Saturday, April 03, 2010

More Of The Same?

First, this is not going to be a full time, all the time Lost blog.  But ever since I posted my first piece on it, I opened up the floodgates to all the crazy Lost-mania I have been suppressing for six years. It's a once in a generation show (and, in many ways, an unprecedented show), and having it running down to the bitter end has stirred the more unhinged reaches of my brain (the same part that likes to stare at a Rubik's Cube while I sit there unable to finish it).  Even though I truly do not want to guess where it's going, because I want to be gobsmacked as often as possible between now and the end, there is endless fun for me in tearing apart and putting back together theory after theory---even though I do know that most of them are just so much bullshit, and oftentimes one is diametrically opposed to the one I posted before it.

Hey---that Lost makes me double back on my own opinions is one of the reasons I love it so much.  Not since Twin Peaks have I had so much fun analyzing and over analyzing even the most minute details. (With the difference being that Twin Peaks was playing things for effect and entertainment without a whole lot of attention to detail and logical continuity---which made it no less entertaining, but which also made it far more maddening and impossible to figure in the end---and Twin Peaks only had to keep it going for a couple of seasons).

(And you can keep this post going, and see if I shut-the-F-up about Lost (I do), after you click "read more"...)

So, anyway, I will be pretty Lost-centric for the next two months, but I will try and shake things up a bit from time to time.  This blog is for me---to get me writing again---so as long as Lost is motivating me to do that, it is welcome to stick around here.  But since I don't have a massive post in me this morning, let me just point out that there are a few other things on television worth checking out, and here are two of the best I've seen in a while. (And, yes, eventually I will get back to writing about something other than television, but cut me some slack for now.)

1.  The PacificA spiritual sequel to HBO's classic mini, Band of Brothers, The Pacific fills in the details on WWII's flip side, the war against Japan.  While I was a student of the European War before Band of Brothers, I know almost less than zero about the fight against the Japs (to use the parlance of the times), and so I wasn't nearly as enthused for this follow up mini as I likely should have been.  Having now watched the first three episodes in a DVR marathon, I can assure you that my enthusiasm in now just barely less than infinite.

What prompted me to finally sit down and start watching was that I read a story on Alan Sepinwall's blog that mentioned Wild Bill Guarnere (one of the primary real life characters from Band of Brothers) having a beer with one of the Band of Brothers producers.  Supposedly Bill said, "You think we had it rough, you should talk to those guys who served in the Pacific."

Bill was right.  Oh boy---was he right.  In my uneducated mind, the Pacific front was just a war, too.  Fighting Nazis, after all---how can it get any worse than that?

Brother, it can get a whole lot worse.

The first episode of The Pacific builds slowly and is interesting, but the second episode grabs you by the testes and does not let up.  Just one battle on Guadalcanal looks to have been more hellish and unendurable than the entire Easy Company experience put together (and, yeah, that includes Bastogne).   Certainly one machine gunner could rack up what appeared to be a higher body count in one night than all the men Easy Company had to kill over the course of their entire campaign.  That's an exaggeration, but I bet it's not much of one.  And no matter if that is an inaccurate idea to be taking from the show or not, I say it merely to convey to you just how hellish that second episode is.

And the The Pacific makes all that slaughter hit you hard, never letting it turn into Bruckheimer-esque glory killing.  The slaughter of men by other men is a soul numbing experience, even when there is no alternative, and The Pacific makes no bones about that fact.  By the end of hour two, we have a complete grasp on that Wild Bill quote.  The boys from Easy Company, they went to war.  The guys who served in the Pacific, they went to Hell.

Another fascinating aspect of the first three episodes is learning how a marine Sargent named John Basilone earned his Congressional Medal of Honor, and how he dealt with the crushing expectations and duties receiving that honor puts on a man.  We see the harrowing 18-hour ordeal that led to Basilone earning the medal, and then we shift to a completely unexpected shore leave in Australia---where Basilone receives the medal during a time when he and the other marines of the 1st Division were burning off all the steam that had been building inside them on Guadalcanal (with the help of the plentiful Aussie lasses and beer).

The shift Down Under was almost as jarring as watching the never ending stream of Japanese soldiers willing to run headlong into devastating machine gun fire and certain death.  Following that hellish battle---the most intense I've ever seen depicted on film---the transition to a heavenly paradise (while the US spends months rebuilding its fighting force for the next push toward Tokyo) is as welcome as it is unexpected (to both us and the Marines), and it provides the show with the opportunity to examine both the pussy-patrol aspects you might expect, along with the more subtle aspects of the difficulties civilians faced in becoming attached to men whom everyone knew they would likely to have to mourn sometime soon.  And, through Basilone, they take a decidedly non-cliched look at what winning the Medal of Honor means to a man and his comrades.

I can't say enough about the show, which is different from but equal to Band of Brothers.  Watch it and thank me later.

2.  The second show I want to mention is FX's Justified.  Again, this is a show I put off watching for three weeks before jumping into a DVR marathon.  I'm not sure if I hesitated because I love Elmore Leonard and have rarely seen any show or film get him right, or if I just wasn't ready to dive back into the Leonard style, which can often be as downbeat as it is funny.  Or maybe I just didn't like The Hat.

Whatever---it only took about 20 minutes before I was hooked and ready to blast through the three episodes I had piled up.  The show is not only great, but it's very, very, very Elmore Leonard.  Even when not using Leonard's own plots and dialogue, which they do throughout the pilot and the third episode, and which pop up sporadically in the second, they almost always have Elmore Leonard's tone down pat.  And never was a guy born to play a part like Tim Olyphant was born to play Raylan Givens.  He's like Seth Bullock from Deadwood without the stick up his ass.  So, Olyphant gets to exrecise the anger and menace that he perfected on Deadwood, but he gets to balance it with sly humor and better self awareness.

Justified it a corker, folks, and both it and The Pacific are well worth your time.

I'll be back with a more detailed look at Lost 610, The Package, this weekend, as the all-Lost, all the time theme continues for now.  I'll dive into more depth about my theory of Sun as the new (wo)Man in Black, and I'll go over a few things I'm seeing slightly differently upon re-watch,  But mainly I want to talk about theories, and how neither mine nor yours need to be correct for the show to still be great.  A recent email exchange to and from Doc Jensen over on EW caused me to think that is a subject worth discussing.

I'm perfectly ready to be wrong about everything on Lost and still love it.  Are you?

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