kidnapping is intensified through the flashback scenes where Susan and her cold-hearted lawyer toy with him over his inadequacy as a father. Other than Claire, no one else on the island has experienced parenthood, thus it seems fitting that Michael feels alienated and full of rage at what happened, given his upsetting prior experiences anticipating Walt then losing him, repeatedly. When the two men, not exactly bros but reconciled (for the moment), reunite with Jin and attempt to free him from his restraints, the overall feeling is one of strength and group loyalty---Michael, Sawyer, and Jin may have had their differences in the past, but against these new others, they're a team.

Further Questions:

1. Will Michael find Walt?
2. Who are the others?
3. What will happen to Kate?
4. How did all that food get to the island?
5. What is Desmond doing in the hatch?
6. What were the numbers all about?

Friday, May 15, 2020

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, Season 2, episode 1, Man of Science, Man of Faith

Introduction: After a blinking green cursor on an older computer flashes several times, an unidentifiable man types something onto the keyboard, chooses a record from a collection on a shelf, and begins exercising to the sounds of Mama Cass. Suddenly a loud thud causes the record's needle to scratch and dust to fall from the ceiling. The man immediately rushes to don a jumpsuit and arm himself. As he adjusts mirrors to reflect different locations within his environment, one mirror shows faraway lights surrounded by darkness, which are revealed to be Jack and Locke's torches looking down from the opening of the hatch from above. The man, whoever he is, lives in the hatch.

On-Island Events: At the blasted entry of the hatch, John and Locke disagree about how to proceed: Jack wants to wait to act, pointing out the danger getting people down the steep grade into the hatch; Locke wants to descend, immediately. Kate finds the blasted metal door which has been marked, "QUARANTINE."

As the rest of the group waits for Jack and Lock's return, Shannon asks for Sayid's help in finding Vincent. In the jungle, Shannon hears whispering and suddenly sees a soaking-wet Walt, who holds a finger to his lips and then whispers gibberish.

As Locke tries to recruit Kate's help in going immediately into the hatch, Hurley explains his fear of
the numbers to Jack but get no support. Trying to unite the group, scared and still waiting at the caves, Jack reassures them that all will be well and they will wait until sunrise to explore the hatch. Locke gathers supplies and contradicts Jack by immediately going back to the hatch; Kate follows. Locke lowers Kate into the opening downward into the hatch but Kate is pulled down abruptly. When Jack shows up, both Locke and Kate are gone and he follows. He calls for Kate and Locke while examining the dark halls, a colorful painted mural on a concrete wall built around the number 108, and room of computer equipment covered by an arching eagle's nest-type enclosure. John Locke prevents Jack from touching the computer but is soon held at gunpoint by a man Jack eventually recognizes as Desmond, the man he met during his "tour de stade" after Sarah's surgery in Los Angeles.

Flashbacks: A motor vehicle accident brings two significantly injured people into the emergency room at Jack's hospital. Both cases are critical, one an older man, Adam Rutherford, and the other a younger woman who pleads that she be able to dance at her wedding. Jack chooses to treat the woman first and successfully stabilizes her but the other patient dies across the room. The young woman is Sarah, and the accident has left her with a broken back. Jack is skeptical about her chances in surgery, but decides in the end that he will fix her and tells her so. He does not believe the surgery was successful, and to process his failure, Jack drives to an empty stadium to run laps up and downs its steps. He stumbles and hurts himself but another runner, Desmond Hume, aids him and the two chat. When Jack returns to give Sarah the news that she will remain paralyzed, Sarah tells him she can wiggle her toes. Jack and Sarah cry together as they realize the surgery worked.

Greater Meaning: Jack's refusal to believe in miracles is at the heart of this episode, aptly titled in ongoing comparison of Jack and Locke. The two events that speak to miracles or faith are Jack's fixing of Sarah despite scientific odds and the reunification of Jack and Desmond in the hatch at the episode's conclusion. Whenever something remarkable has happened on the island or in flashbacks, Jack reasons out a scientific explanation for it or ignores the problem (as with the smoke monster). When Jack meets Desmond at the stadium, he refuses to consider Desmond's question, "What if you did fix her?" Oddly enough, this is exactly what happened; does Desmond have a sense of never-ending optimism he likes to share with strangers or was there something more in his question?

Seeing Desmond again in the hatch is hinted at through use of the word "Brother," and Desmond's non-American accent, but verified when Desmond smirks at Jack over the top of Locke's shoulder as he holds the gun at him. That Jack met Desmond on the day a miracle occurred (Sarah's triumph over paralysis) and a second time after the crash of Oceanic 815 in very place they've been trying to enter seems at the very least unlikely and at the most, another miracle.

Is the hatch a miracle? Jack saw it as a place to shelter from danger, a very practical idea, whereas John seemed more concerned with simply getting inside and learning of its mystery. Once Locke made the decision to go in, Jack followed, feeling responsible for Locke and Kate's safety (not out of his own curiosity). Desmond seems to be the wild card who will determine whether or not Jack or Locke get to realize their intentions inside the hatch, should they survive their confrontation.

Further Questions:

1. What caused the key on Jack's necklace to levitate in the hatch tunnel?
2. What is the significance of the number 108?
3. Is Desmond an other?
4. What happened to Kate?
5. What happened to Jack and Sarah's marriage?
6. Did Desmond sail around the world as he intended?
7. How did Desmond get to the island, and how long has he been there?

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Why Watch Foreign Films? Le Grand Voyage

What a lovely, relevant film! There was a moment early on that I connected with completely, one that is apt to strike a chord with many parents, especially today. I won't spoil it, but it has to do with a cell phone and a garbage can. Even in 2004, the message was clear . . . why didn't we listen?

Le Grand Voyage (The Great Journey) is a 2004 French production written and directed by Ismael Ferroukhi, filmed across multiple locations and spoken in both French and Moroccan Arabic. Part road trip, part religious awakening, the film travels across ten different countries as a devout father (Mohamed Majd) attempts to reconnect with his indifferent son, Reda (Nicolas Cazale).

As Reda is somewhat at odds with his father at the film's start, he is reluctant to drive to Mecca for this pilgrimage; his attention is directed at his phone, his upcoming school exams, and his non-Muslim girlfriend. He wonders aloud several times why his father doesn't just fly to Saudi Arabia. In disagreement for many of the first days, Reda and his father really don't seem to get along very well: deciding when to sleep, where to stop, and whether or not to pick up hitch-hikers is a continual cause for friction between the pair, and many scenes are spent in brooding silence. As Mecca draws closer and Reda begins to actually listen to his father, he realizes that his father's devotion, not only to his faith but to Reda and much of humankind, is heartfelt and remarkable.

Despite many moments of silence and awkwardness between father and son early on in the film, the music choices keep us from becoming impatient with their interactions together. Often playing is a simple progression of piano or orchestral chords that seem to swell at just the right moments but never take away from the emotion (or lack thereof) of the characters. Reda's father often breaks away with his rug to pray, but this act takes on an entirely new, profound meaning once they near Mecca; one voice joins with many others, the call to prayer and the resulting chants are heard fully and clearly over the landscape, becoming its own beautiful soundtrack. The physical landscapes themselves are varied and interesting, (lowlands, snow, deserts) and many times we are left wondering which country they've entered until a city is named or a new language is spoken. The journey itself while impressive in length and grandeur, seems in the end to be no less important than the distance the two men travel, emotionally, and this makes it a film for the ages.

Parents and children, be patient with each other. Time goes faster than you think it will.

Le Grand Voyage is 108 minutes and is unrated. I obtained a copy of this film through Netflix DVD. 

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, thoughts on the first season

So what all happened during the first season of LOST?

1. Oceanic 815 crashed onto the island
2. Pieces of each of the main surviving characters' stories were told through flashbacks
3. The survivors found ways to live together but weren't rescued
4. Dangers such as polar bears, a mysterious monster made of black smoke, and a group of others living on the island threatened the survivors' lives repeatedly
5. A secret hatch was found, uncovered, and blown open
6. A small group of the survivors built a raft and left the island to seek rescue

LOST as a unique frame story:

In the book Getting LOST (edited by Orson Scott Card), Evelyn Vaughn identifies the narrative of LOST as a "frame story," similar to literary works she has studied such as Boccaccio's Decameron or The Canterbury Tales (56). These stories are composed of different inner stories and narrated from multiple accounts but focus on one central event that maintains the theme that unites everything. In LOST's case, the plane crash could be seen as the one central uniting event, but the island itself needs to be identified as more than just a setting---certainly it's a unique environment but with time we see that it's also a container and character, with both healing and threatening properties whereby all the various happenings throughout the season are made possible. No other known environment could manage this narrative; LOST has given viewers something never before seen.

Of course there would be no show without the initial crash, but many of the happenings on the island (the smoke monster, the polar bears, Ethan) were presumably carrying on with whatever they had been doing beforehand, making the island itself seem overall more important (and more of a framing device) than just the crash. Thus, the island becomes the show's central uniting factor and survival (from starvation, from the monster, from Rousseau, from the others), its theme. One almost gets the sense of a sort of updated collection of Twilight Zone episodes within a contained universe, each featuring a different survivor but revealing and linking several commonalities as the episodes build toward their shared conclusion.

Philosophy on the island:

It's difficult to pin any one character down to any clearly defined philosophy. Chief among the obvious differences in philosophy of the survivors are Locke's devotion to faith and Jack's to science, but as we've seen through several episodes, there's more than meets the eye with both men, their respective experiences, and how they approach leading. Locke, having experienced the miracle of his own healing after crashing on the island, is more trusting and intuitive toward this new environment. He respects the island and its mystery, almost blindly, but also considers the needs of individual survivors over the larger group's best interests in the spirit of Emmanuel Kant (discussing Jack's issues with Christian in "White Rabbit," Walt's desire to be involved in hunting in "Special," and Boone's separation from Shannon in "Hearts and Minds"). Does he do this because he is trying to treat each person as ends and not means or simply because he just happens to know what's best for them? Maybe both, maybe his faith in himself is as strong as his faith in the island.

Jack also focuses devotedly on the individual in providing medical care (shown mostly in his handling of Boone's injury and subsequent death in "Do No Harm," but also in several of his flashbacks throughout the series and in the situation with the dying marshal early on). Both Locke and Jack have shown they are able to make decisions for the group and have done so with a utilitarian approach (do what will bring the best outcome for the greatest number of people), but the motivation for these decisions, especially in regard to dealing with each other, seems to be frequently at odds. Worth mentioning of course is the use of the name "John Locke" as one of the main characters; the philosopher John Locke believed in the freedom of men and their will to live according to reason within the state of nature. The idea of a "Tabula Rasa," (blank slate) was something he explored in his writings, and was used fittingly early on in the series as the survivors struggled to adapt to their new surroundings. If Locke is patterned after the real John Locke's philosophy, what, if anything does this mean for Jack?

Exodus, part 3
Exodus, part 2
Exodus, part 1
Born to Run
The Greater Good
Do No Harm
Deus Ex Machina
In Translation
Hearts and Minds
Whatever the Case May Be 
All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues
Raised by Another 
Confidence Man
The Moth
House of the Rising Sun
White Rabbit 
Tabula Rasa
Pilot, part 2
Pilot, part 1