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Thursday, March 25, 2010

TV Watch: Lost Instant Dharma on Ab Aeterno

Spoilers ahead.

Via (somewhat obviously) the other Anti-Jacob, The Futon Critic.

Normal post on Ab Aeterno should be up later today.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

TV Watch: Lost, Ab Aeterno

This was a highly anticipated episode and it really, really did not disappoint.

Where to start?


This was really the first true backstory we've had on the show for some time - and it makes one a bit dreamy for the time when such things were really interesting on the show. The flashsideways and flashforwards have their merits, but Lost was most excellent when shockers in someone's past would act as a foil to events on the island ... and nothing has worked as well as the early backstories for that. Especially when we finally get a little light on the themes of redemption which of have been part of the core of the character development - none of it is incidental, it's been part of Jacob's plan all along.


The Man In White doesn't want to get directly involved, so he has Richard be his intermediary. Does this make Richard the first Ben ? Well, there aren't any Others yet, and it would be odd that immortal Richard wouldn't still be the leader, so he may be more of just the emissary. What did Jacob do before the emissary though? Who built the statue? (And why is his house a testament to a relatively unknown Egyptian god?) We are slowly getting a focus on The Man In Black, but Jacob remains fundamentally undefined. The dichotomy is setup, the plot is in motion - but we have a ways to go.

The Island.

We did get a great concept of the island itself. As a "cork" for The Man In Black, it keeps him from entering "the rest of the world" ... whatever that actually means. People can arrive on the island if Jacob brings them there, people can leave under very specific situations (well, situation - a very specific bearing). Which begs the question - can The Man In Black leave now that Jacob is "dead", and he just needs to fly out in the right direction?

Smoke Monster ... and Dead People.

When watching the Instant Dharma with The Futon Critic and Kris White, Kris noted that Isabella's appearance while the Smoke Monster sounds were going outside was the first instance of both those happening at once. As an aside, I never realized that one of my least favorite characters, Nikki, was bitten by a spider ... which was actually a Smoke Monster manifestation (the Smoke Monster clicking can be heard before the spider's appearance and was confirmed on a later producer podcast). The boat had a butterfly, a boar, the Smoke Monster, and Isabella all visiting Richard. The butterfly and the board may have actually just been a butterfly and a boar - obviously the other two weren't.

Also curious that all the Smoke Monster sounds seemed the same. Even the relatively modern foghorn sound.

So the question remains - what are the apparitions? Hurley was clearly talking to Isabella. She knew things only she would know, wants Richard to kill the Man In Black, etc. The castaways aren't actually dead, Jacob somewhat proved that by dunking old Ricardo into the ocean - but the island is clearly some kind of gateway between one world and the next.

Fate and Free Will.

After this episode, I doubt my theory that there were two Smoke Monsters, or rather that Jacob could also be the Smoke Monster, is accurate. I think their abilities are more closely tied to what they represent - fate and free will. Jacob can control the fate of others, make sure they don't die, weave events to make sure they end up on the same plane, etc. The Man in Black can't do any of that - but he can go rampaging around the jungle and kill things.

Long enough post for now - might have to do a mid-season summary before next week or something though.

Just Plain Cool: 22 MegaPixel Interactive Display

Via PetaPixel

(yes, I know it isn't a Lost post ... give it time, give it time...)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Movie Watch: The Fourth Kind

Interestingly, when I went to go see Paranormal Activity in San Francisco, a huge line was waiting not for that film - but The Fourth Kind, which I had never even heard of - which seemed odd since I had only really learned of Paranormal Activity through twitter a few weeks earlier.

The Fourth Kind is a movie much in the same vein as Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, a documentary format to reveal the bizarre events unfolding for the main characters - this time dealing with the remote location of Nome, Alaska.

For those that haven't seen the movie, I'm going to say - if you've enjoyed other movies in the same vein, you'll probably enjoy this one. If you were the kind who though BWP was awful, while The Fourth Kind does some new things to the subgenre - they probably aren't going to sell you on them.

In fact, if the reviews are any indication, they will just annoy you more.

So, that said - it will be hard to write the rest of this post without talking about some of the details of the film. While I'll try to remain spoiler free in general, there are few basic things that might effect the viewing. Granted, many reviews also talked about the same thing - but consider this paragraph your warning. In a similar way that I said Paranormal Activity is best viewed knowing little about the film, the same goes for here. I won't put in any major plot points, so if you're tempted then fine ... but you were warned.

OK. So here's the thing, and what I can't quite grasp.

The Fourth Kind is about alien abduction. It's represented in parts of re-enactments of documentary style pieces of film, and also showing parts of documentary style footage. Sometimes next to each other. One common aspect is the director interviewing the person who shot the footage, who is played in the re-enactments by Milla Jovovich.

Here's the shocker: this stuff isn't real. And quite a few reviews really took that to task:

"The problem is that it also decides to lie to your face by pretending to be honest." (CinemaBlend)

"Purporting to be a true story of alien abduction, in reality it's a clumsy attempt to update the hoax technique Orson Welles perfected seven decades ago." (Scotsman)

"The first line in The Fourth Kind has Milla Jovovich calling herself an “actress,” so we know right away the film is lying." (MountainX)

"It was with crushing disappointment that my research discovered this is all made up out of whole cloth, including the real Abigail." (Roger Ebert)

And many reviews spend a decent amount of time poking holes in the "facts" representing by the "documentary" and clearly toss their hands up in the air in grief and frustration in the process.

To which I repeat. This is about alien abductions in Alaska. While some of the "footage" could be seen as realistic, there are also bits where people levitate(spoiler but hey, it's on the cover) and speak in alien tongue. If this stuff was real, they wouldn't need Milla Jovovich to sell it.

It's true that Fourth Kind goes more heavy handed than other films in the subgenre of mockuhorrormentary (TM pending) in trying to convince you that this is real, from the bumper speeches from Milla before and after the main movie, to the footage being displayed next to re-enactments, to overreaching claims about disappearances in Nome, Alaksa, to blanking out names to protect the fictionally innocent - The Fourth Kind uses different tactics from either BWP or Paranormal Activity. Those films try to fly under your radar and keep you guessing. Fourth Kind tries to trade reminding you that this is "real" to also include recognizable actors, glitzy sets and clearly edited scenes.

On one hand, this meets with very mixed success. Don't get me wrong, The Fourth Kind isn't a great film. More like occasionally good - even by mockuhorrormentary standards. But it is an interesting film. Like The Last Broadcast is an excellent counter-example to Blair Witch Project, The Fourth Kind is a counter-example to some of the basic tenets of the genre. Don't use known actors. Don't use sets. Only use handy cams and stock footage, documentary style.

So for so many reviews to focus so squarely that the film is entirely fake when, in the words of The Girl - "it's clearly fake" ... but to skip over that the film is at least trying to change up what could rapidly become a tired formula, feels like an over-reaction to be played into a hoax.

In fact - if anything the film should be commended because Ebert felt he needed to research it when he was done watching it. To convince someone who watches as many films as Ebert does that this footage might actually be real is a pretty good parlor trick.

So again, not a great film. Barely a good film. I kinda recommend it, but only kinda. My main problem with the film is that the good bits are spread out thinly and paced unevenly and some of the "real world" plot points don't line up evenly with the supernatural elements. It's disjointed. But still somewhat fun.

But yes. It's fake.

And so are most movies.