Monday, May 31, 2010

In Memorium

If you think this is about Dennis Hopper or Gary Coleman, then you must not be an American who observes Memorial Day. No, this post is a reminder to observe this holiday set aside to honor those Americans who fell in battle. Sometimes it bothers me when living veterans are brought up on Memorial Day, and the dead are brought up on Veteran's Day; they're separate days. But let's do remember those currently fighting, lest they become one more Memorial Day statistic.

I know everyone sees this as a day to party or see a movie or open the pool, but try to give some thought today about the dead. And not just the obvious ones. Yes we remember those who stormed Normandy or fell in 'Nam. We remember those who fought in the Pacific. We remember all those Americans who killed each other at Gettysburg and Antietam. But let's remember ALL of them. Remember the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. Remember the ones in all other military conflicts abroad that don't earn the memorable "american war" status. Remember the ones in Korea. Remember the ones in World War I. Remember those in the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War, the Mexican-American War. Remember all who fell at the Alamo. Remember the American Revolution beyond the tea parties and committees; beyond frozen wooden teeth crossing the Delaware. Remember the men. Remember the women. Remember the white, the black, the hispanic, the American indian, the Asian, the arab, the gay, the straight, the old and the all-too-young. Remember those who died on the ground and those who died in the air. Those who fled sinking ships and those who went down with them. Those who stood against the British, and those who fought beside them. Remember the medics who tended the wounded, some of whom went down with them. Remember those who served and never saw combat, but have died with the distinction of serving our country however they could in whatever thankless job in time of crisis. Remember the typists, clerks and translators. Remember the recruiters and technicians. Remember the people at home who suffered loss, and the ones they wept for. Remember the Army, the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force, the Coast Guard, the minutemen, the militias, the National Guard. Remember them, and never forget.

"War must be, while we defend ourselves against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend." -- Lord of the Rings, book IV, chapter 5

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

LOST: "The End" -- Reflections on the Long Con of the finale

Be forewarned that there are SPOILERS contained herein. If you have yet to watch this episode, or the episode in its entirety, you would be wise not to read. I also may spoil other endings as well (though nothing too recent). You have been warned!!

Well, here we are, the very end of Lost. I have a lot to say regarding the finale. I'll begin with a few general thoughts before moving to the specifics.

First, we have the title "The End." Simple and straightforward, the title was an object of derision among some of us who hoped for a title more engaging. But I've been thinking about it and there may be intentional meaning to it. The first thing it calls to my mind is the final book in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, which curiously also ended on an island. I also think of the Beatles song which (almost) closes out the Abbey Road album. "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." Essentially, that's the point of the finale for good or ill, and so it is very possible the title was deliberately chosen to reference this, and not merely to signal a finality (a finality I might add which is lacking).

For the most part it succeeded as a final couple hours of television better than some series have. It certainly has its issues, but I think it's safe to say that it will be remembered in the annals of television finales. While it doesn't approach the perfect brilliant tie-it-all-up-neatly package of Arrested Development's finale, it does avoid some cliches. Though on the other hand, it also lovingly rips off like 15 different endings. The joke "alternate endings" on the Jimmy Kimmel show focusing on other famous finales sadly rings a little true. And I'm mostly not talking about TV either; I mean film and literature as well. Some of these I will point out more specifically, but at various times the finale seemed to me to echo Star Trek II, Star Trek III, The Sixth Sense, The Lovely Bones, The Third Policeman, The Matrix Revolutions, Children of the Mind, The Last Battle and Lord of the Rings.

Due to the revelations of the episode I can no longer refer to events in the sideways universe seperately. So this will be a little more stream of consciousness as I watched the episode than prior reflections.

It was an interesting choice to open the episode with the delivery of Christian's coffin. The coffin played a big role, and echoes the coffin stuff from the first season. Jack fought so hard to get that thing on the plane (it was the whole reason he was on the plane), so to see it finally arrive where it should is a certain closure. This coffin is different from the coffin seen in the real universe though. I wonder why that is. Also, in the prior episode, Desmond called Jack PRETENDING to be the airline, saying they'd found the coffin. So did Desmond just go buy a coffin and pretend it was Jack's? Or did he somehow find out about it? Was the coffin always empty? If so, that points much more to it being a ruse of Desmond's to get Jack to the church.

The first shot we see on-island is of jack in the water, and we see the sunlight reflecting prominently off of the surface. This image of light and water struck me, considering the importance of the water and light in the cave. This shot was intentional, and to have it be the first island shot of the episode drives the theme home subtextually.

I was waiting for the Star Wars reference, and thought it had passed when Hurley mentioned Yoda. But then we got it; Hurley says "I've got a bad feeling about this." It was an appropriate choice, and also a great Star Wars shout-out, since the line has been used in every Star Wars film.

It was interesting to here Kate tell Jack that nothing is irreversible. This is an echo of what sideways-Jack told Sideways-Locke at the start of the season. Are we to infer that he remembered it from Kate having said it? I'm also wondering what the significance of the line is. What does that mean, that nothing is irreversible? Are we supposed to agree or disagree with that statement? I'm not sure it really tied into the other themes of the episode, and I'm not sure how I'm meant to take it.

I love that Charlie returned. It was always such a waste that Charlie died (and note: Desmond was bloody wrong and no helicopter ever took Claire and Aaron away; Charlie died for nothing!). I thought it was hilarious when Hurley shot him with the tranquilizer. Sayid's just dumbstruck: "What was that?" "Oh, that was Charlie."

It was good to see Rose and Bernard again, though I figured they would show up again. It was only fitting. Kind of a bummer Walt never gets his dog back, though. It was good of them to help Desmond, but unfortunately the reappearance of Rose and Bernard also creates a major continuity question. They built that little house and all in the 1970s. Then they flashed forward in time with everyone else after the Incident. But the house doesn't time travel with them. In the time travel we saw in season 5, the only objects that traveled with you were ones you were in contact with. So it is impossible that their entire living complex traveled with them. This means that either A) their house remained untouched and undiscovered for thirty years on the island until they flashed back into it and took up residence again or B) it was destroyed at some point in the thirty years and they rebuilt it. Rose's statement strongly implies it wasn't B, but I think that the other scenario strains credibility. I'm willing to suspend disbelief about a magical cave of light never being found, but a big house? Nobody ever came across it in thirty years? And it didn't even show any wear! That was a misstep, or at least a bending of the rules solely to give them a cameo appearance.

Did Sawyer call Miles "Anus" several times in this episode?

I knew that Richard wasn't dead. Though he seems to no longer be immortal; his hair has started to gray. I wonder when that transition happened. Was it after Jack became the new protector?

In the sideways land, we finally saw Juliet. There were good things and bad things about her presence. First, I was shocked that she and Jack had ever been together. That's just insane, and seems to come a little left-field. Frankly, I had stopped even thinking about Jack and Juliet as an item, even though they were leaning that way in season three. To think of her as the mother of his child though is odd. And they didn't stay together, which makes me wonder why. (Not that any of this really matters, as we will soon see.) This smacks of the Star Trek: The Next Generation finale wherein Captain Picard had been married to and divorced from Beverly Crusher in the future. Juliet's surname here was Carlson. Is that her maiden name? Was her sister's name Rachel Carlson? In the island universe, her surname was Burke. We know she had been married and her ex was hit by a bus. But I find it interesting that she kept his name (or some dude's name) there, but reverted to her maiden name after leaving Jack. ...Unless she and Jack were never really together, and David is just the product of a random hookup.

There's more sideways confusion when it comes to Jin and Sun. I suddenly got to questioning why Jin isn't sterile in this universe. Never mind the question of what becomes of babies in this world; I just didn't get how he could even have one here. The Sun/Jin story was also the first time I got a hint of where they were really going with this. Up until then, characters had had flashes of the island lives when they were happiest and in love. These connections I got, but I thought it was more a past-life sort of remembrance; or an other life. In all that it still seemed to me almost like the sideways people were tapping into the minds of the island people. That's how it seemed to be in "Happily Ever After", when Desmond went in the box thing. But here, for the first time, when we see Sun's island memories it included their deaths. And I wondered how it could be possible that they had memories of dying. That was my first hint that they were actually leading us to see the sideways world as post-death.

It was also funny that Sun and Jin not only remembered who they are, but suddenly remembered how to speak English.

When Locke is being wheeled into surgery, he's wearing a shower cap., can I just ask what the necessity for this is since he's bald anyway? I'm no surgeon; just asking. It stuck out as odd to me.

I was bummed that Lapidus survived the submarine sinking, but not Jin and Sun. I know Sun was trapped, so maybe she was done, but it seemed a little unfair, especially since Lapidus is there only as a narrative function to get the plane in the air.

Now let's discuss one of the big similar endings this show rips off, and it's an odd choice. The Matrix sequels are generally derided, a tad unfairly, for the conclusion they gave to the saga. Why then, would Damon and Carlton borrow from it for their ending? It was right around the time Jack and Locke were both planning to head to the cave with Desmond that I sensed a Matrix ending coming on. So much of the Jack/Locke stuff in this episode recalls the Neo/Agent Smith stuff in the third Matrix film. There, it all built to a big fist fight where there could be only one winner and one ending. Think of Jack as "the chosen one", just like Neo. The One has a function to serve to put things aright, just as Jack has a "destiny" to do this. Jack claims he will kill Locke, something seemingly impossible. In fact, the Agent Smith in the movie is not even exactly the original Smith; it's Smith copied over the Oracle. Here, the enemy is Smokey in the guise of Locke. So Jack is facing a familiar foe who is more than that, just like Neo. As their fight actually built, the similarities seemed greater. In the film, Smith gets the upper hand on Neo after they have been very evenly matched. When Locke becomes mortal and Jack thinks he will win, Locke keeps fighting. There comes a point in the fight where I think Jack even said "you were right", which seemed to me to directly echo the end of the Matrix fight when Neo says Smith was always right. It's not exactly the same of course, but lest my argument here seem specious, I must point out that their climactic fight on the cliff occurred during a rainstorm, just like in the Matrix. They even went for the dramatic slow-motion jumping punch, which resulted in both Jack and Locke knocking each other back. This visually is a complete echo of the Matrix movie.

It was good to see Shannon again, and I like that she reawakens Sayid. Turns out he is more than a torturer; the things that woke his memory were the times he spent with Shannon. I want to know how she got to LA so quickly. The implication was that Boone brought her up specially for this. It seems also from here and from "LA X" that the wasn't on the plane. So why was she important? And how did Boone get awakened an privy to Desmond's plan? He just suddenly showed up with no explanation.

Jack and Locke peering down into the cave purposefully mirrored the closing shot of season one with them looking down the hatch. The dialogue mentioned that already, and I thought it was a great scene. Jack acknowledging that Locke was right, and Smokey holding on to his insistence that Locke was a fool, even while he pretends to be him. The shot down the hole was just a very nice touch, icing the cake. There were a lot of nice mirror images and shots that recall others in the episode, though some were more successful than others.

Not being able to resist a final numbers gag, Jack's table at the concert was table 23.

I have to say, I was fine going along with the metaphor this season that the island was like a cork. ...But Desmond got down to the heart of the island and we learn that the island has a LITERAL cork. That to me really stretched credibility and bordered on the silly; and I'm talking sillier than the frozen donkey wheel stuff. What exactly does this cork do? It lets bad stuff out? That's it? If the electromagnetic magical light or whatever is harmful to most humans, why exactly does this spot need to be protected? Isn't it unlikely that anyone besides a Desmond (Arthurian?) figure could pull the stone out? Is the stone somehow related to the Smoke Monster, or not? The one thing that I did like about it was it opened a vent that seemed to be volcanic. This is the only time we've finally been told more about the volcano on the island alluded to in "The Man Behind the Curtain". Did the volcano ever erupt before? If so, was it a catastrophic uncorking event, or something different? Is this cork chamber a low-tech ancient version of the Swan Hatch in its own way, trying to contain massive geothermal energy from escaping and wreaking havoc?

I liked Daniel's concert with DriveShaft. It's a shame we didn't get to see a bit more of Liam; all the cutting away made me wonder if they'd even gotten Liam for the show. I also wanted to hear more of that musical experiment; it seemed really interesting, and reminiscent of Symphony and Metallica. I was expecting the piano strains to eventually lead into "You All Everybody". I'd have liked to have heard a bit more of the music.

I like that Charlotte appeared again, and the gag with the note on Charlie was hilarious.

I will maybe give them a little bit of wiggle room in this area since the sideways world isn't exactly real (or is it?), but that was the quickest birth I've ever seen, even for TV. Claire suddenly just says "The baby's coming!" Does her water even break? I like that Charlie gets involved, since he was there for Claire's birthing on the island and it lends it a nice symmetry. But on another level, he's been drinking and tranquilized for the past several hours; is he the best choice to rely on for help with a delivery? I also question the logic of him being there, since it's shortly after the concert began. Either it was really short or there's an early intermission, but he seemed to have left the stage awfully soon.

I find it very funny that Kate essentially discovers the island in Claire's vagina. She looks inside, probably sticks a hand in the area, and all her memories of light are awakened! It was just oddly comic to me. I hope Claire doesn't have a Smoke Monster in THAT magic light cave.

Getting back to the illogical birth, Claire literally sits down and then the next minute pops out a baby. That's ridiculous. I thought I saw a peek of an umbilicus at one point, but can't be sure. Regardless, it stretched credibility. Was that the point? Was this not literal, exactly?

Of all the sideways love reunions, I liked the Claire/Charlie one best. It was effective. For sideways Charlie, it was something that didn't just come out of the blue; he'd been actively searching for this person all season. There was something very strong about their reunion. I kind of wanted him to call Aaron "turnip head".

Even though it led to the aforementioned Matrix moment, I was pretty pleased to see the rain. It used to rain every five minutes on the island, and now I don't think it has rained literally all season long. Maybe not even for much of a whole two seasons. So that rain was a long time coming I think, and made it feel more like the old times. Also, our characters' first real meeting with the monster (when he ate the pilot) occurred in the rain, and its fitting that it ends in the rain too.

Right around this point in the episode I had a bad feeling I knew where the story was going. I thought that the island would indeed sink, and that they would all leave it. Then somehow they would transport or reawaken in the other universe so that the other universe was actually the future of this world. Maybe it was all a kind of Matrix-like hallucination, or maybe some other manipulation of their minds, but the sideways were a construct after the island until their island memories were reawakened. Or even worse, for a moment or two it seemed that the Losties in both universes would head toward the source of light, and the universes would cancel each other out, while everyone lived on in the light ("heaven" as it were). While some of this sort of panned out, I was glad that it didn't exactly, and was happy that the finale kept me guessing, at least on the island side. Just when I thought I knew how certain beats would play out, things shifted. I liked that; I hate when stories get too predictable.

Jack and Locke's struggle reminded me so much of the end of Star Trek III when Kirk fights Kruge on the dying Genesis planet. The earthquakes and falling debris. The fight on the cliff, even as large chunks fell away. Much of the fight, right down to the chokes, reminded me of that movie. If Kate hadn't shown up, I was wondering if Jack would have kicked Locke off the cliff. It was right around that time I started to get frustrated with all the many ending similarities I was seeing. I mean, if Locke had suddenly told Jack that he was Tyler Durden, I wouldn't have been surprised at that point.

The show also recalled for me Spock's climactic death scene in Star Trek II. In the film he goes into this chamber full of dangerous radiation that would kill a normal man and dies to turn on the main energizers which are on this pilar in the center of the room. At first I thought of this when Desmond went in, and then again when Jack said that he had to go in and fix it, and they tried to talk him out of it.

Best line of the night goes to Miles: "I don't believe in a lot of things, but I do believe in duct tape." That's a motto to live by.

If you've read my previous posts, you'll remember my disdain for Juliet's appearance at the start of the season. I didn't understand why they brought her back only to kill her again. But when Juliet reunited with Sawyer by the vending machine, that conversation finally made sense. Somehow dying Juliet transferred to this universe briefly, just as Desmond did, or sideways-Charlie did. So when she says that line about getting coffee and how they could go dutch, she's reminiscing about this conversation by the vending machine, which she must have had a peek at. This brief knowledge of the sideways land also must be what prompted her to say "it worked". So at least that's something. I liked that moment finally connecting.

It's interesting that Hurley was appointed the protector of the island, the job he didn't want. And maybe that's the way it should be. ...of course, that's just like the end of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. So when he said last episode "I'm just glad it's not me," that was set up for this. I like Ben being his number 2, kind of his Richard. There was also an interesting point about Jacob made. Jacob was still good, but you don't have to see him as fantastic, and the show didn't paint him that way. Ben says "That's the way Jacob ran things; you can do things differently." I wonder how Hurley runs things. Does he get Desmond off the island? And more importantly, are Cindy and the kids safe? What about them?? Does Hurley ever let them go home too? Because poor Zach and Emma haven't seen their mom in over 3 years! I wonder what Hurley did with the job, and whether he ever appointed a successor. Do he and Ben both die leaving the island without a human presence, or were they replaced to start things over again? Is it ever possible for a Smoke Monster to rise again if someone goes inside, or is that all done with? I'm not really sure I see what exactly needs protecting in that case...

I note that the shoe is still in the tree, which is a nice symmetry to the pilot even if it's a little silly that it's been there for four years. And I must say that I am so pleased with myself about the ending (at least on the island). I called about a month ago what the final shot of the series was, and I was totally right. Matthew Fox said that he's known that was the end all along, and it really wasn't all that hard to figure out, especially toward the end. Right around "The Candidate" I decided definitively that the end of the show would have Jack in the jungle and a close-up on his eye closing, mirroring the first shot of the show. And that's exactly what happened. They even threw in Vincent! Did Vincent die too, or was he just sleeping?''

Now let's get to the kooky end of the sideways world. We are told that Jack in fact is dead. That they are all dead. When he goes inside the church, it is not specific to one religion, but has articles of most major faiths, most notably expressed in the stained glass window. Now, on the outside it is clearly a Christian church. At first it bothered me, thinking it was a very ecumenical church, and then (knowing they were leaning heavily to the death angle) that they were going to say all faiths are they same. They ain't. Not all dogs go to heaven (not all faiths even HAVE a heaven). Christianity especially is exclusive; it cannot coexist with some of those others. So that I found somewhat trite, patronizing, or just silly. But when Christian said that this was a place they all made, I looked at it differently. It was no longer the SHOW preaching a message that all roads lead to heaven or whatever; the church interior was a place of community for all the Losties. Therefore, it's representation was a mix of all of their faiths. The church outside was Christian, the church inside was a different place. That's how I saw it. Some might interpret Christian's words to mean that the whole sideways universe was created by the Losties, but I don't buy that. I think he was just referring to the church; the place where they would all meet. It's also interesting that Ben chooses to stay outside; they welcome him in, but he remains outside because perhaps he feels he's not exactly one of them. I really like Locke's forgiveness of Ben. It was a nice scene.

I don't get why the coffin was STILL empty. I kind of expected it to be, but what it did was call to mind that we never learned why the original coffin was empty! There are a number of mysteries I didn't expect them to answer here, but that's one since it's so thematic to the show that would have been answerable in this episode. Just have Christian say one or two lines about where his body went. The fact that there is a Christian Shepherd ghost person also corroborates my theory that this Christian was the one who appeared to Michael on the freighter (and maybe even to Jack off-island?).

As an ending, it's hard to say how to feel about the "and they all died" bit. With all the talk about light and such I expected they'd get to the heaven bit eventually. And I'm glad they didn't try to say that the sideways land WAS heaven, because that would have made no sense (people got shot!). Still, there's a certain unsavory taste about it. On one level it mostly works for this episode, and gives it all a certain emotional feel, but taken with the whole season it starts to become shaky, as it opens the doors for too many questions. The whole season has literally been one of smoke and mirrors, and it felt like we were getting that sort of trick played on us here. That the whole season with its flash-sideways had been a long con perpetrated by the writers. We knew from the beginning of the series that the island was real; that they were not all dead and the island was not purgatory. ...So then they decided they'd make up a world AFTER the island that WAS. Well, that's not even the right word. Purgatory is so named because it burns away your remaining misdeeds until you are purified for heaven. But that doesn't quite seem to be what's at play here. I don't exactly understand the purpose of the sideways world. Why even have it? Why not just die and go into the light? Why is there an in-between place at all? It's a strangely common idea in literature, and one I simply do not understand. Why would someone WANT to believe that there's another barrier in your way before you get to heaven? And what suddenly made it time for them to all go? Ms. Hawking was apparently trying to keep them from going. What was that about? And does that mean that she was dead there too? Jack just had to realize he had died? That's it? That's just (SPOILER ALERT) Bruce Willis realizing he's a ghost at the end of Sixth Sense! Only in that, it was the real world! Here, they've created a whole separate world for that delusion. There's a sort of sense of time to the place, even if it's outside of normal time, and it's logic is lost on me. All the Losties were there together, but they all died at vastly different times. Charlie died three years before Jack, who died after Jin and Sun, but they all died before Ben and Hurley, etc. And yet they all coexist in this sideways world at the same time. So if you enter this world when you die, did they all enter at different times? People may want to cite The Third Policeman, but in that instance it was a big final joke. That was all one man's experience, and it was hell; a hell that repeated. That's not what we saw here. I would have been able to go with it had it been solely Jack's experience, but it wasn't. We saw the re-awakenings of ALL the Losties. This means they were all there at the same time having the same experiences as Jack. And as I said before, it also wasn't just some kind of collective dream created by them. There were others who didn't go yet. Ana Lucia "wasn't ready". Eloise seemed frightened that Daniel might be taken away from her, and Desmond told her he wasn't going then. So clearly this is an actual place, a kind of spiritual dumping ground that people leave at different times. That makes the times of their arrivals even more bothersome. We saw days pass in this world. It was a normal sort of world. People were shot! People DIED. What the heck happens to people who die in the sideways world? Are their souls obliterated? And then there's the more confused issue of children. We saw two babies, one in utero and one being born! That baby Aaron is not the soul of dead Aaron, is it? I should hope not! Why do they even exist? And Jack "doesn't have a son", but David is there. So what is he? Is he just a spectre created by Jack's fantasy until he realizes he's dead? It just seems bizarre to me for a whole world to be created where people go on living normal lives where good and bad things happen to them until they "move on". What if they had never awakened? What then? If this universe had existed only in this episode, or maybe a couple before it, I might have bought it. But after a season's worth of seeing events play out, it just seems wrong to think of this whole universe as some sort of limbo.

The bonding beyond time and space with bonds of love, the "light within all of us" as Jacob might say, seems also to recall what Orson Scott Card might call philotic connections between these people. It's similar to the end of the Ender saga.

Desmond on-island got a peek of this universe while in the box, and it was in search for that light that he went into the cave. He was trying to get to the wonderful universe with no island just like everyone else was trying to get to the one where there WAS one that they remembered. Fine. But what about sideways-Desmond? Now, in "Happily Ever After" I presumed that we were witnessing something like "The Constant" or "Flashes Before Your Eyes" and that island Desmond had jumped into sideways-Desmond. But now it seems that's not exactly it. So was sideways-Desmond dead too? And why did he seem to have all this power of manipulation and such that no one else seemed to have? What was so special about him? And I also noticed that Penny wasn't there, which troubles me if Desmond was indeed dead like everyone else. Had she already passed on? Had DESMOND already passed on, and was sent as an emissary like Christian?

I noticed that Michael wasn't there in the church, but I guess that's because he's a Whisper on the island. ...So the Island IS in a way a purgatory, so what use is this sideways land, again? It's a bummer Michael can't leave. Maybe when Walt dies, that love connection will draw Michael's ghost away and they can "move on" together. It was a bummer not to see Walt. Was there even a mention of him? I think we were lied to when Carlton said Thursday, and I quote, "But you will actually see Malcolm before all is said and done." I am bummed about not seeing Mr. Eko. Perhaps he still had some things to work out? More likely they couldn't get Adewale for the finale. I just hope he's not cursed to be a Whisper too... And wait another second.... if all these people are dead and they don't know they're dead, what about the dead who visited Hurley, like Charlie and Mr. Eko?? Did Charlie (who KNEW he was dead) visit him, THEN get stuck in sideways land with amnesia? I mean, it just doesn't seem to make sense. An idea like this frankly doesn't work on a large scale with so many characters. I appreciate the intent and on an emotional level it works okay, but even different worlds have their own logic, and I just feel right now that the sideways world doesn't.

On the whole, it was a relatively satisfying finale. I was with it for most of the show. I was a bit off-put by the whole dead ending, but mostly because of the broad logical consequences it has. I still think there was a nice emotional element to the piece. While I do find this sort of "in-between" afterlife thing to be a silly idea in general (not just in this story but in others as well), it was more satisfying to me than something like Pan's Labyrinth, which I felt really cheated by. If they had ended by saying that EVERYTHING was a con and they had been dead they whole time I would have been as annoyed as if it had been a virtual reality game. But they didn't do that. It was saddening that so many children were left orphaned. For all their talk of it being a definitive ending, I disagree. We could have a "Ben and Hurley: The Lost Island Years" show. And consider that all the Losties had issues with their parents, and now we leave so many kids without parents. How many failed projects will it be before Lost: The Next Generation, when Zach, Emma, Walt, Ji Yeon and Aaron all return to the island for their own adventures? There were a number of things not really explained by the finale. In fact, besides the nature of the sideways universe, and a couple other things by inference, I'm not sure they answered ANYTHING with the finale. It's unfair to expect the last episode to do the work of a whole season or so. I did not expect a lot of answers frankly, but I am disappointed at the number of threads from the first season (or even first episode) left unresolved. This I do not fault the finale for; it's something that should have been done two seasons ago. So I can't lay that blame on the finale, but on the whole the show dropped the ball in places. We never learn WHY the numbers were being broadcast from the island's radio tower, or why the Others wanted Walt, or why Libby was in Santa Rosa, or why the Smoke Monster used to rip trees out of the ground for no reason. And Isn't it odd that Rousseau called the Monster a security system protecting the island when in reality everyone else was protecting the island against him? The one answer I fault the finale for not giving is what happened to Christian Shephard's body. That was a mystery very relevant to Jack and to the themes at the end of the episode with the empty coffin reprised. That was a mistake. Still, there was a certain goodness about the finale. It wasn't horribly lame, and if it took a leap and stumbled at the end, at least most of it worked pretty well. It doesn't all work. It thankfully doesn't hurt the entire series too much, but does make this season seem a little off. Honestly, if all that I'm left with is some open-ended questions and a not-quite-logical final season thread, that's better than I got with Galactica which was disjointed from the beginning. I'm glad they didn't pretend to give an answer that was impossible, and just at least gave us none. For some strange reason that's better.

It's not the best finale ever, but it's also not the worst. How I feel about it will change a bit I'm sure over the years as I watch the series as a whole. I think what bothers me most is that the children ended up being forgotten collateral. This was just like Sam's wife on Quantum Leap. That's another series who's finale was weird, and I liked it, but it fell apart at the very end. I wouldn't say the entire Lost finale fell apart, and I certainly don't think that the whole series fell apart (not like say, making every other person a Cylon for no reason). But there was something unsettling. I did like that when the credits began to roll, we were shown just bare wreckage on the empty beach. That was a nice final image; the island with the remains, but with no human presence. Humanity banded together and went to a higher plane (no pun intended). Maybe that's what we are supposed to take away from it; that they left behind the shell that brought them there (the plane), and moved on. Lost has always been about letting go, and whether or not I agree with the way they did it, they absolutely carried that theme through the end of the series.

It's been quite a ride.
"Let us also go, that we might die with him." -- Ben Linus, quoting Thomas

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

LOST: "What They Died For" Reflections

As usual, there are major spoilers contained herein. But honestly, why would you be reading this anyway if you hadn't already seen the show and/or wanted to be spoiled?

It was so good to see Richard, Ben and Miles again, and that a majority of the episode focused on them (or one of them anyway).

When they make it back to the Barracks, Miles gets all weirded out by the buried Alex. Richard tells Ben that after Ben left the island (that's back when the island moved), he buried Alex. ...Okay, um, what? Or did he not mean when Ben left the island, but just when Ben left the Barracks and went to the Orchid? Maybe that's it. ...But no, wait, Ben had sent all the Others to the Temple before that. So when the heck did Richard bury Alex? And really, why aren't all the dead Losties and Others and Freighties still there rotting in the sun? Did Richard bury all of them? So, the Others just went about their lives for three years and Richard came back one day arbitrarily to bury the dead? After Locke disappeared before his eyes he said, "Well, till he comes back, guess I'll go dig a grave or something." ...and why did the Others not flash through time the way the Losties did?

I like that Widmore is always one step ahead of Ben, and tells him so. "Ben, I rigged that plane with explosives like a week ago! Get with the program, dude!"

Widmore says he was sent back to the island by Jacob. Okay. And that Jacob came to see him (okay) shortly after the freighter blew up. okay... wait, what? After the freighter blew up the island moved so that Charles Widmore could never find it. ...Then Jacob shows up to tell him to go to the island. He obviously doesn't right away. Three stinking years pass. Then Locke shows up in the desert and Widmore tells him that a war is coming and that "the wrong side will win" if Locke DOESN'T go back to the island. Now, Locke going back to the island is how Smokey killed Jacob. So who exactly was Widmore working for at this point? He seemed to have more knowledge of things than he had before, but did Jacob visit after the whole John Locke thing? How does Jacob leave the island anyway, if the Man in Black can never leave (even before he was smoke). What did Widmore want with the island before, since his motives have now changed?

That mysterious boy showed up again, stole ashes from Hurley, then Hurley ran into Jacob burning said ashes. So is this further evidence that the boy is Jacob (he did say "they're mine")? I think this will be yet another thing they bring up in the finale, but did we really need another mystery?

Speaking of kids, just where the heck are Cindy, Zach and Emma? And why did Jacob let them get brought to the island in the first place? I can buy that all his candidates were unhappy and lonely and whatever. But Zach and Emma had a mommy waiting for them. Were they just collateral damage when he decided to crash a whole plane? Or were they seriously considered to be candidates? ...Here's a really crazy idea: the planes instruments showed them to be off course long before they crashed, and we know they only crashed because of the system failure with the Swan hatch. So might it be that Jacob intended the plane to land on the island relatively safely, and didn't mean for so many to die? Because I doubt Jacob has control over the button and everything...

Back to the ashes now. First of all, there's like a handful of ashes. I don't know how long it takes to burn ashes (since usually the ashes of something are whats left after it burns), but Jacob says he'll be gone when they are all burned up. And then like hours go by. Them's some slow-burning ashes, yeah? And what the heck is that about anyway? Besides the fact that suddenly now Jacob can be seen and heard by everyone because his remains glow in a magic fire? His spirit will hang around until his remains are fully destroyed? When did Jacob become Freddy Kreuger?

Well, bye Richard, so unceremoniously blasted by Smoke. We never did see a body though, so maybe he's not dead, just wounded (considering his immortality this seems very likely). Still, funny how he's all "I'm gonna go talk to him", then step outside and bam!

We haven't heard almost anything about Penny all season. Good to see Locke bringing her in as part of negotiations with Widmore, and nice to know that the Ben/Widmore rule game is still in play. When he leaned in close and whispered to Locke, I knew he would die but I expect Locke to knife him. I like that Ben killed him, kind of as payment for Alex. I wonder if he still plans on killing Penny, or if this makes them even. His last attempt wasn't very successful. I love when he says "He doesn't get to save his daughter."

Miles had some really fun lines in this one. I don't remember specifically. But like when he goes "both good plans, but I vote for surviving." I wonder where Miles has gotten to now.

For everyone still not liking Jacob, here's a first: he admits wrongdoing! After "Across the Sea" people were complaining that Jacob is a jerk who made the Man in Black the way he is so it's all his fault. Well, here Jacob admits the mistake! And he says that he's been bringing people to the island looking for a replacement. This tells me that, if he's telling the truth (and remember, "Jacob doesn't know how to lie"), he never intended to toy with random people until after the MIB set his mind on killing him. ...of course it's a delicious irony that MIB was only able to kill him through the bringing of new people to the island.

It suddenly struck me: this whole show then begins because one guy messed up with his family thousands of years ago, and now has been whisking people away against their will looking for someone to take over. ...This is the exact plot of Star Trek: Voyager. I've been watching Voyager this whole time!

For all of that talk about why Kate's name was crossed off, Jacob wasn't very concerned about it. "It's just a line of chalk in a cave," he says, "if you want the job it's yours." So does this hold true for everyone? Could like Bernard be the new island keeper? Funny that Kate was eliminated for being a mother, which she never really was. ...and doesn't that mean that she DIDN'T have to come back to the island in "316"??

Jacob go down to the pool of light. As I predicted, Jack is going to be the new guy, and as I predicted they do the little drinking ceremony. Watching that scene got me thinking... how is Jacob holding that torch? Like, he's just an apparition, right? I know that Dave threw a rock and stuff, but is the torch real? If the ashes burn up and Jacob disappears, will the torch fall on the ground?

Jack is the new Jacob. For how long? For as long as he can, says Jacob. I never thought when I started watching this show 6 years ago that it would eventually have the same plot as The Santa Clause.

Now Smokey wants to destroy the whole island. Yeah, what else is new?

Oh Benji, you flip flop more than John Kerry. Is Ben really with Smokey at this point, or is he just biding his time? I know he hated Widmore, so that part's understandable. But I wouldn't put it past Ben to still be manipulating.

Jack has a new cut on his neck; where did that come from?

I know TV is always full of off-brand food names, but tonight's I found humorous. The cereal Jack, Claire and David eat is called Super Bran. Doesn't sound very appetizing. All I could think of was that SNL commercial about Colon Blow cereal.

Desmond has really stepped up his manipulation game. He's even making phony phone calls. I'm not sure why he bothered lying to Jack about the coffin though since he's just planning to be at David's concert (I'm assuming that's the concert he means at the end of the episode). And he does a good fake accent.

Part of my problem with this episode is that it's all about gathering all the sideways-losties together. Well, I was all ready for that three episodes ago! Then it started, nothing happened, and the separated again. So a lot of this felt been-there done-that. which makes the sideways even more annoying.

It took a whole season, but even sideways Ben gets beaten to a pulp! He wouldn't be Ben without a beating!

Of course, Danielle shows up. We learn that in this world Robert died when Alex was two. I still would like to know why they are living in L.A.

I like that we get the people in prison rounded up. This would have been a nice episode to see Jin and Sun again, though. I love when Sayid says Desmond is crazy, and Desmond backs him up essentially by saying he turned himself in after running down a man in a wheelchair.

Locke and Jack have some familiar dialogue, throwing around the "don't mistake coincidence for fate" slogan and such. Now Locke wants the surgery because he's "meant to". That's the Locke I remember!

Ana Lucia is here! And she's a crooked cop. ...Really not much of a stretch there. Good to see Hurley come to the rescue. I wonder if Ana Lucia will show up ultimately in Desmond's plan. He said she wasn't ready. I guess she was on the plane too, and I wonder if she knew Sawyer was there.

Another recurrence of a stranger giving Kate a dress to wear. Why is Desmond taking her to the concert? Will any of this really make any sense? Will it make any difference?

We come to the end now people. Personally, I hope the sideways stuff doesn't end up being a big waste of time. Even if the finale resolves it nicely, I hate when series finales end up just wrapping up season arcs rather than whole series. Well, we'll all know soon. Sunday's on the way!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Glee soundtrack coming Tuesday!!

On Tuesday, volume 3 of Glee music will hit stores. I bought the first two as soon as they came out, and even got the Power of Madonna one they put out. I look forward to the new one, but have some problems with it.

Firstly, be warned: there are two versions being released. Frankly, I HATE this trend of releasing "deluxe" versions with more stuff on them just to confuse buyers. Why would I not want a complete recording? It's worse than those "highlights" discs that you get of Broadway musicals because at least with those you know you're not getting everything. If you didn't explicitly know there was a deluxe version, you would miss out on several more songs. This disc covers the rest of the season up through the upcoming Lady Gaga episode. For anyone on the fence about buying the deluxe, you get Kurt's hilarious and amazing take on "Rose's Turn" from Gypsy from this week's episode.

Now, I've been a little disappointed here and there with the past releases. I was bummed that we never got the awesome mash-ups from earlier in the season. Some other great performances were not included. I bought the Madonna disc even though it's just seven songs. But then, at least they didn't try to squeeze it onto this release. But there's more disappointment coming this time too. Here's the track list of the deluxe edition:
1. Hello, Goodbye
2. Gives You Hell
3. Hello
4. A House is Not a Home
5. One Less Bell to Answer/A House is Not a Home
6. Beautiful
7. Home
8. Physical
9. Total Eclipse of the Heart
10. Lady is a Tramp
11. One
12. Rose's Turn
13. Dream On
14. Safety Dance
15. I Dreamed a Dream
16. Loser
17. Give Up the Funk
18. Beth
19. Poker Face
20. Bad Romance

Of course, releasing this so early means we are kind of spoiled about what's coming up this season. It's nice we get more Chennoweth here. And I am totally looking forward to "Dream On", featuring Neil Patrick Harris! And yes, this show has so much music that maybe they don't want to include everything, but there are two major absences. First, Finn's recent rendition of "Jessie's Girl", which was a perfect choice for the current plotline. And secondly... where is "Run, Joey, Run"??? I'm not surprised they left off "Ice Ice Baby". But "Run, Joey, Run" was so awesomely bad it was good! Rachel's video was the highlight of that episode last week. It had all those bits from bad '80s videos you expect. In fact, it visually seems to even nod to the "Total Eclipse of the Heart" video, which is sung later in the episode. Now, that's a song that doesn't make any sense and is overused. They oddly jumbled the words on the show, and frankly I always think of Sailor Moon when I hear it (try playing it instead of "Moon Revenge" during the R movie; it's amazing). I just loved the "Run, Joey, Run" so much that today I was hoping it would get on the album. No such luck. If you haven't seen it, check it out (I have no idea why the image was flipped when they uploaded it):
My other problem with it is the Lady Gaga content. I just don't get it. The show doesn't need to truck out Lady Gaga to seem relevant. I got through the "Single Ladies"-heavy episode. And sometimes Glee does great things to mediocre music. The album cut of "Defying Gravity" is for me the best ever version of that song. Much as I hate Kelly Clarkson, the arrangement of "My Life Would Suck Without You" also elevated a lame song. But there's not much to be done with Lady Gaga. It's just such... Lady Caca. Put it this way, if music were a professional sporting event, Lady Gaga would be the cheerleader. She's just there to be seen in a ridiculous outfit and shout nonsense words in cadence. Just like cheerleading pretends to be athletic but is essentially performance art, Lady Gaga is not music. Sometimes it bothers me when characters will say "All we ever sing is show tunes" and I'm thinking, no you don't! Regardless, I'm not holding my breath about those songs, and probably won't play them much.

Despite my hatred for all things Lady Gaga and the exclusion of some hoped-for content, there's still good stuff on this record (hmm, record; look how old I am), and I will definitely be buying it next week. If you're into the show, pick one up! I'm still hoping for a volume 4 that includes all the stuff they left off previous albums. And yes, I know I can buy some of this on iTunes, but I shouldn't have to, should I? I'm a hard-copy kind of guy (if you couldn't figure that out from my use of the word "record"). Fingers crossed, gleeks!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

an error on Glee

I've not posted anything about Glee here before. Glee is one of the best new shows on TV, I just haven't had time to do proper reviews.

However, I must address something from this week's episode. There's a joke made about how Puck relates Super Mario Bros. to shifts in our society. Actually, Mario Bros. really IS significant in our culture, and I think Puck might be onto something. But there's unfortunately some wrong information here.

It's not the first time Glee has messed up. When Rachel was in Cabaret, they were basing it on the film rather than the stage show, using the song "Maybe This Time" and even dialogue from the film. That annoyed me because I know better.

Likewise, this week Puck said that "what made Super Mario 3 so great was the Star Worlds. Nothing like that had ever been done before." Now, Mario 3 was a game-changer in many respects and possibly the greatest Mario game ever. But there are no Star Worlds in Mario 3. The Star Worlds are in the inaugural SNES game Super Mario World. In that game, there were secret levels that all led to the "Star Road", which was a whole bonus level of worlds to beat. It really WAS super cool, and a great addition to the series. But it wasn't in Mario 3. I'm just a little disappointed that fact was gotten wrong.

Anyway, that's it. I'm a nerd, and I care about that sort of thing. Now if you have the ability, go play Mario World or Mario 3, whichever. They're both great.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

LOST: "Across the Sea" Reflections

Okay, there are definite SPOILERS in this post, so if you haven't watched DO NOT READ! I'VE WARNED YOU!!

wow, this was a doozy of an episode that gave some answers, some more questions, and a lot of head-scratching. It's essentially a prequel to the series as a whole. The episode opens with no recap, and until the edits at the very end, played out without any reference to events that would come later. Until the end, you could have watched this episode before any other episode and not really been spoiled.

Mother tells the boys' mother not to ask questions because every question will lead to more. This is the sort of thing that Damon and Carlton have been saying now for a year, and I think they put that line in specifically for the fans. This episode does open huge cans of worms regarding island origins, and we are being told to just shut up and rest, and accept that we'll never know EVERYTHING.

Isn't it interesting that Jacob and his brother have been black and white from birth, and throughout their entire lives. And when we might finally have gotten a name for him, we don't! She just says, "I only thought of one name" which makes sense since she didn't know she had twins. But did nobody ever give him a name later? Does the Man in Black have a name at all? What did Mother call him? It seems like he's always just "brother", like he's a frackin' Berenstain Bear or something.

I know it's TV, and birth is always fake-looking on TV. Those were the cleanest newborn babies I've ever seen, even for Lost. But can I just ask, didn't it seem like there were no umbilical cords? We've seen three other births on Lost, and it's never seemed so obvious as here. Don't they realize that the audience is sophisticated?

The nature of good and bad is explored more here than for most of the season. Jacob asks whether he is good, and if so why does Mother love him less. We aren't to just accept that Jacob is saintly; he's not. He does what he's told because he is trusting. That informs how he does things for the rest of his life; he expects trust. The Man in Black is curious, and frustrated. He is an instigator. Though he is loved, he knows he's been lied to and wants no part of that lie. He cannot trust ANYTHING Mother says anymore; everything is suspect. There's a very interesting line when Mother says "Jacob doesn't know how to lie." The Man in Black has a capacity for deceit. He can manipulate. He's a schemer, in a way like the Biblical Jacob (there's a twist for you). With Jacob, what you see is what you get. He'll get mad and he'll thrash you. He's not perfect. And yet, he doesn't lie. It's a very interesting dynamic. Whether Jacob was always good and the Man in Black was always bad is irrelevant now. You can sympathize with him, whose "mother" destroyed everything he ever worked for, killing his family and holding him hostage essentially. And yet the being that we NOW know as Man in Black is not quite that man. He is a pillar of smoke, a dangerous presence intertwined with that Man in Black. He still has all of those elements that made the Man in Black sympathetic, yet he is more evil now. Whether Jacob was more good than his brother before, he is certainly more good than his smokey brother now, I think.

Has this episode answered the age old Gary Troup-inspired question; was the Man in Black the "bad twin"?

The casting people did a great job casting young versions of Jacob and the MIB. Also, I didn't pay close attention, but I don't think that it was the same kid who they've been seeing on the island that some think was Jacob. Does anyone know?

I'd even go so far as to say that the Man in Black is a kind of anti-Christ figure. Again, Jacob is spoken of with God-like language. "You look down on them from above." The episode is rife with varied mythological imagery. It's telling when he says "I've lived among them for 30 years." Just like Jesus? And he is murdered! And he is resurrected, sort of, but in a terrible form. There are also vague Cain and Abel similarities, though which is which? It's obviously not allegory since neither is exactly pure. Jacob is more obedient to his Mother, but she loves the other one more. Jacob is the aggressor, who beats on his brother twice, and ultimately kills him (though whether he truly intended to kill him is questionable).

We got an answer about who built the wells. The "light", whatever it is, is somehow related to the electromagnetic energy of the island. And we saw the Donkey Wheel! But wait... all the wells were stopped up, right? And the people were killed, and the homes were destroyed. So did the Smokey MIB go back later and finish building the wheel system? And we still don't know why that cavern was all filled with ice. It also seems like going into the light is responsible for making Smokey the way he is, so why can Ben and Locke leave the island that way unharmed? Did that pocket of energy always move the island? See what I mean about more questions???

I very much want to know what the timeline is for the island. We are never shown the Tawaret statue in this episode, which is odd considering Jacob seems to live in it later on. And yet, it being Egyptian, one would think it must have been built before hand. We don't know when exactly this episode takes place. We do know that it must be before Richard came in the 16th Century. We also know that it is in an age when iron tools have been made, people speak Latin (like Mother) and traverse the ocean in ships. This still doesn't limit time very much though, since man has been sailing since they settled the Mediterranean, and quite possibly earlier, to the tune of tens of thousands of years ago. The same goes for iron tools (I'm using iron because of the obvious magnetic properties of MIB's dagger). If we go from Biblical records, Cain's great great great great grandson is said to have made iron tools. So the most helpful points in dating the episode come from the language spoken. If indeed it was Latin Mother spoke, as it sounded, that would place this episode sometime after the founding of Rome. It's likely to have been in any case, since I would assume the Egyptian influence on the island predates this episode. Unfortunately, that's still thousands of years to play with.

What we thought began with Jacob of course began with Mother, and likely with others before her. When she was killed, she thanked the Man in Black. She didn't seem to age. Apparently the act of protecting the island is a sacred oath which makes you immortal. She wanted to leave too, but she needed a replacement. She was really sort of insane, wasn't she? Like she had elements of Rousseau about her. But things that both of the brothers have said are direct quotes from her. She started that whole thing about how it always ends the same way. Why does she mistrust people so much? Who brought her here and left her? I believe her when she says she came by accident. So let's not blame Jacob exclusively for bringing people to the island and toying with them; this sort of thing predates him! I'd like to know, even IF it was Egyptians who built these things, etc, why did they leave? How did they get to the island in the first place? I could believe that they were killed by Roman conquest of the island, and then somehow the Romans were destroyed.

The waterfall of light is sort of a Pandora's Box. When we first saw it I wondered "is this the magic box?" and I still kind of wonder. Someone always has to protect it, or else it will go dark, she said. Well, that particular outlet DID go dark when the Man in Black went in and became Smoke. So I don't doubt that perhaps it cannot leave the island without destroying the light that Mother said was inside all men.

When Jacob became the guardian of the waterfall, it was a very interesting ceremony. After saying some ceremonial words (and I would LOVE some Latin scholar to translate that for us!), she passes Jacob a cup of wine to drink. She then says "We are now the same". It's a kind of communion. It even seems to pass on the gift of immortality. Just as Jesus said that "Whoso... drinketh my blood [the wine] hath eternal life." This leads me to a whole secondary theory. We know that Jacob was mortal in that the Man in Black's loophole allowed him to die. We also know that Jacob somehow was able to make Richard immortal. This logically tells me that that day on the beach, Jacob performed the ceremony with Richard, passing the immortality on to him. THAT's the thing that Richard knows what to do next. When the final candidate is revealed (and duh, it's Jack) Richard will do the little wine ceremony and make Jack immortal. Then Richard will finally be able to die. The only problem with this theory is it doesn't explain why Jacob didn't age for another 400 years. But maybe that's just how it works.

We are never told WHY the Man in Black is unable to kill Jacob, even besides the guarding the island stuff. Mother says "I've made it so you can never hurt each other". Now, this is sort of not true, since the Man in Black was essentially murdered by Jacob. But perhaps that has more to do with him going into the light and becoming the Smoke Monster. Maybe the Smoke Monster killed him, taking him over and leaving a husk.

And we did get a big revelation. We found out where those black and white stones came from back in "House of the Rising Sun" (though the white stone looked totally whiter in the future than it did here), and we learned who Adam and Eve were. It was dun dun dun the Man in Black!! And his mother!! As I long suspected, they were both killed and placed in those positions by a third party, Jacob! Now, my problem with this revelation is Jack's assessment of the decay. He says they died "at least 40 or 50 years ago". Well, that's a frickin' understatement. Try 4 or 5 hundred years! Or even THOUSAND. We just don't know. So shouldn't they have decayed more rapidly? Is Jack just not much of a forensic scientist? Has the decay been slowed, or were they somehow fossilized? Well, at least we can't say they never told us who they were. Isn't it interesting then that the Man in Black, as Christian Shepherd, led Jack to the site where his rotting bones lay.

I want to know what exactly happened to the Man in Black once he crossed the threshold of light. Somehow he was taken over by the smoke thing, but it left his body behind. It left it, but gained an ability to appear. This explains some of what he said about Jacob "stealing my body" earlier. Did the same thing happen to the French team? Are there bodies of them down in the tunnels? It didn't seem to work that way with Sayid or with Ben. So far that means that when Smoke becomes someone, he leaves a body. Yemi's body was in the plane. Locke's body was on the plane. MIB's body was in a tree. So... just what the heck happened to Christian Shepherd's body, dang it?

Why exactly does the Smoke kill so many people? He seemed to agree with Mother that mankind was bad, but is that the only reason?

When they are playing the game (whatever game it was; a proto-backgammon?), the Kid in Black tells Jacob that when he makes up a game he can make his own rules. So does this mean these scenarios where Jacob brings people to the island was his game? And the "rules", are these Jacob's rules? So does that mean it was all kind of the Man in Black's idea?

So we know that they can't leave the island via the light or they will become evil and die or something. ...But why exactly could they not leave across the sea? That part I don't understand. Was she just trying to keep them there until she had established a replacement? ...And if they were such a threat, why did Mother wait thirty years to kill everyone else?

On the whole this was a very interesting episode. It's actually a first for the show; never has an entire episode been set away from the main characters completely in a different time. Besides the teeny little flash forward at the end (which is really just to make it clear to the dumb people in the audience what we're seeing), there are no flashbacks or flash forwards. Every other episode has had some sort of time traveling "device" to tell story. This one doesn't. It also doesn't feature any of our main characters proper or their stories. That's interesting. I did find a lack of certain elements frustrating, most because there are only two episodes left. I also do not understand, since it was done with such reasonable success here, why we COULDN'T have just been told the story of the French people or the Dharma people or whatever without all the time travel nonsense that seemed to come and go for no reason and compress the logical timeline. But that's just me.

What do you think, was this episode successful?

Monday, May 10, 2010

I can't stomach terrorism -- I don't have the constitution

There's been a lot of talk recently about Constitutional rights for terrorists after the attempted bombing in New York City. There was a lot of talk in theory about human rights and such before that, mostly about the use of torture. But in this case, much discussion has been made of whether terrorists deserve Miranda rights. In this instance, our perpetrator was a U.S. citizen. Should we suspend his rights to gain information? To me, so much of this is reactionary and based on arguments from people who, though they may have sworn to uphold the Constitution, have never bothered to read it. I stand up for all the rights contained in it, and not for rights not contained in it. Let's dissect the Constitutionality of some of the arguments.

Miranda rights are so called from a famous court case Miranda v. Arizona wherein the court found Ernesto Miranda's rights regarding self-incrimination had been violated. The name stuck for a piece of business that police are now required to give when arresting. It's essentially an arresting officer spouting fine print at you, reminding you of your rights so that you can't use ignorance of the law as a defense. It's even become a verb, mirandize. Now, sometimes it seems to me that cops will bend the law and try to get all the information they can out of people before they are officially arrested, so that Miranda doesn't trip them up. I see this all the time on Cops, especially during drug busts. Sometimes they don't even seem to mirandize people, though that may just be due to television editing. I don't want to sound like I'm maligning police, though. Frankly, most criminals are too stupid to remain silent anyway. So let's not pretend that reminding them of their rights will magically prevent us from getting information.

I heard Joy Behar say today on The View that Miranda is not in the Constitution. (Before you ask "Why were you watching The View???", let me tell you that I flip over when Price is Right is on commercial sometimes, to see if anyone says anything stupid.) While technically the phrasing of the Miranda rights are not explicitly in the Constitution, she is essentially totally wrong. Those rights are all in the Constitution, that's why the Miranda exists. The Fifth Amendment states that no person "shall be compelled in any case to be a witness against himself." The meaning of this is extended to any statements made which could be used as evidence. By making statements regarding circumstances of your guilt, you in essence testify against yourself. So to prevent that, the law clearly states that any testimony you give is purely of your own volition, and that neither the courts nor the police can "compel" you to give such statements. You have the right to remain silent; you aren't required to remain silent. However, the federal powers cannot coerce testimony from you. Furthermore, the Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to legal counsel. So the two essential elements of Miranda, the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney, are indeed specified in the Constitution. Joy Behar is a dope.

So do I believe that a terrorist who is an American citizen should be afforded the right not to talk, and perhaps even be found not guilty of his crimes? Yes I do. If we start bending our laws for this reason or that reason we became a nation of chaos. I'm fiercely against innocent people doing time and the only way to prevent it is to uphold these laws even in the face of certain guilt. The laws of our nation, especially the Bill of Rights were never designed to protect the victims; they were designed to protect the accused. That is, not victims of crime, but victims of our government. Our Founders were pretty clear on their mistrust of governmental power, and the Constitution as a whole was established for the people, to "ensure the blessings of liberty."

The vast majority of terrorist acts are not committed by U.S. citizens. Therefore, there is no need to try them by Constitutional rules in Federal courts. The notion that we should seems fundamentally ridiculous to me. Now, then there comes the sticky issue of "torture". Foremost I would say that nothing in U.S. law prevents torturous interrogation of non-citizens. We do however seem unfortunately bound by treaties and agreements made after World Wars regarding prisoners of war and such. So I can't really argue for or against torture in those areas, not being a legal expert. But as regards U.S. citizens, this is a different issue. Many argue against torture or shall we say, "extreme interrogation" based on the bit against "cruel and unusual punishment." Well, guess what? Interrogation doesn't qualify as punishment. So that rule doesn't apply. The only real sticking point against this sort of thing is the previously mentioned bit in the Fifth Amendment about not being compelled to testify against oneself. There are two qualifiers, however. The clause in full reads "nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against oneself." That presupposes that the information needed is regarding one's own guilt, and also that it is a criminal case. Waterboarding a suspect who is not being tried criminally for information regarding other terrorists then is technically not illegal.

The one angle that never seems to be played up is treason. Most modern terrorists who commit acts against America are doing so under the auspices of some foreign religious or military ideology. Yes, the lone crazy environmentalist blowing up a factory is a terrorist, and should be tried for his crimes, though afforded all rights guaranteed him. But somebody who tries to bomb New York City out of allegiance to terrorist cells in Pakistan or something is a traitor. Article III, section 3 defines Treason thusly: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. To me, these acts of radical Islamic terrorism most definitely qualify as adhering to our enemies, since we declared "war on terror" almost ten years ago. Since punishment for treason is relatively undefined, the nation could come down hard on any citizens who could be convicted of treason. THAT's the way to get them, not by summarily removing or restricting all rights, but doing so once it is proven that treason was committed.

On the whole, our system can work if we follow it. There will always be extreme situations, and points where it seems our law fails. But the solution is never to pass quick, reactionary laws. Like the recent attempts at "bullying" legislation. What about bullying was not already illegal? Slander is illegal. Libel is illegal. Assault is illegal. Doesn't that cover it all? I'm tired of the rights of the People being neglected due to the acts of a few Persons.

Isn't it time we expect our elected officials to actually uphold the Constitution, and not just in word only?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Something for Mother's Day

A strange thing happened to me this morning. I woke up thinking about the Mommy Market. Now, I wasn't dreaming about it, nor had any other related thoughts to it, but when I woke up I remembered a movie I hadn't seen for a long time. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, well good! That's why you're reading this!

Sunday is Mother's Day, and funnily enough that's an appropriate time to check out the movie I'm referring to; it's called Trading Mom. Based on the children's book The Mummy Market, the story follows three kids who decide they don't like their mom and want to trade her. So they go to the Mommy Market where they are given three chances to find a new mom. Each of the kids gets their pick at a new mom, but each one ends up not being quite right. All of the moms are played by Sissy Spacek. If you only know her from her dramatic work like In the Bedroom or from being creepy Carrie, then this film is worth checking out. She is funny, and does a great job making all four moms distinct characters. The daughter is played by My Girl's Anna Chlumsky, who has kind of disappeared these days, but was in all kinds of kids movies back then.

I saw the movie back in the late '90s when Disney Channel used to run it a lot. If you have never seen it, I was worried that it would be difficult to find. It was available on VHS years ago, but has never been released on DVD. However, Lionsgate Films has done us all a solid; the entire movie is available on YouTube. And not like in 12 parts; the entire film uncut. So if you have an hour and a half for a sweet kids movie, you can watch Trading Mom here.

I don't know why I woke up with this movie on my mind, but it's a great movie for Mother's Day. I think I may watch it now.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

LOST: "The Candidate" Reflections SPOILERS!

Now, before we move ahead I just want to make it clear that this post will contain SPOILERS!! for anyone who hasn't yet watched the episode. Do not read if you do not want to be SPOILED, unless you are already a spoiled brat.

I didn't really see the need to revisit the cages. It felt like the writers were doing it just for the sake of doing it. However, I did like that little moment where Sawyer called Widmore's bluff about killing them, and Widmore countered by saying that he can kill Kate because she's not on the list. That's true, she's not anymore.

Speaking of lists, where did Widmore get this list? And are we to believe that the infamous "Jacob's list" from way back in season three has been just one list this whole time? Is this supposed to have been that list? Or is Jacob always making silly lists? And in the end, were any of the lists the Others knew about really Jacob's anyway? I only ask because at one point neither Kate nor Sawyer was on "Jacob's list".

Once Jack broke his friends out of the cages, they all headed to the plane. I could not understand why they weren't still trying for the sub. It made no sense to me. Wasn't the plan from the outset to take the sub? So why were they going to the plane in the first place? And then they get there only to be told there are explosives on it, and they should all head for the submarine.

I wonder if Widmore was responsible for the explosives on the submarine really, or if Locke had planted them there himself. It does seem strange that he claims Widmore wanted to kill them all in one place which ends up being exactly what Locke wants. But Locke does still want to leave the island, and the plane may be his only way to do that. So maybe it was Widmore after all.

I love when Smokey told Jack that whoever told him to stay on the island was wrong, and then Jack says "John Locke told me" and throws him in the water. ...Isn't it kind of sad that worked? Of course, since it was all part of Locke's master plan, maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

This point I don't know about because I haven't double checked or freeze framed or anything. But did anyone else think that the last of Widmore's men that Locke shot on the dock looked an awful lot like Jacob?

I got very concerned when Jack became stuck on the submarine, wondering how he was going to get back to the island.

I really liked the music in this episode, particularly the bits when Locke was on the plane. So much of the Lost music is familiar themes, but this episode had bits of originality that felt straight out of a Hitchcock film. I liked that.

There's a tiny part of my that's getting annoyed with Smokey Locke because he seems to be almost too good a manipulator. Every teeny weeny thing ends up being part of his diabolical plan. And that strikes me as just a tad too convenient. It's like the Joker in The Dark Knight. It all feels fine while it's going along, but on looking back there is just no way he could have had all those pieces set up ahead of time to finish the way they did.

It's clear that Smokey's plan was to kill off all of the remaining candidates. I knew there was something fishy about his "I need all of them or I can't leave" story. It just never made any sense to me. For it to be a lie does make sense. Now, I don't know if I believe Jack that he can't leave unless they are all dead, but I know that he would want to kill anyone Jacob was trying to use. Jack has certainly gone the way of Locke in this episode becoming a believer. It makes sense he'd not fear the bomb anymore after watching Richard's failed suicide. But was it ever going to be that they all survive, or was it only ever going to be that just Jack survived? Sayid told Jack "It's going to be you". This clearly supports my assumptions from last week are correct, and Jack is the candidate who will replace Jacob. I believe the series will end with Jack on the island, maybe even with an "eye close" shot to mirror the eye open of the pilot. This is not a spoiler, just speculation.

Sayid is gone after the explosion. Did it kill him? Jack says rather cryptically "There is no Sayid". Does this perhaps mean that Sayid was essentially dead back at the Temple, and this Sayid was merely a zombie and of no consequence anyway? Regardless, it seems his purpose has been fulfilled. Kate's been shot, and just like on any other TV show it conveniently got her in the arm and conveniently went straight through. And what of Sun and Jin? At first I thought perhaps this would get rid of Sun, thus proving that Jin was the Kwon from the wall. And yet, in an interesting reversal of the events on the Freighter, Jin chooses to stay rather than leave so that neither of them will be stuck without the other one. And thus we are left with more apparent drowning deaths, just like Joanna and Charlie.

My question though is whether Sun and Jin are in fact dead. What if Jack was right, and they cannot die? We never saw them die. We saw them clasp hands underwater and then it went to commercial. Now, there's no sensible way they can survive, but then again Locke should never have survived falling from the window. I'm just throwing it out there that they shot it in such an oblique way as to allow for the possibility that they would live. Just like on X-Files when Spender got shot but you never saw it, and then he turned up alive later on. Or Tony Almeida on 24. So I'm not quite ready to count Sun and Jin out yet. Unfortunately, Smokey seems to have a sixth sense about this sort of thing, and he implies they ARE dead. He tells Claire that "not all of them" are dead. This implies some of them are. So maybe Sun and Jin are gone. If so, too bad; that leaves little Ji Yeon orphaned and a needless casualty of storytelling (which is yet another reason I'm not buying it).

The season's penchant for having lead characters drop like flies as we get closer to the end is starting to remind me of the final episodes of Sailor Moon and everyone died in those too. That would make Jack the Sailor Moon of this scenario. But they all came back again at the end of Sailor Moon, so I'm still not discounting the possibility.

I mentioned above that Jack had become very much like Locke. Well, there on the beach, Locke had his own little "Deus Ex Machina" moment. He believed so hard, and now it seems Sun and Jin are dead, just like Boone. I half expected him to pound on the sand and shout "Why are you doing this?!"

I wonder where Ben and Richard are...

Unfortunately, it seems that all the set-up from last week of getting the Losties together in one or two places hasn't amounted to anything as I'd hoped. It ended up being just a Jack flash-sideways about his need to fix things, in this case Locke.

It was nice to see Bernard again, and actually working as a dentist.

I thought that the explanation for Locke being in the wheelchair this time was very interesting. He was flying a plane and crashed it, crippling not only himself but his father. That's quite a reversal, still allowing Locke to feel pathetic and guilt-ridden. It also brings back the plane motif. In a way, it recalls Boone, who died in a crashing plane because of Locke's guidance. I wonder if there is anything Jack could do for Cooper as well as Locke.

I wonder what the point was of Christian giving Claire the music box. I knew it would play "Catch a Falling Star". It just seemed like an excuse to get her and Jack talking. And now everyone starts going back to their own lives again. What about Desmond's plan? What was the point of any of this?

Locke in his sleep seemed to have memories of the island, like pushing the button.

I'm really anxious for the flash-sideways to end already. Last week's was a set-up to nothing, and this week's though a character study, also didn't get us any further.

With just 3 more episodes left, I'm looking forward to what will happen next week. Will anyone else drop dead? Will Desmond's purpose be revealed?

...And then there were 4.

The Third Seat on the Bridge

Something has bothered me for a long time about Star Trek: The Next Generation. When I was a kid, I never really understood the layout of the bridge. The captain had his chair, obviously. Beside him was a seat for Commander Riker. But there was a third seat on the bridge, on Picard's other side. I could never understand what that chair was for. Was it simply to give the set symmetry? Was it simply there in case guests needed to sit? I must conclude no. There are two other seats for that (they are not full chairs, but are built into the ends of that big curve). The seat by Picard has a console to consult, just like Riker's. After years of thought and many, many viewings of TNG, I finally realized who the seat belongs to and the implications it has for that character; the chair is for Deanna Troi.

It may seem strange to think of Counselor Troi as a bridge officer, but that is exactly what she was in the first season of the show. Even beyond that she could often be found on the bridge. What business does she have being there? Because as originally established, that was her character's job. What this means, then, is that the later writers of the series like Ron Moore, Brannon Braga, Rick Berman, et al. misunderstood just what Counselor Troi's role was, and in the process created a position of "ship's counselor" which was nothing like what was intended. From definitely the fourth season on, Counselor Troi was the Enterprise's resident therapist. Moore has even joked on commentary tracks about how it was a very '90s idea to bring shrinks along on every starship. That idea might seem to date the show, but in fact I am going to argue that it was NEVER intended to be that way. I know that with a ship full of families it might seem logical to include a psychiatrist, but I think they stretched it too far in making it essentially a ranking Starfleet officer on every ship, and extending it too far to Counselor Troi. But if that's the case, then what exactly was the role of Counselor Troi?

In watching "Encounter at Farpoint" again, you can see that Troi was always a bridge officer. Counselor is still a job description, but what does that job entail? It seems clear to me that her role quite simply was to be an advisor to Captain Picard; that is, to give him counsel (hence, Counselor). She is present at every negotiation in that first episode. I realize that her characters is empathic, and thus would be of great advantage in diplomatic situations to guide the Captain. That's probably why Picard wanted her for this assignment. I do not believe Picard brings her along to see Groppler Zorn just because she knows when he's lying; he does it because it is her job. She's very upfront with Zorn about her Betazoid parentage; she isn't trying to hide anything or give Picard an unfair advantage.

Troi's role in this manner carries through the first season, and even into later seasons a bit. Note that her position as diplomat is integral to an episode like "The Price". So Troi is seated beside Picard to be that extra voice in his ear when a Romulan commander comes onscreen. It's an interesting development for Roddenberry. In his original pilot for Star Trek he had a woman on the bridge, as Executive Officer in fact. The original series' bridge set did not have this three-chair layout. There was one central Captain's chair. Spock, though first officer, was also a science officer and thus stayed at his science station. And all too frequently, McCoy would leave sickbay and come up to the bridge to discuss things with Kirk. As dramatically dynamic as it was to have Kirk, Spock and McCoy all there discussing things on the bridge together, it strains the logic. I mean really, why couldn't McCoy just use the comm system most of those times? Should he really be leaving Nurse Chapel in charge of sickbay all the time? So when Roddenberry created TNG he took the added step of laying the bridge out with those three chairs specifically. Rather than inventing reasons to have a McCoy on the bridge, he invented a role there; the ship's counselor. I know that things changed a bit from the first season to the next. For example, in the first season it seems like Crusher, like McCoy, is the only doctor on-board. With over 1000 people on the ship, that just makes no sense (this point is even addressed in a later episode, "Remember Me"), and by season 2 she had a full staff of doctors. But I believe Troi was always meant to be a bridge officer. Roddenberry recognized that part of what made Kirk a good captain was the input from logical Spock and passionate McCoy and his ability to make decisions from that. Why not, then, put another person on the bridge as advisor to the captain? Somebody whose job it was to remain up-to-date on diplomatic issues with each species; somebody to give the Captain a fresh perspective during negotiations. That is what Troi was there for.

But you may be asking, if that is the case why was Troi reduced to a therapist in later years? This was a slow process, and I believe the first indicator was an episode called "The Neutral Zone". In this episode, three 20th-Century humans are thawed out from cryogenic stasis. When one of them has trouble adjusting, Picard has Troi speak with her and help her locate living family. We learn that Troi does in fact have degrees in psychology and psychiatry. This is the first instance that I can recall of Troi acting as therapist. What unfortunately happened then was the newer writers in the later years began to think that was why Troi was on the ship. It wasn't. McCoy had degrees in psychiatry too. While Troi was useful as therapist it was never meant to be her primary mission.

Like everything else on television, building a world takes time. When we accept that the crew have brought families on-board, the realities of that situation eventually start to be fleshed out. There are schools for the children. There are recreation areas, such as Ten Forward. And yes, it is likely that there will even be a psychologist for the crew to speak with, since mental health is just as important as physical health. I would think though that this would fall under the auspices of the ship's medical staff. Either way, I do not think that it was ever meant to be Troi, or really that it should ever have been a Starfleet position. I know that Troi wears a blue uniform, signaling someone in the medical or science area. This however could simply be due to her degrees, and frankly she spent so much of the first six seasons in catsuits that the uniform was secondary to what her role was. After the pilot, we don't see her in uniform again I think until "Chain of Command" six years later.

The biggest blow to the original idea of ship's counselor came in the fourth season episode, "The Loss". Here Troi has been firmly established as the resident shrink on the Enterprise with office hours and regular appointments. We watch her in sessions with crewmen. This episode I think is the single most destructive to what her character was supposed to be. From here it became clear to everyone that Troi's role was to be the touchy-feely one helping Worf and his son connect or helping Picard through personal crises. As episodes progressed from there, she seemed to have a certain ineptitude for the goings-on of the bridge. The movies haven't helped, since she's been at the helm several times and both involved crashing the ship.

Perhaps the most unfortunate result of Troi's essential demotion was the collateral damage it inflicted throughout the Star Trek universe. The role of "ship's counselor" became one of resident therapist, and one which every ship was assigned. I've heard this point as one of derision. And it's certain high-profile writers for the show who I think are most responsible for this misconception. The counselor issue continued on Deep Space Nine, where a number of the better TNG writers worked. When Ezri was added, they wrote the character as a young ship's counselor. And what did that mean? It meant she went around trying to be a good therapist to people. A series that did fine without this sort of thing for six years, suddenly got back into "Counselor Troi" mode by having Ezri try to guide her superior officers by helping them recognize their repressed feelings or work through their claustrophobia. And while Voyager did not have a visible ship's counselor in that manner and was able to avoid this pitfall, every now and then Troi would appear on the show and once again she would be trotted out solely as Reginald Barclay's personal therapist. This perversion of who and what her character is to me is the fault of writers like Ron Moore and Brannon Braga. Note that in the Michael Piller-penned Star Trek: Insurrection, Troi is back to advising Picard on diplomatic issues. Actually, I should point out in general that Troi is back on the bridge on the Enterprise-E in the movies.

All television is a product of its time, and there will always be things that date it. But it has started to really bother me when people use the Ship's Counselor as a reason to slander Trek. Quite frankly, the prevailing concept of what a Ship's Counselor was is wrong. Counselor Troi was a capable Starfleet officer assigned to counsel the captain, not to take care of the entire ship. The clearest evidence of this rests on that main set that was seen in every episode; the unnecessary shift in Troi's character is reflected in that constantly empty seat by Picard.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Categorizing Steve Martin

I came across a Steve Martin movie on TV today, and realized that his film career is pretty easy to sort out into categories. He seems to make the same kinds of films over and over. Other writers/actors/directors do the same, but Steve Martin particularly has an oeuvre that can be sorted rather cleanly. Here now are the 5 different kinds of Steve Martin movies:

1. The Good Ones
I realize this is a terrible umbrella category, but it covers many films where Martin plays a leading role. In the good ones, his character is engaging, even if not always completely likeable; he is always sympathetic. A good one may be comedic, dramatic, or a combination of the two. At their best, there's a certain originality to the role or the take on the story that stays with the audience.
example -- comedy: The Jerk
The Jerk has reached legendary status for being so off-beat. I almost considered classifying it seperately. Not everyone will necessarily respond to it, but it cannot be denied that it is one of the strongest pieces that he has made
example -- drama: Leap of Faith
I like this movie a lot, and if you haven't seen it, check it out. He plays a con-man healing evangelist, but his plans change when it looks like there's been a real miracle.
other notable films: Roxanne, Parenthood

2. Brilliant Art House
Every now and then in recent years Steve Martin has taken breaks from doing lousy movies that make money and focusing on bizarre smaller films. In these, characters are sometimes much more eccentric but played low-key and never for cheap laughs.
example: Shopgirl
Shopgirl is one of my favorite movies that nobody has seen. Based on his novella of the same name, it is Steve Martin's quirky and delicate look at a woman torn between two very different suitors. For a time Jimmy Fallon was attached to the project, but that fell through and when the film was finally made a few years later, it featured Jason Schwartzman. Clare Danes is radiant.
other notable films: Novocaine

3. The Unnecessary Remake
Steve Martin has made a lucrative career of remaking classic comedy that didn't need remaking. Generally this means finding a classic comedy, filling it with over-the-top "jokes" and slapstick, throwing in a foreign accent, and forgetting what made the original any good in the first place. And I don't blame Cheaper By the Dozen for this trend; it really starts with the big-screen version of Sgt. Bilko.
example: Father of the Bride
While not actually a bad movie in its own right, was there anything about the Spencer Tracy original that demanded a remake? Father of the Bride is probably the best of the remakes, which seem to get progressively worse. ...And with a remake of Topper on the horizon, I'm getting worried.
other notable films: Cheaper By the Dozen, The Pink Panther

4. The Even Less Necessary Sequel
Thanks to the success of Father of the Bride, we have gotten a sequel to every single remake he's ever made (except the aforementioned Sgt. Bilko). The plots are generally more ridiculous, the chemistry of the characters wears thin, and the jokes are staler. They also feature terribly unoriginal titles; just slapping a "2" on it, instead of crafting a title that makes sense. Father of the Bride Part II does not tell you as a title that the movie is about pregnancy (or the rather bizarre angle of mother and daughter pregnant at the same time).
notable films: Cheaper By the Dozen 2, The Pink Panther 2

5. The Scene-Stealing Supporting Actor
Sometimes Steve Martin takes on a crazy role that steals the movie. It's actually something that begins with his television work. When you think of early Saturday Night Live, how can you help but think of "two wild and crazy guys"? And yet he was simply hosting. He was never a regular cast member. He's done similar good work for Tina Fey, including guest spots on 30 Rock. His supporting characters are usually a little more "out there". They can enhance an otherwise mediocre movie (Baby Mama), or complement an already wonderful piece.
example: Little Shop of Horrors
Little Shop is probably the best example of Steve Martin at his kooky supporting best. His turn as the sadistic dentist is one of the most memorable parts of that film. He never overpowers the movie, but he gets a lot of laughs and has a wonderfully bizarre death scene. He really captures what's written for the character, but adds a little spark here and there.
other notable films: It's Complicated, The Muppet Movie (cameo)

6. Shared Billing
There are many movies in which Steve Martin co-stars with other entertainment giants. Some of these are classics, others are abysmal failures. But he has made a number of movies with other notable comedians, even beyond his teaming with Martin Short in the Bride movies or Eugene Levy in Cheaper By the Dozen.
the good examples: Three Amigos, Planes, Trains & Automobiles
the bad examples: Bowfinger, Bringing Down the House

You could probably set aside a separate category for just his cameo work, but I think that they can all fit under the "supporting" category. His work in Prince of Egypt is actually not much of a scene-stealer, but he does get an odd little song in the middle of the movie. Anyway, that's how I roughly see Steve Martin's career. I'll leave it to you to decide where The Man With Two Brains fits in...