Friday, December 07, 2012

Elad's Favorite Albums of 2012

Checking out Sterogum's list of their favorite records of the year reminded me that I enjoy putting these lists together. It's becoming increasingly difficult to make a decision on ranking, though, because there is so much great music being produced today. So, I'll just put forward my list with some words and video to back it up.

10 - Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory
       I like to call these guys post-grunge, but their moody atmosphere might lend itself to New York borough-style hardcore or New York City-style indie rock and then (just when you think you have a handle on their sound), they throw in a indie-pop song ("Fall In") that could have been written by Peter Bjorn and John. They're all over the place, yet their 8-song LP really makes an impression.

9 - Chairlift - Something
     This duo is kind of intoxicating. I love the sounds they choose (see opener: "Sidewalk Safari") Lead singer Caroline Polachek has a smooth and sensual delivery while multi-instrumentalist Patrick Wimberly takes his musical inspiration from all over the globe. So, yeah, they're kinda like Beach House (who also released a good, but underwhelming record this year) but much pop-ier and way funkier. I can dig it.

8 -  Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits
      This supergroup made of superstars from Spoon and Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs sound very much like you'd imagine a band would coming from their background. Yet it's still surprising. This is classic indie rock in that it fluctatues with every track. Mostly upbeat, they lay down a smooth downtempo beast of a song in "Shivers" towards the end, but it's the Handsome Furs-esque "For Your Heart" that really wins mine.

7 - Grizzly Bear - Shields
     I shamefully admit that I haven't listened to Grizzly Bear that much over the years. I kind of threw them in with some of the more experminetal bands in the indie sphere. But then satellite radio allowed me to actually hear everything I wanted to and songs like "Yet Again" and "A Simple Answer" bore themselves into mind and didn't let go. Nobody ever told me these guys were like Radiohead, but that's the feeling I get when listening to them, like there's so many layers underneath the surface.

6 - Passion Pit - Gossamer
     This album doesn't seem to be getting the love and appreciation it deserves. It doesn't eclipse the band's stellar first record, but it is totally captivating album full of sounds I never heard before. Lead singer Michael Angelakos's delivery is so earnest and heartful, you can't help but goosebumps if you're actually paying attention to the lyrics. But then if you're just driving or walking or doing chores, these upbeat electronic songs truly take you away.

5 - The Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth
     The band's 100th record (j/k) may very well be one of their best, which is saying a lot. I love the thematic connection between the songs and the characters. Recent records have almost exploded with all the musical ideas and ambition. Here, John Darnelle and Co. scale it all back and let the music find its own way to dive in your heart.

4 - Andrew Bird - Break it Yourself
    I thought this album would be much higher on my personal list since it is SO good and I feel blessed that I was able to see him perform some of these songs live recently. The epic finale, "Holes in the Ocean Floor" took on a brand new meaning after I saw him perform. There are the usual flourishes of genius in this record (too many to count), but for me the mark of the best music is that which touches me emotionally. And here, unlike some of Bird's recent records, I only felt some of the songs, not all of them.

3 - Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan
     When I first heard the latest Dirty Projectors, I thought it would easily be at the top of my list. It's a succinct slice of musical inspiration that can cements this band as one of the best of this generation. For me, the power of these songs comes through every time I listen to them. The variety, the desire to try something new ("Unto Ceaser" , "About to Die") and then settle back to something old (the jangly rock of the title track) is what makes Dirty Projectors so interesting.

2 - Tame Impala - Lonerism
    I only downloaded this fantastic record recently but the amount of times I've listened to makes me confident I'm putting it in the right position in this list. I loved the previous record but felt the smoke-tinted haze and pyshicdelica often became too much. Here, they hit the exact right spot every single time. Songs like "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" and "Elephant" are instant classics that will be played in dorm rooms for the rest of eternity. Mark my words.

1- DIIV - Oshin
    Anyone who has been in my car in 2012 will not be surprised by this choice. This album is insanely addicting. Every note gets into your head, but not in a bad way. First time you listen to it, you would be forgiven for thinking it's an all instrumental jam-fest. Listen again and you start to hear how proficient the guitarists are. Listen again: "Oh wait, there's the vocals." What is he saying? It doesn't matter. This album makes me feel good. That's why it's at the top of my list.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thoughts on "Luck" Cancellation

It's been interesting reading articles and comments about HBO's abrupt decision to cancel "Luck" after a third horse died onset during filming of the second season. I'm very disappointed by this decision because I thought the show, while not perfect, was amazingly produced, written, and acted.

I was probably predisposed to liking Luck, due to being a huge fan of NYPD Blue and Deadwood and the much-maligned John from Cincinnati. Still, I went into the show with an open mind and was cautiously optimistic about it after watching the first episode. It looked beautiful, but I didn't understand some of what was going or what some of the characters said (Escalante and Nick Nolte's Walter Smith). So I watched the first episode again. And I immediately had an emotional reaction to every scene.

That was the amazing thing about Luck. You didn't have to understand everything that was going on. But Luck demanded that you feel it. It was as if the show aimed at your heart first and then let your brain catch up later. And that's an impressive and difficult thing to do on television with a large ensemble and without the convenience of voice-overs or gratuitous exposition (okay, ANY exposition).

Luck also didn't have a main character, which in itself is innovative. Most ensemble shows have some strong lead, probably the most famous actor. But anyone who saw beyond the first episode would know that Dustin Hoffman's spectacular performance of Ace Bernstein was just one piece in a large puzzle. This is a show that gave equal time between Oscar winners and a stammering unlucky jockey Agent played by Richard Kind (whose most recognizable role is Larry's annoying cousin Andy from Curb and his supporting roles in Mad About You and Spin City from the 90's). But midway through the season, I cared as much about Ace as I did about Joey.

And then there's the Degenerate crew. Everyone seems to agree they were the heart of the series and I looked forward their scenes the most. Their back and forth banter, their volatile friendships, and their burgeoning horse business were fascinating to watch. There's a wordess scene from a recent episode where the four degenerates emerge from their motel rooms to watch the sunset. I absolutely loved that scene. It didn't serve any purpose in regards to moving their storyline forward, but it reinforced the bond they've nurtured since the beginning of the series. Moments like that, when you feel the emotions that the creators of the show are aiming for, made Luck great.

As for the circumstances of the cancellation, I am definitely of two minds. It's a sad thing when any animal dies, but the reality of using horses for racing is that sometimes they get overexerted and they die, which is what happened previously during the first season. The third death was an accident where the horse unexpectedly reared, flipped over, and hit its head. It's unfortunate. And I hate to use cliches, but "Shit DOES Happen" despite safety precautions.

So was it really out of pressure from PETA and the Humane Society to cancel the show that HBO pulled the plug? Or were sagging ratings to blame? I thought HBO didn't really care about ratings. They've been renewing the underrated Treme and I don't think a lot of people are watching that show. But from what I've read, Treme is very cheap to produce and Luck is a massive production with high salaries for those aforementioned Oscar winners.

It's safe to assume that it was a combination of factors that forced HBO to make this decision, but I don't agree with it. Luck was too good for that fate. Maybe they should have taken a few days to recover from the shock of the horse's death and come up with some compromise where there was less need to use horses. Commenters have rightly pointed out that the show was slowly moving away from the track anyway with some of the best racing sequences in the first few episodes. They could have found some creative ways to move forward with the second season with less reliance on the horses.

It's a tough thing to process when something you care about, as I've grown to care about Luck, is going to end with a proper goodbye. Deadwood ended with at least a semblance of finality in regards to the biggest storyline on the show (Hearst). And look at what great things Joss Whedon was able to do with the final episodes of Dollhouse because he knew it was ending. He accelerated storylines that were supposed to take seasons to unfold and it became an amazing show in its late 5-10 episodes. We could have had a similar situation here, with a shortened second season that allowed David Milch to bring some storylines to a close.

Finally, I'd like to address some of the many comments I've seen around the internet about how "bad" Luck is/was. People complaining about the dense storylines and "all they did was TALK!" Oh no, how offensive! Luck was a show that didn't have violence or sex. It had interesting dialogue and complex characters. I appreciated the detailed character work and slow, casual, pace. It was much more cinematic than what you're use to on TV.

I am very disappointed that Luck won't be coming back for a second season. But I can add it to the the list of amazing programming that HBO continues to deliver that didn't quite make it to their natural conclusion. Shows like Carnvale, Rome, and now, Luck.

One more thing. I've seen a lot of people saying their cancelling their HBO after news broke about the third horse death. I saw the same thing after the shocking season finale of Broadwalk Empire and the recent cancellation of Bored to Death. People, STOP LYING. I know you want to see what happens in the next season of True Blood. I know you want more sex and violence in one episode than Sopranos did in six seasons.

But that's the amazing thing about HBO. I can love a ridiculous show like True Blood as much as smart fantasy like Game of Thrones and a nuanced character study like Enlightened. There's room for everyone! Or so I thought.

(One of my favorite TV writers, Mo Ryan, just posted a great article about all this on HuffPost: here)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Elad's Favorite Songs of 2011 2xCD Playlist!!

Well, well, this blog is still here. Thanks Google/Blogger for not having a "delete due to inactivity" policy! You guys rock!

Those who know me know I love music. And I love making lists. So I've been debating my top albums of the year for awhile now, but before I post that (okay, fine, IF I post that) I thought it would be cool to share two awesome (imho) comps/playlists/mixtapes I put together this year with some of my favorite songs.

I included links to videos if I could find them online!

1. Baths - Overseas (fan video)
2. Peter Bjorn and John - Dig a Little Deeper (super acoustic backstage at Conan)
3. Death for Cutie - You Are a Tourist (official video)
4. Broken Social Scene - Curse Your Fail (soundcloud link)
5. TV on the Radio - New Cannonball Blues (official tripped out video)
6. The Dodos - Don't Try and Hide It (live performance with Neko Case on Fallon)
7. Mogwai - Mexican Grand Prix (official video)
8. Radiohead - Seperator (From the Basement performance)
9. The Decemberists - June Hymn (album version via youtube)
10. The Mountain Goats - Never Quite Free (album version via youtube)

1. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Hysterical (soundcloud link)
2. Real Estate - It's Real (official awesome video)
3. Youth Lagoon - Afternoon (youtube)
4. tUnEyArDs - Gangsta (live instudio performance)
5. Black Keys - Little Black Submarines (album version on youtube)
6. Handsome Furs - Memories of the Future (Q performance)
7. Bon Iver - Holocene (incredible live performance on Fallon)
8. My Morning Jacket - Wonderful (The Way I Feel) (Storytellers performance)
9. Dum Dum Girls - Bedroom Eyes (official video)
10. Wilco - The Whole Love (Letterman performance)
11. Girls -Vomit (performance from

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Music Roundup

Oh man, I can barely keep up with 2010! Thankfully I've been spending a lot of time in my car lately and have had a chance to listen to a lot of new tunes. Some of my favorites:

The Radio Dept - Clinging to a Scheme
Third proper album from this amazing indie pop band out of Sweden. Their second album was a disappointment after the amazing debut record, "Lesser Matters." This new one, while not quite as huge and ambitious as that first record, is full of brilliant beats and soothing rhythms. They seem to have found a really happy medium between the static noise they experiment with in their EP's and the more traditional rock/pop stuff.

I've been a fan of these guys forawhile. Their hushed vocals right above the music reminds me of Broken Social Scene (to wit: one of the songs below features some out-of-nowhere horns that rock!) and their lush sound puts them in line with some of today's best new music.

Check out some music-only videos below:

Portugal. The Man - American Ghetto
I'm not overly familiar with this band out of Wasilla, Alaska, but this new album is pretty amazing. It's fairly consistent throughout, employing heavy drum and bass that equals head bobbing awesomeness. Apparently they have employed a lot of different styles over the course of their five studio records since 2007 (wow!). There's a confidence in these songs that make me go back for a listen again and again to relive those slick moments, abounds in the two tracks I've highlighted below. Listen and enjoy! (I'm sure you will.)

Jason Collett - Rat a Tat Tat
Broken Social Scene member and Bob Dylan impersonator, Jason Collett's followup to one of 2008's best records is not quite the step forward in Semi-Acoustic Singer Songwriter History that I had hoped it to be, but it's still quite awesome. If anything, it's too consistent. On his last record, "Here's to Being Here," Collett seemed to look at all of straight-up Rock N' Roll, find the best stuff, and cram them all into one record (this was especially unique because, with BSS, he does the reverse: Throws traditional Rock N' Roll out the window and tries different approaches..but anyway). With this new album, it's a lot more straightforward: Love songs, songs about Canada, anthems, the occasional non-whiny ballad. Basically, an old fashioned rock and roll record. It's a nice change of pace from the psychedelic dreamscapes of Beach House (which you should be listening to.)

The Album Leaf - A Chorus of Storytellers
I'm just going to be upfront this time: I love The Album Leaf. I love their mostly instrumental sound. Their beats and boops and blips mixed with rising and falling (fake) strings. Vocals - let alone an actual chorus! - was rare in previous Album Leaf records, but this new album is more of a "band" record, using the actual touring band for The Album Leaf. As such, there's a definite shift in the sound, from the laptop electronica of the past to a more Indie Rock flavor. And I'm on board! James LaValle's singing voice is not the most dramatic, but the rising tension of these songs creates some great power, while still holding onto the laidback atmospheric sounds that fans of the band have come to expect.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

LOST - 6x07 "Dr. Linus" Review/Reaction

I find it fascinating to read the day after reviews of recent LOST episodes, mainly because it seems like everyone agrees. It's a strange thing that Lost, a show that attracts hardcore SciFi fans, causal TV viewers, and pyscho Alternate Reality game-playing Lostpedia-addicted rampaging uber-fans (*cough* guess which category I fit into?), can all agree that this week's "Dr. Linus" was one of the best episodes of the season, if not the series itself.

I wouldn't go quite so far as to say this ranks up there with "The Other 48 Days," "Flashes Before Your Eyes," or "Through The Looking Glass," but as a pure character study on Ben, the most conflicted and complex character on the show, this episode shines with a brightness that eclipses even the spectacular "The Substitute" from earlier this season.

Let's start with the flashsideways: Ben is a perfectly believable history teacher. One of his strengths is that he doesn't look like a villain. He looks like a braniac (especially with those tiny tiny glasses) who can use his wit and cunning to outsmart opponents. Now, the Ben we know as Leader of the Others was also murderous, ruthless, and a pathological liar. As we learn throughout this episode, him and his father somehow left the Island and created a new life in Los Angeles. Though Ben is unhappy in his life, he is fairly content, until a certain wheelchair bound John Locke implants the idea of becoming a principal into his head.

Soon after, Ben gets a visit from Alex Rosseau, his adopted daughter in the original timeline. The first scene with them together was very strange, almost creepy. But the respect that Alex has for Ben is so apparent and interesting, considering the girl we knew resented and hated her father for all he had done. I didn't think the writers would use her so much and despite these flashsideways being full of Guest Stars, the appearance of Alex surprised me. My first reaction was, "Wow. They went there."

Later, Alex confides in Ben that she overheard the principal getting it on with the school nurse. This opens a door in Ben's mind for some clever machinations and with the help of Leslie Arzt (who is EVERYWHERE apparently), he sucessfully initates a blackmail plot on the principal, played with typical Asshole Facial Expressions by That Asshole Reporter from the Die Hard movies. But there's a catch! If Ben completes his blackmail, the principal will not write a recommendation letter for Alex to Yale.

This poses an interesting choice for Ben. In the original timeline, he sacrificed his daughter on a whim. He believed he could trick Martin Keamy into thinking she didn't matter to him and thus spare her life. He failed and Alex was murdered in front of him. Here, he has a similar (but not quite as dramatic) choice to make and he chooses not to blackmail the Principal. He sacrificed his own ambition for Alex. Unlike Sayid in last week's flashsideways who realized redemption was beyond his capabilities, here Ben chose the right thing to do.

Although this is a different Ben in a different reality, the essence of the character remains, not a villain as we've come to know, but an honest man who was led on the wrong path by Jacob and the Others.
On the Island, Jack and Hurley come across Richard (thanks Lost for answering my question from last week) who leads them to the Black Rock. He says he's there to die and he needs Jack's help. Much like Michael, the Island will not allow Richard to kill himself so he asks Jack to light a fuse on one of the sticks of dynamite (man, there was a lot of dynamite on that boat!). Jack agrees, lights the fuse, and sits down next to Richard and says, "Now let's talk."

Awesome moment! Jack believes (whoa!) that Jacob or the Island has a purpose for him and would not allow him to die meaninglessly here in the Black Rock. It's an extremely tense scene and succeeds in every level, including Hurley freaking out everytime Richard touched the dynamite. He even references Dr. Arzt! Well, Jack's gamble worked and the dynamite doesn't go off. Amazingly, it seems like he just recruited Richard to his team.

Finally, the bulk of the episode was taken up with Ben's conflict with Ilana. Early in the episode, Miles reveals that it was in fact Linus who killed Jacob which pisses off Ilana. Lacking anywhere to go, they decide to head to the Survivor's Beach and wait there until they can figure out what next to do. This is interesting because during last season's time travelling adventures, the survivors, led by Sawyer, were always heading back to the beach but never quite made it because they kept getting sidetracked in the jungle. This season, there's very little action taking place between destinations and after the first commercial break, they're on the beach.

It's always a sad/interesting/cool thing to go back to "where it all started" and see the state of the camp. Where once it was full of life and people, all of that is gone and only wreckage remains. It's a poignant reminder of how far this story has come, from the quests for fresh water and food early in the series to the attack by the Others that practically destroyed the beach camp and all the insanity since then.

Others have commented that it's a shame Ilana is not more fully developed. She's actually been on the show since mid last season yet we know very little about her except that she's been touched by Jacob, which is not very much. So while she created an interesting situation by forcing Ben to dig his own grave, it lacked the intensity it would have had if he had been forced to do that by Jack or even Richard.

I loved the scene with Miles coming to visit Ben. Would have liked to see a similar scene with Sun and Lapidus, final goodbyes so to speak.

Alas, Ben's comeuppance was not meant to be (yet). Fake Locke showed up and freed Ben with some magic Q-like hand movements. He told Ben there was a rifle waiting for him in the jungle. So Ben ran and Ilana followed in a classic Race Through the Jungle sequence which ended in Ben holding the upper hand against Ilana with a drawn rifle.

Now, here's the scene that to me, precludes this episode from becoming part of Lost's "Best Of." Although Ben's speech is well written and brilliantly acted, I did not buy Ilana's change of heart. She went from ready to murder Ben to accepting him into her posse in a matter of minutes. It felt...forced. As if it was, much like Sayid's joining of Fake Locke, masterminded to pit some of the best rivalries on the show on opposite sides in the coming battle. The Ben I know would not accept Ilana's change of heart so readily. In response to her "I'll have you" comment, he should have said something like: "Thank you. But I don't know you won't try to kill me tomorrow." And shot her in the head.

So that scene rang false for me and undermined what was otherwise a great episode. Michael Emerson won an Emmy last year for his portrayal of Ben Linus. This episode made him a easy favorite to win again.

The final scene, with Charles Widmore on a submarine heading to the Island, is perfectly timed with the endgame of the series shaping up. Now, where the hell is a kickass Desmond/Charlie episode??

Thursday, March 04, 2010

LOST - 6x06 "Sundown" or "How Badass is Sayid? Let's count the bodies."

Oh, tricky Lost writers. You tried to fool us! By simply naming your episode after one of your main characters, everyone in Internet Lost World thought this was going to be a Jin/Sun episode and continue the pattern of copying the episode focus from the first season! You had me, for sure. I was ready to hear some Korean, read subtitles, and get all teary-eyed at the inevitable reunion. Instead, we got a episode focused on Sayid and poses the question we've all been wondering: "How many people can Sayid kill in one episode?" The answer: "Lots!"

First of all, I just want to point out how awesome Sayid is. During last season's finale, Sayid (carrying a nuclear weapon on his back, BTW) was shot by Roger Linus. Things looked pretty grim for our tortured torturer. In fact, as "The Incident" ended and no main characters had met their violent ends, I was very worried that the writers might actually kill Sayid. Now, Sayid hadn't had such a major role in the show since his employment by Ben post Oceanic Six, so it made a little sense that they might write him off the show (and by writing off the show, I mean getting shot in the stomach [see: Ana Lucia, Libby, others]). But thankfully they didn't! And he's been very important this new season so an episode devoted to him makes sense at this time.

Still, the flashsideways story of this episode left me a little cold. Here we have Nadia, Sayid's long lost love since the beginning of the show, married to Sayid's brother and with a couple of kids. Now, I didn't have an issue with Jack having a son last week, yet I find this sudden appearance of characters that did not exist strangely jarring. With Jack's son, David, I understood why the writers chose to pursue that storyline. Here, the appearance of a brother reeked of an excuse to get Sayid to do what he does best: Kill a bunch of people.

On the flip side, the flashsideways story may have been to remind the viewer about Sayid's deep-rooted love for Nadia and how much his life has sucked since she got hit by a car in Season 4. That explains why he so quickly goes with Fake Locke... but I'll get to that. Lemme just say, that despite the appearance and subsequent death of Keamy (awesomeness. hate that guy and his smirk!), I feel like this storyline would have been better if it dealt with AltUniverse Sayid encountering one of the other 815 passengers (Jack or Charlie quickly comes to mind) and having some kind of interesting adventure. But I guess that's coming..

On the Island, interesting stuff abounds! After Jack and Hurley split (way to not leave anyone behind, Shephard!) a confused Sayid confronts Dogen about why he has tried to kill him a couple times now in the span of a few short episodes. Dogen gives him a spiel about Good vs. Evil, scales and balance etc, basically a quick thematic summary of the entire series. And then they engage in the best fight scene ever! Dogen, somehow, wins the fight and has the opportunity to kill Sayid, but stops when his baseball, dislodged during the fight, hits the ground. I'm not exactly sure of the significance of that, but it saved Sayid's life and Dogen banished him.

Meanwhile, Fake Locke convinces Claire to give herself up to the Others in the Temple in order to deliver a message. He wants Dogen to come out to talk to him. When she walked into the courtyard was an awesome moment in the history of Lost. It's too bad there weren't more of the regular Losties around to witness it. Imagine Hurley trying to give her a big bear hug!

Dogen doesn't want to go out to get himself killed, so he sends Sayid instead, with instructions to kill whoever appears "as someone who has recently died" immediately. Sayid, in a bit of Locke-like innocence says "Sure, I'll do that!" He runs into Kate on his way out of Temple and soon enough encounters Locke/The Smoke Monster. As ordered, Sayid attempts to kill him by stabbing him in the chest with a ceremonial-looking dagger that Dogen gave him. Fake Locke removes the dagger from his chest and says, "Now why did you go and do that?"

Fake Locke recruits Sayid to his cause by claiming that he can give him anything he wants, specifically (in Sayid's mind), Nadia, alive again. Does this mean that Fake Locke can somehow tap into other universes where people who have died are still alive? Is that how he uses the bodies of those who have died as vessels in this world? The internet is abuzz with theories about that, connections between the flashsideaways reality and regular reality. It's good fodder for discussion.

Meanwhile, Kate has entered the Temple and Miles tells her that Claire is here! Kate immediately goes to find her in a hole in the ground and tells her about Aaron. Unfortunately, this scene, which had a lot of potential, falls a little flat because of Claire's lack of reaction. Other reviewers online have claimed that she's under the influence of the Smoke Monster and not really herself in this scene, but I'm not so sure.

In another dramatic entrance, Sayid returns to the temple to deliver The Smoke Monster's message. For some reason, all the Temple Others are hanging out outside, including Cindy the flight attendant from Flight 815. He tells them that Jacob is dead and those who want to join him and leave the Island should leave the Temple and join him before sundown or stay here and die. It's an ominous message, delivered with intensity by this new, powerful-willed Sayid. Some of the Others listen and leave, while some (including Dogen) stay.

Once again, Sayid goes to confront Dogen in the Pool Room. Dogen gives some backstory about his son, but it's not enough to pacify Sayid who drowns Dogen in the same pool that Dogen's people drowned Sayid in the season premiere. Dogen's right-hand man, the talented actor John Hawkes, rushes to the scene only to have his throat slit by Sayid.

Apparently, Dogen was keeping the Smoke Monster away so by Sayid killing him, he becomes responsible for all the deaths at the Temple. If you add the gangsters Sayid killed in the AltUniverse plus all these people, you have the answer.

The attack on the Temple finally occurs and it's as bloody and dark as we've come to expect when the shit really hits the fan on Lost. In the middle of the chaos, Ilana and Ben's team show up in an attempt to rescue Jack and Hurley, but all they get is Miles. Ben tries to get Sayid to come away with them but Sayid refuses and Ben walks away slowly wearing a frightened expression.

The last few minutes of this episode is really weird. And I mean that in a strange, not so great, way. There's a lot of slow motion and shots of people giving each other serious stares and it's all very dramatic, but it left me wondering: Who were all those people around Fake Locke? They didn't look like the Others who left the Temple. Actually, they looked like pirates, maybe from the Black Rock, all longhaired and sunburnt. (Which reminds me, Where the heck has Richard been??). Also, Fake Locke gives the "Go Ahead" stare to Claire and Sayid... and then Kate? That doesn't really make sense. If he's been recruiting people to his army, why would he let in this civilian?

I will say, however, that is looking like a showdown between Fake Locke's people and Jack's. This is reminiscent of Season 3, when the survivors of Flight 815 split based on their opinion about the freighter people. That led to some very interesting scenarios and a lot of changing of loyalties (always interesting.) Wild guess: Kate convinces Sawyer (maybe Sayid?) to change sides to Jack's side sometime soon.

So, while I quite enjoyed most of the episode, the last few minutes (including Ilana's sudden appearance) were quite jarring and left me more than a little confused. But that's not necessarily a bad place to be mid-season on Lost. Ten more episodes left...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

LOST - 6x05 "The Lighthouse" Review/Gush

This season is heating up quickly, with a barrage of revelations in the last two episodes, specifically in regards to the famous Numbers. First there was the cliffside cave in last week's "The Substitute," now our roving band of misfits have found a mysterious lighthouse. When I first saw the episode title last week, I immediately thought of The Lamp Post, the only off-Island Dharma station that we know of which was used by the Oceanic Six to pinpoint the location of the Island in Season 5 and fly back. This new Lighthouse is also to used to find the Island and reinforces Jacob's dying words: "They're coming." Who - or what - is coming is still unknown, but that mystery gets stronger with every episode.

Meanwhile, in the Alternate Reality, Jack's got a son! ("Wow," says America.) This is big. At first, it seemed strange and random. But the more the episode went on, the more I appreciated this different perspective on a very familiar character. After five seasons of Jack-centric episodes dealing with drinking and random violence (we'll get to that later) and Jack's daddy issues, this episode offered a fresh take on the subject with Jack being the father figure for once.

When I was growing up, I read a lot of comic books and some of my favorites were a Marvel series simply titled "What If?" They were the most random exercises in creative thinking and expounded about stories and characters we already knew very well. The Lost writers seem to be taking that approach to the AltReality with episodes like last week's Locke-centric episode where he seemed to have been paralyzed by something other than his father and now Jack with a son. The real question is, Who's the mother? Is it Sarah, Jack's ex-wife from the Original Reality, or someone new?

My biggest draw to the episode was finally finding out some info about Claire. After not appearing on the show for almost three whole seasons, it's real strange to see her back and taking on the role of the Island's resident Crazy Loner, formerly occupied by Danielle Rosseau. The similarities between the two characters can not be ignored. Both are mothers who have lost their children, both have been left alone to fend for themselves on the island. Claire mistakenly believes that the Others have Aaron and is waging war against them for it. The Others DID have Rosseau's baby, Alex, but while she retreated to the far side of the Island, Claire has stayed close and has been actively pursuing and murdering Others until she can find Aaron.

Jin, "saved" by Claire, is just as afraid of her as the Others. Whether he has real reason to is to be determined. Obviously, Claire is a little deranged and hell bent on a single goal. This is never good. Causal references to her father (dead) and Her Friend (the Smoke Monster) do not say much about her overall mental health. When Jin told Claire the truth, that Kate had taken Aaron away from the Island, she had an internal freakout and Jin smartly said that he had lied and that the Others did have Aaron. I wonder what game Jin is planning. He doesn't want to lead Claire back to the Temple, he wants to go find Sun. Maybe he thinks this is the only way Claire will let him go?

Meanwhile, the Claire storylines continue in the Alternate Reality when Jack's mother finds her husband's will and there's a reference to a Claire Littleton. With the revelation of a son and now this latest bit of gossip, I'm actually excited for the next Jack-centric episode in the Alternate Reality. Just like I was at the end of last week's episode when Alternate Locke met Alternate Ben/History Teacher. I think is a clever way to keep the fans interested in the Alternate Reality which may (or may not) have anything to do with the true finale of the series.

Back on the Island, Hurley is getting some much needed respect via the writers. After a couple seasons in the background (or in his case, the mental institution) this ability to speak and get directed by Jacob is a fascinating development. For so long we've heard about "Jacob's orders" or "Jacob's lists", now we're finally seeing it!

So Hurley leads Jack through the jungle - where they briefly meet Kate who is doing What She Does, wandering around the jungle looking for Claire apparently - and they end up in the Caves, another reference to Season 1. Speaking of Season 1, the "Centric" portions of each episode this season so far matches with Season 1. And seems to continue. Episode 5, Season 1 focused on Sun, next week's episode is called "Sundown." It's a cool trick. These references to the original season really help reinforce the idea of a final, closing chapter of this great journey.

Now, onto the Lighthouse. I don't have a problem with buildings magically appearing based on story necessity as others do (see: all comments online.) I can believe this is a huge Island and Jack has not necessarily seen all of it. The lighthouse was really cool-looking and a had a spectacular "ability." It really did feel like a scene out of the classic adventure game, Myst. And to give a immediate answer to the questions brought by the cave from last week was a brilliant touch. It's not like the Lost writers to be so direct. But I like it!

Jack's eventual violent outburst was hardly a surprise. He's done that quite a bit and viewers should not be surprised. He's a tortured character. Remember when he was in Thailand and he forced the girl to give him a special tattoo? That intesnity of purpose is a trait that also forced Jack to expose his father as a drunk to the hospital they both worked for. That need of Jack's to "know" everything also drove a wedge between himself and Kate in the post-Island world when she was just trying to fulfill a promise to Sawyer and sent Jack back into the world of drugs and alcohol.

So, while it was disappointing that we didn't get to see more of the Lighthouse before Jack destroyed the main part, it was typical Lost. (Remember The Flame?) I have a distinct feeling that the last few minutes of this episode (and that includes Claire's revelation of her "friend") will have immediate repercussions. Which tells me that whoever is left at the Temple is in for some serious trouble. Soon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Big Love - Season 4 - Midway Review

Awhile back I promised to write a recap/review of the current season of Big Love. I couldn't quite nail down my feelings about this new season after the first couple of episodes. Big Love is a nebulous kind of show, a sort of Shepperd's Pie of a dozen different kinds of TV shows with some heavy doses of inspiration from HBO shows of the past. This new season, especially, has gone off in some weird tangents and trying to decipher what the creators and writers actually have in mind in terms of theme has taken a better part of half a season.

HBO seasons are typically 10 episodes, this past Sunday's episode of Big Love was episode 6 and a turning point for a couple major storylines and so I feel like it's a good time to stop and reflect on this tumultuous ride.

The main storyline of this season involves Bill's run for State Senate; a crazy self-destructive plot that will probably end very badly for Bill and his family. Obviously, the character doesn't think that. Like in his ridiculous schemes from seasons past, Bill is nothing but self-assured. He believes he's on God's path and how could God steer him wrong? The last few seasons, as Bill makes insane decisions to meddle and interfere with the goings on at Juniper Creek, to wage war on the violent and unpredictable Greenes, and to open a Mormon-friendly casino, the audience is asked to stand by him and believe just like he does. This season, that belief is tested to the limits. The idea that Bill would run and then win a State Senate seat only to publicly out himself as a polygamist is SUPER crazy. Last I checked, polygamy was illegal and though Bill plans to fight and change the law, that's a long process that could not be done within a single episode.

As such, the main thrust of this season, with all this political back-and-froth and a random trip to Washington D.C, feels ultimately pointless because I'm pretty sure that Bill will lose the race and then what? He's exposed himself, lost his best friend, shattered his family, and wasted thousands of dollars, for what?

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the writers will surprise me. They have so far. I did not expect this storyline to last this long, but with Bill winning the nomination and with a strong backing from a Utah Senator, it seems like he may actually win. The scene in the latest episode, "Under One Roof," when Bill takes his three wives to a home he plans to buy for them, a massive house on a hill reminiscent of Roman's Big House, was powerful and showed me more about why Bill wanted to go on this mission, instead of his preaching about equality.

But, of course, the political storyline is just a small part of the huge tapestry of this season. Big Love has always cast a wide net, but this year, that net is the size of a stadium. We've got Nikki's daughter, complications with her creepy ex-husband, JJ, who I suspect will attempt to murder Bill by season's end. Nikki's mom, Adeline's, marriage to JJ and all the craziness that inspires.

We've got Margene and her new business, which seems to be doing very well, and is causing Margene to rethink her situation within the family.

We've got Barb filling in for Bill at the Blackfoot Casino, dealing with the Native population there, hitting girls with her car, and giving speeches to bored employees about the shared history of the Mormon and Native people.

We've got Sarah and Scott, getting married to Passion Pit's "Moth Wings" and secretly adopting an Indian baby.

And then there's Ben. His storylines have never been that interesting to me, mainly because they felt forced. His sexual longings early in the series seemed to be a little premature and then his questioning of the faith shortly thereafter ultimately unnecessary because he fell in line quickly to follow in his father's footsteps as the seasons have gone on. Except he always had a "thing" with Margene. This was something I did enjoy because it developed slowly and believably and hit just the right amount of teenage angst and genuine friendship. When Ben showed up to Margene's live show, it was a sweet gesture and Margene's grateful kiss, misinterpreted, began a series of events that have led to Ben being banished by his father, falling in with Bill's mischievous mother, and now kidnapped in Mexico by the Greenes. One word: Awesome!

And then there's Alby. Oh, Alby. Why do you always set yourself to fall? This character, the closeted son of the Prophet, was always a strong point for the series. He's played with deadpan sincerity by the actor, Matt Rose. His gay tendencies are a classic Shakespearean flaw that was manipulated very well by his mother and father and yet somehow he prevailed. His new wife, Lara, was a perfect conniving match for the greedy Alby and they successfully ruled Juniper Creek while Roman was in jail. After Roman's murder at the end of last season, a Trust was established to take over the finances of Juniper Creek (this was all done between seasons and with very little explanation in this new season, hence a lot of early confusion). The problem? The trustee, a gay Mormon who wants to rid himself of his impulses, is caught in a love affair with Alby that ends very badly.

I felt like this storyline, while strong, was a little unbelievable and took up way too much time in the first half of the season. I have read that the creators of the show, a gay couple themselves, wanted to show the Mormon perspective about homosexuality and specifically Mormon gays who tried to convert themselves to heterosexuality. I felt like that was touched on a little bit, but it was more Alby and the trustee in a lover's tryst for many episodes and only when they were exposed by Bill did the shit really hit the fan. It should be interesting to see what Albie's next move is, but that storyline really did take up a lot more time than it should have in an already busy season.

And now Ana's back! And pregnant! With Bill's baby!

I bet a lot of fans sighed with exhaustion when Ana showed up on screen. "Another storyline?!" shouted the public. As for me, I'm actually glad she's back because I felt like her storyline was never properly resolved from last season. Sure, it ended and Bill was bitter and angry afterwards, but I actually enjoyed a lot of storylines revolving around the brief Fourth Wife and am very very excited to see what happens next.

So, where do I stand on Season Four? Well, I'm definitely enjoying it. I feel like it lacks a little punch seen in previous seasons, specifically in regards to weird and random situations they find themselves in (case in point: when Sarah and her friends found the Lost Boys House last season. How weird was that?!) There's a definite serious tone this season that doesn't allow for a little comedic relief, which is a shame. But now that the Greenes are back and Bill's campaign is in full swing, there should be some extremely dramatic stuff in the near future.

I said up top that Big Love seems to be inspired by HBO series long finished. Specifically I'm thinking of Six Feet Under, one of the best TV shows ever created. Big Love, to me, is the spiritual sequel both in tone and the way it shows the darker side of America. I don't doubt that Big Love lost some viewers this season, people unable or unwilling to follow everything that has happened. It's the kind of show that demands a lot from the viewer, but the reward is, well, big.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

LOST 6x1 - 6x2: "LA X" Thoughts, Speculations, and Theories

To echo the Internet: "Wow."

This was truly an incredible season opener, for one of the most fascinating TV shows ever. I say this with no hyperbole. I can't remember any other show that so drastically played with time and space. In the first few minutes of this episode, we have 5 seasons of drama and action reset, only to have that realization blown out of the water, and "our" characters back, almost where we left them. Over the summer break, the big question running around was: "Did it work??" The incredible answer: "Yes it did. And it didn't!"

This totally fulfilled my wildest speculation about how the season will unfold. I was hoping Faraday's gamble would work - that would give a lot of weight to the previous season. But I also didn't want to lose our characters, the drama and heartbreak of Jack and Sawyer and Kate and Juliet. I could not conceive of losing them and their history. So the creation of an alternate reality (as opposed to changing the past) is a perfect solution!

And then we get the added benefit of bringing back some old favorites who died on the island, like Boone and Charlie. This was a great touch and I hope these returned characters are dealt with well and not killed off quickly in a fulfillment of their "destiny." Especially Charlie.

The first episode spent a lot of time with Not-Dead-Yet Juliet. This was a little crazy since she died dramatically in the season finale and here she is, yelling for help. Awesome, right? Well, kinda. I'll echo the complaint that with the recap episode and the Previously On segment and then a few of the final minutes of last season replayed early in the episode, we watched Juliet die many times and it was getting a little old before Sawyer even managed to free her.. Only to watch her slip away.

BUT, not before revealing an important tidbit of info. Right before Juliet dies, she whispers a few words that seem to be random ravings of a dying woman. She says, "We should get a coffee sometime. We could go dutch." And she smiles. This confusing bit of dialogue has an extra weight later in the episode when Miles is able to communicate with the deceased Juliet and we find out that she wanted to tell Sawyer: "It worked."

My brilliant and beautiful wife had an incredible theory that I believe will turn out to be true. Basically, the idea is that somehow, in her final moments, Juliet was able to tap into the OTHER Juliet, from the newly created alternate reality, and a scene sometime in the past when Alternate Juliet met Alternate Sawyer and they flirted briefly. So even though our Juliet has died, she was happy because she knew that their gamble had worked. We will probably see that scene between Juliet and Sawyer in the alternate reality late in the season. Props to Shawn for figuring it out early.

The other main conceit during the first episode was the differences between the new alternate reality and established backstories. Some glaring differences are Desmond on the plane. Boone alone, without his sister Shannon. But the really interesting ones are the tricks that the writers pull on us harmless viewers to try and trick us into thinking things were MUCH different. For instance, Locke tells Boone that he actually did go on his walkabout. Hurley claims to be the "luckiest man alive." But as the episode ends, we see Locke being put into a wheelchair and we wonder..How different is this new reality from what we know?

The second episode spent more time on the Island, in the present. This part is glossed over a little in the first episode and left intentionally vague, but Jack and Kate and other time traveling survivors are now back in the present, where Jacob, Locke, and Ben have begun their war. The revelation about the Man In Black/Jacob's Nemesis/Fake Locke is the Smoke Monster is pretty huge and explains a lot about the dynamic of the island, including the significance of the ash surrounding Jacob's cabin. I've also always been curious about the Sonic Fence that surrounded New Otherton, why would the Others, led by Jacob, need to protect themselves from the Monster if the Monster was just a manifestation of the Island (like I assumed). Well, he's not. He's this guy, whoever his name his. It still doesn't explain how Ben was able to use the Monster to defeat Widmore's soldiers, but we may get some explanation for that in coming episodes.

But the big deal was The Temple, finally! After years of this Others hideaway being cloaked in mystery, we finally get to see it, and it's very impressive! At first I thought they traveled through time again, the Temple looked so ancient and yet well preserved. But no, they're in the present, led by an Ra's al Ghul-looking mofo and his Jewish translator (Played by John Hawkes from Deadwood. That's the sixth actor from Deadwood in a minor role on LOST. Awesome!). I didn't mind the other language or the weirdness of the situation, it actually felt more "right" with the strangeness of the Others. For awhile there, at the end of Season 5 with Locke leading the Others, the people looked a little too much like young survivors of a plane crash, not the wild indigenous population who have been on the island for a long time.

Meanwhile, in the alternate reality, landing in LAX may not have been the best thing to happen to our characters. Charlie is arrested. Jin looks like he's about to be arrested. Oceanic lost Christian Shepard's coffin. Only Kate seems to come out well, freeing herself from captivity and then stealing a cab with everyone's favorite Australian: Claire! It should be very interesting to see what happens next in all these storylines.

The ending of the episode, while satisfying, left me with some definite questions and some confusion. The scenes with Sayid in the Spring were very confusing, but I'm happy with the end result. What is Sayid's importance to the Others? And what will the Others do now that Jacob has seemingly died? On the beach near the Statue, the scene with Fake Locke and Richard was also confusing because I could not understand why the Others did not leap to defend their defacto leader, Richard? They all had guns, but they stood there like dumbasses. I wonder if there's a real reason for that or that was just to serve the overall story.

I can't wait to see what happens next!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

For Shawn :)

Beach House on



The End of LOST and What it Means for the Future

So this is what Christmas morning feels like.

LOST will begin its final season tonight with a 2-part episode titled, "LA X," and the excitement and anticipation is palpable, both on the world wide webs and pretty much everywhere. This type of frenzy for a TV show is not completely unprecedented, but it's been awhile since it seemed like the whole country, maybe the whole world, was so enamored by a TV show that its big reveal tonight has been debated and speculated about for almost a year.

But there's a big question looming over everything. When LOST is over, what happens next? Where do we all go from here? Some people are ready to give up TV all together, claiming "there will never be anything like LOST again..", which is very similar to all the people who canceled HBO after The Sopranos ended, claiming "That's it! They'll never be a show like that again!" I, of course, disagree! I believe that not only can the magic of Lost be reproduced again, but that there are shows on TV right now that have the potential to be similarly epic and exciting to the mass audience.

I acknowledge that LOST is special in very unique ways. LOST managed to appeal to a very wide range of audiences by siphoning out tiny bits of information slowly regarding a big mystery. That pulled in many viewers. LOST created some fascinating characters that clicked with a huge range of the population. Unlike the white-washed ensemble casts of the past, the LOST crew was pulled from all corners of the globe, its characters origanting from random countries like Korea, Iraq, and Australia. Yet if you had to pick a setting for the show, besides the all-important Island, it would be Los Angeles, the original destination for Flight 815, and where I believe most of the action will take place in this final season.

So what does the end of LOST mean? To me, I look at the end of a great series as an opening to introduce a lot of people to new and exciting series. Just last week, Caprica began on Syfy. Another series set in the world of Battlestar Galactica (but you don't need to have watched Galactica to understand), Caprica is a very adult take on science fiction, much like LOST. With incredible actors, nuanced writing, and gorgeous futuristic settings, the show has all the right ingredients to become a fascinating look at a society on the brink of collapse. Other series include two new one hour dramas on HBO premiering soon: Treme, from the creators The Wire, a show about musicians rebuilding their lives and their city in post-Katrina New Orleans, and Broadwalk Empire, starring Steve Buscemi as a gangster in 1920's Atlantic City. HBO is always fascinating in period pieces (see: Rome, Deadwood) and the latter show looks to follow the trend.

While I plan to enjoy every second of the final LOST season, I've got my eye to the future and what will be the next big thing that is the subject of endless dinner conversations and long, meandering, blog posts.