You were an island and I passed you by.

Okay, for today, let’s start at something we know and go somewhere we don’t and end up… who knows?

1. This man:

Sawyer from Lost. Remember him?

2. This is a picture of Sawyer reading a book:

That’s in “Eggtown.” How odd was it that Sawyer was the most prolific reader on the show? And Ben came in second place. We saw lots of glimpses of Ben’s and Jack’s bookshelves but Sawyer was the one we always saw actually reading (and Ben just occasionally). I wonder if Sawyer and Juliet (re)started a book club somewhere in their three years in the 1970s DHARMA Initiative… Hmm.

2 1/2. I’m all about Sawyer and Juliet reading Erica Jong‘s Fear Of Flying, I gotta say.

Go ahead, say it with me now: “Zipless fuck.” That felt good, didn’t it?

2 3/4. Like I said…

Ben actually read sometimes. In his mind, it goes like this: James Joyce > Stephen King. And I’d have to agree with him.

Sorry, Juliet.

3. Anyway, that book that Sawyer happens to be reading there is this:

The Invention Of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares, written in 1940. It’s about a fugitive who ends up on a mysterious island where strange things are happening…

4. That particular cover above is based on the fact that the lead female role of the book, a character called Faustine, is based on silent film star Louise Brooks, whom is on the cover. This is another picture of her:

It’s also been said that the book was written, in part, as a reaction to the decline of her career at the time.

5. The plot, rather roughly, is: a man hiding from the authorities ends up on a mysterious island. Eventually a group of people come and the fugitive falls in love with one of the women with them. He keeps a diary, in which he talks about observing these people and their actions all the while trying to not be discovered by them, and how they seem to repeat some of the same conversations over and over, and then disappear. The fugitive tries to confront the woman, Faustine, and tell her how he feels about her but, as Wikipedia puts it, “an anomalous phenomenon keeps them apart.”

6. This is the original first edition cover of the book:

And another:

…which were designed by Norah Borges, the sister of Jorge Luis Borges, one of the author’s closest friends and a serious advocate of this novel. Borges even wrote a prologue for the book in which he said: “To classify it [the novel] as perfect is neither an imprecision nor a hyperbole.”

7. Supposedly the novel was inspired in part by earlier novels, such as 1934’s XYZ, by Clemente Palma, which I don’t know much about, but also the much more popular novel, The Island Of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells.

8. This is an image from the 1996 film version of the movie:

9. And below is a joke that was inspired by that little detail:

Yeah, that’s right.

10. I only saw that 1996 version of The Island Of Dr. Moreau once, which was directed by John Frakenheimer, and it was incredibly long ago, probably not long after it came out, but I love hearing accounts of the considerably rocky production, which suffered all kinds of shake ups, script rewrites almost daily, the original director being fired just three days into shooting on location in the tropical wilderness of North Queesland, Australia and, of course, the perfect storm that is Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando.

Anyway, so just a day or two after they got to their tropical location shoot, Kilmer decided that he wanted his role (as the lead character who happens upon the unethical villainy of the mad Dr. Moreau) cut by 40%. Some of this was because, yes, Val Kilmer is insane, but it was also right around the time he was going through a painful divorce. And after quite a bit of examination, it was discovered that there was no way to cut down the role Kilmer had been hired for, so he’d have to trade roles with David Thewlis, who had been cast as one of Moreau’s creepy flunkies.

11. Only slightly related: “I’m Val Kilmer. Take me to the strip club!”

12. Val Kilmer, even at your greatest heights, you’re still no Charlie Sheen. That’s a fact to both be ashamed of and to take pride in.

13. Speaking of weird actor bullshit on the set of a movie, if you ever get a chance, and are bored enough, you should go read up on the crazy demands that Marlon Brando came up with on the set of 2001’s The Score starring Rober De Niro, Edward Norton, and Angela Bassett. It’s some great stuff like not wanting to wear pants (so therefore a majority of his scenes are shot from the waist up) or refusing to take direction from director Frank Oz, whom he would only refer to as “Miss Piggy,” which lead to Oz having to sit in a van outside the set with a monitor and relaying direction via walkie talkie to De Niro to give to Brando.

Honestly, it’s enough to make you want to get really huge (mostly in a fame and talent sort of way, but possibly also in physical size) and just go really splendidly crazy, you know?

14. Getting somewhat back to our original topic… The Invention Of Morel. Interestingly enough, it was adapted into film in 1974 and starred the lovely Anna Karina, famous from so many Jean-Luc Godard films, and who was also in the film adaptation of The Magus. But that shouldn’t be held against her, should it?

15. But more interesting than that is the theory that the novel was a serious influence on the classic and notorious Alain Resnais film Last Year At Marienbad.

Many a person hate the film, which has inspired so much satire and so very many attempts at deciphering it, at finding meaning in it’s voluptuous qualities, but that’s an almost impossible task to do definitively.

16. If you’ve never seen it, shame on you. But if that’s true, I’ll try to sum the film up succinctly as best I can:

At a European château, a man approaches a woman. He claims to know her, but she doesn’t seem to know him. He tells her that they had met last year at Marienbad and that she had told him that she’d be waiting here for him now. He’s positive of this but again, she doesn’t remember. Her husband shows up. There’s a question of dominance at play, a power struggle, and the continuing effort to try and convince the woman of what the first man says is the truth. The characters have no names, but in the screenplay, the first man is X, the woman is A, and her husband’s name is M. Conversations happen again and again throughout the château, and reality seems to be a changing whim and there are many a haunting, cryptic voiceover hanging over lush, ambiguous tracking shots.

This is a very necessary film if you have any plans of calling yourself a pretentious film buff or a lover of the French New Wave.

17. The film is a thrill for guessing at, for surrendering yourself over to it’s masterful pace and tone, and then for pondering over with enlightened friends after a viewing.

18. Trust me, the film becomes a lot more fun and the guess work far more potent if you take on the assumption that it’s a science fiction story. Or a ghost story. Wander through that same mesmerizing landscape as the characters in the story and you’ll have a fun time.

19. Of course this all kind of ties into Lost, with certain echos of similar scenarios throughout the show and it’s mysterious island setting.

One example of that would be: Horace appearing to John and talking about Jacob’s cabin while chopping wood in a continuous loop. Of course, this was in a dream, but it’s an interesting visual representation of stone tape theory.

Remember back in the early, glory days of Lost theories, there was always stuff like “The Monster is nanotechnology,” which took a long time to fade after repeated denials from the producers, but that I always liked was holograms. Like “Jack’s dad is a hologram” or “Eko’s brother is a hologram,” meaning that they weren’t ghosts in the classic supernatural sense.

20. Last Year At Marienbad inspired the video for “To The End,” a 1994 single by Blur from their album Parklife

Jesus, remember Blur? Fuck, I miss Britpop. Damon Albarn has held on pretty strongly musical, both with Gorillaz and more recently complaining somewhat unnecessarily about Glee. Anyway, in the lovely video, that’s Albarn as “X” and Graham Coxon as “M.”

21. Albarn vs. Coxon? That’s fitting.

22. A year after “To The End” Blur would use another film as fuel for pastiche in a music video with “The Universal” from The Great Escape. Viddy well:

The film this time being Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, interesting enough. And the single’s cover was reminiscent of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

23. It should be pointed out that these both songs that I like quite a bit, as well as their videos. It was a smart move on Blur’s part, I think in doing these pastiches, not only because it makes them appear more stylistically interesting and intellectual (or as intellectually far as an homage can take one these days), but it really reinforced the strong roots that the 1960s held within the foundations of Britpop.

24. Going back to Last Year At Marienbad, another video:

This short film, called “The Arranged Time,” by a filmmaker named Scott Johnston, clearly owes a debt to the mysterious dream logic of Resnais’ classic, but is also it’s own intriguing thing. It’s well worth the viewing, but if you don’t want to favor the tip of the hat to Last Year At Marienbad, I can always offer you the hipster version of a reference: It’s remarkably David Lynch-ian.

25. I should probably loop this thing back around somewhat, back to where we started…

…but to a slightly different starting point…

…with that guy.

from here.

26. Here’s a nice fun fact for you: Matthew Fox has never seen a single episode of Lost.

Apparently he’s just really uncomfortable with watching himself “act.”

I can just imagine him watching the show and thinking, “Oh man, this Jack guy is just too fucking intense.”

27. This is a great picture I found today…

28. I like Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, but I also really liked Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne.

28A. It’s kind of like how I’d rather watch a Tony Stark movie than an Iron Man movie.

29. Staying mostly on target here… Don’t forget: They originally wanted Michael Keaton to be Jack on Lost. Granted, had that happened, they would’ve killed him off in the pilot (to shock you!) and Kate would’ve become the lead of the show, but had they kept him, I feel confident that he would’ve mustered up a decent quota of Jackface on a regular basis.

The problem with casting a seasoned film actor like Michael Keaton in the role of Jack would’ve been that he just wouldn’t have taken the chances that a seasoned and angry television actor like Matthew Fox (who always seemed to have something of a chip on his shoulder, a kind of unresolved anger residing within him after Party Of Five) would have and did end up taking. It’s shocking to think and say this in a way, but I just don’t think that Michael Keaton would’ve matched Matthew Fox’s intensity.

30. I made mention the other day, somewhat jokingly, that I kind of assumed that The Venture Bros. would end with the titular characters’ father, Rusty, putting himself out of his own misery (which is a much larger conversation, of course), but in thinking about that in the days since I typed those words, I couldn’t think of a moment in Lost where we saw Jack actually reading a book. Which makes sense for a lost of reasons, one being that Jack always had shit to do, was always on the move. He wasn’t a lounger like Sawyer or Ben or Locke. But, speaking of Locke, that was the only instance I could think of where Jack had a seat and read something rather significant…

…that item being Locke’s suicide note. That’s heavy, right?

31. This picture is funny:

32. It’s a nice thought, thinking back to the humble, mysterious beginnings of Lost

I’d love to someday see a book from Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse talking about all the various things they had wanted to do on the show that didn’t work out. On one hand, obviously, it wouldn’t matter. The show is the final product and that’s all that really matters, but even still, from the perspective of creating and writing and running a big show, one as ambitious as the one they produced, I’d be dying to know tricks they had up their sleeves that didn’t work out (Nikki and Paulo), how things would’ve gone if certain tricks hadn’t worked out so well (the character that became Benjamin Linus was only supposed to be around for three episodes and wasn’t intended to be the leader of the Others but Michael Emerson was just too good), and how they got to where they did.

Just imagine all those creative ghosts that are alive and wandering around the Island of Ideas.

33. All of that said, right now I’d figure this would be the last time that we really talk about Lost on this blog, but I can’t commit to that notion, not fully. To me personally, the show was such a broad, interesting thing that I feel like something can always come along that has relevance with the show. Especially, if you’ve noticed so far, since I have a particular interest in the way things align and connect with each other.

Who knows, maybe we’ll never talk about Lost again here. Or maybe we’ll be talking about it again tomorrow. Memories and locations intertwine differently for all of us and we can only bring our own unique meaning to them. The past has an amazing power over us, a constant hold, but it’s different for everyone. I would love to have a new show come along that inspires and interests us and ignites our imagination just like Lost did, but right now I’m not holding my breath. Maybe we’ll never leave the place we made together.

Advertisements

Reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Mad linkage:

Don Draper/Jon Hamm as Superman?

Google and the CIA to invest in the “future” of web monitoring.

The above image, if you can believe it, is for a condom ad. I love it.

Girls like boys with skills.

Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s wacky lesbian theory.

“My soul knows my meat is doing bad things, and is embarrassed. But my meat keeps on doing bad, dumb things.”

-Kurt Vonnegut, Bluebeard.

Lost‘s Damon Lindelof to rewrite Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel.

Old Spice’s sales double with YouTube campaign.

Mike Tyson likes cocaine and sex.

Disabled Austrian man eaten to death by maggots while his partner slept in bed beside him.

The first half of the Rubicon pilot is certainly interesting. A show for smart people or a show for people who think they’re smart (and love 70s paranoia thrillers)?

from here.

The Booker Prize longlist announced.

The longest photographic exposures in history.

Quantum time machine “allows paradox-free time travel.” If you need me, I’ll be in the past. Or the future.

The oil spill: when a science fiction nightmare becomes reality.

The plight of Afghan women: a disturbing picture.

“History is merely a list of surprises… It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again. Please write that down.

-Kurt Vonnegut, Slapstick: Or, Lonesome No More!


The above is a trailer for Gary Shteyngart’s new novel, Super Sad True Love Story. Here’s an excerpt.

The porniest American Apparel ad ever.

Ship lost for more than 150 years is recovered.

Stieg Larsson is the first to sell one million Amazon Kindle books.

Inception: Dreams vs. Reality.

“Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn’t mean we deserve to conquer the Universe.”

-Kurt Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus.

Also: Every cigarette smoked in Mad Men.

Where did the money to rebuild Iraq go?

Tokyo’s oldest man has been dead for 30 years.

Bethany Cosentino from Best Coast talks about her cat.

Your lack of privacy on the internet.

Your mind is the scene of the crime.

Your eyes may be open but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re awake.

All that glitters isn’t necessarily gold, not all travelers are lost, and that stuff underneath your feet isn’t necessarily Earth. When the sky’s the limit (and possibly not even then), when you can do and create anything, you’re still grounded by your own rules. Your own sense of understanding of ideas and concepts. Theft and violation are painfully easy, but inspiration is hard. Just because you feel it doesn’t mean it’s there. Things can only appear strange to you sometimes when you’re told that perhaps that’s what you should be looking for. Sometimes it’s hard to fall, or to feel like you’re falling, when there is no gravity.

This is my simple, rudimentary thoughts on Christopher Nolan’s Inception in three and a half points.

1. Every time I go to see a good movie in a movie theater, one that both excites and intrigues and involves me in some regard, be it superficial or something deeper, more substantial, it’s like a dream, isn’t it? We love the idea of dreams because they’re the perfect metaphor for… anything. Anything you desire.

And more so, we love our stories, and we love comparing movies to dreams.

Film logic just has to captivate you for the time that you’re watching it, to keep you floating in a suspension of (dis)belief, and then the movie ends, the credits roll, and you crawl out of the cave of the cinema. If you’re going to see the matinee, then the sun outside is harsh, and cruel. Your senses are heightened to extraordinary degrees. Every step feels more epic, the angle of objects seems more profound. You just experienced something amazing and you’re taking a little bit of it with you, and by contrast, you feel like you’re leaving a little of yourself behind, but you move on from it because you feel touched, activated, feeling pretty amazing yourself. You move with your own soundtrack blaring, your mind working overtime and recovering from the shock of excitement.

Waking up from an intense, weighty dream can inspire you and invigorate you, especially if for even just half a second, you think you’re waking and walking into another dream, even more stupendous, and of your own design.

2. Comparing things to video games infuriates me. But mostly it’s the people doing the comparing that bother me because, honestly, the idea of comparing things, especially movies, and certain modes of reality, to the idea of a “video game” interests me. I’m by no means a gamer, but the idea, and it’s possibilities, excites me.

Video games are like dreams in a certain regard, aren’t they? At times you’re completely powerful, in control of everything in your surroundings and yourself, and then, with little to no warning, you’re absolutely powerless and everything is completely out of control. The shit hits the fan, then the fan explodes, and somebody gets their head cut off.

Inception feels like a video game. It’s a cerebral maze of ideas, working on a multiple of levels, dabbling exquisitely in both terms of narrative, time structures, visual metaphors, and big ideas and memes (and sorry, everybody, I know the word is beyond detested, but the concept of it, the virus of the idea that spreads and can’t be killed is both thrilling and terrifying).

The other day Benjie Light and I were talking about things that we want to do in our lives, stupid things that we want to imitate from the movies/books/pop culture stories that we’ve ingested and loved over the years, and my big three things were 1) solve a mystery, preferably a locked room murder mystery, 2) plan and execute a (hopefully successful) heist, and 3) diffuse a bomb with mere seconds left on the clock. Commander Light also understandably suggested “car chase” as a scenario that would be nice to throw in the mix, and he’s right, but I’d toss that into the heist paradigm.

My point: I would love to play the video game based on Inception. The one that has a story that works brilliantly and ambitiously and only gets strange when a stranger suggests to you that something seems strange. And then you explore the depths of that strangeness. You have fist fights in rolling hallways, watch cities rise up to meet you, get attacked by angry mobs and the spectre of your Oscar-winning French hottie wife, fire guns, blow shit up, both run and chase after faceless nefarious goons, and deliver mind blowing bits of exposition while looking incredibly GQ.

Also, I’ll say this: Inception had a certain frame of mind to it that I feel like The Matrix could’ve really benefited from having had ten years ago.

It’s a video game that would excite you on a variety of levels, both on the superficial and the deeper, the more intellectual. A cerebral workout. An existential knife fight. The only thing that would make it better than the movie, though, would be that it was presumably interactive.

2 1/2. The thing I’ve noticed about Nolan’s films is that they’re all plot. They’re far from indulgent and long and dense and they move fast, leaving very little time for fireworks that are purely character building. In that sense, he’s the exact opposite of P.T. Anderson, who’s films are all character, and sometimes those characters move in a certain direction that takes them from a starting point to a stopping point. But in the exercises of narrative, Nolan manages to paint shades of characters, both skeletal sketches, like Cillian Murphy’s character in Inception, and those with the driving illusion of more depth, like Dicaprio’s in this film.

And grounded. So grounded. Nolan’s films are fantastical creatures of oneiric energy that are dreamed up by inhabitants of the real world. As scholarly influenced as they are, even their madness, and his, is grounded, and logical. His Gotham City and battle gear clad vigilantes are both out of this world and something that could play on the 5 o’cock news in this world.

Nolan doesn’t speak in a language of dragons and flying carpets and talking animals and liquid robots that morph in physics-defying feats of light and spectacle. His characters live in dreamlands based on urban mazes and high speed travel and real world concern and drabness. And they dream/create with the tools that their worlds give them.

Half of movies is glamor and glitz and show and all preconceived notions. And Nolan is good about using that, especially in his casting. Michael Caine can walk into just about any scene in a movie now and seem like the wise, but slightly jaded mentor who knows that you’re about to go down a pretty dark, fairly shitty path, but still supports your decision and has a few nuggets of sage wisdom for you. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a certain level of cool attached to himself, either earned or not earned. Ellen Page perfectly fits into the category of smart newbie who’s still learning the ropes and is beginning a journey, despite her probably immense and amazing knowledge of all things Cisco. Ken Watanabe always carries a certain sinister edge with him, though perhaps that’s just an occidental thing. And Leonardo Dicaprio has perfectly aligned himself with a certain archetype, that of the little boy grown up into a man, hardened with anger and guilt, and we’ve accepted him as the protagonist cipher who will either work through his issues or ultimately be destroyed by them.

My only complaint about the actual production/composition of this film is the level of soundtrack on display at all times. I really liked Hans Zimmer’s score to the film, so much so that I went and bought the soundtrack immediately after the movie concluded, which was a surreal experience all of it’s own since I saw the film at the theater in the mall which was a weird labyrinth to wander through as I was re-composing myself into reality after exiting the movie. Maybe it was just a bad mix at that theater, but the score seemed to be too loud at certain points, competing with the actors and their dialogue, sometimes defeating them a little, which is a shame because as I said, with Nolan’s movies, nothing is wasted, not a single shot, not a single glance or expression, and especially not a single word or sentence.

I think it’s safe to say that this is the kind of movie that Counterforce has been waiting for all of it’s short life (2+ years now).

SPOILERS, from here.

Apropos of nothing, here’s an idea that you should carry with you into viewing this movie: “just as movies are metaphorical dreams, maybe dreams are metaphorical movies.” Well said. Inception can be just another popcorn action heist movie for you if you want (especially in 2010, the year we make contact with heist movies like The Losers, The A-Team, and Takers), or it can be something more. Or both.

Benjamin Light put forth a desire that I’ll repeat here: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page should do more movies together. They’re the brightest of the hip young things in the world of thespians with cred these days, yes?

That said, amazingly, James Franco was close to getting Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s role originally. And Nolan’s original desire was to cast Evan Rachel Wood in the role of the architect, and then it floated towards Emily Blunt, Rachel McAdams, and even Emma Roberts before Ellen Page was cast. That’s just fascinating. And so bizarre.

3. I haven’t repeated the plot of Inception here and I’m not going to. Go look it up. Then watch the movie. Then watch it again. Here’s a spoiler though: Inception ends just like Shutter Island, after a fashion.

There’s a college course or at least a long conversation for armchair cineaists and philosophers in movies like Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Mulholland Drive, and Synecdoche, New York, and Inception belongs in the mix with them. Movies are all dream logic, especially more so in the last few years. At a certain point, a 1/3 or 2/3 of the way through movies with a certain “out there” kind of story, we start to look for the seams and loose threads of the eventual reveal that “it was all a dream.” Especially in Synechdoche, New York. By the end of that film, you’re pretty sure that at some point you’ve crossed over into a dream world, but the question is simply: Where? At least Mulholland Drive is a little more straight forward about that, at least, for the filmgoer with is both actively looking for and completely open to massive weird download of logic and strange visuals and strong, penetrating emotions the film requires you to take in.

Shutter Island almost belongs in that same thread of films, and somewhat suffered because of it. Read any two reviews of that film and at least one will say some variation of “I could guess the ending of this movie long before the finish line and you know why? Because I’ve seen movies before.” So little shocks us these days, and we’re somewhat let down by twist endings now just because they’re expected. We set an extra place at the dinner table for them. Identity was a fine, harmless movie, but after about 25 minutes into it, you were pretty sure that a crime was being committed against you and the culprit was going to be a writer with a flashy, showing idea about tricking your expectations.

And once you start to look for those tricks, you feel like a trick that’s been turned. You open your eyes, you see the money on the dresser.

At least Inception is up front and honest about all of this, with it’s simple and confounding tagline: “Your mind is the scene of the crime.”

from here.

To mix metaphors even more: I think one of the many problems with the modern take on “twist endings” and “it was all a dream” logic in the cinema is that your goals as a viewer and participant get too confused. Are you looking for the map or are you looking for where the map leads you. X is supposed to mark the spot, but it’s tough to translate that when you’re X in that equation.

And, slowly but surely, twist endings are becoming the new “Hollywood ending.” Once upon a time and through the woods and only in a dream can you live happily ever after.

The thing that saves Inception and Shutter Island‘s endings is that they fall down to the user. You’re required to make a certain level of decisions, to feel something, and decide what you believed just happened. You have to be both actively involved, and also open and ready to receive, you have to “get it,” and in return, the film lets you pick a path to go down. It was all dream. Or it wasn’t. The main character remembers everything. Or doesn’t. Something happened here. Or maybe it was there. Maybe it was earlier. Or later. This is a review. It isn’t.

Actually, it isn’t. Just my immediate reactions, of a sort, having just walked out of the movie something like two hours ago (it’s roughly 5 PM as I write this). Such a strange experience watching the end credits rolling for that movie. Like I was walking out of a half remembered dream of sorts, standing on a widening chasm between a narrative flashing on the walls of my unconscious/subconscious mind and the harsh light of day in the real world. Which works dually for this movie as well: An artsy movie full of deep ideas, or at least ideas that can feel deep, but done in a slick, expensively executed mainstream way. As if Michael Mann had remade 8 1/2.

The theater I was in was virtually empty, the two other people there with me more invisible than usual, and it was so strange to feel that as I walked out of the shared dream that is the cinema that way. Dreamspace faded away, light entered the room, the real world was knocking on the door, and I felt more alone than usual. It was a scary but important feeling, my brain decided as it’s gears grinded and took delight in processing what it just took in, but even still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the movie was over and now it was time to go back to sleep.

“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!