By Tom Macy
May 31, 2010
I’ll just come right out and say I liked it. In fact, I loved it. The only things I didn’t love came up when I started measuring it up to expectations I had about what questions might be answered. Basically, I was trying to rationalize myself into being disappointed, when in reality I had just spent two hours shifting between seizures and sobs. It was the reverse of my reactions to highly anticipated movie events in recent years. With films like The Phantom Menace, The Matrix Reloaded and Superman Returns, I’d walk out doing my best to convince myself that I wasn't horribly disappointed and pretend I loved it, only to throw my hands up a few days, weeks, or months later and say, “oh, who am I kidding? That was awful!”
My satisfaction with the conclusion of Lost is almost too alien too accept. I’m so used to being betrayed by investing in certain franchises, which is part of what got me to my current feelings about Hollywood I discussed earlier. The main reason I found the end so unsettlingly satisfying? I cared. The decision to remind the audience why we love the show and have loved the show for the last six seasons was the best route that could have been taken. Because when I look back on moments that defined the series for me, they weren’t when I found out what was in the hatch. They were when Jack refused to let Charlie die.
It’s one thing to say that the pulpy-genre piece you’re producing/directing/writing all sprouts from strongly defined characters. Who’s really going to come out and say, “I’m looking to do a hollow story with one-dimensional characters to hang action set-pieces on.” After all, George Lucas famously said, “A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.” But I digress. Lost creators Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindeloff have done the same and claimed that they think of Lost as character-based rather than plot-based. Well, last Sunday they put their money where their mouth was.
Saying that it’s not about the destination but the journey may sound as cheap as the clichés I claimed to have ruined movies for me, but honestly, the shoe fits. If I had been given a lists of answers just to fill in gaps in a mythology, what am I really watching? I’ll be the first to admit that I fixated on why Libby was in the mental institution and why Jacob had the power to anoint Richard with everlasting life. But why did I care about that in the first place? Because I care how it effects Jack, Hurley, Kate…the list – amazingly – goes on for about 20-some odd characters.
By providing us with a base of characters for whom we have unwavering empathy, the stakes for tension, drama, thrills, action and any other run-of-the-mill genre device you can pull out of a hat, it all of a sudden became elevated and the result is the best movie I’ve seen all year. And it was on TV.
Of course, TV has the advantage for building character over tens if not hundreds of hours. A movie has to do it in three or less. Is that why we’re seeing better and better TV and worse and worse movies? I would say that is a definite yes. Don’t like it, Hollywood? Prove me wrong (my money is on Inception), but until you do expect Selling Out to be covering the silver screen more often. I can just hear the executives trembling.