Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My LOST Questions (6 Questions for Season 6)

LOST has an abundance of unresolved questions in its complex and widely scattered narrative and with only one season left fans have to wonder if the show's writers can possibly answer them all. I don't expect them to; in fact, I don't really care about a number of LOST mysteries (i.e., "What are 'the numbers'?") but there a few questions I really want to see resolved: They include:

1) Who are the bodies in the cave? In season one Jack discovers two bodies--essentially skeletons--that may have been there for fifty years. Many people believe these are the bodies of Rose and Bernard, who stayed in 1977 and who may have died about the time of "The Incident." (The two stones--one black and one white--serve as a clue to their identity.) This is the best guess I've seen, but I'd like confirmation from the show.

2) What was the whole deal with Walt? The Others wanted him. He was supposed to be special (Michael's flashback and the Lost "mobisode" show he had some effect on birds). He appeared to Locke at the end of season 3 to help Locke regain his faith in the island. I must know more about why this kid was important.

3) Why/How did Ben get captured? In season 2, Ben is captured in one of Rousseau's traps. Did he get captured by accident or was it deliberate? What about the real Henry Gale and the balloon accident? I want to see this in flashback, please.

4) Where is Claire? Some say she is dead (she died in the explosion at her cabin). This sounds likely. I'm certain we'll get resolution to this question; it's too big to ignore.

5) The smoke monster--what the heck? We know a lot more about it, but not enough to explain why/how it scans people and kills some but not others. It spared Mr. Ecko (once) and Locke. There is evidence that it can take difference shapes/appearances. Certainly it was Ecko's brother, Yemi. Was it also Kate's horse? Or Walt when he appeared to Shannon?

6) What was Libby's real role in the story? Libby was with Hurley in the asylum. She gave Desmond the boat for his race. How or why did she become involved with these characters before the crash of Oceanic 815? I imagine she worked for Widmore, who had plenty of info about the island. Was Widmore employing Libby as his agent? We may never know. Cynthia Watros, who played Libby, has reportedly shown little interest in returning to the show and producer Damon Lindelof has indicated that he may abandon the Libby story if they can't get Watros back. That's too bad. Libby's role seemed significant and I would like this loose end to be tied up.

OK, six questions/topics. I have dozens more, but these will do for now. I hope season six of LOST can live up to the challenge of wrapping up the story!

Monday, May 18, 2009

(Tiny) Bits and Pieces

It's just one of those months. Life is very busy at the moment and when that happens blogging really falls by the wayside.

While I like to provide posts of at least some substance, I'm afraid that for now I'm limiting myself to some comments and some links. Wish I could do more, but personal commitments will have me busy until mid-June. (I'll try to post a few things in the next few weeks, but everything is going to be pretty abridged for now.)

So . . .


Lost had a good season but there seemed to be something missing. I loved the beginning and really liked the time-shifting episodes; but once things settled down in 1977 at the Dharma village the show started to drag a bit. I liked the final episode (and like it better the more I think about it) but we probably can't fully judge it until we see the sixth-season premiere. (I will say the ending was the biggest letdown since season one, though!)

Dollhouse, however, was the biggest surprise of the season. It started so slow I almost tuned out. But then the show found direction and became one of the best science fiction series in years. I look forward to season 2!

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was always solid and worthwhile. And Summer Glau's performance was spectacular. The show had great potential but sadly has been canceled.

Reaper has been playing for laughs. The show is good but it has room for heavier storylines. I doubt we'll see more of this series.


For sophisticated, breath-taking science fiction, I highly recommend Mind Over Ship by David Marusek. (But first you need to read Marusek's Counting Heads.) Also, don't miss the classic mystery/thriller The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing.

David Lynch

I loved this! What if David Lynch had directed Dirty Dancing? Perfect!

Also: Imagine Lynch films (and other great movies) given the Criterion box art treatment! (I love the Fire Walk With Me and Mulholland Drive. And check out Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Eyes Wide Shut. Beautiful.)

Oh, I found the above links at The House Next Door -- a great blog. Speaking of which . . .

David Foster Wallace

The House Next Door has a wonderful interview with Glenn Kenny, the editor of David Foster Wallace's essays for Premiere magazine (including the David Lynch piece). There's also some great behind-the-scenes info about Wallace and Kenny's visit to the Adult Video News Awards (the basis for the essay, "Big Red Son," aka "Neither Adult Nor Entertainment.")

Well, that's all for now. I'll try to post the occasional entry as time permits. (Still reading Beautiful Dark.) I will have more time to write by the middle of June!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Trek Thoughts (Briefly)

I've seen Star Trek and liked it immensely. It was fast, funny, and moving. It had all the perfect ingredients to become the most crowd-pleasing of all the Star Trek films. It has also set the bar extremely high for the rest of this year's summer films.

Of course, by that standard, one could argue that Star Trek has now been reduced to nothing more than a summer action film. I think that is something we need to get used to. Star Trek, in the slick and nimble hands of J.J. Abrams, will likely always be about thrills and fun before it is about ideas or concepts.

Make no mistake; the original Star Trek could be thrilling and fun. It often was. But, as I've mentioned before, the driving theme behind Star Trek was always exploration and discovery. Now, much of that crucial aspect of Star Trek is probably gone. As a hard-core Science Fiction and Star Trek fan I must come to terms with this.

Meanwhile, there are lots of good and interesting things to say about this new film. I'm really not unhappy at all. I think this new Star Trek franchise is bound to be great entertainment. The reboot was handled well and the "future" looks bright!

(And here I'll say that the Star Trek universe kinda' got what it deserved. After a persistent reliance on gimmicky and shaky time-travel stories in which the "present" was constantly threatened by alterations to the past--alterations which had to be corrected in order to restore the proper "time line"--the Star Trek milieu has at last been permanently altered by time travel. Hasn't the future of the Federation been irrevocably erased given all the "rules" so diligently set down in the countless time travel stories of the series and films? Let's just say it has. Now: Please! Please! No more time travel stories!)

Oh and one last unusual and highly dubious observation for those Twin Peaks fans who might still be reading: Star Trek was a prequel, but one that relied on events from a series set chronologically "later." In some ways the film closed a circle. It showed us what happened "before," but it was inextricably linked to what had "already happened" in the future. Sounds like another TV-series-prequel-film, doesn't it?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Beautiful Dark Chapter 8: Twin Peaks:S2 and Fire Walk With Me

When I bought Greg Olson's Beautiful Dark last October, Chapter 8 was what I was most looking forward to. This is the chapter where Olson discusses the one David Lynch film I have truly studied in-depth: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. I was tempted, back then, to read the chapter first, before I read any other part of the book. But my sense of duty to Olson's work compelled me to wait, to read the book in order. So now here I am, half-way through the book with the most fascinating chapter Olson has written yet.

Olson begins the book with a concluding look at the critical reaction to Wild At Heart. (It is here that Olson defends the film against complaints of excessiveness. I won't get into a lengthy rebuttal to Olson, other than to say that I think Wild At Heart is excessive and that much of the criticism leveled at the film is quite justified.)

Olson then looks closely at the second season of Twin Peaks with a focus on Lynch's contributions to the series. Olson's summaries and analyses are all very good but there is nothing terribly surprising about his account of the second season. The rise and fall of Twin Peaks is well known even to casual fans. The show lost its way in the second season and there all sorts of reasons why: Lynch was not as involved in production; Kyle MacLachlan objected to the proposed Cooper/Audrey romance; ABC pre-empted the show too often. What was new, were some candid observations from Mark Frost who, as Olson notes, takes much of the responsibility for the show's loss of direction: "I regret my decision to not be there [during the latter part of the show's second season]. And that's where we dropped the ball." (p. 364)

Olson provides a brief examination of Twin Peaks' stunning final episode, describing how Lynch returned to the series and was "determined to give Twin Peaks a final jolt of magic and poetry" (p. 360.). This part of the chapter is crucial and much-appreciated. Too often the final episode of Twin Peaks is overlooked by critics who forget there is a gem deep in the wastelands of the second season. The final episode is one of series' major achievements and, by itself, is arguably one of Lynch's great short-films. Luckily, Olson is well aware of the power of the final episode and devotes a number of pages of description and analysis.

Olson then moves on to his examination of Fire Walk With Me. It is here, at the heart of the chapter--and the heart of the book--that Olson supplies a valuable contribution to the study of FWWM. Olson had access to location shooting for FWWM in Washington State in 1991. As a result, he had the unique experience of watching Lynch and the actors (such as Sheryl Lee, Dana Ashbrook, Kyle MacLachlan and Ray Wise) shoot some of the film's critical scenes. Olson observed the process Lynch uses with actors to rehearse lines, to develop a scene, and to find that perfect "Lynchian" moment that makes it to the screen. Olson's reporting from the location of FWWM is new, exciting and informative.

Personally, I relish any new writing about FWWM. This is why I so appreciated Olson's first-person account of his days and nights on location with the production. But this may also be why I was somewhat disappointed by Olson's analysis of the film. While he does provide abundant detail about the plot and themes of FWWM, Olson ultimately falls back to the most common interpretation of the movie: that Laura Palmer chooses death to stop BOB from tormenting her: "Her primal need is to save herself from BOB, and to do so she must die" (p. 390). Olson briefly considers--and just as quickly dismisses--the idea that Laura may be doing more than merely saving herself, that she might be trying to defeat Bob: "Laura [is] in a position that . . . echoes the position of ancient Tibetan Buddhist nuns who . . . personally engaged and grappled with devouring demons in order to keep the world safe from harm. However, Laura is not a sacrificial lamb with a martyr complex." (p. 390) Well, of course not, but isn't Laura something more than a teenager who has been abused? Isn't BOB more than a mere figment of her imagination? Isn't their conflict far more complex than it appears?

There is a lot going on in FWWM and in order to make sense of the Owl Cave ring and the angels and the Red Room and the garmonbozia, one has to look past the surface story of Laura Palmer to see a bigger story at play. At some point Laura Palmer did just that--she saw something happening that was larger than herself. And while she may not have become a "sacrificial lamb" who martyred herself, she became more than a mere victim of BOB--she became his opponent. This (to me) is why she takes the ring. She denies him the kind of power he has gained through his alliance with Arm (the Little Man from Another Place). This also helps explain the presence of the angels and Laura's misunderstanding (until the end) of her own goodness as a force against evil.

Few critics (even those who are pre-disposed to Lynch) give much thought to Fire Walk With Me. Many dismiss it as a weak epilog to a failed TV series. But FWWM is a rich and powerful film that requires a lot of critical thinking to decode, a lot of serious study to access its secrets. The difficulty of FWWM prompted Lynch-critic Michel Chion to write about the film: "[It] operates on an impenetrable, unreadable surface . . . . It is seamless; there is no way in." (Michel Chion, David Lynch, (BFI Publishing, 1995), p. 157)

But FWWM is not impenetrable. Daunting, perhaps, and, like the final episode of Twin Peaks, easy to dismiss--but not impenetrable. Olson has proven to be a perceptive and adept Lynch critic (he may be one of the best Lynch analysts out there) but he seems to glide over FWWM without the deep consideration he has given to Lynch's other works. Surprisingly, he has chosen to make FWWM one part of one chapter in a book about David Lynch. But maybe the film needed a little more discussion, a little more time devoted to it. Perhaps it would have been more fitting to give Fire Walk With Me a chapter of its own.