I would love to know the budget for Ok Go’s latest glorious extravaganza was:
I can’t imagine setting this up and coordinating this was cheap, but it’s whimsical and insanely original. Can you imagine what music videos as a genre might look like if the priority was spending the money on inventiveness, not clothes or choreography? To be clear, I love me some great clothes and great choreography. But there is a sameness to it all after a while.
Image used under a Creative Commons license courtesy of Barbara.Doduk. I could get Lost in those eyes…
So, in the special request thread last week, Oskar asked what I think of Lost, among other currently running television shows. I’m not sure this answer is going to make him particularly happy, but it gives me an excuse to talk about something else I’ve been mulling over, so I’m going to dive into the subject anyway.
Basically, I gave Lost a very sincere try. I watched most of the first two seasons with a friend a couple of years ago, and while I initially found both the Island and the main character’s mysteries intriguing, I got irritated and bored fairly quickly, and I haven’t bothered to follow the show since. I understand why people are interested in the show: between issues of faith, morality, pocket universes, time travel, resurrection, the competing abs of the male main characters and the tank tops of the ladies, there’s something there for pretty much anyone. I don’t in principle object to submitting myself to art that demands patience and commitment. But I also think that art has to be extraordinarily well-constructed for me to step off that cliff. And with Lost, I felt manipulated, rather than charmed. There were inventions upon inventions to keep things going, myriad continuity errors, the abstractions and mysteriousness became purposes into themselves. All of which may have been worth it if I’d found a deep and abiding hook in one of the characters, but I found most of them, with the exception of Hurley and sometimes Sayid, unlikeable. It wasn’t enough to sustain not just my interest but my affection.
Plus, those bastards let Shannon live longer than Boone! Which is hardly my main beef with Lost, but provides a great transition into talking about the relative awesomeness of Ian Somerhalder. He kind of won me over in this scene from Lost in the switched from sarcastic and doubtful to positively freakin’ possessed:
I haven’t watched The Vampire Diaries yet, though it’s on my list, if only because of his participation in it. But Somerhalder has a rather particular, and I think valuable, talent: despite being as good-looking as he is, he manages to be quite effectively frightening, and not just in the “oh, he’s a bad boy” sense. Take this episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit he filmed with Frank Langella, in which he plays a spree killer. Obviously, Langella is the guest talent in the episode, but Somerhalder is really deeply creepy in it:
It’s a nice bit of acting. Not that many people manage to really be demons with angel’s faces. Even the two main Monster Boyfriends on Buffy were always a little bit too human to be genuinely horrifying. I kind of think Somerhalder could pull it off if he wants to. He probably won’t: there’s more money in being the nice guy, and if he develops a sense of humor, he might be able to pick up some of the roles James Marsden’s been getting recently as Marsden ages out of them. But I sort of feel like that would be a loss.
Image used under a Creative Commons license courtesy sgtfun.
It would be silly to presume, of course, that there’s one correct way to end a book. Every novel, every true story has its own internal rhythms and logics. And ultimately, if it’s well done, there’s only one possible ending that’s true to those rhythms and logics and to the characters who live in them and through them. And I tend to believe that it’s all right to have ambiguous endings, ones that don’t resolve everything. As Stephen Sondheim, and many, many others have so ably demonstrated for us, Happily Ever After is really just the beginning, anyway. It was an enormous mistake, for example, for J.K. Rowling to write the epilogue to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: the events themselves may have been true to the trajectories she established in the previous books, but the epilogue drained a huge amount of momentum and tension out of the book’s final pages. Her readers could handle that. All that she had to do, I think, was either establish whether Voldemort would win or lose, whether Harry would live or die, and her readers would be able to have their very highly personal visions of the events that came afterwards.
But even though I have these principles, I struggle with them every year when I re-read one of my favorite books, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family. The book traces the stories of two intertwined families coming up in the Bronx, and the two women who grow up throughout the book’s events, Jessica and Coco. I sometimes find the tension of the book unbearable, even though I know Jessica survives her relationship with a terrifyingly abusive drug lord, or that Coco and her daughters don’t get bitten to death by the rats and fleas in their various apartments. The book ends, however, at a somewhat abrupt note. Whether that’s because it’s where LeBlance wrapped up her years of reporting, or because there was never going to be a particular and permanent turning point in Jessica and Coco’s lives, I’m not entirely certain, even though I was at a talk LeBlanc gave on the book, and it’s clear that in particular, Coco’s life came together a bit more. But even knowing that detail gave me a real hunger to know what happened to Jessica, to Coco, to their daughters and their sons. I desperately want to know that they’re all right, and I re-read the book every year because if I can’t have new information, I want to revisit the old information, the stories of resilience.
Now, obviously Coco and Jessica are private citizens: they’re under no obligation to turn their lives into entertainment or educational programming for the likes of me. But I do wonder if if LeBlanc had found a more satisfying way to end the book if I wouldn’t revisit it so obsessively. I wouldn’t want perfectly tailored happy endings for Coco and Jessica: such a construction would feel false, both to the book’s tone and to the character’s lives. I don’t know what that more satisfying ending would have looked like, or what the key to divining the right ending for a particular piece of work is. In the words of Shakespeare in Love, “It’s a mystery.”
Image used under a Creative Commons license courtesy of Hamed Saber.
So, The Pelican Brief happened to be on television over the weekend, and I realized I’d only seen bits of pieces of it so I watched it. And what a pleasure! Great color saturation even on the crappy, non-HD television print! A young Stanley Tucci as a Middle Eastern assassin (he really is one of those guys, like Peter Dinklage, I think deserves more credit for his incredible, unconventional hotness)! A very young Cynthia Nixon as Julia Roberts’ law-school seatmate! Exteriors that look like they were actually shot in DC, totally authentic cabs, Denzel in a Howard t-shirt for a jog!
But besides being a well-made thriller, the movie’s also an impressive reflection of its political climate, down to the smallest details. In the absurd, staged protest at the Supreme Court that opens the movie, Alan J. Pakula, who wrote, directed, and produced the movie snuck in a bunch of ACT-UP’s “Silence=Death” posters. In the opening law school sequence, the movie demonstrates Darby Shaw’s liberalism and independence by having her argue against Bowers v. Hardwick. Those two examples are a nice pushback of the semi-odd circumstances (and thread of homophobia) that have one of the Justices get assassinated in a porn theater. And it’s intriguing that the movie, released almost ten months after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, is still operating on a model of a lone terrorist (Middle Eastern, of course) who kills individual figures, rather than aiming for mass murder.
That actors have to do guest spots on both soap operas and 30 Rock? ’Cause that’s what Julianne Moore is doing now, following in James Franco’s footsteps. There are so many opportunities for crossover and cross-promotion here I almost can’t stand it. Guest appearances on TGS? Twins? Anything that’ll create more opportunities for me to see Alec Baldwin in two roles in the same 30 Rock episode can only be a good thing, considering we’ve gotten Thomas Jefferson on a talk show, and a fabulous gay telenovela actor out of it.
Mere weeks after my plea, rumor is we’re getting three albums from my favorite pop star this year. If I suddenly need to use all my vacation time, it’ll be because I’m getting a transfusion after a five-year hiatus with only guest verses and leaks to sustain me. Thank goodness.