HULK EXPLAIN ACTION SCENES! RETURN OF THE ACTION! (NOW WITH MORE EWOKS) WITH SPECIAL GUEST TOM TOWNEND! – DAY 3 OF 3

HELLO FRIENDS.

HERE WE FIND OURSELVES ONCE AGAIN, READY TO GO BACK INTO THE DEPTHS OF ACTION FOR THE FINAL CHAPTER OF OUR JOURNEY.

AT THE VERY START HAS TO SINGLE OUT AND THANK THE WONDERFUL TOM TOWNEND, THE INCREDIBLE CINEMATOGRAPHER AND HULK’S PARTNER IN THIS SERIES. HULK STATED THIS AT THE BEGINNING, BUT DO NOT DARE MISTAKE THE MOMENTS WHERE HE SPEAKS UP IN THESE COLUMNS AS HIS “SOLE CONTRIBUTION.” EVERY SINGLE CONCEPT AND IDEA ON DISPLAY HERE WAS BORN OUT OF OUR CONVERSATIONS AND COLLABORATION.

ON DAY 1 HULK & TOM TALKED ABOUT HOW ONE GOES ABOUT THE INCEPTION OF ACTION SCENES, HOW IT WORKS FOR AUDIENCES, AND WHAT STORY-TELLING CONCEPTS ARE AT THAT CORE.

ON DAY 2 WE EXPLAINED THE WAY TO EXECUTE THE ACTION WITH COMPOSITION, CLARITY, SOUND DESIGN, AND CAREFUL EDITING CHOICES.

AND TODAY? WELL, TODAY WE PULL BACK AND EXAMINE THE EXCEPTIONS OF PERSONAL STYLE/TONE WORK, BUT ALSO THE PROBLEMS THAT CAN ARISE FROM ANY OVERT “STYLIZATION.” THEN WE’LL DELVE INTO THE REAL-WORLD PROBLEMS/OBSTACLES OF PRODUCTION LOGISTICS, AND FINALLY WHAT TO TAKE AWAY FROM ALL OF IT.

LET’S GET TO IT.

PART 6 – THE BOURNE EXCEPTION

SO HULK & TOM ATTEMPTED TO PROVE YESTERDAY THAT TAUT FILMMAKING = THE SHIT, BUT THERE IS ANOTHER REASON IT IS SO REFRESHING… AND THAT IS BECAUSE WE ARE COMING OFF A NEAR-DECADE OF BAD SHAKY-CAM.

IT’S NOT A HUGE LEAP OF FAITH TO SAY THAT PEOPLE HATE SHAKY-CAM RIGHT NOW, BUT LOST IN THIS HATE IS THE FACT THAT JUST A MERE DECADE AGO, IT SEEMED REVOLUTIONARY. BUT THE RELATIVE TIMELINESS OF THE STYLE IS ACTUALLY NEITHER NEITHER HERE NOR THERE. WHAT IS HERE AND THERE, HOWEVER, IS THAT MOST PEOPLE SEEM TO BE HATING THE DEVICE ITSELF INSTEAD OF THE POOR USE OF THE DEVICE. JUST LIKE THE EXPOSITION EXAMPLE A FEW DAYS AGO, THE SHAKY-CAM AESTHETIC DOES NOT INHERENTLY SUCK.

FOR THE RECORD ANY CONCEIVABLE CINEMATIC DEVICE, WHEN USED CORRECTLY, CAN BE EFFECTIVE. THE PROBLEMS ONLY START WHEN THE DEVICE IS USED POORLY. WHAT CONSTITUTES POOR USE? USUALLY THE CAUSE FOR OFFENSE IS REVEALED THROUGH THE MERE USE OF A DEVICE FOR THE WRONG REASONS: CRAMMING IT WHEN IT DOESN’T SERVE A REAL PURPOSE OF TONE OR NARRATIVE, MERELY TRYING TO COPY A POPULAR STYLE, OR OUTRIGHT STRIVING FOR “COOL.” IT’S ALMOST A GUARANTEE TO FAIL MISERABLY.

THE PROBLEM SORT OF STRIKES DEEP INTO THE HEART OF ANY FILMMAKER, SOMETHING AKIN TO “OKAY WHY AM I REALLY DOING THIS SHOT IF I’M HONEST WITH MYSELF?” BUT IT’S A GOOD QUESTION TO ASK BECAUSE MORE OFTEN THAN NOT IT WILL STEER YOU INTO THE RIGHT DIRECTION, SOMETHING THAT SERVES THE STORY, CHARACTERS, AND CERTAINLY THE TONE.

SHAKY-CAM CAN STILL DO THESE THINGS, WONDERFULLY EVEN.

THE POPULAR USE OF SHAKY-CAM FIRST CAME INTO THE MAINSTREAM IN A BIG WAY WITH SPIELBERG’S AFOREMENTIONED SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. THE EFFECT OF THE AESTHETIC WAS HOW IT THREW THE AUDIENCE INTO AN EXPERIENCE OF HARROWING REALISM. EVERYONE ALWAYS SAID THE SAME THING, THAT THEY FELT LIKE “THEY WERE REALLY THERE.” IN USING THIS DOCU-STYLE(12A) SPIELBERG CREATED A IMMEDIACY TO HIS NARRATIVE. THIS WAS, AND IS STILL, THE GREAT ADVANTAGE OF SHAKY-CAM: THAT IT CAN MAKE THINGS FEEL TRULY “REAL” IN A WAY THAT STYLIZED ACTION NEVER QUITE CAN.(12B)

BUT SAVING PRIVATE RYAN DIDN’T SUCCEED JUST BECAUSE THE FREAKING CAMERA SHOOK.

HERE IS THE ENTIRE LONG-ASS, HARROWING, AND BRILLIANT OPENING SCENE OF THE MOVIE. HULK SPOKE OF THE CAUSE + EFFECT BEATS ON DISPLAY IN THIS SEQUENCE IN THE EARLIER IN THE SPIELBERG SECTION, BUT CHANCES ARE YOU DON’T ACTUALLY REMEMBER A LOT OF IT. SO LET’S REVISIT THIS SUCKER VISUALLY.

THE SCENE IS AMAZING BECAUSE IT COMBINES THE HARROWING SHAKY AESTHETIC WITH SPIELBERG’S UNCANNY FOCUS ON BASIC CAUSE + EFFECT (THE DOOR OPENING AND PEOPLE GETTING SHOT, THE HELMET, THE PHONE OP, THE CARRYING PEOPLE WHO TURNS OUT DIDN’T HAVE LEGS). BUT REALLY, ALL THE PRINCIPALS WE’VE TALKED ABOUT ARE ON DISPLAY: IT HAS FREQUENT OBJECTIVES BEING CALLED OUT (SENDING THE SNIPER TO TAKE OUT THE TWO ON THE RIDGE, HOW TO TAKE THE RIDGE), EVEN WITH MOMENTS OF CHAOS IT STILL HAD NUMBER OF SHOTS ESTABLISHING SENSE OF THE IMPORTANT GEOGRAPHY (WORKING THE WAY UP THE BEACH, TO THE RIDGE AND THEN OVER INTO THE BUNKERS), IT SILL HAD NUMBER OF MOMENTS AFFECTING THE TONE (THE SOUND DESIGN GOING OUT WITH THE RINGING IN THE EARS, THE COMPARATIVE STILLNESS BEFORE THE SNIPER TAKES THE SHOTS, AND THEN THE MOMENT OF CALM WHEN THE BATTLE IS OVER).  EVEN THE SHAKY-CAM SEEMED TO USE FIRST-PERSON AT TIMES TO HELP THE IMMEDIACY SEEM EVEN MORE RELEVANT, AND ANOTHER BRILLIANT TONE-AFFECTING MANEUVER. HULK MEAN, THERE IS JUST SO MUCH MORE GOING ON THAN THE STUPID SHAKY-CAM DEVICE… BUT, SADLY, THAT’S ALL PEOPLE SEEMED TO TAKE AWAY.

(REALLY IT JUST SPEAKS TO HULK’S TANGIBLE DETAILS THEORY BUT THAT’S NOT IMPORTANT NOW)

IT REALLY FELT REVOLUTIONARY.

HOLLYWOOD TOOK NOTE, BUT IT REALLY WASN’T UNTIL THE BOURNE FILMS BECAME SYNONYMOUS WITH SHAKY- CAM AND PROVED THAT IT COULD TRANSLATE TO HOLLYWOOD ACTION BLOCKBUSTERS, THAT THE FORM REALLY TOOK OVER. AT THAT POINT EVERYONE SEEMED TO THINK THAT SHAKY-CAM WAS NOW THE WAY TO GO INSTEAD OF A WAY TO GO.  A HOST OF IMITATORS FOLLOWED AND BUTCHERED THE DEVICE TO NO END. MOVIES USED IT WHERE IT MADE ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. PEOPLE USED IT AS AN EXCUSE TO THROW UP 10 MINUTES OF ILLOGICAL CHAOS. NO WONDER PEOPLE JUST GOT SICK OF IT SO DAMN FAST.(12C)

ALL THE WHILE, NO ONE SEEMED TO REALIZE THAT IT THE ACTUAL PLOT, GRAVITAS, AND CHARACTERIZATION OF THE BOURNE FILMS THAT MADE THE REALISM FEEL SO DAMN VIBRANT, NOT JUST THE STYLE. AND BESIDES, PAUL GREENGRASS IS ONE OF THOSE GENIUS TYPES WHO KNOWS HOW TO, FOR LACK OF A BETTER PHRASE, MAKE IT WORK.

TOM: Yeah, I love the ‘mess’ of the Moscow tunnel car chase in the 2nd Bourne film even if it seemingly goes against so many traditional action principals. The mess panics the viewer – and the panic = excitement.

RIGHT. AND LUCKILY, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY ONE OF HULK’S FAVORITE ACTION FILMS EVER. BUT HULK ARGUE CAR CHASE WORK BECAUSE GREENGRASS UNDERSTANDS IT IS ACTUALLY A BALANCING ACT.  HE BUILDS UP ENERGY WITH HIS SHAKY AESTHETIC, BUT EVERY 3-7 SECONDS OR SO THERE’S A WIDE, NON-SHAKY SHOT THAT REALLY SHOWS OFF WHAT IS HAPPENING. THESE ARE THE PUNCTUATION MARKS. HE CREATES REAL, FOLLOWABLE MOMENTS AMONGST THE “MESS.”

SERIOUSLY, PAY REALLY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE SCENE. THE SHAKING IS WHAT YOU NOTICE AT FIRST, BUT IN BETWEEN THE SHAKING, YOU HAVE TRADITIONAL MOVIE SEQUENCE. AND THAT’S WHAT ALLOWS THE SCENE AND AESTHETIC TO WORK PROPERLY.

DAMN THAT GOOD.

AGAIN, GREENGRASS USES THE SHAKY SHOTS TO ESTABLISH THE TONE OF CHAOS AND GET THE HIGH LEVEL OF ENERGY AND REALISM THAT HE WANTS, BUT HE STILL GIVE US ENOUGH OF WHAT WE NEED. THE ACTUAL CHASE IS COMPLETELY BLOCKED OUT AND ARTICULATED. THERE STILL ENOUGH CLEAR GEOGRAPHY. WHEN SOMETHING CHAOTIC HAPPENS, THE CAMERA PULLS BACK AND RESTORES ORDER. NOTICE WE HAVE SENSE OF WHERE CHARACTERS ARE IN RELATION TO EACH OTHER. NOTICE WE STILL UNDERSTAND HOW BOURNE NEGOTIATES THE FINAL TAKE-DOWN OF KARL URBAN’S CAR. NOTICE HOW IT WORKS. GREENGRASS USES THE SHAKY-CAM TO GET THE ENERGY HE WANT, BUT HE THEN BALANCES/INTER-CUTS  WITH MORE TRADITIONAL ACTION SHOOTING.

SO REMEMBER, SHAKY-CAM, EVEN IF FALLING OUT OF STYLE, CAN STILL BE VERY EFFECTIVE.(12B)

IT’S NOT THE DEVICE, IT’S THE EXECUTION.

PART 7 – “BAYHEM” AND THE PROBLEM OF SO-CALLED-STYLIZATION

QUICK! NAME ONE, SINGULAR MOMENT FROM THE TRANSFORMERS 2 ACTION SCENES.

CHANCES ARE YOU CAN’T. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

FOR STARTERS, BAY’S ACTION TENDS TO HAVE NO ACTUAL SEQUENCING OR PUNCTUATION MARKS. IT AN ENDLESS SLOG OF MOVEMENTS THAT “LOOK COOL” BUT COMPRISE NO REAL “MOMENTS.” SURE A CHARACTER MAY DIE IN SOME “COOL” SLO-MO WAY, BUT IT NOT A PUNCTUATION MARK BECAUSE IT NOT REALLY CONNECTED TO ANY MEANING, EITHER CHARACTER-BASED OR TO THE ACTION THE PRECEDED IT.

MOST OF THE TIME YOU CAN’T EVEN TELL WHO IS WHO (THIS WAS EVEN BEFORE THE ROBOTS).

AND THEN THERE IS THE MATTER OF TONE. BECAUSE WITH BAY IT SEEMS BE ALL THE SAME SINGULAR, BIZARRE TONE. SERIOUSLY, EVERY SINGLE ACTION SCENE IN THESE MOVIES FEEL THE EXACT SAME EVEN IF THE SETTINGS JUMP. DAY. NIGHT. DOESN’T MATTER. WE TALKED ABOUT HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO HAVE DIFFERENT TONES AND HE NEVER, NOT ONCE UTILIZES ANYTHING  OTHER THAN THE TONE  OF… WELL… LET’S JUST CALL IT “MICHAEL BAY TONE.” IT’S LIKE HE COMPLETELY FAILS TO REALIZE THAT ACTION IS JUST ANOTHER WAY OF STORYTELLING. AND TO HULK THAT CREATES CINEMATIC CATASTROPHE WHEN THE ACTION SCENES TAKE UP THE ENTIRE RUNNING TIME OF YOUR MOVIES.

YES FOLKS: MICHAEL BAY,WHOSE MOVIES COMPRISE ALMOST NOTHING BUT ACTION FROM START TO FINISH, IS ACTUALLY BAD AT ACTION.(12D)

BUT THAT’S WEIRD RIGHT? TO BE FAIR, LOTS OF PEOPLE LIKE MICHAEL BAY… OR AT LEAST NO MIND HIM… OR AT LEAST LIKE LAUGHING AT HIS STUFF… OR JUST HATING ON… WHATEVER IT IS PEOPLE KEEP SEEING HIS FUCKING MOVIES. THERE HAS TO BE REASON, RIGHT?

FELLOW CRITIC TODD GILCHRIST HAS A UNIQUE TALENT FOR DISCERNING THE COUNTER-INTUITIVE REASONS FOR WHY PEOPLE RESPOND TO CERTAIN MOVIES AND HULK THINK HE CAME UP WITH GOOD, NON-PATRONIZING THEORY ON THIS MATTER. TODD’S POINT THAT WHAT MAKES BAY’S ACTION “WORK” IS THAT HE IS ONE OF ONLY DIRECTORS REMAINING WHO REALLY TRIES TO CONVEY A SENSE OF MASSIVE SCALE TO HIS ACTION SCENES (GIANT BATTLES IN DOWNTOWN LA! ALL OF CHICAGO! BLOWING UP LANDMARKS! GLOBE TROTTING!). THIS WAS A VERY POPULAR CONVENTION IN 90’S CINEMA AND HE NOT ONLY DID IT THE “BEST” THEN, BUT HE SEEMS TO BE THE ONLY ONE STILL DOING IT TODAY. WHICH MEANS THERE REALLY IS A PLACE FOR IT IF THAT MAKES SENSE. LIKEWISE, TODD MENTIONS THAT BAY ALSO ONE OF THE FEW WHO STILL REALLY COMMITTED TO INTEGRATING PRACTICAL EFFECTS WITH CGI. MOST OF US BITCH ABOUT “WEIGHTLESS CGI” IN SO MANY FILMS THESE DAYS, BUT IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT… ISN’T BAY’S CGI OFTEN PRETTY WELL-INTEGRATED INTO REAL WORLD “WEIGHT”? THIS IS A COMPARITIVE STATEMENT OF COURSE BECAUSE THERE ARE PLENTY OF TIMES HE DOESN’T, BUT ON THE WHOLE HE SEEMS TO BE ON THE INTEGRATING PRACTICAL SIDE. HECK, THROW IN THE FACT THAT BAY TRULY WARY OF 3D (INCLUDING HIS OWN RECENT OUTPUT) AND IT MAY SEEM LIKE BAY MIGHT HAVE SOME REALLY GOOD INSTINCTS TO WORK WITH.(13)

I KNEW YOU LIKED ME

SHUT UP.

THIS ALL JUST MEANS THE PROBLEM IS THAT MICHAEL BAY CAN’T PUT THOSE GOOD INSTINCTS AND ABILITIES TOGETHER INTO SOMETHING MORE COHESIVE… AT ALL… AND THE MORE HE LEFT TO HIS OWN DEVICES, THE WORSE IT SEEMS TO GET. THERE’S NO REAL WAY TO SAY IT OTHER THAN HIS ACTION IS JUST PUT TOGETHER ALL WRONG. THERE RARELY CAUSE + EFFECT, THERE NO LINKING, THERE NEVER A SEEMING OBJECTIVE, HE CONSTANTLY INTERRUPTS TENSION WITH BAD JOKES, PEOPLE SCREAM ALL THE TIME, YOU NEVER KNOW WHO ANYONE IS, THE SENSE OF GEOGRAPHY AND SPACE COMPLETELY ABSENT (WHICH MAYBE HIS WORST OFFENDER), AND THE TONE CAN OFTEN FEEL BORDERLINE-BIPOLAR.

WHAT DOES ONE CALL THIS?

ONE CAN ONLY CALL THIS BAYHEM.

THE WORST THING TO INCLUDE IN ARTICLE IS WITH THE SADLY FAMILIAR “WEBSTER’S DEFINES….” WELL HULK GONNA GO ONE UP ON ALL YOUR ASSES…. AHEM.

URBAN DICTIONARY DEFINES BAYHEM AS:

1. The cinematic conceit of blowing shit up on a large scale, in slow motion and (usually) at sunset.
2. A portmanteau word employing the concept of the inevitable incendiary mayhem employed by uberhack Michael Bay in lieu of characters, a script or a a pube’s-weight of reality.

THAT’S GOLD JERRY, GOLD.  IN HULK’S TIME-LINE THE FIRST TIME HULK HEARD THE WONDERFUL TERM “BAYHEM” WAS ACTUALLY FROM YOU TOM AND IT IS COMPLETELY FANTASTIC.

TOM: Nah, ‘Bayhem’ has been knocking around for a while – at least since The Island. I think I first read it in a Drew McWeeny (née Moriarty )  ‘appraisal’ on AICN – and not necessarily used in a pejorative fashion at that time.  I don’t know where it was first coined. (HULK NOTE: IT IS UP ON URBAN DICTIONARY IN 2007. KUDOS TO ANYONE WHO TRACES THE PUN’S ORIGIN)

But Hulk, you’ve covered the aesthetic problems, but I’ll show you why it’s not exclusive to his action. Armageddon is a guilty pleasure -a quite dreadful film but one that I derive endless amusement from.  But there is an approach to the narrative that serves well as an illustration of what is generally wrong with the way action sequences are also handled in a Michael Bay film.

The US Navy fly Bruce Willis off his oil drilling platform, take him to (Washington DC? Kennedy Space Centre? I forget… It’s not important) and tell him that an asteroid is coming in 2 weeks time and only his skills can make NASAs plan to destroy it work.  Immediately he announces that he can only help if the collection of rednecks and social reprobates that he works with are part of the team.  So far, so silly; so good.

Then there is a montage in which the army and police round up his cohorts and Brucie goes to remonstrate with Ben Affleck who he was in the process of trying to shoot with a shotgun when the Navy helicopter turned up to collect him. Bruce has been away from his oil platform for what?  A day?  With a limited time until doomsday I doubt the authorities waste a moment before finding Brucie’s guys.  But seemingly, in (at most) a 48hr period they’ve managed to scatter themselves to the 4 corners of North America.  They’re gambling and hanging out with pole dancers in Vegas, burning across open desert on Harley Davidsons, and Ben Affleck has even managed to buy and manage his own small field of oil derricks in (Texas? California? Again, not the point). What the fuck?

Sure it makes for a funny montage full of sexy women, sexy motorbikes and sexy sweaty oil spattered Ben Affleck but seriously, what the fuck?  I don’t think Brucie authorised shore leave in his absence.  How have they all got so far in such a short space of time?  This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  Worse than that it’s a complete fucking insult to the audience.  Bay is effectively saying ‘none of you dumb fucks will ever question what I’ve done here because I’ll bamboozle you with pounding music, flashing lights, some of the leftover chicks from one of my Victorias Secret commercials and Ben Affleck wearing an oil stained wife beater from a 1980s poster.’ And it’s that disregard for basic temporal logic and utter arrogance towards what any reasonable audience member might expect from rational story telling that also pollutes Michael Bays action sequences.

THIS ACTUALLY VERY INTERESTING POINT BEING RAISED. AS TO THIS SPECIFIC FILM? YES, HULK AGREE. TO THE PROBLEM OF THE CONCEPT IN GENERAL? HULK CAN’T SAY HULK AGREE.

TO EXPLORE THE ISSUE OF “LOGIC” IN FULL THOUGH, HULK IS GOING TO REVISIT IN UPCOMING COLUMN. BUT BASICALLY HULK THINK THE CONVENTIONAL “REAL LIFE LOGIC” ABOUT WHAT SOMEONE WOULD DO NOT ACTUALLY MATTER IN MOVIES AS LONG AS THE TEXT CONCERNING ITSELF WITH MORE IMPORTANT THINGS, MAINLY CHARACTER LOGIC OR DRAMA LOGIC. THE THINKING IS AKIN TO ALL THE CHEATING CUTS AND POOR LOGIC IN SPIELBERG’S MOVIES. THE LOGIC DOESN’T MATTER CAUSE MOST OF THE TIME WHAT IS HAPPENING SERVES A BIGGER NARRATIVE PURPOSE. BUT THINK ABOUT THE TIMES WHERE SPIELBERG’S POOR LOGIC DOESN’T SERVE A BIGGER PURPOSE (HOOK, INDY 4, ETC). THAT’S WHEN PEOPLE FREAKING POUNCE. SO GETTING BACK TO BAY, HULK BELIEVE IT NOT NECESSARILY THE RIDICULOUS PLOTTING AND CRAP LOGIC THAT’S RUINING IT, BUT THE COMPLETE LACK OF COHESION IN TOTALITY, WHICH BLOWS PLOT HOLES IN HIS MOVIES THAT FIVE MILES WIDE. HULK ARGUE THERE A WAY TO PRESENT A MOVIE SO THAT LOGIC DOESN’T MATTER, BUT BAY SUCKS SO GOD DAMN MUCH AT TONE/CHARACTER CONSTRUCTION AND HIS REASONS FOR INCLUDING THESE SCENES ARE JUST SO DAMN NAKEDLY STUPID, THAT THE POOR LOGIC STARES YOU IN THE FACE. IT’S A BALANCING ACT. THE BEST EXAMPLE THAT HULK CAN THINK OF IS NOLAN’S THE DARK KNIGHT. EVERY SINGLE STEP OF THE JOKER’S PLAN, FOR LITERALLY THE ENTIRE MOVIE, NEVER, EVER, IN ANY WAY MAKES ANY SENSE. THE LOGIC IS MIND-BLOWINGLY INANE. SURE, SOMETIMES THE PLAN MAKES THEMATIC/CHARACTER SENSE (SOMETIMES) BUT IT SO DOES NOT MATTER WHATSOEVER BECAUSE NOLAN CRAFTS A BRILLIANT CAT + MOUSE STORY WITH TENSION AND LINKING AND SUCCESSION. THE MOVIE NEVER STOPS STEERING YOU AND YOUR EMOTIONS/INVOLVEMENT WITH ABJECT CLARITY. SO AGAIN, HULK NOT SURE LOGIC-LOGIC MATTERS IF THE MOVIE-LOGIC WORKS. BUT HONESTLY TOM, HULK PRETTY SURE YOU KNOW THIS TOO AND IT WASN’T PART OF YOUR POINT AT ALL. HULK JUST SAW AN OPPORTUNITY TO TALK ABOUT IT AND REALLY IT’S ANOTHER, MUCH BIGGER DISCUSSION.

WHERE WAS HULK? OH YEAH, THE IMPORTANT THING TOM IS THAT YOU ARE ALSO RIGHT. HE SCREWS UP STORY IN THE SAME WAY HE SCREWS UP ACTION.

TOM: Thanks?

HULK LAUGH.

BUT LET’S SHOWCASE EXACTLY WHY THE ACTION DOESN’T WORK, NOW VISUAL AIDS…

…HULK JUST REALIZED YOU COULD CALL BAY’S WORK “VISUAL A.I.D.S.”… GOD THAT’S A TERRIBLE JOKE. HULK GOING TO HELL. MOVING ON…

HOW ABOUT A COMPARISON: TAKE THE IMPLIED CHAOS OF THE BOURNE CHASE ABOVE AND COMPARE IT TO BAYHEM, WHICH HAS ACTUAL CHAOS. HERE’S THE CHASE SCENE FROM THE ROCK.

NOTICE HOW OFTEN THE BEATS ARE NOT LINKED. SURE THERE SOME SHOTS STRUNG TOGETHER, BUT IT’S MOSTLY JUMBLED. THERE’S NO FLOW. THE CLOSE-UPS AND RAPID ZOOMS IN AND OUT ARE RIDICULOUS. THE IMPACT OF EVENTS ARE NOT ORCHESTRATED, THEY ARE EITHER BLUDGEONED TOGETHER OR NON-EXISTENT. THE ACTION IS NOT A STORY. AND YET NONE OF THIS IS THE PROBLEM OF ACTUAL SUBJECT MATTER: THE LAMBORGHINI, THE HUMVEE, THE CRASHES, THE IDEAS THEMSELVES ARE FODDER FOR PUTTING TOGETHER A GOOD, INTERESTING CHASE.

WHICH BRINGS HULK TO ANOTHER IDEA FOR THE REASONS PEOPLE RESPOND TO MICHAEL BAY: HE VERY GOOD, IF NOT THE BEST, AT CATERING TO THE COOL IDEA: GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING, ADVANCED MILITARY TECH, CONSPIRACIES, BATTLES AT FAMOUS LANDMARKS, COMIC RELIEF CHARACTERS. IT ALL COOL IDEAS AND PEOPLE LIKE WHAT HE TRYING TO DO. AND LET’S FACE IT, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO GO TO MOVIES AND NO PAY ATTENTION TO THE FACT A FILM IS LACKING STRONG TONE (THOUGH HULK ARGUE A MOVIE WITH STRONG, VISCERAL TONE WILL WORK ON ANYONE, EVEN IF SUBCONSCIOUSLY). WHICH MEANS THEY AUDIENCE DOSN’T CARE IF THE MOVIE PLAYING TO THEM AS LONG AS IT PLAYING IN FRONT OF THEM. IN THAT CASE THE COOLNESS OF THE SUBJECT MATTER THE ONLY THING THAT MATTER. THEY ARE UNENGAGED, DISCONNECTED, AND DETACHED. THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY FOR “COOL” TO SWOOP IN.

AND WHO HULK TO ARGUE WHAT REALLY “COOL” ANYWAY?

HONESTLY, EVALUATING MICHAEL BAY IS FURTHER COMPLICATED BY THE FACT THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE WATCH HIS MOVIES FOR A KIND OF META ENJOYMENT, MEANING SO MANY PEOPLE WATCH THEM KNOWING THEY’RE GOING TO BE SHIT. PART OF THIS IS BECAUSE THEY ARE BIG MOVIES (AND MOST RECENTLY CENTERED AROUND A BELOVED CHILDHOOD TOY LINE, WHICH APPRENTLY PEOPLE GO APE-SHIT FOR. LOOK FOR HULK’S TEDDY RUXPIN MOVIE IN THE FALL) WHICH MEANS THERE IS THIS WEIRD SOCIETAL PROMINENCE THAT JUST DRAWS PEOPLE IN. THEY WANT TO BE A PART OF THE CAMPFIRE DISCUSSION, EVEN IF THE DISCUSSION IS ABOUT HOW THAT ONE GUY IN THE CAMP SUCKS.

AND BEYOND THAT, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WATCH AND ENJOY JUST HOW AMAZINGLY STUPID THEY ARE OR HOWEVER IT IS WE IRONICALLY ENJOY THINGS.  KEEP IN MIND HULK INCLUDES HULK-SELF IN THIS CAMP TOO. HULK WILL NOT GO OUT OF WAY TO SEE, BUT FINDS FODDER IN BAYISM ALL THE SAME.  EVEN THIS COLUMN IS PART OF IT. TOM MENTIONS THE ARMAGEDDON AMUSEMENT AND THE BAY MOVIE KIND OF LIKES IS THE ONE HULK JUST CRAPPED ON FOR THE BAD CHASE: THE ROCK. HULK LIKE NOT BECAUSE IT IS GOOD OR BADASS OR ANYTHING COOL LIKE THAT, BUT BECAUSE IT SOMETIMES FUNNY… SOMETIMES INTENTIONALLY (NIC CAGE’S PERFORMANCE)… SOMETIMES NOT INTENTIONALLY (CONNERY’S PERFORMANCE). IT IS A DISTINCTLY META WAY OF LOOKING AT MOVIES.

BUT TO RESTATE: THERE IS NO WAY TO ARGUE BAY IS GOOD AT CONSTRUCTING ACTION SCENES BEYOND THE SCALE AND THE SUBJECTS THEMSELVES.

AND WHEN HE STRETCHES FOR ANY KIND OF “STYLE” IT IS STYLIZATION WITHOUT MEANING.

… THEN THERE ARE THE TIMES HE JUST HAS TERRIBLE IDEAS:

SO WAIT, WHY THE FUCK HAVE WE BEEN TALKING THIS LONG ABOUT MICHAEL BAY?

TOM: [Shrugs].

OH YEAH, IT IS BECAUSE MICHAEL BAY IS BOTH 1) A MIRROR OF OUR CULTURAL FOCUS ON “COOL” AND 2) SO BIG IN THE ARENA OF ACTION THAT HE IS A TRENDSETTER. THIS IS, YOU KNOW, DISTURBING AND STUFF, BUT IT WHOLLY INFORMS THE FACT THAT WE CANNOT PRETEND THAT BAY IS IN ANY WAY SINGULAR/ALONE IN THE DISPLAY OF TONE-DEAF ACTIOIN STYLE. HE MAY BE UNIQUE IN HIS BRAND OF BADNESS, BUT STYLE-WITHOUT-MEANING SEEMS TO BE ONE OF, IF NOT THE CENTRAL PROBLEM OF ACTION TODAY.

THE ISSUE CAME UP RECENT PIECE/DISCUSSION OVER ON BADASSDIGEST.(14A) THE INCLINATION TO PROVIDE SOMETHING COOL-LOOKING CAN OFTEN GO AT DIRECT ODDS WITH DRAMA. I.E., DEVIN FARACI MENTIONS IN THE ARTICLE THAT A MOVIE LIKE 300 HAS SO MUCH THAT COOL ABOUT IT, YET OFTEN THE FILM’S ACTION IS OFTEN COMPLETELY INERT IN TERMS OF EMOTIONAL INVOLVEMENT. LOTS OF PEOPLE LOVE THE ACTION IN THE FILM (IT IS PRETTY AND COOL), BUT IT’S COMPLETELY TRUE.

THINK ABOUT THE PRINCIPALS WE DISCUSSED TIME AND TIME AGAIN OVER THE LAST FEW DAYS AND WATCH THIS CLIP:

HULK LOVE THAT THE SCENE LABELED “INSANE” BECAUSE IT’S IN THE SAME VEIN OF CALLING IT COOL. IT’S ACTUALLY A NEAT IDEA FOR A SCENE (HOLDING ON ONE SHOT AS GUY GO THROUGH BATTLE) AND THE EXECUTION MUST HAVE BEEN BITCH TO PULL OFF (IT USES SLIGHT OF HAND OF COURSE). AND SURE THERE’S LOTS OF TANGIBLE, NEAT CONCEPTS, BUT IT DOESN’T WORK ON A BASIC DRAMATIC LEVEL. ANY ENJOYMENT OF THE SCENE IS A DIFFERENT KIND OF “META ENJOYMENT.” SINCE THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO EMOTIONALLY RESPOND TO, THE SHOT IS ONLY PRETTY AND WITHOUT CONSEQUENCE. WEIGHTLESS.

THEY ARE IN GOD MODE. THEY ARE NOTHING LIKE INDY.

AND FOR PETE’S SAKE, THE MAIN REASON CINEMATIC REASON TO HOLD ON A LONG SHOT IS TO GIVE THE MOMENT TENSION (REMEMBER THE TAUT FILMMAKING SECTION?), LIKE THE WAY CUARON HOLDS THE LONG SHOT OF THE CAR ESCAPE IN CHILDREN OF MEN. MEANWHILE, SNYDER’S LONG SHOT HERE DOES NOT ATTEMPT TO HOLD ANY TENSION WHATSOEVER. AND WHEN IS THE CHARACTER EVER IN DANGER? THE SLOW-MOTION IS ONLY USED TO SHOW HOW GNARLY AND COOL IT IS WITH THE SLICING OF RANDOM ENEMIES. IT IS COMPLETELY UNLIKE THE MOMENTS OF SLOW-MOTION IN BRAVEHEART, WHICH WAS TRYING CREATE TENSION BEFORE MOMENTS OF SUBSTANTIAL IMPACT.

AND FOR DOUBLE PETE’S SAKE. SLOW-MOTION ESSENTIALLY STOPS THE DRAMA OF YOUR SCENE. IT HAS TO BE USED VERY, VERY, VERY CAREFUL. YOU HAVE TO BE SETTING UP SOMETHING BIG WITH CHARACTER RESONANCE, WHICH IS WHY THE ATTACK THE BLOCK FINALE WORKS WITH THE SLO-MO.

TOM: Thanks!

NO PROBLEM. ULTIMATELY, SNYDER’S SCENE ONLY SEEM TO WORK AS DEMONSTRATION OF TECHNICAL SKILL. EMOTIONALLY IT IS NOTHING. THE WORST PART THAT THE SCENE MIGHT HAVE BEEN SO MUCH BETTER IF THERE WASN’T ANY SPEED-RAMPING AND IT JUST STRAIGHT THROUGH SHOT OF THE MAIN CHARACTER WREAKING HAVOC. IT MIGHT HAVE HAD TENSION. INSTEAD IT IS LITERALLY A LIKE WATCHING A 2D SIDE SCROLLER VIDEO GAME. AND YES, THE SCENE IS  SURE FUCKING “INSANE” BUT IT DOESN’T WORK

WELL… HULK TAKES THAT BACK… THE SCENE MAYBE WORKS A LITTLE BECAUSE FOR ONE SAVING GRACE (OR PERHAPS A SAVING THROW?).)(14B)

SEE, WHILE MUCH OF THE ACTUAL ACTION IN 300 IS AIRLESS AND COOL, SNYDER IS AT LEAST SMART ENOUGH TO USE SINGLE PUNCTUATION MARKS IN BETWEEN TO SORT OF ADD MEANING TO SOME STUFF… SOMETIMES. LIKE IN THE “INSANE” SCENE ABOVE IT ENDS WITH THE SOLDIERS BRAGGING ABOUT HOW AWESOME THEY ALL ARE AND SAY “LET’S MAKE ALL SWIM!” OR WHATEVER.  WITH THAT LITTLE ADDITION, NOW ALL THE “‘COOL” PART OF THE SCENE BEFORE ACTUALLY WORKS AS QUALIFYING SET-UP TO THEIR BOAST. IT ALLOWS THE SCENE TO WORK AS A DISPLAY OF THEIR ABILITY WHICH IS THEN USED TO STRIKE FEAR IN THE OTHER SOLDIERS. AND THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. IT WHAT GIVES THE COOL ACTION THE WEIGHT AND MEANING. IT’S WHAT MAKES IT A (KIND OF) STORY… THE PROBLEM THAT IT SORT OF TAKES FOREVER TO GET THERE AND IS STILL KIND OF BORING AND OVER-INCLINED TO COOL. BUT THE IMPORTANT PART IS SNYDER EVENTUALLY FIGURES OUT A WAY TO USE SOME BASIC CAUSE + EFFECT… OF COURSE, HE THEN UNDERMINES THAT WITH THE GORGEOUS, BUT WHOLLY UN-INVOLVING SLO-MO SHOT OF THEM FALLING OFF THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF…

BUT HEY. CAN’T WIN EM ALL.

HULK REALLY WANTS TO CONVEY THAT IT IS NOT NECESSARILY THE SPEED-RAMPING ITSELF THAT IS THE PROBLEM. HULK THINK SNYDER ACTUALLY A PRETTY SMART GUY WITH A FEW HABITS THAT SOMETIMES WORK GREAT AND SOMETIMES DON’T REALLY WORK AT ALL. BUT IF WE RETURN TO THE CONCEPT OF THE BOURNE CHASE, WHERE IT IS POSSIBLE TO BALANCING PERSONAL STYLE WITH THE BASIC TENETS OF ACTION, THEN THERE IS A TOTALLY CONCEIVABLE WAY THAT SNYDER’S SPEED-RAMPING INTERESTS COULD WORK. IT JUST TAKES BALANCE AND A FOCUS ON IMPACT + DRAMA.

IT TAKES SOMETHING LIKE THIS:

IN THIS OPENING SCENE FROM WATCHMEN, SNYDER USES THE SPEED-RAMPING MORE FOR CLARITY INSTEAD OF COOL. THE ENTIRE SCENE IS MORE CONCERNED WITH THE MOMENTS OF IMPACT. CREATING DANGER. THE BEATS OF THE ACTION LARGELY BASED ON CAUSE + EFFECT (THE KNIFE THROWS, THE REVERSALS, THE BREAKING OF WALLS + CONCRETE). BETTER YET, THE SOUND DESIGN IS COMPLETELY SHARP AND FOCUSED. THERE IS EVEN AN ADDED LITTLE BIT OF TONE WORK AND COMMENTARY, AS SNYDER USES “UNFORGETTABLE” UNDERNEATH THE SCENE, THUS IMBUING THE ACTION WITH A KIND OF LYNCHIAN-IRONY-LITE. AND THE MORE YOU LEARN ABOUT THE COMEDIAN AND THE PLOT LATER IN THE FILM (THAT THE WORLD IS A CRUEL, VIOLENT JOKE), THEN THE MORE “CORRECT” THE SCENE FEELS.

THIS SEEMS LIKE A GOOD TIME TO MENTION SOMETHING THAT IS TOTALLY IMPORTANT: WE ALL HAVE THE NATURAL INSTINCT TO BE COOL. IT’S ALL PART OF THE HUMAN INCLINATION TO BE ACCEPTED AND MAKING MOVIES JUST AN EXTENSION OF THAT IN SOME WAY. BUT REMEMBER THE KID ON PLAYGROUND WHO TRIES TO BE COOL INSTEAD OF GENUINE? YEAH. IT OFTEN GOES POORLY.

WELL, THE SAME IS TRUE OF MOVIES. THE NOTION OF STYLE IS SO DAMN SEDUCTIVE AND YET IT IS A WHOLLY FALSE GOAL. IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU’RE ZACK SNYDER OR MICHAEL BAY, IT IS JUST SO CRITICAL TO IDENTIFY AND SUPPRESS THE INCLINATION TO MAKE THINGS COOL BEFORE YOU MAKE THEM WORK. IT’S WHAT MAKES YOUR WORK COME OFF AS “GENUINE,” JUST LIKE IN REAL LIFE! AND THUS STRIVING FOR COOL ABOVE ALL ELSE CAN ONLY HURT YOUR WORK.

BESIDES, HONESTLY THE CHANCES ARE THAT DECENT-TO-GOOD CHARACTER DESIGN CAN TAKE CARE OF ALL THE “COOL” YOU NEED (LIKE INDIANA JONES’ AWESOME OUTFIT) SO THAT’S AS FAR AS THE CONCERN REALLY NEEDS TO GO. AND THE FUNNIEST PART OF ALL OF THIS IS THAT IT IF YOU MAKE ACTION THAT WORKS AND INVESTS PEOPLE, THAN NO MATTER WHAT IT WILL INHERENTLY BE COOL. SO THERE NO REAL NEED TO WORRY ABOUT IT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

SO WHY DOES COOL IN MOVIES MATTER SO MUCH? WHY THIS IMMENSE PRESSURE? IT CAN’T JUST BE THE INCLINATION OF THE DIRECTORS RIGHT?

RIGHT.

WHICH BRINGS US TO THE REAL CRUX OF THE “COOL” PROBLEM: MARKETING.

HULK NOT ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO DERIDE MARKETING, HELL HULK WORKED IN MARKETING AND FIND DEMOGRAPHICS AND SYSTEMIC ANALYSIS TO FASCINATING… BUT HULK RECOGNIZE IT HAVE DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT GOAL FROM STORYTELLING:

MARKETING IS PURELY ABOUT SALES.

STORYTELLING IS ABOUT CAPTIVATING AN AUDIENCE THAT IS ALREADY THERE.

THE TWO ARE AT ODDS. AND THEREFORE “THE BUSINESS OF COOL” IS WAY MORE IMPORTANT IN MARKETING THAT IT IS IN MOVIES. MEANING THE IMAGERY OF 300, WHICH IN TERMS OF STORYTELLING IS OFTEN WEIGHTLESS, SURE WORKS DAMN FUCKING WELL IN A TRAILER. THE SLO-MO AND SPEED-RAMPING ADHERE BEAUTIFULLY TO THE PRESENTATION OF SUCCESSIVE, A-CONTEXTUAL MOMENTS, SUGGESTING A LARGER EXPERIENCE  OF COOL AND ATTITUDE.(15)

THE NET RESULT OF THIS KIND OF ALLURE IS THAT IT GETS BUTTS IN SEATS AND MISREPRESENTS THE NOTION OF SUCCESS. YES WELL-SOLD MOVIES ON THE FIRST WEEKEND DRIVE THE BUSINESS, BUT IT IS STILL SHORT SIGHTED WHEN IT COMES TO ACTION TENT-POLES. WHY? BECAUSE THE MOST VALUABLE COMMODITY IN SUMMER MOVIES IS A PROPERTY AND PROPERTIES ARE BUILT OFF OFF GOOD PRODUCTS WHICH HAVE LONGER BOX OFFICE PLAY.  AND GOOD PRODUCTS ARE GOOD MOVIES WITH GOOD STORIES (99% OF THE TIME). SO IF YOU MAKE A FILM WHERE THE ACTION/CHARACTERIZATION IS GOOD, THAN IT CAN TRANSCEND THE AUDIENCE THAT JUST LOOKING FOR THE MARKETED COOL, THEN YOU WILL CREATE A MOVIE THAT HAS LONG -ERM ECONOMIC VALUE. REMEMBER, EVERYONE CAN ENJOY SOMETHING THAT IS GOOD. IT DOESN’T MATTER WHETHER IT IS THRILLING, FUN, OR WHATEVER. BUT IF YOU WANT THE LONG TERM FUTURE FOR YOUR FRANCHISE THEN IT HAS TO BE GOOD.

GOING BACK TO EVERYTHING WE’VE TALKED ABOUT: “GOOD-NESS” IN ACTION IS ABOUT RELATING AND PARTICIPATING: INDIANA JONES HAS THE WHIP AND THE HAT BUT HE ALSO HAS THE FEAR AND THE TERRIBLE LUCK.  WE FOLLOW JASON BOURNE NOT BECAUSE HE CAN KICK ANYONE’S ASS AND CAN GET OUT OF ANY SITUATION, BUT BECAUSE HE IS DESPERATE, AFRAID, AND TORMENTED. WE CARE ABOUT NEO’S FIGHT SKILLS BECAUSE WE CAN ACTUALLY SEE THEM.  WE CARE ABOUT THE VIOLENCE IN TARANTINO MOVIES BECAUSE HE BUILDS UP THE ANTICIPATION WITH INCREDIBLE SKILL. AND WE ARE EXHILARATED BY TWO GUYS STANDING ON SIDES OF A HOTEL DOOR BECAUSE OF THE ACTION-COMPOSING-SKILL OF FILMMAKERS WHO BROUGHT YOU BARTON FINK.

IF YOU MAKE SOMETHING THAT COMPELLING, THEN IT WILL INHERENTLY BE COOL.

TOM: This discussion of cool is pretty interesting because there is something evasive about it too. There’s real questions about veracity of image. For example, now here’s an angle. For the record, I love watching this sort of stuff:

It seems to be the real life embodiment of something every young boy dreams of – fucking flying like a bat out of hell. Even if it is more akin to “Falling, With Style” (©Buzz Lightyear).

There’s been such a proliferation of high quality amateur footage of people throwing themselves off fucking cliffs and buzzing hillside spectators posted online in the last few years that it was crushingly inevitable that such a sequence would make it’s way into a big action movie and low and behold Mr M. Bay skewered the zeitgeist by shoehorning it into Transformers 3: Dorks of the Moon.  In fact, so heralded was the flying suit sequence, all I knew about the film’s story before I saw it was ‘the Apollo moon landings had a secret agenda’, ‘in this one the kid who talks too fast is looking for a job’ and ‘THERE’S DUDES IN FLYING SUITS’. That’s 3 generations of idiots lining up at the box office right there with those 3 promises!

But the flying suit sequence was crap.  Really crap.  Not just because the plot purpose for people to be risking life and limb in that fashion seemed pretty tenuous but visually it failed to evoke even a 10th of the visceral thrill crappier YouTube footage does.

Why is that?  The presentation of the ‘flying’ in Bay’s film was competently filmed (though the cheaty CGI comps were better than the real McCoy) and even he can’t fuck up geography when it comes to ‘objects heavier than air will always fall to the ground’.  Sure, we don’t care much whether a bunch of ‘red shirts’ make it in one piece but surely the sight of a human being performing such a perilous action is innately thrilling?  No, it would seem not.

It’s no accident that I knew that there was a flying suit sequence in the film.  The Transformers publicity juggernaut had been very careful to give maximum exposure to the fact that the sequence had been performed by seasoned flying suit nut-nuts, had been filmed ‘for real’ in downtown Chicago and represented a ‘cinematic first’. As a prospective audience member you would be handing over hard earned cash at the box office to see a faithful documentation of a spectacular event especially staged for Transformers 3.  P.T. Barnum would’ve approved of the hoopla and, in industry parlance, ‘awareness’ surrounding this particular action scene.  None of your ‘CGI robots that can do anything’ here folks, real life death defying human beings performing a unique stunt.  Pass the smelling salts.

But when we see amateur footage on YouTube it IS real.  That implies a lot of things including the ghoulish potential that we’ll see a really hideous injury or fatality occur, that the requisite ‘health & safety’ considerations that rule a film set haven’t been adhered to and as a consequence what we see will be far more dangerous.

Simple distinction, right?  Well no.  What cinema can construct for us should be equally compelling, if no more so, by attaching narrative importance to the action depicted.  ‘If these guys fuck up the ENTIRE HUMAN RACE IS DOOMED!’ Compelling.

But not half as compelling as ‘JESUS WEPT, THAT LUNATIC MISSED THAT PINE TREE BY INCHES!  FUCK ME HE’S DOING 180mph AND IN SERIOUS DANGER OF GETTING A GRASS STAIN ON HIS KNEES!’-

HEY, HEY YOU ENCROACHING ON HULK SPEAK!

TOM: Deepest apologies green one.

If memory serves me (and did you know that we struggle to form memories of images presented in 3D as easily as those in 2D – MRI scans show quite different patterns of brain activity depending on which format; shit you’ll never hear about from James Cameron) Bay made a basic error in the way in which he covered the sequence.  Amateur footage always interpolates two basic camera positions – cameras fixed to the flyer and a straight man at ground level who captures the flyer’s as they ‘blow by’. Edited with a modicum of skill and some groovy techno music there’s always a neat rhythm of exhilarating ‘reach out and touch the sky’ moments punctuated with window shattering near misses which vitally give a sense of speed in relation a fixed position.  By contrast Bay’s many methods of covering the same action too often  failed to show how fast people were traveling against a static point or tried to enhance that by pushing the camera against the direction of travel.  Though, in fairness, this isn’t why the scene failed.

As I’m sure you can tell I’m finding the precise reason a bit nebulous.  After all a very similar sequence (strictly ‘sky diving’) in Star Trek was fun and thrilling.  It had clearer stakes (stop the bad guys from destroying an entire planet, oh and by the way, the only way to do this, with minutes to spare, is to plummet head first towards a tiny target) but involved a very similar spectacle.

Can that be the only reason why the Transformers scene failed to thrill?  The relative irrelevance of why people were performing their stunt?  Or is there more to it than that.  After all, the people in YouTube clips have no clear objective beyond ‘FUCKING GNARLY THRILL SEEKING’.  And by most accounts that shouldn’t be enough to be a compelling ride for the passive observer.

Anyways, I’m all out of synonyms now.

TOM. YOU JUST BLEW HULK’S BRAIN OUT BACK OF HULK’S HEAD.

TOM: Thanks?

NO, THAT WAS TREMENDOUS. VERACITY IS A REALLY INTERESTING COMPONENT TO ACTION. ONCE AGAIN IT ANOTHER ONE OF THOSE TOPICS THAT PROBABLY NEEDS IT’S OWN COLUMNS AND INVOLVES A LOT OF SEMIOTICS AND STUFF. BUT IT REALLY, TRULY RELEVANT TO ASKING US “WHAT ARE WE REALLY RESPONDING TOO?”

AND IT REMINDED HULK OF SOMETHING.

THERE IS ONE LAST TID-BIT TO ADD TO THIS “COOL” CONVERSATION ABOUT STYLE AND IT IS A VERY, VERY IMPORTANT ONE.

THERE ARE DIRECTORS CURRENTLY OUT THERE WHOSE WORK IS SO STEEPED IN THE LANGUAGE OF POPULAR AND CLASSIC GENRE/ACTION/AESTHETICS THAT THEY ARE BOTH DIRECTLY ENGAGING WHAT IS THE CURRENT “COOL” CINEMA AND YET WHOLLY TRANSCEND IT. THIS GROUP OF FILMMAKERS INCLUDES SOMEONE YOU PERHAPS FAMILIAR WITH:

EDGAR WRIGHT.

            PICTURED: BADASS

HULK MENTIONING HIM FOR SOLE REASON OF ACKNOWLEDGING THAT THERE IS A WAY OF HANDLING THE DIRECT USE OF IN-VOGUE CINEMATIC STYLINGS WITH A HIGH-WIRE ACT OF NARRATIVE/META FILMMAKING. SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, AND SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD ARE NOT ONLY HIGHLY PROPULSIVE, HILARIOUS FILMS, BUT MANAGE TO DIRECTLY ENGAGE THE TRENDS AND STYLE OF COOL CINEMA, AND YET SUBVERT IT, YET STILL NAKEDLY LOVE IT, YET FURTHER COMMENT ON IT, AND ULTIMATELY TRANSCEND IT. HE CAN LOOK DIRECTLY INTO THE ID OF BAD BOYS 2 AND FIND A KIND OF WONDERFUL CINEMATIC JOY AND IMBUE THE LANGUAGE OF BAYHEM INTO HIS OWN FULLY-FORMED, UNIQUE CINEMA. BUT WHAT ENSURES THAT ALL THESE HIGHFALUTIN COMPONENTS WORK IS ALWAYS THE FACT THAT HIS MOVIES ARE STEEPED IN NOT JUST THE LANGUAGE OF THE MORE CURRENT CLIMATE, BUT DEEPLY IN THE HISTORY OF ALLCINEMA. AND WAY MORE IMPORTANT THAT ANY OF THIS COMPLICATED STUFF, IS THE FACT THAT HIS MOVIE ARE JUST GREAT, RELATE-ABLE HUMAN STORIES AT THEIR CORE.

TOM: I hear he produces things too.

INDEED! HULK JUST THOUGHT WE REALLY SHOULD ACKNOWLEDGE THAT IT POSSIBLE TO REALLY ENGAGE THE LANGUAGE OF CURRENT CINEMA, BUT THE PROBLEM OF EVEN BRINGING THIS UP IS THAT IT WOULD START SOMETHING THAT IS SOOOOOO NOT A BASICS CONVERSATION. ANALYZING THE DIFFERENT LEVELS THAT HIS FILMS WORK ON (OFTEN SIMULTANEOUSLY) WOULD TAKE SOME SERIOUS DEEP TISSUE ANALYSIS AND THIS SUCKER IS LONG ENOUGH. SO CONSIDER THE DISCUSSION A PROMISE FOR THE FUTURE.

YOU’VE PROBABLY NOTICED THAT THIS PART OF THE ESSAY ON STYLIZATION WAS FAIRLY TANGENTIAL AND  SCATTERED IN CONVERSATION, BUT THE NATURE OF THE CONVERSATION SORT OF CALLS FOR IT. THERE’S A LOT MORE ABSTRACT, PSYCHOLOGICAL REASONS FOR THESE PROBLEMS SO BY ADDRESSING EVERYTHING AT PLAY YOU CAN SORT OF GET A CLEARER PICTURE, BUT THERE’S REALLY NO A, B, C THINKING WHEN IT COMES TO WHY PEOPLE OVERLY-STYLIZE THERE FILMS. STILL, HULK THINKS WE’VE SUFFICIENTLY COVERED THE PROBLEMS OF COOL + STYLIZATION RIGHT?

TOM: Er….Safe to say.

MOVING ON!

PART 8 –  LOGISTICS, LIMITS, AND THE REALITY OF THE 2ND UNIT

A LOT OF PETER JACKSONS ACTION WORK IS JUST WONDERFUL. IT’S FULL OF WONDER AND AWE, OBJECTIVES, BEATS, CAUSE + EFFECT AND ALL THAT GREAT STUFF. AND THEN THERE FEW SCENES THAT ARE SORT OF INFAMOUSLY BAD AND PEOPLE TOTALLY POOP ON THEM. FOR INSTANCE, PETER JACKSON SOMETIMES GETS CRAP FOR THE LAME WIZARD FIGHT SCENE IN FELLOWSHIP. AND TO BE HONEST, YEAH, THE FIGHT SCENE PRETTY LAME.

HERE’S THE PROBLEM… PETER JACKSON DIDN’T FILM IT.

IT WASN’T EVEN FILMED BY THE 2ND UNIT DIRECTOR, BUT ONE OF THE MANY 3RD UNIT DIRECTORS. IF HULK REMEMBERING THE DOCUMENTARY RIGHT, HE WAS SOME FRESH FACED KID GETTING CALLED UP TO THE MAJORS. AND TO BE FAIR HE HANDLES THE EMOTION OF THE SCENE RIGHT AND THAT’S WHAT MATTERS, BUT THE ACTION ITSELF PRETTY AWKWARDLY STAGED.

HOW DOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPEN? HOW CAN JACKSON LET IT SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS? WELL. LET’S LOOK AT THE DIRECTING/2ND UNIT CREDITS OF FELLOWSHIP SHALL WE?

Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Marc Ashton …. second assistant director
Richard A. Barker …. first assistant director: second unit (as Richard Barker)
Guy Campbell …. key second assistant director
Emma Cross …. second assistant director: second unit
Carolynne Cunningham …. first assistant director
Louise Harness …. key second assistant director: second unit
Belindalee Hope …. second assistant director: miniature unit
Eric Houghton …. third assistant director
Chris Husson …. third assistant director
John Mahaffie …. second unit director
Richard Matthews …. third assistant director
Ian Mune …. additional second unit director
Geoff Murphy …. second unit director
Dave Norris …. first assistant director: second unit (as David Norris)
Guy Norris …. additional second unit director
Joanne Pearce …. second second assistant director
Liz Tan …. first assistant director: second unit
Skot Thomas …. second second assistant director
Martin Walsh …. first assistant director: miniature unit (as Marty Walsh)
Simon Warnock …. first assistant director: second unit
Katie Flannigan …. third assistant director (uncredited)
Marcus Levy …. additional second assistant director: second unit (uncredited)
Barrie M. Osborne …. additional second unit director (uncredited)
Rick Porras …. additional second unit director (uncredited)
Edith Thompson …. additional second assistant director: second unit (uncredited)
Fran Walsh …. additional second unit director (uncredited)
Stephanie Weststrate …. additional second assistant director: second unit (uncredited)

YOUR REACTION: HOLY CRAP THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE.

HULK + TOM’S REACTION: THIS THE REALITY OF BIG-BUDGET FILMMAKING.

IN ALL LIKELIHOOD, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE IS EITHER SOLELY RESPONSIBLE OR PARTIALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR A SHOT THAT ENDED UP IN THE FINAL MOVIE. WITH THE VAST NUMBER OF LOCATIONS, HUGE PRODUCTION CREWS, AND DAUNTING SCHEDULES, ACTION SCENES JUST TAKE WAY, WAY, WAY TOO MUCH TIME TO BE SOLELY HANDLED BY THE MAIN DIRECTOR. AND HONESTLY, DIRECTING ACTION IS PRETTY FREAKING BORING COMPARED TO THE NUANCE OF HANDLING AN ACTING PERFORMANCE. THIS IS NOT TO IMPLY DIRECTING ACTION NOT A VERY EXACTING PRACTICE. IN FACT, IT REQUIRE SUCH PATIENCE AND SKILL BECAUSE IT SO DAMN MONOTONOUS, THAT IT TAKES SERIOUS CHOPS. BUT SO MUCH OF IT JUST COMES DOWN TO SPENDING FOREVER TRYING TO GET THE NATURAL CHAOS TO FALL INTO PLACE JUST RIGHT.

TOM: have you read Vic Armstrong’s autobiography? It’s a nonsense ‘aeroplane’ book but very telling. It’s distressing to read how ‘action’ is seconded away from the director ALL THE TIME. Who’s film is it then? Action scenes are the raison d’être of summer tentpoles but I still want an auteurs stamp on everything. Tone & character are built on the specifics of these shots and sequences and editing style as much as anything else. It’s an unfortunate function of Hollywood economics and working practises that one ends up with essentially two authors on action films. The flip side of course is people like Chris Nolan. Highly publicised rejection of 2nd unit but shitty bad action director as well 😦

HULK HAS NOT READ IT, BUT WILL DEFINITELY CHECK IT OUT NOW. BUT YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. MOST OF OUR ACTION IS BEING DIRECTED BY PEOPLE WE DON’T KNOW, LIKE IN THE CREDITS ABOVE. THIS IS NOT TO IMPLY 2ND UNIT DIRECTORS AND THEIR CREWS BAD OR LACKING IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM (HONESTLY MOST OF THEM PRETTY AMAZING), BUT IT SPEAKS TO YOUR EXACT POINT CONCERNING THE “AUTEUR STAMP.” WE ALWAYS WANT THAT SPECIAL THING THAT IS HANDLED BY THE VERY BEST CINEMATIC MINDS.

THAT AMAZING COEN BROTHER SCENE IN NO COUNTRY? THAT WASN’T SECOND UNIT. NO, THAT STUFF WAS PERSONALLY HANDLED BY THE TWO OF THEM AND HULK THINK THAT COMES ACROSS COMPLETELY.

BUT WITH THE BIG BUDGET STUFF, EVEN IF THE SEQUENCE BEEN STORY-BOARDED COMPLETELY, THE REALITY AND PRACTICALITY ON-SET JUST A DIFFERENT THING. EVEN SOMETHING AS SIMPLE AS A DIFFERENT LENS MAKES IT A DIFFERENT SHOT COMPLETE WITH A DIFFERENT FEELING. SOMETIMES A DIRECTOR JUST HAS TO ACCEPT THAT IT’S OUT OF THEIR HANDS. HULK BEEN IN THE ROOM WHILE DIRECTORS WATCHED DAILIES OF STUFF DONE BY 2ND UNIT AND EVEN IF IT NOT EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT, THEY HAVE MAKE THAT DECISION OF IF THEY WANT RE-SHOOT IT. WHICH NOT ONLY COSTS LOTS OF MONEY/FUCKS UP THE SCHEDULE, IT TAKES UP TREMENDOUS AMOUNT ENERGY AND FOCUS, WHICH CAN OFTEN BE SPENT IN BETTER WAYS.

A LOT OF TIMES THEY RIGHTFULLY RECOGNIZE THAT WORKING ON A DRAMATIC SCENE IS WAY MORE IMPORTANT

AND BY THE WAY TOM, HULK COMPLETELY AGREE ON YOUR NOLAN POINT. AND SO DOES THIS GUY WHO HAS A VERY POPULAR VIDEO GOING AROUND THE INTERWEBS NOW. HE APPROACHES IT WITH EDITOR-LIKE PRECISION THAT WHOLLY ON POINT, BUT HULK WISH HE’D BRING A FEW MORE QUALIFIERS IN BEFORE HE STARTED TALKING. IN TERMS OF EDUCATION IT LOOSES PEOPLE TOO QUICK… ALSO, SALT? REALLY?

BACK TO THE POINT, NOLAN HAS INCREDIBLE STRENGTHS AS DIRECTOR AND HULK ADORES INCEPTION, BUT INDEED. THE VAST MAJORITY OF HIS BASIC ACTION = CRAP. AND WHAT IS PERHAPS MOST ODD ABOUT IT, IS THAT HE’LL THEN HAVE THESE PARTS OF SEQUENCES THAT ARE SO FANTASTIC (THE TUMBLING DREAM HALLWAY, THE BATPOD EJECTION, THE 18 WHEELER FLIP) THAT PRETTY MUCH REDEEM EVERYTHING ABOUT THE SEQUENCE. HULK JUST THINKS IT’S STRANGE THAT PEOPLE THINK HE A GOOD ACTION DIRECTOR. HIS ACTION MOSTLY WORKS BECAUSE HE USUALLY MAKES REALLY, REALLY GOOD MOVIES FIRST (AND THE AFOREMENTIONED GREAT MOMENTS ROUND IT OUT). BUT HULK WORRIES THAT PEOPLE ONLY GO NUTS FOR NOLAN BECAUSE HE MAKE THESE SUPER-SERIOUS MOVIES WHICH LEGITIMIZE PULPY STUFF. DOES IT REALLY NEED TO BE LEGITIMIZED LIKE THAT? OR HECK MAYBE PEOPLE LIKE HIM FOR THE SAME REASON HULK DOES, HE’S NOT AFRAID TO BE COMPLICATED, NARRATIVE-WISE OR CHARACTER MORALITY-WISE.

BUT  YOU’RE RIGHT TOM, IT REALLY JUST MAKES THE WHOLE “NO 2ND UNIT” THING KIND OF SILLY.

TOM: They’d likely help.

THE ISSUE INFORMS ANOTHER ONE THOUGH…

AS DEEP AS HULK DIVES INTO MEANING AND SEMIOTICS OF MISE EN SCENE FOR THESE CRITICAL ESSAYS, HULK ALSO HAVE ONE FOOT IN THE REALISM OF PRODUCTION LOGISTICS. THERE IS THE FAMOUS ANECDOTE (THAT HULK IS ABOUT TO POSSIBLY BUTCHER) ABOUT A REPORTER ASKING KUROSAWA WHY HE CHOSE TO COMPOSE A CERTAIN SHOT THE WAY HE DID. KUROSAWA ANSWERED HONESTLY: [BECAUSE THERE WAS A SHOPPING MALL TO THE LEFT OF THE FRAME AND A HIGHWAY TO THE RIGHT OF IT]. IT’S SUCH AN AMAZING ANECDOTE, BECAUSE IT’S TRUE. HALF THE TIME THAT WILL BE THE CASE WITH ANY GIVEN SHOT. THERE ARE REAL LIMITS TO THESE THINGS.

FOR ALL HULK’S TALK OF “ACTION IS SO SIMPLE! BE SMARTER’ HULK KNOWS THAT MAKING AN ACTION SCENE IS REALLY NOT EASY WHATSOEVER.

THE FOLLOWING IS A PERSONAL STORY TO HIGHLIGHT: HULK ONCE WORKED ON A SCENE AND BUDGET-WISE HULK X AMOUNT OF TIME TO FILM IT. THERE WAS NO WIGGLE ROOM AND NO EXTRA MONEY. NOW YOU WILL KNOW THAT HULK LOVES “TAUT FILMMAKING” AND HULK HAD ENTIRE ACTION SEQUENCE STORY-BOARDED AND FULLY PLANNED WITH D.P. BUT THE PROCESS OF TRYING TO GET THE ACTION TO WORK IN A LOCKED FRAME, WAS QUITE SIMPLY TAKING FAR TOO LONG, DESPITE THE FACT WE WERE MOVING FAIRLY QUICKLY AND THE FOOTAGE WAS COMING OUT GREAT. BUT NOT FINISHING WAS SIMPLY NOT AN OPTION. SO WE ADAPTED IN TWO WAYS: UNLOCKING THE HEAD TO MOVE THE CAMERA AND BE SURE OUR ACTION WAS ACTUALLY CAPTURED IN FRAME, BUT THUS AFFECTING THE STILL AND “TAUT” TONE WE WANTED. AT THE SAME TIME, WE HAD TO ABANDON OUR PLAN TO ALTERNATE OUR SET-UP POSITIONS SO THAT THE ACTORS POSITIONS IN THE “GEOGRAPHY” WERE KEPT AS COHERENT AS POSSIBLE. BOTH DECISIONS ALTERED THE FINAL PRODUCT AND GAVE US A “MESSIER” SCENE THAN WE INTENDED, BUT THE DECISIONS WERE WHOLLY NECESSARY. WE ADAPTED THE BEST WE COULD IN THE EDIT AND STILL MADE THE WHOLE THING WORK. WAS OUR ORIGINAL PLAN TOO AMBITIOUS? MAYBE. SHOULD WE HAVE SCHEDULED EXTRA TIME? ABSOLUTELY. BUT THIS THE REALITY OF ALL FILMMAKERS. IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU’RE A BIG BUDGET FILM, BECAUSE IF YOU ARE THAT MEANS YOU PROBABLY HAVE A MOVIE STAR. AND IN CASE YOU ARE UNAWARE, MOVIE STARS HAVE SET TIME LIMITS AND CRAZY SCHEDULES SO THEY’RE ALWAYS OFF TO THE NEXT PROJECT. THE TIME CONSTRAINTS ON BIG BUDGET FILMS ARE NOT BETTER, THEY ARE WORSE. AND THE PRESSURES CAN COME FROM ANY AND ALL PLACES: WEATHER, HEALTH PROBLEMS, YOU NAME IT! BUT YOU HAVE TO BE READY TO ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES.

WHICH WHY WE MUST UNDERSTAND THIS A HUMAN PROCESS. THERE IS NO PRESS THE “GOOD ACTION SEQUENCE BUTTON” IN AN EDIT BAY.

BUT AT THE VERY SAME TIME, HULK & TOM’S ENTIRE ARGUMENT THAT WE CAN STILL DO BETTER. WE CAN STRIVE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT WE DOING WITH CINEMA AS BEST AS POSSIBLE. AND THE MORE WE PREPARE, THE MORE WE INHERENTLY UNDERSTAND WHAT MAKES AN ACTION SCENE WORK, THE BETTER WE CAN DEAL WITH KNOWING HOW ON-SET CHANGES WILL EFFECT THE SCENE’S STORY AND TONE, AND THUS, THE MORE WE WILL BE ABLE CONTROL WHAT SHOWS UP IN THE FINAL PRODUCT. WE JUST CAN’T LOSE SIGHT OF THE CORE PRINCIPALS. LIKE WITH THE CAUSE + EFFECT THING. THERE IS A REASON HULK SPENT SO MUCH TIME WITH THIS PART AND IT IS BECAUSE HULK THINKS PEOPLE LOST SIGHT OF IT.

PART 9 – EPILOGUE / YOU

SO CONSIDER THIS LAST BIT A PIECE OF ADVICE-

TOM: Wait, I was promised Ewoks.

HULK TRYING TO BE POIGNANT HERE.

TOM: Sorry.

TO THOSE WHO WATCH MOVIES AND CRITIQUE THEM, HULK & TOM WANT YOU TO HAVE MORE OF A DISCERNING EYE TOWARD WHAT MAKES ACTION WORK. RECOGNIZE WHAT WE CAN DO BETTER BUT ALSO REALIZE WHY WE MAY FALL SHORT. TRY AND RECOGNIZE WHAT MIGHT BE THE FAULT OF POOR CONCEPT AND WHAT MIGHT BE THE THE RESULT OF PRODUCTION LOGISTICS. FOR EXAMPLE ONE AWFUL CUT IN A SEQUENCE IS A PRODUCTION MIS-STEP, WHEREAS 8 OKAY CUTS SHOWS POOR CONCEPT AND UNDERSTANDING. SEE? IT NOT THAT HARD! JUST REMEMBER THAT IN THE WAKE OF REALITY, THERE ARE HUMAN BEINGS INVOLVED.

AND FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO WISH TO GO FORWARD AND MAKE YOUR OWN PIECES OF ACTION?

AT THIS POINT, IT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS THAT FILMMAKING IS INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT. IT TAKES TIME TO UNDERSTAND AND GET BETTER AT IT. THERE ARE REASON YOU ARE A “YOUNG” DIRECTOR AT 35. AND EVEN IF YOU KNOW EVERYTHING THAT IS THE “RIGHT” THING TO DO, YOU WILL MAKE THE WRONG DECISIONS IN MOMENT. BUT WITH REPEATED EXPERIENCE IT WILL WILL COME TOGETHER. IF YOU KEEP YOUR MIND OPEN, EVERYTHING YOU WILL NEED TO LEARN WILL BE TAUGHT TO YOU IN THE ACTUAL PROCESS OF DOING IT. EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WHAT TO INCLUDE IN SHOOTING-SCRIPTS YOU WILL LEARN IN PRE-PRODUCTION (“IS IT STILL THE SAME DAY?” “WHAT CLOTHES ARE THEY WEARING?”). EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO DO IN PRE-PRODUCTION YOU WILL LEARN IN PRODUCTION (“HEY WAIT, WHERE ARE PEOPLE GOING TO GO TO THE BATHROOM?”). EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO LEARN ABOUT PRODUCTION YOU WILL LEARN IN EDITING (“YEAH, GUESS WE REALLY NEEDED A PICK-UP SHOT THERE… FUCK.”) AND EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO LEARN IN EDITING YOU WILL LEARN ONCE THE WORK IS RELEASED (“I GUESS THAT SCENE DIDN’T WORK” OR “THAT DIDN’T GET A LAUGH” OR “MAYBE THAT RUINED THE MOVIE AFTER ALL”). AND THE NEXT TIME YOU START OVER YOU WILL KNOW EVEN MORE AND THEN IT IS JUST A PROCESS OF GETTING BETTER.

AND MORE SPECIFICALLY, TAKE THE FOLLOWING PIECES OF ADVICE ON YOUR ACTION SCENES:

DON’T THINK OF SOMETHING COOL.

THINK OF A PROBLEM/THREAT AND THEN FIGURE OUT HOW THE CHARACTER COULD SOLVE IT.

THINK ABOUT LINKING THAT PROBLEM IN A SERIES OF PROBLEMS.

THINK ABOUT LAYING THE GROUND WORK AND SETTING FIRST.

THINK ABOUT GIVING THE ACTION SPACE.

THINK ABOUT CLARITY.

THINK ABOUT PURPOSE.

THINK ABOUT CAUSE + EFFECT.

THINK OF IT IS AS A STORY.

AND WITH THAT…

WE ARE ROOTING FOR YOU ALL WITH THE FULL SINCERITY OF OUR HEARTS,

AND WE WISH YOU WAY MORE THAN LUCK.

❤ HULK & TOM

            HULK HAVE NO IDEA WHY TOM IS PIPPEN

TOM: Thanks?

IT’S OVER!

ENDNOTES!

(12A) BUT DO NOT DARE CONFUSE WITH TODAY’S POPULARITY OF THE DOCU-STYLE FILMMAKING TREND “FOUND FOOTAGE.” THEY ARE VERY, VERY DIFFERENT THINGS.

(12B) SORRY FOR THE FOOTNOTES SO CLOSE TOGETHER. HULK TRY BE BETTER AT THAT BUT SOMETIMES IT IMPORTANT. HULK JUST SIMPLY HAVE TO MENTION THAT THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NOT TO IMPLY THAT TRADITIONAL, STYLIZED CINEMA CANNOT FEEL “REAL.” IF YOU WRAP UP YOUR AUDIENCE IN THE STORY AND EXPERIENCE THEN ALL CINEMA, WHETHER ANIMATED OR SURREAL, CAN BE TRANSPORT YOU SOMEPLACE “REAL.” AND THAT IS THE TRUE MAGIC. THE POINT WITH SHAKY-CAM IS THAT IT CAN BE USED TO MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE “THIS IS THE REAL WORLD YOU’RE IN RIGHT NOW” IN A SLIGHTED MORE GROUNDED, TONAL WAY. THAT’S ALL.

(12C) THERE WERE OF COURSE MANY MOVIES AND TV SHOWS THAT USED IT BEAUTIFULLY: IT MADE PERFECT SENSE FOR THE INTENSITY OF THE SHIELD AND FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS USED IT FOR HUMANITARIAN AIMS. BUT ONE PLACE WHERE SHAKY-CAM WORKED SO WELL AGAINST SEEMING INTUITION WAS WITH THE NEW BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. SHAKY-CAM WORKED FOR THEM BECAUSE THEY DECIDED THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO THEIR TONE WAS TO GROUND THE VIEWER IN THE REALISM OF THEIR SCI-FI WORLD. MEANING IT WAS NOT TO SIMPLY MAKE “SILLY” SCI-FI SEEM MORE REALISTIC, BUT TO AMPLIFY THE TONE OF A SHOW THAT WAS ALREADY STRIVING TOWARD REALISM. MAKE SENSE?

(12D) AND TO BE COMPLETELY FAIR, MICHAEL BAY IS ALSO TERRIBLE AT STORYTELLING.

(13) CONSIDER THIS PART OF HULK’S BELIEF THAT IT NEVER GOOD TO TRY AND DISMISS SOMEONE COMPLETELY… IN THAT CASE YOU’D ALSO HAVE TO IGNORE FOOTNOTE #12.

(14A) NOT TO BEAT THIS DRUM AGAIN, BUT HULK WANT CLARIFY THAT HULK’S THESIS ON “COOL” ACTION SOMETHING HULK STARTED BEFORE THIS ARTICLE COME UP. IF HULK SEEM OVERLY-WORRYING AGAIN IT JUST A MATTER OF WANTING TO CLARIFY HULK NOT LIFTING IDEAS. WE SO USE TO PEOPLE LIFTING IDEAS IN INTERNET CULTURE IT ACTUALLY WORRY HULK. BESIDES, THE FACT THAT LOTS OF PEOPLE ARE SAYING THE SAME THING MORE SPEAKS TO THE FACT THAT THIS ISSUE IS THE REAL F’ING DEAL: ACTION-CRAZY HOLLYWOOD HAS NO IDEA WHAT TO DO WITH ACTION.

(14B) SECOND D+D REFERENCE OF COLUMN! SHIT GETTIN NERDY UP IN HERE!

(15) AND YET AS MUCH AS TRAILERS WANT TO SELL A “VIBE” THEY ALSO HAVE THE PECULIAR TENDENCY TO GIVE AWAY BIG BLOCKS OF STORY, IF NOT ALL OF IT. WHAT’S FUNNY IS THAT TRAILERS ARE SO COMPLETE IN WHAT THEY COVER OF THE PLOT, THAT THEY ESSENTIALLY CREATE 2 MINUTE VERSIONS OF THE MOVIE. PEOPLE THEN GO TO THE THEATER KNOWING ALL THE MAJOR BEATS THAT ARE COMING AND THEY ESSENTIALLY THEREFORE SEEKING A THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE OF THE COOL TRAILER THEY WATCHED. CONCEPTUALLY, IT IS DOWNRIGHT BIZARRE. HULK ALSO KNOW FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE THAT THIS TRAILER CHOICE STEMS FROM ONE POORLY WORDED QUESTION. SEE, MARKETING “EXPERTS” USE FOCUS GROUPS TO TEST TRAILERS WITH RANDOM VIEWERS AND ASK THE SAID VERY STUPID QUESTION: “WHAT WOULD YOU WANT TO SEE MORE OF IN THIS TRAILER?” 90% OF MEN SAY “MORE EXPLOSIONS AND BOOBS.” AND 90% OF WOMEN SAY “I WANTED TO KNOW MORE OF THE STORY.” IT’S OUTRIGHT FACT. AND AS A RESULT, WE GET TRAILERS THAT ARE NOTHING BUT EXPLOSIONS, BOOBS, AND THE WHOLE DAMN STORY. WHAT THE MARKETING “EXPERTS” NOT REALIZE WHATSOEVER THAT THEY ESSENTIALLY ASKING A QUESTION THAT LEADS THE AUDIENCE TO A CONCLUSION THAT UNDERMINES THE INTENTION OF MARKETING. MARKETING IS MEANT TO LEAD SOMEONE TO SAY “I WANT MORE OF WHAT I JUST GOT A TASTE OF THERE.” INSTEAD THEY ESSENTIALLY GIVING PEOPLE A COMPLETE PRODUCT EXPERIENCE IN AN EFFORT TO SATISFY THEM RIGHT THEN AND THERE, BARELY REALIZING THEY JUST RUINED IT. THEY THINK THEY ARE SELLING SOMETHING “SATISFYING” BUT THEY ARE UNKNOWINGLY MAKING TRAILERS IN HOPES THE TRAILER-VIEWER THEN GOES “I WANT TO DO THAT AGAIN.” IT IS WHOLLY WRONG-HEADED… THEN AGAIN, YOU COULD GO IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION LIKE J.J. ABRAMS AND TEASE AND PRETEND EVERYTHING ABOUT YOUR STORY A MYSTERY EVEN IF ITS NOT… HULK’S POINT IS THAT, LIKE NEARLY EVERYTHING, IT’S ABOUT BALANCE.

FINE... HAVE SOME EWOKS.
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HULK EXPLAINS ACTION SCENES – ACTION STRIKES BACK! WITH SPECIAL GUEST TOM TOWNEND! DAY 2 OF 3

PREAMBLE: YESTERDAY, HULK PUBLISHED THE FASTEST CLIMBING ARTICLE IN THIS BLOG’S HISTORY.  IF YOU DIDN’T READ IT, YOU CAN DO SO BY CLICKING RIGHT HERE.

THE RESPONSE TO THE PIECE HAS BEEN TRULY HUMBLING, AND HULK HAVE MANY SINCERE THANKS TO Y’ALL.

SO HOW ABOUT WE EMBARK ON DAY 2?

CINEMATOGRAPHER EXTRAORDINAIRE TOM TOWNEND BACK AND WE READY TO ROLL (NOTE: IF HE HEARD HULK CALL HIM THAT HE WOULD GET ALL BASHFUL AND DEMURE. BUT AS EVIDENCED IN THE PRIOR COLUMN, HE PRETTY BRILLIANT).

SO YESTERDAY WE TOOK ON THE CONCEPTS AT THE CENTER OF CREATING GOOD ACTION: STARTING WITH SIMPLE IDEAS, TREATING THE ACTION AS A “STORY,” THE BASICS OF CAUSE + EFFECT, AND HAVING OBJECTIVES.

TODAY CONCERNS HOW ONE GOES ABOUT THE EXECUTION OF THOSE CONCEPTS. WE HAVE 3 PARTS FOR YOUR ASSES: GEOGRAPHY, TONE/SUSPENSE, AND “PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER.”  IN WHICH, WE WILL TALK THE MATRIX, KUNG FU, JACKIE CHAN, SOUND DESIGN, CAT PEOPLE, TAUT FILMMAKING, QUENTIN TARANTINO’S DIALOGUE SET-UPS, THE COEN BROTHERS RELATIVE AWESOMENESS, AND… DAVID LYNCH? WHAT THE FUCK?

LET’S DO IT:

PART 3 – GEOGRAPHY AND “SEEING THE FRAME”

YOU MAY ASK, “HULK, WHY DO KUNG FU FILMS WORK IF THEY’RE NOT REALLY USING CAUSE + EFFECT AND MORE JUST GUY’S PUNCHING THE CRAP OUT OF EACH OTHER?”

HULK WOULD ANSWER, “THAT A TERRIBLE QUESTION. YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING, DO YOU?”

… LUCKILY IT’S JUST A FAKE QUESTION HULK MADE UP TO PROVE A SILLY POINT: A GOOD FIGHT/KUNG-FU SCENE HAS JUST AS MUCH CAUSE + EFFECT AS ANY OTHER GOOD ACTION SCENE, IT JUST WORKS AT MUCH, MUCH FASTER PACE. BUT IN ORDER FOR IT TO WORK, ALL THE PUNCHES, BLOCKS, AND REVERSALS HAVE TO MAKE SENSE TO THE VIEWER. SO WHEN YOU SEE TWO PEOPLE FIGHTING, YOU HAVE TO SEE THEM FIGHTING.

THE WAY TO DO THAT IS WITH A CERTAIN WORD PEOPLE THROW AROUND A LOT WHEN TALKING ABOUT ACTION SCENES, AND THAT IS WORD “GEOGRAPHY.” WHAT IT MEANS IS THE UNDERSTANDING OF CHARACTERS IN PLACEMENT WITH EACH OTHER AS WELL AS THE SPACE AROUND THEM.

IT SOUNDS RELATIVELY SIMPLE, BUT HULK ASSURE YOU THAT AFTER DEALING WITH THE PRODUCTION COMPLICATIONS OF BLOCKING, SHOT SELECTION, AND THEN EDITING, THEN EVEN THE MOST HEAVILY PRE-VISUALIZED SEQUENCE CAN COME OUT LESS COHESIVE THAN IMAGINED IN THE FINAL PRODUCT. AFTER ALL, 3O SECONDS OF GUYS HITTING EACH OTHER ON SCREEN USUALLY TAKES DAYS TO FILM. WHICH MEANS IT IS VERY, VERY EASY TO LOSE TRACK OF HOW THINGS FIT TOGETHER IN THE CHAOS OF PRODUCTION.(9C) WHICH MEANS THAT WHEN SOMEONE IS FILMING A FIGHT SCENE, THE OVERALL COMMITMENT TO GEOGRAPHY HAS TO BE PARAMOUNT.

FORGIVE A QUICK NOTE ON THE HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD’S RELATIONSHIP TO ACTION “GEOGRAPHY” BUT IT’S IMPORTANT FOR THE NEXT POINT. SAID HISTORY GOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS: IN THE DAWN OF MOVIES THE FRAME WAS STILL PRIMARILY THE “THEATER WINDOW” WHICH MADE EVERYTHING LOOK LIKE A FILMED STAGE PLAY. SO REALLY GEOGRAPHY OF PEOPLE AND ACTION WAS PRETTY MUCH A GIVEN. EVEN IN THE GOLDEN AGE OF FILM NOIR (INSERT 90 MILLION AWESOME FILMS AS EXAMPLES), WHICH USED A MUCH MORE STYLIZED FORM OF FILMMAKING, THE STYLE WAS PRETTY MUCH COMPOSED OF WIDE SHOTS AND LOTS OF INSERTS THAT FOCUSED ON CLARITY. THE MAJOR DIFFERENCE WAS THE LIGHTING AND COMPOSITION WAS FREAKING AWESOME. EVEN THE 60’S/ 70’S ACTION MOVIES (DIRTY HARRY, THE GREAT ESCAPE,  BULLITT, THE FRENCH CONNECTION) USED THE INVENTION OF CINEMA SCOPE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE WIDE-FRAME. ACTION WAS STILL RULED BY MASTER SHOTS.

LIKE THIS:

THEN THE CINEMATIC REVOLUTION OF THE LATE 70’S CHANGED THE LANGUAGE OF HIGH FORM CINEMA ALL TOGETHER.  THEN SPIELBERG AND LUCAS TOOK THAT NEW FILM LANGUAGE AND USED IT TO CHANGE POPCORN CINEMA. SPIELBERG SHOT HIS ACTION FOR MAXIMUM AUDIENCE TENSION AND LUCAS SHOT HIS ACTION FOR MAXIMUM PACE (AT THE TIME THAT IS). THE EFFECT WAS REMARKABLE, BUT IT’S IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT BOTH FILMMAKERS RITUALLY SACRIFICED GEOGRAPHY IN THE NAME OF THESE OTHER CONCEPTS. LUCKILY, THEY WERE SO GOOD AT THOSE OTHER CONCEPTS THAT THEIR WORK WAS REVOLUTIONARY. THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE GENERATION THAT FOLLOWED THEM MISSED THE MARK AND TOOK THE “STYLE” AND “PACE” OF BOTH FILMMAKERS, WITHOUT REALIZING THEIR GENIUS WAS IN THE CONTENT OF DRAMATIZATION, NOT THE CINEMATIC CHEATS. THUS, THE 80’S/90’S WERE LARGELY DARK TIMES FOR ACTION COHERENCE AND GEOGRAPHY, SAVE FOR A FEW BRIGHT SPOTS OF INTERNATIONAL CINEMA.

ENTER THE MATRIX.

…OF THE MANY OF THE THINGS THE WACHOWSKI BROTHERS DID RIGHT (AND WRONG), THEY AT LEAST UNDERSTOOD THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN ALL THEIR FIGHT SCENES WAS GEOGRAPHY.

TOM: In all the hooplah, some people forget that it really is such an important movie outside of its own context (and sequels). The popular introduction of Hong Kong fight choreography to mainstream Hollywood raised the stakes – endless punches and tussles look lame now. Unfortunately the silly physics is what Hollywood adopted instead of the ‘flow’ and ‘shape.’ We got bullet-time jokes instead of people aping the most important thing – one specific fighting action leading to another specific fighting action – cause and effect on a macro and highly engineered level. The Dojo fight in that movie is a rare example of Hollywood getting it right.

BOOM. EXACTLY. FOR ALL THE FANCY NEW TECHNOLOGY + SPECIAL EFFECTS, IT WAS REALLY JUST GOOD OLE-FASHIONED KNOW-HOW WITH CAMERA ANGLES THAT MADE IT THE MOVIE WORK (ALONG WITH HEAVY COMMITMENT TO BASIC METAPHORS AND STORY TROPES). AND THAT DOJO SCENE IS EXEMPLARY OF EVERYTHING THE MOVIE DID SO WELL.

SO WHY DON’T WE TAKE A LOOK?

WHILE THE ACTION ITSELF IS RATHER DYNAMIC AND COMPLICATED, WERE YOU EVER CONFUSED ABOUT WHERE SOMEONE WAS IN RELATION TO THE OTHER? OR HOW THEY PULLED OFF AND EXECUTED A MOVE?

TOM: Nope.

THE CAMERA IS ALWAYS JUST FAR ENOUGH BACK TO SHOW THE WHOLE MOVEMENT. IN FACT, THE MOVEMENTS OF THE ACTORS ACTUALLY DICTATED WHERE THE CAMERA SHOULD GO NEXT, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. NOTICE THEIR RELATIONSHIP, THE WAY THE CAMERA SEEMED TO FLOW OFF OF THE ACTOR’S ACTIONS, AS IF IT WAS REACTING WITH EQUAL GRACE. IT BEHAVES ALMOST LIKE A DANCE PARTNER. BUT EVEN WHEN THE CAMERA IS MOVING, IT IS NEVER SO DISTRACTING AS TO MAKE THE CAMERA MOVEMENT THE MOST ACTIVE PART OF THE SCENE. IT’S NEVER TRYING TO BE “NOTICED.”

TOM: Right, it’s low stakes showboating that only just avoids pastiche.

OOOH. GOOD WORD CHOICE!

TOM: Thanks!

SO NOW LET’S GO BACK TO OUR EARLIER POINTS. NOTICE WHAT TOM TALKING ABOUT WITH THE MACRO CAUSE + EFFECT. KUNG FU IS FREAKING BEAUTIFUL, BUT STILL SIMPLE IN THOSE “STORY-TELLING” TERMS: MOVE. REVERSE. MOVE. REVERSE.

AND NOTICE THE EFFECTIVE USE OF OBJECTIVES IN THE SCENE! NOTICE HOW MORPHEUS PROVIDE THE GOALS AND EXPLAINS EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENING. HE’S NOT JUST NARRATING THE ACTION, BUT ALSO THE EMOTIONAL/CHARACTER ARC FOR NEO. AS LAME AND CLICHE AND ON THE NOSE AS ALL THOSE EMOTIONAL BEATS ARE, BY MAKING IT SO DAMN CLEAR IT ALLOWS ALL THE FANCY-PANTS ACTION TO HAVE ACTUAL STORY MEANING.

TOM: Yeah, not sure The Matrix needs the sly character exposition of Silkwood… though it couldn’t hurt.

HULK LAUGH.  BUT SEE HOW IT ALL STARTING TO PIECE TOGETHER? CAUSE + EFFECT/OBJECTIVES TIE RIGHT GEOGRAPHY BECAUSE BOTH STRIVE FOR THE GOAL OF CLARITY. AND GEOGRAPHY IS SO IMPORTANT IN HAND TO HAND FIGHT SCENE BECAUSE IT’S WHAT TELLS THE STORY. SO NOW IT’S COMING TOGETHER TO MAKE A CLEARER PICTURE OF HOW ACTION WORKS.

BUT LET’S TAKE FIGHT SCENES ONE STEP FURTHER WITH THE ALL-TIME GREAT OF KUNG-FU ACTION: JACKIE CHAN.

                                                   FUCK YEAH!

JUST SO YOU KNOW, HULK ADORES JACKIE CHAN. HULK EVEN BELIEVE HE ONE OF CINEMA’S GREAT HEIRS OF PHYSICAL COMEDY. MAYBE IT’S JUST THAT HULK GREW UP ON HIM, BUT HULK THINK HE PROBABLY HAVE MORE IN COMMON WITH THE SPARKLE OF BUSTER KEATON AND CHARLIE CHAPLIN THAN PROBABLY ANY OTHER CINEMATIC FIGURES, THOUGH HULK WILLING TO ACCEPT ARGUMENTS. (9D) SO EVEN THOUGH HIS HOLLYWOOD OUTPUT IS LESS STELLAR THAN HIS HONG-KONG OUTPUT, EVEN THOUGH HULK ADORE HIM, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT WHAT HE DOES STILL WORKS IN THE MOST BASIC CONCEPTS OF ACTION.

EVEN THOUGH JACKIE IS WORKING IN THE KUNG FU GENRE, WE’VE PREVIOUSLY ESTABLISHED FROM SPIELBERG THAT LAUGHTER, ELATION, AND FIGHTING ENJOYMENT WORK IN EXACT SAME TERMS OF SET-UP/DELIVERY. SO IF YOU CAN UNDERSTAND AND INTEGRATE THEM SEAMLESSLY, YOU CAN CREATE INTERCHANGEABLE FORMS OF JOY. HULK BELIEVE THIS THE REASON JACKIE CHAN THE MOST POPULAR KUNG-FU IMPORT OVER OTHER GREAT CHOICES: HE CONSTANTLY TRYING TO THRILL YOU OR MAKE YOU LAUGH EVERY TWO SECONDS OF AN ACTION SCENE. AND IT’S NOT JUST HIS FIGHTING ABILITIES, WHICH ARE JAW DROPPING, BUT THE FACT HE UNDERSTOOD THAT BY USING CAUSE + EFFECT SO CLEARLY THAT HE COULD ENTERTAIN ON SEVERAL DIFFERENT LEVELS IN WHOLLY RAPID SUCCESSION.

THIS SOUNDS LIKE A SILLY STATEMENT, BUT HULK SO HAPPY THAT JACKIE WAS A PRODUCT OF TRADITIONAL ASIAN CINEMA. UNLIKE AMERICAN FILMS AND PERFORMERS, ASIAN CINEMA REALIZES THAT SUPER IMPORTANT LESSON THAT IF YOU’RE SHOWING SOMETHING GREAT THEN THE CAMERA NEVER HAS TO DO ANYTHING.

LET’S SEE HIM AT WORK, PARTICULARLY AT A SCENE THAT MOSTLY INVOLVES HAND TO HAND FIGHTING (INSTEAD OF USING PROPS, WHICH HE IS FAMOUS FOR) TO MAKE OUR POINT. WATCH HOW MUCH HE CAN AUGMENT THE BASICS OF FIGHTING, MAKING EACH PUNCH AND KICK LOOK UNIQUE IN THE CONTEXT OF ALL THE OTHERS. AND IF KUNG-FU MOVIES ARE NOT YOUR THING, FORGIVE THE PUERILE NATURE OF THE HUMOR IN THIS SCENE AND BAD-DUBBING. THIS IS WHAT KUNG FU MOVIES DO , SO HULK ASKS YOU TO BE PATIENT AND JUST LET IT BUILD. BUT AGAIN, WATCH HOW LITTLE THE CAMERA DOES:

FIRST OFF, LET US JUST ACKNOWLEDGE IF MATT DAMON DID THIS IN AN ACTION MOVIE THE ENTIRE EASTERN SEABOARD WOULD HAVE SHIT ITS COLLECTIVE PANTS (FOLLOWED OF COURSE, BY EACH SUCCESSIVE TIME ZONE). INSTEAD, THESE AMAZING FEATS ARE SOMEHOW REGARDED AS JUST “THAT STUFF THAT JACKIE DOES.” BUT THERE ARE REAL LESSONS TO TAKE AWAY.

NOTICE IN THE CLIP HOW SHORT THE ACTUAL SEQUENCE OF HITS ARE PER OPPONENT. IT IS NOT AND ENDLESS SERIES PUNCH AND KICK COMBOS. HE MOVES FROM BAD GUY TO BAD GUY SO QUICKLY (READ: LINKS THEM) THAT IT WORKS BEAUTIFULLY AND FEELS LIKE HE’S PROGRESSING, EVEN THOUGH IT IS JUST THE SAME FOUR BAD GUYS OVER AND OVER. JACKIE UNDERSTOOD THAT YOU HAD TO PUNCTUATE MOMENTS OF FIGHT SCENES LIKE SENTENCES: WITH REVERSALS, FLIPS, FALLS, JOKES, TURNING ATTENTION, FUNNY FACIAL EXPRESSIONS, AND ALL THESE FUNNY PUNCTUATION MARKS FLOW IN THE COURSE OF THE ACTION. YES, THE FIGHTING HAS AN ACTUAL RHYTHM.  AND IT’S NOT JUST BECAUSE JACKIE IS AN ABSURDLY TALENTED FIGHTER, IT’S BECAUSE THE FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY SO WELL-DESIGNED IN FIRST PLACE.

AND AGAIN, THE CAMERA NEVER GETS IN THE FREAKING WAY.

BET LET US ALL BE HONEST, LOTS OF ACTORS ARE JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO FIGHT ANYWHERE CLOSE TO THIS LEVEL (AND THEN THERE’S THE PESKY, THOUGH TOTALLY HUMANE MATTER OF INSURANCE) BUT THE LESSON OF THIS KIND OF STUFF FOR HOLLYWOOD SHOULD OBVIOUS: STRIVE TO PRODUCE THIS LEVEL OF ACTION.

POST-MATRIX HOLLYWOOD IS OBVIOUSLY WAY, WAY BETTER AT OFFERING HIGH QUALITY MARTIAL ARTS AND FIGHTING THAN BEFORE, BUT LOTS OF TIMES HOLLYWOOD IS STILL JUST “HIDING” THE ACTION SO IT DOESN’T LOOK LAME. WELL HULK ARGUE THAT NOT REALLY AN EXCUSE. NOT THIS DAY IN AGE. ACTORS TRAIN FOR MONTHS. FUCK, EDGAR WRIGHT WAS ABLE TO MAKE MICHAEL CERA, MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD AND EGG, HULK MEAN ANNE, FROM ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT KICK ALL SORTS OF RELATIVE ASS IN SCOTT PILGRIM. HULK MEAN, JUST FREAKING WATCH:

SERIOUSLY HOLLYWOOD? CERA, WINSTEAD, AND MAE WHITMAN JUST HANDED YOU YOUR FUCKING ASS. SURE, EDGAR WRIGHT MIGHT BE A ONCE IN A GENERATION FILMMAKER (MORE ON THAT ON DAY 3), BUT WHAT THIS SCENE PROVES IS THAT YOU ABSOLUTELY, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, HAVE ANY EXCUSE.(10A)

YOU HAVE TO DO BETTER. MOST OF THESE ACTION MOVIE STARS ALREADY HAVE A BREADTH OF FIGHTING EXPERIENCE. AND EVEN THEN OUR FACIAL REPLACEMENT SOFTWARE IS LEGITIMATELY PERFECT NOW AND HOLLYWOOD’S STUNT MEN AND STUNT COORDINATORS ARE SO FUCKING AMAZING AT THEIR JOBS THAT THERE’S JUST NO EXCUSE. HULK WANT TO SEE WHAT THEY CAN DO. APPARENTLY, TOM CRUISE WAS APPARENTLY A NO-BULLSHIT MASTER SWORDSMAN BY THE END OF HIS TRAINING FOR LAST SAMURAI, BUT HULK WOULDN’T KNOW FROM WHAT THE MOVIE SHOWED… SO PULL BACK THE CAMERA AND STOP OVERLY CUTTING FOR FUCKS SAKE…. SORRY. HULK GETTING  A LITTLE SMASHY. (10B)

GETTING THE CAMERA OUT OF THE WAY MATTERS, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU HAVE SOMETHING WELL-CHOREOGRAPHED.

NEED PROOF? THIS TIME LET’S WATCH AN AMERICANIZED JACKIE CHAN MOVIE. HECK, HOW ABOUT THE ONE WHERE HE SQUARES OFF AGAINST THE OTHER IMMORTAL KUNG FU LEGEND, JET-LI! NOW UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS A FIGHT THAT KUNG FU FANS WAITED FOR FOR DECADES… AND WATCH HOW IT TREATED “SIMILARLY” UNDER AN AMERICAN DIRECTOR, BUT DIFFERENTLY ENOUGH THAT IT ROBS THE SEQUENCE OF EFFECT:

WHY THIS SCENE FEEL SO DIFFERENT?

IT BECAUSE THE ACTION MOMENTS LACK PERSONALITY AND BEATS. THE TRANSITIONS ARE LIKE “OKAY, NO WE’RE KICKING BACK AND FORTH, NOW WE PUNCHING BACK AND FORTH.” THERE ARE NO REAL PUNCTUATION MARKS, JUST ENDLESS SUCCESSIONS. AND RATHER THAN STRIVE FOR REAL IMPACT, IT STRIVES TO BE BEAUTIFUL/ARTFUL. SURE THE CAMERA IS TECHNICALLY “FAR BACK” A LOT OF TIMES, BUT IT HAS A NUMBER OF TIMES IT CUTS WAY TOO CLOSE FOR SOME ILL CONCEIVED REASON. BASICALLY, THE CAMERA TRY TO “HELP” TOO MUCH.  AND IT FLIRTS WITH HAVING THE GEOGRAPHY IN PLACE, BUT EVERY TIME IT CUTS TO HIGHLIGHT SOMETHING”COOL” IT ONLY GETS IN THE WAY OF WHAT WE REALLY WANT TO BE SEEING.(10C)

AGAIN THESE ARE JUST BASIC CAMERA AESTHETICS. WHAT THAT CLIP MISSES MOST OF ALL IS THE SPIELBERGIAN ELEMENT OF INVENTIVENESS THAT WAS PRESENT IN THE DRUNKEN MASTER CLIP.

AND NOW TO FINISH THIS PART OFF, IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN! LET’S GO BACK TO ATTACK THE BLOCK:

TOM: Ironically, whilst the preservation of ‘screen’ geography has been praised in reviews Joe & I were also trying to hide ‘real’ geography. The A-B journey of the script is built from a totally illogical actual journey – to provide the landscape for various action beats.

THAT AMAZING TO HULK BUT KNOWING PRODUCTION LOGISTICS, ABSOLUTELY TRUE. BUT HULK REALLY FELT LIKE EVERYTHING REGISTERED RATHER WELL. YOU HAD SENSE OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD, WHERE EVERYONE LIVED AND HOW TO GET AROUND, EVEN IF THE PHYSICAL LOCATION NO MATCH AT ALL.

TOM: I’m glad it worked. We had the advantage of a location with very consistent and modular architecture and the sequence was set at night which meant that only what was lit was what you saw and true linear geography could be kept vague.  But we wanted to try and keep things consistent within our screen geography and were diligent about establishing what was in front, behind, to the left, to the right, up and down…

Again, it seems repetitious of me but at the root of everything was the script.  When one sees a character on screen doing something perilous everyone likes to feel that this was still their best option.  Otherwise one starts to loose faith and identification with the character.  To keep the actions of the gang grounded they had to always seem to be making decisions consistent with their established character and circumstances so to force them into jeopardy (which is were all the exciting fun stuff is, right?) there had to be a series of reasonable obstacles between them and physical freedom and/or atonement.

Moses makes 3 bad choices in succession at the start of the story (attempt to mug someone, give an alien a punitive kicking & accept the offer of dealing hard drugs).  Then in the subsequent 3 sequences each of those choices he made start to backfire on him and until the end of the film him and his comrades are hemmed in by the fallout from their own behaviour.  The 4th ingredient is the geography of the location, especially the titular ‘Block’ and the script was very specific in it’s description of the building, the placement of characters apartments within it and particular (but not unrealistic) quirks such as there being no elevator access to the top floor, only one entrance or exit, metal security gates on only a select number of apartment doors, etc.

The doyen of these sorts of mechanics is Die Hard, my all time 2nd favourite film set in a tower block.

HULK LAUGH.

BELIEVE.

PART 4 – TONE, SUSPENSE, AND THE ART OF GOING “TAUT”

A WOMAN WALKS DOWN AN ABANDONED HALLWAY.  SHE SENSES SOMETHING UNSEEN. SHE SLOWS. THE MOMENT BUILDS. AND THEN SOMETHING JUMPS OUT AND SCARES THE FUCK OUT OF HER/THE AUDIENCE.

WE’VE SEEN THIS A MILLION TIMES BEFORE. IT IS NOT A NEW IDEA. IT IS NOT A “COOL” IDEA. SO WHY DOES IT CONTINUE WORK TIME AND TIME AGAIN IN A MILLION DIFFERENT FORMS?

YES, CAUSE + EFFECT IS ONE BIG PART OF IT (THE SCENE IS PRETTY MUCH ALL SET-UP), BUT SINCE THERE IS NO CLEAR VISUAL EVIDENCE OF WHAT ABOUT TO ACTUALLY HAPPEN, WHERE DOES THE TENSION COME FROM? WHAT CREATES IT? WHAT IS ACTUALLY SETTING YOU UP?

SOMETIMES ACTION IS ABOUT THE SEEMINGLY INTANGIBLE THINGS, THE ACTION WE DON’T SEE. THE TENSION COMES FROM A “FEELING” WE GET. AND WHEN HULK TALKS ABOUT HOW A MOVIE FEELS THE WORD TO USE IN THAT SITUATION IS TONE. DOES THE SCENE FEEL TENSE? FUN? CHAOTIC? SAD? THAT IS WHAT TONE IS. AND MOST TIMES THE POINT OF A SCENE IS NOT ABOUT WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING, BUT HOW THE SCENE FEELS.

THE AESTHETICS OF CINEMATOGRAPHY PLAY A PART IN TONE OF COURSE. HULK THINK MOST PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THIS INTRINSICALLY: THERE IS THE DARK AND MOODY SOURCE LIGHTING OF DRAMAS AND THE HIGH-KEY BRIGHT LIGHTING OF A ROMANTIC COMEDIES. BUT WHILE THE EFFECT OF CAMERA AESTHETICS ARE DEFINITELY IMPORTANT, THEY ARE SLIGHTLY OVERRATED BY THE PUBLIC COMPARED TO SOMETHING ELSE:

SOUND DESIGN!

                                                BEEP BOOP.

SOUND DESIGN IS ABSOLUTELY THE FIRST THING RESPONSIBLE FOR EFFECTIVE TONE ESTABLISHMENT. THIS ABSOLUTELY INCLUDES THE SCORE BY THE WAY. BOTH THE SOUND DESIGN AND SCORE WORK IN CONJUNCTION TO PROVIDE THE “FEELING” OF A MOVIE AND PLAY THE AUDIENCE ON A WHOLLY VISCERAL LEVEL, MEANING SOMETHING YOU INHERENTLY REACT TO IN AN UN-PROCRESSED MANNER. SAD MUSIC MAKES YOU CRY. SCRAPING METAL MAKES YOUR CRINGE, ETC.

SO LET’S GO BACK TO THE EXAMPLE OF THE WOMAN WALKING DOWN THE ABANDONED HALLWAY. OUR FIRST EMOTIONAL CUE THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG WILL LIKELY COME FROM SOUND. IT WILL BE SUBTLE. ALMOST SUBCONSCIOUS. THINGS WILL SUDDENLY GET QUIET. THE SOUND DESIGNER WILL USE PERHAPS A SLIGHT DRONE OR HIGH-PITCHED WHINE TO GET YOUR EARS AND BODY TO RESPOND. WE HAVE A VISCERAL REACTION TO THESE SOUNDS EVEN IF OUR BRAIN IS NOT ACTUALLY PROCESSING IT. THE SUSPICION WILL THEN BE CONFIRMED WITH VISUAL CUES FROM THE WOMAN (HER SLOWING DOWN/LOOKING INTO THE NOTHINGNESS). THE FEELING WILL BUILD. PERHAPS A SLIGHT MUSICAL CUE TO “HEIGHTEN” THE EMOTION. AGAIN NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENING, BUT THE AUDIO TELLING US SOMETHING WRONG BEFORE IT EVEN HAPPENS. AND THEN IN THE EVENTUAL MOMENT OF ACTUAL ON-SCREEN ACTION, WHEN THE THING JUMPS OUT, THE SOUND DESIGN WILL CLIMAX OR RELEASE, THUS ENDING THE BUILD.

TOM: Stop right there. You all have to watch and enjoy this:

TOM: Surely the progenitor of all ‘lone woman getting spooked in an alley’ sequences.  I believe that the device of a sudden, loud (but justifiably ‘diagetic’) noise on the soundtrack, which makes the audience jump but which proves not to be the expected threat, is known colloquially as a ‘Lewton’s Bus’ to this day.

HULK TOTALLY HEARD THAT BEFORE BUT DIDN’T KNOW THE REFERENCE! UGH! AMAZING!

YOU DEAR READER WILL RECOGNIZE WHAT WE TALKING ABOUT HERE AS TEXTBOOK HORROR DEVICES, BUT THE SOUND DESIGN/SCORING OF ACTION SCENES USES EXACT SAME LOGIC, EITHER WITH A BIT MORE SPEED AND SUCCESSION, OR NICE LONG BUILDS TURNING INTO EXTENDED SEQUENCES.

LET’S LOOK AT A VERY WELL-MADE FILM BY EVERYONE’S FAVORITE ANTI-SEMITIC/SEXIST/CRAZY ASSHOLE. CONCERNING OUR EARLIER PARTS, THE SCENE YOU ARE ABOUT TO WATCH IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF CAUSE + EFFECT AND YET A TERRIBLE EXAMPLE OF ESTABLISHING GEOGRAPHY. THIS IS OKAY BECAUSE IT MAKES UP FOR ANY GEOGRAPHY PROBLEMS WITH TREMENDOUS ABILITY TO BUILD TO THE ACTION WITH SOUND DESIGN/MUSIC.  PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO JUST THE AUDIO IN THIS  SCENE AND HOW IT FEELS:

GREAT USE OF TONE RIGHT? THE WAY THE SOUND ECHOES AS THINGS MOVE SLOW? THE WAY THE MUSIC GOES IN AND OUT.? THE WAY IT PROPELS ONCE THE ACTION ACTUALLY STARTS? THE WA IT PUNCTUATES THE ACTUAL MOMENTS OF IMPACT? THE THINGS THAT MAKE THIS SCENE WORK ARE THE EXACT SAME PRINCIPALS OF THE HALLWAY SCARE ANALOGY, JUST AUGMENTED TO FIT BOTH DRAMA AND ACTION.

HULK WANT TO USE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO DISCUSS SOUND WITH A REALLY WEIRD EXAMPLE AND SHOW THAT EFFECTIVE SOUND DESIGN CAN PLAY PART OF ANY KIND OF MOVIE AND CONTROLS YOUR INTENTION/MEANING WAY MORE THAN YOU CAN EVER IMAGINE.

THAT EXAMPLE IS DAVID LYNCH.

WHEN WE TYPICALLY THINK OF DAVID LYNCH, WE THINK OF HIS AMAZING/CRAZY IMAGERY: THE BABY IN ERASERHEAD. OR FRANK WITH OXYGEN TANK. OR THE SCARY HOMELESS MONSTER BY THE DUMPSTER. THESE ARE THE SUBJECTS, BUT THEY ARE NOT THE TONE.

DAVID LYNCH’S WORK, IF IT HAS ONE RUNNING THEME, SEEMS TO BE CONCERNED WITH THE EXISTENCE OF DARKNESS JUST UNDER THE SURFACE OF “ORDINARY.” IN EXPLORING THIS THEME HIS WORK EITHER OUTRIGHT SHOWS THE SUDDEN INVASION OF THE MACABRE INTO TRADITIONAL WHOLESOME SETTINGS, OR HE PRESENTS OVERTLY-PRISTINE IMAGES THAT ARE TAINTED BY SOMETHING SEEMINGLY PERVERSE.

TO EXECUTE THIS SECOND OPTION, LYNCH TAKES GREAT CARE TO PROVIDE UNSETTLING FEELINGS AMIDST THE “ORDINARY” SUBJECTS HES’ SHOWING. HE’LL PUT STRANGE DRONES AND WHINES UNDER SCENES OF DAILY HOUSEWORK AND OUR SEEMINGLY MUNDANE SUBURBIA. HE’LL SHOW SOME CUTE PEOPLE ACTING OVERLY-NICE, BUT WITH CREEPY SOUND DESIGN THE WHOLE THING BECOMES SUPER-SUPER CREEPY. IT ALWAYS MANAGES TO SET UP THE REST OF THE MOVIE, WHICH WILL GO DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE INTO TRULY DARK PLACES. AND LYNCH ACCOMPLISHES THESE SIGNIFIER  JUST BY USING COUNTER-INTUITIVE SOUND DESIGN.

AGAIN, IT’S THE EXACT SAME PRINCIPAL: YOU KNOW SOMETHING IS WRONG EVEN YOU’RE NOT SEEING IT. WHEN THE POINT COMES AROUND WHERE LYNCH STARTS TO UNRAVEL YOU WITH HIS IMAGERY TOO, HIS MOVIES ENTER THIS BRILLIANT HEIGHTENED STATE OF FILMMAKING. FOR EXAMPLE, THE FIRST MOMENT IN BLUE VELVET,WHERE KYLE MCLAUGHLIN DISCOVERS THE FIRST HINT TO THE DARK UNDERBELLY AROUND HIM, IS PERFECT LYNCH. A TINY SLICE OF BODY HORROR COMBINED WITH A GREAT SOUND DESIGN CUE. IN THIS SCENE, NOTICE THE “WHINE” HE USES TO LINGER OVER THE SCENE AND RE-eNFORCE THAT EVEN THOUGH THE SUBJECT IS WRONG, THERE IS SOMETHING EVEN MORE WRONG BEYOND IT. CHECK IT OUT:

THE SOUND DESIGN SAYS EVERYTHING ABOUT THE TONE IN THIS SCENE (NOTE: HULK COULD HAVE PICKED WAY, WAY, WAY CREEPIER SCENES FROM LYNCH, BUT THIS MORE APPROPRIATE FOR GENERAL AUDIENCES).

GO AHEAD. JUST DARE ME TO HAUNT YOUR DREAMS.

LYNCH MATTERS BECAUSE IT SHOWS WHAT INTERESTING DEPTHS YOU CAN GO TO BY MESSING WITH THE SOUND IN YOUR MOVIE. YOU CAN CHANGE GENRES, YOU CAN IMBUE FEELINGS, BUT MOST OF ALL YOU CAN MAKE AN AUDIENCE FEEL TENSE.

SO IF YOU’RE MAKING AN ACTION MOVIE, DON’T FORGET THIS.

DON’T JUST SETTLE FOR MUSIC THAT PROPELS THE AUDIENCE THROUGH YOUR SCENE WITH RECKLESS ABANDON (JUST TO KEEP THEM PLACATED). USE YOUR SOUND DESIGN TO AMP UP TENSION (FOR EXAMPLE, SPIELBERG DOES THIS BEAUTIFULLY IN JURASSIC PARK). PLAY WITH THEIR EMOTIONS, USE HORROR BEATS AND CONCEPTS AS YOUR “SET UP” BEFORE YOU DELIVER THE ACTION GOODS. HOLD THE TENSION. IT WILL WORK SO MUCH BETTER IN TERMS OF DRAMA AND AMPLIFY YOUR CAUSE + EFFECT.

HOOOLLLLLLLDDDD!!!!!!!

SO… LET’S GO ONE STEP FURTHER AND ASK WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO COMBINE THE LESSONS OF TENSION AND SOUND DESIGN IN TO THE LARGER SENSE OF FILMMAKING? SPECIFICALLY, HOW DO WE TAKE THIS SHARP SOUND DESIGN AND ACHIEVE THE SAME RESULT WITH CINEMATOGRAPHY AND EDITING? AND THEN HOW MARRY THE TWO INTO SOMETHING THAT AMPLIFIES THE TONE? AND YET SO IT BOTH CLEARLY SHOWS THE ACTION AND YET STILL HEIGHTENS IT?

HULK ARGUE THE WAY TO ACHIEVE ALL OF THIS IS WITH “TAUT” FILMMAKING.

ADMITTEDLY HULK LOVE TAUT FILMMAKING. IT SHOWS PERFECT UNDERSTANDING OF CINEMATIC PRINCIPALS AND QUITE HONESTLY, IT JUST HULK’S FAVORITE KIND OF FILMMAKING TO WATCH. WHY? BECAUSE IT OFFERS THOSE OF US WHO DEEP-TISSUE ANALYZE A MOVIE AS PART OF OUR INDUSTRY, A CHANCE TO REALLY TRULY “FEEL” A MOVIE. IT IS PURE CINEMA. AND HULK KNOW THE WORD “TAUT” NOT THAT DESCRIPTIVE, BUT WHAT IT ESSENTIALLY MEAN THAT TENSION AND IMPACT RULE THE SCENE ABOVE ALL OTHER FACTORS.

TAUT FILMMAKING USUALLY FEATURE A LOCKED OFF, NON-MOVING CAMERA (STILL SHOTS). THE CAMERA WILL PREFER STAY ON SUBJECT AS TENSION BUILDS UP. IF IT USES TRACKING SHOTS THEY WILL BE DELIBERATE AND SLOW (THINK KUBRICK). THE MOMENTS OF ACTUAL ACTION WILL OFTEN BE QUICK, VISCERAL, AND GRAPHICALLY VIOLENT. IF THE ACTION SPREADS OUT AND THE CHARACTERS/SUBJECTS BECOME KINETIC THE CAMERA WILL STILL STAY LOCKED OFF, BUT THE EDITING WILL QUICKEN PACE TO REFLECT THE CHANGE IN MOVEMENT. IT WILL BE JARRING, BUT NOT DISORIENTING. IN GENERAL, TAUT FILMMAKING WILL NOT USE TWO SHOTS WHEN ONE WILL DO AND EVERYTHING IS VERY, VERY DELIBERATE.

NEED SOME EXAMPLES? THE HISTORY GOES BACK TO GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM IN THE 20’S, BUT YOU’LL SURELY RECOGNIZE IT IN HITCHCOCK OR ROBERT BRESSON (A MAN CONDEMNED TO DEATH ESCAPES(1956) (10D) IS ONE OF HULK’S FAVES!). THERE’S THE FRENCH CONNECTION, JAWS, THE CONVERSATION, DAS BOOT, ALL OF SCORSESE’S ACTION, AND PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING KUBRICK EVER DID. MORE RECENTLY WE HAVE MOVIES LIKE THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, HEAT, PAN’S LABYRINTH, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (AND PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING CRONENBERG). EVEN TRUE-ART CHARACTER DRAMAS CAN COUNT LIKE KIESLOWSKI’S BLEU.

AND AS LOVER OF TAUT FILMMAKING HULK CAN NO WAIT SEE NICOLAS WINDING REFN’S DRIVE (COMING OUT THIS WEEK!). THE FOLLOWING CLIP IS FROM THE MOVIE YOU SIMPLY HAVE TO CHECK OUT. IT IS TREMENDOUS AND INCORPORATES EVERYTHING WE’VE TALK ABOUT SO FAR CONCERNING ACTION SCENES AND TAUT FILMMAKING: CAUSE + EFFECT, TENSION, STILLNESS.  IT CAN’T BE EMBEDDED, BUT SERIOUSLY, CLICK LINK AND WATCH IT:

http://www.festival-cannes.com/en/mediaPlayer/10934.html

… TENSE… EXHILARATING…. WOW.

THAT CLIP IS A PERFECT REPRESENTATION OF “TAUT” FILMMAKING. HULK BARELY FEELS LIKE HULK HAVE TO EXPLAIN ANYTHING! THAT WHAT COMPETANT FILMMAKING DOES, YOU JUST BE ON THE LOOK OUT FOR IT AND HOW IT WORKS END UP HITTING YOU RIGHT IN THE DAMN BRAIN. THE MUSIC, THE STILLNESS OF THE SHOTS, THE TENSION, THE DELIBERATE MOVEMENTS. AND BEST OF ALL, THIS “TAUT” FILMMAKING AND ALL THE CINEMATICS THAT MAKE THE SCENE WORK ARE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING NEW.

HOW NOT NEW ARE THEY? LET’S REVISIT OUR GOOD OLE’ FRIEND WAGES OF FEAR (1953). THE FILM’S GROUNDWORK LAID IN THE FIRST HOUR WHERE THEY CREATE THE CHARACTER TENSION, WHICH SETS THE STAGE FOR SEVERAL CONFRONTATIONS. WATCH THIS GREAT SCENE BELOW OF SEVERAL CHARACTERS FIGHTING OVER THE PLAYING OF MUSIC IN A BAR. NOTICE THE SUPER-DELIBERATE BEHAVIOR OF THE CAMERA AND THE CARE WITH WHICH IT CONVEYS THE IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

NOTICE THE FILM’S INTENT ON CLARITY. SURE, THE AESTHETICS ARE NO LONGER IN CINEMATIC VOGUE (THE BLACK + WHITE, THE SQUARE ANGLES, THE LINGERING PACE), BUT HULK TALKING ABOUT INTENT.(10E) EVERY SHOT SO F-ING SPECIFIC. EVERYTHING DESIGNED TO ESTABLISH INFORMATION. AND SOON IT BUILDS. SOON IT SWELLS. FINALLY THERE IS A CONFRONTATION WITH PALPABLE TENSION. IT’S AN “OLDER” FILM, BUT THE FEELING AND TONE IMPOSSIBLE NOT TO UNDERSTAND. IT SECRETLY THE EXACT SAME PRINCIPALS OF THE DRIVE CLIP.

OKAY TIME TO SWITCH GEARS IN THIS TENSION/SOUND DESIGN/TAUT DISCUSSION AND BRING UP ONE MORE WAY IN WHICH YOU CAN DIRECTLY EFFECT ACTION IN TERMS OF TONE:

DIALOGUE

NOW YOU MAY HAVE ALSO NOTICED SOMETHING ABOUT THE MOVEMENT OF THAT LAST SCENE FROM WAGES OF FEAR AND THE FOCUS OF THE DIALOGUE… IT MAY HAVE REMINDED YOU OF SOMEONE… THERE WAS ONE SHOT IN PARTICULAR THAT RINGS TRUE OF A FAMOUS DIRECTOR… HULK IS TALKING ABOUT THE SLOW TRACKING SHOT OF THE FEET WALKING TOWARD THE TABLE…. ANY GUESSES?

SO THE PERSON IT MAY HAVE REMINDED YOU OF IS ONE QUENTIN TARANTINO.

TARANTINO HAS TALKED EXTENSIVELY ABOUT THE INFLUENCE OF WAGES OF FEAR(11) AND PARTICULARLY THE DIRECT EFFECT ON HIS NOW FAMOUS BAR-ROOM SCENE FROM INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. THE SIMILARITIES SHOULD BE OBVIOUS: THE SETTING. THE MUSIC. THE TENSION. THE DRUNKENNESS. THE DIFFERENT WANTS OF THE CHARACTERS AT ODDS. AGAIN, THE BASTERDS SCENE IS VERY MUCH IT’S OWN UNIQUE THING AND HAS SPECTACULAR VITALITY, BUT TARANTINO IS ALWAYS SMART ENOUGH TO RECOGNIZE THE LESSONS FROM GREAT FILMS.

CHIEFLY, THAT WORDS CAN BE YOUR BEST WEAPON.

PICTURED: AGREEMENT

YES DEAR READERS, EVEN DIALOGUE CAN HELP ESTABLISH TONE AND SUSPENSE IF YOU USE IT IN THE EXACT SAME WAY AS ACTION.

IT REALLY IS NO ACCIDENT THAT TARANTINO HAS MADE HIS CAREER OF BUILDING TENSION WITH DIALOGUE. THINK ABOUT IT: MR. ORANGE TELLING THE BATHROOM DRUG STORY IN RESERVOIR DOGS. THE EZEKIEL SPEECH FROM PULP FICTION. THE SUPERMAN ANALOGY IN KILL BILL. AND PRETTY MUCH THE ENTIRETY OF INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (LANDA’S JEW-HUNTER SPEECH, THE CREAM-DESSERT IN THE CAFE, THE INTERROGATION ABOUT MOUNTAIN CLIMBING). NOTICE THE KEY ELEMENT OF EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE “SPEECH” SCENES IS THAT ONE PERSON IS ESSENTIALLY HOLDING A SECRET FROM THE OTHERS, AND FROM THERE THE OTHER CHARACTERS ARE PLAYING WITH FACT THEY MIGHT KNOW. SERIOUSLY, THAT ONE SINGULAR DEVICE IS AT PLAY IN EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE SCENES.

AT AS A RESULT, THOSE SCENES ARE TENSE AS ALL FUCKING HELL.

YES, MOST OF US ARE NOT WIZARDS OF DIALOGUE LIKE TARANTINO, BUT HE IS REALLY JUST USING A BASIC SINGULAR DEVICE (ONE THAT HITCHCOCK USED A LOT TOO) AND THEN PLAYS AROUND WITH THE DIALOGUE TO TWIST AND TURN THE AUDIENCE EVERY STEP OF THE WAY. SO NEVER, EVER FORGET THAT THE BASIC PRINCIPALS ARE THE SAME. NEVER BE AFRAID TO HAVE YOUR CHARACTERS IN THE SERVICE OF TENSION (WHILE KEEPING IN MIND A FOCUS ON ECONOMY). PLAY WITH THE AUDIENCES EXPECTATION AND HAVE CHARACTERS PLAY WITH EMOTIONS OF OTHERS. IT WILL THEN PLAY/FUCK WITH THE AUDIENCE.

AND IF YOU USE IT RIGHT, LIKE IN TARANTINO’S BAR ROOM SCENE, THEN THE GREAT DIALOGUE SET UP CAN EXPLODE IN WONDERFUL MOMENT OF CHAOTIC-ALL-HELL-BREAKS-LOOSE ACTION:

NOTICE THAT THE BRIEF MOMENT OF ACTION HAS ABSOLUTELY NO CAUSE + EFFECT, NO TANGIBLE OBJECTIVES, NO CLEAR GEOGRAPHY, AND RESEMBLES UTTER FREAKING CHAOS, AND IT IS SO TOTALLY OKAY.

AND THAT’S BECAUSE THE AMAZING SCENE OF DIALOGUE THAT COMES BEFORE SETS UP THE CHAOTIC DELIVERY OF THIS BRIEF SCENE EVER SO CAREFULLY. IT IS ONE “EFFECT.” THE BRIEF CHAOS ENTHRALLS US BECAUSE WE CARE SO MUCH ABOUT THE CHARACTERS BY THIS POINT OF THE SET UP (TESTAMENT TO TARANTINO, WE WERE INTRODUCED TO MOST OF THESE GUYS AT, LIKE, THE BEGINNING OF THE SCENE). REALLY THE SCENE WORKS BEAUTIFULLY AS ONE MOMENT OF CHAOS.

AND DON’T DARE FOR ONE SECOND ASSUME THAT IT’S BECAUSE TARANTINO DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO “STAGE” ACTION BECAUSE KILL BILL PROVED THAT BEYOND ANY KIND OF DOUBT. (11B) SPECIFICALLY WITH THE VERY LAST SCENE WITH BILL, WHICH WORKS IN A VERY, VERY SIMILAR MOMENT ENDING WITH A BRIEF EXPLOSION OF (WELL-CHOREOGRAPHED) VIOLENCE.

REMEMBER, WE MAY NOT GENIUSES, BUT WE CAN USE THE PRINCIPALS AT WORK HERE.

SO ONCE AGAIN, LET’S RETURN TO ATTACK THE BLOCK – TONE IS ONE OF THE MOST CRITICAL ASPECTS OF HOW THE ACTION WORKS IN THAT FILM, BECAUSE UNLIKE MOST HOLLYWOOD BLOCKBUSTERS, THEY HAD TO DEAL WITH LOW-BUDGET CONSTRAINTS AND AN INTIMATE SCALE,.SO IN ORDER MAKE EACH SCENE FEEL DIFFERENT THEY CHANGED THE TONE AND LANGUAGE OF EACH SCENE: THE ATTACK ON THE AMBULANCE USE HORROR LANGUAGE AND MUSIC CUES. THE ESCAPE ON THE BIKES USE CHASE LANGUAGE AND PROPULSIVE MUSICE. THE FIRST ATTACK IN THE APARTMENT USE FIGHT SCENE LANGUAGE (MOSES’S “NINJA” MOMENT). THE  SECOND ATTACK STARTS OFF WITH THE SAME FIGHT SCENE LANGUAGE AND THEN ABRUPTLY INVERTS IT WHEN THINGS START GOING WRONG. THEN THE SCENE OF TRYING TO GET TO RON’S WEED ROOM TURNS THE TONE BACK TO HORROR, BUT THIS TIME WITH EFFECTIVE STAPLE WITH THE “CHARACTERS BEING LOST IN THE FOG WHERE THE UNSEEN INSPIRE DREAD” THING AND USING EERIE “ATMOSPHERE” SOUND CUES. THEN THE LAST ACTION SCENE, WHILE BEING A BIT MORE STYLISTIC, STILL SUPER-CLEAR WITH THE OBJECTIVES/STAKES AND USES THE SLO-MO AND GREAT MUSIC TO RAM HOME EMOTION. PLUS THEY INCORPORATE OUR MAJOR CHARACTER MOMENTS. TO REITERATE, THE ENTIRE FILM HAVE ALL ACTION SCENES TAKING PLACE IN AND AROUND THE SAME APARTMENT BUILDING AND YET THEY ALL FEEL UNIQUE BECAUSE THEY SMART ENOUGH TO ESTABLISH DIFFERENT TONES.

TOM: Thanks! And just to mention, the biggest struggle on ATB was generating a sense/feeling of dangerous kinetics with fairly low speed travel. But then again it’s not like we could go too far in the other direction. Try this one on for size:

YOU’VE SUCCESSFULLY BROUGHT TARKOVSKY INTO A CONVERSATION ABOUT ACTION FILMS! CONGRATS!

TOM: Thank you. It’s one long shot and wouldn’t at first seem to be ‘action’ in any usual sense but I defy anyone to watch that scene and not feel an unbearable level of tension by the end.  Even if one doesn’t have foreknowledge of what the task is that the character has set themselves (or its wider implication in the narrative) all the right elements are there, just presented in an unconventional fashion.  One could argue that the scene is an exercise in frustrating a viewer more used to a different pace of visual story telling, or just dismiss it as an academic attempt to try the patience of anyone. But by exploring ‘real time’, rather than abbreviating it with edits, the net result is surprisingly the same.  I’ve no idea where this might shore up any of your arguments as it would seem to contradict them on a surface level but it’s always fascinated me that something so painfully slow and drawn out can become exhilarating.

REAL TIME INDEED. WHAT DID TARKOVSKY CALL FILMMAKING AFTER ALL? SCULPTING IN TIME. BUT ENOUGH TARKOVSKY.

LET’S MOVE ON AND PUT THIS SHIT ALL TOGETHER!

PART 5 – PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

THIS PART FIVE IS GOING TO BE VERY SHORT. THAT BECAUSE HULK GOING TO SHOW A CLIP THAT, WELL, PRETTY MUCH SHOWS AND EXPLAINS HOW TO DO EVERYTHING WE’VE TALKED ABOUT SO FAR.

“RECENTNESS” BE DAMNED, HULK ARGUE THE BEST ACTION SCENE EVER IS IN NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.

HOPEFULLY YOU SEEN IT BEFORE. IF NOT, HERE’S ALL THE BACKGROUND YOU NEED: A CHARACTER NAMED LLEWELEN MOSS STUMBLED ONTO THE CARNAGE OF A DRUG DEAL GONE WRONG. HE TAKES THE MONEY LEFT AT THE SCENE AND RUNS. THE UNSEEN DRUG BOSSES THEN SEND THEIR BEST HITMAN, ANTON CHIGURGH, TO FIND AND KILL MOSS AND GET THE MONEY BACK. AND UNFORTUNATELY FOR MOSS, ANTON CHIRGUGH IS BASICALLY THE ANGEL OF DEATH PERSONIFIED. AT THIS MOMENT ANTON HAS BEEN TAILING LLEWELEN FOR BIT AND HAS FINALLY CAUGHT UP TO HIM:

FUCKING.. A.

THINK ABOUT EVERYTHING WE TALKED ABOUT. CAUSE + EFFECT. SET-UP/PAY OFF. SHOWING LOCATIONS TO USE AGAIN (WHEN IT COMES BACK AROUND FOR THE DEAD HOTEL CLERK). THE LOCKED-OFF CAMERA. THE ALTERNATING TONE OF STILLNESS, ANTICIPATION, AND ACTION.

WHAT IS PERHAPS MOST AMAZING ABOUT THE SCENE IS THE WAY THEY EDIT IT MAKE IT FEEL IMPOSSIBLY KINETIC. THEY DO THIS BY CUTTING TO ANOTHER TENSE SHOT THAT MAKES PERFECT LOGICAL SENSE, INSTEAD OF JUST MOVING THE CAMERA RAPIDLY. BEST OF ALL, EVERY SINGLE TIME AN ACTION OR BEAT IS ABOUT TO REGISTER TO THE AUDIENCE, THAT ACTION (USUALLY A GUNSHOT) HITS THE EXACT BEAT .01 SECONDS BEFORE OUR MIND DOES, THUS GIVING EVERY SINGLE MOMENT TRUE VISCERAL IMPACT (WHILE STILL GIVING ENOUGH SET-UP FOR US TO UNDERSTAND).

IT IS A MASTERCLASS.

REALLY. HULK NOT SURE YOU TRULY UNDERSTAND HOW HARD IT IS TO GET THAT KIND OF PERFECT TIMING AND PACING IN AN ACTION SCENE. TO BE ON SET AND TO PERFECTLY UNDERSTAND HOW TO TIME THINGS WITH YOUR ACTORS AND CREW. AND THEN TO GET IT TO TRANSLATE ON FILM SO THAT IT CAN BE PERFECTLY CUT IN THE EDITING ROOM… IT LIKE… HULK MEAN… THEY JUST…  GOOD GOD.

BUT JUST LIKE TARANTINO’S DIALOGUE, LET’S BE HONEST. THE REST OF US ARE NOT THE COEN BROTHERS. WE JUST HUMAN… AND THEY CLEARLY NOT.

BUT WE CAN CERTAINLY ASPIRE TO BE LIKE THEM.

PICTURED: MAYBE THE BEST SEMIOTICS MOVIE OF ALL TIME

SO THERE WE HAVE IT! DAY 2 IN THE BOOKS!

HULK & TOM HOPE YOU ENJOYED AND FOUND IT INFORMATIVE AS DAY ONE.

TOMORROW WE TACKLE PARTS 6, 7, 8, AND 9 TO FINISH OF THE SERIES. SINCE TODAY WE COVERED HOW TO “EXECUTE” SCENES IN IDEAL FASHION, TOMORROW WE GOING TO TALK ABOUT EXCEPTIONS THAT CAN WORK, THE IMPETUS AND PROBLEMS OF “STYLIZATION,” THE CRIPPLING PROBLEMS OF PRODUCTION LOGISTICS, AND ALL THE PRACTICAL ADVICE WE CAN GIVE TO YOUNG FILMMAKERS. IN DOING SO WE’LL COVER MURDER’S ROW OF: GREENGRASS, SPEILBERG (AGAIN) MICHAEL BAY, ZACH SNYDER, CHRIS NOLAN, EDGAR WRIGHT, PETER JACKSON, AND YOUR MOM.

❤ HULK & TOM

ENDNOTES!

(9C) HECK, HULK SAW A MOVIE THAT BROKE THE 180 LINE THE OTHER DAY WITHOUT ESTABLISHING NEW GEOGRAPHY… OH YEAH, THAT WAS MOST MOVIES.

(9D) JAQUES TATI?

(10A) THIS IS NOT TO IMPLY HULK DOESN’T LIKE THOSE ACTORS. HULK ACTUALLY LOVE THOSE ACTORS. BUT THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO CONCEIVABLE REASON THAT THEY SHOULD BE THE PRINCIPALS IN A BETTER FIGHT SCENE THAN WILL SMITH OR VIN DIESEL… IT SHOWS THAT SOMETHING ROTTEN IN THE STATE OF ACTION FILMMAKING.

(10B) HULK’S MAIN ARGUMENT THIS: IN HIGH SCHOOL HULK AND A FRIEND MADE KUNG FU FILM FOR FILM PROGRAM. SOME OF THE ACTION IN IT LEGITIMATELY BETTER THAN SOME HOLLYWOOD MOVIES THAT POPULAR AT TIME. THIS NOT TO IMPLY WE AWESOME, WE JUST SEMI-CAPABLE KUNG FU PEOPLE. WHICH MEANS THAT HOLLYWOOD’S STANDARD TREATMENT OF TWO GUYS FIGHTING EACH OTHER IS PRETTY MUCH SHIT…. AND YES YOU HEARD THAT RIGHT. THE 12 FOOT BIG GIANT GREEN HULK KNOWS KUNG FU… SO WATCH YOUR ASS.

(10C) OKAY. SO IF YOU EVER WANT TO KNOW HOW DIFFERENT ASIAN CINEMA IS FROM AMERICAN CINEMA AT THE TIME OF JACKIE’S RISE TO PROMINENCE, SEE THE PROTECTOR (1985). IT IS AN ATTEMPT TO INJECT JACKIE INTO THE TYPICAL 80’S SLEAZY ACTION MOVIE. IT IS THE WORST KIND OF HORRIBLE. THEY TRIED TO TURN JACKIE INTO THE STOIC, SUNGLASSES-WEARING BADASS AND DEFIES EVERY POSSIBLE ATTEMPT FOR HIM TO DO SOMETHING PHYSICALLY INTERESTING. HE SPENDS THE ENTIRE MOVIE DRIVING AROUND WITH DANNY AIELLO AND FEATURES THOSE AWFUL 80’S GUNFIGHTS. IT IS ONE OF HULK’S LEAST FAVORITE MOVIES OF ALL TIME BECAUSE IT IS THAT SPECIAL BRAND OF CLUELESS.

(10D) IT ALSO KNOWN AS “A MAN ESCAPED” BUT BRESSON ALWAYS WANTED THE FULL-TITLE SO HULK GOING WITH HIM.

(10E) LET’S HAVE THE QUICKEST POSSIBLE CONVERSATION ABOUT “OLD” MOVIES. THE IDEA THAT OLD MOVIES ARE “SLOW” AND “BAD” IS BOTH 1) A WHOLLY UNDERSTANDABLE IMPULSE TO A NEW VIEWER AND YET 2) QUITE POSSIBLY THE DUMBEST POSSIBLE THING ONE COULD EVER SAY. SO DON’T. WATCHING AN OLD MOVIE IS TO GO BACK AND TRANSLATE WHAT THEY WERE DOING INTO THE CINEMATIC LINGUISTICS OF THE TIME AND RECOGNIZE WHAT THEY AFFECTED THE CONTEXT OF FILM HISTORY. IT IS TO UNDERSTAND CINEMA’S UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE. SURE SOME MOVIES “WORK” BETTER IN TERMS OF DATING, BUT TO OUTRIGHT INFER THEY WERE ‘BAD” MOVIES SIMPLY BECAUSE OF DIFFERENT HISTORICAL STYLIZATIONS IS AKIN TO WALKING UP TO WALKING RIGHT UP TO HANK AARON AND SAYING HE DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO HIT HOME RUNS.

(11) UGH… THIS THE SORT OF THING HULK WOULD NORMALLY BACK UP BUT HULK CAN NOT FIND THE CLIP OR ANY WRITTEN REFERENCE TO IT. THIS LACK OF SUPPORT WOULD TRADITIONALLY REQUIRE THAT HULK OMIT THE DETAIL, BUT THIS ISN’T A 100% ACADEMIC SETTING AND TO PUT IT MORE SIMPLY: HULK DON’T WANNA. SO WE’RE GOING WITH HULK’S MEMORY ON THIS ONE… AND IF HULK’S BEING HONEST HULK’S MEMORY PRETTY DAMN GOOD.

(11B) TARANTINO FAMOUSLY BURNED ABOUT 1 MILLION FEET OF FILM ON THAT MOVIE, MOST OF WHICH WAS UNUSED BECAUSE HE WAS TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO “SHOOT” ACTION FIRST.

HULK EXPLAIN ACTION SCENES! WITH SPECIAL GUEST TOM TOWNEND! – DAY 1 OF 3

WHAT MAKES AN ACTION SCENE GOOD?

IT’S RATHER PERTINENT QUESTION NOWADAYS. IT SEEMS ACTION SCENES ARE A COMPONENT OF EVERY KIND OF POPULAR MOVIE. AND WE BUILD HIGH-STAKES SUMMER TENT-POLE MOVIES AROUND NOTHING MORE THAN A VAGUE CONCEPT AND THEN TREAT THE SET-PIECES LIKE THEY’RE ONLY THING THAT MATTER.

FOR SOME REASON, WE CONTINUE TO BELIEVE THIS IS “THE WAY” TO DO THINGS DESPITE THE FACT THAT RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES CURRENTLY HIGHLIGHTING THE FACT THAT A GOOD STORY WELL-TOLD IS THE THING THAT TRULY RESONATES WITH AUDIENCES. BUT BECAUSE ACTION SCENES DOMINATE THE BOTH THE INCEPTION AND PRODUCTION OF FILMMAKING, HULK WORRIES THAT THE EFFECTS NOW TOO DEEPLY-ROOTED IN THE FOUNDATION OF MOVIE CULTURE. MEANING HULK THINKS OF ALL THE THOUSANDS OF YOUNG KIDS WHO ARE TOTALLY INTO MOVIES AND TRYING TO REPLICATE THEIR FAVORITE ACTION SCENES AT HOME. WHAT ARE THEY TAKING AWAY FROM WHAT THEY’RE SEEING? CHANCES ARE IT’S NOT THE GOOD THINGS.

THIS PROBLEM RAISES A REALLY GOOD QUESTION: IF ACTION IS SO IMPORTANT AND INGRAINED INTO OUR CONSCIOUSNESS… WHY AREN’T ACTION SCENES BETTER? (i)

IT’S SURELY NOT A QUESTION OF RESOURCES. TODAY’S MOVIES HAVE EXORBITANT BUDGETS. INCREDIBLE PRODUCTION TOOLS. ARMIES OF CGI MAGICIANS. EVERYTHING AT THEIR DISPOSAL… SO WHAT’S MISSING HERE? HOW ARE THESE OH-SO-CRITICAL ACTION SET-PIECES NOT WORKING BETTER? ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE THE ONLY THING WE SUPPOSEDLY CARE ABOUT?

HULK THINK THERE A SIMPLE ANSWER:  MOST PEOPLE HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO UNDERSTANDING OF HOW BASIC ACTION WORKS ON SCREEN.

LET’S START ON A CULTURAL LEVEL. HULK GOING TO ASK YOU TO THINK OF THE WORD MOST OFTEN USED BY PEOPLE TO DESCRIBE GOOD ACTION. GOT ONE? WHILE THERE LIKELY NO SINGULAR ANSWER, HULK ARGUE THE MOST POPULAR WORD USED WOULD BE “COOL.”

HULK FIND THAT WORD VERY TELLING. FOR ONE, THE MEANING OF THE WORD ACTUALLY SUPER-VAGUE. THIS IS PARTIALLY BECAUSE “COOL” IS THE DEFAULT, LONG-RUNNING ADOLESCENT-NONSENSE WORD. BUT EVEN IF IT’S VAGUE EVERYONE KNOW WHAT AT LEAST MEANT BY IT. MORE SIGNIFICANTLY, HOWEVER, IS THE FACT THAT COOLNESS IS SOMETHING THAT IS INHERENTLY EVASIVE. MARKETING EXECUTIVES SPEND MILLIONS EVERY YEAR TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT’S “COOL” AND SO THE VERY  IDEA THAT ONE CAN TRY CAPITALIZE ON IT AND SHOWCASE WITH ACTION IS LIKE TRYING TO BOTTLE LIGHTNING. REMEMBER, COOL CAN ONLY BE AN ABSTRACT CONCEPT, NOTHING MORE THAN A VIBE. WORSE, IT WHOLLY DEPENDS ON THE VIEWER’S TASTE.

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THIS BAD WORD CHOICE IS THAT DETERMINING WHAT’S “COOL” IS NOT AN EMOTIONAL REACTION, BUT A CEREBRAL ONE.  EVEN IF IT’S LARGELY SUBCONSCIOUS, CALLING SOMETHING COOL IS MORE OF AN EVALUATION THAN A REACTION. IN ORDER FOR SOMETHING TO BE COOL IT HAVE TO IMPLIES THAT ONE HAS TO UNENGAGED, DISCONNECTED, AND DETACHED.

… AND THAT IS NOT WHAT YOU WANT IN A MOVIE.

YOU WANT BE ENGAGED. CONNECTED. ATTACHED.

ENTHRALLED.

WHICH MEANS ACTION SHOULD NEVER SOLELY BE COOL. AND IT SHOULD NEVER, EVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES JUST BE THOUGHT OF AS JUST A BUNCH OF COOL SHIT HAPPENING ON SCREEN. THE BELIEF IN SUCH A THING SHOULD BE CONSIDERED A VIAL MYTH. MUCH LIKE HULK’S HATRED OF 3 ACT STRUCTURE, THE MAIN PROBLEM OF CALLING THINGS COOL STEMS FROM  THE FACT THAT OUR CULTURAL USE OF THE WORD NOT INSTRUCTIONAL OR DESCRIPTIVE ENOUGH WAY TO CATEGORIZE HOW ACTION WORKS. AND SINCE WE CANNOT DESCRIBE IT RIGHT, PEOPLE TAKE AWAY THE WRONG LESSONS.

PICTURED: WRONGNESS

SO WHAT MAKES ACTION WORK?

THE BEST PHRASE TO NARROW IT DOWN = AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION.

THE AUDIENCE DOES NOT SIMPLY “WATCH” ACTION. EVERY SINGLE BEAT SHOULD IDEALLY WORK AS A 4 PART PROCESS: AN AUDIENCE MUST FIRST ANTICIPATE THE ACTION, THEN THE AUDIENCE MUST UNDERSTAND THE ACTION (WHAT THEY ACTUALLY SEEING), THEN THE AUDIENCE MUST FEEL THE ACTION, AND ULTIMATELY REACT TO THE ACTION. AND WHEN YOU DO THAT? THE ACTION BEAT WILL WORK LIKE FREAKIN’ GANGBUSTERS.(1)

NOW, HOW ACTUALLY DO THAT? ONE CAN ACHIEVE THAT KIND OF REACTION BY STICKING TO FEW BASIC TENETS OF ACTION: “CAUSE AND EFFECT“, “HAVING OBJECTIVES“, “UNDERSTANDING GEOGRAPHY“, AND “TONE AND SUSPENSE.” AFTER THAT IT ABOUT “PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER“, “UNDERSTANDING WHEN AND HOW TO GO AGAINST THE RULES“, KNOWING “PRODUCTION LOGISTICS“, AND ULTIMATELY “NOT BEING MICHAEL BAY” (YES THAT GET’S IT’S OWN PART).

SO RIGHT NOW, HULK GOING TO START DIVING INTO EXPLAINING ALL THOSE TENETS USING ALL OF HULK’S FAVORITE ACTION SCENES, WHICH EXEMPLIFY HOW THOSE CONCEPTS WORK.

HULK PRESENTING THIS ESSAY IN A NINE-PART, 70 PAGE, 20,000 WORD EVALUATION OF HOW ACTION WORKS, BUT DON’T WORRY THOUGH! TODAY’S “DAY ONE” COLUMN WILL JUST COVER THE FIRST TWO TENETS (CAUSE + EFFECT AND OBJECTIVES) AND THE REST WILL FOLLOW WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY. YES, IT’S TRUE! HULK ACTUALLY BREAKING UP ONE OF HULK’S HULK-SIZED COLUMNS! IT WILL BE BETTER FOR YOUR PUNY HUMAN-SIZED EYEBALLS.

BUT THE BEST PART OF THIS IS HULK NOT GOING DOING IT ALONE!

HULK HAVE A SPECIAL GUEST FOR YA’LL AND HE KNOWS ABOUT THIS STUFF WAY, WAY MORE THAN HULK DOES.  SO EVERYONE PLEASE WELCOME MR. PRARIE OYSTERS HIMSELF, TOM TOWNEND!

SOME OF YOU MAY KNOW ALREADY KNOW HIM, BUT IF NOT, YOU MAY INDEED KNOW HIS WORK. FOR STARTERS HE THE FREAKIN’ CINEMATOGRAPHER OF ATTACK THE BLOCK AS WELL AS SEVERAL DOCUMENTARIES, TV SHOWS, AND SHORTS. HE’S ALSO WORKED AS A CAMERA OPERATOR AND SECOND UNIT D.P.  FOR DOZENS OF AMAZING PROJECTS, SUCH AS 28 DAYS LATER, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, MILLIONS, PROOF, HARRY BROWN, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN AND ALL OF LYNN RAMSAY’S FILMS TO BOOT. THE RANGE OF GENRE HERE STAGGERING, AND IF YOU EVER SEEN ANY OF THOSE MOVIES THE YOU’VE SEEN EXCELLENT CINEMATOGRAPHY AND A SURE-HANDED DEMONSTRATION AND THOROUGH UNDERSTANDING OF TONE.

HE ALSO SHOT THIS RECENT AWARD-WINNING VIDEO… YOU KNOW… THE CRAZY-UBER-FAMOUS ONE:

THE VAST MAJORITY OF WHAT APPEARS IN THIS ARTICLE WAS BORN OUT OF OUR DISCUSSIONS AND HULK ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTED TO HAVE HIS CONTRIBUTIONS.(2)

YOU WILL BE TOO.

TOM: I had no idea I was going to be popping up as some sort of Jiminy Cricket character.

HULK LAUGH. THIS REALLY GOING BE A LOT OF FUN AND HULK ACTUALLY REALLY HAPPY WITH HOW INFORMATIVE AND INSTRUCTIONAL THIS PIECE HAS COME OUT.  SO MANY OF THESE HULK COLUMNS ABOUT HOW MUCH CERTAIN THINGS SUCK, SO IT NICE TO BE WRITING SOMETHING ABOUT HOW STUFF WORKS AND HOW TO DO BETTER.

HULK & TOM CERTAINLY REALIZED/LEARNED A LOT WHILE WRITING IT, SO WE HOPE YOU DO TOO.

SO NOW THEN …

PART 1 – CAUSE + EFFECT: ONLY THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER

SO THIS ENTIRE ARTICLE ACTUALLY INSPIRED BY HULK’S RECENT VIEWING OF CAPTAIN AMERICA.

WHILE HULK LOVED THE MOVIE FOR WHOLE BUNCH OF REASONS, HULK THOUGHT THE ACTION ALTERNATED BETWEEN MOMENTS OF GENUINE FUN, BEING SERVICEABLE, AND A BUNCH OF SOMEWHAT-LACKING MOMENTS. STUDIO HEADS MAY BE AGHAST TO LEARN THEIR PRECIOUS SET-PIECES NOTHING COMPARED TO THE MOVIE’S WELL-WRITTEN CENTRAL RELATIONSHIPS, BUT PERHAPS IT A LESSON THEY SHOULD TAKE HEED FROM. BUT IN TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHY CERTAIN SCENES WORK AND OTHERS DO NOT, IT THE PERFECT MOVIE TO ANALYZE, EVEN IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT. IN FACT, THE LACK OF CLIPS ALLOWS US TO TALK ABOUT THE ACTION AND ESTABLISH A LANGUAGE TO USE THAT WILL BE VERY IMPORTANT GOING FORWARD. AND DON’T WORRY BECAUSE WE’LL HAVE MORE THAN ENOUGH CLIPS AND VISUAL AIDS TO EXPLAIN THINGS LATER ANYWAY.

BUT REALLY, CAPTAIN AMERICA IS THE BEST MOVIE TO USE BECAUSE IT’S PROBLEMS/SUCCESS ARE DEPENDENT ON THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF ACTION: CAUSE + EFFECT.

TOM: Hulk, you set this one up for now, I’ll come back once we get to that guy with the whip.

SOUNDS GOOD.

LET’S START WITH ONE OF THE MOST BASIC PROBLEMS OF THE ACTION IN CAPTAIN AMERICA: THERE ARE A LARGE NUMBER OF ACTION BEATS (BEATS MEANING MOMENTS/SHORT SEQUENCES) THAT SEEM TO OPERATE WITHOUT STORY CONTEXT. IN CASE IT’S NOT OBVIOUS, PROVIDING CONTEXT IS CRITICAL TO ACTION. THE MOST OBVIOUS SANS-CONTEXT SCENE INVOLVES AN EXTENDED MONTAGE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MOVIE WHERE CAP AND HIS BUDDIES ESSENTIALLY SWEEPING THROUGH THE RANKS OF HYDRA FACTORIES. NOW HULK UNDERSTAND THE PREMISE: GOOD GUYS TAKING DOWN BAD GUYS. AND WE ALSO UNDERSTAND THE IMPETUS TO CONDENSE THE INFORMATION/SCALE INTO MONTAGE (IN TERMS OF NARRATIVE IT’S DEFINITELY THE RIGHT CALL), BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S HANDLED WELL IN TERMS OF EXECUTION. IN ALL HONESTLY, HULK THOUGHT IT ACTUALLY MOST BORING SCENE IN MOVIE. WHY? BECAUSE THE BEATS THEMSELVES HAVE NO SEQUENCING OR CONTEXT AND SADLY, THEY ARE MOSTLY IMAGE-BASED, MEANING THEIR SOLE GOAL IS TO STRIVE FOR “COOL.”

FOR EXAMPLE, SEVERAL OF THE QUICK IMAGES THE MONTAGE DISPLAYS ARE: CAP BURSTING IN SHIELD-FIRST AND FIRING A HANDGUN. CAP LEAPS AND HANGS ON TO A CHAIN. CAP JUMPS OFF A GIANT TANK AS IT EXPLODES BEHIND HIM… THEY ALL GREAT IMAGES BUT SINCE THE PROBLEM IS THAT THEY GO ON JUST LONG ENOUGH TO TREATED AS LIVING, BREATHING “BEATS” AND NOT JUST A SUCCESSION OF IMAGES, IT MAKES THINGS PROBLEMATIC. THEY END UP FEELING LIKE INTROS/CLIMAXES TO SOMETHING WITH NO BUILDUP. WHY? BECAUSE THEY’RE LONG ENOUGH TO DEMAND CONTEXT YET OFFER NO CONTEXT.

IN THE SAME SEQUENCE THERE’S SHOT WHERE THE FRENCH GUY LIES DOWN AS A TANK DRIVES OVER HIM AND HE STRAPS A BOMB TO IT. AGAIN, IT’S COOL, BUT IS WEIGHTLESS BECAUSE THERE IS NO CONTEXT. AND THE MONTAGE’S MOST EGREGIOUS SCENE OCCURS WHEN CAP STRIDES ATOP A TANK MAKES SOME WEIRD, CONFUSING MOTION AS SOME OTHER GUY SUDDENLY COMES BY AND THROWS GRENADES UP AND CAP THEN AWKWARDLY DUMPS THEM IN.  THE SCENE NOT ONLY CLUNKY, BUT EVERYTHING IS ALREADY HAPPENING A STEP BEFORE THE AUDIENCE CAN REGISTER WHAT THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE PROCESSING. THERE IS NO LOGIC. IT IS NOT ONLY CONFUSING, BUT IT REMOVES THE DRAMA FROM EVERYTHING. THERE’S NO STORY. IT SIMPLY COOL SHIT HAPPENING ON SCREEN.

IT NOT COMPELLING AND, YES, EVEN MONTAGES HAVE BE COMPELLING.

TO BE FAIR, MOST OF THE OTHER SCENES IN CAP NOT NEARLY AS DETACHED AS THIS SEQUENCE, BUT THEY STILL FEATURE LOTS OF SAME PROBLEMS. THEY FOCUS ON COOL/IMAGERY AND UNINTENTIONALLY RENDER THE A LOT OF ACTUAL ACTION BEATS BORING. SOMETIMES IT SI BECAUSE THERE NO CONTEXT AND SOMETIMES IT IS BECAUSE THERE AREBASIC FAILURES IN LOGIC…

NEAT, BUT WHY THEY NOT JUST BURNING HIM? HE RIGHT THERE.

SO WHEN AND HOW DOES CAPTAIN AMERICA DO ACTION RIGHT? WELL, THE BEST ACTION BEAT IN THE FILM IS ACTUALLY VERY, VERY  SIMPLE.

THEY INTRODUCE A SITUATION WHERE CAP AND BUCKY (HIS FELLOW SOLDIER) ARE SEPARATED BETWEEN TWO TRAIN CARS. CAP IS IN THE FRONT CAR FIGHTING ONE BIG BAD HYDRA GUY AND BUCKY IS IN THE HIND-CAR SHOOTING THE OTHER BAD GUYS. THEN BUCKY RUNS OUT OF BULLETS AND THERE’S STILL ONE LAST HYDRA BAD GUY  STALKING HIM FROM BEHIND A SHELF. CAP TAKES CARE OF HIS BIG GUY IN THE FRONT CAR AND COMES BACK TO BUCKY’S CAR AND SEES THE SITUATION AT HAND. CAP THEN LOOKS UP AND SEES A SHELF IN BETWEEN HIM AND HYDRA BAD GUY. THEN, IN A SERIES OF QUICK BUT DELIBERATE MOVEMENTS: CAP OPEN THE DOOR, THROWS BUCKY HIS GUN, THEN RUNS FORWARD AND PUSHES A BEAM ON THE SHELF FORWARD. THE BEAM KNOCKS THE HYDRA SOLDIER BACKWARD, RIGHT INTO VIEW OF BUCKY, WHO IMMEDIATELY SHOOTS HIM. BING. BANG. BOOM. BAD GUY TAKEN CARE OF AND IT TOTALLY THE BEST ACTION “BEAT” IN THE MOVIE.

IT’S COMPELLING. IT’S FUN. IT’S THRILLING.

IT’S A LITTLE STORY.

OBVIOUSLY, THERE ARE OTHER ELEMENTS THAT HELP EXECUTE THE BEAT (GREAT TIMING, ANGLES, ETC), BUT THING THAT MAKE IT SO STRONG THAT A PERFECTLY UTILIZES WHAT WE CALL “CAUSE + EFFECT.”

IF ACTION IS NOTHING MORE THAN THE PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION OF CONFLICT THEN IT MUST UTILIZE THE SAME RULES AS DRAMATIC CONFLICT, MEANING ONE MUST ESTABLISH A CREDIBLE THREAT. THE ACTION BEAT DESCRIBED ABOVE CREATES A FAMILIAR, EVEN CLICHE SITUATION OF CONFLICT (“OH NOES, I AM OUT OF BULLETS!”), BUT IT IS STILL ONE THAT PERFECTLY ESTABLISHES A REAL THREAT: BUCKY IS CORNERED AND HE HAS NO WAY OF DEFENDING HIMSELF. IT GIVES URGENCY TO CAP WHO IS USUALLY JUST THE “INFALLIBLE HERO” AND NOW PUTS HIM IN WHAT WE CALL DANGER BY ASSOCIATION. THE SCENE THEN ESTABLISHES THAT CAP SEES THE SAME EXACT PROBLEM THAT THE AUDIENCE DOES. IT THEN ESTABLISHES THE SHELF AS A POTENTIAL SOLUTION. IT THEN EXECUTES THE FALLOUT SWIFTLY AND WITH CARE. THE ACTION BEAT ESTABLISHES A CONFLICT AND THEN QUICKLY SEEKS TO SOLVE THAT CONFLICT, USING ALL THE INFORMATION IT HAS PREVIOUSLY ESTABLISHED.

YUP, LIKE A GEOMETRIC PROOF, GREAT ACTION ABOUT PROBLEM SOLVING.

NOW GO BACK TO HULK’S FOUR POINTS IN THE INTRO AND THINK ABOUT THIS ACTION BEAT ONE LAST TIME: 1) ANTICIPATION 2) UNDERSTANDING 3) FEELING 4) REACTING.

WE ANTICIPATE THE PROBLEM BY ESTABLISHING CREDIBLE THREAT (NO BULLETS).

WE UNDERSTAND (THE CAMERA SHOWS CAP SEEING THE PROBLEM, TELLING THE AUDIENCE TO REGISTER AS WELL).

WE FEEL THE MOMENT (THE ACTUAL GUN TOSSING THEN CAP HITTING THE SHELF AND BUCKY SHOOTING HIM VERY WELL PUT TOGETHER. IT NOT SO FAST THAT WE NO UNDERSTAND THE GEOGRAPHY, BUT IT STILL FAST ENOUGH THAT WE FEEL THE IMPACT. THAT BECAUSE THEY JUST .01 SECONDS AHEAD OF AUDIENCE, WHICH GIVE IT SENSE OF BEING “FELT” BEFORE IT PROCESSED).

LASTLY, WE REACT WITH ELATION.(3)

PICTURED: ELATION

ACTION IS ABOUT SETTING UP SERIES OF STEPS THAT THE AUDIENCE CAN FOLLOW AND REACT TO. WHEN YOU ANTICIPATE THE PROBLEM, THE CONFLICT BECOMES PALPABLE. THE AUDIENCE EXPERIENCES DRAMA. WE CALL IT “CAUSE + EFFECT” BUT REALLY IT’S THE MOST BASIC DEVICE OF ALL KINDS OF STORY TELLING, NOT JUST ACTION.

THING ABOUT IT. IT’S THE BASIS OF COMEDY (SET UP: PUNCHLINE), THE BASIS OF HORROR (SET UP: SCARE), AND YES, THE BASIS OF ACTION (SET-UP: PAYOFF). AND THE MORE YOU CAN STRING TOGETHER A SERIES OF GOOD ACTION BEATS (MULTIPLE SET-UPS + PAYOFFS) THE MORE YOU CAN CREATE MEMORABLE ACTION SCENE. ESPECIALLY IF YOU CAN IMBUE THE BEATS WITH MEANING OF CHARACTER AND NARRATIVE, OR MAYBE EVEN A LITTLE HUMOR IF SO DESIRED.

GOING BACK TO OUR EARLIER PROBLEM WITH THE MONTAGE, REMEMBER THAT THE CONTEXT MATTERS.

THE TRAIN SCENE COMES HOT OFF THE HEALS OF THAT BORING MONTAGE SEQUENCE AND IT STARTS WITH CAP AND COMPANY STAND ATOP A MOUNTAIN OVERLOOKING THE HIGH SPEED TRAIN. THEY THEN ALL SIT AROUND AND PROVIDE CONTEXT, EXPLAINING THE INCREDIBLE DANGER OR RIP-LINING ONTO A MOVING TRAIN AND ESTABLISHING THE THREAT OF REAL DANGER. THEN WHEN THEY ACTUALLY RIP-LINE, THEY ALMOST DON’T MAKE IT (PEOPLE DOING THINGS WITH EASE IS “COOL” BUT BORING AND NOT INVOLVING, RIGHT MATRIX SEQUELS?). FROM THE TOP OF THE TRAIN, OUR HEROES THEN SNEAK ON BOARD AND THE SEQUENCE TURNS INTO THE BEST ACTION BEAT HULK EXPLAINED ABOVE. WHICH MEANS THE BEAT HAS SUBSTANTIAL RESONANCE BECAUSE THEY ALREADY ESTABLISHED MUCH HIGHER STAKES, CONTEXT, AND DRAMA.

THE AUDIENCE WAS PRIMED FOR IT.

BUT BEST PART OF THE ACTION SCENE REALLY COMES AFTER THE BEAT MENTIONED ABOVE. THE VERY SECOND AFTER BUCKY SHOOTS THE “SHELFED” BAD-GUY WITH CAP’S GUN, RIGHT WHEN THE AUDIENCE HAS THAT GREAT MOMENT OF RELIEF, THE ANGLE CHANGES AND REVEALS THERE ANOTHER BIG SOLDIER RIGHT BEHIND THEM. OUR ELATION NOW UNDERCUT BY ANOTHER THREAT.

MEANING THE ACTION BEATS ARE LINKED.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER IS FANTASTIC (BIG SPOILERS TIL THE NEXT NOTICE) THE SNEAKY BIG SOLDIER FIRES AND CAP BARELY BLOCKS IT. CAP FALLS OVER AND BUCKY PICKS UP THE SHIELD TO PROTECT HIMSELF. THE BIG SOLDIER FIRES AGAIN, DISLODGING THE SHIELD AND KNOCKING BUCKY BACK OFF THE TRAIN. BUCKY GRABS THE SIDE, BARELY HOLDING ON. CAP REALIZES HIS BEST FRIEND IS IN TROUBLE, SO HE QUICKLY GRABS THE SHIELD DISPOSES OF SOLDIER AND GOES TO SAVE BUCKY… BUT CAP ISN’T IN TIME. BUCKY FALLS TO DEATH. WE’VE SEEN THIS KIND OF SCENE SO MANY TIMES, BUT BECAUSE OF THE CONTEXT AND SET UP IT WORKS. AND THEN IT DOESN’T STOP THERE. SEVERELY DISTRAUGHT, CAP TRUDGES ON TO CAPTURE THE RED SKULL’S SECOND IN COMMAND; A BITTERSWEET TRIUMPH. (END SPOILERS) THEN THE VERY NEXT SCENE LINKS THE BITTERSWEET EMOTION OF THAT MOMENT BY SHOWING CAP IN A BAR AND HAVING A NICELY-OBSERVED EMOTIONAL SCENE WITH PEGGY.(4) THIS IS WHAT A GREAT ACTION SCENE DOES. IT HAS MEANING BEYOND THE PHYSICAL ACTION AND THE EFFECTS GO WAY BEYOND WHAT “COOL.”

NOOOO! LOOKING COOL IS ALL THAT MATTERS!

THAT’S THE REAL KEY TO CINEMA, RIGHT? TO INTEGRATE ALL THE ASPECTS OF A MOVIE SO YOU CONSTANTLY HANDLING MULTIPLE THINGS AT ONCE: THRILLING ACTION, CHARACTER ARCS, HUMOR, WIT, DRAMA. YOU REALLY CAN PUT THEM ALL ON DISPLAY IN THE SAME SCENE IF YOU KNOW HOW TO GIVE EACH ASPECT RESONANCE, ESPECIALLY IF YOU UNDERSTAND CAUSE + EFFECT.

THERE’S AN EARLIER SEQUENCE IN CAPTAIN AMERICA THAT DOES THIS SPECTACULARLY AND IT OCCURS RIGHT AFTER CAP’S TRANSFORMATION. NOT ONLY DOES THE SCENE BEGIN WITH A HUGE CHARACTER BEAT (THE ONE INVOLVING PROFESSOR ERKLINE) BUT THE SCENE IS FULL OF CHARACTER-FOCUSED ACTION. STEVE ROGERS LEARNS HOW TO RUN, JUMP, FIGHT AND EVEN DEFENDS HIMSELF WITH A STAR-ENCRUSTED CAR-DOOR. THAT’S RIGHT, THE FILM’S FIRST REAL ACTION SCENE GIVES US A VISUAL SHOWCASE OF HIM LEARNING HOW TO BE CAPTAIN AMERICA ON THE FLY. AND IT WORKS SO WELL BECAUSE IT COMBINES SO MANY DIFFERENT ELEMENTS TOGETHER WITH DIRECT CAUSE + EFFECT.

THE MOMENT THAT BEST HIGHLIGHTS THIS VERSATILITY COMES AT THE END OF THE SEQUENCE. CAP PURSUES THE HYDRA AGENT TO THE DOCKS, WHERE HE GRABS A YOUNG CHILD AND THROWS HIM IN THE WATER TO GET CAP OFF HIS TAIL. IT A FAMILIAR MOMENT THAT WE’VE SEEN MANY, MANY TIMES BEFORE AND WE KNOW EXACTLY WHAT TO EXPECT: CAP NOW HAS TO SAVE THE CHILD FROM DROWNING. BUT INSTEAD OF THE FAMILIAR WE GET SOMETHING ELSE INSTEAD. CAP LOOKS DOWN TO SEE THE KID TREADING WATER JUST FINE AND DANDY. THE KID SHOUTS BACK “I CAN SWIM MISTER, GO GET HIM!” NOT ONLY IS THE LINE READING PRETTY HILARIOUS, BUT THE AUDIENCE COMPLETELY ATE THAT SHIT UP. WHY? BECAUSE JOHNSTON SET UP THE MOMENT PERFECTLY. HE KNEW THAT THE AUDIENCE WAS EXPECTING SOME LAME AND DRAMATIC. HE KNEW THAT CAUSE + EFFECT WITH ACTION WORKS THE EXACT SAME WAY WITH COMEDY. HE KNEW YOU COULD USE THE EXACT SAME SET-UPS.

THIS SCENE FROM CAPTAIN AMERICA HAS SO MANY THINGS GOING ON WITH CHARACTER, ARCS, HUMOR, AND DRAMA THAT IT SCENE CAN SUCCEED REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU THINK OF THE ACTUAL AESTHETICS OF THE ACTION. IT IS ALWAYS THE EMOTIONAL STUFF, MEANING THE CONTENT, THAT COMPELS YOU. BUT WHEN YOU CAN COMBINE EVERYTHING TOGETHER WITH A WELL-COMPOSED ACTION SCENE THEN THE SKY’S THE LIMIT. THAT’S WHAT JOHNSTON’S  “I CAN SWIM MISTER!” MOMENT DOES, IT ELEVATES THE ACTION.HULK WOULD EVEN CALL THAT MOMENT DOWNRIGHT SPIELBERG-IAN.

OH SNAP.

THAT’S RIGHT. HULK JUST REFERENCED THE BEST CAUSE + EFFECT FILMMAKER ON THE PLANET.

THIS GUY

OKAY, SO FIRST HULK SHOULD QUALIFY WHAT MAKES SPIELBERG DISTINCT. HIS PLACE IN THE PANTHEON IS ASSURED NO MATTER WHAT HULK THINKS, BUT HULK REALLY SHOULD EXPLAIN HIM CAREFULLY SO WE KNOW HOW HE “WORKS.” HULK FEEL LIKE SPIELBERG IS BOTH UNFAIRLY HERALDED AS GREATEST AMERICAN DIRECTOR, AND YET AT THE EXACT SAME TIME, HULK FEEL LIKE HE IS ALSO UNFAIRLY LAMBASTED AS NOT BEING ARTISTIC/CEREBRAL ENOUGH. IT’S NOT THAT HIS MAINSTREAM-INCLINED DISPOSITION IS HOLDING HIM BACK (THAT IMPLIES HULK IS ESOTERIC), BUT INSTEAD IT’S THE FACT THAT THAT VERY THE THING THAT MAKE SPIELBERG SO DAMN GOOD IS ALSO THE VERY THING THAT LIMITS HIM:

SPIELBERG IS ALWAYS ABLE TO SHOW HIS EXACT INTENTION IN A SCENE.

MEANING THERE IS NEVER A SINGLE DOUBT TO WHAT SPIELBERG MEANS IN A GIVEN MOMENT. THERE IS NO AMBIGUITY TO ANYTHING HE EVER DOES.(5) TO PROVIDE COUNTERPOINT WHICH HIGHLIGHTS THE PROBLEMS OF SPIELBERG’S DEAFENING SINGULARITY, HULK THINK THE GREATEST AMERICAN DIRECTOR =  STANLEY KUBRICK. IN ANY GIVEN KUBRICK SCENE THERE LIKE 90 INTERESTING THINGS GOING ON. IN A GIVEN SPIELBERG SCENE THERE USUALLY JUST ONE INTERESTING THING GOING ON, BUT IT IS REALLY, REALLY, REALLY WELL-EXECUTED (THIS CRUCIAL DIFFERENCE IS THE ABSOLUTE REASON A.I. IS FASCINATING, BUT DEEPLY FLAWED).

SPIELBERG MAKE SENSE NOW? OKAY COOL.

THE REASON FOR THIS EVALUATION IS BECAUSE IT IS IMPORTANT TO HIGHLIGHT SPIELBERG’S SINGULARITY WHEN DISCUSSING THE UNQUESTIONABLE FACT THAT HE IS THE ABSOLUTE MASTER OF CAUSE + EFFECT FILMMAKING. AND IF CAUSE + EFFECT IS THE MOST CENTRAL TENET OF ACTION, DRAMA, AND COMEDY, THEN IT’S ALSO NOT AN ACCIDENT THE SPIELBERG IS THE MOST POPULAR MAINSTREAM FILMMAKER IN AMERICA AND MAYBE THE WORLD.

THINK ABOUT ALL THE BEST SCENES FROM SPIELBERG’S MOVIES AND THINK ABOUT THEM IN TERMS OF CAUSE + EFFECT AND SET UP + DELIVERY: THE PULSING OF THE WATER CUPS AND THE ENSUING T-REX SEQUENCE FROM JURASSIC PARK. THERE ARE NO “KINETIC” MOMENTS IN THAT SEQUENCE, BUT INSTEAD IT RELIES ON A SUCCESSION OF MOMENTS OF DREAD AND SUDDEN IMPACT, EACH LINKING TO THE NEXT HORRIBLE SITUATION. THE PERFECT CAUSE + EFFECT SEQUENCE. THINK OF THE SHARK REVEALS/SCARES IN JAWS. IT NOT ONLY FREAKS YOU OUT WITH A SUCCESSION OF HORROR BEATS, BUT MANAGES TO CAPITALIZE ON A NICE CAT-AND-MOUSE-CHASE THROUGHOUT THE NARRATIVE. THE MOVIE HAS A DISTINCT TETE-E-TETE (READ: CAUSE +EFFECT) ALL BUILDING TO EPIC “SMILE YOU SON OF A BITCH.” THINK ABOUT E.T. WITH ELLIOT ON THE BIKE DROPPING INTO THE RAVINE THEN LIFTING UP AND FLYING INTO THE SKY. THINK ABOUT THE IMAGES HE USED TO SET UP THAT MOMENT.

WITH SPIELBERG, IT’S NEVER JUST A TACTIC THAT IS SOMETHING THAT’S FOR MERE ADVENTURE FILMS. THINK ABOUT SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. EVEN WHEN THOUGH THE FILM WAS FOR IT’S INVENTIVE USE OF THE DOCU-STYLE, THE REASON IT REALLY SUCCEEDED WAS BECAUSE IT WAS STILL FUNDAMENTALLY ROOTED IN AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION AND CAUSE + EFFECT. YOU PROBABLY REMEMBER THE CRAZINESS/FEELING OF THE OPENING D-DAY SCENE, BUT THINK ABOUT THE CONTENT. HOW DOES THAT  SEQUENCE BEGIN? WITH A BOAT PREPPING FOR DEPLOYMENT ON D-DAY, THE DOOR GOES DOWN, BUT EVERY SINGLE SOLDIER IN FRONT SHOT INSTANTLY. SET UP + DELIVERY. LATER A SOLDIER CLIPPED IN THE HELMET SO HE TAKES OFF THE HELMET AND EXAMINE IT, THEN GETS SHOT IN THE HEAD. CAUSE + EFFECT. LATER, TOM HANK’S CHARACTER TALKS TO A PERSON ON THE PHONE LINE, TURNS AWAY, TURNS BACK AND THEY’RE DEAD. SAME THING. THE SCENE FEELS CHAOTIC BUT IT NOT JUST “STUFF HAPPENING.” IT’S JUST THE STYLE OF THE SCENE IMPLIES CHAOS, BUT THE ACTUAL SEQUENCE IS STRAIGHT-UP ACTION BEATS AND CAUSE + EFFECT. EVEN SCHINDLER’S LIST USES THE SAME TENET CONSTANTLY, ONLY TO HIGHLIGHT TRAGEDY AND ATROCITY.(6)

NOW, LET’S TIE THIS EVALUATION INTO EARLIER HULK POINT. THINK ABOUT HOW OFTEN YOU COULD DESCRIBE SPEILBERG’S WORK AS “COOL”… YEAH, YOU NOT FIRST DESCRIBE IT THAT WAY AT ALL. AS INVENTIVE AND THRILLING AS IT IS, HIS WORK IS RARELY “COOL” IN THE WAY WE THINK OF COOL … ACTUALLY, IT’S MAYBE EVEN A LITTLE SQUARE. BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER ONE IOTA BECAUSE YOU ARE SURE AS HELL INVESTED.

SPEILBERG’S ACTION GENIUS HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH COHERENT DIRECTION OR MISE EN SCENE. IT HAS TO DO WITH BEING SURE YOU INVESTING THE AUDIENCE ABOVE ALL ELSE. SPIELBERG IS EVEN INFAMOUS FOR “CHEATING LOGISTICS” CONSTANTLY. HE CHEAT SPACE, TIME, PROXIMITY, GEOGRAPHY AND HE GETS AWAY WITH IT BECAUSE HE SO GOOD AT USING THOSE CHEATS TO MANIPULATE TENSION AND DRAMA OF SCENE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. IT IS THE LOGIC OF SUSPENSE, NOT THE LOGIC OF LOGIC. AND IT’S WHAT HE CARES ABOUT MORE THAN ANYTHING. HE ALWAYS CREATES A VISUAL “STORY” THAT IS SO DISTINCT AND YOU THEREFORE REMEMBER HIS ACTION MORE THAN ANY OTHER FILMMAKER.

SO IF WE GOING TO EXAMINE SOME SPIELBERG THAN YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED THAT HULK LEFT OFF THE BEST EXAMPLE OF CAUSE + EFFECT ACTION IN HIS OEUVRE: THE INDIANA JONES TRILOGY. (7)

STATEMENT OF FACT: INDIANA JONES = THE PERFECT ACTION HERO.

FUCKING A.

AS TOTALLY FUCKING COOL AS ABOVE PICTURE IS, INDIANA JONES DOES IS NOT FIGHT  “COOL.” HE DOES NOT ACT LIKE HE IS INVINCIBLE. HE DOES NOT HAVE AN ENDLESS SUPPLY OF AMMO. HE DOES NOT BRUSH ASIDE ANY THREATS AGAINST HIS PERSON LIKE THEY ARE NOTHING. WE NEVER MARVEL AT HIS FEATS OF ABILITY. AND FOR YOU FELLOW GAMING NERDS, HE NEVER, EVER IN “GOD-MODE.”

NO, THE THING THAT IS AWESOME ABOUT INDY IS THAT HE IS DISTINCTLY HUMAN. HE ALTERNATES BETWEEN FALSE CONFIDENCE/BRAVADO AND ABJECT TERROR. HE IS PROFESSOR-LEVEL INTELLIGENT, BUT ALSO ON OCCASION PRETTY DUMB. HE IS COCKSURE IN CONVERSATION AND YET BUMBLING AT THE MOST CRUCIAL MOMENTS. BUT NEVER DOES HIS FEAR OR INABILITY TRANSLATE TO ACTUAL COWARDICE, JUST THE SHEER HUMAN AND EMOTIONAL RECOGNITION OF BEING IN OVER ONE’S HEAD.

HE IS BOTH WHAT WE WANT TO BE AND ALSO WHAT WE ARE AT EXACT SAME TIME.

AND SINCE HE IS SO HUMAN, WHAT INDY DOES BETTER THAN ANYONE IS GET HIMSELF INTO JAMS AND THEN BARELY GET OUT OF THEM.

TOM: Ah yes, lovable Indy. I’ve often considered where the modern action scene was born and I have to say that Raiders impressed back in the day. It does exactly what you say, right from the beginning: multiple strands of action beautifully balanced in the edit, clear character stakes, cause & effect, etc.

EXACTLY. YOU KNOW WHAT?

LET’S WATCH THE SUPER-DUPER FAMOUS OPENING OF RAIDERS AGAIN AND THINK ABOUT EVERYTHING HULK & TOM TALKIN’ BOUT. AS THE AUDIENCE JOURNEYS TOWARD THE IDOL, THEY SET UP EVERY SINGLE THING THAT GOING TO LATER HAPPEN DURING THE ESCAPE: THE PIT, THE ARROWS, THE STEPS. IT ALL THERE. THE LINK BELOW HAS NO SOUND (DAMN COPYRIGHT, THIS FOR EDUCATION PURPOSES!) BUT THIS IS ACTUALLY A GOOD THING BECAUSE IT ACTUALLY HIGHLIGHTS HOW VISUAL AN ENTIRE ACTION SCENE CAN BE:

THIS SEQUENCE, WITH ALL OF THE SET-UPS, PAYOFFS, AND IMMEDIATE LINKING, IS ABSOLUTELY THE HEART OF ACTION. HULK MEAN HOW GREAT IS THIS? INDY IS ALWAYS ABOUT FINDING HIMSELF IN A NEW AND FAR WORSE JAM: OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, INTO THE FIRE, INTO A VOLCANO, AND INTO HELL. AND IT IS BY FAR THE MOST EFFECTIVE MANNER OF ACTION-STORYTELLING AND THEREFORE THE MOST EXCITING WAY TO INVOLVE AND THRILL AN AUDIENCE.

BUT NOTICE  THAT IT SURE AS HELL ISN’T COHESIVE OR “REALISTIC” EDITING. SEE HOW OFTEN SPIELBERG CHEATED? HOW THE LAST SECONDS OF THE DOOR FALLING TAKES FOREVER? HOW NONE OF THE BOULDER SHOTS CUT TOGETHER? BUT NONE OF IT MATTER!

TOM: That’s nothing. The truck chase in Raiders cheats like hell and gets away with it. Trees, buildings, open desert, 1000′ cliffs – all appear and disappear as serves the mechanics of the action.

EXACTLY. SPEILBERG’S ENTIRE OEUVRE SEEMS TO VIOLATE THE VERY NOTION COHESION, BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER BECAUSE HE’S SIMPLY TRYING TO PUT THE SCENE PERFECTLY IN TUNE WITH CAUSE + EFFECT.

BUT PERHAPS THE BEST THING ABOUT SPIELBERG IS HE KNOWS BETTER THAN ANYONE THAT A  SET-UP FOR DANGER CAN BE PLAYED FOR A LAUGH (THUS INFORMING THE “I CAN SWIM MISTER!” MOMENT FROM CAP). HULK CAN’T FIND A VIABLE LINK TO IT, BUT THE OPENING OF TEMPLE OF DOOM JUST AS STRONG WITH CAUSE + EFFECT DEVICES, BUT SPIELBERG USES HALF OF THE “DELIVERIES” TO GO FOR LAUGHS. WOMEN GETTING PUNCHED, THE ICE MIXING WITH THE DIAMONDS, AND THE EXTRAORDINARY CAPPER WITH INDY SAYING “SO LONG LAO CHE!” THEN CLOSING THE DOOR WHICH READS “LAO CHE AIR FREIGHT.” AGAIN, IT THE SAME EXACT SAME NOTION SET-UPS, BUT THE REACTION/RELIEF COMES IN FORM OF LAUGHTER. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY IT SHOWS THAT THE TWO CAN MIX WONDERFULLY. AND FROM THAT POINT ON, THE MOVIE REALLY NEVER STOPS LINKING ALL THEIR BEATS TOGETHER. IF YOU PUT IT SOLELY IN THOSE TERMS, THEN TEMPLE IS A CAUSE + EFFECT MASTERPIECE.

TOM, HULK TRYING THINK, THERE ANY OTHER GREAT ACTION SET-UPS THAT BRING COMEDY MOMENTS YOU CAN THINK OF OUTSIDE OF SPEILBERG?

TOM:  Outside of Spielberg? Great, well that disqualifies two of the greatest moments ever, which are both in, of course, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

HULK LAUGH.

TOM: The first is the shoot out in Marion’s bar in Nepal, which is a perfect Swiss clock of a sequence with all sorts of unexpected twists and turns – all set against the perfect hourglass device in the form of a fire which threatens to engulf  proceedings.  A dark laugh is elicited when it seems Major Anold Toht (I confess, I looked that up) has chanced upon the vital medallion in all the confusion, only to discover that it’s literally too hot to handle.  Then, when it looks like it’s all over for Indy, pinned by the last man standing who has a gun aimed at him at point blank range, the shot that rings out comes from Marion’s gun.  A deus ex machina of sorts since we’ve been led to believe that Marion is stupefied at this point but a permissible one given that she’s established her ability to drink giants under the table already.

AND NO FORGET, THAT SCENE OPENS WITH ONE OF THE BEST LEFT-FIELD SCARE-TO-LAUGH DEVICES EVER, WHAT CAN ONLY BE CALLED, “TOHT’S COAT-HANGER.”

TOM: Out of nowhere indeed. The other great moment is, of course, this:

TOM: On reflection the laugh elicited from Indy shooting the showboating swordsman is at the expense of his true characterisation.  It’s a callous and ‘ungentlemanly’ action and displays an unfair advantage in a film which revels in usually stacking the odds heavily against the protagonist. But that’s also what makes the moment work.

RIGHT, IT PLAY RIGHT INTO SET UP/DELIVER. EVERYONE OUTRIGHT EXPECTS THE BATTLE. AND HOPEFULLY EVERYONE KNOWS THE FAMOUS STORY OF HOW IT WAS ACTUALLY PLANNED AS A BIG FIGHT SCENE, BUT HARRISON HAD THE RUNS AND SOMEONE SUGGESTED THAT GETTING THE SCENE WOULD BE SO MUCH EASIER IF HE JUST TOOK OUT HIS GUN AND SHOT HIM. PURE SERENDIPITY AND PROOF A CAUSE + EFFECT LAUGH CAN BE 1000 TIMES MORE EFFECTIVE THAN ANY COMPLICATED “COOL” SEQUENCE. PLUS IT DIRECTLY ANSWERS THOSE PESTERING MOVIE-LOGIC QUESTIONS: “YEAH, WHY WOULDN’T HE JUST TAKE OUT HIS GUN AND SHOOT HIM?” BUT REALLY IT MORE THAN THAT. IT ABOUT THE DUALITY OF INDY/US AND GETS TO THE HEART OF THE MOVIE’S IDENTITY.

TOM:  Spielberg abounds in stacking the odds against Indy and therein lies the charm of the series.

The famous punch into the propeller wing executes this idea perfectly, all with a steady escalation of perils that impede a simple objective – stop the ark from leaving by plane.  First the giant Nazi boxer, then Marion inadvertently locking herself in the plane and the concussed pilot forcing the controls, then a fuel spill that threatens to ignite – which in turn awakens another poleaxed Nazi, etc, etc.  Spielberg’s mastery at this point in his career was not just his confidence with cause and effect but his ability to have so many elements running in parallel.  The effect on an audience is one of almost unbearable tension as the problems that face the protagonists have no one clear solution and again, with the path of flammable liquid pouring towards a naked flame there’s an in built time limit to proceedings.  I always liken this device to watching an escapology act; a clear demonstration of the hurdles that have to be overcome as we see the escapologist being demonstrably cuffed and bound then a knowable time limit imposed when they’re dumped into a tank of water.

HULK LOVE THAT IDEA. AN ESCAPOLOGIST, WORKING ON ALL THE DIFFERENT PARALLELS. THAT PERFECT AND VERY “SPIELBERGIAN.”

TOM: And I can’t honestly think of an action set-up that confounds audience expectations in the manner that your Captain America example does, but I hold dearly the clock tower sequence from Back to The Future, which successfully fuses genuine action stakes with humorous misadventure.

OOOH, OOOH. HULK FOUND SUPER CRAPPY LINK, BUT IT WAS THE ONLY ONE NOT REMIXED WITH, LIKE, GTA OR THE SIMPSONS. STILL, IT AT LEAST SHOWS EVERYTHING TO JOG YOUR MEMORY:

TOM: Again the geography to this moment has been previously illustrated in perhaps the most pedantically diagrammatic fashion in film history; we’re treated to a scale model demonstration of exactly how the sequence is supposed to go down later in the story; only for a massive spanner to be thrown into the works when a falling tree disconnects the vital power line from the improvised lightening rod on the clock tower. Here we have a literal ticking clock device as the countdown to 10.04pm begins and we have a very Spielbergian escalation policy in effect as first a section of the tower ledge gives way, then Doc Brown’s turn ups start to rip, the DeLorean stalls at the starting line and once plugged back in to the lightening rod the cable is still fatally foreshortened by the felled tree and disconnects at ground level…  With all this in effect the viewer is knotted up in hernia inducing tension by the time the lightening bolt finally lets rip.

Despite a smattering of action throughout the film, this moment has been earned through far less kinetic means though.  In fact the entire plot is driven by a need to undo all the potentially disastrous consequences of Marty McFly’s accidental time travel; harnessing a lightening bolt at a precise time being the ultimate conclusion to that quest and established an hour earlier in the story.  Of course the humour in this scene is derived by entirely different means than the Captain America example.  Firstly the two protagonists (who unconventionally are battling the march of time and forces of nature, rather than a bad guy) put in overtly comic performances and the stakes are so phantasmagorically high and absurd they play more convincingly in a humourous arena.  However, for that to be compelling, the laws of cause and effect are still religiously adhered to.

LOVE IT. PERFECT EXAMPLE. AND IT IS NO MISTAKE THAT SPIELBERG, ZEMEKIS, AND JOHNSTON ALL ARE FRIENDS/WORK TOGETHER/LOVE EACH OTHERS WORK.

ALL THEIR “SUMMER” MOVIES  ARE FUN, THRILLING, AND FOR EVERYONE (IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY). STILL, THE LESSONS TO TAKE AWAY FROM THEM IS NOT “BE EXACTLY LIKE THESE GUYS” BUT TO RECOGNIZE THE PRINCIPALS THEY USE TO INFORM YOUR OWN ACTION.

HULK NOT ARGUING THAT HEAVILY TELEGRAPHING ALL YOUR SETS UPS OR USING TONGUE AND CHEEK TONE THE WAY TO GO WITH EVERYTHING. HULK JUST SAYING THAT IT’S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THESE DEVICES ARE THE HEART OF ACTION. EVEN IF YOU’RE PLAYING YOUR ACTION SUPER-DEADLY-SERIOUS, THE APPROACH OF CAUSE + EFFECT SHOULD BE EXACT SAME. THE ONLY THING THAT WILL BE DIFFERENT IS THE TONE (WE’LL GET TO HOW TONE WORK LATER THOUGH). AND REMEMBER THAT INJECTING A MOMENT OF LEVITY INTO YOUR MOVIE NOT SOMETHING TO FEAR.

WAIT, DID NICKY KATT MAKE THIS SCENE WORK?

NEVER FORGET THAT TEMPLE OF DOOM, FOR ALL IT’S SILLINESS, HAS JUST AS MANY UBER-DARK MOMENTS IN IT TOO (THE SEMI-BIRTH OF PG-13!). HULK ARGUES THAT IT IS ACTUALLY THE LIGHT-HEARTED SILLINESS THAT SETS UP THE GRAVITAS OF THOSE DARK SCENES. AND IT ALL CULMINATES WITH THE GRAND AUDACITY OF THE  “PREPARE TO MEET KALI… IN HELL!” MOMENT WHICH ENDS THE MOVIE. IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE, BUT HULK ARGUE YOU SHOULD NEVER BE AFRAID TO PLAY WITH IT OUT OF FEAR.(8)

HULK GOING JUST KEEP HAMMERING THIS WHOLE CAUSE + EFFECT MANTRA. NOTHING MATTERS MORE THAN AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION.

SPIELBERG KNOWS THIS.  AND THAT’S WHY HE’S SPIELBERG.

HE ALSO PRODUCED THE MONEY PIT

BRINGING IT HOME, LET’S ROUND OUT OUR CAUSE + EFFECT ANALYSIS BY LOOKING AT A VERY PARTICULAR FILM OUR SPECIAL GUEST INVOLVED WITH: ATTACK THE BLOCK (IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN YET AND IT’S IN A THEATER NEAR YOU, GO SEE IT! BUT ALSO FEEL FREE SKIP DOWN TO NEXT PART IF WANT TO AVOID ALL DETAILS BEFORE YOU DO).

THE FILM WAS BUDGETED FOR A MEASLY 9 MILLION DOLLARS AND YET IT THRILLING MOVIE ABOUT AN LONDON-CENTRIC ALIEN INVASION.  HOW DID THE FILMMAKERS ACCOMPLISH THIS FEAT? WELL FOR STARTERS IT HAS TEXTURED CHARACTERS, A TIGHT/ECONOMIZING PLOT, AND RESONANT THEMES, BUT FUCK THAT SMARTY-PANTS FROU-FROU NONSENSE, LET’S TALK ACTION!

OF COURSE THE FILM MAKES GOOD USE OF  CAUSE + EFFECT. NOTICE HOW OFTEN THE FILM’S OPENING CONSTANTLY SET UP LOCATIONS/ITEMS IT WILL USE LATER: THE UNION JACK ON THE SIDE OF THE BUILDING, THE STREET WHERE THE POLICE WAGON WILL BE ASSAULTED, THE TWO CONNECTING WALKWAYS WHERE A CHARACTER SETS PRECEDENCE FOR A JUMP THAT HAPPENS LATER. THE ENTIRE FIRST ACT TAKES GREAT CARE TO CUT TO INSERT SHOTS OF LOCATIONS THAT WILL FEATURE THROUGHOUT FILM.

ATTACK THE BLOCK HAS NO DESCENDING BOULDERS OR CRAZY SET-PIECES TO UTILIZE, SO IN ORDER TO MAKE THE PERFECTLY NORMAL SETTING “POP” THEY TAKE EXTRA CARE TO FEATURE SHOW THESE ORDINARY PLACES. THEY MAKE THEM DISTINCT. IT BASIC SET-UP AND DELIVERY. EVEN THE FILM’S CHASE SCENES KEEP THE CAUSE + EFFECT CONCEPT VERY SIMPLE. SHOW ALIEN CHASING, SHOW KID TRYING HARDER TO GET AWAY, SHOW BOTH IN RELATIVE DISTANCE WITH ALIEN GAINING. PUNCTUATE WITH NARROW ESCAPES. THEN LINK THEM ALL TOGETHER (AND REMEMBER JUST CAUSE THE CONCEPT SIMPLE NOT MEAN IT SIMPLE TO EXECUTE, BUT MORE ON THAT LATER). IT GREAT. AND IT ALL CAUSE + EFFECT.

TOM: The first thing to say  about Attack The Block is that all the action ‘beats’ in the finished film are all in the draft of the screenplay that I first read.  It was massaged and molded every step of the way of course, but Joe had clearly thought everything through while putting pen to paper and this made the script an invaluable document to fall back on.

Brainstorming and story-boarding led to further embellishment then the realities of  what the locations, schedule and post production budget could afford reined things back in, but always one knew what was vital and what wasn’t.

The most taxing sequence was the chase back to the block simply because it featured moving vehicles.  Wisely Joe had decided that the best way to handle this was to split the gang up.  That way each character got their own ‘moment’, which seemed democratic, and the physical task of organising things on screen became manageable ‘sub’ set pieces.  The vehicles each character had were picked as an extension of their characterisation and the proficiency with which they tackled various perils were also meant to reflect who they were.  Knowing all this in advance of drilling stunt performers and fretting over visually effective camera angles and all the other things that become preoccupations on set is I’m sure why we rarely missed the wood for the trees.

Further to all this Joe had an iron clad formula that he wanted to apply to every moment.  Fearing that we lacked the resources to do lots of ‘really cool shit’ (and the desire to do ‘really cool shit’ is always there) Joe was adamant that every stunt was sandwiched by a legible close-up of the relevant character.  I guess, going on the principle that at any given moment the viewer is (hopefully) sharing the characters sensations the best a film can do to enforce that is to act as a virtual mirror.  Close-up shots of people’s faces reacting to a threat, expressing fear or triumph, is something cinema offers that other mediums can’t.  [as an aside, the 1st person point of view shot that tops the trailer for the Amazing Spiderman is COOL AS SHIT but the very best moments in the Raimi Spiderman films were always when Peter Perker had lost the mask and we saw him reacting to things with a look of apprehension or physical strain.  That’s when we ‘feel’ the stakes]. It sounds like obvious stuff but I think it’s often forgotten or marginalised in edits and it’s the easiest way to keep the sense that ‘crazy stuff’ is grounded in some sort of relatable real world setting.  It also took some of the pressure off the so called ‘money shots’ since we knew we wouldn’t be blowing up aircraft carriers, crashing 18 wheelers through plate glass buildings or any of the usual $100m ‘shizzle’.

HOLY CRAP. HULK DID NOT PICK UP ON THE CLOSE-UP SHOTS TECHNIQUE, BUT GODDAMN IF THAT NOT PERFECT. HULK CAN’T GET OVER HOW SMART AND SIMPLE THAT IS…. IRONCLAD INDEED.

TOM: Of course Hulk, one still has to be careful how one handles the cast in situations like these:


TRUST.

PART 2 – THE IMPORTANCE OF OBJECTIVES (AND DON’T WORRY THIS PART WAY, WAY SHORTER)

CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING: HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU SEEN THE GOOD GUYS RUNNING FROM ENCROACHING BAD GUYS AND YOU HAVE NO CLUE WHERE THEY ARE GOING? THEY’RE JUST RUNNING AWAY.

IT HAPPENS CONSTANTLY. NOW THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH WANTING TO ESCAPE CLUTCHES OF BAD GUYS, HULK MEAN, FUCK, THAT’S A FUNDAMENTAL ASPECT OF ALL ACTION CINEMA. BUT IT’S JUST THAT SO OFTEN MODERN MOVIES DON’T GIVE THE A DISTINCTION OF HOW THEY SHOULD GO ABOUT IT. IT MERELY, “QUICK, RUN!” BUT REALLY IT SPEAKS TO A MUCH LARGER POINT: HOLLYWOOD DOES NOT UTILIZE THE “TANGIBLE OBJECTIVE” NEARLY ENOUGH.

AND IN CASE IT’S NOT OBVIOUS, OBJECTIVES = SO DAMN IMPORTANT.

WHY? BECAUSE THEY ESTABLISHE THE GOAL FOR AUDIENCE. BECAUSE IT CREATES A RALLYING POINT FOR THE CONFLICT. BECAUSE IT ALLOWS THE AUDIENCE AN EASY AND CLEAR WAY TO PARTICIPATE. AND WITHOUT AN OBJECTIVE THE AUDIENCE ONLY WATCHES. WITHOUT AN OBJECTIVE, THERE IS ONLY THE CHAOS OF INTENT. (9) THE OBJECTIVE GIVES ACTION A NARRATIVE. IT FACILITATES AN ARC. IT BEGS A CONCLUSION.

CONSIDER ALL THE GREAT OBJECTIVES OF FILM HISTORY: A PROTON TORPEDO IN THE EXHAUST PORT (JUST BELOW THE MAIN PORT!), DRIVE 88 MPH RIGHT AS THE CLOCK STRIKES MIDNIGHT AND IGNITE THE FLUX CAPACITOR,  FIND THE WIZARD AND JUST FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD, STEAL THE ENTIRE CASH DEPOSIT IN THE VAULT OF THE BELLAGIO, GET THE WARRIORS BACK TO CONEY ISLAND,  ESCAPE THE NAZI PRISONER CAMP, FIND THE ARK OF THE COVENANT, WHAT IS ROSEBUD?, WHO STOLE MY BICYCLE? I NEED THAT BICYCLE!, GET RID OF THE GUY IN THE CAR WITH NO FACE BEFORE BONNIE GETS HOME, FIND BUFFALO BILL AND HERE USE THESE DISTINGUISHED CANNIBAL TO HELP YOU, FIND PRIVATE RYAN,WHO MURDERED LAURA PALMER? (AN OBJECTIVE SO GOOD IT KEPT NORMAL PEOPLE AROUND THROUGH ABSTRACT-CRAZINESS),  AND, OF COURSE, GET REIMBURSEMENT AFTER SOMEONE PEED ON YOUR FUCKING RUG.

NOW NOT EVERY MOVIE NEEDS A GREAT OVER-ARCHING OBJECTIVE TO SEE THE PLOT THROUGH, BUT LET’S NOT FORGET, IT CAN CERTAINLY FREAKING HELP. AND NOTICE HOW MANY OF THE MOVIES HULK LISTED NOT EVEN TRADITIONAL ACTION MOVIES. IT’S JUST THAT OUTLINING GREAT OBJECTIVES FROM THE ONSET PROVIDES IMMEDIATE CONTEXT AND CAN CREATE INSTANTLY SCENES OF TENSION AND CONFLICT IN TRYING TO RESOLVE THAT GOAL. OBJECTIVES IMBUE ACTION SCENES (AND REALLY ALL SCENES) WITH MEANING.

TOM: All this objectives talk got me back to pondering where the modern action scene was born. Clouzot’s ‘Wages of Fear‘ is one of the earliest films I can think of that has ‘modern’ feeling action beats, editing, shot design. But really it uses objectives better than any film I can think of…

PERFECT STARTING POINT! IF YOU NEVER SEEN WAGES OF FEAR(1953) DO YOUR SELF FAVOR AND GO SEE.

THE PLOT IS FAIRLY VERY DIRECT AND YET COMPLETELY INGENIOUS. A GROUP OF POOR, DESPERATE SOUTH AMERICAN MEN ARE HIRED FOR A SUICIDE MISSION IN WHICH THEY HAVE TO DELIVER  TRUCK LOADS OF NITROGLYCERINE TO OIL FIELDS FAR AWAY. THE JOURNEY IS PERILOUS AND THE SLIGHTEST BUMP CAN EXPLODE THE CARGO AND KILL THEM INSTANTLY… SO YUP, THAT’LL CREATE SOME F’ING TENSION.

BUT NO MISTAKE THE FILM THE FILM FOR REPLAYING THAT SINGULAR DANGER OVER AND OVER AGAIN. THE MOVIE SPENDS FIRST HALF SETTING UP THE CHARACTERS AND DESPERATION OF THE SITUATION, ALLOWING THE LAST HALF OF THE MOVIE TO PLAY WITH REAL CONSEQUENCES (SINCE WE KNOW THE CHARACTERS SO WELL). AND WHILE THE SUSPENSE HANGS OVER THE ENTIRE JOURNEY, CLOUZOT INTEGRATES THAT SUSPENSE WITH SEVERAL OTHER PLOT-LINES/DEVICES. SIMPLE AUGMENTATIONS LIKE HAVING A BOULDER FALL INTO THE ROAD AND NOW THEY HAVE TO USE SOME OF THE NITRO TO BLOW IT UP (ALSO AT THEIR OWN RISK). IT ALSO TAKE GREAT CARE TO LET THE TENSION GET THE BEST OF PEOPLE SO THAT THE CONFLICTS BECOME CHARACTER-BASED, SEWING DISTRUST AND EVENTUAL RIVALRY BETWEEN THE TWO CARGO TRUCKS.

THE AV CLUB ACTUALLY WROTE A GREAT PIECE ON WAGES OF FEAR AND THEY HAVE A VIDEO ON THIS PAGE YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY WATCH (IT UN-EMBEDDABLE). IT SHOWS THE AFOREMENTIONED BOULDER SCENE:

http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-wages-of-fear,47047/

NOTICE THE EFFECT OF THE OBJECTIVE? HULK KNOW THAT IT SOUNDS OBVIOUS, BUT IMAGINE WHAT THIS SCENE WOULD BE LIKE WITHOUT A CLEARLY EXPRESSED OBJECTIVE. IMAGINE IF IT JUST THE OPENING OF THE MOVIE AND WE HAD NO IDEA WHAT GOING ON. OF COURSE YOU SAY THAT RIDICULOUS SUGGESTION, BUT THINK ABOUT HOW MANY MOVIES PRESENT ACTION SCENES WITHOUT THE OBJECTIVES BEING KNOWN. SERIOUSLY, YOU’D BE AMAZED HOW MANY BITS OF ACTION WILL BE PRESENTED SANS OBJECTIVE IN THE NAME OF… UM… MYSTERY? HULK DUNNO. BUT BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR IT.

OF COURSE WHEN DEALING WITH THE FACT THAT THEIR ACTION SCENE IS PURPOSELESS, SOME FILMMAKER’S SOLUTION TO THE ENSUING LACK OF AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION IS JUST TO FILL IN THE “BORING” WITH AS MUCH WHIZZ-BANGS AND BUSY-FRAMES, AS POSSIBLE (HULK SOUNDS LIKE OLD-FART). BUT THAT REALLY A WHOLE OTHER PROBLEM. JUST REMEMBER THAT OBVIOUS OBJECTIVES, AS DUMB AS THEY MAY SEEM, CAN COMPLETELY CHANGE THE DYNAMIC OF WHAT YOU SEE ON SCREEN. (NOTE: WE GOING REVISIT WAGES OF FEAR IN ANOTHER PART OF THIS PIECE BUT IF WANT SEE IT ALL THE ENTIRE MOVIE ON HULU PLUS).

HULK JUST CAN’T STATE IT ENOUGH: NEVER BE AFRAID TO CLEARLY OUTLINE WHAT YOU ABOUT TO DO IN ACTION SCENE.

HERE’S A SUPER-SIMPLE EXAMPLE OF THE TOP OF HULK’S HEAD:  PRETEND WE WANT HAVE A SCENE OF PEOPLE DEFENDING A MEDIEVAL FORTRESS. AS THE BAD GUYS SWARM, WE THEREFORE MAKE THE DECISION TO HAVE THE LEAD CHARACTER TELL TWO OTHER CHARTERS TO “HOLD THE GATE! DON’T LET THEIR HORSES THROUGH OR WE’RE DEAD!” NOW IS THIS DIALOGUE INSTRUCTIONAL AND ON THE NOSE? FOR SURE. BUT NOW THE AUDIENCE GOING INTO THAT FIRST MOMENT OF ACTION AND THERE ARE HIGHER STAKES TO THEIR SIMPLE ROOTING INTERESTED. NOW THEY PARTICIPATING INSTEAD OF JUST WATCHING. AND IF THE SCENE DIDN’T HAVE THAT OBJECTIVE CLEARLY EXPRESSED? IF THE BAD GUYS SWARMED AND IT JUST CUT TO THE TWO CHARACTERS RANDOMLY RUNNING TO THE GATE AS BAD GUYS IN HORSES CAME THROUGH? QUITE FRANKLY, IT WOULDN’T WORK AS WELL. THERE WOULD BE A WAY IN WHICH THE AUDIENCE STILL CLEARLY “GETS IT” BUT THERE IS A LOST OPPORTUNITY TO RAISE THE STAKES AND GIVE THE SCENE STRONGER MEANING.

HOW ABOUT REAL-LIFE EXAMPLES? THINK ABOUT HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, WHICH IS A MOVIE THAT DOES NOTHING BUT CONSTANTLY ESTABLISH THE NEXT OBJECTIVE.

AIM FOR THE EXHAUST PORT! JUST BELOW THE MAIN PORT!

IT’S NOT LIKE DRAGON IS JUST USING NONSENSE MACGUFFINS EITHER. FOR EXAMPLE, ONE OF THE EARLY OBJECTIVES IS HOW HICCUP WANTS TO FIX TOOTHLESS’ WING AND THEN THERE IS A SERIES OF TRIAL + ERROR BEFORE ACCOMPLISHING THEIR GOAL. THE USE THE OVERARCHING OBJECTIVE NOT TO BUILD TENSION, BUT TO SEW THE SEEDS OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP AND GAINING TRUST. THEY USE THIS “ACTION” AS STORY. JUST LIKE THE ROCKY TRAINING MONTAGES.

THEN THERE ARE A NUMBER OF SCENES WHERE HICCUP HAS TO TRY AND BEAT THE CAPTURED “TRAINING DRAGONS” AND IT IS ALL VERY INSTRUCTIONAL/SPECIFIC IN HOW TO DO THAT (ALL OF WHICH SET UP ACTION BEATS LATER IN THE MOVIE TOO). BETTER YET, THEIR METHODS OF INSTRUCTION OFTEN CONTRAST WITH THE KNOWLEDGE THAT HICCUP GAINED FROM HIS TIME WITH TOOTHLESS. MEANING THE OBJECTIVES REFLECT PERSONALITY AND THEME. IT USES THE ACTION CONFLICT TO CREATE CHARACTER ARC.

AND EVEN WHEN IT’S OBVIOUS STUFF LIKE THE BATTLE AT THE FILM’S CONCLUSION, ALL THE CHARACTERS ARE BARKING ORDERS AT EACH OTHER TO BE SUPER-CLEAR ABOUT EVERY SINGLE OBJECTIVE. AS A RESULT? ALL THIS CLARITY GIVES WEIGHT TO EVERY SINGLE ACTION BEAT ON DISPLAY.

NOW MAYBE THE FILMMAKERS TOOK THE CARE TO EXPLAIN EVERYTHING BECAUSE IT’S “JUST A KID’S MOVIE” AND THEY WANTED TO BE SURE EVERYONE UNDERSTOOD, BUT GUESS WHAT? SOMETIMES UNDERSTANDING NOT ABOUT “PLACATING LITTLE IDIOTS” AND INSTEAD ABOUT KEEPING THE AUDIENCE INVESTED.(9B)

YUP, IT’S DEFINITELY NOT JUST FOR FAMILY FARE. FOR INSTANCE, FUCKING INCEPTION.

BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM

HULK LOVE HOW THERE A SMALL SEGMENT OF PEOPLE WHO CLAIMED THAT MOVIE WAS SIMPLY A “MIND-FUCK,” BECAUSE IT’S NOT EVEN CLOSE TO TRUE. ONCE IT DROPS OUT OF THE INITIAL DREAM HEIST, THE FILM TAKES AS MUCH TIME AS POSSIBLE TO CLARIFY, WELL, EVERYTHING. THE LOGISTICS OF EXTRACTION, DREAMS, PSYCHOANALYSIS AND THE PLOT OF THE MOVIE ARE, WHILE CERTAINLY COMPLICATED AND INVOLVED, STILL EXPLAINED TO YOU VERBATIM RIGHT BEFORE ALMOST EVERYTHING HAPPENS. EVEN IT’S DONE SO IN A RATHER WORDY/ON-THE-FLY MANNER, THE OBJECTIVES ARE CONSTANTLY LAID OUT BEFORE THE ACTION. THE EFFECT WORKS BEAUTIFULLY AND IT IS NOT AFRAID TO EXPLAIN EVERYTHING IN O.C.D.-LEVEL DETAIL:

IMAGINE IF YOU WERE SITTING AT TABLE FOR LUNCH AND SOME PRODUCER WAS EXPLAINING INCEPTION’S APPROACH TO EXPOSITION/OBJECTIVES TO YOU: A MOVIE THAT JUST CONSTANTLY EXPLAINS EVERYTHING. IT WOULD SOUND AWFUL, RIGHT? BUT THAT’S ONLY BECAUSE WE HAVE THIS WEIRD BELIEF THAT IT IS THE EXPOSITION ITSELF THAT IS THE PROBLEM AND NOT HOW IT IS USED. INCEPTION HANDLES ITS INFORMATION IN A KINETIC, FAST-PACED WAY AND IT’S MAIN NARRATIVE STRENGTH COMES FROM THE FACT IT STRIVES FOR CLARITY ABOVE ALL ELSE (WITH A FEW MYSTERIES INTENTIONALLY HELD BACK OF COURSE). AND IT EVEN MANAGES TO BE CLEAR ABOUT SOME REALLY COMPLICATED THINGS. AS LONG AS YOU TREAT YOUR OBJECTIVES CINEMATICALLY, EXPLAINING SOMETHING CAN BE MOVIE-GOING JOY. ALL IT TAKES IS SOME GOOD MUSIC, CROSS-PURPOSE EDITING, OR EVEN A WELL-TIMED JOKE.

TOM: But never forget it doesn’t have to be on the nose either. The great thing about objectives and exposition is that you can integrate them right into characterisation. An old tutor of mine always gave an (obscure) example from ‘Silkwood‘:  Meryl Streep is on a the plane to NYC and when offered her in-flight meal asks the air hostess “how much?”  In one misunderstanding – that the meal is gratis – we know that she has never flown before.  Another example is in Jaws when Chief Brody wakes up and complains that the sun never used to come in through the bedroom window.  Straight away we know that this is his first summer season at the Amity police dept and by extension that he’s an outsider and not a seafarer.

What I like about a certain type of exposition is when we, the audience, understand something implicitly without it being overtly stated, either through dialogue or action.  It just seems more subtle and deft that way.  At the beginning of Die Hard John McClane goes to meet his wife at her office Christmas party, checking in at the security desk he discovers that she’s reverted to using her maiden name, Holly Gennaro.  This tells us all we need to know about the state of their marriage.

My criticism of Inception would be that Ellen Paige’s character has no function other than to be a conduit for the audiences questions.  She’s the ‘new girl’ and has to have everything explained to her at length to keep the viewer up to speed.  This would be more acceptable if her ability to create fiendish mazes – the talent she was allegedly recruited for – had any great bearing in the final (5th, right?) act.  But it doesn’t.  She’s really just the pipsqueak who asks pertinent questions.

HMMM. HULK DIDN’T MIND HER IF ONLY FOR THE FACT SHE LENDS THE NECESSARY HUMANITY TO THE OPERATION, AND THEN SPECIFICALLY COBB. NOW IS THIS HUMANITY JUST AS SHOE-HORNED FOR NECESSITY PURPOSES AS HER EXPOSITION ROLE? WITHOUT A DOUBT. BUT HULK FORGAVE BECAUSE HULK STILL FELT LIKE A PERSON TO HULK. OR MAYBE IT JUST THAT HULK STILL LIKE ELLEN PAGE. ANYCRAP, MORE IMPORTANT STUFF:

ONCE AGAIN LET’S GO BACK TO ATTACK THE BLOCK, WHERE THE USE OF OBJECTIVES CRITICAL. BEFORE EVERY ACTION BEAT IT SEEMS THE KIDS ALL MAKE SURE TO AGREE WHAT THEY ARE ABOUT TO DO: “LET’S GET BACK TO THE BLOCK” OR  “LET’S GET TO RON’S WEED ROOM.” FOR THOSE WORRYING THAT ALL THIS CONSTANT INFORMATION CAN BE REDUNDANT, OR WORSE, BORING. DON’T WORRY. GOOD WRITERS AND FILMMAKERS KNOW HOW MAKE IT WORK. IN ATTACK IT PLAYED FOR A JOKE.:”WHAT’S RON’S WEED ROOM?” / “IT’S A BIG ROOM FULL OF WEED… AND IT’S RON’S.”

TOM: [Nods happily]

SWEET. OBJECTIVES CLEARED! DAY ONE IN THE BOOKS!

SO JOIN US AGAIN TOMORROW FOR DAY TWO OF THREE, WHEN HULK & TOM COVER PARTS 3, 4, AND 5 OF THE SERIES, WHICH WILL COVER SUCH WONDERFUL TOPICS SUCH AS: GEOGRAPHY, KUNG-FU, TONE, SUSPENSE, SOUND DESIGN, TAUT FILMMAKING, CINEMATOGRAPHY, AND “PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER” WITH THE BEST ACTION SCENE OF ALL TIME.

THINGS ARE REALLY GOING TO START COMING TOGETHER THEN AND WE’LL HAVE A MORE COMPLETE PICTURE OF HOW THINGS WORK IN TOTALITY. TODAY WAS JUST THE STARTER KIT!

ENJOY AND SEE YOU THEN!

❤ HULK & TOM

ENDNOTES!

(i) PLEASE NOTE: HULK STARTED THE FOLLOWING LONG-FORM ARTICLE WELL OVER TWO MONTHS AGO. TWO WEEKS A WEB VIDEO SURFACED AND WENT VIRAL AND IT APPARENTLY TACKLE LOTS OF SAME CONCEPTS. HULK YET TO WATCH IT, BUT THIS SORT OF DISHEARTENING AND HULK NOT WANT YOU THINK HULK COPYING. THIS MAY SEEM OVERLY-CAUTIOUS, BUT SOMETIMES IT IMPORTANT TO MAKE DISTINCTIONS IN THIS MEDIA CULTURE GLUT WE GOT FOR OURSELVES.  AND TO QUOTE FERRAN ADRIA: “CREATIVITY MEANS NOT COPYING.” MOVING ON…

(1) CONCERNING THIS PROCESS THERE IS A REASON HORROR MOVIES ARE SORT OF THE PERFECT PURE GENRE. THESE RULES ARE SO CLEAR AND EFFECTIVE THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF FILMMAKERS UNDERSTAND THESE CORE CONCEPTS AND HOW TO EXECUTE THEM. SPECIFICALLY, THE HORROR MOVIE “SCARE” INHERENTLY DESIGNED TO WORK WITH THESE 4  PARTS OF THIS AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION SEQUENCE BETTER THAN ANYTHING ELSE ON THE PLANET.

(2) SOME OF YOU MAY BE SUSPICIOUS THAT HULK ABSOLUTELY PIMPED ATTACK THE BLOCK WHEN HULK SAW IT AND NOW HULK WRITING CHUMMY ARTICLE WITH THE CINEMATOGRAPHER. THERE NO FUNNY BUSINESS OR ULTERIOR MOTIVES. THE TRUTH THAT MR. TOWNEND SIMPLY READ HULK’S MUCH-DESERVED LAUDING OF THE MOVIE AND THEN SENT ALONG A KIND NOTE OF APPRECIATION. SINCE THEN, HULK AND MR. TOWNEND STRUCK UP FAIRLY NICE CORRESPONDENCE ABOUT MOVIES AND SUCH. WHEN HULK WAS THINKING ABOUT WRITING THIS ARTICLE, HULK ASKED MR. TOWNEND IF WILLING TO CONTRIBUTE. HE KINDLY SAY YES. WHICH, YOU KNOW, IS SUPER AWESOME AND KIND OF HIM. ANYWHO, THAT WHAT HAPPENED SO NO NEED FOR MISTRUSTING HULK’S TAKE ON ATB . AND AGAIN, FOLLOW TOM ON TWITTER!

(3) AGAIN, HULK UNDERSTAND THE POINT OF THE MONTAGE SEQUENCE AND IT GET ACROSS LOTS INFORMATION. BUT COMPARE AGAIN WITH THIS ACTION BEAT. SO WHAT’S ANOTHER REASON THE THE MONTAGE ACTION NOT AS COMPELLING? THERE NEVER ANY THREAT. IT JUST TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS. THINK ABOUT THE GREAT ROCKY MONTAGES. EVEN IF THEY WERE PREDICTABLE, EVEN IF THE MUSIC DID THE HEAVY LIFTING, WHAT MADE THEM WORK DRAMATICALLY IS THERE WAS ALWAYS SOME KIND OF STORY TO THEM. ROCKY WOULD GET BETTER AT WHATEVER THINGS HE WAS DOING AND THEY WOULD USUALLY CULMINATED WITH SUCCESS AND AWKWARD MAN HUGS.

(4) HULK ALSO LOVED THAT SCENE DIDN’T TAKE ADVANTAGE OF GOOD-WILL AND HAVE PEGGY AND CAP CONSUMMATE THEIR RELATIONSHIP IN THAT MOMENT OF SADNESS. NOT ONLY WOULD IT BE CHEAP. IT WOULD SAY ALL THE WRONG THINGS. SOMETIMES THE BEST WRITING IS KNOWING WHAT NOT TO DO.

(5) THOSE WHO CITE “MUNICH” AS A THEMATICALLY COMPLEX FILM YOU ARE CORRECT IN TERMS OF THE SUM OF THE IDEAS PROVIDING CONFLICTING THEMES, BUT THE MOVIE APPROACHES IT WITH BI-POLARITY. ONE SCENE SUPPORTS ONE THOUGHT WITH ABJECT CLARITY. THE NEXT SUPPORTS THE OPPOSITE WITH ABJECT CLARITY. THE COMPLEXITY COMES FROM SIMPLE JUXTAPOSITION OF NON-SUBTLE TERMS. BUT RARELY IS ANYTHING ACTUALLY AMBIGUOUS… ACTUALLY, THE ONLY TIMES THAT ARE IS WHEN A CHARACTER JUST TELLS THE MAIN CHARACTER “IT’S AMBIGUOUS.”

(6) NO EXAMPLE PERHAPS MORE TELLING OF SPIELBERG’S OVERT COMMITMENT TO THE CLARITY OF CAUSE + EFFECT THAN THE LITTLE GIRL WITH THE RED COAT IN SCHINDLER’S LIST. IT BEYOND CLEAR. IT OVER-CLEAR IF SUCH A THING EXIST.

(7) THAT RIGHT. HULK SAID TRILOGY.

(8) UNDERSTANDING WHEN EXACTLY TO PLAY LAUGHS AND WHEN TO BE SERIOUS NOT A “BASICS” DISCUSSION THOUGH. THAT ACTION 102 ARTICLE, MAYBE. FOR EXAMPLE, HOW MANY MOVIES DEPEND ON STOCK WITTY BANTER (ESPECIALLY 90’S MOVIES) OR STICK IN THAT OBLIGATORY AND SUPER TELEGRAPHED SERIOUS MOMENT IN 3RD ACT WHERE HERO MIGHT ACTUALLY BE IN TROUBLE FOR A SPLIT SECOND? THESE STOCK DEVICES NOT NECESSARILY THE ENEMY, BUT IT JUST EASY TO MAKE THEM FEEL ROTE IF THEY USED FOR THE WRONG REASONS. IF THEY JUST SHOE-HORNED IN THE AUDIENCE CAN FEEL IT. AND VICE-VERSA, DEFYING EXPECTATION CAN BE VERY TRICKY BECAUSE YOU CAN GET LOT OF CRAZINESS-FOR-SAKE-OF-CRAZINESS. SOME OF THE MASTERS KNOW HOW TO PLAY WITH EXPECTATION BRILLIANTLY. GUYS LIKE KUBRICK, KAUFFMAN, TARANTINO AND WHEDON… AND FOR THE RECORD DON’T MISTAKE TARANTINO’S MASTERY OF EXPECTATION AS BEING MERE BYPRODUCT OF HIS OUT-OF-SEQUENCE STORYTELLING. IT REALLY BECAUSE HE JUST KNOWS STORYTELLING.

(9) WHICH, OF COURSE, IS NOT TO SAY CHAOS CAN’T BE VALUABLE. A FEW SECONDS OF WELL-TIMED CHAOS CAN BE VERY EFFECTIVE. BUT IT CANNOT GO ON FOR EXTENDED PERIODS OF TIME. AND EVEN AT THAT, IT SHOULD NOT BE USED AS OFTEN AS IT IS USED.

(9B) THIS ACTUALLY ONE OF HULK’S MAIN ARGUMENTS AGAINST JJ ABRAMS. HE SO UNBELIEVABLY TALENTED AT CREATING THE AIR OF MYSTERY, BUT PERHAPS NO DIRECTOR LOSES MORE AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION BY REFUSING TO CLARIFY THE INTENT OF HIS CHARACTERS OR THE MOTIVE OF ANY OF THE ACTION. WHAT HELPS THE MYSTERY OFTEN HURTS THE ACTUAL DRAMATIZATION… IF HE COULD REALLY FIGURE OUT WHEN TO GO MYSTERY AND WHEN TO SET UP OBJECTIVES IT WILL BE AMAZING. HE HAS AN INCREDIBLE SET OF TOOLS AND HE’S JUST ONE SIMPLE REALIZATION AWAY FROM PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER.

HULK FINALLY READY TO POINT ON THE DOLL AND SHOW WHERE THE LOST FINALE TOUCHED HULK

CONSIDER THIS A FOUR-PART, 12,378 WORD, 31 PAGE SINGLE-SPACED, OPEN-LETTER TO DAMON LINDELOF AND CARLTON CUSE CONCERNING LOST

DEAR DARLTON,

HEY WHAT UP. IT HULK. HOW THINGS? COOL.

SO IT BEEN OVER YEAR SINCE FINALE OF LOST AND YET BOTH THE SHOW/FINALE REMAIN FLOATING ABOUT THE ZEITGEIST.  HULK IMAGINE IT SAME WAY FOR BOTH OF YOU. FOR AWHILE DAMON SEEMED TO TALK ABOUT IT ON TWITTER MAYBE ONCE A WEEK OR SO. HE RECENTLY ACKNOWLEDGE ON PODCAST THAT THE “HOW MUCH TO TALK ABOUT LOST” A QUESTION HE WRESTLE WITH. AND WHILE DISCUSSING THE SHOW, DAMON SEEM OSCILLATE BETWEEN FUN AND SERIOUSNESS, ACCEPTANCE AND DEFENSIVENESS… ALL OF WHICH RATHER UNDERSTANDABLE. OF COURSE, SOME BITS GET MORE PUBLIC NOTICE, LIKE THE RECENT (AND ADMITTEDLY RATHER TINY) DUST UP WITH GEORGE R.R. MARTIN. ALL THE WHILE, IT SEEM TO HULK THAT DAMON REALLY GOING DOWN THIS ROAD CAUSE HE TRYING TO COME TO SOME KIND OF CATHARSIS ABOUT LOST AND WHAT IT REALLY MEANT. WHICH MAKE HIM JUST LIKE ALL OF US.

THE SUM TOTALITY OF LOST(1) A HARDER THING TO SUM UP THAN MOST PEOPLE REALIZE. THE SHOW TRULY ALL-ENCOMPASSING AND RESONATED IN SO MANY DIFFERENT WAYS THAT IT HARD TO CLARIFY EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED, AND CONTINUES TO HAPPEN IN ITS WAKE.

BUT AFTER ALL THIS TIME, HERE AND NOW, HULK FINALLY READY TALK ABOUT THE LOST FINALE.

PREFACE #1:  HULK’S ORIGINAL INTERPRETATION  OF THE FINALE NOT REALLY CHANGE SINCE AIRING,  YET THE INTENSITY HAS LESSENED AND HULK ABLE TO BE MORE OBJECTIVE. THIS OBVIOUSLY A GOOD THING. WHICH MEANS:

PREFACE #2:  THE TITLE OF THIS ARTICLE AND THE DOLL-TOUCHING JOKE = JUST THAT, A JOKE. HULK FEEL NOWHERE NEAR THAT EXTREME ABOUT THE SITUATION (AFTER ALL, HULK A RATIONAL HULK). THE JOKE MORE REPRESENTATIVE OF HULK’S FEELINGS ABOUT FINALLY COMING FORWARD TO TALK ABOUT IT. HONESTLY, WHAT FOLLOWS WILL ATTEMPT BE VERY MEASURED AND FAIR AND ALL THAT. IT JUST FELT LIKE RIGHT TITLE (FOR REASONS THAT WILL MAKE SENSE LATER).

PREFACE #3:  EVEN IF HULK OFTEN DISMISS A LOT OF THE HYPERBOLE AND APOLOGIST REMARKS SURROUNDING THE SHOW, HULK STILL THINK LOST ONE OF THE BEST TELEVISION SHOWS EVER MADE. IT CERTAINLY ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT, IF ONLY FOR FACT THAT IT DRAGGED THE NETWORKS INTO BOTH THE TIME-SHIFT (DVR) AND SERIALIZED-TV ERA. BUT OBVIOUSLY, IT MORE THAN THAT.

PREFACE #4:  ANOTHER REASON HULK WRITING THIS ARTICLE BECAUSE EVEN WITH ALL THE GREAT MATERIAL CRITICAL OUT THERE, HULK YET TO READ INTERPRETATION THAT HIT NAIL ON HEAD FOR WHAT HULK FELT WAS THE EXACT PROBLEMS WITH THE FINALE. SPECIFICALLY WITH HOW IT’S AIMS NOT CONGRUENT WITH THE REST OF THE SERIES.

PREFACE #5:  WHILE ON SUBJECT OF CRITICS, HULK THINK DOC JENSEN KIND OF AN IDIOT AND WHOLLY REPRESENTATIVE OF ONE OF THE WORST ASPECTS OF LOST FANS. THIS BEAR MENTIONING BECAUSE HE THE MOST CELEBRATED LOST ANALYZER IN WORLD FOR SOME REASON. PERHAPS IT THE FAULT OF E.W.’S PRESENTATION, BUT HIS WORK REALLY COME OFF LIKE NONSENSE RAMBLINGS AND IT FILLED WITH ABSURD, UNCONNECTED TANGENTS. NOW BOTH RAMBLINGS AND TANGENTS TOTALLY OKAY( HECK, HULK USE THEM ENDLESSLY), BUT DOC ALWAYS SEEM FIXATE ON SINGULAR DETAILS TO CREATE HIS WEAKLY-SUPPORTED HYPOTHESES, ONES WHICH OFTEN STOOD IN DIRECT CONTRAST TO OTHER, FAR-MORE-PERTINENT INFORMATION. THIS NOT ONLY OCCURRED ON FREQUENT LOGISTIC LEVEL, BUT EVEN MORE EGREGIOUSLY ON THE THEMATIC LEVEL. IT SELECTIVE INFORMATION PROCESSING AND IT BASICALLY WORTHLESS. AND LIKE DOC, THERE HUGE SEGMENT OF LOST FANS THAT WOULD DO THIS ALL THE TIME.

PREFACE #6:  THE BEST WRITING HULK EVER READ ON LOST DONE BY GENTLEMEN KNOWN AS “MMORSE” AND HULK SAY YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY CHECK HIM OUT (HULK GOING TO LINK TO SOME OF HIS STUFF LATER). HE HAD UNCANNY ABILITY TO DIG DEEP WHILE STAYING TRULY FOCUSED ON HOW THESE DETAILS FIT IN THE “BIG PICTURE.” HULK ARGUE NO ONE HAVE BETTER GRIP ON THE THEMATIC LEVEL OF THE SHOW AND HE WORKED HIS ASS OFF AT IT TOO.  HE CURRENTLY DOING GREAT WORK WITH HIS “LOST AND FOUND” SERIES ON CHUD, WHICH EXAMINES OTHER CEREBRAL TV SHOWS THAT MAY HAVE HAD AN ALL-TOO SHORT RUN. HERE HIS TWITTER IF WANT CHECK OUT http://twitter.com/#!/m_morse

PREFACE #7: AT THIS POINT IT SHOULD BE CLEAR HULK HAVE NO INTEREST IN BREVITY. IT MAY BE THE SOUL OF WIT, BUT IT JUST NOT IN HULK’S WHEELHOUSE. IF YOU NEVER READ HULK STUFF BEFORE KNOW THIS, EVERY TIME HULK ATTEMPT BE BRIEF IN ANALYSIS THE STATEMENTS JUST FEEL LIKE A HALF-TRUTH. MEANWHILE, BEING FAIR, TAKING ONE’S TIME, APPROXIMATING EVERYTHING, AND JUST PLAIN BEING THOROUGH=  ALL VALUES THAT HULK HOLD DEAR. ESPECIALLY IN AN ERA THAT CRAVES SHORT FORM. SO YES, THIS ARTICLE RATHER LONG, AND PERHAPS A BIT UNWIELDY,  BUT THIS HULK DAMMIT.

SO NOW ONTO THE REAL SHIT.

PART 1: WHAT MADE “LOST” FANTASTIC

LOST BOTH ATTEMPTED AND SUCCEEDED IN DOING THINGS MOST OTHER SHOWS NO EVEN TRY: IT HAD RICH, TEXTURED CHARACTERS,  AN INTERNATIONAL CAST, USED MULTI-LINGUAL AND SUBTITLED DIALOGUE, PROVIDED SENSUOUS CINEMATOGRAPHY THAT WAS, FOR LACK OF A BETTER WORD, “CINEMATIC,” CAPITALIZED ON ITS VIBRANT SETTING, HAD STUNNING PRODUCTION VALUES, WROTE AMBITIOUS STORY ARCS, INCLUDED DEEPLY-LITERATE REFERENCES, WENT INTO INTENSE AND COMPLEX SCI-FI CONCEPTS, BRANDISHED A GOOD OLD-FASHIONED SENSE OF HUMOR, AND EVEN DISPLAYED A COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING OF NEW MEDIA IN ORDER ADVERTISE THE SHOW/INTERACT WITH FANS (HELL, IT HELPED SHAPE NEW MEDIA). EVERY DETAIL JUST SEEMED RIGHT: FROM THE HAUNTING OPENING TITLE SEQUENCE TO OFT-SUDDEN ENDING TITLE STAMP AT THE CLOSE OF EVERY EPISODE. SO IF WE JUST GOING BY ALL THESE TANGIBLE DETAILS, THEN OBJECTIVELY-SPEAKING LOST MUST REPRESENT THE PINNACLE OF TELEVISION. HECK, IT THE BEST OF WHAT ENTERTAINMENT CAN OFFER.

BUT JUST CAUSE THAT WHAT MAKE IT GOOD, IT NOT WHAT MAKE IT SPECIAL. WHAT MADE LOST SPECIAL = THE IMPOSSIBLE RESONANCE THAT THE SHOW’S TONE AND THEMATIC CONCEIT HAD WITH VIEWERS. IT STRUCK A CHORD DEEP DOWN AND COMPELLED THEM IN WAYS A TV SHOW OFTEN DOES NOT. SURE THERE WERE RELATIVE LEVELS OF THAT INTENSITY, BUT THERE JUST SEEMED NO SUCH THING AS HALF-INVESTED LOST VIEWER. FOR SOME, IT JUST PURELY VISCERAL: A JOURNEY INTO BOTH THE MYSTERY OF AN ISLAND AND THE MYSTERY OF THE CHARACTER’S LIVES. FOR OTHERS, THE THEMATIC LEVEL OPENED UP A WORLD BEYOND THE SHOW, AN ONLINE COMMUNITY, AN EXPANDED UNIVERSE, AN EVOLVING DISCUSSION ABOUT LIFE, ART, STORYTELLING, RELIGION, SCIENCE, AND BEYOND. BETTER YET, THE SHOW COULD EXIST ON THAT CEREBRAL PLANE WHILE RARELY SACRIFICING THE THINGS THAT MADE IT UNIQUELY HUMANE. AND EVEN THOUGH IT HAD AN EMOTIONAL FOUNDATION, YIT NEVER STEEPED SO LOW AS TO BE OUTRIGHT SENTIMENTAL

ALL THIS MAKE THE SHOW BOTH A MIRACLE AND A SPRAWLING ENTITY IN ITS OWN RIGHT. AND DARLTON, HULK IMAGINE THAT NAVIGATING BOTH THE CREATION OF THAT ENTITY AND THEN PERPETUATING IT MUST HAVE BEEN ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT THINGS IMAGINABLE. HOW DID THE SHOW SATISFY SO MANY PEOPLE? FOLKS WITH A HOST OF DIFFERENT VALUES?

HULK BELIEVE THE ANSWER = “THE ANSWERS.”

FIRST OFF, HULK BOTH UNDERSTAND AND NOT UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE CLAIM THAT LOST NEVER ANSWERED ANYTHING. HULK PERHAPS UNDERSTAND BECAUSE THE SHOW RARELY RELIED ON “THE REVEAL” FORMAT OR CONVENTIONALLY REVEALED TWISTS WHERE THINGS SUDDENLY DAWN ON AUDIENCE (I.E., THE WAY MANY  PROCEDURALS CONCLUDE AT END OF EVERY EPISODE). AND THE FEW TIMES THERE WAS BIG “REVEAL” IN LOST IT OFTEN ANSWERED THE QUESTION WITH EVEN DEEPER MYSTERY, BEST EXEMPLIFIED BY THE NOW-FAMOUS “KATE, WE HAVE TO GO BACK MOMENT!”

HULK JUST WANTED USE THIS AGAIN... AND TO BE FAIR, THEY HAD TO GO BACK

BUT AT SAME TIME HULK NO UNDERSTAND HOW PEOPLE CAN REALLY THINK THAT, BECAUSE LOST ACTUALLY ANSWERED THE VAST MAJORITY OF OF PLOT, CHARACTER, THEMATIC, AND THEOLOGICAL CONFLICTS THAT WERE INTRODUCED. SERIOUSLY. FOR EVERY HANGING QUESTION THERE, LIKE, 3 OTHERS THAT WERE TOTALLY ANSWERED. HULK KNOW THIS SIMPLIFYING, BUT HULK JUST WANT POINT OUT, “HEY, IT SIMPLE MATH!” YES, THE SHOW COULD BE CRUELLY CHAOTIC IN HOW WENT ABOUT IT SOMETIMES, BUT IT STILL THERE PLAIN AS DAY. AND HONESTLY WHEN THE SHOW LACKED CONVENTIONAL, CONCRETE ANSWERS IT OFTEN SUBLIMATED THEM WITH EMOTIONALLY CATHARTIC BEATS, ONES THAT RESONATED DEEPLY WITHIN THE STORY.

AND CONSIDER THE ALTERNATIVE: ALL THE TIMES THE SHOW RESORTED TO ACTUALLY VERBALIZING ANSWERS VIA MONOLOGUE (OR SOMETHING EQUALLY LAME) IT RESULTED IN THE LEAST-INSPIRING OR LEAST-CATHARTIC MOMENTS IN THE SHOW (LIKE WHEN MICHAEL JUST SHOWS UP AND EXPLAINS THE WHISPERS VERBATIM). SO HULK ACTUALLY THINK DARLTON WISE TO TRY AND SHY AWAY FROM THEM. WHAT’S MORE, THE SHOW ULTIMATELY MADE IT ABUNDANTLY CLEAR FROM BEGINNING THAT IT JUST NOT INTERESTED IN VOCALIZING THE EXACT STATE OF PLOT NARRATIVE. EVER. SO REALLY, IF SOMEONE COMPLAINING ABOUT LACK OF ANSWERS IT SEEM TO HULK THAT THAT SOMEONE NOT REALLY UNDERSTAND THE SHOW THEY BEEN WATCHING FOR 6 YEARS.

SO IF ALL THAT WHAT MAKE THE SHOW SPECIAL… NOW IT TIME FOR WHAT MAKE LOST TRANSCENDENT.

WHAT CONTINUOUSLY AMAZE HULK IS THAT AS LOST EXPANDED ITS SPRAWLING MYTHOLOGY AND THEME, IT ALWAYS HAD UNIQUE ABILITY TO, FOR LACK OF BETTER TERM, “PLEASE EVERYONE.” AND BY THAT HULK MEAN THAT IT PROVIDE “ANSWERS’ THAT REALLY MORE AN INTERESTING SET OF DIFFERENT ANSWERS, ALL OF WHICH JUST AS EQUALLY TRUE AS OTHER. IT ACTUALLY SPEAK TO RATHER MATHEMATICAL CONCEPT, LIKE MATRICES AND HOW ALL “THE ANSWERS CAN BE ALL WITHIN RANGE OF NUMERICAL SUBSET B”, ETC. MEANING THE ANSWER TO ANY PARTICULAR ISLAND MYSTERY OFTEN GAVE AT LEAST THREE ANSWERS, ONE CHARACTER/STORY BASED, ONE SCIENTIFIC/LOGIC BASED, AND ONE THEMATIC/RELIGIOUS/MYTH BASED (YOU MAY NOT REMEMBER THIS BEING CASE, BUT TRUST HULK. IT TRUE. THOUGH MOST OF IT IN THE PRODUCTION DESIGN). AND BEST YET, NONE OF THOSE ANSWERS WEAK ENOUGH TO OUTRIGHT DISMISS, NOR SO DOMINANT AS TO DISPLACE THE OTHERS.

THIS GENIUS-LEVEL MENTAL ACROBATICS. YOU KNOW, HULK GOING WAGER YOU PROBABLY HAVE NO IDEA HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO CREATE THAT KIND OF THEMATIC STASIS AS WRITER. IN HULK’S MIND, IT THE SINGULAR REASON TO LOVE THE SERIES FOREVER. AND THE FUNNY THING = THIS MULTI-ANSWER APPROACH OFTEN MADE SOME FIGHTING ABOUT LOST MEANINGS TO BE, WELL, KIND OF SILLY. THEY OFTEN JUST AS RIGHT AS THE OTHER. BUT THESE ARDENT SUPPORTERS OF SINGULAR TAKES OFTEN MISSED THE THING THAT MAKE THE SHOW SO FUCKING BRILLIANT:

IT PLEASED THE MAN OF THE FAITH. IT PLEASED THE MAN OF SCIENCE. AND IT OFTEN DID SO AT ONCE.

WHAT ELSE COULD HULK WANT FROM TV SHOW?

SO PLEASE DARLTON, AS HULK GET INTO THIS FINALE THING… PLEASE NO THINK HULK NO UNDERSTAND.

PART 2 – SO IF THAT WHAT MADE LOST FANTASTIC THEN WHY DID THE FINALE DROP THE BALL?

FIRST OFF, HULK THOUGHT 95% OF THE FINALE DOWNRIGHT SPECTACULAR. THE ENTIRE ON-ISLAND PLOT WRAPPED UP BEAUTIFULLY: THE EPIC JACK VS. LOCKE/MIB BRAWL (FEW REMEMBER THE COCKTEASINGLY-GREAT COMMERCIAL BREAK THAT HAPPENED JUST BEFORE IT). HURLEY’S NEW PLACE AS LEADER. DESMOND’S ELECTROMAGNETISM PAYING OFF AND TOTALLY PLAYING INTO THE STORY . LINUS’S ATONEMENT. THE BIG MYTHOLOGICAL ARCHPOINTS, EVEN THE ISLAND KEYSTONE, BECAUSE HULK TOTALLY COOL WITH IT BEING THE “ON/OFF” SWITCH EVEN IF SOME FELT IT ON THE NOSE.(2) MILES GETTING HIS DIAMONDS. MILES’S LINE: “I DON’T BELIEVE IN A LOT OF THINGS, BUT I DO BELIEVE IN DUCT TAPE!” (HOW DID THAT NO BECOME A T-SHIRT?) RICARDO’S GRAY HAIR AND HIS “I THINK I WANT TO LIVE” LINE. IT WRAPPED UP HIS STORY PERFECT ECONOMY. THERE ALL THE CHARACTERS SACRIFICES. THE LAST MOMENTS. VINCENT. THE BAMBOO. JACK WATCHING PLANE OVERHEAD. THE CLOSING OF THE EYE. IT ALL AMAZING. IT FELT LIKE THE SHOW. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, IT FELT LIKE THE SHOW’S TRUE END.

WHICH MEANS HULK’S PROBLEMS ALL ABOUT THE LAST 15 MINUTES IN THE FREAKING CHURCH.

HULK KNOW. HULK KNOW. LOTS OF FOLKS COMPLAINING ABOUT THE LAST SCENE AND FOR GOOD REASON, BUT HULK LISTENED/READ EVERY RESPONSE POSSIBLE. SOME TRULY GREAT, SOME INSPIRED, MOST KINDA BLAND AND UNSUPPORTED. BUT HULK ALWAYS FELT LIKE THERE SOMETHING MORE THAN THAT. SOMETHING ABOUT THAT SCENE THAT NOT JUST PROBLEMATIC, BUT SOMETHING THAT VIOLATES THE SHOW’S CORE IDENTITY.

AND HULK BELIEVE THE SOMETHING = THIS: IF LOST‘S TRANSCENDENT QUALITY HOW IT PLEASED THE MAN OF SCIENCE AND THE MAN OF FAITH, OFTEN WITH A SINGLE GESTURE, THEN WHY IN THE SERIES-DEFINING-MOMENT OF THE FINALE DID THEY DECIDE TO JUST PLAIN STOP DOING THAT?

AND NOT JUST STOP DOING THAT, BUT SEEMINGLY THUMB THEIR NOSE AT THAT CONCEPT?

"YOU TAKE THAT BACK!"

HULK NOT WANT RE-CAP TOO MUCH BUT IT IMPORTANT GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF FINAL SEASON AND OVERVIEW THE RELEVANT INFORMATION: UNTIL THAT POINT, MEANING PRE-SEASON 6 OPENER”LA… X”, THE SHOW CREATE A NARRATIVE THAT WORKED ON THE THREE LEVELS HULK MENTIONING ABOVE: CHARACTER/SCIENTIFIC(3)/MYTHOLOGICAL. THE PRIOR FIFTH SEASON ENDED ON PREDICATION THAT BY BLOWING UP THE H-BOMB, IT SINK THE ISLAND WOULD RESET TIME-LINE SO THAT THEY NEVER CRASHED THE ISLAND AND COULD GO ABOUT THEIR NORMAL LIVES. AND IN “LA…X” IT APPEARED TO BOTH WORK AND NOT WORK. IT ACTUALLY CREATED TWO TIME LINES: ONE REALITY WHERE THEY PRESSING FORWARD WITH ON-ISLAND ACTION AND CURRENT TIMELINE, AND ANOTHER REALITY WHERE THE BOMB SANK THE ISLAND AND THEY FIND PLANE LANDED SAFE IN L.A

AND ALL SEASON, THE AUDIENCE LEFT TO WONDER WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENING IN THIS NEW TIME-LINE REALITY WHERE THEY NEVER EXPERIENCED THE ISLAND. AT FIRST, THE SHOW WENT ON AND ON FOR HALF OF SEASON ESTABLISHING A SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT FOR TWO CONCURRENT TIME-LINES CONTINUING IN EARNEST. IT REALLY JUST SOME BASIC IDEAS IN STEPHEN HAWKING’S “A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME” REGARDING PARALLEL WORLDS CONTINUING FROM A SINGLE POINT OF INFLUENCE. THEY DIVERGE AT THAT POINT AND THE SCIENTIFIC THEORY BEHIND IT = A) RATHER SOUND AND B) A DEEPLY INTERESTING ANALYSIS OF TIME AND SPACE. THE SHOW REALLY HAMMERED THE CONCEPT HOME WHEN DANIEL FARRADAY SHOWED UP AND BASICALLY CONFIRMED ALL THIS VERBATIM… AND THEN THE SHOW SEEMED TAKE CURIOUS LEFT TURN WITH DESMOND, EVER THE CLAIRVOYANT, STARTED RUNNING AROUND TRYING TO ALMOST-KILL A TON OF PEOPLE. BESIDES BEING DOWNRIGHT ERRANT AND BIZARRE, ONE GUESSED THAT HE TRYING GET THEM TO “WAKE UP” AND BRING AWARENESS OF THEIR FORMER LIFE. HE WAS DESPERATE AND CRAZED, LIKE HE RUNNING AGAINST THE CLOCK. IT SEEMED THE GOAL NOT EXACTLY TO BRIDGE THE TWO WORLDS, BUT HULK GOT THE SENSE DESMOND NEEDED TO INFORM THE OTHERS FOR THE PURPOSE OF “SAVING” THE ISLAND MISSION AND THIS WOULD LATER HAVE ADDED BENEFIT OF GOING FORWARD IN THEIR NEW LIVES, KNOWING THEIR “OTHER” HISTORY IN THE ALTERNATIVE TIME-LINE. THE SHOW REALLY, REALLY TRIED TO MAKE THIS INTENTION CLEAR.

AND THEN IT JUST TURNED OUT THEY WERE DEAD.

OR SOMETHING.

TO BE HONEST THE MEANING OF THIS LACKS ABJECT CLARITY ON ANY LEVEL. YES THERE SOME INTENTIONAL VAGUERY INVOLVED IN THE REVEAL, BUT THE WAYS IN WHICH IT IS CLEAR LACK = COMPLETELY UNSATISFACTORY, ESPECIALLY FOR LOST STANDARDS. AND SO, THE FOLLOWING 10 PROBLEMS CONSTITUTE THE WAYS THE LAST 15 MINUTES OF FINALE ULTIMATELY FAILED THE SERIES.

"MAN. ALL THOSE TIMES WE FOUGHT AND ALMOST DIED, AND THEN ACTUALLY DIED. GOOD TIMES!"

PROBLEM #1 – IT OUTRIGHT SENTIMENTAL.

NOW, HULK NO GO SO FAR AS SAY THE ENDING CHEESY, IT JUST OVERTLY SENTIMENTAL. AS SUCH, ONE’S REACTION SORT OF DEPEND ON ONE’S THRESHOLD FOR SENTIMENTALITY. A LOT OF LOST VIEWERS OKAY WITH THE SENTIMENTAL ASPECT. THEY SAYING GOODBYE TO CHARACTERS THEY LOVE AND IT TRUE JOY TO SEE THEM BE HAPPY, YOU KNOW, SINCE ALL THE CHARACTERS GET THEIR BEAUTIFUL HAPPY-FUN-TIME MOMENT IN THE THE “PLACE THEY MADE FOR EACH OTHER” [EYE ROLL] BUT STILL, HULK’S PROBLEM NOT THAT IT SENTIMENTAL IN AND OF ITSELF, IT THAT IT THE SHOW WAS NEVER SENTIMENTAL.

HULK BET YOU MAY ARGUE THE SHOW WAS SENTIMENTAL BEFORE. THAT OKAY, BUT HULK ARGUE IT NEVER WAS. IT WAS EMOTIONAL AND THAT A HUGE DIFFERENCE. COMPARE THE FINALE TO, SAY, THE INCREDIBLE MOMENT WHERE DESMOND ABLE TO CALL PENNY ON THE PHONE FOR THAT BRIEF MOMENT ON THE FREIGHTER. AFTER AN ENTIRE NARRATIVE OF DESMOND TRYING TO REACH PENNY, IT FINALLY HAPPENS AND THE TWO OF THEM JUST SOBBING UNCONTROLLABLY… HULK ADMIT. HULK TEARED UP. BUT THE MOMENT = HANDLED WITH GRACE AND BUILDUP. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHILE IT HAPPENING, WE KNEW EXACTLY WHAT IT MEANT FOR THESE TWO PEOPLE AS IT WAS HAPPENING. NOW IMAGINE IF THIS EMOTIONAL MOMENT GOT THE SAME MISE EN SCENE TREATMENT AS THE FINALE. (4)

THERE VAST, INHERENT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TWO CHARACTERS COMING TOGETHER IN JOYFUL WAY, AND EVERYONE GETTING TOGETHER FOR BIG GROUP HUG ON THEIR WAY TO HEAVEN. HULK ALSO WILLING TO BET SOME READERS JUST THINK HULK BIG MEAN FUDDY-DUDDY WHO TRYING BE WAY TOO HIP TO BE SENTIMENTAL AND STUFF. THEY MIGHT THINK HULK LIKE THOSE PEOPLE WHO FIND SAP IN ANY FORM TO JUST BE SO OBVIOUSLY STUPID (POSSIBLY LIKE THE CHURCH OF SOUTH PARK). WELL YOU WRONG. HULK LOVE EMOTIONAL STORIES. HULK LOVE OPTIMISTISM AND HOPE. HULK LOVING DR. WHO FOR PETE’S SAKE! BUT LOST NEVER DARED BE SENTIMENTAL BEFORE. IT NEVER TRIED OR WANTED BE THAT KIND OF SHOW. IT WANTED TO BE DEEP. IT WANTED TO RESONATE. IT WANTED TO BE COMLEX AND EVASIVE.

SO WHY BE SENTIMENTAL NOW?  SOME MAY ARGUE THE SHOW EARNED THE RIGHT TO BE SENTIMENTAL AFTER THIS LONG RUN. THAT FAIR, BUT HULK DISAGREE. A SHOW SHOULD NO CHANGE ITS IDENTITY JUST BECAUSE IT OVER. BUT EVEN IF THE SENTIMENTALITY THREW SOME PEOPLE FOR LOOP, THAT ONLY SMALL SMALL PART OF THE BIGGER PROBLEMS OF THE LAST 15 MINUTES…

"I WILL MAKE TWO DIFFERENT NARRATIVES! OR WAIT, NOT AT ALL!"

PROBLEM #2 – THE NARRATIVE FEINT

CONSIDER THE LAST SEASON AS A SINGULAR SEASON OF TELEVISION. WHAT BECOME OBVIOUSLY CLEAR, THAT THE WHOLE HAWKING-ESQUE SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATION OF TWO ALTERNATIVE TIME-LINES DIVERGING FROM A POINT = NOTHING BUT A NARRATIVE FEINT BEFORE GETTING TO THE TRUE REVEAL OF THEM ALL BEING DEAD. JUST TO CLARIFY, THE WRITERS OBVIOUSLY NOT SO WILLY-NILLY THAT THEY JUST DECIDE CHANGE COURSE HALFWAY THROUGH SEASON (FINE, NEED A CONCRETE REASON? CHARLIE’S PLOT IN THE SEASON OPENER WITH HIS NEAR-DEATH. IT MAKE IT ABUNDANTLY CLEAR THEY KNEW WHERE THEY GOING WITH THIS PURGATORY THING). SO THE HAWKING SCIENCE STUFF MEANT AS NOTHING MORE THAN A FEINT IN THE STORY. CAUSE IT SURE AS SHIT NOT CONGRUOUS WITH WHAT FOLLOWED. SO IN TERMS OF NARRATIVE CONSTRUCTION… WHY? WHY MAKE THE SUDDEN AND BRASH ATTEMPTS TO EXPLAIN THE SCIENCE OF TWO TIME-LINES? ULTIMATELY, IT CAN ONLY MAKE IT FEEL HOLLOW. BECAUSE WHY WOULD A META-PURGATORY SETTING TAKE SO MUCH TIME TO TIE INTO THE H-BOMB PLAN? IT WOULD NOT. IT JUST FEELS LIKE THE WRITERS SETTING UP THE BIG CURVE AND LESS SOMETHING PURSUED FOR ITS OWN REASONS/WORTH. IT NOTHING MORE THAN AN EMPTY, HALF-SEASON-LONG RED HERRING. AND IN TERMS OF NARRATIVE, THAT FEEL DISHONEST IN WAY THE SHOW HAS NEVER FELT BEFORE. SURE, THE SHOW HAS WITHHELD THINGS BEFORE, OR DROPPED STORY LINES, OR CHANGED DIRECTION OF MEANING, BUT THOSE WERE OFTEN DONE IN THE NAME OF BUILDING TO GREATER STORY CONTENT. THE SHOW HAS NEVER DIPPED INTO OUTRIGHT FEINTING. LOST ALWAYS PLAYED A MORE DELICATE GAME THAN THAT… OR AT LEAST THEY DID UNTIL THAT MOMENT.

GEE, HULK WONDER WHAT WILL HAPPEN...

PROBLEM #3 – THE DRAMA SUCK

AS FOR THE ALTERNATIVE-SUNK-ISLAND-TIMELINE (HULK HAVE NO IDEA WHAT CALL IT SO IT GOING BE DIFFERENT EVERY TIME) HULK JUST WANT SAY THIS: IT WAS A DRAMA SUCK. CONFUSION AND MYSTERY ARE GREAT FOR GETTING VIEWERS INVESTED, BUT WHEN THESE THINGS IMPOSED OVER THE SAME MOMENTS THAT AUDIENCE SUPPOSED TO BE EXPERIENCING ON PURER, VISCERAL LEVEL, WHETHER IT SOMETHING FUNNY, JOYFUL, CATHARTIC, ANYTHING, THEN THE IMPOSED LAYER OF MYSTERY ROBS THE MOMENT OF IMPACT. THIS A BASIC STORYTELLING TRUTH.

SO EVERY TIME A CHARACTER “WOKE UP” IN PURGATORY, AT TIME WE NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENING. DESMOND GOING AROUND NEAR KILLING PEOPLE FOR BUNCH OF EPISODES JUST SEEMED CRAZY, BUT IT SURE AS SHIT NOT EMOTIONAL. WE NO UNDERSTAND IT. YOU MAY SAY, BUT LOST ALWAYS CRAZY! TRUE, BUT THEY SHOWCASED AMAZING ABILITY TO TOW THE LINE BETWEEN MYSTERY AND CHARACTER RESONANCE ALL THROUGHOUT THE RUN OF THE SHOW. IN SOME MOMENTS THEY WERE PERFECTLY INTERTWINED. FOR EXAMPLE, TWO CHARACTERS WOULD TALK IN RIDDLES ABOUT THE ISLAND’S MYSTERIES, BUT REALLY IT ABOUT WHAT THEIR CHARACTERS THINK OF THE ISLAND MYSTERY. IT ABOUT THEIR PERSPECTIVES. MEANWHILE, THE MYSTERY IN THE ALTERNA-TIMELINE JUST FELT BIZARRE. THE CHARACTER “WAKING UP” ONCE THEY GONE THROUGH THE RINGER OF THEIR PALE IMITATIONS OF A FORMER LIFE. AND THEN THEY JUST WENT ALL DOE-EYED AND POD PEOPLE. ON PURE DRAMA LEVEL IT NO WORK. IT UNDERMINES HOW WE EXPERIENCE THE THINGS AS AUDIENCE. WE JUST SAT AROUND WAITING IN THE FINALE FOR THEM TO RECREATE MOMENTS WE ALREADY EXPEREIENCED. ULTIMATELY, IT BORING.(5)

"LOOK I KNOW I SAID WE'D MEET UP IN HEAVEN BUT I DIDN'T THINK THAT WOULD LITERALLY FUCKING HAPPEN. SO... UM. WHERE'S NADIA?"

PROBLEM #4- SAYID/SHANNON

ADMITTEDLY SMALL, BUT SERIOUSLY… THIS JUST NO FEEL LIKE RIGHT CONCLUSION TO EITHER OF THEIR STORY-LINES… WHATSOEVER. PERHAPS PART OF THE PROBLEM THAT THE SHOW NEVER SATISFACTORILY EXPLAINED WHAT THE NADIA PLOT FULLY MEANT. HULK THINK THAT THE WRITERS ULTIMATELY WANTED CONVEY THAT SAYID AND NADIA NEVER MEANT TO BE TOGETHER. THEY TRIED, BUT IT DIDN’T WORK. JUST ONE OF THOSE STAR-CROSSED THINGS. BUT FOR SOME REASON THAT THEME NEVER STRUCK A CHORD. NOT TRULY. IF DONE BETTER, THEN PERHAPS IT SHOW SHANNON COULD HAVE BEEN THE REAL GIRL WHO SAYID HAD CONNECTION WITH… THEN AGAIN, THIS NO WORK BECAUSE: A) SHANNON JUST SORT OF SHOWS UP AT LAST SECOND IN PURGATORY WORLD AND THEY SUDDENLY THEY LOVE AND HAPPY TO GET BACK TO THE FUCKIN’. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY B) BECAUSE THAT WAS NEVER THEIR RELATIONSHIP IN FIRST PLACE. IT WAS NEVER DEEP. THEY FLIRTED. THEY ATTRACTED TO EACH OTHER. THEY HAD A QUICKIE AND THEN SHANNON KILLED. SO WHY THEY SUPPOSED BE SOUL MATES NOW OR SOME SHIT? IF SHANNON SO IMPORTANT WHY DID SAYID NEVER MENTION HER AGAIN? SERIOUSLY, HULK PRETTY SURE HE NEVER MENTIONED HER AGAIN IN THE COURSE OF THE SHOW. THEY WERE JUST TWO PEOPLE WHO ATTRACTED TO EACH OTHER BRIEF MOMENT. SO THE PICTURE OF BOTH OF THEM IN THE FINALE, HEADING OFF INTO SUNSET, JUST COMPLETELY WRONG.

WHOSE A LITTLE BABY? HOW OLD ARE YOU? ARE YOU EVEN HERE?

PROBLEM # 5 – BASIC LOGISTICS

SOME OF THE LOGISTICS OF THIS ALTERNA-PURGATORY ARE DOWNRIGHT NUTTERS. THERE TONS HULK COULD MENTION, LIKE HOW THERE LOTS OF NON-ISLAND PEOPLE INCLUDED IN THIS PLACE TOO, LIKE WHY WAS DESMOND SO EAGER TO RUN AROUND AND ALMOST-KILL PEOPLE WHEN REALLY THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO BE WORKING OUT THERE SHIT? LIKE IF JACK WAS IN PURGATORY TO DEAL WITH HIS DADDY ISSUES THEN WHY WAS HIS DAD NOT THERE UNTIL HE SHOW UP AT THE LAST SECOND TO TELL HIM HE DAD AND EVERYTHING BEING ALL BETTER FOR SOME REASON? LIKE WHERE THE FUCK ARE MICHAEL AND WALT? (ONLY TWO ORIGINAL LOSTIES NOT INCLUDED).LIKE WHERE THE HELL ARE MILES AND LAPIDUS? THEY GOT WAY MORE ISLAND TIME THAN LIBBY AND SHANNON. HULK GUESS THEY AREN’T TWO OF THE MAIN LOSTIE’S FUCK BUDDIES SO WHO CARES, RIGHT? (HULK JOKING. BUT REALLY IF YOU SOMEHOW INFER EITHER ONE IS A SOUL MATE IT IS A GRAVE OFFENSE TO THE CONCEPT. SHANNON TAPPED SAYID. AND LIBBY WAS, LIKE, THE FIRST GIRL WHO TALKED TO HURLEY. THAT NOT A SOUL MATE MAKE. (6)

BUT THE BIGGEST ROADBLOCK IN HAVING THE PURGATORY DEFINITION MAKE A LICK OF SENSE? AARON. WHY WAS HE A BABY IN THIS PURGATORY WORLD? IF THEY ONLY GO THERE WHEN EVERYONE DIE, WHY HE A BABY? HE GOT OLD RIGHT? MAYBE IT CAUSE HE WAS BABY ON ISLAND SO IT REFLECTIVE OF THAT? BUT THAT MEAN HE GOT BORN INTO PURGATORY WITH ABSOLUTELY NO UNDERSTAND. AND IF HE GET TO LIVE HIS LIFE WITH CLAIRE AND KATE IN THE REAL WORLD AFTERWARDS WHY WOULD THEIR ONLY IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM BE THE BABY ONE? … HULK MEAN… HULK BRAIN HURT… OR HECK, MAYBE AARON NOT REALLY THERE AT ALL AND IT JUST A PROP BABY. YOU KNOW, SO THAT KATE CAN HAVE HER SPIRITUAL AWAKENING MOMENT WHEN SHE SEE AARON’S HEAD CROWNING OUT CLAIRE’S VAGINA.

[KATE VIEWS BABY HEAD RIPPING AUSSIE VAGINA] KATE: “HOLY SHIT, I’M DEAD! THAT’S CRAZY! WELL, TIME TO SMILE LIKE THIS IS TOTALLY AWESOME OR SOMETHING.”(7) … THINK ABOUT IT. THAT WHAT THE WRITERS ACTUALLY DID. THEY MEANT IMPLY THAT KATE’S MOTHERHOOD ROLE = HER TRANSCENDING MOMENT, HULK KNOW, BUT THAT NOT EXACTLY HOW IT PLAYED OUT IN TERMS OF DRAMA. THERE THIS INCREDIBLE META FUNNINESS TO IT AND IT  KEPT HULK LAUGHING TO HULKSELF FOR, LIKE, WEEKS.

BUT THE AARON CONUNDRUM SPEAK TO THE PROBLEMS MOST. FOR EXAMPLE, WHAT IF HULK REALLY IMPORTANT IN SOMEONE’S LIFE BUT HULK NOT REALLY CARE ABOUT THAT PERSON? DOES HULK HAVE TO SIT AROUND AND HELP SOMEONE DEAL WITH THEIR SHIT? IS IT REFLEXIVE LIKE THAT? OR IS HULK JUST A PROJECTION? AGAIN, IS AARON REAL?

*GASP* WAIT…DOES AARON JUST GET BROUGHT TO HEAVEN TO “MOVE ON” AS A BABY? DID HE NOT GET A CHANCE TO SORT OUT HIS OWN PURGATORY BASED ON THE PRESUMED LIFE HE HAD GOING FORWARD? DID HE HAVE SUCH A MEANINGLESS LIFE THAT ALL HE NEEDED TO DO TO “MOVE ON” WAS JUST BE BORN? DID HE GET NO SAY IN ANY OF THIS?!??!

…THE LOGIC SORT OF TERRIFYING.

SO NOW THEN…. THE THING ABOUT PROBLEMS 1 -5 THAT HULK NOT REALLY GIVE SHIT ABOUT THEM. IT MAY NO SEEM THAT WAY, BUT HULK ALWAYS WILLING OVERLOOK ANY PLOTHOLE, WRITING CONVENIENCE, TONE CHANGE, OR WHATEVER, AS LONG AS IT IN THE PURSUIT OF SOMETHING MORE EFFECTIVE: OFTEN A RELEVANT THEME, RELEVANT META VALUE, OR HELL, EVEN A REALLY GOOD JOKE. BUT IT HAVE BE IN THE NAME OF SOMETHING WORTHY… TURNS OUT PROBLEMS 1-5 ACT MORE INDICATORS OF BIGGER ISSUES. THE REAL PROBLEM WITH THE LAST 15 MINUTES NOT THAT DECISIONS NO LOGISTICALLY COMPUTE. IT THAT THEY NO THEMATICALLY COMPUTE…

PROBLEM #6 – WAIT, WHY THEY ALL TOGETHER AGAIN?

SO THEIR PURGATORY-HEAVEN-THINGY = THE PLACE BUILT FOR EACH OTHER. FINE. BUT WHY EXACTLY DID THEY DO THAT? EVEN THOUGH THERE A FEW GREAT CORE RELATIONSHIPS, HULK FELT MOST OF THESE PEOPLE BARELY KNEW ONE ANOTHER. IT 6 YEARS OF TV SHOW, BUT IN SHOW TIME TERMS SOME SPENT AS LITTLE AS 40 DAYS TOGETHER, IF THAT (SORRY BOONE). AND WITH THE ACT INTERACTIONS SOME ONLY SPOKE A FEW TIMES AT MOST. THIS BECAUSE THE THEMATIC RESONANCE OF LOST‘S FIRST SEASON (THE BEST SEASON BY THE WAY) DEALT ALL THESE PEOPLE WHO DIDN’T KNOW/TRUST EACH OTHER TRYING TO SURVIVE TOGETHER, WHICH IS WHY THE STORY NARRATIVE LARGELY CENTERED AROUND THEIR OWN BACK STORIES AND PERSONAL DEMONS. WHILE A FEW LOSTIES DID END UP BECOMING CLOSE, MOST SPENT THE ENTIRE SHOW REMAINING AT A DISTANCE, BASICALLY FOCUSING ON THEIR OWN INTERNAL SHIT.

SO WHY THE HELL WAS THE END THE SHOW WAS ULTIMATELY SAYING THAT THE CAMARADERIE AND FRIENDSHIP = THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THEY EVER HAD? HULK KNOW THAT IT A VALUABLE MESSAGE WORTHY OF ANY SHOW, HELL, IT EVEN A GREAT FINAL MESSAGE FOR LOST… EXCEPT THE SHOW RARELY TRIED TO IMPLY THEIR DEFINITION OF DEPENDENCE WAS SYNONYMOUS WITH “FRIENDSHIP.” THE JOURNEYS WERE LARGELY SOLITARY. SO WHEN THE SHOW HAS THIS ENDING WHERE THEY JUST ALL SO HAPPY TO BE TOGETHER LIKE THEY ALL WERE IN THE SAME FRAT OR SOMETHING, IT NO COMPUTE. THE SHOW, FORALL IT’S “LIVE TOGETHER, DIE ALONE” MANTRA, RARELY TRIED TO PURSE THE TRUTH ABOUT THE TOGETHER, AND REMAINED FIXATED ON THE ALONE.

BUT MORE THAN THAT, THE THINKING IMPLIES A FIXED “ISLAND-ONLY” LIFE FOR THESE PEOPLE. YES, HULK KNOW THEY ALL GOT CALLED TO ISLAND FOR THE IMPORTANT DEED OF POSSIBLY TAKING OVER FOR JACOB (THE RELATIVE WORTH OF THAT KINDA SHADY TOO) BUT MOST LOSTIES HAD ALL THESE OTHER RELEVANT THINGS IN THEIR LIVES. KATE PRESUMABLY WENT BACK AND RAISED AARON AND DO WHO KNOWS WHAT ELSE. CLAIRE TOO. DID HER AND AARON GROW UP TO HAVE NO RELATIONSHIP? DID SAWYER HAVE ANOTHER LIFE? DID THEY FIND SIGNIFICANT OTHERS TO SHARE THEIR JOY WITH? ALL OF THEM, WHAT DID THEY DO AFTER? BECAUSE APPARENTLY THEIR JOURNEY INTO THE AFTERLIFE INVOLVES ALL THE PEOPLE FROM THE PSYCHO-ISLAND AND NOT THE PRESUMED LOVED ONES THEY SPENT THE REST OF THEIR LIVES WITH. IT CONJECTURE, BUT BASED ON THE DEFINITION OF THE PURGATORY IT HIGHLY RELEVANT CONJECTURE.

IT GET AT HEART OF WHY THE WHOLE LAST 15 MINUTES JUST FEEL WRONG. HULK KNOW RELATIONSHIPS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE, BUT REALLY, WHY IT THESE RELATIONSHIPS??!?!? THE SHOW NEVER TRULY SUPPORTED THE IDEA BEHIND THIS KIND OF HAPPY GATHERING FOR THEM. FOR FUCK SAKE CLAIRE, MOST OF THESE PEOPLE LEFT YOU THERE OR TRIED TO KILL YOU. AND AGAIN, HULK’S POINTS ABOVE WITH THE SAYID/SHANNON THING SORT OF HIGHLIGHT THE ABSURDITY OF ALL OF IT.

SO WHY DO IT? UNFORTUNATELY, THE ONLY ANSWER TIE BACK TO SENTIMENTALITY. BECAUSE ON A THEMATIC LEVEL… IT JUST NOT MAKE SENSE FOR LOST… EMOTIONALLY, IT JUST FELT LIKE THE CONSOLATION PRIZE.

PROBLEM #7 – PURGATORY DUPLICITY – WE ALREADY BEEN THERE!

SO, WITH THE ALTERNATIVE TIME-LINE, THEY WERE BASICALLY IN LITERAL PURGATORY…. HERE THE THING: THEY ALREADY WERE IN PURGATORY. FROM ONSET OF SHOW THE AUDIENCE GUESSED THE ISLAND = PURGATORY. THE SHOW RUNNERS CAME OUT SURPRISINGLY EARLY ON AND SAID THIS NOT CASE. BUT THE REASONS EVERYONE GUESSED THAT BECAUSE THE SHOW SO CLEARLY AND OBVIOUSLY USED THE ISLAND AS SYMBOLIC PURGATORY. ALL THE CHARACTERS ARRIVED IN PLANE CRASH, THEY LITERALLY “LOST,” THEY EACH BROUGHT WITH THEM A GREAT DEAL OF EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE, SO THEY SORTED OUT THEIR SHIT ON MYSTICAL ISLAND AND PROMPTLY DROPPED DEAD THE MOMENT THEY FIGURED IT OUT. MEANING THEY “MOVED ON” SO TO SPEAK…

SO… WHAT… THE ALTERNA-TIMELINE LIKE… SECOND PURGATORY? HULK AWARE THERE SEVERAL HINDU/OTHER RELIGIOUS TENETS INVOLVED IN THIS IDEA AND REPEATING LIFE UNTIL BE COME MORE AND MORE PURE (MMORSE DOES GREAT JOB EXPLAINING THIS IN COLUMN HULK LINKING TOO LATER SO HULK NOT GOING BOTHER EXPLAINING IT WORSE) FOR HULK, THIS UTILIZATION NOT EXACTLY WORK, BUT FOR SAKE OF ARGUMENT, LET’S ALL SAY EVERYONE ON BOARD WITH THE CONCEPT AND FIND IT INTERESTING: THE LOSTIES REPEATING THIER LIVES, GETTING IT MORE PERFECT, SO THEY CAN ASCEND TO THE FINAL HEAVEN… FINE… BUT IT STILL THE DRAMATIZATION OF THE EXACT SAME THING EXPERIENCED ONCE BEFORE. WITH THE RARE EXCEPTION, THE ALTERNA-TIMELINE NOT THEM GETTING SECOND CHANCES TO DO THINGS THEY NEVER DID. THEY ALREADY DID THEM. ALL THE LESSONS THE MAIN CHARACTERS LEARNED WERE THINGS THEY ALREADY LEARNED ON ISLAND. WHY WASTE A WHOLE SEASON ON IT? IT COMPLETELY WITHOUT DRAMA. BUT EVEN WORSE, IT COMPLETELY WITHOUT POINT.

SERIOUSLY, ASIDE FROM SOME SHEDDING LIGHT ON HINDU CONCEPTS OF MULTIPLE LIFES, WHAT WAS NEW THEMATIC THING EXPRESSED IN THE PURGATORY PLOTLINE? HULK TRULY BELIEVE THAT IF THE SHOW DITCHED THE ENTIRE PURGATORY PLOTLINE AND THE ENDING CHURCH THEME, THE SHOW WOULD NOT HAVE LOST A SINGLE CRITICAL THEME WITH THE CHARACTERS.

THINK ABOUT IT, ON THE ISLAND: JACK LEARNED TO EMBRACE HIS DEATH. KATE EMBRACED MOTHERHOOD. SAWYER EMBRACED TAKING CARE OF OTHERS AND FRIENDS. HURLEY EMBRACED LEADERSHIP AND RESPONSIBILITY. BEN LINUS ACCEPTED HIS GUILT AND MISDEEDS. JIN AND SUN ACCEPTED EACH OTHER (REMEMBER: IN THE FIRST SEASON THAT WAS THEIR CENTRAL PROBLEM. THEIR PLOTLINE ESSENTIALLY RESOLVED AFTER 3 SEASONS SO THE SHOW SPENT THE NEXT 3 SEASONS JUST KEEPING THEM APART). MICHAEL ACCEPTED RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS ACTIONS AND RETURNED TO THE ISLAND, SACRIFICING HIMSELF ON THE FREIGHTER. CLAIRE ACCEPTED THAT SHE HAVE PRETTY SERIOUS CASE OF POST-PARTUM DEPRESSION. SHANNON ACCEPTED NOT BEING SUCH A PRISS AND SLEPT WITH A MINORITY (OH COME ON). MILES ACCEPTED THAT HE IS AWESOME… AND LOCKE… WELL MAYBE LOCKE THE ONLY ONE WHO DIFFERENT BECAUSE HIS LAST MOMENTS INVOLVED HIS ACCEPTANCE THAT HE A CONFUSED, GULLIBLE FOOL… HOW SAD(18). BOONE ACCEPTED THAT HE WAS LOCKE’S LACKEY/TOOL (SERIOUSLY, THIS JUST RECONFIRMED IN THE PURGATORY PLOT LINE). JULIET ACCEPTED THAT SAWYER WILL ALWAYS HAVE A BONER FOR KATE SO THE ONLY WAY TO GET HIM TO COMMIT IS TO DIE (OKAY THAT NOT WHAT THAT SAYING, BUT COME ON, SHE CAN ONLY LOCK THAT DOWN IF KATE’S NOT AROUND). CHARLIE ACCEPTED THAT HE’S SEMI-WORTHLESS AND ONLY GOOD FOR A GIRL WHO HAS GOT MAJOR DADDY/BABY-DADDY ISSUES… OKAY SO EVEN THOUGH HULK JOKING WITH A BUNCH OF THESE AT THE END, THE POINT THAT ALL THEIR ISSUES ALREADY SOLVED ON A THEMATIC LEVEL, SO THERE NOTHING REALLY TO BE ADDED IN THE “DO OVER.”

HULK JUST CAN NO GET OVER IT. THE FINALE JUST FELT LIKE WAITING FOR CHARACTERS TO JUMP THROUGH HOOPS AND BEATS THAT ALREADY HAPPENED. THERE NOTHING “NEW” TO IT. THEIR MOMENTS OF TRANSCENDENCE = EMOTIONAL BEATS WE ALREADY HAD SATISFACTION OF REALIZING.

ON A THEMTATIC LEVEL IT REPETITIVE. AND ON A DRAMATIC LEVEL IT DOWNRIGHT SUCKS.

IN SCREENWRITING, THERE A LOT OF TALK ABOUT CLARITY AND ECONOMY. A MOVIE OR TV SHOW MEANT TO OPERATE IN TERMS OF BOTH. HULK KNOW THAT LOST BOTH THRIVED IN AND OPERATED UNDER THE VEIL OF MYSTERY AND ALLURE. BUT CLARITY AND ECONOMY MATTER IN THE LONG RUN. AND THE FINALE’S ENDING REVEAL HIGHLIGHTED A COMPLETE DISINTEREST IN BOTH OF THEM.

"TRUST ME, I WAS A TERRIBLE DOCTOR, I DESTROYED YOUR CHILDHOOD, MY TAKEN FORM DIRECTED YOU TO CERTAIN DOOM, AND I HAUNTED YOUR DREAMS. BUT TURN THAT FROWN UPSIDE DOWN KIDDO, YOU'RE DEAD!"

PROBLEM # 8 – THE LECTURE

THERE FAMOUS ANECDOTE FROM THE FIRST FEW SEASONS OF LOST, IN WHICH THE WRITERS SAID IF THE SHOW EVER CANCELED, A TALKING MONKEY WOULD COME OUT AND EXPLAIN THE UNSOLVED CORE MYSTERIES OF THE SHOW VERBATIM. THE IDEA QUITE FUNNY, AND HULK ALWAYS APPRECIATED THE WRITERS’ CANDOR IN KNOWING THAT IT WOULD BE THE HILARIOUS/COMPLETELY UNSATISFACTORY WAY TO HANDLE THE STOPPAGE OF THE STORY AND WRAP UP THE MYSTERY.

UNFORTUNATELY, THE LAST 15 MINUTES CAME WAY TOO CLOSE TO THE MONKEY SPEECH.

IN THE ENDING MOMENTS, AS HULK SAT BEFORE HULK’S TV,  WATCHING THE LAST FEW MINUTES, HULK WAS DEEPLY WORRIED AND INTERESTED, ACHING FOR STORY AND THEMATIC CLARITY. THEN CHRISTIAN SHEPARD LOOKED ALMOST DIRECTLY INTO THE CAMERA AND LECTURED RIGHT AT HULK, TELLING HULK A GREAT DEAL OF WISHY-WASHY SENTIMENTS AND WAS ESSENTIALLY BEING EVASIVE. MORE SO, HE SAYING THAT SAYING HIS EVASIVENESS CRITICAL TO HULK’S CATHARSIS… NOW… HULK WOULD HOPE AT THIS POINT IT EVIDENT THAT HULK NOT SOME SNOT-NOSED, HIGH-SCHOOL-LEVEL, INDIGNANT TWERP WHO NO LIKE BEING TOLD WHAT TO THINK. THAT NOT HULK AND THAT NOT WHAT HAPPENING HERE… IT JUST THERE A LEVEL OF EGREGIOUS HALF-TRUTH COMING ACROSS FROM A CHARACTER WHO NOW SUPPOSED TO BE REPRESENTING ABSOLUTE PERFECT WISDOM.  AND THE HALF-TRUTH CONCERNS THE DISMISSAL OF CURIOSITY IN FAVOR OF EMBRACING UNKNOWABLE COMPLEXITY. JACK WANTS TO UNDERSTAND WHAT HAPPENING AROUND HIM AND CHRISTIAN TELLING HE CAN NEVER KNOW. NOR SHOULD HE TRY TO KNOW. HE MUST EMBRACE HIS LACK OF UNDERSTANDING AND ACCEPT IT. CASTING ASIDE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THOSE WORDS (AND ODD POLITICAL DEDUCTIONS THAT COME WITH IT), THERE SOMETHING TO THE OUTRIGHT TELLING THAT DEEPLY UNSATISFACTORY. IT NOT JUST WITHHOLDING, BUT IT OUTRIGHT TELLING THE AUDIENCE “HEY! I’M BEING WITHHOLDING! DEAL WITH IT!” IT FAR MORE PATRONIZING THEN THE MERE DRAMATIZATION OF WITHOLDING, WHICH WHEN DONE WELL CAN BE TRANSCENDENT (I.E. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, MADE ROUGHLY SOME OF THE SAME POINTS IN STARK, GORGEOUS, DRAMATIZED FASHION). HECK, THERE PLENTY OF TIMES LOST DRAMATIZED THIS VERY SAME IDEA TO INCREDIBLE EFFECT (WHAT’S DOWN IN THE HATCH? WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE BOMB WENT OFF), ETC. THAT SPOKE TO THE VERY SAME IDEA…. ONLY IT NOT A LECTURE.

BELIEVE HULK, THE DRAMATIC LEVEL OF TO THE LAST 15 MINUTES = ABSOLUTELY PARAMOUNT. AT THAT MOMENT, THE AUDIENCE MIRED IN NOTHING BUT CONFUSION, TRYING FOLLOW ALONG AND UNDERSTAND. AND HULK IMAGINE THAT MUCH OF WHAT HAPPENING HAVE BE REALIZED, NOT TOLD. CATHARSIS SHOULD BE EXPERIENCED, ESPECIALLY AN INTENDED CATHARSIS THAT MEANT TO BE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE SHOW. IT THE OLD ADAGE OF “SHOW DON’T TELL”  SO WHY THE LAST MOMENTS OF THE SHOW A LECTURE DIRECTLY TO THE AUDIENCE? COMPARE IT TO THE MATRIX RELOADED, WHICH NO MATTER HOW INTERESTING A CONVERSATION, RELIED ON A LECTURE FOR A CLIMAX. EVEN COMPARE IT TO RESOLUTION OF LOST‘S ON-ISLAND PLOTLINE, WITH THE OBVIOUS METAPHOR OF THE CORK IN THE BOTTLE… IT A MOMENT GROUNDED WITH AS LITTLE INFORMATION AS POSSIBLE, BUT FULL OF EMOTION AND BEAUTIFUL IMAGERY SO WE GET IT… IT NOT A LECTURE.

SO WHAT IF THE CHURCH SCENE HAD MORE OF DRAMA AND RELIED ON IMAGERY? WOULD IT HAVE BEEN SO PAINFULLY OVERT WITHOUT THE LECTURE? IF IT JUST SHOWED THE CHARACTERS HUGGING AND GOING INTO THE LIGHT? WOULD NOT HULK HAVE UNDERSTOOD THE THE SHOW WAS BEING SYMBOLICALLY WITHHOLDING AND LET HULK MAKE UP HULK’S OWN GODDAMN MIND? WHAT IF IT WAS ALL UNSAID?

HULK THINK IT BETTER THAN SOME GUY NAME CHRISTIAN SHEPARD SPITTING HALF-TRUTHS.

PICTURED: A CHURCH

PROBLEM #9 – THINGS JUST GOT ECUMENICAL UP IN HERE!

THE ENDING SCENE IN THE CHURCH ULTIMATELY JUST ABOUT CHRISTIANITY, EVEN IF HULK NOT SURE THAT DARLTON’S INTENTION. YOU MAY SAY, “BUT HULK, ALL THOSE DIFFERENT RELIGIONS REPRESENTED IN THE WINDOW! IT ABOUT ALL THE FAITHS!” … RIGHT.

FIRST OFF, HULK WANT BE REAL CAREFUL HERE. IN DISCUSSING VARIOUS TAKES ON NOT JUST RELIGION BUT SPIRITUALITY, THERE A BIG CHANCE TO OFFEND. PLEASE KNOW THAT NOT HULK’S INTENTION. HULK KNOW IT DANGEROUS GROUND BECAUSE THESE CONCEPTS NOT JUST PERSONAL, BUT INTRINSIC TO ONE’S IDENTITY. SO JUST KNOW THAT HULK TALKING ABOUT THEM IN TERMS OF CLARITY OF EXPRESSED IDEA AND NOT, YOU KNOW, ACTUAL BELIEFS. IT THEOLOGICAL CONVERSATION IN THE REALM OF PHILOSOPHY AND SCIENCE, NOTHING MORE… SO CONCERNING THE WHOLE CHURCH SCENE:

FIRST OFF YOU CAN CALL IT “THE CHURCH SCENE” AND EVERYONE ON PLANET KNOW WHAT YOU FUCKING TALKING ABOUT. SHIT, JUST GOOGLE IT AND SEE WHAT COME UP. THIS PERHAPS IMPLIES THE FINAL SCENE NOT AS PANTHEISTIC AS INTENDED. IT MEANT TO BE SO MUCH MORE, BUT IT ULTIMATELY JUST THE CHURCH SCENE. AND IT REALLY NOT REPRESENT “ALL FAITHS” IN THE WAY IT THINK IT DOES.

IT CALLED BEING ECUMENICAL. SOME HISTORY: THE ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT AIMED TO COMBINE THE CHRISTIAN FAITHS INTO UNIFIED GROUP, TO BOTH END STRIFE/ACHIEVE PEACE/CREATE SINGULAR CHRISTIAN MESSAGE. IN RECENT YEARS, ECUMENICISM COME TO DEFINE THE DESIRE TO BE INCLUSIVE OF ALL THE WORLD’S FAITHS INTO A SINGULAR MESSAGE OF PEACE, SIMILARITY AND COHESIVENESS. IT OBVIOUSLY SIMILAR TO UNITARIANISM, BAHA’I, THE NEW MONASTICS, AND OTHER MOVEMENTS THAT SEEM WELL-MEANING AND OFTEN PUTTING LOTS GOOD OUT IN THE WORLD. BUT THE PROBLEM WITH THIS KIND OF “INCLUSIVE” THINKING SORT OF OBVIOUS: IT DONE THROUGH THE LENS OF CHRISTIANITY (OR INSERT WHATEVER CHIEF RELIGION THE MOVEMENT CENTERED AROUND). OFTEN TIMES WE AS INCLUSIVE-CULTURE LIKE TO BELIEVE RELIGION ALL SAYING THE SAME THING. HULK NOT DENYING THERE VAST AMOUNT OF OVERLAP. NEARLY ALL HAVE VERSIONS OF CHRIST-LIKE FIGURES, VIRGIN MARYS, ANGELS, DEMONS, ETC. BUT WHAT IT REALLY DOING = JUST LOOKING FOR THE WAYS OTHER RELIGIONS LIKE CHRISTIANITY, NOT THE WAYS THE DIFFERENT. AND IT LARGELY THE WAYS IN WHICH RELIGIONS DIFFERENT THAT DEFINE THEM.

IT SURELY NOT INTENTIONAL,  BUT THE LENS OF THE BASE RELIGION SKEWS EVERYTHING. SOMETIMES IT NOT EVEN ALL THAT STRONG A DIFFERENCE. BOTH CHRISTIANITY AND HINDUISM HAVE A “FINAL ASCENDANCY” BUT THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN HOW THOSE EXPRESSED/REALIZED = VITAL. AND SOMETIMES THE ECUMENICAL INCLINATION NEED NOT BE CONCRETE IN TERMS OF THEOLOGY. IT CAN BE MORE ABOUT LIFESTYLE. MEANING THE INCLINATION TOWARD ECUMENICISM CAN END UP GLOSSING OVER THE COMPLICATIONS IN FAVOR OF HOMOGENIZED IDEAS. LIKE HOW SO MANY PEOPLE USE THE TENETS OF BUDDHISM TO APPROPRIATE SENSE OF BALANCE AND INNER PEACE IN OUR CRAZED WESTERN CULTURE. THE PROBLEM IS THE CENTRAL IDEAL OF BUDDHISM ACTUALLY FAIRLY DARK. IT ABOUT THE ABANDONING SUFFERING, WHICH ESSENTIALLY MEANS TURNING YOUR BACK ON THE WORLD AND NOT BEING INVESTED IN ANYTHING. SO YEAH… NOT EXACTLY A COMMUNAL SOLUTION, BUT MORE IMPORTANT IT NOT REALLY BHUDDISM. THE PROBLEM THAT YOU NOT APPROXIMATING YOUR RELIGION INTO THE WORLD, YOU APPROXIMATING THE WORLD’S REALITIES INTO YOUR RELIGION/LIFESTYLE. AND THAT SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY.

NOW OF COURSE THIS ALL BETTER THAN THE BLIND DOGMATISM THAT COMES WITH CERTAIN RELIGIOUS FERVOR. HULK WILL TAKE ECUMENICISM IN THE FACE OF EXTERNALIZED HATRED EVERY SINGLE TIME. AFTER ALL, “BEING RELIGIOUS IS THE HUMBLE BELIEF THAT ALL OTHER RELIGIONS ARE WRONG.” BUT EVEN ECUMENICISM STILL ABOUT TAKING WHAT YOU WANT AND APPROPRIATING INTO YOUR OWN VIEW. IN THE INHERENT BASTARDIZATION OF SOMETHING THAT, ON A PHILOSOPHICAL LEVEL, SUPPOSED TO BE THOUGHT OF AS COMPLET. (NOTE: HULK NOT THINK ANY RELIGION SHOULD BE VIEWED AS “COMPLETE” HULK JUST WANTED HIGHLIGHT THE PARADOX OF ECUMENICISM BEING MORE RELIGION-LIKE THAN ONE THINKS. INSTEAD OF RULES, FLEXIBILITY BECOMES THE RULE. ANYCRAP, THIS GETTING REFLEXIVE SO HULK SHOULD MOVE ON).

REALLY THE WHOLE THING ABOUT ECUMENICAL ACTUALLY BEING GOOD OR BAD = SEPARATE THEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT THAT WHOLLY DEPENDENT ON WHETHER OR NOT ONE RELIGIOUS. SO HULK NOT GOING GO DOWN THAT ROAD. HULK WOULD JUST ADDRESS ONE ASPECT OF IT: ONE COULD ARGUE WE LARGELY A CHRISTIAN CULTURE AND SO THAT JUST WHAT THEY USING TO EXPRESS THE IDEAS… FINE… BUT SOMETHING TELL HULK THAT NOT HOW WHAT DARLTON WANTED DO. HULK THINK THEY WANTED TO BE REPRESENTATIVE OF A SINGULAR MONO-RELIGION AND DID ODDLY PISS-POOR JOB AT IT. SUFFICE TO SAY THAT THIS DISPLAY OF ECUMENICISM NOT AN IDEAL REPRESENTATION OF PANTHEISM.

AND THE MOST RELEVANT POINT = THIS: LOST USUALLY SUPER GOOD ABOUT SHYING AWAY BEING ECUMENICAL. THESE GUYS SUPER-WELL-FUCKING READ AND KNOW THEIR THEOLOGY, SO THE SHOW RARELY TREATED IT AS MERE LIP SERVICE. THE SHOW PRESENTED VARIOUS RELIGIOUS CONCEPTS AND SIGNATURES TIME AND TIME AGAIN OVER THE SERIES, ALL HINTING THAT THAT THEY A PART OF AN INDEPENDENT CENTRAL ISLAND MONO-MYTH,  A GREAT HUMAN CONCEPT BEYOND RELIGION ITSELF… BUT THE IDEAS NEVER AS CONCRETE AND TANGIBLE AS THEY WERE IN THE PURGATORY CHURCH. SURE, THEY HINTED, BUT EVEN WHEN RELIGIOUS, IT RARELY FELT RELIGIOUS. NO BIG AFTERLIFE. NO CHURCH GATHERINGS. USUALLY SOME NATURAL EVENT WOULD HAPPEN AND ONE CHARACTER WOULD SEE IT THROUGH THE LENS OF FAITH AND ANOTHER THROUGH THE LENS OF SCIENCE. THE CHARACTERS WOULD HAVE THEIR OWN IDEAS AND USE THEIR OWN ISLAND TOOLS, RELIGIOUS OR SCIENTIFIC, TO TRY AND DISCERN, BUT THE SHOW ITSELF HAD DISTINCTLY NEUTRAL TONE ON THE MATTER. EVEN THE INFAMOUS JACOB/MIB EPISODE HAD CONTEXT-LESS LIGHT/ENERGY DESCRIPTION; THE CONTEXT-LESS CORK; ALL OF IT PART OF THE SHOW’S OWN MONO-MYTH AND THEY WORK. ALL BECAUSE THEY PLAYED INTO BASIC STORY THEMATICS.

WHICH JUST MAKES THE CHURCH SCENE FINALE PRETTY FUCKING WEIRD. IT DISTURBINGLY ECUMENICAL.  THE CHURCH. THE PEWS. CHRISTIAN SHEPARD. AND EVEN ALL THE OTHER RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS ETCHED INTO A STAIN GLASSED WINDOW AND THERE FEW THINGS MORE CHRISTIAN THAN A STAIN GLASSED WINDOW. NO TELL HULK THE PRODUCTION DESIGN OF ALL THIS NO MATTER. IT MATTER MORE THAN ANYTHING. AND IT MAKE THE SPIRITUAL INCLUSIVENESS FEEL LIKE LIP SERVICE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN SHOW’S HISTORY.  IT ABSOLUTELY OVERT. IN THE SHOW’S FINAL MOMENTS, IT TOOK A SHOW THAT ALWAYS FLIRTED WITH THE CONCEPTS OF RELIGION, APPROPRIATED THEM INTO SOMETHING BIGGER, AND THEN JUST TOOK EVERYTHING IN A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS AND ODDLY CHRISTIAN TURN.

AND IT’S AN EVEN BIGGER PROBLEM WHEN THEY IMPLIED THE FOLLOWING:

IDIOT

PROBLEM #10 – THE BIG ONE – THE MAN OF SCIENCE IS A FOOL

THE LAST 15 MINUTES OF LOST JUST FOR THE MAN OF FAITH.

AND HULK CANNOT RECONCILE THAT. HULK HAS TRIED FOREVER TO TRY AND MAKE THE FINALE WORK IN HULK’S BRAIN, TO WRESTLE STUFF OUT OF THAT LAST SCENE AND APPROXIMATE SOMETHING THAT RESONATES. SOMETIMES IT FEEL LIKE HULK COME CLOSE. LOOKING AT THE HISTORY OF THE SHOW AND PARTICULARLY SOME INFO IN THE LAST SEASON, IT REVEAL SOME BITS OF HOPE. HULK WILL SOON LINK TO MMORSE’S GREAT BIT ABOUT MINKOWSKI SPACE (WHICH OBVIOUSLY RELEVANT BECAUSE THE MINKOWSKI CHARACTER APPEAR REGULARLY). BUT THE THEORY ESSENTIALLY WORK LIKE THIS: THE WHITE BALL OF LIGHT AT CENTER OF ISLAND, FOR ITS MANY PURPOSES AND REPRESENTATIONS, ALSO A BIG BALL OF MINKOWSKI SPACE THAT ABSORB THE LOSTIES IN DEATH AND CREATE THIS PURGATORY WE NOW SEE. THIS RELEVANT BECAUSE MINKOWSKI SPACE APPROXIMATES SPACE TIME AND MEASURES IT WITH ONE TIME-LIKE DIMENSION (MEANING TIME CONVERGES, “THERE IS NO ‘NOW’ NOW”). AND THAT THE FINALE’S SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATION. IT ALMOST ADEQUATE. BUT REALLY, WATCHING THAT SCENE IN THE CHURCH, WATCHING THAT ENTIRE PURGATORY STORYLINE IN LAST SEASON… IT NOT PRESENT IN THE SAME WAY SCIENCE OR NEUTRALITY OFTEN PRESENT IN THE SHOW. IT SHOWN IN COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WAY.

TO ILLUSTRATE WHY THIS A PROBLEM, HULK GOING TO COMPARE IT TO ANOTHER SHOW THAT CREATED A THEORETICALLY VERSION OF THE AFTERLIFE: SIX FEET UNDER DID A BRIEF EXPLORATION OF “HEAVEN” THAT ALSO EXPLORED THE SCIENTIFIC CONCEPTS OF DEATH, PARALLEL LIVES, REALITY, AND EVEN MINKOWSKI SPACE. AND QUITE FRANKLY, THEY DID IT IN FAR MORE INTERESTING WAY. NOT THAT HULK SAYING LOST SHOULD HAVE APED 6 FEET OR ANYTHING, THE TONES OF THE TWO SHOWS QUITE DIFFERENT, BUT THERE SEVERAL LESSONS LOST SHOULD HAVE ABSORBED. FOR ONE, IT SHOULD HAVE TAKEN A LARGER CUE ON THE “NO TELL” POLICY. HULK REFERENCED THE “THE LECTURE” ABOVE AND IT SO SURPRISING TO HULK THEY NO PUSHED IT FURTHER. LOST CERTAINLY A WEIRD AND COMPLEX ENOUGH SHOW TO GET AWAY WITH LOT MORE INTERESTING THINGS: VISUALS. TRANSITIONS. CINEMATICS. METAPHOR. SO WHY CONVEY THEIR POINT WITH AN INSANELY LINEAR PATH ABOUT THE VAGUERY OF DEATH EXPLAINED TO US VERBATIM? SIX FEET UNDER SIMPLY EXPOSED THE CHARACTERS TO THE CINEMATIC REALITY OF MINKOWSKI SPACE, WHOSE STRANGE, ABSTRACT ASPECTS WOULD HAVE BEEN PERFECTLY APPROPRIATE FOR LOST (MINUS THE “QUIRK” OF COURSE) . SO WHY NO GO THERE? THE SHOW EASILY EARNED THE RIGHT TO GO OUTRIGHT CEREBRAL. IT CONSTANTLY FAVORED METAPHOR. BUT IN THE END, IT INSTEAD OPTED TO KEEP THINGS ODDLY LOGISTIC. SADLY, THIS CHOICE TO BE OVERTLY STRAIGHT-FORWARD ONLY HIGHLIGHTED THE WAYS IN WHICH IT NOT LOGISTIC AT ALL.

EVEN WORSE IT LECTURED SOMETHING HULK FIND TO BE VERY OBJECTIONABLE WITHIN CONTEXT OF SHOW. THEY BASICALLY IMPLIED: THERE SOME THINGS SCIENCE CAN NO FIGURE OUT SO ULTIMATELY YOU HAVE TO GO ON FAITH. IT THE ONLY TRUE PATH TO “MOVING ON.”

WHY WOULD LOST EVER SAY THAT?

SURE, CHARACTERS ARGUED THAT VERY PERSPECTIVE BEFORE IN THE SHOW. BUT THEY JUST THAT. A PERSPECTIVE. ONE SIDE OF THE COIN. THE BLACK AND WHITE. JUST PART OF THE DUALITY LOST FOUND SO INTERESTING. EVEN WITH JACK’S STORYLINE AND HIS REALIZATION THAT LOCKE WAS “RIGHT,” THAT OBVIOUSLY TALKING MORE ABOUT FAITH IN SELF AND INSTINCT. THE FAITH TO HELP AND HAVE ACCEPTANCE. IT A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT KIND OF FAITH. BUT IN THE FINAL MOMENTS OF LOST, THE TRADITIONAL VERSION BLIND FAITH BECAME THE SHOW’S OUTRIGHT PERSPECTIVE. IT CEASED NEUTRALITY. MAYBE THEY MEANT ONLY TO SPEAK TO THE NATURE OF DEATH (WHICH HULK COULD ARGUE NOT EXACTLY TRUE (9)), BUT IT SPEAK TO SOMETHING HULK FIND VERY UNSETTLING…

GOING BACK TO LOOK OVER THE SHOW, THERE WHOLE BUNCH OF REOCCURRING PLOTS THAT FEATURE SCIENTISTS MISUSING THE “UNIQUE PROPERTIES” OF THE ISLAND, WHICH BASICALLY WE FIND OUT = THE CENTRAL WHITE LIGHT. AT FIRST, HULK JUST THOUGHT IT OVERT WARNING ABOUT REAPING THE LIGHT OF EARTH/RESOURCES, OR THE APPLICATION OF SCIENCE TO HORRIFIC MEANS MEANS (H BOMBS AND SUCH). WHICH, YOU KNOW, TOTALLY REASONABLE THING TO SAY AND HULK ON BOARD. BUT THE REALIZATION OF THE FINALE IMPLY IT MORE TROUBLING THAN THAT. THE LIGHT NOT JUST THE “ENGINE OF THE WORLD,” THE LIGHT = “MINKOWSKI SPACE/HEAVEN.” SO WOULD THIS NOT BE SAYING THAT SCIENCE INTENTIONALLY CANNOT GRASP THE NATURE OF CREATION? OR THE CREATIVE INSTINCT? OR THE AFTERLIFE? THAT IT CAN ONLY MANIPULATE AND RUIN IT? WHETHER INTENTIONAL OR NOT, IT IMPLY THAT SCIENCE INHERENTLY CORRUPTS. THAT IT DESTROYS THE AFTERLIFE AND TO KILL IT WOULD BE TO EXTINGUISH THE VERY MEANING OF LIFE.

IT IMPLIES SCIENCE ROBS US OF HEAVEN.

AND HULK THOUGHT THE WHOLE TIME LOST BEEN ARGUING THAT SCIENCE AND RELIGION THE SAME DAMN THING. BUT THROUGH THE LENS OF THE FINALE, IT REALLY NOT IMPLYING THAT WHATSOEVER. EVEN GOING BACK TO THE PARALLEL TIME-LINE HAWKING IDEA CREATED IN “LA…X”, IF IT JUST A RED HERRING AND THE PURSUIT OF SCIENCE JUST SOMETHING THAT CORRUPT HEAVEN, THEN THEY UNINTENTIONALLY DISCOUNTING THE WORK AND MESSAGE OF ONE STEPHEN HAWKING, A MAN THEY CLEARLY LAUD (REALLY, THEY USE THE IDEAS, BUT THEY ULTIMATELY SAYING IT NOT TRUE).

MAYBE NONE OF THIS INTENTIONAL. IN THAT CASE IT STRIKE HULK AS A MASSIVELY MISGUIDED USE OF METAPHOR. THEY MEANT ONE THING, AND WHOLLY IMPLIED ANOTHER.

NOW BEFORE JUMP ON HULK OVER SOMETHING OBVIOUS, OF COURSE THERE THINGS SCIENCE NOT FIGURE OUT YET. BUT HULK ARGUE THAT EXACTLY WHY WE HAVE SCIENCE. TO TRY AND FIGURE IT OUT. TO STRIVE AND COME TO GRIPS WITH THE WORLD AROUND US. TO UNDERSTAND. SCIENCE JUST A LOGICAL PROGRESSION. BECAUSE SCIENCE NO ACCEPT BLIND FAITH, IT TRY TO FIGURE OUT THE WORLD NOT FLAT, OR PUT A MAN IN SPACE, OR APPROXIMATE HOW SPACE TIME WORKS.  HULK NOT MEAN TO KEEP BRINGING UP THESE “OLD ADAGE” THINGYS, BUT THERE THIS GREAT EXAMPLE OF THIS DILEMMA CONCERNING SUNSETS. A SUNSET = A TRULY GORGEOUS THING, SO A HUMAN BEING LOOKS AT IT AND CAN NO UNDERSTAND WHY SOMETHING CREATED BY “NOTHING” COULD BE SO DAMN BEAUTIFUL, THUS THE CONCLUSION = “GOD MUST HAVE DONE IT.” WELL, INSTEAD SCIENCE ASKS WHAT IF IT MORE THAN THAT? SCIENCE INQUIRES ABOUT ATMOSPHERIC DENSITIES AND THE REFRACTIVE NATURE OF LIGHT. IT STRIVES TO TRACE THE ORIGIN AND INTERPRET THE HAPPY ACCIDENTS OF NATURE WE SEE AS BEAUTY. BEAUTY CAN BE HOW SCIENTIFICALLY WE UNDERSTAND THAT. AND OF COURSE THERE WILL BE ANOTHER QUESTION THAT COMES FROM THAT, AND ANOTHER, AND ANOTHER. OF COURSE WE CAN’T ANSWER THEM ALL IN A SINGLE LIFETIME.

BUT GUESS WHAT LOST? THAT DOESN’T MEAN WE JUST ACCEPT AND STOP TRYING. SCIENCE ABOUT THE NEXT STEP. THE NEXT LEVEL OF UNDERSTANDING. IT THE JOURNEY OF TIME.

WHAT IT ULTIMATELY COMES DOWN TO THAT THERE THIS IDEA THAT WE NEVER UNDERSTAND WHAT HAPPENS IN DEATH. BUT BELIEVE IT OR NOT, SCIENCE IS PART OF THESE THINGS. SCIENCE, IN ITS PURSUIT OF TRUTH ON EVIDENCE, WANTS TO TELL US EXACTLY WHAT LIFE AND DEATH IS WHETHER IT COMFORTING OR NOT. BUT SO OFTEN IN TV SHOWS, SCIENCE IN THIS CAPACITY = THE PURSUIT OF CHEATING DEATH. IT SEEN AS A PATHOLOGICAL, OFTEN VIOLENT OBSESSION, A LONE SCIENTIST HELL-BENT ON STAVING OF DEATH.

THIS WAS JACK. JACK WANTED TO “FIX EVERYONE” AND THAT WHAT APPARENTLY MADE HIM NOT AT PEACE. THIS CHARACTERIZATION DEEPLY MISGUIDED. JACK’S LACK OF PEACE COME FROM OTHER ISSUES. HIS WANTING TO FIX EVERYONE JUST WHAT MADE HIM A GREAT PERSON. A TRUE LEADER (REMEMBER THAT THE “SPIRITUAL” LOCKE BASICALLY KILLED BOONE IN THE PURSUIT OF HIS PIOUS JOURNEY). JACK SHOULD ALWAYS STRIVE TO FIX EVERYONE. AND PART OF THAT = THE NATURAL INCLINATION TO WANT TO TO UNDERSTAND. KNOWING LIMITS IS ONE THING. BUT DISCOUNTING THE THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE ANOTHER. AND IN THAT FINALE, HULK WANTED TO UNDERSTAND. NO, IT NOT CRIPPLE HULK BECAUSE HULK DIDN’T GET “THE ANSWERS.” NO IT NOT BECAUSE HULK FEAR DEATH AND SO HULK JUST REACTING FROM THAT. HULK THINK THAT LOST’S APPROACH LIKE THE LAZINESS OF THE SUNSET, IT SAYING ONE CANNOT KNOW SO DON’T BOTHER…

IT IMPORTANT REMEMBER HULK NOT IMPLYING THAT SOMETHING HAVE LINE UP WITH HULK’S PERSONAL SENSIBILITIES IN ORDER FOR HULK TO LIKE. TO CITE THE TIME HONORED WISDOM OF ART: IT NOT “WHAT IT ABOUT” IT “HOW IT ABOUT.” THIS PRACTICALLY A REQUIREMENT OF WATCHING ANY MOVIE. HULK CAN LOVE DIRTY HARRY AND IT BASICALLY ADVOCATING POLICE FASCISM. WHY? BECAUSE IT SELF-AWARE. IT HAVE GREAT EDITING. IT COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS. MEANWHILE, MICHAEL MOORE CAN MAKE FILMS THAT TAP INTO THE SAME “WHAT” HULK USUALLY BELIEVE POLITICALLY-SPEAKING, BUT THE “HOW” HE MAKE THOSE MOVIES VIOLATE SO MANY CORE RULES OF DOCUMENTARY FILM-MAKING THAT HULK CANNOT ABIDE THEM. HULK COULD WATCH A MOVIE ABOUT FAITH AND AFTERLIFE WITH BIG BOLD RELIGIOUS IDEAS AND STILL TOTALLY LOVE IT. GUESS WHAT? HULK LOVED THE BATTLESTAR GALACTICA FINALE AND THAT WAY, WAY, WAY MORE RELIGIOUS THAN LOST. BUT THAT SHOW HANDLED ITS RESOLUTION IN A MUCH MORE COMPELLING FASHION AND TOTALLY MADE SENSE WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THE SHOW. IT NOT THE WHAT IT ABOUT. IT HOW IT ABOUT.

AND LOST WAS ALWAYS SO CAREFUL AND CONSIDERATE WITH THE HOW, WASN’T IT?

AND THEN SUDDENLY, THE LAST 15 MINUTES OF THE FINALE WWER SOMETHING ELSE. IT WAS SENTIMENTAL. IT WAS BAD STORYTELLING. IT WAS A-DRAMATIC. IT WAS COMPLETELY DISHONEST TO TWO CHARACTERS.  IT WAS FULL OF CONFUSED LOGIC.  IT WAS CONVENIENT. IT WAS REPETITIVE. IT WAS LECTURING. IT WAS ECUMENICAL. IT WAS ULTIMATELY EXCLUSIVE.

IT WAS NOT LOST.

AND THAT’S A DEAL-BREAKER LADIES.

PART 3 – THE AFTERMATH OF “THE PROBLEMS”

DESPITE ALL THIS, HULK NO THINK LOST “FUCKED IT UP” OR “SHIT THE BED.” THEY DID SOMETHING UNCHARACTERISTIC AND MISGUIDED. THAT IT. AND WHAT LEAD TO THAT CONCLUSION WERE SIMPLY THAT THE TEN PROBLEMS LISTED ABOVE NOT CRITICAL IN AND OF THEMSELVES, BUT WHEN BANDED TOGETHER IT CREATE A BIGGER PICTURE OF SOMETHING BEING “OFF”. EVEN IF THIS ALL NOT SEEM SO BAD, NO TELL HULK THAT IT MEAN HULK’S CONCERNS TRIVIAL. YOU MAY THINK HULK JUST HAVE A SAD CASE OF THE WHAT-HAVE-YOU-DONE-FOR-ME-LATELY’S?  BUT THE LAST 15 MINUTES = THE FINAL IMAGE OF THE SERIES. THE LASTING IMPRESSION. AND IT IMPORTANT. THE ENDING IS THE CONCEIT.

BUT HULK NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO MATTER HERE. THE PUBLIC OPINION CRUCIAL AND IT DIVERGED WILDLY. SOME LOVED THE CHANCE TO SEE THEIR CHARACTERS TOGETHER AND AS HAPPY AS THEY WANTED TO FEEL. SOME JUST FELT LIKE IT WAS A DUMB REVEAL. SOME GOT MICRO-ANALYTIC. A LOT OF PEOPLE SHRUGGED.

PREDICTABLY, THERE WERE A GOOD PORTION OF PEOPLE PISSED ABOUT THE LACK OF ANSWERS AND DEMANDED MORE. THE VIDEO PRETTY HILARIOUS, BUT THE MORE HILARIOUS THING THAT MOST OF THOSE QUESTIONS YOU COULD ANSWER WITH BASIC SYMBOLISM OR EVEN MINOR UNDERSTANDING OF THE SHOW’S THEMATIC ISSUES. HULK MEAN, HOW DID THEY EVEN WATCH THIS SHOW WITHOUT DOING THAT?(10) BESIDES, TURNS OUT THE SHOW HAD PRE-FILMED AND THE SUBSEQUENTLY RELEASED THE EPILOGUE. IT WAS MET WITH A LARGE THUD. TURNS OUT ALL THE ANSWERS NOT WHAT PEOPLE WANTED. WHY? BECAUSE THE WAY THEY GOT THOSE ANSWERS JUST = “THE LECTURE” TIMES TEN. IT ANTI-CLIMACTIC. IT IMPOSSIBLY BORING. THERE ABSOLUTELY NO DRAMA OR CATHARSIS OR STORY OR ANYTHING. IT JUST A PERSON JUST TELLING YOU ANSWERS. THIS TRULY FELT THE MONKEY ANECDOTE. AND HULK ARGUE THIS WHAT HAPPEN WHEN PEOPLE THINK THEY WANT ANSWERS AND NOT WILLING TO PURSUE THE MORE SUBTLE OR THEMATIC “ANSWERS.”

MEANWHILE, THE CRITICAL OPINIONS OF THE FINALE (AS IN FROM ACTUAL CRITICS) SEEMED EQUALLY SPLIT. DEVIN FARACI CALLED IT LOST‘S “BIG GNOSTIC WET FART ENDING.” PERHAPS THAT BIT HARSH, BUT HIS APPRAISAL  FILLED WITH IMPOSSIBLY GOOD INSIGHTS ABOUT GNOSTICISM/ ZOROASTRIANISM AND THE LAZINESS WITH WHICH IT USED THOSE CONCEPTS. IT REALLY A GREAT READ, EVEN THOUGH HULK DISAGREE SLIGHTLY ABOUT ITS DEVALUING OF CERTAIN ON-ISLAND PLOT LINES. HULK MORE HOLDS THE FAILURES OF THE ENDING REVEAL TO BE IMPLICATE OF THE PURGATORY PLOT LINE (THOUGH OBVIOUSLY, NOT SOLELY).

ON THE OTHER HAND, THERE THE EXCEPTIONAL COLUMNS OF M. MORSE. HE HAD A MUCH MORE POSITIVE TAKE ON THE FINALE. THE PAGE COUNTER SORT OF WEIRD ON THIS THING SO HAVE TO START AT “1” AND GO IN OTHER DIRECTION: http://www.chud.com/23907/back-to-the-island-lost-season-6-episodes-17-18/

THE FIRST THING YOU MAY NOTICE THAT EVERYTHING IN THIS COLUMN FANTASTIC. IT STALWART. DEEPLY INTELLECTUAL. GENUINE. HIS ACCOUNT OF THE PURGATORY AND RE-TRIALS OF LIFE. THE REFLECTIONS. THE CAPACITY FOR EXAMINATION. ALL WONDERFUL. AND HIS ACCOUNT OF MINOWSKI SPACE AND IT’S IMPACT ON  THE FINALE = REALLY WELL-THOUGHT OUT AND COMPLETE. HULK OBVIOUSLY HAVE DIFFERENT TAKE ON WHETHER THE SHOW ABANDONED SCIENCE IN NAME OF RELIGION, BUT THAT NOT BECAUSE EITHER OR US NECESSARILY MISSED ANYTHING. IT AN INTERPRETATION OF THE ONE. IF HULK FORCED TO DISAGREE, HULK WOULD SIMPLY ARGUE THAT THE APPRAISAL TOO WILLING TO MAKE CONNECTIONS SEEM SOLID WHEN THEY MORE TENUOUS TO HULK. FOR EXAMPLE, MINKOWSKI SPACE, AS INTERESTING AS IT IS, COMES OFF AS SCIENTIFIC PATCHWORK CURE-ALL TO EXPLAIN LOST’S “HEAVEN.” IN PRACTICAL REALITY MINKOWSKI SPACE MORE OF A WORK AROUND FOR CATEGORIZING TIME SINGULARITY IN MATHEMATICAL TERMS. MEANING IT ABOUT MAKING THE MATH WORK RATHER THAN BEING CREATED AS A CONCEPT FOR US FIGURING OUT HOW TIME WORKS. THIS MAY SEEM LIKE WEIRD OBSERVATION GIVEN THAT HULK PREVIOUSLY ARGUED THAT THE LOST SCIENCE CAN BE PSEUDO SCIENCE AND THAT TOTALLY COOL, BUT HULK ARGUING THE PROVERBIAL “STAGE” OF THE LAST 15 MINUTES REQUIRE THAT THIS SCIENTIFIC THEORY BE A BIT MORE COMPLETE AND INTEGRAL. FOR EXAMPLE, THINK OF HOW MUCH CARE, TIME, AND ATTENTION WENT INTO THE ESTABLISHING THE CONCEIT OF THE NARRATIVE FEINT: TO JUSTIFY STEPHEN HAWKING’S IDEA THAT TWO CONCURRENT TIMELINES COULD ORIGINATE FROM A SINGLE POINT OF HISTORICAL INFLUENCE. THEY KNEW THEY HAD TO JUSTIFY IT OR ELSE THE AUDIENCE WOULD HAVE ABANDONED. AND THUS, THE CONCEPT HAMMERED INTO OUR HEADS. SO WHY DID MINKOWSKI SPACE NOT GET THAT TREATMENT? SERIOUSLY, HULK THINK THAT THE CONCEPT ONLY REGISTERED WITH, LIKE, 3% OF VIEWERS, IF THAT. BUT NO WORRY IT ONLY THE END OF THE SHOW! IT HAD TO BE BECAUSE THEY WANTED IT TO BE A REVEAL.

BUT BEYOND THE AUDIENCE-INDUCED-LOGIC, HULK’S MAIN ARGUMENT ABOUT THE LAST 15 MINUTES LARGELY A MATTER OF TONE. HULK ARGUE MMORSE BRILLIANTLY SUMS UP THE WHAT OF LOST, BUT HULK ARGUE THERE SOMETHING DIFFERENT GOING ON WITH THE HOW.(11) EVEN IF ALTERNATIVE INTERPRETATIONS CAN BE FOUND FOR THE LAST 15 MINUTES, THEY NOT WHAT YOU EXPERIENCING IN THAT MOMENT.

HISTORICALLY SPEAKING, LOST WOULD ALWAYS PRESENT EVIDENCE WITH CRYPTIC, BOLD IMAGERY THAT ALWAYS LEFT IT UP TO YOU. AND IN THE MOST IMPORTANT MOMENT OF THE SHOW, THE WRITERS SHOVED YOU IN A SINGULAR DIRECTION. EVERYTHING ELSE BECAME LITERAL WINDOW-DRESSING. WE GOT AN AN UBER-STRAIGHTFORWARD, OUTRIGHT EXPLAINED-TO-YOU, HYPER-CHRISTIAN MOMENT. MAYBE THE SHOVE NOT INTENTIONAL, BUT IT WAS CERTAINLY A SHOVE. HULK GUARANTEE THAT THE WHOLE ROOM HULK IN WHILE WATCHING FELT IT. THE INESCAPABLE TRUTH THAT A MAN NAMED CHRISTIAN SHEPARD GUIDING PEOPLE FROM A BARELY-EUCIMENICIZED CHURCH INTO THE LIGHT OF WHAT CAN REALLY ONLY BE CALLED “HEAVEN”. AND WHEN THEN SCIENTIFICALLY INCLINED MIND CHIRPS UP, THEY TOLD NOT TO THINK ABOUT IT, FOR IT SOMETHING THEY CAN’T POSSIBLY KNOW. THAT = A SHOVE.

YOU MAY SAY: “HULK, WHY DOES THAT BOTHER YOU SO MUCH?” DIDN’T HULK MENTION THAT HULK ALWAYS LIKED THE WAY THE SHOW BECAUSE IT NO TRY AND ANSWER EVERYTHING? THAT THINGS SHOULD BE AMBIGUOUS? SO WHY YOU GETTING SO PISSED THAT THE SHOW ESSENTIALLY CONVEYING THAT SAME MESSAGE?”

AGAIN. IT NOT THE WHAT IT THE HOW. HULK THINK IT CONVEYED THAT MESSAGE WITH ZERO COMPLEXITY OR DRAMA. AND HULK THINK IT DID IT IN AN ALMOST JUVENILE SORT OF INDIGNATION AND ALL SORTS OF NARRATIVE/THEMATIC HOLES.

IT NOT LIKE HULK SAYING ALL THIS OUT OF SOME EMOTIONAL REACTION, HULK LITERALLY BEEN THINKING ABOUT THIS QUESTION/PROBLEM/DILEMMA FOR WELL OVER A YEAR.

THE FOLLOWING SORT OF LAME CONJECTURE, BUT HULK FEEL IT RELEVANT:

HULK WANT KNOW WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF THE WRITERS NO GO IN THE PURGATORY DIRECTION… IF THE “ALTERNA-WORLD” STILL JUST ANOTHER TIMELINE SET OFF BY THE H-BOMB. HULK ARGUE IT STILL WOULD HAVE CONVEYED EVERYTHING WITHOUT THE OVERT PROBLEMS AND IT COULD HAVE DONE SO BEAUTIFULLY: A LIFE ON ANOTHER EARTH. A SECOND CHANCE. IF THE ISLAND A METAPHORICAL PURGATORY, THEN THE SECOND ALTERNATIVE TIMELINE COULD BE A METAPHORICAL AFTERLIFE. A CHANCE FOR THE LOSTIES TO GET THAT HAPPINESS AND CONTENTMENT. HECK, YOU CAN EVEN HAVE THEM REALIZED THEY DIED IN THE OTHER TIMELINE, HAVE THAT REALIZATION CONNECT THE ON-ISLAND PLOT LINE AND ALLOW THE LOSTIES TO SAVE THE LIGHT OF THE ISLAND, WHICH IN TURN COULD BE ACCREDITED TO CREATING THE MULTIPLE TIMELINES TO BEGIN WITH, WHICH IN TURN GIVES THE WHOLE FATALISTIC DESIRE TO DETONATE THE H-BOMB A FUCKING POINT, AND IN TURN ALLOW FOR THE CHARACTERS IN THE ALTERNATIVE WORLD TO GRASP ALL THIS AND GIVE THEM A CHANCE TO METAPHORICALLY “MOVE ON.” NOT IN LITERAL CREEPY RELIGIOUS SENSE, BUT MOVE FORWARD WITH THEIR LIVES IN PEACE AND TRUE HAPPINESS IN THE WAY THAT THE MISTAKES OF THE “PAST” LIFE DIDN’T ALLOW THEM TO. WOULD THAT HAVE BEEN SENTIMENTAL MAYBE TOO? SURE. BUT IT WOULD HAVE FELT LIKE LOST. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY IT WOULD STILL CONVEY ALL THE SAME RELIGIOUS OVERTONES, LIKE HINDUISM MULTIPLE CHANCES OF GETTING RIGHT BEFORE MOVING TO ASCENDANCE. IT COULD USE THE NON-INVASIVE LOSTIAN TRICK OF INCORPORATING ALL THOSE RELIGIOUS IDEAS INTO THE PRODUCTION DESIGN. BUT IT WOULDN’T HAVE CENTERED AROUND A ECUMENICAL HEAVEN. IT WOULD HAVE CENTERED AROUND THE CHARACTERS.

HULK KNOW GETTING INTO THE “WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE DONE” GAME = LAME CONJECTURE. AT WORST, IT A FAN WRITING SOMETHING HE WISHED HAD HAPPENED. HULK KNOW THIS, BUT HULK JUST TRYING SHOW HOW IT POSSIBLE TO ASSIMILATE THE SAME THEMES INTO A NARRATIVE DECISION THAT LESS OVERT AND EXCLUSIVE.

SO HULK ASK AGAIN, WHY COULD THIS NOT HAPPEN?

LOST COULD ALWAYS DO IT BEFORE. IT COULD BE TRANSCENDENT. IT COULD PLEASE THE MAN OF SCIENCE AND THE MAN OF FAITH. SO WHY NOT NOW? WHY SAY THE MAN OF SCIENCE IS LIMITED IN THE FINAL MOMENTS? WAS THAT THE INTENTION THE WHOLE TIME? HULK NOT THINK SO, BUT TRUTH THAT HULK NOT REALLY KNOW.

HULK JUST KNOW THESE TEN CENTRAL PROBLEMS OF THE LAST 15 MINUTES INADVERTENTLY CORRUPT A STORY THAT 99.9% GENIUS. THE WRITERS WANTED TO LEAVE A BIG BOLD OPEN ENDED ANSWER BUT THEY DID IT IN THE WRONG WAY. IT NOT OPEN ENDED. IT A LAUNDRY LIST OF CONTRADICTIONS. AND UNLIKE BEFORE, IT NOT LIKE HULK FEEL LANY ONE OF THEM COULD BE TRUE (THE “ALL ANSWERS IN SUBSET B” THING). INSTEAD HULK FEEL LIKE NONE OF THEM COULD BE TRUE.

AND AT CORE, THE PROBLEMS REALLY ALL THE SAME.

ON EVERY CONCEIVABLE LEVEL, IT NEVER FELT LIKE LOST.

PART 4 – WHAT THIS MEAN FOR HULK, GOING FORWARD

THE DOLL-POINTING JOKE THAT HULK USED IN TITLE OF ARTICLE ONE THAT OFTEN USED BECAUSE IT ANALOGOUS TO FEELING “VIOLATED.” THIS A CRASS, HORRIBLE WAY OF PUTTING IT AND HULK NOT TRYING BE CRASS. BUT THE REASON PEOPLE USE THE TERM “VIOLATED” FAIRLY OBVIOUS: ALL THESE UPDATES, REBOOTS, REMAKES AND SHITTY PREQUELS PISS PEOPLE OFF BECAUSE THEY NO ABLE LOOK AT THE PROPERTIES THE SAME WAY.

ON ONE LEVEL, OF COURSE THIS INSIPID. PEOPLE INTERNALIZE THEIR LOVE OF PROPERTIES. THEY NO DIGEST AND PROCESS THEM. JUST SIMPLY ABSORB EVERYTHING IN EMOTIONAL AND VISCERAL TERMS. AS A RESULT, THEY OFTEN TAKE THE REPULSION TOO FAR, AND YES HULK SPECIFICALLY REFERENCING THE POPULAR “GEORGE LUCAS RAPED MY CHILDHOOD” VIEWPOINT. THE SENTIMENT RIDICULOUS, INSOLENT, GUARDED, ADOLESCENT BULLSHIT. ONE THAT COMPLETELY LACK PERSPECTIVE. WHY? BECAUSE GOING THAT FAR IMPLY THE ORIGINAL STAR WARS FILMS DON’T STILL EXIST OR HAVE INHERENT VALUE. AND BOY CAN THE ORIGINALS STILL BE ENJOYED. BETTY HADN’T SEEN THEM SINCE SHE WAS A KID SO SHE AND HULK WATCHED A FEW YEARS AGO. IT WAS PURE JOY. EVER SIT A LITTLE KID DOWN IN FRONT OF THEM? STILL WORK LIKE GANG BUSTERS.

BUT HERE THING… THE PUBLIC CONVERSATION CONCERNING STAR WARS VASTLY DIFFERENT NOW. THE ORIGINAL MOVIES ARE NOT TARNISHED, BUT THE PREQUELS HAVE UNDENIABLY AFFECTED THE BEHAVIOR OF THE CULTURE, HOW WE TALK ABOUT GEORGE LUCAS, AND EVEN MANY OF THE PLOT IMPLICATIONS OF THE ORIGINALS. AND HONESTLY, THAT CULTURAL CONVERSATION MATTER. THE COMMUNITY OF FANDOM, FOR ALL IT’S PROBLEMS, STILL A WONDERFULLY BINDING THING. AND WHEN THE CULTURAL CONVERSATION SHIFT TOWARD DEVISIVENESS BECAUSE SOMETHING HAS DEEPLY WOUNDED THE OVERALL QUALITY OF SAID PROPERTY, THEN THAT MATTERS.

ENDINGS MATTER. YOU CAN NO DISMISS THE REALITY OF THE ENDING HAVING THE ABILITY TO “TARNISH” SOMETHING. THE WIRE FINALE UPHOLDS THE LEGACY OF IT BEING POSSIBLY THE BEST SHOW EVER. AND THAT HAPPENS DESPITE THE ENTIRE LAST SEASON BEING RIDDLED WITH TONE PROBLEMS. AS INTERESTING AS MCNULTY’S SERIAL KILLER FEINT OR TEMPLETON’S OVERT BOLD-FACED LYING MIGHT HAVE BEEN, NEITHER PLOT FELT LIKE THE WIRE. BUT IT DIDN’T MATTER, BECAUSE THE FINALE CORRECTED THAT AND GAVE THE SHOW THE MOST PERFECT SEND-OFF IMAGINABLE. THE SAME EXACT TONE-FIXING THING TRUE OF THE LAST SEASON OF BUFFY TOO. FINALES MATTER. THEM THE BREAKS. IT REALLY HOW YOU FINISH.

SO WHEN IT COMES TO LOST, EVERY SINGLE THING HULK SAID ABOUT THE SHOW IN PART 1 OF THIS PIECE, STILL ABSOLUTELY TRUE. THE SHOW ACCOMPLISH SO DAMN MUCH AND SHOULD BE LAUDED FOR YEARS TO COME.

BUT STILL, THE CULTURAL CONVERSATION HAS CHANGED.

AND THAT CONVERSATION ALWAYS SEEMS TO LAND ON THE FINALE. AFTER THE FIRST SEASON OF LOST, HULK WAS RUNNING AROUND EVERYWHERE TRYING TO GET PEOPLE TO WATCH THE FREAKING SHOW. IT WAS INCREDIBLE, RESONANT, FULL OF SO MUCH PROMISE. AS SEASONS WENT ON HULK BECAME MORE HESITANT, WAITING TO SEE IF THE SHOW COME THROUGH. MAYBE COMING THROUGH WAS IMPOSSIBLE. MAYBE THEY TRIED ACCOMPLISH THE MOST DIFFICULT TRICK EVER, BUT HULK HAD FAITH BECAUSE THEY ALWAYS PULLED IT OFF THAT TRANSCENDENCE BEFORE. AND THEN THE FINALE LET THE AIR OUT. THE CONVERSATION FIXATED ON THE BASIC APPROPRIATION: UNLIKE BATTLESTAR OR EVEN THE SOPRANOS, WHOSE CONVERSATIONS FOCUSED ON THE VARYING INTERPRETATIONS OF LARGELY SYMBOLIC MOTIFS, THE ENDING OF LOST SIMPLY CAME DOWN TO A MANNER OF “I WAS OKAY WITH IT” OR “I WASN’T OKAY WITH IT.” THE EFFECT HAS BEEN DISHEARTENING.

SO HULK HAVE THIS KICK-ASS T-SHIRT OF DESMOND AND DANIEL FARADAY STANDING BY THE B.T.T.F. DELOREAN.

THIS ONE

HULK LOVED THIS SHIRT.

AND NOW, HULK FEEL TINGE OF NOT LIKING WEAR IT.

HULK KNOW THAT KIND OF STUPID. BUT HULK NOT ANGRY, OR SMASHY, OR FEEL VIOLATED.

HULK JUST FEEL A LITTLE SAD.

THERE JUST SO FEW THINGS ON THIS EARTH THAT ONE CAN TRULY LOVE. YES, WE SHOULD BE RATIONAL AND BALANCED ABOUT IT, BUT IT SO NICE TO HAVE THINGS IN OUR LIVES THAT FOR LACK OF BETTER WORD, PURE.

BUT HULK SIMPLY HAVE TO ADMIT: THE FINALE HAS CHANGED HULK’S ABILITY TO PURELY LOVE LOST.

SO DARLTON, HULK KNOW IT WEIRD FOR HULK TO CRAZILY DISSECT THIS THING THAT MUST BE DEEPLY PERSONAL FOR YOU BOTH. JUST KNOW THAT HULK REALIZE THERE BIGGER PICTURE TO ALL OF THIS AND HULK HOPE YOU CONTINUE TO KEEP PUTTING GREAT STUFF INTO THE WORLD. HULK GREATLY LOOKING FORWARD TO PROMETHEUS FOR ONE. SERIOUSLY, RETURNING RIDLEY SCOTT TO SCI-FI = A TRUE HONOR. SO HULK LOOKING FORWARD TO THE FUTURE.

AS FOR THIS OPEN LETTER? IT NOT SUCH A BIG DEAL. IT JUST HULK TRYING TO EXPLAIN A FEELING. TO SUM UP AN EXPERIENCE ABOUT THIS SHOW YOU SHARED WITH US.

SEE YOU IN ANOTHER  LIFE BROTHERS (METAPHORICALLY OF COURSE),

-HULK

P.S. – HULK INVITE ANY AND ALL TO DISAGREE. PLEASE. FIND ERRORS IN HULK’S LOGIC. CONTRADICT HULK. THE THING ABOUT ALL OF THIS IS THAT HULK SO DESPERATELY WANT LIKE THE FINALE. BUT HULK CAN NO RECONCILE WHAT THEY TRIED DO, EVEN YEAR AND HALF LATER.

BRING THE JACKFACE!

ENDNOTES:

(1) – EVERYONE USES THE DEVICE OF PUTTING “LOST” IN ALL CAPS, BUT THAT LOSES EFFECT WITH THE ALL-CAPS-HULK-TALK. SO HULK BOLDING IT EVERY TIME. SORRY IF ANNOYING.

(2) – AS MUCH CRAP AS THEY GOT FOR THEIR “LITERAL CORK” AND KEYSTONE, IT REALLY NO DIFFERENT THEN THE BIG MYTHIC SYMBOLIC STUFF THAT CENTER AROUND MOST FANTASY/SCI-FI. LOST WAS NEVER AFRAID TO USE AN OBJECT AS A BIG BROAD METAPHOR. THEY ALWAYS DID. EVEN IF YOU FOUND IT SILLY, IT STILL FELT LIKE THE SHOW.

(3) – AND YES, TO ACTUAL SCIENTISTS READING THIS, HULK KNOW THAT LOST = MOSTLY PSEUDO-SCIENCE. SOMETIMES EVEN JUNK SCIENCE. HULK ARGUE THIS OKAY BECAUSE THEIR INTEREST PURELY AT ARMCHAIR LEVEL AND WHAT MORE COULD EXPECT? IT HARD BE EXPERT AT LOTS THINGS. HULK WOULD NORMALLY ARGUE THAT FULL COMMITTING TO SCIENCE INVOLVED SHOULD BE STRIVE FOR, BUT HONESTLY THE SHOW MORE INTERESTED IN WHAT THOSE SCIENTIFIC EXPLOITS SAY ABOUT HUMAN BEINGS THAN WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT SCIENCE. SO THEY DECIDED MASSAGE SCIENCE INSTEAD OF OUTRIGHT VIOLATING IT. IT ABOUT A DIFFERENCE IN GOALS. AND THE GOAL OF LOST A PURE ONE… USUALLY… HULK WILL GET TO PROBLEMS WITH THE PURGATORY SCIENCE LATER.

(4) – FOR A MUCH MORE EXTREME EXAMPLE, IMAGINE IF A GAME OF THRONES ENDED WITH ALL THE DEAD CHARACTERS GETTING TOGETHER AND HUGGING. RIGHT. IT RIDICULOUS. YOU MAY ARGUE THAT EXTREME AND G.O.T. A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT KIND OF SHOW, BUT HULK ARGUE LOST  = A VERY DIFFERENT KIND OF SHOW TOO. IN THE VEIL OF ALL THOSE MYSTERIES,AND GRIMNESS, WHERE OFTEN THE ONLY HOPE A LITERAL RAY OF LIGHT OR A MERE CHANCE AT SURVIVAL, WHATEVER MADE YOU THINK THAT SHOW WOULD END WITH A BIG HAPPY HUG IN HEAVEN? TO HULK, G.O.T. MAKES JUST AS MUCH SENTIMENTAL SENSE.

(5) – FOR EXAMPLE, HURLEY’S NUMBERS EPISODE. WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE NUMBERS SUPPOSED TO MEAN BUT THE TONE OF THEM SO ROOTED IN PARANOIA, QUIRK, AND HURLEY’S FEARS THAT IF FEEL INTEGRAL. THEY THE SAME THING REALLY. MEANWHILE, THE “WAKING UP” MOMENTS IN PURGATORY NO INTEGRATE WITH TONE OR HIGHER PURPOSE UNTIL THE ACTUAL REVEAL IN LAST 15 MINUTES OF SHOW… ONE WONDERS WHY IT BECAME BORING OVER THE COURSE 6 EPISODES.

(6) – PEOPLE WRONGLY GIVE THE WRITERS OF SCI-FI/FANTASY A LOT OF CRAP ASSUMING THEY KNOW NOTHING OF WOMEN/RELATIONSHIPS AND LIVE IN THEIR MOMS BASEMENTS,  BUT COME ON GUYS. TRUE LOVE NOT = HAVING A HOT HOOKUP OR JUST A GIRL TALKING TO YOU... YOU KNOW BETTER.

(7) – SORRY FOR THIS “RIPPING VAGINA” IMAGERY, BUT HULK  CONSTANTLY SURPRISED BY AMOUNT OF PEOPLE WHO NOT KNOW ABOUT THE MEDICAL SPECIFICS OF BIRTH. YES. THERE OFTEN GREAT DEAL OF DAMAGE AND TEARING AND ALMOST EVERY BIRTH REQUIRES A LOT OF STITCHES… ALSO: GIRLS WITH LOWER BACK TATTOOS! THERE IS A PRETTY HIGH CHANCE YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GET AN EPIDURAL. THE NEEDLE CAN NOT GO THROUGH SKIN ANYWHERE CLOSE TO A TATTOO (IT OFTEN HAS SPREAD INVISIBLE UNDER THE SKIN) BECAUSE IF ANY INK (EVEN DECADES OLD) GETS INTO YOUR SPINAL FLUID YOU COULD EXPERIENCE PARALYSIS OR DEATH. YOUR TATTOO ARTIST LIKELY NEVER INFORMED YOU. THIS SUCKS. HULK SORRY TO BE ONE TO TELL YOU. GET IT LOOKED INTO IF PLAN ON HAVING KIDS!

(8) – AND EVEN THOUGH LOCKE WAS “RIGHT” ABOUT THE ISLAND, HE WAS ULTIMATELY DUPED BY THE MIB IN REALLY CRAPPY FASHION. UGH. HEARTBREAKING. AND FOR A SHOW THAT ULTIMATELY TRIED TO ADVOCATE BLIND FAITH, IT SEEMS BLIND FAITH SERVED LOCKE SUPER SHITTILY.

(9) – OKAY HULK’LL DO THIS. BEWARE, HULK’S PERSONAL FEELINGS ABOUT DEATH/SPIRITUALITY WITHIN: HERE’S WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT DEATH. YOUR HEART STOPS PUMPING BLOOD. YOUR BRAIN STOPS WORKING. SCIENTIFICALLY SPEAKING WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DIE = YOU CEASE TO BE. IT NOT COMFORTING FOR SURE, BUT THAT WHAT HAPPENS ACCORDING TO SCIENCE. AND DESPITE A LOT OF CLAIMS, THERE NO REAL SCIENCE TO THE SOUL. BUT HERE THE THING, EVEN THOUGH IT HARSH, PEOPLE STILL HAVE TO SIMPLY BE AT PEACE WITH “THE END.” WHICH ODDLY WHAT LOST ALSO TRYING TO SAY, JUST WITH A MORE TRADITIONAL AND OVERT HEAVEN MODEL. WHETHER OR NOT BELIEVE IN IT, THE CONCEPT OF HEAVEN ABOUT BEING AT PEACE. SO HULK USE THE HEAVEN METAPHOR TO BE AT PEACE WITH LIFE AND LIKEWISE AT PEACE WITH DEATH. THUS HULK TURN TO THE SCIENTIFIC REALITY THAT IT JUST OVER. HULK NO HAVE TO GO INTO DEATH WITH WORRIES ABOUT THEOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS. HULK CAN JUST TRY AND BE GOOD AND HAPPY, HERE AND NOW. HULK CAN STRIVE FOR PEACE AT THIS MOMENT NOW. AT ALL MOMENTS… SOME ARGUE WITHOUT HEAVEN THERE NO GUIDE TO MORALITY, BUT EVEN SCIENCE ARGUE WE MUST BE GOOD SO WE CAN CO-EXIST ON THIS PLANET. SO THAT WE CAN MAKE GOOD ON THIS ONE CHANCE. IT’S “LIVE TOGETHER OR DIE ALONE” REMEMBER? LOST SAID THIS SO MANY TIMES AND TOOK IT TO HEART. HULK NO THIS MAY SOUND AWFULLY GRIM TO SOME, BUT HULK ARGUE IT STILL SPIRITUAL IN THE PUREST SENSE. HULK WILL PUT IT THIS WAY: PEOPLE WHO OFTEN FIND RELIGION OFTEN CITE A BEAUTIFUL “AWAKENING MOMENT” WHERE THEY OVERCOME BY COMFORT AND EMOTION THAT COMES WITH EMBRACING GOD. IT A KIND OF JOY THAT RESTS IN THE BONES… WELL, THE MOMENT HULK FINALLY ACKNOWLEDGE DTHAT HULK BEEN WRESTLING WITH LOGISTICAL CONCEPT OF AFTERLIFE FOR HULK’S ENTIRE LIFE AND ALL IT DID WAS MAKE HULK UNEASY, AND WHEN HULK DECIDED THAT HULK’S TRUE FEELINGS IN LINE WITH ATHIESM, IT AT THAT MOMENT HULK FELT TRULY HAPPY AND COMFORTABLE WITH LIFE/DEATH FOR FIRST TIME IN HULK’S LIFE. HULK FELT IT IN BONES. IT WAS HULK’S SPIRITUAL MOMENT.  BUT THE KIND OF WONDERFUL THING ABOUT SCIENTIFIC ATHEISM, WHILE IT STILL ABSOLUTE AND NOT AGNOSTICISM, IT STILL NOT A BINDING BELIEF. IF GOD COULD ALL OF A SUDDEN BE SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN (AND INTELLIGENT DESIGNERS, NO, IT CAN’T YET). HULK WOULD SIGN UP. BUT BEING RELIGIOUS CAN OFTEN BE BINDING. SPIRITUALITY WORKS BEST IN NON-BINDING FLUX, JUST LIKE THE EVOLUTION OF SCIENTIFIC PROGRESSION.

(10) – THERE ONE WAY IN WHICH HULK UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE FASCINATE OVER ANSWERS. IT GO BACK TO HULK’S THEORY THAT LOTS OF VIEWERS JUST NOT PERCEPTIVE TO SUBTLETY. THE SUBTLE THINGS INSTEAD AFFECT THEM ON A VISCERAL LEVEL, SO THAT. THEY CAN FEEL “GOOD” OR FEEL “BAD” ABOUT WHAT HAPPENING. BUT WHEN COME TO SUPPORT AND ANSWER WHY THEY LIKE/NOT LIKE WHAT THEY SAW, THEY POINT TO THINGS THEY UNDERSTAND AND THAT OFTEN MANIFESTED IN TANGIBLE, OBVIOUS THINGS. HULK TALKED ABOUT THIS BEFORE. AND IN LOST‘S CASE THE INABILITY TO ARTICULATE SUBTLETY MANIFESTS ITSELF BY SAYING THE PROBLEMS OF THE SHOW BECAUSE THEY NOT “ANSWER” THINGS.

(11) – AND THE HOW EVEN IMPACTS THE WHAT… AND MAYBE THE OVERT NATURE OF THE “HOW” WITH THE ENDING, IMPLY ONE TERRIFYING THING… THE SHOW NOT REALLY BEING SYMBOLIC OR METAPHORICAL ANYMORE. IT BEING LITERAL.

RANDOM THING #1! BY THE WAY. IF THE WHISPERS THE PEOPLE LEFT ON ISLAND WHO CAN NO “MOVE ON” THAT EVERYONE WHO DIE ON THE ISLAND, ARE ALL OUR LOSTIES THE WHISPERS? LIKE WOULD JACK BE A WHISPER? BUT PRESUMABLY NOT THOSE WHO LEFT THE ISLAND? HULK NO GET.

RANDOM THING #2! WITH M.MORSE HERE A GOOD PLACE START WITH HIS WORK ON CHUD: http://www.chud.com/author/jesse-custer/page/6/ AND HERE HIS BLOG: http://losttherewatch.blogspot.com/ HE GREAT. READ HIS STUFF.