“This is the place that you all made together.”

All good things must come to an end.

That’s the one thing you really need to take away from last night’s finale of Lost, super appropriately entitled “The End.” Your favorite TV show is going to end some day (and it was probably yesterday), but not just that, your friendships may end some day. Your relationships. Your circumstances will change. You will have amazing journeys in your life, but even that, some day, will come to an end.

And then…

To me, what the finale did was, in a lot of ways, a truly amazing feat. It gave everyone resolution, not just all the characters, but the audience as well. Everyone got what they wanted, whether they realized they wanted it or not. And they definitely got what they needed. And creators/showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse were certainly honest about something heading into this last episode about what you should be expecting from it, and that was an answer to just one question: “What is the Sideways world?”

More on that in a second.

Cause this seems to be an episode that, if initial internet reaction is to be believed, has been just about 90% hated. I’m okay with that, but also… not. It only confirms for me further that Lost is our Seinfeld this decade, so of course the ending was despised (and, in that regard, were the 90s about “nothing” and the 00s about “everything?”). But I think it’s a shame that people didn’t like and/or didn’t get the ending. One person on twitter said something to the effect last night of “the finale made me feel like the previous six years were nothing but rape now.” I think that’s a bit strong, but there’s also a meta-answer to that in there somewhere. More on that in a second too.

First things first: This was a wacky, crazy, amazing, beautiful, tragic, mystifying sci fi show about polar bears on a magical island, time travel, synchronicity, esoteric theorizing, faith and hope and both the depths and heights of the human condition. But it was first a show about the characters. I’m sure the producers would have loved to have tackled time travel and paradox theories in the first season, but they couldn’t. No one would’ve watched it, so they got smart and they put the characters first. The show didn’t always succeed, there were some pacing issues here and there, and of course some answers we’d still love to possess (like who was shooting at our heroes on those outriggers in season 5?), but has any show ever came and succeeded as hard as this one?

From episode to episode, you weren’t just watching the show to see answers to questions, you were watching the show to see where the characters went next, and what would happen to them. You cared about that. Sure, the crazy shit going on the island was wonderful, and really, it was a mystery show. But a mystery show with characters at it’s heart. And the mystery aspects only strengthened the human element to all of this.

But for the people who say, “but this is just a TV show!” perhaps don’t understand why we tell ourselves stories. Or why we do TV, or how rare it is for it to actually work out this well. And a mystery is nothing but a story, and that’s what Lost was: a TV show about stories. And it’s a show that asks you to do a little bit of thinking.

On Island last night: Jack is the new Jacob. He’s got to find Desmond, who’s the key to everything, either sinking the Island or it’s salvation. The Locke-ness Monster is also after Desmond, firmly believing that he’ll be the key to putting this Island on the bottom of the ocean. Desmond’s been rescued by Rose and Bernard, and he’s all too happy to go with Locke (to save Rose and Bernard).

On their way to the Source, Locke, Ben, and Desmond encounter Jack, Hurley, Sawyer, and Kate. Jack and Locke have a truly sassy showdown and, classically, have a difference of opinion. They both want to go to the Source, and both want to lower Desmond into it to do what he has to. They just think the other’s wrong.

I think there’s an interesting message here potentially: Regardless of right and wrong, good and evil are the same. They’re just words.

I’m not going to go recap every single moment here, but eventually Locke and Jack work together to lower Desmond down into the cavernous room below the waterfall which is the Source of the Light. The Man In Black seems so eager, in some ways, to be Locke, to fit into a dichotomy with Jack like Locke, and Jack puts him in his place. And at the bottom of the waterfall, Desmond finds what is essentially a cork and when he pulls it out, the Light goes away. The “goodness” seeps away and is replaced by something darker, more red…

And the Island begins to self destruct.

And I’ve said this before, but one of the things I’ve always loved about Lost is that there are answers for everything. You may never get them, but it’s there somewhere. When you look at the room where the Source was, it’s so clearly designed by someone. And all of those skeletons! Memento mori, yes, but… There’s a story there. Probably quite a few, in fact. You’ll never know what it is. That’s up to you. You decide what it is. And if you don’t want to think up some heavy, almost scientific and fantastical reasoning, then the show never really stops you from saying…

From there we get some truly great moments: The Man In Black is corporeal again, a real human. Jack was wrong, and the Man In Black makes a move for the cliffs by where Jacob’s cave was and where the Man In Black has a boat waiting. And that’ll be the scene of Jack and Locke’s final battle there, in the rain, with Jack orchestrating a truly impressive flying punch, and getting his ass handed to him. It wouldn’t be any kind of finale to this show if Jack wasn’t having the stuffing beat out of both his body and his spirit. The Man In Black’s knife finds Jack’s gut and later nicks his neck and we see those same scars and cuts that have been plaguing Jack in the Sideways universe…

Meanwhile, Richard Alpert and Miles are making their way to Hyrda Island, still thinking they need to blow up the Ajira plane and along the way, they find something we’ve all wanted to see again: FRANK LAPIDUS.

And eventually the Man In Black finds what all humans eventually find: death. At the hands of Kate, no less. And now Sawyer and Kate have to get moving, to get to the Hydra island to meet Lapidus and Miles and Richard Alpert (who may start aging and live out the rest of his life?) and take off while there’s still ground to take off from. But first… Kate has to say goodbye to Jack.

And then, back at what used to be the Source, Jack has to transfer his powers and duties and responsibilities. And as much as Hurley believed in Jack, so does Jack believe in Hurley. And as much as Jack being the protector of the Island made sense, it makes even more sense for Hurleybro to have this job. And for Jack to do something else for the Island: to become it’s fixer, because after what Desmond has done, what the Island needs now is a Doctor.

Just look at that one more time:

from here.

And Jack goes down into that cave and he pulls up Desmond – I kept wanting him to say “You’ve got to lift it up,” but he didn’t, and it was okay – and tells him to go home and be with his wife and kid and live his life. And Jack put the cork back into the Island (was that Hell leaking out, as Jacob originally said?). And it took everything out of him. And watching it took everything out of me.

It was amazing seeing Jack be wrong again, then finally being right in a way that really mattered. And now the Island has  new God/messianic figure, one with a proclivity for saying “Dude,” and who makes copious references to Star Wars.

But let’s go back to the Sideways world… It was brilliant in a lot of ways, which I find myself so surprised saying because it was one of the things I looked forward to the least this past season. It kept seeming like the “Wouldn’t it be nice?” world and it was. Everyone went to the concert and then everyone found their true love or their true purpose and in doing so, they remembered who they were.

All except Jack, who resisted because… well, there’s a lot of interpretations there. For a man who spent most of this past season trying to kill himself in some way, shape, or form, perhaps he’s the man who most clung to life?

All of those beautiful moments: Locke’s rebirth after his legs worked again. Sawyer and Juliet at the vending machine and their lovely call back to “LA X” with “Want to get coffee some time?” Hell, just the fact that Juliet was back at all was amazing to me, as she literally lit up my TV screen, easily glowing as bright as the light at the heart of the Island. And Kate finding Jack, remembering who she was because of him. “That’s not how you know me.” I like that Jack was probably Kate’s true love, but she wasn’t his (something we’ve been saying here for a while now). No, Jack probably couldn’t have allowed himself to really feel that, not when he was so tightly wound, so strong lost in his own past…

And then there’s the very end and Jack finds his father. He’s not in the coffin. He’s there, standing before, with love in his eye, and he explains. And Jack understands. He’s dead. Everyone in the Sideways world is dead. It’s a kind of purgatory, or rather, a sort of limbo, a holding place, if you will, that they’ve all created together in their collective unconscious, united by the amazing things they did on the Island, and a place for them to maybe work on their karma and to find a balance missing in their lives before they move into the afterlife.

I mentioned before how similar Lost was to The Invisibles, and this is exactly how The Invisibles ends: At the end of the world, no one dies, but instead enters the Supercontext, a place created by their collective unconscious in which they can find a balance and be happy. It also puts forth the notion that the ultimate ending, the one that is more possibly than we usually realize, is one in which everyone gets exactly what they want. We love Buddhist ideas here in the West. We also love An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge and The Third Policeman and Jacob’s Ladder, yes.

It’s kind of funny to watch the internet reaction in that regard. “It’s a rip off of Jacob’s Ladder!” some cry out. Or, “They totally stole that from An Occurence At Owl Creek Bridge!” I love seeing the way people skew there. Those who know of Jacob’s Ladder don’t know of The Third Policeman or haven’t ever heard the name Ambrose Bierce. Or Alan Moore’s Superman tale, “For The Man Who Has Everything.” But… It all fits. It all works. It’s all beautiful, and just another piece in the puzzle.

And I said that the ending to this episode was perfect for everyone, right? Cause it is. On one hand, for those of you who wouldn’t want to see your characters get an amazing resolution in the Sideways universe, you have real Island endings: Jack dies. Hurley and Ben will now run the Island. They won’t do things the same, they won’t continue the patterns they’ve inherited. Kate and Sawyer and Claire and Miles and Richard Alpert and Frank Lapidus will fly away to safety. Jack will go to his resting place, to the spot between the bamboo trees where he first awoke on the Island and he’ll watch his friends’ plane fly away overhead and Vincent will come and keep him company in his last resting place…

And the Sideways world negates none of that. Not a single thing, nor does it betray the interest you’ve developed in this show over the years, and it shouldn’t harm the connection you’ve made with it. It just shouldn’t.

from here.

As Christian (loved Kate’s line: “Christian Shephard? Really?”) said, “Everyone dies.” Some of the people in that church died before Jack and some died after. And it makes clear that everything was real. Whatever happened, happened. But they came back together at the end, and remember how we were talking about how time didn’t seem to make sense in the Sideways world? Well, that’s because, there is no time there. There is no now. And when they’re ready and they’ve accepted who they are and who they were, they’ll move on. And those who aren’t ready yet, like Ben or Faraday or Ana Lucia, they won’t go yet. They’ll stay behind and work out what they need to and then, as Lord Of The Rings put it, then they can “sail west.” They can go to the Gray Havens.

In fact, they really should’ve filmed that Jimmy Kimmel special in a church just to echo those last moments with everyone together. I don’t really like Jimmy Kimmel, but the special was interesting, especially watching it pretty near after the beautiful, almost immaculate ending of the episode, when you’re still in shock, still coping.

Right after the end of the episode I went back to watch the beginning of “LA X” and… it works nicely, in my opinion. Jack looks out the window of Oceanic 815 and then looks around the interior of the plane almost as if he’s startled to be back there, struggling to recognize something. The plane hits turbulence and he clings to the arm rest for dear life and it’s broken by Rose’s gentle voice, telling him it’s okay, and that “you can let go now.” It’s so pointed and beautiful when you watch it with new eyes.

And of course the Island is sunk in the Sideways world because in that existence, it’s out of everyone’s mind. They’ve sunk together.

And we can argue about when the happy Sideways reality begins, of course. It’s Jack’s story, of course, so it probably ends the moment Jack closes his eye and that Ajira 316 plane flying overhead could also be metaphorically his Oceanic 815 of his dreams, and Jack’s closing his eyes, going to his final sleep, perchance to dream, a dream of flying. But it all depends on your read: Maybe the Sideways world really did start when Juliet beat the hell out of Jughead at the bottom of that shaft. Or maybe that explosion just used the electromagnetic time travel energy of the Island to send them back to the present. Maybe in your view, Oceanic 815 crashed and everyone died and… Maybe the Sideways world only existed in Jack’s head alone, his final dream of a better life… Whatever way you look at it, you choose your own level of meaning and understanding.

“We should get coffee sometime.” Michael Giacchino. Jack Bender. The actors, every single one of them, not just in the finale but always. “I may not believe in a lot of things, but I believe in duct tape.” The fact that we got as little Boone as possible. How Kate looked in that dress. The idea of Hurley and Ben running the Island together. The fact that the Source is fed from two different streams. That flying punch! The weird shots of the castaways’ beach on the Island, featuring the wreckage of Oceanic 815, (an insert by the good folks at the American Broadcast Network) but devoid of people, reminiscent of the ending of Antonioni’s L’Eclisse. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a pilot.” All those amazing awakenings and FLASHBACKgasms. The fact that you even have to relook at the episode titles of this past season with new meaning (“LA X” no longer refers to just another universe, but a crossroads of sorts). All of the episodes really, referenced tonight (“The Long Con”) or not (Just think about “Enter 77″ now). The idea of Aaron with two moms (that’s a spin off that is literally dying to happen). Hurley saying to Sayid, “You can’t let other people tell you who you are,” because, well, we all play parts and roles. “I’ll see you in another life, brotha!” There’s so many things that we could be talking about, so many great things…

Watching the finale last night, I kept my eye half on twitter during the commercials and it was interesting seeing people saying a lot about how the finale was a love letter to itself and spent a lot of time self referencing. And I agree. And I think it worked beautifully. For a sci fi show about characters and people, I think the end is about us. We’ve all got to come together on this one, and accept it and appreciate it, and then it’s time to move on…

And in that vein, because I don’t want to philosophize on Lost alone (nor would I want to push that button alone), so I asked some of my fellow Counterforcers to weigh in and I want to share with you what they had to say, and then, despite everything happened in “The End,” the very last thing I want to say about this show is exactly the same, not changed at all, and I’ll share that with you, but first…

Benjamin Light: In a nutshell, I can sum up my thoughts on LOST with a text I sent to Marco as the episode ended. I wrote: “This episode feels like falling in love, over and over and over again.”

I could have watched a dozen more “awakening” moments in the sideways world, they were just perfect TV.

It dawned on me at about the 2 hour mark that, rather than wait for a big explosive end to explain everything, the writers instead were just going to willfully ignore some of the big mysteries. And I wasn’t annoyed at all. One of my favorite things about the show is speculating on the mysteries. Having those long, quasi-scientific conversations with friends about even random strangers about what something might mean on the show was half the fun. Lindelof and Cuse decided not to take that away from the fans. Sure, they could have just told us the island is a spaceship from the future and the smoke monster is evil nanotechnology, but why bother? If that’s your theory, it still holds water. This was a show that was famous for its fans’ speculation and debate; the way they left certain mysteries open to interpretation feels very much in keeping with its history.

Conrad Noir: I still don’t know what to think. I’m content with what happened but I don’t know what to feel at all. Maybe nothing, maybe so many things. What I do know was that was the most dragged out event in TV history. Did it really have to go to 11:30?

Oh yes. I believe I read somewhere that the finale was exactly 103 minutes. I would’ve killed for just an extra five more, if you know what I mean, but apparently there’s going to be an extended cut on the DVDs with 20 more minutes.

Benjamin: After the episode ended, I got up to take a leak. After that, I walked down the hall and suddenly started crying. I wasn’t happy or sad. It was like someone had reached inside me and turned all my emotional knobs up to 11. I was like Daniel Faraday, crying at the news of Flight 815 being found and not knowing why.

That’s how good the finale was.

Take a bow, Lost cast and crew, you did it.

Lola: Sometime ago I wrote a post asking whether or not I really wanted answers from LOST. I guess that Lindelof or Cuse are regular readers of Lovely Entropy because the finale contained next to no “answers.”

I watched the finale with my dad and when it ended, I turned to him and said: “What just happened?”

“What is the Dharma Initiative?” he asked me.

“I don’t know!” I yelled. “Where was Walt? WAAAALT!!!”

I think we all felt like that little necked kid in the Tootsie Roll Pop ad:

“What was up with the Hurley Bird? The world may never know.”

I was annoyed at first so I did what I always do when I’m annoyed by LOST: called my brother to complain while searching the internet for answers. As I was searching and complaining something dawned on me: everyone was confused and everybody wanted to talk about it. People were posting theories, they were cracking jokes or they were just outright complaining to people in the room with them, friends over the phone or outright strangers on the internet. Sure, there are people who are going to be annoyed no matter what happens, but the more I think about it the more I kind of liked the finale. It’s open-endedness gives it’s nerdy fanbase enough food for thought to last us until Terry O’Quinn & Michael Emerson’s pilot gets picked up. And not only that, but it saves us all from having to sit through anymore of the writer’s awful, half-assed answers (the whispers were dead people? Seriously LOST?). The finale, in my opinion, was genius in its laziness. The writers are happy because they don’t have to try to find answers that would appeal to everyone. The nerds are happy because they can keep talking about the show they love and ABC is happy because they made a boatload of money last night.

So, anyone have any idea what that church was about?

It’s about everything. And everyone. It’s a story about stories and all stories end.

They can be reread time and again though, revisited, and relived. Just like your favorite song. Just like a game, if you want. It’s adaptive. You can make up your own versions for where the story ends, if you want, your own back stories, your own ideas for what happens to your favorite and least favorite characters after it fades to black.

But you know what else you can do when the story and the song and the game ends? You can start it over, you can return and begin again. You’ll see all the connections you missed, and the little moments will resonate even stronger with you…

So, with that in mind, mektoub, let me just say…

KATE!

WE HAVE TO GO BACK!

Destiny found.

IN THE BEGINNING was the word, and it was the most important thing there was, from the Alpha to the Omega, but that word was also something else, something equally important to all that came after it. That word which begat all else was also the answer to a question, a choice made when a decision was presented.

And that was only a small part of last night’s penultimate word of Lost, the appropriately and devastatingly titled “What They Died For.” And much in the same vein as last week, but vastly more important, let’s tackle 23 stray observations about last night’s episode…

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Déjà Entendu.

So, last night I was going from one place to the next and stopped at the supermarket on the way. It was late and I was hungry, looking for some kind of quick snack, hopefully a sandwich from the deli, or… something. No luck because it was late and the deli was closed. So I just started wandering amidst the bright lights, the muzak renditions of pop trash, and the glitzy brand names…

And as I prowled the aisles, this strange feeling crept over me, one that I’ve sadly only experienced on a handful of occasions, if ever, and one that’s hard to romantically recall. The feeling was as close as I could literally think of déjà vu being. Or perhaps jamais vu. I mean, obviously I’ve done that same thing, staring at the contents of the supermarket hundreds of times in my life, no, thousands of times. But why did it feel particularly heavy this time? What was different. I looked at the brands, the names, the new code words used to entice me: “low fat,” “low sodium,” “lite,” “toasted, “flamefresh,” etc. and I looked at the tabloids, immersed for a time, as Don Delillio put it, in the world of “the living and the dead.”

Eventually I decided, “Fuck it.” I took it all in and kept walking. It was only a thing if I made it a thing.

While wandering up and down the aisles still, I passed some guy, someone I barely know, just a familiar face. It took me half a second to place him: Some guy who comes into my place of work every now and then. We did the “S’up” head nod thing that men do and we went about our business.

Moments later I passed a couple I only kind of know. Had dinner at their place once, invited by friends of a friend. It was an awkward dinner and an even more awkward night. Long story short: Someone performed a sex act in their house that night and the hosts did not approve. A silent deal was made that should anyone who there in that time and place ever encounter each other again, they’d do a cold stare and then keep walking. That’s what we did.

Then I passed another guy I’ve seen come into my job before. This dude doesn’t recognized me, which is fine with me. I keep looking for something to eat.

More wandering and I see a girl walking around, laughing as she talks on her cell phone. I sort of know this girl through Conrad Noir. He’s had a thing for her for years but hasn’t been able to make that romantic connection with her, mostly, I think, because she’s not interested. But also, she’s kind of dumb. Those two facts are unrelated, but most equally important. But seeing her made me stop in my tracks and look around…

There was her, the two guys I see come in to my job now and then, that couple, and myself. Two women and three men. Five people in a grocery store. Not all of them know each other, but there’s a tenuous connection of recognition between them, and they’re all in the same place late into a Monday night. Why did this feel important to me? Maybe, and I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but just go with me here, but maybe I was just in a wacky place, or perhaps in a whole other universe, the five of us were on a plane that crashed in the middle of the ocean, landing on a mysterious island with magical properties and weird indigenous people and science fiction monsters and… you know, shit like that? This whole other universe could be sideways to the one we’re currently in, and could feel more real, more accurate. Perhaps this universe, the one we reside in now, is just a tangent, or perhaps just a shard of the whole prism? Perhaps when people who have this connection to another time and place occupy such closer quarters at the same time, there’s this weird effect on reality, something that causes it to resonate? It’s possible, right?

Ehhhh, probably not. Maybe the world is just too damn small. I was only in the supermarket for like five minutes, if that. Had a weird experience, noticed that the price of bananas had gone up, and eventually walked out with a candy bar and a bag of sun chips. Oh, and hey, tonight’s a new episode of Lost. Enjoy it, everyone. In 13 days it’ll be gone forever.

Drops in the ocean.

Let’s start where it ends: A bunch of people on a beach at night. They’re beaten, weary, bruised, battered, and broken down. They’re all exhausted, physically and emotionally, and one of them has a bullet in their shoulder. They’re the survivors and one by one they all surrender to an uncontrollable weeping…

Elsewhere, on a deck there stands a bald man and a hot, if rather filthy looking, confused young woman. They’re staring at the water intently, trying to decipher the drama that lays deep underneath the ripples of their own reflections. The man is grim, determined fury. It’s not over and he begins to depart. The woman, who’s been left behind again, the latest of many such times, asks him where he’s going. “To finish what I started,” he says and then he disappears past us into the dark.

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Four letter worlds.

Opposites attract. Choices break down into either/or solutions. Family size buckets of chicken (and life long love affairs with such) and hot, raw existentialism. Secrets and lies. Love and dynamite. Ghosts and whispers and murderers and attempted murders. Crazy women and Scottish advice. Good and evil and Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard. Hate turns to love, and then to loneliness. And we go on a mission, we go sideways, and we go underground again…

All that and more on last night’s Lost, a Hurley episode appropriately entitled “Everybody Loves Hugo,” which is a nice callback to a similarly titled episode in season 2.

Man, where to start?

“Hey guys, I’ll be right back…”

How about with the departures and arrivals. The departures: Ilana. I suspected something bad was going to happen to here the moment she reminded Hurley for the nth time that she has been training for this job forever, but I didn’t expect her to go all ka-bloom-y a la Dr. Arzt. Wow. And who says this show doesn’t have some surprises left for us?

And then there was the return of Michael as the latest dead person to stop by and have a chat with Hurley about what should be happening next. An interesting, but paint by numbers guest starring role, and Michael answered one of our questions left from season one: What the fuck are the whispers?

So, one long popular theory about the Island is accurate enough: It is a kind of purgatory for the spirits of those who can’t move on. People like Michael and Jacob. But seemingly others, like Mr. Eko and Charlie, could move on and visit Hurley in the City of Angels?

Back to that in a moment because there’s still an intriguing question hanging over this final season: WTF is the Sideways world?

Because, while I loved the reappearance of Pierre Chang there, narrating another video for us, it recalls my question from the Sawyer episode: When did the Sideways world begin? Does it’s genesis lay with the explosion of Jughead back in 1977 and, if so, how did Pierre Chang escape grand zero and end up back in the real world?

Perhaps the answer lies with Desmond’s mission there in the Sideways world and the real one. And that mission is… to merge the two universes? To bring love into the hearts of the Sideways people? The funny thing is that the Sideways people really have the happily ever after world. Well, except for Charlie, but who gives a shit about Charlie. I mean, he’s alive, Claire’s out there somewhere and not crazy yet, and all you need to make the world bend to your will is just the smallest bit of opportunity and chance…

But again, I’m glad that a large part of the endgame rests with Desmond. He and Hurley have always been the heart of this show, and unfortunately, while Hurley may be the proxy for the fans, he’s also a bit on the boring as shit side. Maybe falling in love with a crazy woman will change that. Sometimes a lunatic really is what you’re looking for. I can’t imagine Desmond’s big role in all of this is just to play transdimensional cupid, but apparently “love” is a big part of the ending of this show. And perhaps that’s what will keep the “cork” in the metaphorical bottle.

But, if you ask me, it seems like a lot of these characters all in desperate need of a different four letter word to make their lives a little better.

Had to love the reference to the Human Fund at the beginning of the episode. Of course they want to honor Hugo Reyes. He’s probably their Man Of The Year.

Oh, hi there. We haven’t had anything to do for a while now.

Oh well. No more spinning of the wheels. Richard and Ben and Miles are off on what smells a lot like a suicide mission. Sideways Desmond is going around, giving things a little nudge (sometimes with the front of his car). Hurley is getting that long overdue picnic date with Libby. Jack has decided to let go and maybe not try to kill himself so much anymore. Island Desmond is going down the rabbit hole and we’ll see what we find there (because he was valuable and therefore a threat to the Man in Black?). Oh, and the mysterious boy is back…

Which, thankfully, means we’re inching closer and closer to that Jacob/Man In Black flashback/origin episode.

And finally all the 815ers, with the exception of Jin, are back together again, facing off. Next week should be interesting as things start to fall into place and everyone ends up where they belong…

You’ve got the touch.

Holy crap, another week, another new episode of Lost. This time it was a Ben episode, entitled “Dr. Linus.” And the often misleading promos promised us that Ben would face his own mortality, and he did, but he survived the encounter, unlike Corey Haim. Or the dude from Sparklehorse.

And it was interesting episode with Ben on the Island being even more broken down, all the shards of his manipulative sad personality being stripped away. He tries to get over his anger and abandonment issues by assuming roles of power. He wants to be a leader and he wants knowledge, but he never understands why he needs to know these things.

And Sideways Ben… well, it was interesting to see a Sideways flash of someone who wasn’t on either Oceanic flight 815, but I like the reminder that this is the same little Ben that was shot by Sayid and taken to the temple. He’s been changed by Others, but what does that mean in the real world?

Apparently that means an unhappy life of teaching in the public school system and only getting motivation to do something when a guy in a wheelchair at the next table suggests it.

And probably means you’ve left less of a body count in your wake.

The thing I think you have to ponder about the Sideways world is… Well, remember last season when we suddenly went back to the Island with the Ajira flight and there was Locke alive again? And we were invigorated by this new Locke, this man in full control of himself and capabilities? For half a season there we had something of the season ending twist just hanging there in our faces but there was no one way we could tell what was happening. You have to wonder if that’s what the Sideways world is. Is this the world that the Man In Black/Smokey has promised his followers? Is this the epilogue? Because, with the exception of Sayid’s sideways flash so far (arguably), these characters are all doing fine, getting second chances and doing what they should’ve done, perhaps.

I mean, there’s Ben, taking care of his asshole dad (oh, the IRONY as he’s trying to keep his Sideways father alive and instead of poisoning him with gas he’s changing his oxygen tank), and finally getting the opportunity to “choose Alex,” the choice he didn’t make before when Keamy had the gun to her head. And it’s not like he’s not getting to do a little scheming, blackmailing his principal and all. Good times for all. Especially Jeff Goldblum:

from here and here.

But back to the Island. And back to Jack and Richard Alpert and perhaps my favorite moment of the season so far…

We always told you Jack was crazy. Who else would do a bro a favor, lighting the fuse on his stick of dynamite so he can kill himself and then deciding to sit down and have a little chat while it burns. This new Jack is still crazy after all these years, but it feels like he’s finally accepted it. Being a slave to destiny is fucking insane. Might as well do some fun, crazy shit while you’re at it.

“When Jacob touches you, it’s not a gift, it’s a curse,” Richard Alpert tells us cryptically, right after he appears from somewhere, and when asked where that somewhere is, he says, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” I think you’d be amazed what these characters and us would believe/accept after all this time. Though I think I’m getting tired of Hurley as the proxy for the audience’s questions, especially when he makes the audience’s sound so fucking stupid: “Are you a cyborg?”

And Ilana? I respect the seriousness of things, the hopelessness of it all, and how you’ve personally been fucked by destiny – and in that regard, Lost is kind of like the bible: the women get the short end of the stick over and over again, sadly – but having Ben dig his own grave for a few hours? That doesn’t seem like the best use of your time, I would think. But then again, time stops for a little vengeance.

Time will always pause for you to wrap your hands around the big flabby neck of revenge.

And Miles… still annoying, but still a better version of Charlie, right? And now he’s got those Nikki and Paulo diamonds. I neglected to mention in a dorky nitpick last week that Lennon fucked up when he offered Kate two minutes with Claire when it should’ve been three (the Others always offer you three minutes)(but maybe that’s because the situation was a little stressful and two was all they had?), but I’m glad that they didn’t forget Miles and the desired 3.2 million dollars.

And I feel like Miles’ “superpower” is both underused and overused. Sadly, it kind of pales in comparison to Hurley’s being able to talk to ghosts, but I’m fascinated by the fact that Miles’ ability is tactile in nature…

He has to literally touch the dead in some way, which is amazing with the way that this show is now, with everything that these characters have been through, and death just hangs over everything like a cloud. A smoky black cloud, perhaps? As Dr. Arzt said, “You know what gets out formaldehyde? Nothing.”

And Charles Widmore is returning to the Island! Kind of like Napoleon perhaps? Will he have Mrs. Hawking/Desmond/Penny with him? And, just out of curiosity, what if Charles Widmore is his own grandfather? What happens if a future version of you touches you? Oh, the questions!

“Who do YOU care about, Kate?”

The final season of Lost continues with last night’s slightly more measured, but intriguing episode, “What Kate Does,” an interesting titular callback to season 2’s “What Kate Did.”

It’s interesting how last week’s episode strongly mirrored the pilot, and this week we get a Kate-centric episode, similar to how Kate was the first character to get a flashback episode all to herself with “Tabula Rasa,” and next week’s episode, “The Substitute,” is a Locke episode, so I presume that episode 4 of this season, if we’re following the structure of season 1 where applicable, will be a Jack episode? And at some point we’re getting a Hurley episode seemingly entitled “Everybody Loves Hugo,” presumably dealing how altbro Hurley/Sideways Hurley is the luckiest man in the world rather than cursed.

Ah, but then there’s Kate…

Kate: “I’m sorry I followed you, Sawyer.”

Sawyer: “Which fucking time, you goddamn harpy?”

I was a Kate fan when the show first started, but I don’t think it’s a secret that that slowly eroded as the time flashed all about us, though I’ve probably never hated her as much as I’ve been vocal about it. But the dichotomy in last night’s episode was beyond fascinating, with the Kate we’ve known and grown with over the past 5+ plus years alongside Sideways Kate who landed in LAX and escaped the Marshal to keep on running…

In fact, really, Kate was always a fascinating character if, for nothing else, the juxtaposition of her make up. She is/was our female lead, the character would’ve stepped up to lead status in the alternate universe where the writers followed their original intention to kill off Jack (as potentially played by Michael Keaton) in the pilot, and she’s also a criminal and worse, a fugitive. And even worse: a murderer. And *gasp* worse: She’s not just a suspected murderer, she is indeed guilty. Sure, she had a good reason, as far as she’s concerned, but she did indeed pull the trigger, as it were.

That’s actually one of the things that I do love about the character. Here she is, put here, all of these things and our female lead, the woman we want to root for as she falls into a love triangle, then a quadranagle, then a triangle again, and the writers don’t shy away from it. Warts and all is how they give her to us. And you could argue that she’s just as fucked up as Jack is, but possibly more functioning. Be it copious amounts of tree climbing (something that actress Evangeline Lilly personally loves and requests for the character, it’s reported) or just getting into the mix of things, she knows how to find a goal or a task, no matter how misguided, and run to it.

And there she is on the Island, in one version of the here and now, running again, only this time she’s not being chased, she’s doing the chasing. And it wouldn’t be Kate if it wasn’t a bad decision leading her to a dead end. Only this time, the dead end’s Juliet. And a possible future of any kind of Sawyer.

And then there’s the alternate universe Kate, or Sideways Kate. Again her fate is intertwined with Claire and Aaron. She’s on the run. There’s a nice little appearance by Arzt, referencing both Midnight Cowboy, but also Back To The Future, part 2. And when Christian hit Sawyer with his car door (before they went to do that “more masculine” kind of running away from a situation: drinking). She runs into the tough guy mechanic, similar to Wayne and early Sawyer, the kind of man Kate always finds herself gravitating towards? And weren’t we all hoping for a little more from the resolution to meeting the couple who wanted to adopt Claire’s baby? Obviously that would’ve never happened, but I guess I was just hoping for… more. And then there’s those that also get swept into Claire’s fate, like Dr. Ethan Goodspeed (here again the character whose appearance is all a neat gimmick and/or a marker to let the viewer know where we are on the show’s sprawling and ever expansive totem pole of a timeline). “I don’t want to have to stick you with needles if I don’t have to,” he says and we all have a nice little chuckle. “That Aaron’s gonna be a handful!”

But there’s a lot of interesting things going on in that hospital room as baby Aaron is possibly born/not born right there. The return of the Joan Hart alias! The readouts say it’s October, not September. And Claire gives Kate a credit card, which I’m just assuming will have some interesting numbers on them. But none of it felt as special as that brief momentary glance between Kate and Jack as she was spiriting away from the airport…

Just remember, Kate: He walks among us, but he is not one of us.

But then we’re back on the Island. Kate eventually leaves Sawyer, the walking wound, who’s dumped his engagement ring for Juliet and, so he hopes, some of his grief for her. But the problem is, without those, he has nothing. Which leaves him in a perfect place for Fake Locke/”Flocke”/The Locke-ness Monster to come and find him at…

But Sawyer has nothing for Kate, that’s sure. So where does she run to next? Back to Jack? In search of Claire? Somewhere to find herself? We know what she’s done, but the question now is more about what Kate does next and it could be anything.

And the temple! So much there. Is Jack finally starting to regain some of his balls and own parts of this show again? Sayid is alive! And not a zombie! And the former torturer is tortured. Again!

There’s an awesome The Empire Strikes Back reference there, post-torture. Also, is that some of the protective ash being blown over his body during his “diagnosis?” Dogen types on a typewriter! Aldo returns! And he’s still kind of a pussy. And Sayid is… infected? By “the sickness?” By the Smoke Monster? The same as the French team was “infected?” The same as… Claire?

“It’s good to see you out of those chains.”

I’m going to be as eloquent as possible here, okay?

HOLY FUCK, LOST IS BACK!

Last night’s premiere episode, “LA X, parts 1 and 2,” which was #10 on our Top 100 Moments Of Lost, if you didn’t notice, was easily the most anticipated two hours of television this year (so far, at least), right? And, to me, it was extremely satisfying, and in typical Lost fashion, frustrating with the new questions it sets up, and anticipation it builds.

Did Jughead explode and reset the timeline?

The answer is yes! We see our favorite characters right back there on Oceanic flight 815, flying from Sydney to Los Angeles, encountering a bit of turbulence as it soars over the submerged Island we’ve been getting to know so well over the last 5 years.

We see a few familiar faces, and notice some absent ones, and learn that this timeline wasn’t born out of Oceanic 815 not crashing on the Island, it’s was created specifically by the explosion on the Island in 1977.

That’s 30 years of a whole new world to explore, and one that we’ll get to do flash… sideways… backs (technically we’re flashing back to an alternate universe 2004 from 2008, right?) all the while…

We’re in our regular “timeline” on the show, on the Island, with our favorite castaways, and those wacky, crazy Others. Jacob’s dead. Sayid is dead, then not. And the Jacob’s nemesis? Turns out HE IS ACTUALLY THE FUCKING SMOKE MONSTER. And also kind of badass, right?

And more than a little scary, which is, not surprisingly, a nice fit.

High praise should be more than paid to Terry O’Quinn, who has played the broken and weary but always hopeful John Locke so perfectly the past 5 years only to turn it all on it’s head, to be a new character, seemingly evil incarnate with a masterful ability to fool and manipulate. That mad gleam that Locke always had in his eye? Now it’s fully shiny.

And we’ve spoken volumes before about Matthew Fox’s performance as Jack, who’s always been a little broken, a little deranged, and he’s the same here, always feeling hunched over with grief and the vapors of failure that hang over like black Smoke Monster clouds. He just feels like an outsider, in the “real” timeline and in that “sideways” timeline, as he watches Rose and Bernard canoodling across the aisle from him. The only real shine that enters his eyes is his momentary passing Kate on the plane and later when he meets wheelchair-confined alterna-John Locke, a man who did go on his walkabout and maybe feels that bit of hope again when the spinal surgeon tells him nothing’s irreversible.

That looks suspiciously like connective tissue to a looming mystery, friends and readers. That, or Jack really missed a spot when he was shaving his chest.

Also, I would love it if our only glimpses of sideways Charlie are just those as he’s being lead away to jail for trying to kill himself in the airplane bathroom.

RIP Juliet. Oh, and Sawyer and Juliet’s love.

Also, the Others! Well, no just the Others, but the temple dwelling Others. With their leader, Dogen, who only speaks Japanese because English leaves a nasty taste on his tongue, his aide and translator, Lennon (named for the fact that he wears the same glasses as the famous Beatle?), and the return of Cindy and those fucking kids, with their waters of life that are seemingly polluted by their messianic figure’s demise. And with the news of Jacob’s passing, they’re afraid of the rise of the Smoke monster? Isn’t he the security system for the temple? And if he’s a smoke monster, is it possible that Jacob was also a smoke monster in some natural form?

It wouldn’t be a Lost season premiere without new mysterious characters, new mysterious locations, and well… new mystery, right? And also this:

And we’re all here, on the edge of our seats, ready to discover it together. Now, I’ve said too much, way more than I had intended to, but the excitement and the curiosity, it just springs forth. More importantly, what did you think?

Counterforce at the movies: Best of the decade.

Or…

TEN! TEN! YEAARRSS!”

50 films we won’t forget:

by Benjamin Light and Marco Sparks

In no particular order…

Let me repeat that, since there’s always some asshole who doesn’t read it the first time and whines about movie x over movie z: these are in no particular order.

◊ ◊ ◊

High Fidelity

Benjamin: A movie about guys who love making top 5 lists, in a big top 50 list. How meta. The opening lines sum it up:

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

◊ ◊ ◊

The Departed

Benjamin: My favorite thing about this film is the way it’s edited together almost as one long montage rather than a simple scene-to-scene cut. Mark Wahlberg is stunningly good. He and the other young actors were so good that Jack Nicholson actually got kind of ignored by the critics. Which is amazing. My favorite lines: “Just fucking kill me.” “I am killing you.”

Marco: Great film, great direction, great acting, just something fantastic and raw. I feel like a more talented person than I could make a serious gender studies write up with this movie because you literally have every kind of man in it.

◊ ◊ ◊

Children Of Men

Benjamin: Makes the list for the two tracking shots alone. Managed to capture the post 9/11 zeitgeist without pandering to it.

Y’know that ringing in your ears? That ‘eeeeeeeeee’? That’s the sound of the ear cells dying, like their swan song. Once it’s gone you’ll never hear that frequency again. Enjoy it while it lasts.

◊ ◊ ◊

Donnie Darko

Benjamin: Richard Kelly did everything he could to make me want to strike this from the list, but the original theatrical cut still works. Just because the hot topic kids jumped all over this and the director re-cut it in the most obvious and hackish way possible doesn’t make my old first run DVD any less good. And as a bonus, it’s got Maggie Gyllenhaal before she hit menopause.

◊ ◊ ◊

Once

Benjamin: I’ll be honest, I tried watching this once (sic) for five minutes and found I would need subtitles to continue. Marco?

Marco: The sum is more than the whole and it’s a slow build up, but before you know it, you’re immersed in the gradual easy attraction of this busker and the immigrant and their mutual love of music. Their real life story is a bit weirder, but not scandalous, and hey, whatever. Life is weirder, and this movie feels more realistic as if you there in the grime and poverty and creative joy with them.

◊ ◊ ◊

Cache

Marco: What you take out of life is about how you perceive it and even scarier than that, the the thing we never ask ourselves is: What do others see when they see us. Haneke, who’s no stranger to strong, controversial filmmaking, gives us a very raw, paranoid movie here about a French couple who start receiving video tapes of themselves. There’s much you could say about this film and I feel it’s one that people will come back to more and more in the years to come. It feels like the kind of cinema I’d like to see Hitchcock making if he was alive today.

◊ ◊ ◊

Traffic

Benjamin: I think we all remember the same thing from this film: the Erika Christiansen “gettin fucked” POV cam. Also, it nicely exposed the general pop to the harsh realities of the war on drugs. Then we all watched for a whole decade while the reality got worse.

◊ ◊ ◊

Mulholland Drive

Marco: This is a film you watch once, enjoy it or not, but after that, it’s no longer a film. It lives inside you, hovering just over you, out of the corner of your eye, always just out of sight. It’ll influence your dreams and always feel like the cold fingers of a dead man crawling up your spine for a gentle caress. And it’s beautiful and perfect, too.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Prestige

Benjamin: The Plot, the Turn, and the Prestige. It’s hard not to like the clockwork structure of this film. Plus, it has Tesla in it, and Tesla invented half the new technology in the 2000s.

Marco: I think it was actually Benjamin Light who saw this before me and convinced me to see it (not that I needed much convincing). “How was it?” I asked. “Not bad at all,” he said. “It’s got magicians trying to fuck each other over and a mad scientist and-” “I’m sold,” I said. Easily one of the strongest, smartest movies of the decade. And secretly one of the most fun.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Dark Knight

Marco: “Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

Benjamin: Probably the most important film of the decade. No, seriously. The Dark Knight took the soul of America to the brink of post-9/11 despair, and then pulled us back a few feet and let us stare out into the abyss. Anarchy has never seemed so terrifyingly seductive. There’s a reason this film made shitloads of money, and it’s got nothing to do with bat-arrangs and secret identities. This was America’s acceptance stage.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Others

Benjamin: My favorite horror film of the decade, and so much more worthy of praise than the Sixth Sense.

Marco: We’ve talked about how few filmmakers can really produce actual, real dread in their movies, the kind you can feel floating around in your blood with you, or a that constant presence out of the corner of your eye. This had that, plus that feeling of gripping your knees or fingernails digging into your armrests and your teeth grinding. And I’d hate to ever review based on its twist, but this movie’s? Perfect.

◊ ◊ ◊

There Will Be Blood

Marco: The perfect horror movie to precede a recession.

Benjamin: Perhaps the only way to show the sociopathic urges of unchecked capitalism is to embody it in a man.

You’re not my son. You’re just a little piece of competition.

◊ ◊ ◊

Lost In Translation

Marco: Too often are own lives drift towards being half asleep, confused, and having a shoegaze soundtrack. Bill Murray and ScarJo do this one easily, with charm and grace. Some movies need helicopter chases and explosions and lots of shouting to be something, and then there’s movies like this: It starts with a plane landing and ends with a plane taking off and in between it’s just two people.

Benjamin: Just like honey. Watched this at 3am drinking zima. Hit me like a cement truck and I knew I wasn’t a kid anymore. I would go so far as to throw the adjective ‘timeless’ at this film.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Royal Tenenbaums

Benjamin: A nice little gift to Salinger fans. It can’t be easy to pastiche the aesthetic of J.D. while still maintaining your own style, but Wes Anderson did it.

◊ ◊ ◊

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Benjamin: True story: I once set up my roommate with a girl I used to live with in college. They broke up half a year later. The day they broke up, me and the girl and a few other guys went to see this film. I asked the girl: are you sure you feel like seeing this? And she said no, it’s ok, I’m fine. So we saw it, then went to IHOP afterwards for some dinner. A couple minutes after we sit down in our booth, the girl just totally breaks down, completely devastated. That’s the kind of film this is.

◊ ◊ ◊

Before Sunset

Benjamin: As much as I dislike Richard Linklater, I really do like this film and its predecessor. Would these movies be 10 times better with a different male lead actor? I think so.

Marco: Yeah, I think you can see so very much of Ethan Hawke’s own personal story within the film, especially when his character talks about his off screen wife. But that’s art. There’s something wonderful about the world of Jesse and Celine, something that’s perfect to watch as they reconnect and get past themselves to each other. I wouldn’t mind a return visit to their world.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Hurt Locker

Marco: One of the most tense movies that I’ve seen in a while, and one of the most effortlessly strong ones as well. Kathryn Bigelow knows how to make intellectually muscular movies that don’t shy away from action in the slightest. Compare this to Peter Berg’s The Kingdom for poof that Bigelow shouldn’t wait another 8 years to make another movie and that Berg should.

◊ ◊ ◊

WALL-E

Benjamin: Only Pixar could make a CGI movie about robots with more heart and soul than nearly every live-action film of the year. Wall-E and E-va’s “dance” through space was the work of true artists. Also, E-va always reminds me of Peanut St. Cosmo.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Lives Of Others

Marco: I wonder now if this movie would make a good double bill with Cache… Hmm. Regardless, this is an interesting movie, so very quiet but heavy, about how Big Brother really is watching you. They know everything about you, all of your plots, your secret desires, and soon your privacy will become theirs.

◊ ◊ ◊

V For Vendetta

Benjamin: In retrospect, it’s amazing this movie ever got made during the Bush years, even if it is set in England. The whole film is just a complete rebuke of post 9/11 America.

How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.

◊ ◊ ◊

Synechdoche, New York

Marco: One of the most depressing movies I have ever seen. Charlie Kaufman tackles life and getting old and dealing with your mistakes through an abstract eye, bulky with dream logic, but you can’t help but embody the Phillip Seymour Hoffman character’s sadness. And through the characters, your own. This one stuck with me for a while and, honestly, I think I’m glad it’s so misunderstood and underrated. It feels like my pain and I’m glad I can hold onto it just a little bit longer, just for me.

◊ ◊ ◊

Let The Right One In

Benjamin: It seems like you can never go wrong with a snowy setting, cinematically speaking. This film reminded me in some ways of “The Shining.” Mostly in how there are long stretches of antiseptic dread between moments of shocking gore. and I always appreciate a film that portrays children as the soulless sociopaths that they are.

Marco: Seriously. And this film is just gorgeous, and slick as any Hollywood remake could hope to be (but more on that later). There’s warmth in the cold here, nuance in the horror, and amazingly, I find myself still debating aspects of the ending with people.

◊ ◊ ◊

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Benjamin: There were a ton of Crouching Tiger knock-offs after Ang Lee’s film won the Foreign Film Oscar, but none could touch the real thing. There is a fierceness to Zhang Ziyi’s performance that takes what was already an excellent adventure drama to the next level. And it wasn’t the wire-work and martial arts that made this film special, it was the way Lee used them to tell a somewhat timeless story.

◊ ◊ ◊

Munich

Benjamin: The scene that always stuck with me from this film was the hit on the female assassin. Her sadness in  knowing she’s about to die, that nothing she can say or do will save her. And then, after being shot, walking all the way to her chair to sit down before taking a breath and bleeding out. When Spielberg wants to, nobody puts a more haunting portrayal of realistic violence on the screen than him. And he might be the only man alive with the clout and stature to make this film without getting savaged on all sides.

◊ ◊ ◊

Brick

Marco: This film should not work nearly as well as it does, but it does. A lot of wild elements combine wonderfully, glued in by strong vision and good actors. Every time I watch this, I find myself intoxicated by the language.

Benjamin: Joseph Gordon-Levitt goes from being the kid from 3rd Rock to the next great hope of American acting. Film Noir in High School; perhaps a precursor to Veronica Mars. Gordon-Levitt’s nervy performance makes eyeglass cases and library research seem totally bad-ass. And the noir dialog is killer.

Brendan Frye: All right, you got me. I’m a scout for the Gophers. Been watching your game for a month, but that story right there just clenched it. You got heart kid. How soon can you be in Minneapolis?

Brad Bramish: Yeah?

Brendan Frye: Cold winters, but they got a great transit system.

Brad Bramish: Yeah?

Brendan Frye: Yeah.

Brad Bramish: Oh, yeah?

Brendan Frye: There’s a thesaurus in the library. Yeah is under “Y”. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

◊ ◊ ◊

Serenity

Benjamin: A movie that should have been about 5 times more popular than it was. There’s really not much not to like. Just an excellent, original sci-fi adventure film with engaging characters, fun action scenes and an intelligent message at its core. “I’m a leaf on the wind.” Poor Wash.

◊ ◊ ◊

Gosford Park

Benjamin: A “classic British murder mystery” that’s much more concerned with the crumbling traditions of Class in England. The dry English wit is razor sharp without ever calling attention to itself.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Ring

Benjamin: The first, and perhaps only, successful American translation of the J-Horror movement. I thought the atmosphere and all the cold blue hues of the pacific northwest really made the movie. Like “The Others,” this film was genuinely creepy and unnerving to watch. A taut little thriller of slowly-building dread.

◊ ◊ ◊

(500) Days Of Summer

Marco: A mature look at an immature ideal of love. This is a slick film, ideal viewing for anyone who’s ever been in love, thought they were in love, washed out of a relationship that still keeps them guessing, or just likes well produced, well acted movies. There’s an awesome top ten list of films for romantics out there and this is on it.

Benjamin: I’ve already reviewed this elsewhere, so I’ll just say that I really liked this film and look forward to the director’s next project.

Marco: Which may or may not be a reboot of the Spiderman franchise? Benjie and I have suggesting Joseph Gordon-Levitt as worthy of taking of Heath Ledger’s Joker mantle for a while now, but JGL as Peter Parker? I’d more than buy that.

◊ ◊ ◊

In The Mood For Love

Marco: One of the most visually beautiful and emotionally resonant movies I’ve ever been lucky enough to see. Calls back to an era of filmmaking that is not only romantic and sweeping, but in which characters had integrity.

◊ ◊ ◊

Bad Santa

Benjamin: Would I like this movie less if I hadn’t seen it opening day in a crowded theater half-full of middle-aged patrons who had no idea what it was actually about? Maybe, but this was one of my most enjoyable movie-going experiences ever. “I’m really sorry Grandma, I didn’t know it was going to be like this.” The scene where everyone is punching each other in the balls made us all laugh way too hard.

Marco: This movie will ensure that “you don’t shit right for a week.” But only the “January 2003 Pasadena test screening cut.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Mean Girls

Benjamin: Yay Tina Fey! Once upon a time, speaking Fey’s dialog, Lindsay Lohan looked like she was going to be the can’t miss superstar actress of her generation. There’s kind of an amazing collection of young talent in this quirky little film about Girls. Who would have predicted that Lizzy Caplan would grow up to be the hottest of them all? I once made a comment that 10 Things I Hate About You was the last honest teen movie, but then Mean Girls came along and gave the decade at least one shining example of the genre.

◊ ◊ ◊

Pirates of the Caribbean

Benjamin: Forget the over-stuffed, unessential, paycheck-cashing sequels. Before parts two and three made a muddle of everything, the first Pirates movie was shockingly entertaining. Due in no small part, I think, to Geoffrey Rush’s bravado performance. When he actually yells “ARRRRGGGHHH!!” at Keira Knightly, it’s so genuine that you can’t help but smile. “Bring me that Horizon.”

Sidebar — Gore Verbinski is on this list twice for two entirely different movies. Isn’t it about time a studio let him make a vanity project instead of just throwing franchises at him?

◊ ◊ ◊

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Benjamin: A lot of people didn’t like the “happy” ending to this movie when it came out. Never mind how bleak the ending really is. Gigalo Joe: “I am. …I was.”

Marco: This movie and Munich are really the most mature movies that Spielberg has ever made and, to me, they’re perfect. Do they have flaws here and there? Yeah, sure. But they’re perfect because of them, speaking to my nerdy, pulpy heart.

◊ ◊ ◊

Memento

Benjamin: Memento came out right at the start of the decade when there was a little quicksilver running in the veins of so many promising young directors. A tight, clockwork little story that turns the simple tactic of a reverse edit into a brilliant exposition on memory and identity.

◊ ◊ ◊

Closer

Benjamin: Peanut loves this movie. It’s hard to top Clive Owen growling, “Because I’m a fucking caveman!” followed by “Like you, but sweeter.”

Marco: “Have you ever seen a human heart? It looks like a fist, WRAPPED IN BLOOD! Go fuck yourself! You writer! You liar!”

Benjamin: Fuck yeah!

◊ ◊ ◊

X2: X-Men United

Benjamin: A thoroughly enjoyable comic book film that works on many levels. Finally a film that didn’t seem afraid of its characters’ super-powers.

Marco: Bryan Singer was on to something here, definitely, the idea that a comic book or genre movie can be fun and true to it’s source material, though not a slave to it, but more importantly, can treat it seriously, let it be complicated, and very human. And then Christopher Nolan took those notions and dragged them into the gritty real world.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

Benjamin: Saw this with Peanut and August on Christmas day. Thought it was “just decent” at the time and I like it more every time I’ve watched it since. “I wonder if it remembers me?” is a fantastic line, but I think my favorite moment in this movie is right after Steve meets Ned the first time. He makes some small talk and then excuses himself and runs to the bow of the ship to have a minor freak out. Such a true to life moment.

Marco: “OK, man.”

◊ ◊ ◊

I Heart Huckabees

Benjamin: Jude Law plays an American Asshole disturbingly well. The Mayo Story is one of those painful, can’t look away, show-stoppers.

Marco: The kind of smart, “quirky” cinema that I feel like mainstream audiences should have more exposure to. Also, “how am I not myself?”

◊ ◊ ◊

The Fountain

Benjamin: The “present day” search for cancer cure parts stick with me the most.

Marco: There’s something so beautiful about the tragedy in this movie, and I think the splintered storytelling reflects that, how in these situations where life seems to be ripping apart in front of us, we’re stuck in the past, we’re stuck in the present, and we’re dreaming of a future where we’re not so damn helpless. I don’t think this movie has it all figured out, kind of like life, and I like to hear people’s theories about, espeically since this isn’t for everyone. As for me, the future stuff? Clearly that’s the last chapter of the book, right?

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Juno

Benjamin: Ellen Page FTW! It’s hard to fully put into words why I enjoyed this movie so much, but thought “Knocked Up” was shit. Diablo Cody’s script is over-written, but Jason Reitman managed to breath tons of humanity into a relatively standard story-line. I suppose it works because it’s ultimately not a story about pregnancy, but a story about growing up.

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Sideways

Benjamin: A depressing, yet hopeful little story about coming to terms with having your dreams crushed.

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The Incredibles

Benjamin: Pixar does comic book meta-jokes and puts most other comic-to-film adaptations to shame.

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Cloverfield

Marco: Again, another movie that shouldn’t work nearly as well as it did (for me, anyway). This is part innovative monster flick, and, to me, part new way of exposing the mass audience to an arthouse flick. The new wave turned into a monster crushing the happy little lives of a bunch of well to do twentysomethings in New York. And all of it dripping out of the magic mystery box that is J. J. Abram’s brain.

Benjamin: A brisk, fun little monster movie that never runs out of clever ways to exploit it’s first-person POV format. After a decade of almost all remakes, sequels or adaptations, it was nice to see something new and creative on the screen.

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Inside Man

Benjamin: Warner Bros.’ formula of star actors and high concepts works perfectly here. Spike Lee shows us with this and the 25th hour that he works better when he’s only got one foot on the soapbox. This is the kind of taught little thriller that you can recommend to nearly anyone. And if they don’t like it, they must have no taste at all.

Marco: People who tell me that they didn’t get this movie make me laugh a little. Everyone brings their A game to this sleek beast, and there’s enough fascinating stuff going on here to fill up at least a season or two of quality television.

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Star Trek

Benjamin: An all-around enjoyable movie that stands out for an excellent opening sequence and the fact that it was surrounded by total dogshit competition in the summer of 09.

Marco: You may definitely have to turn your brain off for parts of it, but it won’t disappoint in that regard, though I feel like it’s almost like watching the cast of Cloverfield (you could make the argument that every J.J. Abrams joint, aside from Lost, features “the cast of Cloverfield” in form or shape) taking on Romulans, time and space, copious amounts of lens flares, and one of the oldest American sci fi franchises out there. You’re right, Commander Light, last year really was the year of time travel.

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American Psycho

Benjamin: Makes the list for its first half; act 3 gets a little shaggy. But meeting Patrick Bateman and seeing him go about his lifestyle is required viewing.

Marco: I feel like there’s a whole generation who watched this film and realized that there was really something sick out there in the world, and that if you were to take a step or two back from it and appreciate it for what it was worth, the sickness was also hilarious. The beginning of Christian Bale’s understanding and assault on the satire and attire of the young, rich, professional American male.

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Atonement

Benjamin: It’s Ian McEwan, but it reminded me in a lot of ways of a Margaret Atwood story. For people who like to write, the ending may hit you harder than others.

Marco: Writers love to fall back on the idea of a writer character, someone to massage out all of your flaws and let you hide from your sins in a perfect world of your own devising, and I love that aspect of this, amongst many other things. Words and stories can damn us or save us, and I love that the sounds of a typewriter are even used as percussion and soundtrack here.

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Brokeback Mountain

Benjamin: An Asian guy makes an American film about gay cowboys. And it works, seriously. I think Ang Lee was successful because he told a story about characters who happened to be gay instead of camping it up and trying to force the audience into a queer viewing experience like some hack film school grad would try to do.

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Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith

Benjamin: Fuck the haters, I’d still rather watch the final duel set-pieces in this than the action scenes in any other big-budget effects movie made this decade.

And the honorable mentions:

Half Nelson

Quantum Of Solace

The Contender

Primer

Morvern Callar

Wet Hot American Summer

28 Weeks Later

Up in the Air

Eastern Promises

Mission Impossible 3

Gangs of New York

Up

The 25th Hour

Syriana

Hard Candy

Idiocracy

Michael Clayton

Ghost World

No Country For Old Men

The past ten years have been an interesting one in film. We’ve had to sit through a lot of really stupid shit, but with it has come some truly excellent cinema. Most likely a lot of the trends we’ve hated will continue in the next ten years, but let’s hope they’re tempered with the same level of quality we’ve seen here.