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
Numbers
In Translation
Outlaws
Homecoming
Special
Hearts and Minds
Whatever the Case May Be 
All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues
Raised by Another 
Solitary
Confidence Man
The Moth
House of the Rising Sun
White Rabbit 
Walkabout
Tabula Rasa
Pilot, part 2
Pilot, part 1

Monday, May 11, 2020

Reading in Quarantine: The First Seven

I always have a stack of seven books to read. Sometimes I'll get to pages or chapters from all seven in one sitting (or bath), other times I'll zero in on one that I'm enjoying more than the others and finish it first before going back to the remaining six. This time around, I was watching The Handmaid's Tale while also reading The Testaments in early March, so I worked it out by reading Testaments in the morning and then by watching Handmaid's Tale at night (with wine, because yeah). I can't say it was fun, exactly, but I was very interested in both stories having read Atwood's THT novel years ago. Things were a lot different back then.

I didn't set out to create a depressing stack of dystopian books to read, it just sort of assembled itself. My friend lent me the Atwood, I had been reading small bits of the Rand since summer, Cronin's last in his vampy trilogy had sat gathering dust on my shelf since after returning home from China in summer of 2018, I'm just always reading something of GRRM's, and I've been rereading each of King's novels just for the fun of it. The other two I just picked up because I wanted to learn more about history and international diplomacy. When I posted a photo of this stack on March 16 (the week after my graduate school internship was suspended and the quarantine unofficially began), many people noticed the theme and remarked upon it. Very heavy, very dark, they all said; I went with it. It was indeed a very heavy and dark collection of books, but without spoiling anything, there are a few happy conclusions snuck in, too. Not the non-fiction, mind.

After a while and given the way the events under quarantine have unfolded throughout my time at home, I started balancing these stories with television programs that became an outlet for my disgust and anger at the administration's handling of the situation (Sons of Anarchy, Rescue Me, House, Mrs. America) and my need to escape it all (LOST). Here's what I read:

1. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. 2019, 431 pages.

This story continues the events of The Handmaid's Tale and is told through POV chapters from two young girls, one inside Gilead and one across the Canadian border, and Aunt Lydia, one of the women charged with the education of Gilead's young women.

I could give my thoughts on this in a balanced and proper way highlighting interesting bits of prose or clever links back to the previous novel --Hey, Aunt Lydia's backstory! Awesome!-- but this would really be a waste of a good rant. It's obvious that Atwood knows how to write; everything she does is intelligent and skilled, but I wasn't thinking of this while I read. I was cringing and scowling and squeezing the book (as during the show but sub squeezing the book with gulping my wine) because I was ANGRY. This experience was quite unlike reading The Handmaid's Tale so many years ago because for various reasons, now, I am more afraid of it ACTUALLY HAPPENING. I found myself thinking several times that this might give the wrong people worse ideas than they already have and that women might need to have a plan in case this someday gets put into play. Just like everyone is likely to have a "pandemic plan" that has toilet paper, yeast, and bottled water hidden away in a bin after this COVID debacle, I move that women start developing a "Gilead plan," for safety's sake. I don't know what it would entail, but once we can meet again friends, let's get something down on paper, okay?

Verdict: Great book, well done (will raise blood pressure). Men? Reading this could really help with insight and self-awareness, please try.

2. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. 1957, 1084 pages. 

I will try to be tactful with this. I started reading it a really long time ago and planned to stop at least six times throughout different stages of it but didn't. I read The Fountainhead about twenty years ago and thought it was okay until I actually started thinking about the date rape presented as, "well, it worked out in the end, didn't it?" I had a hard time with that, but it's another story for another day. Atlas Shrugged is an entirely different experience although there's definitely gender stuff and a weird, destructive vibe around the intercourse that gets had among characters.

Dagny Taggart is the vice president of a successful railroad company; her brother is the company's president but he's spineless and bad at his job. Hank Reardon is successful in running a steel company having created his own superior brand of metal. Europe is in the grips of communism, which seems to be spreading to other parts of the world, and this worries the two industrialists because every single liberal-minded person in America favors collectivization, helping one's fellow man, eschews science, progress, and rational thought, and they're beginning to take over. Through the guidance of several other mysterious and lauded industrialists, the two realize they've been approaching their businesses in a way that rewards laziness and ignorance, and that this needs to be radically halted.

I get that communism was scary, but seriously.

(Epoche: I have a liberal arts undergraduate degree and have very nearly completed a graduate degree in a field that combines art and science. I taught little kids to read for four years; I serve others in a helping profession. I am a writer and musician. I have more children than average. I read a lot. I am not a business owner, nor I am remotely interested in becoming one. I realize I am speaking from a position of privilege, as a reader and as a middle-class, white, cishet American whose parents created a comfortable life for me). As such, I was not made to be afraid of the ills described in this story, nor was I guilted by the implications leveled at liberals. I won't say it's not an important story, it is, but it's of another era, another world, even.

Most liberals are not going to put the time in with this. Hell, most followers of Rand are probably not going to put the time in, either. It's long, it's complex, and it deals with a lot of abstract ideas that don't really get interesting until halfway through the book. That said, I was intrigued by the two characters' views and experience in their respective industries. The book itself is written well (if a tad long-winded), it's passionate, and presented in an intelligent manner. As someone who enjoys a good rant, I appreciated that this book had several: Francisco's wedding rant was maybe 15 pages, John Galt's radio lecture was almost 60. I didn't particularly enjoy those rants but I liked some of the other lines, mostly Dagny's: (New sis-in-law tries to throw down. "I'll put you in your place. I'm Mrs. Taggart, I'm the woman in this family now." "That's quite all right," said Dagny. "I'm the man.") I liked her energy and inner focus, and I liked that she, a woman, was competent and respected.

What I rolled my eyes at a lot were the thoughtless and negative blanket statements about professors, teachers, mothers, and even writers and musicians that were presented as absolutes as well as the whole idea of moral codes being the guiding forces in these industries. Please. If she's trying to sell us on America's superiority and the strength of the American businessman, that's some real fairy tale, revisionist bullshit that ignores a hell of a lot of exploitation that this country was built upon. I don't think Rand considered how quickly and completely her little idea would eventually 180, (the word moral as it applies to this outfit, today? People rejecting logic and intelligence? Come on!) but whatever. I can have a sense of humor about being a liberal, and in so doing, I can laugh about this very misguided idea of Rand's that caring and empathizing is wrong and that only selfishness matters.

Verdict: It's obviously written by an intelligent person, just one I don't personally agree with. If a greater understanding of "what moves the world," was the goal, the book is only interested in what moves the unemotional, disconnected world of white businessmen and their money. I'll take real humanity, thanks.

3. The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin. 2017, 602 pages. 

I really shouldn't have let so much time pass between installments, but it all worked out in the end.

In the reorganization after the defeat of The Twelve, members of the new civilization throughout various locations in Texas make ready their next moves for survival while Zero (Timothy Fanning) shares his backstory and furthers his plan.

I'm not gonna lie; Timothy Fanning stole this story completely away. His chapters had the best events and the most emotion and insight into his character. I had to try very hard to keep everyone else straight. This survivor's doing this, this is a dream sequence, this survivor's over here, now, and so on.  Really loved the line about Hollis, "This large, gentle man, collector of books and reader to children, had become a warrior." I very much dug the book and thought it wrapped up the trilogy nicely; the idea of hitting reset on humanity is not something I thought about in any seriousness before, but funny enough, it's on my mind a lot now. Bonus points for viruses being not just interesting but all of a sudden relevant.

Verdict: Enjoyable book, lots of feeling, a smart series about vampires. Enjoyable series overall. Check out The Passage and The Twelve first, if you're interested.

4. The Stand, the complete and uncut edition by Stephen King. This release, 1990, 1141 pages. 

A virus named "Captain Tripps" wipes out most of the country; good versus evil battle it out in the aftermath. 

I've never read the edited version, I wonder now what initially didn't make the cut. This I read 10 years ago in search of what I thought would be clues to the ending of LOST. I whipped through chapters and did not appreciate all the subtle little details that I really enjoyed this time around. Although there are definite ancestor text references, this felt decidedly less like LOST and very much more like The Walking Dead after the initial threat of the zombies had been extinguished. They have to elect a new government. They have to figure out how to get the power back on. And gardening! The community-building was a huge part of the novel, mixed in with the creepy jealous evil of first, Harold Lauder, and next, Randall Flagg, aka "The Walkin' Dude." I had forgotten the last battle, as it were, and was expecting some sort of desert ultimate fight scene, so I was a little let down by the abruptness of the final battle (but appreciated the link to a certain Juliet Burke). 

Overall, the story itself doesn't seem to me to be rooted in horror at all: The Stand is about its characters, which is very much like LOST, and I can't fault it for that because all of them are interesting and well-written. It's a long read, it takes its time, and some of the language feels very dated and cheesy, but it still holds. Especially now. Did you know they were releasing a new version of it in 2020? Good to see the Skarsgaard family is making a habit with these creepy updates; Eric the Vampire as RF? Nice.

Verdict: If you are a patient reader, a fan of King, or both, you'll dig it. Surprise, it's disturbingly relevant, also.

5. "The Skin Trade," from Dreamsongs, volume II by George R. R. Martin. 2012, 88 pages. 

Werewolves (lycanthropes) do wolfy things in this crime story. Skins are also removed.

This was a nice longer short story. I was hopeful that the wolf and skin stuff might be some generationally-relevant reference to the Starks and the Boltons, but no such luck. I just want everything GRRM writes to have some basis in the world of ice and fire, is that too much to ask?

Verdict: It's fine. It's not Winds of Winter but we make do, you know? Enough said.

6. The World Since 1945: A History of International Relations by Wayne C. McWilliams & Harry Piotrowski. 2001, 618 pages. 

This was a textbook for a current events history class I took back in 2000 at MCTC. I learned a lot; it was definitely one of my favorite history classes, ever. The professor was super smart, liberal as hell, and had done his studies on China, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

A detailed volume of how the threat of communism guided US policy and got us all in bed with terrible dictators. Also colonialists did not leave their former colonies with the skills or tools to prevent corruption, so that happened. Germany and Japan rebuilt and learned a lot from their horrible mistakes; globalization has its good and bad points. The former Soviet Union and modern-day Russia is a shit show, but we can't really even know the half of it. Oil. Pollution. Poor nations become indebted nations. 

Verdict: Yes. Read it. 


7. War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence by Ronan Farrow. 2018, 392 pages. 

In summary: There used to be smart people in the State Department, and while those smart people didn't always have all the right answers and made a lot of mistakes, they were smart, they understood diplomacy, and legitimately wanted to help the country and the world. Those people were fired or quit 3 years ago and weren't replaced or are governed by people unfit for such roles who don't understand or value diplomacy. Or anything, really. Gross. 

Verdict: WE. ARE. SCREWED. 

Saturday, May 9, 2020

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, Episode 25, Exodus part 3


On-Island Events: On the way back to the hatch, Jack, Kate, Locke, and Hurley encounter the moving black smoke monster rippling through the dark territory; Locke does not run, allows the smoke to approach him, and then appears to run after it. The smoke takes hold of Locke's legs and attempts to haul him into a hidden cavern. Kate throws a stick of dynamite into the cavern and the smoke releases its hold on Locke.


Charlie falls for one of Rousseau's jungle traps and sustains a head injury, but refuses to give up the search for Aaron; Sayid cauterizes the wound with gunpowder and a match. Hurley and Kate discuss the number 23; Kate discloses that the person who turned her into the feds in Australia did so for a $23,000 reward. Jack and Locke disagree about the danger of the smoke monster that attempted to take Locke. Locke explains their disagreements stem from the fact that he, Locke, is a man of faith, Jack is a man of science, and that the island brought them here for a purpose, being there is their destiny. The path they were meant to follow, Locke insists, ends at the hatch. Jack concludes the conversation by stating he does not believe in destiny.

Charlie and Sayid find an elevated fire pit on the beach creating black smoke but no others. Soon they hear Aaron's cries and Rousseau emerges with the baby, explaining she thought she'd get her daughter back but the others did not show up as she'd planned. She claims she heard whispers that the others were coming for the boy; Charlie dismisses her as being crazy. Jack and Locke rig the dynamite with Kate's help; Kate and Jack discuss leadership, Jack suggests they may soon have "A Locke Problem." As Hurley gets into position before Locke ignites the dynamite, he sees the numbers 4 8 15 16 23 42 have been engraved into the side of the hatch. He rushes Locke, demanding they stop what they're doing but Locke lights the fuse, setting off the dynamite.

Charlie and Sayid return to the caves with Aaron; Shannon is relieved to see Sayid unharmed. Charlie has brought one of the Virgin Mary statues back with him. In the aftermath of the explosion, Jack and Locke lift a metal door from the hatch and peer lengths down into it.

The Raft: As Michael and Jin discuss English phrases, Jin presents Michael with the watch originally meant to be delivered to one of Paik's associates in Los Angeles that had caused so much trouble between them immediately after the crash. As night falls, Sawyer insists they keep checking the radar as Sayid instructed. Sawyer and Michael discuss Walt's behavior and Sawyer's history with his parents; Michael accuses Sawyer of wanting to die and Sawyer admits he's no hero. When a blip on the radar suddenly rings out, the crew disagrees about whether or not to launch a flare but chances doing so. The craft on the radar spots it and moves in closer, bathing the raft in a harsh spotlight. The group cheers and waves as Michael tells the new boat's bearded captain their story; the bearded man surprises everyone by replying, "We're gonna have to take the boy." The men on the other boat kill the spotlight, Sawyer attempts to shoot the bearded man, and in the chaos, the men from the boat take Walt and blow up the raft as they sail off with him.

Flashbacks: Hurley oversleeps the day of the Oceanic flight and continues to deal with setbacks on his way to the airport. Showing up late, he implores the agent at gate 23, "For all that is good and holy, please let me on this flight!" Locke is carried onto the flight after the boarding wheelchair couldn't be located and deals with further frustration when he drops something in the aisle of the aircraft and is unable to retrieve it on his own. The rest of the survivors are shown in turn onboard the flight preparing to leave; as Hurley finally arrives, Walt smiles at him as he passes. Jack and Locke make eye contact but do not speak.

Greater Meaning: Rousseau believed the others would take Claire's baby having heard the whispers state they were "coming for the boy." This was misleading only until the group of men on the boat took Walt from Michael on the raft; Rousseau had good reasons to believe what she did (her own infant was taken and Claire was abducted while pregnant with Aaron) but was only wrong about which boy the others planned to take. The others, whoever they are, are takers of multiple children.

Hurley has a difficult time in this episode, not only because he blames himself for Arzt's death and takes far longer than Jack, Locke, or Kate to process it, but because he's unexpectedly faced with the numbers that have caused him so much trouble in the past via the hatch, something that's being touted as a sanctuary for the survivors. Once he sees the numbers, Hurley does not want the hatch opened but Locke disregards his wishes and blasts it open anyway. What possible connection could the numbers have to the hatch, and why is Hurley involved? Hurley has shown himself to be honest, empathetic, and wholesome throughout each of the past episodes but isn't viewed as a leader or in this case, even listened to when presenting an argument. In "Numbers," Hurley tries to explain to multiple people (his mother, his accountant, his father, and later Jack) how the numbers, his winning the lottery, and his general presence seems to be bad luck or cursed but is repeatedly blown off. Despite his honesty and ability to articulate his thoughts intelligently on these matters, Hurley continues to be disregarded.

The mystery of the hatch will continue into the second season, but there have been several instances leading up to its opening that suggest the hatch is dangerous: Locke and Boone spent weeks using scientifically-engineered methods to open it; Locke's use of his legs and Boone's life were jeopardized in efforts to open it; Walt grabbed Locke's hand and specifically told him not to open it; Hurley sees the cursed numbers engraved on the side and implores Locke not to open it. Should the survivors breach the hatch now that it's been opened, the downward descent into it is significant---why are they going deeper into the island when their goal was to be rescued from it? What traditionally dwells in deep, underground spaces, both in the physical and spiritual world? We already know of three unique threats on the island, 1., the smoke monster, 2., polar bears, and 3., the others, and the hatch could be related to any or all of these threats as well as some new, unidentified ones. 
The island has been shown to have powers of healing and danger, the characters are shown to be dealing with the pushes and pulls of their past lives together with the new struggles of island survival; how they deal with these challenges given their own issues seems to be the main point in determining what the show is trying to show us. In that, the idea of the island as a character or governing force emerges.

Further Questions:

1. Who were the men on the boat who took Walt? 
2. Will Michael ever get his son back?
3. Is Rousseau's daughter still on the island? 
4. Are the numbers bad? 
5. Who engraved them on the hatch?
6. What is inside the hatch?


Monday, May 4, 2020

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, Episode 24, Exodus part 2

On-island Events: As Sayid prepares the beach group to head to the caves, Charlie asks him for a gun to protect Claire; Sayid refuses. As Hurley marvels at the spectacle of The Black Rock, Rousseau takes her leave of the group. Inside the ship, Jack and Locke discover its background as a slave vessel and Kate finds the dynamite. Arzt explains the dangers inherent in unpacking the dynamite but suddenly explodes in the process.

Shannon becomes emotional as she attempts to bring Boone's things along to the caves; Sayid validates her worries and offers to help. Hurley admits to Kate that he's bad luck and blames himself for Arzt's death. Jack and Locke work together to carefully unpack and transport the dynamite. Rousseau returns to the beach, shouting for Sayid, but in speaking with Claire, stirs up a memory of Claire scratching her in the dark. Charlie returns with Sayid to discover that Rousseau has taken the baby from Claire. Sayid reasons that Rousseau has taken the baby to give to the others who took her own child sixteen years ago; Claire begs Charlie to bring the baby, which she has suddenly named Aaron, back to her.

When the group reaches the caves, Sun asks Shannon if she thinks they're being punished by fate, but Claire is adamant there is no such thing. While resting near the Nigerian plane on the way to the black smoke, Sayid shows Charlie the heroin inside the Virgin Mary statues. As they return to the hatch with the dynamite, Hurley asks John what he thinks is inside the hatch. "Hope," Locke replies.

The Raft: The group sails by the unexplored edge of the island and marvels at its vastness; Sawyer sings Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," which catches Michael's interest. Michael explains the transmitter and radar screen to Walt while Sawyer reads everyone's messages from the bottle. As Michael shows Walt how to sail and Walt asks important questions about his parents' relationship, the raft hits something and the rudder breaks off. Sawyer swims off to retrieve it and Michael discovers Sawyer's gun in his shirt.

Flashbacks: In the airport before the flight, Jin encounters one of Paik's spies who knows he plans to run away with Sun and who threatens him. Charlie rummages about a hotel room searching for heroin, fighting a woman for the last remnants. Michael struggles to connect with his son and calls his mother to ask her to care for Walt when they return to New York. Michael ends the call, exclaiming, "He's not supposed to be mine!"

Greater Meaning: In the middle of all the action (kidnapping, explosions, raft in peril), important ideas are being reiterated concerning the characters. While Exodus part one showed several instances of change as well as stubbornness versus adaptability through current island events compared with flashbacks, this episode seems to expand on the same concepts while adding adding an element of redemption (pinpointed in Jin's case by Sawyer's song on the raft thus providing us with a well-defined theme). Jin had formerly been a criminal under Paik's employ, but has changed significantly both personally and professionally, if fishing skills and the building of the raft are to be considered to be occupational. Charlie has successfully kicked his drug habit and continues to write songs and be musical but he's added the role of caregiver and protector of Claire and Aaron to his duties. Michael's devotion to Walt hasn't changed, he's always loved his son, but the flashbacks take us through the challenges the two have faced while also showing Michael's frustration and desperation in those moments.

Together with Exodus part one, and through all of the previous episodes we've seen, LOST has given us a group of seriously flawed characters, each in need of his or her own unique redemption. The raft group (arguably minus opportunist Sawyer) redeems itself for past ills by working together to seek rescue; Charlie redeems himself through his devotion to Claire. Sawyer is a special character as he is motivated not by redemption but instead vengeance, however the Marley song is significant as it hints he may unconsciously be seeking what he sings about eventually (despite his actions thus far) suggesting he's just not there yet. He could have chosen to sing Skynyrd or Hank Williams just as he could have chosen to solely read rifle or porn magazines on the island, but he didn't. Sawyer is flawed like the others, but with complicated criminal influences (ala Kate, Sayid, and Jin), which is a direct contrast to people like Jack, Locke, Hurley, Sun, and Claire.


Further Questions:

1. Will the raft be okay?
2. Will Sawyer need the gun?
3. Will Charlie and Sayid get Aaron back?
4. Is Rousseau's daughter still on the island?
5. Will the others allow Rousseau to trade Aaron for her daughter?
6. Will the dynamite project work?
7. Will Charlie relapse after seeing the Virgin Mary statues?

Disney in Quarantine: Five Short Films

Golden Touch, 1935, rated G, 10 minutes. A King Midas story where Midas is large and sort of creepy with little to no regard to any of the living things around him. The golden touch comes to Midas (who's already rich) by way of another creepy character, Goldie, who has the face of a septuagenarian but the voice of a toddler. Goldie reluctantly bestows the golden touch upon Midas, who enjoys turning statues, water, and animals to gold but has second thoughts only when he realizes his food is affected.

Rating: you can skip this one, unless you like your animation heavy with uncanny weird guys and subtle cruelty to animals. There are some skeletons (which my youngest son enjoyed relating to the current Midas Fortnite skins and the Oro story), but they're not exactly scary. It's a story about greed, but only in degrees; the sweaty king's hunger for food wins out over his hunger for gold, how relevant. How manly! Mostly I just cringed.

On Ice, 1935, rated G, 8 minutes. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto go ice skating! Mickey and Minnie are wholesome and sweet; Goofy ice-fishes with chewing tobacco and gets outsmarted by the fish he means to catch; Donald messes with Pluto and gets himself swept away in a kite versus waterfall debacle; Mickey saves the day and Goofy does more dumb stuff, but funny dumb stuff because it involves Donald getting smacked in the butt with a baseball bat. Stellar.

Rating: This was cute at first but went downhill fast. So much of early animation focused on physical comedy (which is done great with Mickey and Minnie's scenes) and cruelty (Donald is not a nice duck). The cruelty is pretty minor, just pretending to be a cat and laughing when Pluto repeatedly falls on the ice but I know my children would have likely felt sad for the dog and confused at all the meanness. I remember watching an animated version of the three little kittens who lost their mittens back when I was maybe five or six and feeling very sad about the bullying (the three rich kittens would not allow a poor kitten to play with them because he had no mittens); this felt a lot like that and I didn't like it. Mickey needed to step in and tell Donald to back off his dog. What a jerk.

Elmer Elephant, 1936, rated G, 8 minutes. Elmer is a sweet, shy, waddling young elephant attending Tillie the Tiger's birthday party with a collection of jungle friends. He gives Tillie a bouquet of flowers, which she enjoys, and is soon bullied by the other party goers, presumably because Tillie likes him best. They decide to focus on his trunk and assemble in a petty little parade which imitates Elmer's anatomy and distinct way of walking. Insecure, much? What a bunch of dicks. Elmer storms out of the party but is consoled by a friendly elderly giraffe and a squadron of pelicans. When Tillie's tree house catches on fire, Elmer's new friends assist him in putting out the fire, which in a "all's well that ends well," conclusion, wins Tillie's love and affection. The other animals apparently peace out because they're useless and bitter jackasses.

Rating: This was probably my favorite of the five; there are strong precursors to Dumbo, which deals pretty extensively with bullying as well. The ringleader of the rudeness was really just an animal version of the kid in the circus crowd who would eventually go on to imitate Dumbo's ears, but in Dumbo that kid got a nice retaliatory beat-down from Mrs. Jumbo in response. These little brats just . . . I don't know, had to go home or something. Boo.

Sea Scouts, 1939, rated PG, 8 minutes. Donald Duck takes his nephews on an attempted sailing expedition; he's a terrible sailor, is obsessed with his Napoleon hat, consistently puts the young ducks in harm's way, and battles a shark (which he punches out in the end) over the hat.

Rating: I get that Donald is supposed to be this overreacting sort of scoundrel that exemplifies the physical comedy in these animated pieces, but there's nothing endearing about him (other than being a dick, that is). He uses a few comical phrases and big words to condescend to his nephews, and he's in and out of peril throughout the story, but overall it's all pretty mean-spirited and negative. I guess that's what people found funny back then. It's different than say, the interactions between Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner or Tom and Jerry because those stories are about creatures who are natural opposites on the food chain and in nature. Donald Duck is just shitty. Shitty to his nephews, shitty to other animals, shitty to the core. I don't often want to harm animated characters but I'd like to punt him.

Donald's Dog Laundry, 1940, rated G, 8 minutes. Donald Duck tries to entice an innocent, unsuspecting Pluto into a dog-washing contraption. Things don't go according to plan.

Rating: See above. Also I was reminded very strongly of people or children in real life who insist on doing things to pets that are clearly unwanted. Stop doing this and leave them alone.




Saturday, May 2, 2020

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, episode 23, Exodus part 1

On-Island Events: Walt sees Rousseau lurking around the camp at the beach and alerts the rest of the survivors. Rousseau shares her history with the group; she had been seven months pregnant when her team came to the island. She delivered a baby girl that was taken a week later by others, whose presence was preceded by a pillar of black smoke. Rousseau insists the others are returning to take everyone, and the choices are to run, hide, or die.

Michael leads the group in preparing the raft for launch but Walt notices black smoke off in the distance.

Jack, Locke, and Hurley consider hiding everyone in the hatch and make plans to get dynamite in the jungle to blast it open. In the jungle, Sawyer discloses his experience with Christian Shephard to an emotional Jack and the two part ways. Charlie arranges a bottle for the survivors to write messages to give to the raft crew for when they get rescued as Jack, Kate, Locke, Hurley, and Rousseau head into the jungle for dynamite. Locke notices scratches on Rousseau's arm, which she claims to be from a bush. Rousseau leads the group through the dark territory toward their destination, the black rock, where she explains the rest of her crew was infected. Arzt decides to abandon the mission but is chased back by the island's monster. As it growls, clicks, and knocks over trees, Rousseau, Jack and Kate hide while Locke encourages Hurley to be calm and wait it out. Rousseau suggests the monster is a security system, meant to protect the island; the Black Rock is revealed to be an ancient slave
ship.

As the raft crew makes ready to depart, Walt gives Vincent to Shannon and Sun presents Jin with a book of useful English phrases for the journey. The raft proves to be seaworthy; the survivors cheer and wave goodbye to Michael, Walt, Sawyer, and Jin. The last image to be seen is the pillar of black smoke rising up from the jungle.

Flashbacks detail the survivors' last moments just before boarding Oceanic 815: Michael struggles in parenting Walt in a hotel room; Jack meets a woman named Ana Lucia in a bar. Sawyer is revealed to be an experienced criminal James Ford by Australian police and is banned from ever returning to the country. Kate, in the marshal's custody, attacks him after he taunts her attachment to Tom's toy airplane. In the airport, Sayid leaves his luggage with Shannon, who bickers with Boone and later reports Sayid to a security officer for the sake of being difficult. Sun accidentally spills coffee on Jin while an American couple look on and make rude comments.

Greater Meaning: By providing six different flashback experiences, the episode is broader than any of the previous. Focusing on multiple survivors gives a sense of big events culminating, a large conclusion in the works that will affect each survivor as well as the entire group, but the mystery of two separate narratives is also important. The raft has set sail, exposing its crew to new experiences and new dangers (in such a tiny, confined space, how will the three men who have had multiple conflicts in the past get on with each other? and what about sharks, or storms at sea?), but if Rousseau is to be believed, others are coming to the beach. The title of the episode, Exodus, is significant, but Jack or Locke seem more of a Moses character than Michael or Sawyer, might the title be referring to an into-the-jungle exodus rather than one into the sea on a raft? Are there two exoduses at play here?

Michael and Walt have come a long way since their difficulties in the flashback, so has Shannon. Sawyer, Kate, Jack, Sun, and Jin seem to be wrestling with many of the same issues they'd had before the crash, namely ghosts from their past relationships or crimes, or in Sun and Jin's case, with each other. What does this say about the needs of each of these major players in the narrative? How will the events of either getting rescued or evading attacks from others affect who these survivors are and how they interact with each other? Sawyer and Kate were both previously criminals, and so was Jin. Jack's medical skills have proven useful on the island but is he good at leading? Sun seemed to be marginalized in early episodes but has begun to emerge as more than just a controlling criminal's wife and an interesting character on her own. What part does adaptation play in these characters' successes on the island, and who's had the most trouble with it? Major changes have happened, but not necessarily to everyone in the same measure.

Further Questions:

1. Will the raft succeed in finding rescue?
2. Can Rousseau be trusted?
3. How did The Black Rock wind up in the middle of the jungle?
4. Will they succeed in blasting open the hatch?
5. Are others really coming?
6. Will Jin ever get rid of the handcuff on his wrist?
7. What happened to Ana Lucia?
8. Are there more survivors we haven't met yet?
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