TV

Lost on Me: One Man's Attempt to Survive the 'Lost' Finale

Because of all the mythological hokum, the smoke monster poppycock and the supernatural rigmarole woven through the fabric of Lost, it was already likely bound to become a televised sci-fi tent pole for years to come.

Like millions of other television junkies, I bought the hype; I was reeled in by the ruthlessly compelling commercials and well-placed print ads, and on September 22, 2004, I tuned in for the premiere episode of Lost.

Lost, with its water-cooler plot-twists and world’s sexiest flight manifest quickly became a pop culture phenomenon, burning up internet chat rooms (when they were still around), blogs (they’re still around, right?) and even the print media (which at least the time of this writing is still around.)

I remember saying to myself as the pilot unfolded, “I think I’m hooked.” It happened right around the time the plane crashed, as terrifyingly visceral a scene as I’ve ever seen on the small screen, in spite of my already knowing it was coming. I wondered what would become of the survivors, how they’d turn coconuts into wine, how they’d get along or not get along. I wondered who might take of their shirt first.

And then, well before the final credits sped by, I changed the channel. Something inside me aggressively spurned the show like I’d rejected a baboon heart. It wasn’t snob’s natural aversion to the cultural zeitgeist, because even if I’d instinctively known that was coming, I’m okay with that sort of thing… most of the time, anyway. Yes, I’ve recoiled against hype before, turned my nose up at everything from No Country for Old Men to Radiohead to Pinkberry. But this was different, as I hadn’t yet been inundated with an avalanche of “OMG!!!” praise for Lost when I bailed. That would come later, of course. But when I decided to watch almost anything else, it was just me and my remote and a storyline and cast which failed to keep my attention. Not when there’s probably a cake battle on the Food Network, Lost. Not by a long shot.

So, I got my ass off the island much quicker, apparently, than anyone else who’d both starred in and watched Lost. Because like the pull that island seems to have had on those poor schmucks, so too did that show have a pull on pretty much everyone I know, pretty much everyone you know and pretty much everyone else with even the most tenuous connection to network television.

I stayed away, too, sinking my TV teeth into less befuddling fare like Psych and Flight of the Conchords and The Biggest Loser. But with the finale upon us this week, I thought I ought to give Lost one more shot. My research such as it was consisted of years of ignoring Facebook status updates friends made about the show, loud commercials I’d managed to tune out and the last 45 minutes or so of ABC’s two hour pre-game celebration before last night’s final episode. I must also confess to having not entirely paid attention to the latter, as there was a Sex & the City II cake challenge on the Food Network, and while I have also managed to avoid that particular cultural phenomenon (with much more bile), a cake-off if a cake-off, and that means Kerry Vincent is gonna be bitchy from beneath her Ren-Faire headband.

I guess a bit of Lost sunk in over the years, in spite of my efforts to keep it out. I’d heard of Locke, for example. And also something happened to that guy who used to be a Hobbit, right? What I’ve heard most about Lost since it premiered nearly six years ago was how good it was. And what I heard second-most was how goddamn confusing it was. Given I knew almost nothing about Lost, I figured I was in the right frame of mind to catch the finale. Boy, was I wrong.

Even if I hadn’t caught a bit about the alternate worlds stuff, I’d have probably worked it out pretty quickly. I might have assumed one of the two threads was some sort of dream, though once the touchy feely déjà vu flashes began happening, I’d have seen the light. (I just found out producer Damon Lindelof calls these plot devices “flash-sideways” – Thanks, Wikipedia!)

I don’t believe in a lot of things, but I do believe in duct tape

Because I haven’t actually watched the series unfold, the questions I have are fairly mundane, and for all I know they were answered ages ago. How come none of the dudes on the island have crazy hermit beards instead of seductive stubble? And while some of the castaways had sufficiently unkempt hair, most looked salon-friendly. And, at the risk of sounding indelicate, why didn’t the fat dude who says “Dude” all the time lose a little weight?

So, I watched the finale. Not all at once, of course, because like I did nearly six years ago with the pilot episode, I petered out before the finale did. I stuck it out, though, finishing it on Hulu this morning. And admittedly I’m probably a bit more confused than your average fan. Didn’t the guy from Party of Five (another show I never watched) open the series looking up from a jungle floor? Nice one!

Despite the soundtrack trying to force me into action, I didn’t feel the tension on the edge of the cliff the way a regular viewer might have. I also didn’t shed any tears when characters who’d hooked up on the island had flash-sideways walks of shame in hospitals, alleys or piano-heavy benefit concerts. But those of you who’d watched every second of every episode and are now wondering what the heck you’re gonna do with yourselves on whatever night the show regularly aired, maybe you bawled like babies. Maybe your couches are still moist with tears and sadness snot at this moment. And that is ultimately how I closed out Lost; not by hoping for loose ends to be tied up in a satisfying way, but by wondering if that’s how the fans felt about it.

Some beloved TV shows end on a sour note (I’m looking at you, Seinfeld and The Sopranos). Others, like The Shield, manage to make the inevitable seem revelatory. Still more, such as Arrested Development, fall somewhere in between, unable to say goodbye because those involved in making the show are as bewildered as those who watched it.

How was Lost for you? If you loved the show, did that bit in the church seem less mawkish than it did to a cynic like me? Did you find the tying up of loose ends satisfying and natural or rushed and convenient? Are you bummed there’s no Drive Shaft tour on the cards?

Because of all the mythological hokum, the smoke monster poppycock and the supernatural rigmarole woven through the fabric of Lost, it was already likely bound to become a televised sci-fi tent pole for years to come. The romance and intrigue and – at least what I’ve been told – humanity of the characters helped it cross out of what is often perceived as the narrow scope of that genre and into the mainstream. Lost was hugely successful, and not in retrospect like the original Star Trek series, either. Lost was a phenomenon in its present, and that’s not likely to change. And I guess I can say I was there at the beginning and end of it all, even if the middle is something of a blur.

I wanted to come away from the finale having realized the folly of having had such an itchy remote finger all those years ago. I thought I might feel inclined to start Lost from the beginning, something I could do for free on Hulu, apparently. I thought I’d want to dissect the pilot and see if there were any clues more than 100 episodes ago to point to what happened last night. Instead, I think I’m as finished with Lost as it is with the rest of us. What happened on that fictional island is no more my concern than what led those four wretched Sex & the City shrews to Morocco for their new flick. I’m free of Lost, a show which never really had me to begin with.

Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

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In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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Two recently translated works -- Lydie Salvayre's Cry, Mother Spain and Joan Sales' Uncertain Glory -- bring to life the profound complexity of an early struggle against fascism, the Spanish Civil War.

There are several ways to write about the Spanish Civil War, that sorry three-year prelude to World War II which saw a struggling leftist democracy challenged and ultimately defeated by a fascist military coup.

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8

Beware the seemingly merry shades of green and red that spread so slowly and thickly across the holiday season, for something dark and uncertain, something that takes many forms, stirs beneath the joyful facade.

Let's be honest -- not everyone feels merry at this time of year. Psychologists say depression looms large around the holidays and one way to deal with it is cathartically. Thus, we submit that scary movies can be even more salutary at Christmas than at Halloween. So, Merry Christmas. Ho ho ho wa ha ha!

1. The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932)

Between Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933), director James Whale made this over-the-top lark of a dark and stormy night with stranded travelers and a crazy family. In a wordless performance, Boris Karloff headlines as the deformed butler who inspired The Addams Family's Lurch. Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas and Ernest Thesiger are among those so vividly present, and Whale has a ball directing them through a series of funny, stylish scenes. This new Cohen edition provides the extras from Kino's old disc, including commentaries by Stuart and Whale biographer James Curtis. The astounding 4K restoration of sound and image blows previous editions away. There's now zero hiss on the soundtrack, all the better to hear Massey starting things off with the first line of dialogue: "Hell!"

(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

3. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

In the category of movies that don't explain themselves in favor of leaving some of their mysteries intact, here's Olivier Assayas' follow-up to the luminous Clouds of Sils Maria. Kristen Stewart again plays a celebrity's lackey with a nominally glamorous, actually stupid job, and she's waiting for a sign from her dead twin brother. What about the ghostly presence of a stalker who sends provocative text messages to her phone? The story flows into passages of outright horror complete with ectoplasm, blood, and ooga-booga soundscapes, and finally settles for asking the questions of whether the "other world" is outside or inside us. Assayas has fashioned a slinky, sexy, perplexing ghost story wrapped around a young woman's desire for something more in her life. There's a Cannes press conference and a brief talk from Assayas on his influences and impulses.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

(Available from Arrow Video)

​5. The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, 1969)

When a young man goes skinny-dipping with a mysterious stranger (Rod Steiger) who's covered with tattoos, the pictures comes to life in a series of odd stories, all created by Ray Bradbury and featuring Steiger and Claire Bloom in multiple roles. Nobody was satisfied with this failure, and it remains condemned to not having reached its potential. So why does Warner Archive grace it with a Blu-ray? Because even its failure has workable elements, including Jerry Goldsmith's score and the cold neatness of the one scene people remember: "The Veldt", which combines primal child/parent hostilities (a common Bradbury theme) with early virtual reality. It answers the question of why the kids spend so much time in their room, and why they're hostile at being pulled away.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

6. The Hidden (Jack Sholder, 1987)


In one of my favorite action movies of the '80s, a post-Blue Velvet and pre-Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan plays an FBI agent who forms a buddy-cop bond with Michael Nouri while pursuing a perp -- a bodiless entity that plugs into the human id. In the midst of slam-bang action comes a pivotal moment when a startling question is asked: "How do you like being human?" The heart of the movie, rich in subtext, finds two men learning to embrace what's alien to them. In pop-culture evolution, this movie falls between Hal Clement's novel Needle and the TV series Alien Nation. On this Warner Archive Blu-ray, Sholder offers a commentary with colleague Tim Hunter.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Speaking of Twin Peaks, here we have a textbook example of a movie that pleased almost nobody upon its release but has now generated such interest, thanks in large part to this year's Twin Peaks revival, that it arrives on Criterion. A feature-film prequel to David Lynch and Mark Frost's original TV serial that answered none of its questions and tossed in a raft of new ones, the film functions as one of cinema's most downbeat, disruptive and harsh depictions of a middle-class American teenage girl's social context. Sheryl Lee delivers a virtuoso performance that deserved the Oscar there was no way she'd be nominated for, and she wasn't. The extras, including a 90-minute film of deleted and alternate takes assembled by Lynch, have been available on previous sets.

(Available from Criterion Collection)

8. The Green Slime (Kinji Fukasaku, 1968)

Incredibly, Warner Archive upgrades its on-demand DVD of a groovy, brightly colored creature feature with this Blu-ray. As a clever reviewer indicated in this PopMatters review, what director Kinji Fukasaku saw as a Vietnam allegory functions more obviously as a manifestation of sexual tension between alpha-jock spacemen competing for the attention of a foxy female scientist, and this subconsciously creates an explosion of big green tentacled critters who overrun the space station. While we don't believe in "so bad it's good," this falls squarely into the category of things so unfacetiously absurd, they come out cool. There's a sublimely idiotic theme song.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

If the idea is that earth, water, fire, air and space constitute the core elements of life, then these five songs might seem as their equivalents to surviving the complications that come from embracing the good and enduring the ugly of the Christmas season.

Memory will never serve us well when it comes to Christmas and all its surrounding complications. Perhaps worse than the financial and familial pressures, the weather and the mad rush to consume and meet expectations, to exceed what happened the year before, are the floods of lists and pithy observations about Christmas music. We know our favorite carols and guilty pleasures ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night"), the Vince Guaraldi Trio's music for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas that was transcendent then and (for some, anyway) has lost none of its power through the years, and we embrace the rock songs (The Kink's "Father Christmas", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", and The Pretenders' "2000 Miles".) We dismiss the creepy sexual predator nature in any rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the inanity of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and pop confections like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

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