Tabula Rasa is possibly the most over used episode title in the history of television.  There was an episode of Buffy that used that same title where the Scooby gang suffered from temporary amnesia.  Then there was a Battlestar Galactica episode, a Law and Order episode, Criminal Minds, Justice League, Stargate, and even Heroes.  I’m sure there are even more.

Why this fondness for the title? Is it because it sounds cool?  Well, I think it is particularly apt in the case of Lost.  Tabula Rasa means ‘Blank Slate.’  As far back as the fourth century Aristotle wrote of the unscribed tablet, or blank slate with regard to the human mind in his De Anima.  However, it wasn’t until, no surprise here, John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding in the 17th century, that the idea became popular in modern philosophy. Simply put, the theory states that at infancy we are a blank slate.  Our personality, behavior, and intelligence are products of the many experiences that we absorb and make part of ourselves over the course of our lives.  Basically he believed that from birth we have all the potential in the world, we just need to strive to do better and be better.

Interestingly, over on good old Wiki, I was reading about the Roman tabulas, which were made of wax.  After use, these tablets were heated and wiped clean so they could be used again and again.  Is this more applicable to our castaways?  Were they wiped clean by the fires of their ordeal?  I think they were.  Like human etch-a-sketches, their sins were shaken away by the turbulence and crash.

The focus of the flashbacks in Tabula Rasa is Kate.  Kate desperately wants a go at a new life.  She can’t have that blank slate though. There are two loose ends that tie her to her past, Agent Mars and a WANTED flyer in his pocket.  She is so close to her fresh start when Mars opens his eyes and starts talking to Jack, that it must be infuriating!

When she returns to camp, as a viewer you start to wonder which side of “Right” Kate is going to fall on.  The one man who can spoil her chance is at death’s door.

Kate goes to Jack and asks him “Can you put him out of his misery?”

Just the suggestion gets Jack’s goat!  He stomps right up in her face and taunts her.

“I saw your mug shot Kate! I’m not a murderer!”

Has Kate Lost Jack’s trust?

The episode progresses to the last few minutes, where Kate talks to Mars alone.  She wants to make sure that Ray, the man who turned her in, got his reward.  Through this moment, we see the redemptive qualities of her character.  She’s done something horrific.  Something so bad that it caused her to run all the way to Australia, and for someone to go after her!  Still, she still has the capacity for caring, love, and understanding.  She can’t be THAT bad.  Can she?

But then Mars asks if he is going to die?

Kate, tears appearing a little, replies “Yes” while nodding.

With the question “Well are you going to do it?” Mars establishes what he thinks of Kate’s capabilities.  He thinks a mercy kill should be easy based on whatever she’s done.

The climax comes when Jack realizes that Kate is in with Mars, and she has a gun.  He suddenly thinks the worst.  He thinks that she’ll do anything to protect her secret.  Running to the tent, he sees her casually exit.  Relief washes over until…. BLAM.  A shot rings out and Sawyer exits the tent declaring that he’s done what Jack couldn’t while territorially peeing all over the camp.  He claims that Mars “Wanted it, and hell, he asked me.”

What’s that?  Then they hear a gurgle from inside the tent.

Mars is still alive.

Crap!

Jack enters the tent and does what needs to be done.  He euthanizes Mars with his bare hands.  Jack once again proves that he will always do what it takes, even if it eventually leads to horrible beards and too many pills to dull the atrocities he will commit in the name of doing the right thing.

In a cathartic moment the next morning Kate offers to tell Jack what she did.  She wants to come clean.  Jack stops her, saying “I don’t want to know. It doesn’t matter Kate.  Who we were… What we did before this…Three days ago we all died.  We should all be able to start over.”  So, their tabulas are rasa’d.

I’d like to take the musical montage at the end and break down the just visuals for a moment.  The song is ‘Wash Away’ by Joe Purdy.

Watch it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmWDN9-ySyk

Lyrics here:

I got troubles oh, but not today
Cause they’re gonna wash away
They’re gonna wash away

And I have sins Lord, but not today
Cause they’re gonna wash away
They’re gonna wash away

And I had friends oh, but not today
Cause they’re done washed away
They’re done washed away

And oh, I’ve been cryin’
And oh, I’ve been cryin’
And oh, no more cryin’
No, no more cryin’ here

We get along Lord, but not today
Cause we gonna wash away
We gonna wash away

And I got troubles oh, but not today
Cause they gonna wash away
This old heart gonna take them away

The lyrics are a pretty perfect fit with the tabula rasa motif.

We start with Hurley.  He is literally washing something, pouring the sand from his shoe.  He is serving a dual purpose here.  Hurley is listening to the music in this scene which makes it diegetic, meaning that it is within the narrative and not external to the story.  So, by listening to the song, he seems to have control of the environment, like he will in the END….  really big stretch I know, but who’s to say they didn’t have the basics to the end figured out right in the beginning.

Cut to a nice tracking shot of Jin.

Jin walks up to a sleeping Sun and shows unconditional love for the first time.  Why can’t he do this in front of others, or even in front of her?  The relationship is so strained, but you see a slim chance for happiness for the first time.  Are Jin’s troubles rasa’d and washing away?

Cut to Shannon in a medium shot sitting on the beach.

Boone gives his sister a pair of sunglasses the he repaired for her.  They too have a chance at happiness.  What would make them happy? I don’t know.  But it seems that there could have been a chance.

Cut To Sayid walking.

Sayid throws Sawyer an apple as he walks past.  They might hate each other, but there is a respect that Sayid has for a person that does what needs doing.  He respects Sawyer’s willingness to act.

Cut to.

Charley changes his writing on his fingers from “Fate” to “Late.”  What is late?  His self-respect?  Him getting to California?  Is he late for a date?  I know he’ll be late for his destiny… or at least put it off for a bit.

The camera pans down to Claire.  Maybe he feels that he was meeting her too late?

Cut to:

A beautiful family reuniting.  Michael walks up with Vincent the dog on a leash.  Walt is ecstatic!   They frolic for a moment in the island sun and everyone is happy!  BUT, this is a tainted reunion.  Michael has established something about his character.  He is weak.  He has taken credit for this ‘miracle’ of finding the dog.  He is willing to live a lie as long as it gets him what he wants.  In this case, it is the love and respect of Walt, but later it will be a lot more, and it will cost other characters A LOT more….. and someone notices this.

Cut over to and track around a pensive Locke.  Locke orchestrated this beautiful family moment, and he doesn’t seem to care for it.  He seems to see what his meddling has done.  He sees that Michael might be useful to him…   He might even know at this point that Walt is special.  After all, the island talks to John.

Side note:  As I watched this episode I kept feeling Deja-Vu.  I finally figured out what it was after a bit of brainstorming…  It reminded me of the Gilligan’s Island episode “Not Guilty” when a crate washed up in the Lagoon that had old Honolulu newspapers as wrapping for coconuts.  On one of the pages was a story stating that each of the castaways is wanted for questioning in relation to a murder that took place the day that they left!  I wonder if the writers’ room talked about the parallels while they were brainstorming?  That would be funny.

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Toy Story 3 was a formulaic film that reached an earnest dénouement after a harrowing hero’s journey.

Or was it?

I think there was a more sinister formula at work here.

A zombie formula!

Read the rest over at Cinema Fantastica!  Click here….

A few days ago, through a series of random events, a room full of drunken people applauded me for my love of Lost.

Here is how it happened.

Last Friday, it was HOT. We had a few days in a row of near 100-degree temperatures. On a day like that, the last thing you want to do is turn on the stove. So we went to the bar for dinner and a beer. Sitting on the patio in back, I noticed that the furniture is similar to the IKEA furniture I bought a week ago. That gets me thinking.

Five days earlier than that, I was in my backyard water-sealing our new patio furniture. It was really hot that day as well. At one point I went inside for a glass of water and noticed that the TV was on. My hands were covered in sealant, so I carefully picked up the remote to turn it off. I decided to check the DVR. It was nearly at capacity. The largest file on it was the Lost finale recorded in HD. (Yeah, I haven’t erased it! Big Whoop!) I wondered if I should erase it finally. I tossed the remote on the coffee table, and the finale picked up from where I left off at last viewing. The final ten minutes was playing in beautiful HD. I was mesmerized. I sat down and watched.

My wife came in to see where I was. I turned the TV off. I looked guilty. She was outside in the hot sun doing work, and I’m drinking ice water in the living room watching Lost. When I said “Lost–,” She said “Oh. Ok.” And accepted that I got distracted and it was beyond my control.

Back at the bar, last Friday, I made all of those connections in my head and began talking to my wife about the finale for the umpteenth time. She asked how did I just go from “isn’t this great patio furniture?” to “Jack stumbling through the bamboo forest.” I began to explain, when a man walked up and interrupted “Are you guys here for the high school 20th reunion?”

I told him “No.” I should have asked, “Is there an open bar?”

He smiled as he walked away, but then he stopped.

He approached us again with a weird smile on his face and said “I know you from someplace. You look just like that guy from that TV show.”

My wife laughed out loud, because people constantly mistake me for someone else.

I asked, “What show?”

He said “Lost.”

My wife said “Daniel Faraday?”

He said, “Yes!”

I said I was not he.

Then about a half-an-hour later, I walked to the bar to settle my bill. I walked past the reunion party, when the same guy pointed me out to the crowd. He declared, “See! I told you Daniel Faraday was here!” And I was applauded by a room full of 37 and 38-year-old drunk people.

Through a random series of events: Ikea, water sealing, a full DVR, a heat wave, my love of beer, and my chameleon-like ability to look like other people, I was applauded for Lost. Weird.

Unexplainable pseudoscience technology has been the MacGuffin or catalyst for many good character driven sci-fi stories over the years. Storytellers have formulated hypotheses regarding the future of mankind ever  since Verne and Wells first wrote their tales of trips to the moon, time travel, underwater adventures, etc. I recently watched the film TiMER, starring Emma Caulfield of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame. TiMER is a film set in a very near future, in which Scientists have been able to break down our auras, or time-lines, or pheromones, or something, so they can pin-point the exact day in your individual future that you will meet your honest to goodness soul mate. A TiMER, seen in the above picture, is then implanted in your wrist, which will count down until that day.

Damn it! I'm thirty!

The concept of the TiMER, in the wrong hands could have easily become a Logan’s Run, as thirty-year-olds obviously rebel against the stigmas that goes with age. Instead, it is a wonderful character film, which does–actually— like Logan’s Run, follow 29-year-old Oona as she approaches her thirtieth birthday, and worries that she will be alone forever. You see, Oona’s TiMER is blank. Which can mean one of three things: 1. Her soul mate doesn’t have a TiMER. They both need to have one for some reason. 2. She missed her chance. Or 3. She doesn’t have a soul mate.

The opening weekend gross of ROTK was strategically placed in the news scroll placing the intro of the TiMER in 2003.

The technology in TiMER is handled in such a wonderful and simultaneously ‘as a matter of fact’ way that it really needs no explanation, just an introduction.  The film opens with a series of news clips introducing the TiMER circa 2003.Through this montage, we arrive at the future, or rather the present of the film and a TiMER TV commercial, which markets the TiMER eerily like an  Apple product. Now, I do love my Mac, but it did not introduce me to my wife— who also has a Mac— Oh crap. Did we meet because of the Apple Corporation?! Digressing too far. The technology is simply stated at the beginning of the film to be what it was. Nothing else was necessary. The rest of the film is character driven.

Like the TiMER, Lost introduced several technologies and sciences that were simply stated for what they were. Like Han Solo declaring that the Kessel Run record-breaking ship the Millenium Falcon is the fastest ship in the Galaxy because it has a hyperdrive.  We just accept these scientific impossibilities because a character told us it was so, and it has been established in their universe that these things are possible. Some of these pseudosciences in Lost were as follows:

  • An Arctic Station to detect and pinpoint specific EM radiation bursts with amazing accuracy.
  • A Rat that is bathed in radiation so it’s mind travels into the future and it knows a path through a maze that it never ran before.
  • A magic button that will release magic electromagnetic energy every 108 minutes, thus saving the planet and maybe universe from annihilation.
  • Healing waters of a jungle temple protected by a hippie cult.
  • Time and space shifting donkey wheels.
  • Teleporting Islands.

Some Lost Science

But, my favorite was the time travel and characters becoming unstuck in time. The characters accepted the Time Travel with such ease, that I as a viewer accepted it as well. One day they were wandering the present day jungle, a flash of white light washed over them, and they found themselves in the 70’s. They accepted the shift, why wouldn’t I?

Another recent viewing, which, while amusing, could have played up its reality shifting goodness A LOT MORE, was Hot Tub Time Machine. I mean, come on, lets talk about a ridiculous time travel technology. They spill an illegal russian red bull called Chernobly on the controls of a hot tub, and their consciousnesses travel in time like Elly the rat! Whatever, I buy it. That is what I came here for. I rented this film knowing what I was getting into.  The only real problem I had with this film was that it felt like it was written by some kid that never experienced the eighties. He or she was probably a teen in the nineties and just wiki’d the eighties.  So they included the highlights of the 80’s, i.e. “Where’s the beef?, Poison,  Jessie’s Girl, flourescent clothing, etc.  There was so much more to the 80’s to make fun of.   Since it was at a Ski resort, I was hoping that Cusack’s character Adam would run into Lane Meyer, whom Cusack played in 1986’s Better Off Dead, another 80’s ski comedy.  That meeting would have been like a triple paradox!   Instead, they created way too much drama for four characters (A broken marriage, a suicide attempt, a shattered Cusack who ominously says “I didn’t do anything”) when it really should have been hilarity right through the whole thing.

80's things to make fun of: Sweat bands, John Travolta, One-man-army films, John Hughes, Ollie North, a Character that might be a Communist, a shopping montage, a training montage, someone randomly breaks into dance, nerds become cool, nerds get the girl, Jocks are evil, Principals or Deans are the devil, The Brat Pack, a robot with personality, and it should have ended with the entire resort gathering around someone doing something truly good and heroic and they would all applaud.

CINEMA FANTASTICA! A new Post! Below is an excerpt:

A Face in The Crowd (1957) by Elia Kazan is a film that Netflix gave me a 4.9 out of 5 star possibility that I would enjoy it. 4.9 out of 5 seemed rather unlikely to me, because, well, I’ve always hated being told what to do. I was so wrong. I’m now a believer in the Netflix algorithm and think it is nigh flawless. I loved this film. It is the story of Lonesome Rhodes, amazingly portrayed by Andy Griffith, an Arkansas drunk with a bad marriage, a fraudulent annulment, and a larger than life personality.

Read the rest here: http://cinemafantastica.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/my-week-in-film-two-classics-my-hangover-and-the-hangover/

So, I’ve been gone for a while.  In the past four weeks I’ve accomplished a few things.

1. I wrote a TV Pilot for a Sitcom about a Super Villain.  It is a comedy of course.  Hopefully it will have some legs and something will come of it.

2. I finally decided on the name for my hub blog – Cinema Fantastica!  which will be the nexus for all my online endeavors.  All of my writings, reviews, scripts, cartoons, rants, jokes will be featured there.

I won’t be giving up I Always Have a Plan.  I’m still thinking about Lost all the time.  The Final season will be on DVD soon, and I look forward to watching it again.  I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say.  I’m sure I’ll notice more things.  I’m sure I’ll have a few crazy theories, and I look forward to sharing them.  I also look forward to hearing  all of your theories and ideas.

Below is an Excerpt from my new site, so you can check it out and see if it is your cuppa tea:

It was never my choice to love movies. Just like Alex DeLarge, I was conditioned, and it all started on October 19th, 1987 when the Stock Market took a massive plunge in what would later be referred to as the “Crash of 87″ and/or “Black Monday.” My family took a pretty big hit, and my father chose to use films for a singular purpose, escapism.

Pretty much every night for an entire year, at the tender age of 12, I was brought to the movies. I saw films that a child couldn’t and shouldn’t possibly understand (like Full Metal Jacket), movies that I would grow to love (Planes Trains and Automobiles, The Princess Bride, The Untouchables, Peggy Sue Got Married), movies I would initially love which would eventually would let me down (Monster Squad I just don’t love you anymore…). A wide spectrum of cinema was laid out before me, preparing me for my Über-obsessive immersion later in life.

To read more, click the image below, or here to go to http://cinemafantastica.wordpress.com/

Thanks for reading!

-Rob

Sometimes my wife doesn’t like to watch TV with me. Why? Because I always know what will happen next and how it will end. At some point, and with no intention, the entire program will lay itself out to me like a perfectly set row of dominoes begging to be toppled. She can see it in my eyes. The moment I figure it out, it’s like a light bulb flashes over my head. I need to tell someone! She is the only one there, so I tell her. It pisses her off. I don’t like it. I wish I could stop, but I know I never will. Maybe it’s a result of my childhood fondness for Sherlock Holmes? I just need to solve things? I’ve been an avid Comic book collector my entire life as well. As a result, the amalgamation of picture and story comes very naturally to me, along with the compulsion to decipher what both the writer and artist are trying to convey in each image. Good complicated well-scripted TV is hard to find.

Television, at least American scripted television, over the years has fallen into a very comfortable pattern. Many shows follow a very specific sets of rules. Through the use of foreshadowing, allusion, character development, cinematography etc. scripted television can be deciphered as you watch it. You merely need to recognize the patterns and know the rules.

Lets take character development. If a character commits a particularly heinous act, that character will be called on to pay for that act in some way. Whether payment is through legal channels or is a sort of universal karmic payback is irrelevant, as long as it happens. 24 is the perfect example of this. Follow this logic, even though I kind of gave up on 24 last season. Jack Bauer is not a good man. He believes that the ends justify the means. He will beat, torture, and murder anyone that gets in the way of his mission on one of those particularly bad days he seems to have. As a character, committing these horrible violent acts necessitates that he suffer an equal or greater pain or tragedy. This adds to the depths of his character, because it allows us to rationalize his horrible acts by thinking ‘its okay that he pulled that suspected terrorist’s fingernails out, because his wife died six seasons ago at the hands of terrorists.’ The balance of tragedy and horrors committed allows the audience to perceive Jack as a hero. So, as I watch 24, if I see Jack stab a man in the leg, I expect him to be punched in the face. If he shoots someone, I can pretty much guarantee he’ll go through a window and fall a story or two. And, if he kills some one? Well, lets just say I wouldn’t want to be on his team, because that is when karma has a way of permanently removing CTU agents from the board.

SPOILER – well, an educated guess really – about Up in the Air

Another example is the film Up in the Air, which I just saw with my wife. Movies are easier for us to watch together, because I button my lip in the theater, and can’t involuntarily spout theories. I wonder if I have a cinematic Turrets Syndrome? Maybe I’m the first and can be studied and write a book about it? Digressing, I know. Anyway, Up in the Air, I knew from the moment that the character of Alex Goran (played by Vera Farmiga) was introduced, that her purpose in the script was to teach Ryan (George Clooney) a lesson. What lesson was to be determined… As the film progressed and they grew closer, I said to myself, silently, because I’m in a theater, Damnnnnnnnnn she’s a jerk. She’s married. She has to be married. That was a good hour before the big reveal that she was in fact married. His character needed to have his heart broken, and that was the only way to accomplish it. It was that, or kill her off, and a death wouldn’t have worked with the tone of the film.

In recent years, there has only been one television show that has, and with great frequency, surprised me with its many plot twists, rich characters, and brilliant performances. That show is Lost. As Lost goes into its final season, I intend to watch and attempt to decipher the show strictly through analyzing the craft of filmmaking, acting, writing, etc. I will watch and write and predict, based on what is presented to me. No spoilers, just educated guesses. It will probably drive my wife nuts, but she loves me.

“My name is Colonel Mustard. I was in the study, and that gun is not mine!”