Friday, April 30, 2021

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, Season 2, Episode 23, Live Together, Die Alone part 1

On-Island Events: Jack, Sawyer, and Sayid swim out to the boat just offshore from their beach. Once aboard gunshots ring out at them from below its galley and they discover Desmond, apparently inebriated, is the shooter. They bring him back to the beach and Desmond explains that he couldn't leave the island. Sayid suggests that he use Desmond's boat to meet Jack and the rest of the group as a surprise attack when they return to the others' camp; Jack agrees. As they make their way through the jungle Kate discovers two others tracking them. A shootout happens and one other is killed. Jack informs the group that Michael has been turned and forces him to confess his betrayal to the group. Michael admits his role everything and apologizes for killing Ana Lucia and Libby. Hugo wants to return but Jack insists they carry on, stating he has a plan.

When Sayid asks Desmond to borrow the boat for a trip northward, Desmond asks if he's headed to see "the hostiles." Desmond refuses to sail Sayid, but Jin has sailing experience and is willing to accompany him. They set out with Sun along the island's coast and are confused when they happen across a four-toed statue of a foot. 

Locke demands that Eko stop pushing the button in the hatch; Eko refuses and pushes Locke out. Later Locke finds Desmond drinking on the beach and shares the contents of the pearl station's orientation video with him. Desmond lures Eko out of the computer room inside the hatch and forces the blast doors down so he and Locke can wait for the countdown to run out. Eko runs to the beach and asks for Charlie's help in getting back into the hatch. 

Flashbacks: A short-haired Desmond receives a collection of possessions, including a Dickens novel (Our Mutual Friend) which he says he'll read just before he dies, at the conclusion of having served time in jail. He is met by a gentleman who presents him with a box full of letters addressed to Penelope Widmore, his daughter. The man attempts to pay Desmond to stay away from Penelope. 

Desmond is in America where he meets Libby, who pays for his coffee and offers up her late husband's boat, The Elizabeth, for Desmond's sailing race around the world. Later, Desmond meets Penelope who asks why he didn't write to her while he was in prison. He shares his plan to win Widmore's race, intending to regain his honor in doing so. Lost in a storm at sea, Desmond falls and is knocked unconscious on the boat. When he awakens, Kelvin Inman, the same man who trained Sayid to be a torturer, is standing before him in a yellow hazardous materials suit in the hatch. Inman shows Desmond the hatch's orientation video and explains the need for him to vaccinate himself.

Greater Meaning: Desmond's flashbacks reference the previously introduced connection with Jack at the stadium but now include connections with Libby and the previously unidentified Kelvin Inman, who was connected directly with Sayid and secondarily with Kate (through Sam Austen). The connections are growing with every new episode, but thus far Desmond is special for having multiple links to survivors. This again seems too important to ignore and must be for a bigger purpose than just coincidence. Obviously Desmond is not just a throwaway character. He's the person with the most knowledge about the hatch and the button, he has a sailboat (although why the boat was unable to carry him away from the island is a mystery and he seems upset about it), and now, he has these connections. We must conclude, like Locke has consistently maintained, there is a reason for this and that ultimately Desmond is important for what lies ahead. The fact that he's entertaining Locke's stop-the-button-pushing idea as a serious one says a lot about what Desmond knows (or suspects) about the island. If they stop pushing the button and nothing happens, they've all been duped, but why? Are the people Claire saw in the medical station the scientists who are conducting the psychological experiments being observed? Are they "pretending" to be scientists just as they are "pretending" to be hillbillies (as Kate stated)? If they stop pushing the button and something happens, it will be clear that Eko's faith was guiding him correctly and that Locke was wrong to doubt himself and his importance on the island. Desmond doesn't seem quite as invested in the right and wrong of it all the way Eko and Locke are, but he is interested and we are heading for a potentially explosive series of events for the season two finale.

The stealing of children from parents remains an ongoing theme in the show's narrative: first Rousseau
(Alex), then Claire (Aaron, by Rousseau then Ethan), and now Michael (Walt). The two young children from the tail section were not with their parents but were also taken. Walt tells Michael the others make him do tests; are they doing experiments on the other children? Alex seems to have joined their cause but chose to free Claire and shows a kindly concern for her, now. This only people able to fully empathize with Michael are Rousseau and Claire as none of the rest of the survivors are parents. Of course everyone continues to look to Jack for answers, but Jack is a doctor, not a father. The reactions of everyone's faces after Michael admits his terrible acts are ones of disgust; they cannot fathom Michael having chosen Walt, his own son, over other community members. This seems significant as Rousseau was unable to reclaim Alex and eventually lost her; Claire was drugged into agreeing to give the others her baby but was saved by Alex, and now Michael, after killing two people and betraying another four, is fighting to get his son back. Will he? 

Further Questions: 

1. What is Jack's plan?

2. What happened to the foot statue?

3. What will happen when the countdown completes and the button isn't pushed? 

4. What is Desmond's role in all this?

5. What happened to Kelvin Inman?

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Queen of Hearts: A Twin Peaks Fan Film, An Early Look

When filmmaker Cameron Cloutier asked me to check out the early version of his film, Queen of Hearts: A Twin Peaks Fan Film, I was immediately interested. Doing re-watches of the Twin Peaks series along with Fire Walk With Me is something I do at least once every few years. Of course Mark Frost's books, The Secret History of Twin Peaks: A Novel and Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier have provided additional content to enjoy, but getting a chance to revisit the Twin Peaks aesthetic while experiencing the characters of Annie Blackburn and Caroline Powell (with several other familiar faces by their sides) in their own original stories was a very unique and exciting journey. Overall I think Queen of Hearts is a clever story with beautiful imagery and a ton of heart from its creator, cast, and crew.

Annie Blackburn (Madison Bates) is still the newly-crowned Miss Twin Peaks and her escape from The Black Lodge after being abducted by Windom Earl (Paul Griffith Springer) drives the majority of the film's events but she's not entirely on her own. Caroline Powell (Charlotte Roi), Earl's wife and move-for-move partner in eccentricity, enjoys a queen-like power over her husband, over a young and eager Agent Cooper (Nico Abiera), and over the developments that would eventually influence Cooper and Annie's experiences in the greater Twin Peaks narrative. Though woven together skillfully, Annie's and Caroline's stories are not just an afterward and beforehand of the original series but also entirely new adventures, themselves: Annie's are vulnerable, powerful, and linked strongly to Major Briggs (Larry Oblander, II); Caroline's are mysterious, worrisome, and linked to Cooper. Once we begin to understand these two queens we can appreciate their similarities, not just in relation to the men they pair with but in relation to things a whole lot bigger in general. 

Central to the story is also the concept of place, and the visuals in each scene honor the Twin Peaks locations and landmarks we already know while also introducing new ones, just as interesting. Colors and patterns jump out and captivate while trees, bridges, and familiar signage bring intense feelings of nostalgia. The music choices enhance these visual experiences by offering a just-right balance between pop and instrumental, playful and serious. Though there are questions and impossibilities posed by the narrative, we are well-practiced members of this very specific fandom and we can handle them, always in good hands with these skillful technical elements while waiting for answers and enjoying each aesthetic moment. 

Most Twin Peaks fans have their favorites, who they love, who intrigues them, who they want to be.  Personally I never really connected to Annie Blackburn as a character before, as a younger viewer I spent most of my time rotating my interest between Laura Palmer's power and Lucy's outfits. After this journey and in taking in the overall theme of the film (no spoilers!), there is definitely a connection, now. This was a fun, inspiring film, and I'm glad to know Annie's out there, much bigger now than any of us ever knew. Here's to the next adventure! 

Madison Bates as Annie Blackburn

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, Season 2, Episode 22, Three Minutes

On-Island Events: Michael's attempts to find Walt are replayed in a then-and-now style. Michael stands outside the hatch, reads a pink piece of paper, and then sets it on fire. Jack tries to discuss a strategy in going after the others but Michael wants to call the shots. Hugo voices concern about Ana Lucia and Libby's bodies and Jack agrees they will bury them and go after Walt the next day. 

Michael cleans Libby's blood from the floor as Eko shares his thoughts about hell and sin. Michael meets Jack in the jungle and again insists that he decide the way they go after Walt; he wants Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hugo, and no one else. Jack agrees. Michael returns with Jack to the beach and shares the news of Ana Lucia and Libby's murders. Michael becomes angry when Sawyer asks Sayid to come along on the expedition and later speaks to Sayid about it, stating he must be the one in charge. 

Eko announces to Charlie that he will be staying in the hatch, no longer participating in the building of their church; Charlie reacts poorly. Later Charlie follows Vincent to Sawyer's tent, where the heroin statues have been stashed and tosses the statues into the ocean. 

As Kate and Hugo dig the graves for Ana Lucia and Libby, Michael tries to encourage Hugo to come along on the journey to rescue Walt. Hugo apologizes but states emphatically he will not go along. As Sayid and Jack walk to the funeral on the beach Sayid suggests that Michael has been compromised. Jack wants to speak directly to Michael about it but Sayid prefers to keep their suspicions secret in order to create an advantage. Jack gives Ana Lucia's eulogy; Hugo gives Libby's and tells Michael he's changed his mind about going along. Just as they finish the funerals Sun points to a boat coming near their beach.

Flashbacks: Michael encounters some of the others; they exchange gunfire and eventually capture Michael. As it turns out, the others keep Michael in the jungle until dark and eventually confront Jack, Locke, and Sawyer as it happened before when the bearded man and his people lit up the torches. Alex, the teenage girl who saved Claire, speaks with Michael and asks about Claire and the baby. After Jack, Locke, Sawyer, and Kate leave the jungle, the bearded man redistributes the weapons he took from the group and Alex apologizes before knocking Michael out with the butt of one of the guns. 

The next day Michael arrives with the others at a cliffside tent settlement and he meets Miss Klugh, who asks him a series of questions about Walt. "Did Walt ever appear in a place he wasn't supposed to be?" she asks; Michael is confused. Later Michael demands he be allowed to see Walt; Miss Klugh delivers him and allows Michael to speak with him for three minutes only. Walt says he's not been harmed but that he's being made to take tests. "They're not who they say they are, they're pretending," Walt explains. After they take Walt away Miss Klugh tells Michael that in order to get his son back he will need to retrieve their man, who is being held by his people. She gives him a list of four people, "James Ford" being one of them, and promises Walt will be freed if Michael succeeds. 

Greater Meaning: Since seeing Michael suddenly murder Ana Lucia and Libby we have wondered what would drive him to do such a thing, and now we know: "Henry's" people are using Walt as a bargaining chip. It seems that Michael wasn't lying about having seen the others in their camp (canvas tents, dirty clothes) but something still appears to be missing in our ability to understand who the others are and what they do --- the fake beard, costumes, and makeup that Kate found in the medical station. When Claire had her flashbacks of Ethan and his people preparing to operate on her, the man Ethan spoke with was the bearded man, sans beard. He was dressed in typical-for-the-timeframe clothing, the others were dressed in professional medical garb. Now Michael sees the group of others dressed in shabby clothing living in makeshift huts. Do they live this way and then don medical uniforms and practice medicine when the need arises or do they live in a modern, more sophisticated area and simply pretend to be a primitive people? Why do they want to fool Locke, Kate, Sawyer, Jack, and Michael but didn't bother to try to fool Claire? Walt confirms that the others are "pretending." Why are they doing this? 

Further Questions

1. Will the others keep their promise to Michael and allow him to reunite with Walt?

2. What was that list all about, and why only the four names?

3. Who is the leader of the others? 

4. What did Miss Klugh mean when she asked about Walt "showing up in a place he wasn't supposed to be?"

5. What are the others going to do with Michael's blood sample? 

6. How did Walt communicate with Michael on a computer? 

7. Will Sayid follow the group? 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Rage Inherent in The Handmaid's Tale

For the last three weeks I've been rewatching the first three seasons of The Handmaid's Tale in order to prepare for the premiere of the fourth. I thought my anger would have died down a little after a year's hiatus. I was wrong. So I decided to make a list of what's been bothering me just to calm down a little. Also I need to give myself a break from Joseph Fienne's face for a while because damn he makes me want to break something. 

Trigger warning: rape, harassment, abuse, imprisonment 

Rage Item #1: Ritualized Rape whitewashed as "The Ceremony" 

Maybe the Commander/Wife pairs who have thus far been unable to conceive en masse should read the room: God doesn't want any of you having children, so why not just focus on your knitting or your gardening and leave the handmaids out of it? Despite the fact that a very small percentage of the handmaids actually signed up for their positions, NONE OF THEM enjoys the rape ceremony, having the babies they carried stolen from them, or being harassed and leered at by their respective commanders. No, Fred, she's not hot for you, she's scared, she wants her kid back, and she wants to GTFO. I'd go so far as to request a personal message on the ridiculousness of it all delivered by God, Jesus, and Mary themselves stating "Hey, you've got this 100% wrong," but clearly they'd ignore it, anyway. And do they think it's working? The majority of these situations end in negative outcomes and the people in charge don't seem to be learning any lessons or adapting the setup at all. 

Rage Item #2: PTSD

Moira, Emily, and countless others (as well as the young children), despite having escaped, will have lasting effects from their time in Gilead. Were Canada not a free healthcare nation with solid refugee resources I'd say the entire bill should be directed right back to Gilead, specific to whichever Commander/Wife pairs were responsible. Aunts, too. They cannot just be allowed to DAMAGE A HUMAN RACE. True there cannot really be a dollar amount attached to the psycho-emotional damage that has been done but there should still be accountability. The commanders are war criminals; treat them as such.

Rage Item #3: Gilead being allowed

Watching the episode that described the insurrection dismantling the former United States is definitely a different experience, post 1/6/21, but the question in both cases is the same: WHO LET THIS HAPPEN? WHO STOOD TO THE SIDE AND ALLOWED IT? I can't believe anyone, any country would take this seriously or acknowledge the Gilead experiment in any way, shape, or form.

There are mentions in various episodes of how other countries view Gilead (Mexico continues trade and considers handmaids for their own society; Canada accepts refugees and refuses to extradite but is wary of Gilead's military), but where was the UN? Where was the resistance? We've heard about the wars in Chicago and the map shows Texas in rebellion, what's happening there? Can people escape southward?

Rage Item #4: Women as Things

They rape the women, take their children, enslave them, and beat them. The handmaid's bodies' worth is judged solely on the ability to provide healthy children. Their eyes are expendable. Their hands and feet are expendable. In Washington, the handmaid's mouths are clamped shut with wires. Serena Joy has the misguided idea that as a prominent wife of a commander, her thoughts and feelings count just as much as her husband's, but she soon learns that her position is also limited; she is to be controlled and governed over, too.

Rage Item #5: No reading

Females--- children, handmaids, Marthas, and wives --- are not allowed to read. Again, Serena Joy thinks her past experiences as spokeswoman for the religious cause and former book author exempts her but she's wrong. In Canada she seems embarrassed when given an illustrated no-word itinerary sheet (as would be the norm in Gilead); after requesting permission for Gilead's girl children to be allowed to learn to read the Bible, she loses a finger for her efforts at the command of her own husband.

Where will it all go in season 4? I have hopes and dreams for Janine, June, Emily, Moira, and Hannah. Don't let the bastards grind you down, ladies! You get your shit together and you FIGHT! 

(season 4 premiere recap forthcoming!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, Season 2, Episode 21, ?

On-Island Events: Ana Lucia comes to Eko in a dream in a bloodied condition and tells Eko he needs to help Locke. Eko goes to the hatch and finds his brother Yemi, who tells him he must make Locke take him to "the question mark." 

Michael bursts out of the hatch and tells Locke, Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Eko a story about being shot by a man who escaped from the armory. As they look around the hatch and find Ana Lucia and Libby's lifeless bodies, Libby suddenly coughs out blood. Eko and Locke set out to track "Henry." Locke confronts Eko in the jungle, accusing him of tracking something other than "Henry;" Eko responds by knocking Locke out. When he awakens, Eko discusses the question mark with Locke and Locke shows Eko the map he made during the lockdown. 

Kate and Sawyer retrieve heroin from Sawyer's tent but run into Hugo, who is looking for Libby. Jack prepares to administer heroin to Libby while Hugo talks with Michael in the hatch about the picnic he had planned. 

Locke and Eko eventually find the cliff where Boone was injured in the falling plane and Locke dreams that Eko, like Boone, falls from the cliff. Locke tells Eko about the dream and Eko climbs to the top of the cliff. Looking down, Eko sees an area on the ground where a large circle has worn away from the grass. The two discover that the ground has been salted, so nothing will grow, and that the area underneath the fallen airplane is hiding another hatch. Inside this hatch is a small room filled with television monitors; when Locke switches them on he sees Jack inside the other hatch. A printed log of the numbers entered and accepted lies next to a pneumatic tube; Locke folds the map he made and thrusts it inside the tube, disgusted. Eko finds a VHS tape labeled "Orientation" with the same octagonal logo from the first hatch for this, the Pearl Station. The same scientist from the other hatch training video appears as Mark Wickmund, and explains the Pearl was created for observation and monitoring of other stations for a secret psychological experiment. Eko asks Locke if he'd like to watch the video a second time; Locke says he's seen enough.

Eko states the button-pushing work is now more important than ever but Locke becomes angry, comparing his life to the useless act of pushing the button. Eko shares the story of Yemi with Locke and insists the work in the hatch has meaning and must continue. 

Hugo talks with Libby and apologizes for forgetting the blankets. Libby awakens, says only, "Michael," and dies. 

Flashbacks: Eko, dressed as a priest, meets with a man who gives him a forged Australian passport needed for a trip to America. Eko's plans are postponed when the church needs to investigate a miracle: a girl who was believed to be drowned came back to life again. Eko tries to meet with the girl but her father insists his wife has made up the story of the drowning. 

The day Eko is scheduled to fly out of Australia on Oceanic flight 815, the girl tracks him down and tells him Yemi thought he was a good priest. She assures him that Yemi has faith in him and that Eko will see his brother again soon. 

Greater Meaning: The question mark in the title refers to the middle section of Locke's map from the blast door that identifies the hidden hatch in the ground but also reflects Locke's confused state over what his role on the island should be. The episode is focused upon Eko and his faith, but Locke is very much a part of it, too. In a way, Locke and Eko switch roles: Locke, who has always had an unwavering faith in the island, is thrown for a loop when he realizes the hatches were created to be psychological experiments by the Dharma Initiative, and Eko, who lived a life of violence before assuming his departed brother's role as a priest, finds faith for the first time after his dreams lead him to the hatch. Locke feels he has been made a fool of; Eko trusts the words and guidance of Yemi, who has come not only to him in dreams but spoke to the girl whose death and alleged resurrection was thought a miracle even before Oceanic 815 crashed onto the island. It's more than a little coincidental that the entrance to the new hatch lay directly beneath the plane that brought Yemi to the island and resulted in the eventual death of Boone, both events that tested the faiths of Eko and Locke.

Many of the survivors have seen things on the island that may or may not have really been there: Jack saw his father Christian, who led him to water; Shannon saw a soaking-wet Walt before anyone knew that the raft had been destroyed; Charlie saw various visions of Aaron in danger; and Hugo saw his imaginary friend Dave, who slapped him and struck him with a slipper. Knowing that the island has the ability to cure maladies such as paralysis and cancer, it's really not a stretch to accept that it may also allow the dead to communicate with the living or its inhabitants to have visions, but are these events motivated, somehow? Does the island have an agenda? If it does, Locke's crisis of faith is significant. We've already seen "Henry" try to manipulate Locke in playing him against Jack, in adding the bit about coming to get him before getting caught Henry seems to have marked Locke for his own, calling him "one of the good ones." Is Locke's goodness tied up in his faith? Is Jack not good because of his absence of faith and devotion to science? How will Eko proceed as the new island faithful? Locke's legs are still not fully healed, which, if we believe that the island takes and gives at will based on Locke being on the right track, seems important. 

Further Questions

1. Will Locke get his faith back?

2. Will Eko be in charge of the hatch now?

3. Are there ghosts on the island? 

4. Is the island messing with Locke? 

5. Were Boone's death and the discovery of the new hatch meant to test Locke's faith?

6. What was The Dharma Initiative and why does the scientist use different names in the videos?

7. Is The Dharma Initiative still on the island?

8. Is "Henry" part of The Dharma Initiative?

Monday, April 26, 2021

True Romance (with additional drug references)

After David Lynch's Wild at Heart, this film probably had the most influence over me as a viewer and a future film writer. I had seen plenty of edge-y films by the time this rolled around thanks to both of my parents being Stephen King fans and my dad really digging Clint Eastwood. Of course I'd seen love stories like The Princess Bride, The Bodyguard, and Pretty Woman. But seeing a film like this (and Wild at Heart), an edge-y, violent love story was an entirely new experience and one that showed me that films weren't always just entertainment, they could be so much more. I watched True Romance, probably cried, and then decided these were the kinds of films I wanted to see, forever. Little did I know how much influence the writer of this film would eventually have on me, years later! 

True Romance, 1993 d. Tony Scott 

You're so cool!

Written by: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Michael Rapaport, Dennis Hopper, James Gandolfini, Christopher Walken, Brad Pitt, Bronson Pinchot, Gary Oldman, Christopher Penn, Tom Sizemore, Saul Rubinek, Val Kilmer

Summary: "In Detroit, a lonely pop culture geek marries a call girl, steals cocaine from her pimp, and tries to sell it in Hollywood. Meanwhile, the owners of the cocaine, the Mob, track them down in an attempt to reclaim it," (IMDB). 

What's better than a good drug deal story? Drugs always add such an exciting, naughty element. Is someone addicted (Less Than Zero)? Are they concealing the drugs inside other objects like coffee grounds (Beverly Hills Cop) or toy statues (Traffic) or hiding them in a baby's diaper (Three Men and a Baby)? In the 3D Friday the Thirteenth sequel (part three), they actually ate the drugs to get rid of the evidence. Yes I realize these examples are cheesy and there are many better ones, but  whatever, DRUGS! Here Clarence (Slater) obtains a suitcase of drugs while tendering his new wife Alabama's (Arquette) resignation from the world of prostitution and whoops, turns out the mafia wants that suitcase back. 

Clarence has an actor friend out in LA, Dick Ritchie (Rapaport) who thinks he might be able to sell the drugs, but whoops, the director he has in mind has an assistant who just got busted for possession himself and is eventually roped into wearing a wire in order to expose the drug deal. Things get . . . violent. Turns out no one has my sense of humor when it comes to drugs.

In terms of technique, think of the two most dissimilar places in America (such as Detroit, Michigan and Hollywood, California) and you'll have the basics of the contrasts at play in this film. And yes, these two locations are used as the settings for the story, so it's like, literal. The gray and gritty influences are Drexl (Oldman), Vincenzo (Walken) and his mafia henchmen which include a young Tony Soprano himself, James Gandolfini, and Clifford Worley, Clarence's father (Hopper) as well as the vehicles, run down apartments, and unpleasant weather. This Detroit and most who inhabit it are not living lives of optimism. 

In Hollywood, the mood, the colors, and the characters all shift radically: we get palm trees, neons, and big personalities all bathed in the California sunshine. The spaces are interesting---fancy hotels, old school drive-thu restaurants, and an amusement park. Even Dick Ritchie's apartment, made more appealing by the illustrious stoner, Floyd (Pitt), is exciting because of its location presumably among other would-be actors' pads and for the action it sees during the film. Also because drugs.

Transcending the lights and darks and haves/have-nots of the mise en scene, the pop music chosen shows Clarence's link to coolness (as Alabama will later write on her little napkin while Clarence "does business") and arguable mental instability in the secret Elvis communication that happens at crucial decision-making moments. The steel-drum/synthesizer light-hearted motif that comes and goes throughout the film seems to be pure Alabama, her optimism, her acceptance, and her childlike nature, assuring us that no matter how difficult things get it will all turn out fine in the end. In this way, Clarence and Alabama, through their personalities and their naivety, are the wild cards --contained by neither gritty Detroit nor sunny Los Angeles-- who are allowed to travel between places and ultimately outsmart the agents of both. 

The racial insults in Clifford's story to the Sicilians are difficult and upsetting to hear. There's more difficulty near the end when the two cops make rape jokes to Eliot (Pinchot) and added racial epitaphs during the fated hotel meeting with Donowitz (Rubinek). Tarantino writes about unsavory characters, after all, but these moments are still disturbing. Would that these criminals were not so problematic. And obviously it goes without saying that this film is not going to appeal to everyone for these and other reasons, but I still think it has a lot of heart under all its offensive moments. That said if this one gets under your skin, you definitely don't want to go any further in Tarantino's body of work. If you ask me, this story (Alabama in particular) is nothing more than what his answer would be if someone back in the early 90s asked him to describe his ideal date, and I get it. I like most of all this, too, I just don't want to actually GO there. 

Gotta love that wisdom ala Vivianne in Pretty Woman "she rescues him right back," ending, right? Wins like this for women weren't too common, even in the 90s. What a gal. Look for her reference in Reservoir Dogs soon after this film (Hell of a woman, good little thief!).

Friday, April 23, 2021

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, Season 2, Episode 20, Two For the Road

On-Island Events: Jack is suspicious of Michael's sudden appearance but with Kate, helps him back to the hatch. While Ana Lucia is questioning "Henry," he attacks her but is thwarted by Locke. Ana Lucia confesses to Libby that "Henry" tried to kill her; Libby advises Ana Lucia not to do anything stupid in retaliation. 

Locke is confused about why "Henry" didn't try to kill him when he had the chance, when he asks "Henry" about it he replies that Locke is "one of the good ones." "Henry" admits that he has failed his mission and that before becoming ensnared in Rousseau's net, he had been on his way to get Locke. Ana Lucia asks Sawyer for a gun but he refuses.

Jack is unable to rouse Michael to consciousness; Locke thinks Michael's presence suggests the trade for "Henry" was accepted. Ana Lucia follows Sawyer out to the jungle and again asks for a gun. Sawyer declines once again but after the two have sex, Ana Lucia secretly manages to get one. Hugo and Libby make plans to go on a beach picnic. Locke covers for Ana Lucia when Jack notices her injury from "Henry." Michael wakes up with a headache but informs Kate, Jack, and Locke that he found the others. Michael states that the others were dirty and tent-dwelling but that he suspected they were holding Walt in a guarded hatch. 

Kate, Jack, and Locke confront Sawyer demanding guns while Ana Lucia confronts "Henry" in the armory. Unable to shoot "Henry" though she wants to, Ana Lucia hands her gun over to Michael, who in turn shoots her. Seeking blankets in the hatch for the picnic, Libby comes upon the scene; Michael shoots her, too. After he sees "Henry" in the armory, Michael shoots himself in the arm.

Flashbacks: Ana Lucia's mother brings her to the morgue to see Jason McCormick, the man responsible for shooting Ana Lucia and causing her miscarriage (who Ana Lucia shot). Ana Lucia hands in her badge and quits.

Ana Lucia runs into Christian Shephard at a bar in LAX; he invites her to accompany him to Sydney. Christian employs Ana Lucia as a sort of bodyguard and after drinking for four days, has her accompany
him to a house where he argues with a blond woman. "She's my daughter and I have a right to see her," Christian shouts.  

The next day, Ana Lucia drives Christian to a bar where he hits a passing Sawyer with the door of the car. Later while at the airport, Ana Lucia waits in a ticket line behind Jin and Jack, who pleads with an agent over securing his father's remains for Oceanic flight 815. Ana Lucia has an emotional phone call with her mother but says she's on her way home. 

Greater Meaning: Two for the road seems to reference Ana Lucia and Christian setting out on an adventure in Australia, but takes on new meaning at the episode's conclusion. Ana Lucia and Libby were killed by Michael, another survivor. Questions surrounding these sudden murders revolve around Walt, did Michael learn something that changed him or was he instructed by someone else to kill the two women? Is there indeed a trade happening, Walt for "Henry?" If so, this makes "Henry" more important than we may have realized. 

Other than Libby's dazed few moments in the hospital during Hugo's flashback, we have not seen any backstory on Libby's life; we know very little about her. Ana Lucia, on the other hand, has had two episodes devoted to her backstory and has had much dangled and then taken from her throughout the show's second season: 

1. Would-be mother - - - baby lost after getting shot

2. Reunification with mother and return to normal life, post revenge killing - - - Oceanic flight 815 crashes onto island

3. Romantic interest of Goodwin - - - betrayed and nearly killed by Goodwin 

4. Would-be leader of the tail section - - - outcast after accidentally shooting Shannon

5. Accepted island colleague respected by Locke, Sayid, and Jack - - - betrayed and killed by Michael 

Ana Lucia's inability to kill "Henry" allowed him to be saved by Michael and ultimately led to her own murder as well as Libby's. Michael needed Ana Lucia to give him the combination to the armory and trusting his intentions were if not honorable, then loyal to Ana Lucia and the rest of the survivors, she provided it. Knowing what we know about Ana Lucia's history, this is a very sad, very frustrating way for her story to end, but fit within the repeated potential-downfall seesaw that seemed to plague her existence. Michael's pained look and subsequent apology suggests he is upset about what he's doing; he's been nothing but an honest and helpful character thus far, devoted above all to his son Walt. In order for Michael to have turned to murder, something serious must be at play, most likely involving "Henry's" people.

Further Questions:  

1. Did Michael kill for the others?

2. Is Walt a bargaining chip?

3. Is Michael going to successfully get "Henry" out of the hatch?

4. Was Michael telling the truth about the others? 

5. Who is the daughter Christian was yelling about? Who was the Australian woman?

6. Will we ever learn more about Libby?

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Scarwid, Tilly, Scarwid

Three weeks ago, my Tuesday film group chose Mommie Dearest. I was really looking forward to it but then realized I had mixed up this film (which I'd never seen before) with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Child abuse stories are not really my thing, but I made it through okay, I guess. After this selection I was up to choose so naturally Psycho 3 was my obvious follow-up choice as how else would one follow up a Diana Scarwid viewing (other than to jump into LOST's 3rd season where she plays Isabelle, Juliet's nemesis among the others)? Psycho 2 ended up happening in between the two for continuity's sake as my two friends decided they wanted the context before watching 3. I'm disappointed to say they did not enjoy the experience of these two sequels as much as I did, but I suspect this is because they have no personal attachment to the films and they need to follow my example and watch them each 20 times more (faithful readers know I've written about both of them on numerous occasions). 

Mommie Dearest 1981, d. Frank Perry

Written by: Christina Crawford (book), Frank Yablans (screenplay)

Starring: Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid, Steve Forrest

Summary: "The abusive and traumatic adoptive upbringing of Christina Crawford at the hands of her mother, screen queen Joan Crawford, is depicted," (IMDB).

Yeah, I can't really do a proper review on this without putting out a giant trigger warning for the extremely intense nature of the child abuse scenes that pretty much happen the entire film. At the hands of Joan Crawford (Dunaway), adopted daughter Christina (Mara Hobel and Scarwid) suffers: Withheld affection and general care, neglect, imprisonment, forced meal of rare steak (not preferred), forced meal of day old rare steak (after two refusals), traumatic hair removal, assault with wire hangers, humiliation, withholding of necessary financials, persistence of rare steak being forced meals even into adulthood, verbal abuse, physical abuse, general instability and inconsistency.


Does the film competently portray these events? Yes. The production is solid. The sets are very impressive, Dunaway is physically and emotionally brilliant, and both Christinas (Hobel and Scarwid) pull off amazing performances. But make no mistake, this is not an enjoyable experience. Had I not known this was based on the real Christina Crawford's experiences with her mother I may have been slightly less disturbed, but fiction or non-, this is an extremely hard to stomach story. Honestly, I'd prefer The Human Centipede

Psycho 2 1983, d. Richard Franklin 

Written by: Tom Holland, based on characters by Robert Bloch

Starring: Anthony Perkins, Meg Tilly, Vera Miles, Robert Loggia, Dennis Franz

Summary: "After twenty-two years of psychiatric care, Norman Bates attempts to return to a life of solitude, but the specters of his crimes - and his mother - continue to haunt him," (IMDB). 

What else can I write about this, after years of writing about it? I still think it's a good film. A good sequel (not to be held to Hitchcock technical standards, OBVS) and a good standalone. It's scary! The story took Norman Bates and put him back in circulation so the world could mess with him a little, and we the audience get to re-experience all the fun stuff from the first film (Norman and Lila, the motel and the fruit cellar, Mother's outfit, etc.) but with a lighter, 80s vibe. 

Speaking of 80s, Mary Loomis (Meg Tilly) has a string of outfits that belong in my Pinterest. I didn't think of this in time to get any still photographs of the clothes, but blue, cranberry, and gold cowl necks with broach pins, I think she has a cute little ensemble with a beret? One of these days I might re-watch again and draw out her outfits, fashion-plates style.  

The scary parts for me are the murders, of course, but they were made more intense by the music, or in some cases just the sound design. The noises in the fruit cellar when the two kids sneak in to mess around are creepy: first the girl hears something in the next room, then we get the clacking of the shoes as Mother (Emma Spool, who looks a little tall, tbh) walks by, and then the wood pile disassembling, the squeaking of the guy's fingers down the window, and the wet squelches of the knife going into his back, repeatedly. Yikes. 

There are fun musical moments that depict Norman's slide into confusion with a lot of synthesizer effects (investigating or revealing), nostalgic, happier memories (finding Mother's room all fixed up), and up and down emotion (Beethoven on the piano). 

The cast of actors throw out a high-level collection of performances, they seem to play well off each other (although I didn't like hearing about how Anthony Perkins was mean to the young Meg Tilly), and everyone is interesting, even down to the crabby old Stockard Channing lookalike waitress, Myrna (Lee Garlington). There are moments of cringe, most of them with the way certain people are stabbed, pretty visceral and hard-core, but there is subtlety in some of the scares, too. Mother's notes, the slow way Mother (Mary, in Mother's clothes) hovers in the window looking out, and the confused hand-switching phone calls that seem to launch Norman back into insanity each time (who even is calling him the first time, is it Emma Spool?). Little moments that take their time. It's a lengthy film, just under 2 hours, but if you're into it, you savor every one of those moments. 

Although I enjoy it, I can see how newcomers to the film might feel a little bit blindsided by the ending, my friends both seemed to be, because Emma Spool isn't highlighted very much and she does disappear for nearly the entire film after her handful of scenes early on. If you do go back and keep an eye on her, you'll see that she's really the only one who supports Norman right off the bat, seems a little scowl-y when Norman sticks up for Mary (!) after the broken plate, and was the last one standing by the ticket wheel when Mother's note went missing. Not overt foreshadowing, but you know, subtle hint-dropping.

And finally, I just love Meg Tilly, then and now. Check out her lovely YouTube channel, Meg's Cozy Tea Time and enjoy her quirky, fun, wholesome stories about writing, tea, acting, and her family! 

<<<<<-------Also enjoy this shot of Warren Toomey's amyl nitrate, photo credit by "Toasted Cheese Sammich" from my Tuesday group.

Psycho 3 1986, d. Anthony Perkins

Written by: Charles Edward Pogue, based on characters by Robert Bloch

Starring: Anthony Perkins, Diana Scarwid, Jeff Fahey

Summary: "Norman Bates falls in love with a fallen nun who stays at the Bates Motel
alongside a drifter and a curious reporter. Meanwhile, "Mother" is still watching," (IMDB). 

Side note: I never really thought about the significance of having Maureen Coil (Scarwid), lookalike to Marion Crane and Norman's love interest, be a failed nun. I mean, I guess if there was one perfect girl for Norman, a religious, naive virgin who can't dance and still wears puffy-sleeved dresses would be a hit. Not in Mother's eyes, though. 

Anyway, if you thought Psycho 2 was outlandish, I can't imagine what you're going to think of this. Dead nuns right off the bat. Good old Norman, filling taxidermy birds' sawdust with his peanut butter spoon. DWAYNE DUKE (Fahey), MY FRIENDS JUST CALL ME DUKE (complete rant on him, below). Tracey Venable (Roberta Maxwell) and her smart mouth talk and bad dresses/hair that make her look 83 years old. The killings (or attempts) start early and they roll hard the entire film. Apparently Norman's . . . appetites are a little less controlled now and really any woman just bothering to exist in his presence is fair game, all prompted by "Mother's" angry urgings, of course. 

I thought Scarwid did a great job, here. She played innocent and vulnerable really well and her very specific voice was perfect for Maureen. Nice little Arbo-gast tumble down the steps there (with added Cupid's arrow), too. Poor Maureen.

Overall, the scary moments are fewer in this film, probably to make room for all the sexual weirdness someone decided was a good idea. "Mother" is kind of scary, but she's kind of funny, too. "Stand up straight and wipe your snotty little nose!" I mean, whatever. We KNOW she's stuffed Emma Spool, but I think keeping her face hidden or in the dark until the reveal in cabin 12 was smart. The female-voiced chanting music during the spy session into Maureen's room was creepy, and I think it returned late in the game during Norman's drive out to the swamp and it always gave me the chatters. Really the entire cabin 12 scene has always really freaked me out, just the strange vacant smile Norman has as he walks down there along with the color of the scene itself, first kind of green and then dark and shadowy when we know that no one's around and "Mother," who we know cannot have written the note on the table or have just walked off somewhere, missing in action. It's just an icky, disturbing kind of suspense and I both love and hate it. 

Bringing me to DUKE. Trashy-hot but seriously: 

*Would-be rapist

*Maker of PORN COLLAGE that spans the walls of the inside of cabin 12 as well as a RANDOM LAMPSHADE. He rolls into the Bates Motel, gets hired, and the next night when he brings home his unnamed companion, there it is. Clearly he unpacked his bags and got right to work on it. So devoted to his porn collage! What a guy.

*Five dollar thief

*Extreme jerk (post-coitus) to unnamed companion, eventually becoming verbally and physically abusive. Had he allowed her to stay in his room or engaged nicely in the conversation she seemed intent on starting, she might have lived a little longer. As it was, Norman really had to make a statement and put his fist through the phone booth before actually murdering her. Why? Dramatic flourish, I guess. Talk about wrong place at the wrong time.

*Sufferer of radical personality change halfway through film after seeing "Mother" up in window during thunderstorm homecoming night. Quiet and polite during police questioning of Norman (re: Patsy, the toilet victim) but suddenly manic, sweaty, and crazed for the cabin 12 meet-up for the battle of "Mother's" corpse. Did he get into Toomey's old stash of uppers somewhere? WHY THE CHANGE? I mean at least we got to see some of his songwriting in action, but still. 

*And ultimately, forever swamp-dweller. RIP, Duke. You sucked. 

The ending, starting with Venable and the tire iron, is scary. Seeing Norman dressed up, grinning, and speaking in Mother's voice is scary. Every time I want her to not go into the house, to just drive away and drop the whole thing but no. Although Norman straightening the painting Venable knocked askew is still one of my favorite moments of the film. At least she lived to tell the tale.

So there you have it. It's nice (for me, anyway) to know that certain 80s films still provoke such rants, decades later. Does anyone else love these? I want to know you if you do.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, Season 2, Episode 19, S.O.S.

On-Island Events: Bernard and Rose disagree about how best to proceed with their new island lives; Locke attempts to reconstruct a drawing of the question mark map on the blast door. Jack tends to "Henry's" shoulder and informs him that he will try to trade for Walt. 

Bernard rounds up a group of survivors and suggests making a sign on the beach for a new rescue attempt. Rose admonishes Bernard for giving people false hope. Later he approaches Eko and Charlie, who decline to help, and criticizes them for building a church instead of aiding in rescue plans. Locke yells at "Henry" through the armory door while "Henry" sits back and smiles at the chaos he's created. 

Bernard accuses Rose of sabotaging his rescue plan; Rose suggests he just let things be. Jack and Kate set out to the disputed area to find "Henry's" people but get caught in one of Rousseau's nets. Locke and Rose sit together on the beach; Rose suggests with a knowing look that despite his broken leg, Locke will heal faster than he thinks. 

Kate explains her theory of the others' sophistication to Jack, who is upset at having been kept in the dark about the hidden medical station. When they arrive at the disputed area, Jack yells to announce his presence and adds that he has their man. Rose discloses to Bernard that the island has healed her, and remembers seeing Locke in a wheelchair in the airport before the flight. Bernard understands and tells Rose that they'll never leave the island. As Jack and Kate wait for the others in the jungle, a frantic and exhausted Michael emerges.

Flashbacks: Bernard meets Rose when he helps her out of a snowed-in parking spot; she thanks him by buying him coffee. Five months later at Niagara Falls, Bernard proposes to Rose, who says she's sick and dying, but accepts. In the outback on their honeymoon Bernard takes Rose to a spiritual healer and the two argue about it. Bernard insists he needs to try to do something about Rose's situation despite Rose's own peace with it. The healer explains how he harnesses energy but tells Rose his is not the right place for her healing. Rose states she will tell Bernard he had fixed her anyway.

Greater Meaning: It seems important to note that since Rose and Locke have been healed by coming to the island, they do not wish to leave or get rescued. One wonders how this may play out down the line should an opportunity to leave or get rescued actually arise. Eko and Charlie's building of the church also suggests a comfort in settling in to island life, long-term. Should the survivors actually stay and carve out a new civilization to dwell spread out over the beach, jungle, and cave area, the issues with "Henry," Rousseau, and any others become more than just individual inconveniences. Jack's sentiment of living together or dying alone seems all the more important in this light; will the survivors be able to live alongside the island's more senior residents? 

Rose has proven to be knowledgeable in many instances, in knowing Bernard was alive, in having a funny feeling about the hatch, and as revealed in this episode, in knowing the cancer had left her body once crashing onto the island. Electricity, magnetism, geology, and energy have come up several times in the second season; Rose's healer mentioned pockets of energy under the location in Australia where he practiced, the magnetic energy in the hatch still hasn't quite been figured out, and "Henry's" odd comments about no one being able to see or find the island suggests a unique geological energy at work. Can the island be explained, scientifically, or is there another influence at play? What could the island possibly have going on that would not only cure cancer but also paralysis and broken bones? Does Rousseau know about this property? Does "Henry?"

Further Questions

1. Will Locke heal quickly?

2. Does Rose know more about the island's powers?

3. Will the survivors stop trying to get rescued? 

4. Does "Henry" have a plan?

5. What has Michael been doing all this time?

6. Is Walt safe? 

7. Is there more about the island Rose knows? 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Film Scenes, Film Moments

 I watched two films last week that I really thought I liked as a teenager but that unfortunately haven't held up for me the same way as an adult viewer, Soapdish (1991) and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989). My kids watched with me and said the former was weird but loved the latter. 

Maybe "haven't held up" is the wrong way to describe what I mean. I loved both of these films as a teenager, as in really loved them to the point of obsession, and now, the age I am now I realize that I must have really had a thing for outlandish, ZANY stories. Not smash hit award-winners, but, you know, excessive stories. Fun stories. Stories with memorable moments that I think about 20 years later.

Like this: Sally Field is amazing in everything she does (my kids know her as Maggie, Abby's mother from ER) but I think her physical comedy in Soapdish is brilliant. Hanging off the drain pipe outside the apartment, kicking and flailing her legs on the couch talking to Rose (Whoopie Goldberg), and the GRADE A FREAKOUT on the set when she sees the attempted kiss between her ex (Kevin Kline) and her daughter (Elizabeth Shue). 

They way they just calmly lift her off him! Teri Hatcher's HAIR. Next to the turban situation early on in the film, this was Maggie's best rant. 

Bill and Ted was a different kind of outlandish, I think the budget was probably a lot lower and it was marketed (and scripted) to win over teenagers, not adults, but it's still fun. The special effects are fine for the time, I guess, the settings were basic but effective. Overall both then and now, I loved any of the music that was not performed by Bill or Ted, themselves. The song during Napoleon's time at the waterpark, Beethoven's synthesizer grind at the mall, and my favorite, Robbie Rob's "In Time," which played during their travel to the futuristic place with the blue shadows and the air-guitar strumming citizens. I remember watching this at home when it came out on video and rewinding the scene just so I could hear the song again. I'm reminded of it every time my kids play "Cliffs of Dover" on Guitar Hero, just because both songs give me a similar late 80s fun guitar vibe. 

So even though I wouldn't count either one of these as my favorite films, I feel like these scenes will stay with me forever, being so memorable and personally pleasing in almost a flashbulb memory kind of way. Do others have this? I think come by this pretty easily because I was taught to. Not simply because I was brought up in a family that was always watching and rewatching films but because the only time my father, a very stern, not outgoing or humorous man in any form, allowed his actual personality to show was in regard to film, music, or television. I never saw him cry from sadness, but the first time I saw him laugh himself into tears was during the scene in The Cannonball Run where the motorcycle bursts into the restaurant through the wall, zips by everyone, and busts out the opposite wall. Everyone just stands around confused and Sammy Davis Junior goes, "What in the hell was THAT?" Ditto the reaction and add my mother after the "Flying Shithouse" pigeon kick in Cat's Eye. I think they laughed (and bawled) for a solid half hour after that one. 

My brother always enjoyed the close up shot of the tire on Christine just after Moochie innocently calls out (to whom he thinks is Arnie), "Hey, you ain't mad, are ya?" and the car attacks with a squeal. He also made my best friend rewind the shot of Joan Wilder swinging across the river and landing with a plop on Romancing the Stone a ridiculous number of times. I think we all enjoyed the "Mrs. Peacock was a MAN?" double-slap of Mr. Green in Clue. 

I think if my dad were still alive, he'd really love Lebowski's dumpster collision, although it's hard to say if it would evoke any tears from laughter. Personally I love the rhythmic roof-of-the-car slapping to Creedence that happens just before that, punctuated with Larry Sellers' poorly graded homework sheet to close out the scene. 


Sunday, April 18, 2021

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, Season 2, Episode 18, Dave

On-Island Events: Hugo and Libby talk together on the beach; Hugo admits that he's been stashing his own supply of food in the jungle. Libby assures Hugo he has the ability to change and encourages him to destroy the stash. After he does, the other survivors celebrate the new supply stash that has been dropped in by parachute and begin dividing it. After Hugo refuses to be in charge of the food a second time, he sees a bald, smiling man he calls "Dave." 

Jack examines Locke's leg and determines it's broken. Locke pleads "Henry's" case to Jack but for naught. Now tied up in the armory, "Henry" claims the real Henry Gale was already dead and hanging out of the balloon when found by a search party. Sayid produces a twenty dollar bill which the real Henry Gale wrote on after crashing that refutes "Henry's" story. When asked about his peoples' leader, "Henry" becomes anxious and upset. Sayid nearly shoots him in frustration but is stopped by Ana Lucia.

As Hugo sneaks off to consume goldfish crackers, Dave again appears and whips his slipper at Hugo. He chases Dave to the beach where Charlie and Eko are working; they claim they didn't see anyone. Hugo seeks Sawyer out for drugs but when Sawyer mocks him for his hallucinations, Hugo charges him in front of the entire camp. Hugo packs a bag and leaves the camp; Dave interrupts him eating peanut butter. Dave tells Hugo that he's still back at the hospital and that the island and everything on it is all in his head. After leading Hugo up to a tall cliff overlooking the ocean, Dave encourages Hugo to jump over the edge in order to wake himself up from the delusion and jumps over himself, laughing.

Locke refuses to use his old wheelchair but accepts a pair of crutches to get around. In the armory, Locke questions "Henry," who refuses to divulge his real name and makes an odd statement about God and the rest of the world being unable to see or know about the island. Locke suggests that maybe he allowed himself to be caught in Rousseau's net or that his people were curious about the hatch. He assures Locke they think the hatch is nothing but a joke but that he also lied about entering the numbers into the computer. 

Libby confronts Hugo at the edge of the cliff; Hugo explains he has been imagining everything that has happened. Libby assures Hugo everything has been real and kisses him.

Flashbacks: Hugo speaks to a psychiatrist but avoids discussing the accident that resulted in his
hospitalization. Later after a basketball game, Hugo chats with Dave, who his doctor thinks is a bad influence. 

Hugo and Dave play Connect-4 with Leonard and Hugo steals Leonard's graham crackers. Dave also convinces Hugo not to take his required clonazepam. Hugo's doctor takes a photo of the two; Hugo cheeks his meds. A few days later, after sharing a small list of things he likes about himself, Hugo's doctor asks him about his appearance. Hugo admits that he believes his weight caused an accident on a collapsed deck that resulted in several peoples' deaths, and his doctor suggests his eating habits are about punishing himself. When Hugo becomes defensive and evokes Dave's name, the doctor shows Hugo the photo he took (and that Dave is not in it because Dave does not exist). 

Later that evening, Dave comes to Hugo and slaps him twice when Hugo accuses him of being a hallucination. Dave encourages Hugo to break out the hospital window but Hugo refuses, stands up for himself, and bids Dave farewell. On a reprisal of the scene where the doctor takes the photo of Hugo and Dave, a darker-haired Libby, who was also a patient in the hospital, watches from across the room.

Greater Meaning: We wait the entire episode for the payoff connection between characters this time, but the conclusion to Hugo's flashback shows that he and Libby were hospitalized together before the crash. This can be seen as another coincidental connection among the characters (ala Sawyer and Diane, Locke and Nadia, Sayid and Sam), which at this point is too common to be considered coincidental any longer, or could also serve to reveal Hugo and Libby's mental health as important factors on the island. Does Libby remember Hugo? He's said a few times that Libby seems familiar to him, but given the disoriented state she was in during the flashback, she may not have been aware of Hugo's presence. Hugo's orientation to reality appeared to be solid up until this point: he's been kind, empathetic, and has adapted his behavior well to the new normal of life on the island. Hugo's guilt over his weight drove his initial hospitalization; his experiences on the island have not brought about any negative consequences for others but have apparently resurfaced due to his budding relationship with Libby. 

Hugo wants to change but believes he is incapable, thus Dave emerges to maintain his negative relationship with food and himself. Libby, a clinical psychologist, is there both times to encourage Hugo and validate his feelings (throw the food away, don't jump off the cliff, you CAN change) but her own story becomes more interesting with the reveal that she herself was a patient in a psychiatric facility. Will Libby's struggles also be revealed? They both seem to be understanding people; can their relationship work?

Further Questions

1. Will Hugo and Libby become an official couple? 

2. Is Libby mentally sound?

3. Will Locke's injury heal?

4. Did "Henry" really lie about entering the numbers? 

5. Are the numbers just a joke?

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Bad Times at the El Royale

This film is a vibe for a couple different reasons. First, I went to it in the theater as a morning matinee back when I was on the AMC Stubs monthly program (unlimited films for $25!) and really enjoyed it and I really like thinking back to that time in my life. I only had one grad class, was working part time nights, and my kids were all in school every day so I just spent my weekdays going to whatever films were showing in the morning. Jesus, what a life! Why did I stop doing this, exactly? And second, I grew up in a small town that had a very seventies-holdover supper club and motel called The Sheep Shedde that was like a low-rent, small town version of the El Royale. Upon this reviewing I found myself longing for the old place, which has since been updated from its 70s design and decor, and wishing I could actually spend time inside a real El Royale (although it wasn't a real structure, only a set built for the film). If I had millions of dollars I would buy that place and live there. Tri-colored panes of vertical decorative windows and CALIFORNIA/NEVADA-SHAPED KEYS FOR EACH ROOM! 

Bad Times at the El Royale, 2018 d. Drew Goddard

Written by: Drew Goddard

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth

Summary: Early 1970s. Four strangers check in at the El Royale Hotel. The hotel is deserted, staffed by a single desk clerk. Some of the new guests' reasons for being there are less than innocent and some are not who they appear to be," (IMDB)

Be patient with this! It takes its time and scatters its payoffs all the way through, but this film is a mighty good story. Five good stories wrapped up in one, actually, but that's why you need to be patient, each one of the characters is important enough to come with a history, and each history plays a huge part in the characters' actions once at the El Royale. Bring snacks, take breaks, or rewind certain parts if you need to, but stay with it! The story is clever and brilliantly told but you have to pay attention. Long films that take a while to get going can be difficult to stay the course through, but that's where the technical stuff comes in for periodic hits between the measured storytelling.

I mean, look at these: 

The music, whether it's pop selections from the 70s era or instrumental fill, is always interesting. Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), the vocalist, carries whatever scene she's in by simply being there, whether it's singing or speaking, her voice is captivating. The pop selections chosen do a lot in the way of establishing the timeframe but also in giving the film a hip sort of relevance that the scenery couldn't swing on its own. The grandness and preserved look of the El Royale seems to be straight out of a Kubrick film, which holds true throughout as the sinister nature of the hotel is eventually uncovered bit by bit, but at the same time, the characters reflect on their choices and experiences, bringing in pieces of the outside world (pop music, former relationships, medical diagnoses) the importance of which doesn't quite make itself known until the last third of the film. I watched True Romance a few days ago and this story felt like a stylized, longer version of that, with muted colors, smarter people, and less Tarantino/Scott but more Kubrick/Soderbergh. 

The actors all had great chemistry together; the theme of evil or decay is worth examining (El Royale as a place where all potential, past and present, goes to die/the white male capitalist system has ruined everyone, even those who sought to exploit it), and as I've said, the visuals are brilliant. For those with the attention span, a veritable feast for eyes, ears, and brain! 

P.S. I don't really agree with the Chris Hemsworth/heavy marketing they decided to go with for this, I mean I get that he sells tickets just by his aesthetic but he was a supporting character, not a lead, and his scenes were by far the least interesting and my least favorite (until the very end, I suppose).