Friday, July 31, 2009

Two I like, two I don't

During a drunken, channel flipping binge, I got sucked into "1939" night on TMC, and wound up watching all of Gone With The Wind and Wuthering Heights. I couldn't help but notice that in the first picture, GWTW, you had complicated, prickly and somewhat self-absorbed lovers who to this day remain classic cinematic characters who still engender audience empathy no matter what their destructive motivations and machinations. On the later showing of WH, I was astounded at how completely unlikable both of the central characters were. Olivier and Oberon each offered entrancing performances of course, but I completely despised both Heathcliff and Cathy. I vaguely recall reading Bronte's novel in high school, and seeing the flick shortly thereafter, but damn if the movie didn't do either of them any favors. And it was directed by the legendary William Wyler, too. WTF? Does anyone else recall such a visceral dislike for these narcissistic, manic-depressive assholes?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Reconsidered: "Expose"

For more about "reconsidered," see this.

"Expose" is the 14th episode of the third season of Lost. It's also the episode that featured, and brought to a close, the story of Nikki and Paulo, two characters who were supposedly "in the background" the first two seasons.

Ask any Lost fan about their least favorite episodes, or the "worst" episodes, and "Expose" almost always comes up. (Not as frequently as the universally derided "Stranger in a Strange Land," but often enough to merit consideration here as a "reconsidered" feature). To put "Expose" in context, you have to understand what the producers were trying to do with Nikki and Paulo in the first place. Obviously, there were more survivors of the crash of Oceanic 815 than we, as viewers, saw in the regular and ongoing cast. They were typically represented by extras milling about in the background, and when it served the story, an actor would be cast to portray one of those additional survivors, such as what happened with Leslie "Doc" Arzt. Darlton wanted to bring two more of those background characters to the forefront, and in season three (beginning with "Further Instructions," though the actors were listed as part of the primary cast starting with the season premiere) we started seeing more of Nikki and Paulo, who were presumably there on the island with everyone else since the crash.

Despite casting two extremely attractive and capable actors, the fan reaction to Nikki and Paulo was not quite what team Darlton hoped for. Part of it was probably due to some of the overall malaise that infused season three as a whole (unfortunate split scheduling by ABC, producers still not knowing how long the show would last and trying to drag things out too far, momentum being stalled by the endless "Kate and Sawyer in the cage" story, etc.), but Nikki and Paulo's insertion into some of the island adventures was also less than elegant. Given the production schedule and break in the airdates, Darlton had time to assess the fan reaction to the characters, and truncate Nikki and Paulo's arcs, which come to a head in the episode "Expose."

For an episode focused on these two, it's interesting to note that very, very little occurs with Nikki and Paulo in the show's "real time." In fact, the only thing that happens in "the present" is Nikki running out of the jungle and face planting on the beach, before muttering something that the gang initially interprets as "plywood." Or "powerlines." Or "Paulo lies." The rest of the Nikki and Paulo story takes place via flashback, starting with the opening scenes of a stripping Nikki encountering a mysterious villain known as Mr. LaShade, played by Billy Dee Williams. (trivia: Mister LaShade? Anagram for "Dharma List"). Turns out this vignette is really just a scene from an episode of "Expose," a TV show in the Lost universe about strippers who fight crime, which Hurley says is "like Baywatch, only better." Nikki, an actress, was a guest star on the show, who was having an affair with the show's producer as part of a long con (with Paulo) to get at the producer's stash of $8 million in diamonds. These flashbacks show us the couple's growing distrust and insecurity once the diamonds were acquired (and lost in the crash, then found in the lagoon) filtered through several known island events.

Building an episode around the perspective of secondary characters is nothing new, and several genre series have done it with aplomb. For example, Star Trek:TNG did it with the classic episode "Lower Decks," X-Files did it with the Lone Gunmen characters (before they got their own short lived spinoff) and Angel did it with a very funny Harmony focused episode called "Harm's Way." (The Wolfram & Hart employee orientation video is worth the price of admission alone). So "background players stepping to the forefront" isn't exactly groundbreaking, and at the very least, it gave the producers a chance to effectively wrap up a truncated Nikki and Paulo story, and give us a very entertaining episode to boot.

Yes, I said "entertaining." While "Expose" won't go down in Lost lore as one of the best episodes ever, I think it accomplished what it set out to do, and provided some fun and laughs along the way.

Some of the amusing meta-commentary from "Expose:"
ZUKERMAN: Alright, that's a series wrap for Corvette! Let's hear it for Nikki!
[Most of the production crew clap and whistle.]
NIKKI: Thank you.
ZUKERMAN: Brilliant, Nikki. As always. You know, you don't need to die. We can bring you back next season.
NIKKI: [laughs] How?
ZUKERMAN: Well, let's say that, uh, Corvette was wearing a bullet-proof vest?
[Nikki pulls away her jacket to remind Zukerman that she is wearing nothing but a bikini underneath.]
ZUKERMAN: Bullet-proof breast!
NIKKI: [covering back up] Look, I'm just a guest star, and we all know what happens to guest stars.
Or this gem from Sawyer:
HURLEY: Dude.... Nikki's dead.
SAWYER: ... Who the hell's Nikki?
You also have the diamonds being hidden in a matryoshka (Russian nesting dolls), which itself is a commentary of the nature of the Lost plot, with riddles being encased in other riddles.

And...back to Sawyer:
HURLEY: [interrupts Sawyer with a shout] "Paulo lies"! That's what she said! "Paulo lies", not "power lines". "Paulo lies".
SAWYER: Who the hell's Paulo?
Then there's the flashback to Nikki and Paulo at the airport, where they encounter a squabbling Shannon and Boone:
NIKKI: Promise me we'll never end up like them.
Which of course, is funny, given what happens to both couples.

The producers also did a fantastic technical job of integrating Nikki and Paulo into the existing footage and scenes of "original" island events like the crash and subsequent beach confusion, and the "live together, die alone" speech.

In addition to the amusing meta-ness of many scenes from "Expose," we also had some plot advancement and interesting tidbits concerning our "regular" cast of characters:

  • Charlie revealing to Sun that he had been responsible for her attack.
  • The fascinating Juliet and Ben scene in the Pearl (which ostensibly explained how Paulo got a walkie talkie), where Ben lays out how he intends to play Jack into doing the surgery: "Same way I get anybody to do anything. I find out what he's emotionally invested in, and I exploit it."
  • Ominous quotes from Locke: "Every man's entitled to his secrets Paulo." And "Things don't stay buried on this Island."
  • Arzt's Orwellian declaration: "The pigs are walking!"
  • Shannon complaining about the newly found guns, which have been kept secret from the rest of the gang by "Kate and her two boyfriends." Hee!
  • Also, take a look at the screencap from the scene where Hurley is examining the Nikki's script for "Expose." Notice a familiar surname as part of the show's regular cast?

So while "Expose" wasn't "The Constant," it certainly wasn't "Stranger in a Strange Land," either. The creative team knew they had a problem on their hands (admittedly, a problem of their own making), and found an interesting, funny and somewhat tragic way to deal with it. For characters that weren't exactly beloved, it's still a pretty haunting and awful way to die, being buried alive side by side. With their diamonds, no less.

Nikki and Paulo may have been a mistake, but in my opinion, "Expose" wraps up their story in a taut, amusing episode that's a lot better than it's given credit for.

"Expose" Reconsidered: B+

Monday, July 27, 2009

Be still my heart

Check out this EW video interview with the cast of ABC's upcoming V reboot. (I would embed, but they only allow you to get linky).

Not only does this show look pretty damned good, but Elizabeth Mitchell continues to affirm my undying geek love for her. First, she's on this show (with everyone's favorite space hooker, Morena Baccarin). Next, in the interview, she talks about being a huge fan of Battlestar Galactica (the old one AND the new one!). And of course, she's been magnificent in a little thing called Lost.

Oh, and she made out with Angelina Jolie in Gia.

Okay, now where's Joan?

In a brilliant piece of marketing in anticipation of Mad Men's third season, AMC has teamed with illustrator Dyna Moe to allow you to "MadMenYourself."

In case you're unfamiliar with Moe's charming work, check out this set of Mad Men illustrations on Flickr.

Here's the result of my MadMenization:

For those of you who know me outside the interwebs, that's pretty damned close, no?

TV's reigning Emmy winner for Best Drama returns August 16th.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sanford Stadium in Miniature

Having some time on my hands, I downed a fifth of whiskey, got my Roy Neary on, and painstakingly built a scaled model of Sanford Stadium in my living room, complete with 80,000+ tiny fans. Sure, it took a while to trim those wee hedges and hide all the microscopic flasks under the bleachers, but it looks good, no?

click to embiggen

Kidding. Actually, I just engaged in some "tilt shift miniature faking," but it would have been fun to build an entire stadium, right?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Emmy Noms out tomorrow

Emmy nominations will be announced tomorrow. I'll weigh in this weekend with my thoughts on the official nominees, but in case you missed my Emmy wishlists last month, you can check them out here:

Best Drama Series

Drama Lead Actor and Actress

Drama Supporting Actor and Actress

Best Comedy Series

Comedy Lead Actor and Actress

Comedy Supporting Actor and Actress

Looking back on those, there are some changes I'd probably make, based on "real" submissions (Terry O'Quinn, for example, didn't submit himself this year) and growing appreciation (one of my favorite things on TV now is Better Off Ted, and its cast is uniformly excellent). Any last minute suggestions from y'all?

I'll take potpourri for $6,500, Alex

A roundup of links, thoughts and ephemera. Now with no MSG added.

What would have happened on Pushing Daisies had it not been cruelly canceled?

Brilliant, funny baseball "charts." Must see.

Basketball trick shot artist. Starts out interesting, then gets downright unbelievable.

Countdown of the top 50 movie robots.

This football league
probably doesn't believe that teh gays are allowed to be starters. And I assume they think football was created 6 years ago.

A look back at the first good dragon movie.

Just who I look to for my 911 conspiracy theories.

Blowjobs are for ugly girls. I think the photographic evidence says it all, really.

10 greatest "false deaths" in movies (SPOILERS AHOY).

EPSN SEC blogger lists his favorite conference stadiums.

15 sci-fi movie sequels that didn't suck.

15 movies that were almost turned into TV shows. (I would have loved a TV version of the mucho underrated Zero Effect or Buckaroo Banzai).

For some reason, this video clip makes me think of the 3rd and 4th Planet of the Apes movies:

80s movie action cliches: the witty retort!

Best spy tips from Burn Notice.

7 Star Wars characters who dropped the ball.

A thoughtful mega essay on how the Battlestar Galactica finale screwed the pooch. Related: all the things the "god" of BSG had to be "responsible" for. Also related: how does Katee Sackhoff feel about her role in the finale? (trivia: Katee auditioned for the female detective role in Castle!)

New Harry Potter movie out today! Here's a list of the Top 25 characters in the series. And sports related, a funny list of Potter lookalikes from the world of sports.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More fun than 3 hours of home runs

No, I didn't watch much of last night's Home Run Derby. I had it on in the background for a while, but really. THREE HOURS? And there's only so much Berman any man can take, before mixing up a cocktail of whiskey and antifreeze.

But if you want some fun with your baseball, check out Batting Stance Guy. If you follow baseball, or internet memes, you've probably seen some of his work. His self-proclaimed "least marketable skill in America!" is endlessly entertaining, and uncannily accurate. He made an appearance on Letterman last night:

Also, because I'm a homer, check out his take on a few Atlanta Braves:

For long time Braves fans, a few of those (Horner, Andruw) are LOL funny.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Revisit Disco Demolition Night and Make America Better

July 12th is the 30 year anniversary of the infamous "Disco Demolition Night" at Comiskey Park in Chicago, between games of a White Sox double header against the Tigers.

For those of you too young to remember, this was a time when the popular culture was beginning to turn on the relatively shallow, beat-filled phenomenon known as disco music, which probably reached its zenith following the 1977 release of Saturday Night Fever. (For the record, I was, and still am, a fan of disco. I guess it's the hip hop of the getting ready for jello and shuffleboard crowd. Sue me). In response to the growing antipathy toward disco, and the format change of local radio stations, an area DJ worked in conjunction with Mike Veeck (son of legendary promotional huckster and then Sox owner Bill Veeck) to come up with a marketing event that allowed fans in for 98 cents if they brought a disco record (remember those?) to the stadium to be destroyed in "protest" between games.

Well, the promotion worked entirely too well. The fans came to the stadium en masse, all smoked and liquored up. The records were collected in a box in center field and blown the fuck up with explosives. Fans poured onto the field, cops followed, riots ensued, fires were started, the field was destroyed, the stadium shook and the second game was forfeited.

It marked a turn in the zeitgeist of popular culture, when people just got fed up with what was being force fed to them by all their entertainment outlets.

Now, as I mentioned, I actually liked disco, though I appreciated it for what it was and certainly didn't turn to Lipps, Inc or KC and the Sunshine Band for the lyrical depth I could get from a Dylan record. There was a time and place for it, but I can certainly understand the frustration of audiophiles whose radio stations suddenly stopped playing Zeppelin, the Stones and Floyd in favor of The Village People. As the anniversary of this event rolled around, I wondered, what could be so odious today as to make me show up at a stadium, frothing at the mouth to watch metaphorical christians fed to the metaphorical lions? And then it dawned on me. What is the biggest plague on the entertainment landscape today? REALITY TV.

Think of the parallels. Does is substantively dumb down another similar form of entertainment? Yes. Once it became popular, did the market flood with cheap knock offs that people lapped up without even considering the quality? Yes. Is it an affront to craftsmen who strive mightily to produce top shelf, written and thought provoking material? Yep. Does it succeed with the masses while more intelligent and artfully constructed offerings struggle to find an audience? You betcha. Does looking at the Top 20 produce a throbbing in your temples that can only be relieved by an act of wanton, bloodthirsty violence? Oh, yeah.

I suggest that some enterprising baseball marketing guru commemorate the anniversary of "Disco Demolition Night" with a similar promotion: "Reality Rampage Night."

Between games of a double header, the promoters would wheel out onto the field a wagon full of reality "stars," all chained together. The Kardashians. All the "real" housewives. Jon and Kate. Denise Richards. Paris Hilton. The vapid trollops and himbos from The Hills and its spinoffs. Supernannies. Anyone who has ever participated in a "rose ceremony." Anyone who has participated in a hot tub three way in order to further their "personal brand." Anyone who thinks having their "relationship" beamed into our homes doesn't make us want to stretch a condom over our widescreen. Anyone who has ever seen Bret Michaels or Flavor Flav naked. If you've been on television, the cover of US Weekly and are famous for having no discernible talent, skills, taste or intellect, you're on the chain gang. Also included are any and all television executives responsible for greenlighting these shows.

For admission to the ballpark, fans can purchase a 98 cent ticket provided they bring with them an Irish car bomb, a pitchfork, a chainsaw, a Molotov cocktail, a blunderbuss, a trident, nunchucks, a mace, a flamethrower or ninja throwing stars. Free 24 oz. tallboy beers are served to every fan who shows a DVD of an actual television program featuring a script, acting and directing. A recording of Harry Carey counting down "a-one, a-two, a-three" readies the crowd for the attack, and then the angry mob of scripted television fans descends upon the clueless, vapid morons chained together and rends them limb from limb. An announcement comes over the stadium speakers, the mob backs away, and the cancerous tumor toxifying our programming is finally excised as a series of explosives planted in center field finishes the job, blowing the "reality" pestilence into a fine red mist.

Surely this would be more satisfying, healthy and cathartic for the nation than burning a couple of Peaches and Herb records, right? Who's with me?!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wait, what is this again?

A genre movie that isn't based on a toy. Or a comic book. Or a TV Show. Or a breakfast cereal. Or isn't a sequel. Or a reboot. (though Zeus knows I loved me some JJ Abrams Trek this summer). A completely original idea? What's is the world coming to!

This looks fanfuckingtastic, no?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dollhouse sneak peek

The Dollhouse season 1 DVD (I love saying "season 1" and not "entire canceled series") will be shipping later this month, and it contains the never aired episode "Epitaph One."

It was produced for the DVD release to fulfill production commitments, and not originally intended to air on FOX, so no one has yet seen it (though it will get an airing at the upcoming Comic-Con). For the shows I care about, I've tried to avoid spoilers, but some of the particulars about "Epitaph One" have made their way into the geek infostream, and I've absorbed some (turn away now if you don't want to know ANYTHING about the episode) of the basics: the lovely and talented Felicia Day is a guest star, and the episode takes place in a somewhat dystopian future. Most of the regulars will appear in some fashion, and it was directed by Joss and written by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen (from a story by Joss).

Today, a sneak peek found its way into the wild, and I have to say I'm.....intrigued. It doesn't give away much of the plot, but does provide a glimpse of a character that seems a little different from when we last saw them. Hmmmm. If you want to peep it for yourself, I think you can see it here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Many thanks... all of y'all passing along birthday wishes, via a variety of interwebby conduits, earlier this week.

Happy Independence Day.