Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Message From the Detroit Lions


The Detroit Lions this week face a historic crisis in our football operations system. We must game plan to address our 0-3 record. If we do not, wins will dry up, with devastating consequences for our organization and fans. Our fans will no longer be able to cheer once every other game and their emotion investment will be at stake. Our franchise will not have enough wins to make the playoffs. If we do not act, every corner of our organization will be impacted. We cannot allow this to happen.

Last Sunday, we laid an egg in San Francisco and we have since discussed priorities and concerns with the game plan our coaching staff has put forward. This morning, we met with a group of front office staff to talk about the proposals on the table and the steps that we should take going forward. I have also spoken with members of the league office to hear their perspective.

It has become clear that we have no idea what we are doing. The only consensus that can be reached is there is no support for the current game plan. We do not believe that the plan on the table will pass – or run or defend – as it currently stands, and we are running out of time.

Tomorrow morning, we will suspend all football operations going forward. I have spoken with Commissioner Goodell and informed him of our decision and have asked him to have the rest of the league join me.

I am calling on the Commissioner to convene a meeting with the leadership from both conferences of the League, including All Davis. It is time for all teams to come together to solve this problem because we clearly can’t do it ourselves.

We must meet as football franchises, not as Lions or Bears, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved. We are directing our front office to work with the league to delay next Sunday’s game until we have taken action to address this crisis. We are willing to delay all 13 remaining games if we can. Despite these dire circumstances, we will be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel as soon as we move the limp bodies of our wide receiver busts are moved to the side.

I am confident that before the games start next Sunday - or by the start of the 2014 season - we can achieve consensus on a game plan for the Lions going forward that will stabilize our gridiron fortunes, protect season ticket holders and earn the confidence of the Lion fans. All we must do to achieve this is temporarily set competitive games aside, and we are committed to doing so. Just please remember, we believe the fundamentals of our franchise is strong.

Following that fateful 2001 season in which we went 9-11 after our front office didn't take the "NFL Determined to Play 20 Games Inside America" memo seriously, our organization came together to throw its support behind an ineffective leader. Teams across the country now lament that he is no longer indirectly helping them secure their own division titles because we are such doormats and directly preventing us from addressing our franchise's troubles. Now that there has been a change at the top, we hope we will eventually have the chance to prove that Detroit is once again capable of winning this league.

Source material.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Family Feud Glory


I love the Family Feud. I know it is childish and juvenile at certain points, but it is unendingly hilarious, mainly because of the blatant stupidity displayed on the show. When asked for a state where you can wear the same clothes year round, would you answer Washington, D.C.? Who thinks “whoops” rhymes with “barn”? Are clothes something just little kids wear? Does a bad golfer really go through a lot of carts? And is Regis Kelly one of Oprah’s best friends? Some of my favorite Feud moments can be seen here, here, here, and here. There is much more to love…watching people get an X to the face, listening to the audience respond en mass to the remaining answers being revealed, and having people give the Family Feud-default answer of choice – “making love!” A few weeks ago, when one of the questions was “Name something that children close their eyes when doing”, Alyse’s immediate response was “MAKING LOVE!”.

One of the more subtle aspects of Family Feud is their tendency to play racial groups against each other. I swear one time during college the Whites played the Blacks. And this happens with some regularity and certainly not with any malice. Just an interesting point of pattern recognition. While watching a few weeks ago with my roommate, we saw a family with an Adolph – dressed as a U.S. Marine, which we suspect was done for the sole purpose of deflecting suspension – playing the Schweitermans. Thankfully the Schweitermans handedly defeated Adolph, but the underlying context was tough to not miss and at least get a chuckle out of. (It was like when I went to a Catholic wedding this summer and the priest was joking about the flexibility of four year-olds…if you are going to lead me to the threshold of uncomfortable jokes, I will gladly cross it.)

This got my roommate and I thinking, what if the Obamas played the McCains played each other on the Family Feud? How hilarious would that be? So we thought about various questions and the candidates’ and their families’ responses, which carried over the next day to Gchat. The following is a “Best of…”, many of which are not by me. Please enjoy. And feel free to add your own.

“Name the most expensive electronic in your home.”
McCain: “My phonograph.”

“Name something you would hear at your local church.”
Obama: “God damn America.”

“Other than Democracy, name a form of government currently in use that you admire.”
McCain: “The feudal system.”

“Name a characteristic of middle class Americans.”
Obama: “Bitter.”

“Name something that costs less than a quarter.”
McCain: “A box of cereal.”

“Name a member of the Holy Trinity.”
Obama: “Me.”

“Name an invention you’d hope to see in your lifetime.”
McCain: “Sliced bread.”

“Name something people pop on a regular basis.”
Cindy McCain: “Pills”

“Name something commonly held in a football stadium.”
Obama: “Acceptance speeches”

“Name a recent event that thrilled the nation.”
McCain: “The Cubs World Series victory.”

“Name a place you wouldn't find lipstick.”
Palin: “A pitbull.”
Obama: “Hillary.”

“Other than the presidency, name a life goal of yours.”
McCain: “Visiting all 24 states.”

“Name something people hope for.”
Obama launches into his stump speech

“Name something a married couple may have more than 2 of.”
McCain: “Houses.”

“Name one of the 7 deadly sins.”
McCain: “Inexperience!”

“Name an unpopular sports franchise.”
Obama: “Mavericks.”
McCain: “Browns.”

A few other things about this election. I can't figure out how Obama let the "change" message get hijacked. I still don't understand how the Democrats allowed for this election to be more of a referendum on Obama than on Bush/Republicans policies of the past eight years. And I still don't see how Republicans can balance their desire for a nuclear family and to have such a inflexible position on abortion. I promise more regular posts now.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Is Batman's middle initial W?


The popularity of a superhero is directly proportional to how well they reflect the contemporary political-social dynamic. The late 1930s and early 1940s demanded an impenetrable fighting force – both in reality and through our pop culture. Superman dutifully responded to the call and the Man of Steel's popularity grew accordingly. But more recently, ambiguity has riddled the concepts of truth, justice and the American way. Superman's resonance now echoes hollow as culture explores the grayer areas of a previously black-and-white society – and standing firmly at the intersection of darkness and light is Batman. To say that Batman better reflects 21st century America than any other superhero is to suggest a hierarchy where none exists; and the themes within The Dark Knight make Batman relevant to his time – meaning our own. He does not transcend the abysmal society in which he's born from. He becomes part of it. While the spectacle of surreal threats in the Spider-man films entertains us, it is energizing - and dually unsettling - when a film in this genre takes us someplace unexpected, namely the world in which we live.

While not mentioned explicitly in the film, Joker is the prototypical terrorist – a chaos-inducing agent, who acts not because he doesn't know better but because he relishes in the resulting bedlam. He is decidedly Hobbesian, wishing for a return to the state of nature because, in that context, no one will be able to stand him down.

And Batman is a one-man Department of Homeland Security, complete with his own Patriot Act – a "Batriot Act", if you will. He is a creature that, to the public, looks and operates like evil, but who is in creed and deed a fully virtuous man. Despite straddling the line between hero and outlaw, Batman applies his power and influence judiciously. He does not kill – or run the Joker over with the Bat-Pod after being taunted to do otherwise; nor does he unnecessarily trample upon the civic liberties of Gotham's citizens beyond when an imminent threat has passed.

The connection between the film's subtext and the current political environment is not difficult to see. And on the surface, the film seems to subtly nod its head in agreement with the path set by the Bush administration. A July 25 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal details these parallels between Batman and Bush.

While that initially seems to be true, the issues are as nuanced and two-sided as Harvey Dent's coin. Batman swears his foes crossed the line, but Alfred counters, validly illustrating the slippery slope of escalation by saying, "You crossed the line first...And in their desperation they turned to a man they didn't fully understand." Such is the nature of telling adversaries to bring it on. Batman also created an enormously powerful wire-tapping system and then immediately relinquished control, for its power was too great for a single individual to possess. While Batman can be certain that he will re-establish civil boundaries when the emergency has receded, one thinks that such a promise from the current administration would ring hallow.

Another point where the parallel falls apart is the simple fact that there is a reason Batman needs to wear a mask and hide his identity - because he course of action is not one that can be taken by elected officials. There cannot be relative disregard by figures towards the public they are in theory serving by trampling on both civil liberties and mores. We expect our leaders to reflect Batman's morals and virtues, but not necessarily embrace his methods.

Regardless of political leanings or whether one thinks Dent serves as a warning about the folly of placing all their eggs in a basket held by a single white knight, what can be mutually agreed upon is that the film derives much of its success by serving as a mirror of the culture it is serving.

I swear, this is the last Dark Knight related post and after almost a month of seriousness, I will come up with something more light-hearted for next week.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Partons of the Artist of the Beautiful

While I would love to give a review of The Dark Knight, I feel like too much has already been said towards the film’s quality. I can hardly add to it. It was a rich morality tale with a firm footing in both the arenas of crime drama and adventure cinema, but one where the action never eclipsed its intelligence. The subtext of the film – one spun tightly of terrorists, a one-man Department of Homeland Security and the danger of putting all of one’s eggs in the basket of a (delusional?) white knight. When more of my friends have seen it, I may post a review/explanation of the themes as I see it and try to tease out more of the subtext. For example, any doubt that Bruce Wayne is the alter ego to Batman is erased in a single decision made halfway through the film. Let there be no more debate on that front.

What I do want to touch briefly upon though is one’s capacity for awe and excitement as we age. There is a scene halfway through Knocked Up when Seth Rogen’s character is at the park with Pete (the fantasy-baseball-draft-sneaker husband) and Pete’s daughter. Pete is bemoaning the doldrums of aging, how life grows mundane and lacks joy. He tells Rogen, “I wish I liked anything as much as I like bubbles,” a defeated man who has watched all the promise and joy evaporate from his life. Bills, suits and responsibility ravage any enjoyment he may have. He lives in the real world equivalent of post-Mufasa Pride Rock. Promise and hope, joy and genuine excitement are such rare things. And I refuse to turn into Pete. The months of anticipation for The Dark Knight served as a nice reminder to me of what fun truly enjoying something can be – that even though the days of superhero lunch boxes and Trapper Keepers have long since been, we can still be childishly awed and impishly impatient. I found it relieving that I could be so excited by something so utterly inconsequential. As I made thank you notes out of pages from a Dark Knight coloring book for each of my friends who joined me for the movie or as I thought through the logistics of taking a three foot wide Batman balloon on the El to dinner and then to Navy Pier, it occurred to me how few of these moments there still are.

While the growing freedom we earn as we grow is appreciated, it takes some of the special/mysterious quality away from the outside world. We can go get a Happy Meal any time we want. R-rated movies aren’t all that special. Neither are most bars. The internet is flooded with top-heavy shirtless clownettes. Our capacity for amazement has been shrunk to a narrow, fleeting band and our desire for “amazement” is not always driven by the best of impulses. But having a few things that unmistakably remind us of our youth can be powerful in a way that escapes nostalgia and captures our dormant imagination. It is that much more special when the occurrences are beyond our purchase. That is, we can’t pay for a new Batman film anytime we want. We can’t demand with our Benjamin’s a new U2 album or book by Klosterman. It is almost entirely out of our control. And perhaps that is what is most subtly childlike about the experience.

Regardless of the reason, I was simply thrilled that I could enjoy both the anticipation of the film and the actual 152 minutes of footage on a 6 story high screen like I was – at least temporarily – a six-year old and know that the ability to be awed does not totally disappear as we leave a once seemingly endless Neverland.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Favre Just Can't Quit You


To me, underlying motivations of fandom are inherently different sport-to-sport. Fans of baseball root for the game's traditional and urban/rural past as much as they do for the hometown team. Just look at the stadiums we build and revere. Basketball fans marvel at the individual accomplishments of the sport's stars as much as they revel of the achievement of individual teams. And in football, fans root for the logo on the helmet regardless of who hides themselves behind the anonymous mask and beneath the hulking pads. The sport is a byproduct of a society emphasizing structural functionalism, where the position being occupied is elevated about the individual occupying the position. It is a cold view of the surrounding world, but one that is entirely accurate for American football. Only the collective, synchronized action of the men in the Honolulu blue jerseys or star-emblazoned helmets matter, not who is executing them one year to the next.

And that is what makes this Brett Favre debacle all that more interesting. For the first time in recent league history, the identity of a single player has eclipsed the importance of the larger team - and thereby the logo on the helmet. Emmitt Smith nor Joe Montana, Jerry Rice nor Kurt Warner and Joey Harrington (OK, OK, I kid with the last one...) had the same identity larger than their individual team when they moved on to a finish their accomplished careers in an all-together foreign helmet. But one gets the feeling that a move by Brett Favre would ripple across both the league and Packer Nation in a way that none of the above moves could muster collectively.

(As an aside, I just want to posit my theory on Joey Harrington. He will continue to be an asshat until he starts to go by Joe. Joey just doesn't cut it in the NFL. You think Joey Montana would have won 4 Super Bowls? Or would Tommy Brady have 3 rings and a smoking hot girlfriend? What In-N-Out burger location might Stevie Young and Jimmy Kelly be working at? Mr. Unitas is the only one to get a pass because his last name is so absolutely perfect).

Favre could cause a total identity crisis for Pack fans. Would the anger and frustration over the front office's egos be enough to - at least temporarily - drive long-time Packer fans away from the team? And really, is there anyone under age of 23 that is actually a Packers fan or is everyone born after 1985 just Brett Favre fans? I honestly think this is the quintessential question that will be answered in the coming months. He is the only thing twenty-something Packer fans have known and I can empathize with that. If Steve Yzerman had pseudo-retired and then gone to play with a different team, I would seriously have to examine my fan-lationship with the Red Wings.

I have long thought that the most egotistical drama queen in sports was Roger Clemens. His act was tired and old. And now he is reaping what he has long sowed. But I would put Favre right behind Mr. Mindy McCready. The annual indulgence with his inner-Hamlet, the unending speculation about his future, the now melodramatic good-bye on Thursday night in the 2006 season finale at Lambeau and the New Year's Eve tears on the Soldier Field turf ten days later, then his emotional press conference in March and his continual dominance of the Lions all wore on me. I just wished (and despite the Phoenician rise last season, I still do) that he would just go away. But don't you dare tell that to a Packers fan. And their insistence and loyalty to Favre will be uniquely tested in the coming season. The Packers organization has long be held as an example of David consistently competing with Goliaths and connecting in a unique and lasting way with their fan-base - from the inherited ticket policy to the community ownership structure of the front office. These nuanced issues and flawed characters make the current situation ripe for the Shakespearian pen, but the lead role in the "Merchant of Menace" has yet to the cast. Does Favre truly mean more than the oblong G so long hailed and worshiped in America's dairyland? If you are a fan of the NFL, it is a fascinating question to ponder and to see how it is played out.

It's Bat-Week. A review of The Dark Knight will be posted next weekend. The forecast is 57 levels of awesomeness.

Monday, June 30, 2008

By Choice, Not By Chance


Superhero origins all pivot on circumstance. No self-destructing Krypton, no Superman on the Kent family farm. No radioactive arachnid, no Spider-Man. No misused gamma rays, no Hulk. And Batman's origin hinges on circumstance as well: no murder, no Batman. But Batman’s origin is not as simple as that.

What is noble about Batman/Bruce Wayne is that he chooses his path; he is a product of free will and determination, not chance. His parents may have been murdered, but he isn’t the only mourning son of slain parents. Unlike Superman, Spidey, or Hulk, the circumstance that grips Wayne’s world is shared by others. What differentiates the Dark Knight is that he embarks on his journey consciously. Spider-Man’s “great power” is thrust upon him by fate, forcing him to accept “great responsibility”. Wayne chooses the burden of great responsibility that sets him about a journey for establishing himself as a great power. Batman is a Horatio Alger-character – self-made and reliant, his effectiveness hinging upon cunning and ingenuity, not an inexhaustible supply of inherited power – while the others are more members of the Lucky Sperm Club. (This is particularly ironic because of massive wealth of the Wayne family.)

Very few other superheroes - and none of the big guns - choose their path. Clark Kent, Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, and Logan all have no choice in their alter-egos. They are victims of fate, subservient to the surrounding world. And my guess is that if Clark, Peter, Bruce and Logan were asked whether they would give up their superpowers to become regular humans, each would do it in a moment for a chance at normalcy. Wayne had normalcy and willingly embarked on a different path. His genesis was conscious, not manipulated by the heavy-hand of fate.

While Kent and crew painfully embrace their alter-egos, Bruce Wayne is the only one who truly becomes his alter-ego without reservations and emotional hindrance. And in doing so, Batman becomes the man's true ego, while Bruce Wayne becomes his alter ego. I am wont to believe that any character or person who chooses to become "something else entirely" - as Ducard says at the beginning of "Batman Begins" - assumes that "new" identity as their ego, relegating their previous life to their alter-ego. That is why I was so thrilled with how "Batman Begins" ended, with Rachael Dawes acknowledging that, "your real face is the one that criminals now fear. The man I loved - the man who vanished - he never came back at all. But maybe he's still out there, somewhere. Maybe someday, when Gotham no longer needs Batman, I'll see him again." That is EXACTLY right. He has become something else entirely and in doing so, marginalized another part of his life. By choice, not by chance. And this is what differentiates himself in the crowded superhero canon. Since Wayne chooses to assume the Batman identity, Bruce Wayne becomes the alter-ego, not vice versa.

(A quick aside and perhaps a point of clarification - based on this standard, James Gatz is the alter ego to Jay Gatsby because Fitzgerald's protagonist willingly chooses to be Gatsby rather than Gatz. Although this is slightly complicated by the fact that Gatsby is never bound by dual identities like Batman/Bruce Wayne is.)

And Batman is clearly a man on a mission, but it's not pursuit of personal vengeance. His aim is much higher than that. He wants Gotham to be a better place, a city where a young Bruce Wayne would not become a victim. In a way, he's out to make himself obsolete (this will be a central thematic tension in the new film). Spider-man, Superman, and Batman are all heroes who wish they didn’t exist. The difference is that Spider-Man and Superman wish that fate had not dealt them these super cards, while Batman wishes he lived in a world where he was not needed.

The cumulative effect of this is that the world Batman inhabits – the world without flying men and purple-pants wearing angry monsters, but with crime, grit and corruption – is that much more believable to us, the audience. We can understand how a man became a cape-and-cowl-clad creature of the (k)night and in some small way relate to him in a way that others can never be relatable to those watching their exploits. We can understand and empathize with Peter Parker, but not with Spider-man. We can feel for Clark Kent, but not for Superman. But we can emphasize with both Batman and Bruce Wayne. Now as for the Joker…

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

And That Is Why He Sleeps With A Swedish Model On A Nightly Basis


Quite simply, Tiger Woods is amazing. Woods is completing his application for "Best Golfer Ever" at a time when we can honestly say we remember the greatest at their greatest. And for people my own age, this is the first time we have witnessed something like this. Gretzky - whose prime came before my age of sports fandom - and Jordan - who we were never able to fully appreciate because we didn't know any better - skirt the boundaries of our memory, but Woods is planted firmly in the middle of our consciousness. Federer comes close and there are countless would-be heirs that are great (LeBron, Kobe, Crosby, Peyton, etc.), but not atop their sport's Mt. Olympus like Woods is. It is almost unconscionable than a single athlete has dominated an individual sport with as many competitors as he has. He has extended the frontier of individual accomplishment farther than any other single athlete probably in the history of sport. And it is a marvel to watch.

But it isn't fun. And it isn't fun because Tiger isn't all that much fun. Nor does he seem to be having any of it.

We can respect and awe at Tiger without enjoying him. His clutch putt on 18 was thrilling, but his reaction wasn't. His reactions are almost exclusively loud releases of tension and competitive rage. And there's nothing wrong with that. He is the most competitive and mentally strong athlete that I remember seeing. But there seems to be so little joy in his triumph. From the reactions to the victory-interview platitudes, there seems to be a quota on his fun. And that quota apparently is zero. I just want one Tiger moment where he tosses his club out of glee and surprise or reacts Justin Leonard style out of childish joy. (His fist pump is nice and all, but he is one of the worst high-fivers in sports history.)

He knows he is going to make the putts...there is almost no surprise like Mickelson's reaction on the 18th green of Augusta in 2004 quite simply because I find it difficult to believe he is surprised by anything any more. And never was that more apparent than this past weekend when we witnessed Tiger's intensity with Rocco Mediate's infectious charisma. While I want to see greatness in its prime, I'd prefer that Tiger trounced the field or had to grind out a win against some loud mouth bozo - I'm looking at you Sergio and Rory. It's tough to watch Tiger beat someone like Rocco - a golfer on the back nine of his career, never having won a major, and knowing a single victory at the U.S. Open would make his career. To root for Tiger in these situations is to board a bullet train for history where none of the brief stops are any more meaningful than any other until you get to History Stop #19. Rocco is traveling on the path next to Tiger's bullet train rails in a covered wagon, enjoying the ride and appreciating the moments as they happen.

Tiger is the frat guy making his way through all the girls from the hottest sorority on campus not because he enjoys it, but because he can and it is expected of him. And Rocco is the slightly awkward, but ebulliently charming boy in the corner who starts to flirt with a remarkably attractive female way out of his league. And things are going perfectly well, until Tiger swoops in, takes another trophy home, and leaves the good guy empty handed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Preview Review


Movie trailers are so damn sneaky. You go to the theater to plop down $10 to see some movie you are at least somewhat excited to experience in the theater, hopeful at the comedic or dramatic promise of the film, and interested in investing at least 120 minutes of your time. You get your popcorn, find a seat in the rocking chairs, and wait for the movie to start. And then comes some absolutely kick-ass trailer and you are awe-struck. And pumped. And excited. For an entirely different movie than the one you just paid to watch. No longer do you care about Indy's fedora or Scarlett's cleavage, but you want badly to see how gruesome the Joker's cut smile is and why exactly Dectective Gordon took an ax to the Bat-Signal. That's the power of trailers. (If I ran a movie theater, I would seriously consider running the trailer of the movie everyone was about to see, just to get them re-amped for what they are about to see.) Maybe it is part of the human psyche that enjoys being teased and wanting what we can't currently have. But many trailers are artful and entertaining on their own, often times more so than the movies they are born from and for. And so here is a list of some remarkable trailers - for one reason or a number.



Superman Returns

A pretty flat reinterpretation of the Man of Steel welcomed movie goers in the summer of 2006 and fans may have felt a tad disappointed both with the performances and the film after this rather remarkable and well-crafted teaser appeared a year before the film was released. The brief shots of a young Clark Kent on the family's farm, the enduring relationship with Lois Lane, and the amazingly fantastic voice over from Marlon Brando. The late Brando played Superman's late father Jor-El in the 1978 film starring Christopher Reeves. Jor-El sends his son to Earth from the dying Krypton, giving his son the marching orders used in the trailer. Not only are they beautifully written, they are perfectly delivered and provide the trailer's - and probably the movie's - best moment. Although, now thinking about it, maybe we shouldn't have been so surprised the movie was so dimensionless since best part of the trailer was, in fact, part of the original Superman film and nothing new. And Brandon Roth's performance isn't really showcased in this trailer, which was probably one of the smarter things they could have done. Although he does look exceptionally bored before he flashes back to Earth.

Two other quick things. Brando was paid $3.7 million and a percentage of the profits for his 12-days of work on the original film, ultimately getting upwards of $14 million for 10 minutes of screen time. Some extra footage shot for the Superman sequel that wasn't used in Superman II was incorporated into Superman Returns. And I know I don't have the proper perspective for this, but doesn't Lois Lane do a disservice to her gender, more so than any other woman in pop culture? She is always getting herself into trouble and the hot shot Daily Planet reporter can't even figure out that Clark Kent is Superman. That doesn't speak very well to her investigative prowess. He doesn't even wear a mask. He takes off his glasses and parts his hair on opposite sides...it's not that tough to figure out.



Godzilla

Another example of a film's buzz and trailer totally out-pacing the attention the film deserved on its actual merits. The audio on the video isn't fantastic, but the juxtaposition of the museum tour discussing the largest and most predatory dinosaurs just before one of their skeletons is crushed by the foot of Godzilla strikes me as pretty fantastic marketing. Especially behind its "Size Matters" tag line. Too bad the movie left much to be desired. All of Madison Square Garden teeming with impregnated eggs? We all know that was the work of Stephan Marbury or Shawn Kemp, not some Japanese monster.


Psycho

Movie trailers sure have changed, even in the past 15 years. But a trailer from the 1960s is a sight to behold, oozing unintentional comedy and perhaps boredom. The trailer for Psycho is a great example. It doesn't actually show any footage. It's essentially a set walk through with the admittedly creepy Alfred Hitchcock with his curly enunciation and subtle command. Spoiler alert: Dire and horrible events took place in Norman Bates house and accompanying motel. Although the preview does pique interest with Hitchcock peaking into the closet and toilet, shuttering and closing it before the audience actually sees anything. Me thinks a similar marketing strategy would fall flat on its face today, but it apparently worked wonders in the late 50s and early 60s.



The Dark Knight

This should not be a surprise that it's here. And I can safely make the claim that the film's merit did not impact its landing on this list, mainly because no one has seen the film yet. But there is something fascinatingly awesome with this trailer. Equal amounts drama, action, and melancholy, the trailer is stronger than that of Godzilla or Superman Returns, mainly because the performances of the late Ledger and Bale are not hidden beneath a veneer of explosions and chase scenes. The trailer is grounded in the film itself and not in the superficial marketing that can be done to cover a film's huge deficiencies - see again Godzilla and Superman Returns.

Much more about The Dark Knight in the coming weeks, but I honestly could not be more excited for this film. A few more links. The trailer for Batman & Robin has to be one of the worst previews in cinematic history - it was also one of the worst films. And here is a Lego version of the first full Dark Knight trailer. Watch the real trailer first. Pretty amusing.



Finding Neverland

Quite simply, there is nothing I don't love about the trailer. The flowing music, gentle tone, the whimsical voice-over, well-explained plot, and cast of amazing characters. Pretty damn good.



Gladiator

Another incredible, solid piece of cinematic tease. The non-voice over works because the parallel structure of "The general who became a slave, the slave who became a gladiator, the gladiator who defied an empire" is so effective and well written. The spartan dialog intermixed in the trailer doesn't make it overly complicated or ambitious. The lines that are spoken are chilling tag lines - "At my signal unleash hell" and "Am I not merciful?!" - but what really drives the trailer's 500 levels of awesomeness is the ridiculously good score set against the striking battle scenes. The film delivered too - winning Crow a Best Actor Oscar while the film took home Best Picture.


A Clockwork Orange

A pretty good example of perspective by incongruity, with the playful music sounding like it dropped out of the Music Man, but with lyrics discussing blood while juxtaposed with indifferent Alex frolicking around clobbering people in the junk with his club. It is remarkably creepy, which shouldn't come as a surprise. It's sort of the trailer equivilent of seeing a clown with a gun.

And I have no words for either this one. Or this. No idea where they came from.

What can you add?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

It's Been A Fun Few Months


A few quick thoughts on the Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup victory from this week and what the team's legacy will be. First off, it was nice that they went home with the equivalent of this and didn't get a repeat visit from this round and tumbly ass hat, like they did on Monday night. And that's may be this team's legacy. They simply never let anything bother them. Goalie changes. Disallowed goals. 3OT losses. Bad penalties. 5-on-3s. Road games. The President's Cup. Quick goals by opponents. They never lost their cool and always had a sufficient counter punch. They are the anti-Pistons in this regard. The Pistons seem to be distraught if Rip's face mask begins to fog and if Sheed's headband is slightly out of place so that it makes his bald spot look abnormally large. It's not as if the Pistons were never like this. Their response to the 3 OT loss at home to the Nets in Game 5 (which forever made me hate this man of all people), and after Kobe almost single-handedly won Game Two of the Finals when the Pistons had the Lakers on the ropes, was admirable and memorable. But the Pistons have gotten mentally weak as their ice-bound counterparts have bolstered their mental fortitude.

This version of the Red Wings - so technically sound and saavy, but also gritty tough and resilient - would let no such sideshows hijack their march. While Zetterberg rightly won the Conn Smythe, Datsyuk's play was equally amazing. Only a few years ago, people wondered aloud if the playoff pressure got to the young winger, but questions like that seem to have disappeared with memories of a hockey-less winter in Detroit. Datsyuk helped dominate play for periods on end, but it was his hitting that came as a welcome surprise and addition to his extensive quiver of tricks. This team seemed unwilling to bestow some undeserved title on a no-name goalie as had been their spring tradition for the past handful of years. There would be no Roloson, no Giguere, no Kiprusoff this year. Instead, they let their own unsung goalie do the stonewalling and get the recognition he so deserves, but fails to receive.

And so here's to the men in the Winged Wheel, who for almost as long as I can remember, have made spring hockey such a memorable and enjoyable staple in the life of some of my closest friends and in my own.

Time for a parade.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Super Bowl Will Air Before the Next Episode of LOST


The above is a pretty depressing sight, the thought of no more LOST for 8 months. The mark of every season finale is both an annus mirabilis (for it's a celebration of the past season) and annus horribles (the unnerving thought of our beloved showing going dark). And so no matter the fulfilling nature of the season finale, we are left with the television equivalent of rolling a Q in Scattergories - a perplexing and fruitless search for possible answers without having any where near enough ammunition to complete the terrible frustrating task while you pitifully wait for the time to expire and to move forward.

I have written a number of times before that LOST's individual episodes are like a single piece of a mosaic. And this single tile - aptly named "There's No Place Like Home" - was a sweeping epic, emotionally charged and cutting a wide swath across the show's meta-landscape. But it also left me with some questions and concerns as to how the show will evolve from here. I will dispense of my major criticism here before I get into what I though to be a throughly satisfying ending to the fourth season of LOST. Quite simply, I am not buying Jack's grief and burning passion to return to the Island. I just don't get it. Jack didn't broker a deal to get only a handful of the Oceanic Six off the Island. He didn't consciously chose the other five like an elementary school kickball game, leaving the dozens of other survivors on the Island fending for themselves. He - and his Oceanic Six compadres - was lucky to escape alive. There is no shame in not going back for Jin after the freighter exploded and he didn't have a choice to return to the Island for Claire and Sawyer. He did the best he could. Now one could make the argument that Jack's best will simply never be enough (thank you Dr. Christian Shepard for that), but beyond that, I'm not sold on his whole bearded island ambition. Now I suppose we may not have the entire story. Locke - moonlighting as Jeremy Bentham - may have told Jack that Jin has survived, Sawyer is bonking Juliet, and his father is making cameos in a dilapidating (and mobile) cabin, but if the season finale was supposed to convince of us that Jack truly has a good reason to return to the island, mission unaccomplished.

However the scene between Jack (Colonel Free Will) and Locke (Captain Fate) in the greenhouse may be the (symbolic) key to the central themes LOST has so carefully planted along its narrative path. Locke seemed to try and convince Jack that Jack was destined to arrive at the Island, that he was "supposed" to be there. Unsurprisingly, Jack was having none of it and essentially told Locke to shove all his fate sound-and-fury in his own Dharma Station. I wrote a few weeks ago that I thought the Island may be the one place where fate and free will exist simultaneously and with perfect balance - and with Locke/fate and Jack/free will playing out on different ends of the Island. Fate and free will are in mutual need of each other in order to keep the surrounding world orderly, with neither fate or free will having a preponderance of the power. But if Jack and free will depart from the Island, nothing will be there to counteract fate and everything will fall out of balance and into chaos. The chaos apparently ensued and Locke pinpoints Jack's departure from the Island as the seminal moment for these events. As we have seen a number of times on the show, fate/course correction ultimately trumps free will (Locke's arrival at the Island, Charlie's death, etc.), but the two must exist simultaneously - serving as checks and balances - for things to function in an effective, efficient manner. The absence of one throws the other into flux, thus the Island's apparent descent into chaos. One could make the argument that Jack's post-Island life - devoid of fate - has caused him his anguish. And what if Jack's fate truly lies in the Island? Christian's appearance both in Jacob's cabin (along with Jack's half-sister, Claire) and his exceptionally eerie dismissal of Michael suggests a higher communal relationship between the Island and the Shepard blood line that Jack blindingly rejects. Regardless, this is all WILD SPECULATION in an attempt to explain Jack's bearded future and instability.

Also Jack's reason for lying - to protect the ones who stayed seemed a little flimsy - doesn't make oodles of sense, especially if he believes those still on the Island will be in danger if the truth comes out. What makes him believe that they - the Oceanic Six - are going to be safe once they are off the Island and dealing with their pseudo-celebrity?

The other lingering concern that I have is the meta-structure for the show's penultimate season. The post-Island future is now the present and presumably we have yet to see a scene farther into the future than Jack and Ben's nocturnal chat at the funeral home. Which leads me to wonder whether we will see another narrative shift in the coming season. Will the flash forwards/backs be less common? Will we shift between post-Island moving action (in the past) and Oceanic Six present? Or will we again see well into the future early in the season and build backwards like we did in season four? And now that we know how they got off and are left to wonder why exactly Jack wants to get back, has the show lost some of its narrative momentum?

One final lingering concern is that last season ended with the audience knowing that Jack wanted to go back to the Island. This season ended only a few hours further into Jack's evening, leaving the audience with the single wrinkle that Jack needed to bring everyone else back along with him - including a dead Locke? (And Walt too? Does Walt know his dad is dead?). While it is true that the season worked to tie the post-Island future with the on-island present, I would have liked to see the plot's frontier extended a little more. But this may just be me being overly critical - a sort of Manifest Destiny for the plot from a fan's perspective.

Despite these qualms, I really enjoyed the season's conclusion and payoff, which amounted to the Oceanic Six's actual rescue (from Penny, no less) and the journey down to the Orchid in an attempt to move the Island. Starting with the latter, a number of people independent of me think the Island moved only in time and not in location. It wasn't too difficult to see that once Ben moved the frosted gears causing the Island to disappear, that he was relegated to the Sahara Desert. "The Shape of Things To Come" opened with a startled and wounded Ben awakening wearing a parka in the middle of the Sahara. We now know that only moments before Ben had been on the Island playing with the Island's subterranean mechanisms. In the episode's next flash forward scene, Ben is checking into a Tunisian hotel asking the date, which is late October 2005. Since we know the Island was moved in early January 2005 (Desmond called Penny on Christmas Eve), I think it is safe to assume Ben was sent to the same time the Island moved to, but was banished to a location far away. My guess is that the Island hasn't moved locations, but rather it has simply failed to exist between January 2005 and October 2005. Just as you wouldn't be able to find Ben in March of 2005, you wouldn't be able to find the Island during that same time. And just as Ben abruptly reappears in October, the Island does as well. And just so you don't think I am pilfering Doc Jensen's ideas as my own, I'll add further support to the argument he didn't pick up on. In the Dharma video Locke watched as Ben loaded the portal with metallic objects, Dr. Halliwax said that the rabbit would seemingly disappear for 100 milliseconds as he was being sent into the future, during which time he would not exist. The exact same principles apply to the Island's movement and its ability to be seen/located in the interim time period. The other thing about the Island's movement is the resulting light and sound was strikingly similar to the events that followed Desmond's turn of the failsafe key in the season two finale. I'm not going to get into any connection here, but I wouldn't be too surprised if a connection between the button, the release of the mounting electromagnetic energy and keeping the Island for moving forward in time was all related.

Which leads to questions about the scope of what was moved. Jin and Farraday almost have to be alive. They cannot keep killing core characters - especially if one (Jin) is a significant reason Jack would return to the Island. And they almost must have been moved with the Island. Otherwise Farraday would be left with a raft load of red shirts and less than ten gallons of gasoline while Jin would be floating at sea and both would have no where to go. The gaping hole in this theory is that the copter would have been within the radius of the Island's movement (albeit in the air) and it didn't go, so why would Jin (who was the furthers out) or the inflatable ferry? My initial guess is that Jin and Farraday got sent to October 2005 even though Sun believes Jin to be dead - and blames both her father and Jack for the fact.

The other interesting thing about the moving mechanism is to note that Ben had to break through a Dharma station to get at the Island's true power structures. Even Halliwax acknowledged in the above video it was the Island's unique properties that allowed for Dharma to do their thing, not something that the Dharma Initiative consciously and artificially created on the Island. This lends further support to the idea that the Island was discovered and not manufactured; that the Dharma Initiative built their infrastructure on what already existed on the Island and something unique and precious existed long before Alvar Honso set up the DI.

And Ben not being allowed back to the Island? I'm not buying that either. He is too calculating and overzealous when it comes to issues of the Island. I just can't imagine Ben permanently ceding that power to Locke. Maybe he can't return while the current leader of the Others is alive - giving Ben a reason to dispose of Locke. And a few of you (along with myself) have wondered aloud whether Locke got off the Island by moving the Island himself. While that's a possibility, we know there is a way to get off the Island without moving it (Richard, Ethan and Zeke left with apparent regularity) and my guess is that Locke did as well.

But that leaves the lingering and meaty question of what exactly did happen when the Oceanic Six left the Island. One thing that has bothered me in the past few weeks is why Richard Alpert capitulates to Ben and Locke when he has clearly been there longer and has a clear philosophy as to how the Island should be used. It is as if Ben and Locke are the Presidents of the Others while Alpert is the leader of the bureaucracy. I am still flummoxed about this, but my best guess is Alpert believes whole-heartedly in fate and is comfortable with his own fate that he is not to lead the Others, but to serve as Ben and Locke's right handed man. While leads us to more parallels between the Bugged-Eyes One and Mr. Clean.

Ben finally sheds his mensch facade as he killed Keamy out of rage and anguish over Alex's death, condemning the folks on the freighter to death without any remorse ("So?"). What was different here was Ben did not even attempt to keep his hands clean of the spilling blood - a sharp departure from his previous perspective. He reacted out of blind revenge and with a singular selfish goal, much in the same way Michael acted towards the end of season two - an interesting parallel considering Ben was in fine form blaming Michael for Libby and Ana Lucia's death while maintaining his moral high ground during "Meet Kevin Johnson". All of this draws striking similarities with Locke's disposition which I probably should have picked up earlier on. Locke doesn't want to do his own dirty work - he was never able to fully stand up to his father and duped Sawyer into killing him for Locke and then taking credit for it himself. He sabotaged Jack and Juliet's ride off the Island by blowing up the submarine but continued to maintain his moral innocence. This combined with his verbal stab at Jack ("If you lie to them half as well as you lie to yourself, they'll believe you") makes me believe he is the perfect replacement for Ben.

A few quick things. I think there is a reasonable chance that Charlotte is Annie - Ben's old Dharma friend - or related to her. I think Claire is dead and died during the night she, Sawyer and Miles camped - as Miles could sense the impending death on their jungle hike which would explain his increased interest in Aaron's ma. The reunion between Desmond and Penny was pretty spectacular, although it makes one wonder how much we will be seeing Desmond over the next two years. And that Sun and Widmore's common interest is finding the Island.

Depending of whether or not I feel like writing about LOST next week, I may have a season recap. But regardless, I am going to have to find something to blog about for the next 35 weeks. Any and all ideas are appreciated.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I likely chose poorly


Inspired by Indiana Jones and his quest for some crystal skulls (along with an AV Club post), here's a list of my favorite objects of pursuit in movie history. Feel free to call me a limited-minded clown in the comments and add whatever I have clearly missed.


Maltese Falcon - Maltese Falcon
A priceless bejeweled bird statue that was long-lost is zealously pursued both in print - in 1930's classic by Dashiell Hammett - and thrice on screen - most famously in the 1940s film starring Humphrey Bogart as Hammett's venerable private eye Sam Spade. The story arc is wraught with deception, trickery and murder as Spade and a group of bad guys try to locate the statuette who had been covered in enamel to belie its true value. But the pursuit is ultimately in vain as the villains get their hands on the bird only to find the material under the black veneer as worthless. All the deception - all the all-consuming effort - in an attempt to possess a trinket rather than "something only dreams are made of."



Sex - American Pie
This pursuit is the yoke to any number of films - Porky's and Superbad comes to mind - but I think American Pie is probably the best example. Four guys strike a pact to deflower their girlfriends - or anyone with two legs and wearing something bigger than a training bra - before the end of their prom night. This inevitably leads to hi-jinks and the search for an even more mythologized object - the g-spot - as the four "gentlemen" go about a means to the agreed end in their own individualized and haphazard way. My biggest problem with the film is that it is totally unbelievable. Not Oz joining the choir or Stifler's mom claiming she hadn't gone under the knife, but the contention that Tara Reid would still be a virgin by the time she got to her senior prom. This is simply not possible and way outside the bounds of believability. Although I suppose Reid was still a virgin if your definition of "virgin" is "getting Eiffel Towered in the men's room of a roadside IHOP after taking rails off the toilet seat."


The One Ring - Lord of the Ring trilogy
This list would have no credibility if the ring weren't included - not that I have any visions of grandeur about it nor am I looking for it by writing Robot. The three films have at their core the pursuit of an all-powerful ring infused with destructive and persuasive powers. But unlike others on this list, the ring isn't being sought to possess, but to destroy, leading the protagonists to Mount Doom where the climax of the films take place in epic fashion. So, it's here on the list. Don't yell at me in the comments or on Gchat.


The Ark of the Covenant & Holy Grail - Indiana Jones series
These two objects and films were the inspiration for the list. The formula of the Indy films is so accessible and enjoyable, especially when they have the scene 25 minutes into each film - after an extended (and unrelated) action sequence - where the pursued artifact is explained in detail and the stakes are set. These intriguing - yet clarifying scenes - serve as a necessary set-up for the 90 minutes of action that follows and invests the audience in the long-sought, powerful objects. In both instances, the building tension leads to a satisfying crescendo with two memorable climatic scenes. The ultimate fate of the ark - the U.S. government seizing the golden artifact that holds the remnants of the original Ten Commandments - all but reburies it, not in sand but bureaucracy. And the "he chose poorly" line from the Knight at the conclusion of Last Crusade stands as one of the most effectively understated line in movie history.

Gray's Sports Almanac - Back to the Future II
Less mythic and sexy than most pursuits, the Gray's Sports Almanac is perhaps the most lucrative. Irresponsibility skirting the time-space continuum, Marty McFly tries to being the almanac back with him from the future in an attempt to make riches by placing a few sure bets in the 1980s, all the while knowing the outcome of each major sporting event. Of course, Doc talks him out of it, but the meat head Biff steals Gray's, the DeLorean and Marty's plan, illustrating the entirely undesirable consequences of playing with time. But perhaps the most memorable sports moment of Future's second installment was the huge LED board that announced that Cubs had defeated an unnamed team from Miami in the World Series.



The Big W - It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
It's A Mad... is probably the funniest film no one reading this has seen featuring untold numbers of famous comedians - Tracy, Burle, Caesar, Winters, Rooney, Hackett, Keaton, Ethel Merman. Unfortunately a recent interpretation - Rat Race - was an unworthy successor, but the plot is similar - a dying man tells a group of people about a hidden fortune and the mad scramble is on to locate it. In Mad, it's know that the treasure is buried under a giant W, which turns out to be four huge palm trees buried at an angle. On the way, there are countless memorable scenes including one with a drunken airline pilot ("Let's just shoot him down and get it over with"), at a Ray & Irwin's gas station ("We're going to have to kill him"), dynamiting out of a locked hardware store basement, and the final rush once people realize what exactly the big W is.



The perfect Christmas tree - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Not that there aren't amazingly memorable scenes throughout the entire movie ("We are standing at the threshold of Hell" and anything with Cousin Eddie come to mind), but the Griswold family starts by seeking out the perfect Christmas tree in what looks to be a national park. The family station wagon ends up under a semi then crashing over a snowbank, they don't remember an ax, and by the time they actually find the Christmas tree - haloed with glow and touched with the voice of angels - the Griswold's daughter appears to have taken on the complexion of Grimace. When they finally open the tree, it is slightly larger than expected crashing through windows and drywall alike. The pursuit of the tree reaches its final hilarity when Clark tries to read in bed, caress his wife's hair and turn off the lamp all with sap covering his fingers. Classic and memorable.



Woody - Toy Story 2
After Woody is accidentilly sold at a garage sale to a rare toy dealer, Buzz and company spend the balance of the film tracking him down. This gets the nod over the first film because it is one of that rare breed where the sequel outshines the original. The wink-wink, nod-nod nature of the script - playing off of Buzz' ego and making it even more adult-friendly than the first - creates a more complete film from beginning to end, more emotionally compelling as well when Andy's other toys discover than the Alpha toy isn't so keen on breaking up the Round Up Gang. The scene of the toys trying to cross the street into Al's Toy Barn stand as one of the most entertaining action sequences on this list.



Pamela Anderson - Borat
This doesn't really even need to be explained, but she possesses the breasts that launched a thousand ships (or at least a single ice cream truck) in perhaps the most comedic pursuit in the 21st century. We must also commend Borat, who shows courage and persistence after he discovers that the object of his affection may not have - ummmmm - "saved herself" for our Kazakhstanian hero. Which brings up this totally unrelated and utterly pointless observation - have Pamela Anderson's breasts been seen by more people than any other woman's? The only one I can think who has likely been seen more times topless than her is Kate Winslet.


Richard Kimball & the One Armed Man - The Fugitive
"Alright, listen up, people. Our fugitive has been on the run for ninety minutes. Average foot speed over uneven ground barring injuries is 4 miles-per-hour. That gives us a radius of six miles. What I want from each and every one of you is a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area. Checkpoints go up at fifteen miles. Your fugitive's name is Dr. Richard Kimble. Go get him."

"I didn't kill my wife." "I don't care"

Awesome.

A few others in the pursued person division - John & Sarah Connor (depending on the film), Private Ryan ("The Mission is a Man") and Keyser Soze - along with the Heart of the Ocean from Titanic, the golden ticket from Willy Wonka, and the defecting Red October. Let me know if I have forgotten any.

Big two-hour LOST finale this week. You can click here for all my previous LOST columns, including this one where I explain why I think it is Ben is the casket.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

This Would Have Been A Perfect Time To Pull the "Mission Accomplished" Banner Out of the Closet


A few of you who I know read regularly were less than pleased with Thursday's episode of LOST, frustrated with the slow pacing of the show and how it seems as if we have been in a holding pattern for the last three weeks. While that is understandable, I'm going to defend the show and "There's No Place Like Home, Part I". First off, this was the opening hour of a three hour season finale, so in effect we saw the opening twenty minutes. There's no way the episode's merit or worth can be judged at this point. The counter (and valid) argument to that is LOST - more than almost every other show on television - is just one big episode because of the serial-nature of its story arc, so the line of demarcation week-to-week is almost negligible. The other predicament LOST's writers find themselves in is the show's massive scope and the large footprint of all encompassing episodes. And by that, I mean LOST has the decision to focus on one group (the freighter folk, the beach crew, Locke's comrades, etc.) in depth - which would get people angry that they didn't see what the hell else was going on with the other characters - or they could give the audience a smattering and taste of each Island course - and the criticism would be that "nothing happened!" and that the show was too jumpy and disjointed. Honestly, they can't win. And on Thursday, they decided to go with the latter, more epic approach - which is the appropriate decision for a season finale. The problem is that they are fighting on six fronts - the freighter, the beach, the Orchid-journey, the Jack/Sawyer's jungle trek, the Sayid/Kate trip and the future. With 42 minutes and five different areas to cover, that gives each group about 7 minutes a piece on average. That's not a whole lot of time to do anything substantial. But I thought the first third of the fourth season's finale was effective, interesting, and compelling.

The most striking thing to me was the state of post-Island Jack. Jack seems desperately and foolishly invested in the Oceanic Six's bundle of lies, like the captain of a doomed mission who feels the need to keep the morale of the crew high as they toss buckets of water overboard. His cold, calculating reassurance on the cargo plane on their way to meet the families provided a striking relief to his on-Island "live together" leadership - Jack still asserted himself as the point man, but seemed to plead with the other four adults to buy into his plan. The striking press conference scene further establishes the deck of cards engineered by Jack that we know is going to tumble in their future. And the realization of Claire being his half-sister and Aaron his nephew at the end of Papa Shepard's funeral struck at Jack's core. I know it wasn't earth shattering news for the audience, but we needed to see Jack's realization at some point, to see how his tenuous grip on an uncontrollable situation began to unravel. Jack is marinating in his lies - about the rescue, about Aaron's relationship, and again about his father. His empty words at the funeral echoed his later exchange with Kate in the hallway after reading to Aaron. Try as he might, Jack cannot shake the overbearing hand of his father, which can provide a proxy for Jack's reaction to his post-Island decisions. Try as he might to shake the decisions that lead him off the Island, the burden of knowledge and his past is too great to bear.

But Jack isn't the only one with father issues. The post-Island world belongs to the mothers as was made clear in the opening scene. Jack was greeted by his loving mother, Sun didn't even acknowledge her father as she hugged her mother, Hurley's strained relationship with his father was never entirely forged, and Kate - a new mother herself - found no warm comfort after debarking the plane, only the realization that she would be responsible for maintaining a relationship with her adopted son that she was unable to sustain with her own mother.

Sun's visceral reaction with her father and again with her potential game-changing acquisition of a stake in Paik Industries will likely play a large part of the next few seasons. I've thought for a while now that Sun's father could be the Korean parallel with Widmore - whether he is looking for the Island or not, I'm not sure, but the parallels between Penny and Sun are striking. And either the Oceanic settlement was ridiculously rich, the show had a logic gap or Sun was receiving third-party help to initiate a hostile infiltration of Paik Industries. My guess is that Penny is playing venture capitalist, providing the seed money to Sun in an attempt to leverage the two's paternal companies in an attempt to find the Island and their loves. The scene reminded me of the end of Batman Begins when Bruce Wayne has bought a controlling ownership of Wayne Enterprises to the surprise of Mr. Earle.

There were a number of smaller things I really enjoyed about the episode. I love how Sawyer called Jack out on his one-note song, telling him he sounded like a broken record about his insistence to get off the Island using the freighter folk. (This is particularly entertaining because I'm not convinced of Matthew Fox's range of acting ability so his character's single dimension could also be his own.) Sawyer's nice dig against Jack saying how Locke was right about the disastrous intentions of the freighter folk and how the "running through the jungle with a phone" routine didn't work must have grated the stubbled doc, sending him out to prove himself once again before Sawyer joining with Sawyer joining him, saying "you don't get to die alone."

The Michael and Jin/Sun interaction on the deck of the freighter was amazing and strained. The thinly veiled assertion that "Jesus Christ is not a weapon" was pretty entertaining social commentary.

The realization that Keamy's arm band was actually a detonation button for the C4 on the freighter was pretty vital.

The return of seemingly angry and disgusted Alpert was a nice added touch.

The numbers on the dash that sent Hurley barreling down his street seemed gimmicky, but I suppose they make sense. I also love how Hurley is frequently used as the voice of the fan, asking the literal questions we want attacked - like "What about - you know - the whole being dead at the bottom of the ocean thing?" late last year after Naomi parachuted onto the Island. He served the same purpose this past week on his trek to the Orchid, wondering aloud (as I did last week) "If we move the Island, wouldn't the dudes with guns move with us too?" Ben's curt response dripped of contempt for Hurley's (and our) limited mind, perhaps an unconscious reaction to how the writers and producers react to each to the antsy, limited and unyielding onslaught of questions they must get on a daily basis.

One thing that I think gets overlooked in a number of episodes, but was exceptional this week was Michael Giacchino's score. It is at its best when it can be sweeping and epic, like the end of this week's episode with the slowed shot of the freighter, Jack/Sawyer, Ben's surrender, Kate/Sayid and the Others, and Locke's move to the Orchid station. It's often overlooked, but was exceptional this week.

I do wonder why one of the questions from the reporters or one of the points of clarification during the press conference didn't relate to the plane that was found at the bottom of the ocean. That seems like a pretty natural question...did the O6 make it out of that wreckage before it went down and how does the fake plane's resting place compare with the supposed home for the Oceanic Six? Who is the other responsible for Jin's death? And how can Sayid be so certain that no other survivors will be found? And just as we got to explore the Looking Glass Station during last year's season finale, this year we will get an eye-full of what the Orchid as to offer. The second two-thirds of the season finale doesn't air until May 29th, so not only will we need to wait for that, I will have to figure out something else to blog about this weekend.