Man, That Smoke Monster’s a Bitch.

Posted in Uncategorized on February 18, 2010 by Caitlin Graham

In honor of my beloved “Lost” returning for its final season, I decided, like many avid Losties, to rewatch the entire series. A second, consecutive viewing of the pilot through the end of season five was great for helping me remember certain details and getting me ridiculously excited for the premiere.

But as I was plowing through season after season, I realized something kind of funny—and disturbing. “Lost” is in love with the word “bitch.”

We’re all more than familiar with Sawyer’s penchant for “son of a bitch.” And how can we forget Ben’s greatest line, “Destiny is a fickle bitch”?

Those instances were expected and didn’t disturb me in the least. What did disturb me while watching every episode back to back was how many times a male character referred to a female character as a “bitch.” The first couple of times, it was shocking and kind of funny, but it quickly became an epidemic.

Season one, after Shannon fucks over Boone by revealing that she’s decided to stay with her questionable boyfriend: “You bitch!” Season two, after Ana Lucia closes the trap gate on Sawyer: “Bitch.” Then, after Sawyer realizes that Ana Lucia’s stolen his gun: “That little bitch!”

I think it’s even happened once already this season—one of the Others, I think, calls Kate a bitch when she runs from him in the jungle.

It’s like the writers realized they got away with it the first couple of times, so they’ve just been milking it for all it’s worth. And it definitely disturbs me. I say this as a feminist, not a giant prude: It’s a dangerous word, and not one to be used so lightly.

Love “Lost” though I do, there’s no doubt in my mind that it has some issues with women (and with Daddy, but that’s for another entry altogether). And if it’s not clear from the never-ending bitch spree, it’s definitely clear from the overall half-assed writing of the female characters. There are certainly a few exceptions: Sun, who doesn’t get nearly enough screen time; Ana Lucia, who died; and Juliet, who—hmm—died. Kate, though undoubtedly awesome in season one, has dissolved into a highly offensive collection of female stereotypes (fickle, manipulative with her sexuality as her prime—and lately, her only—weapon, careless, and not at all clever enough to hold her own with the boys).

In a cast of countless principal characters, the very best, by which I mean the most intricate, layered, and developed, are still, in my opinion, overwhelmingly male: Locke, Sawyer, Sayid, and Mr. Eko (also dead—not cool). In a supposedly egalitarian show with universal appeal, the men propel all the action while the women are, for the most part, left out in the cold. The latest in a long line of increasing insults to the show’s female fan base was Kate’s exclusion from the Wall O’ Jacob Replacements in the latest episode (and Hurley’s inclusion? WTF).

I mean, “Lost” is a show that I hold very, very close to my heart, but I often have to turn a blind eye to some of its antics in order to do so. Which I guess is the case for most of us, really. Plot holes are a bitch.

Van Der Beek, The Sequel

Posted in Uncategorized on July 31, 2009 by Caitlin Graham

It sucks when you’re the most hated character on your own show.

When a still mostly unknown actor from a mostly unknown town in Connecticut received word that he’d nabbed the title role in a new WB teen drama—that is, back when the WB existed, and was in its Golden Era of Teen Dramas—he must have been ecstatic.

Then he turned to Page 1 of the pilot. And discovered THIS:

Okay, okay. This screenshot isn’t from the pilot episode of Dawson’s Creek. But it might as well stand for every Dawson-centric moment throughout the series.

Dawson Leery is obnoxious beyond compare. He’s naive, idealistic (and not in an endearing, George Bailey sort of way), completely self-centered, and completely deluded. And, as you all can see from Exhibit A, he’s a giant pansy.

In other words, he fully lives up to the movie geek stereotype, bedroom wallpapered in Spielberg posters and all. (We can’t all be slaves to Netflix and still manage to be as badass as yours truly.)

But the intrepid Van Der Beek was not disheartened by this, no. He took to his designated role with gusto, and he played Dawson so well that we’re still busy hating him six years after the show ended.

Actually, he played Dawson so well, we often forget that Van Der Beek himself is kind of awesome.

Remember the opening to the MTV Movie Awards, the year Dawson’s completed its first season, when VDB and Mrs. Tom Cruise recreated their ridiculously drawn out first kiss from the finale? When the camera pulled back to reveal that Dawson and Joey were actually leaning toward each other from opposite ends of the room, I thought I’d bust a capillary I was laughing so hard.

And, although many Kevin Smith fans prefer to forget it, remember his hilarious cameo with Jason Biggs in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back?

Jay: Hey, wait a second! Aren’t you the guy who fucked the pie?!
Jason Biggs: You see! It’s never “Hey! You’re that guy from Loser” or “Hey you rocked in Boys and Girls.” No, it always comes back to that fucking pie! I’m HAUNTED by it!
James Van Der Beek: …You put your dick in a pie.

And who can forget Varsity Blues?

I’m not talking about the scene with Ali Larter and the whipped cream (although yes, I am a fan). I’m of course talking about that oft-repeated soundbite: “I don’t want (insert dramatic inhalation here) your life.” Even though The Beek was playing it straight, that line will never cease to make me piss my pants.

So why was such a gifted actor, who obviously has no qualms about making fun of himself, forced to play such a godawful character? Maybe it was karma at work. Maybe Dawson was Van Der Beek’s punishment for portraying such a douche in Angus, or for his general involvement in I Love You, I Love You Not (Why, Claire Danes, why?).

Either way, he seems to be getting his own revenge now. He recently appeared on my current favorite show and what is, in my opinion, the best sitcom on television today.

Yes, that’s Van Der Beek as Robin’s Canadian rocker boyfriend on “How I Met Your Mother” (OMG I love Cobie Smulders). He’s also recently had guest appearances on “Medium,” “Ugly Betty,” and “One Tree Hill.” And according to IMDB, there might be a TV movie coming up very soon — be still my Lifetime-loving heart.

Hopefully with a bit more work, we can all put Dawson to bed.

Go, Van Der Beek, go.

Zombies & RPGs: A Nerd’s Wet Dream

Posted in Uncategorized on April 7, 2009 by Caitlin Graham

Last week, I had the extreme pleasure of attending a special screening of NYC filmmaker Glenn McQuaid’s I Sell the Dead at the IFC Center. Just a warning: this review may be biased, as the majority of the audience was made up of people who worked on the film, and their enthusiasm for it was infectious. And I’d be lying if I said my decision to buy tickets a month in advance wasn’t completely informed by my ongoing crush on Dominic Monaghan. But if I can’t set those prejudices aside to call out a shitty movie, then I’m not worthy of buffing like I do.

Thankfully, however, there’s no need for that here. McQuaid’s quirky horror comedy, which follows the exploits of two 18th century grave robbers, is not only fun but ambitious; he manages to make Dead‘s world look so authentically period and so authentically English, that it’s hard to believe most of it was filmed in the tri-state area just last year.

The entire cast must also be commended for such verisimilitude. However, no other actor embodies the film’s setting quite like Larry Fessenden, who plays the mentor to Monaghan’s novice corpse-stealer. The multi-talented character actor juggles the creepy and the charismatic like a mad magician. And both Fessenden and Monaghan are certainly at their best when playing off of each other. Their chemistry holds the film together, reaching its peak in a scene where the two discover their first living corpse.

If you’re not a genre buff, you’ll still thoroughly enjoy I Sell the Dead. Even the most over-the-top moments really work thanks to the actors, who fully commit to the gritty but fantastical world McQuaid creates.

Since Dead was part of a Best of Slamdance series, the audience was also treated to one of the short films screened there, Emily Carmichael’s The Adventures of Ledo & Ix.

In an aesthetic reminiscent of the original Legend of Zelda, Carmichael explores the existential crises of two 8-bit warriors on an unexplained quest. Beyond that, I can’t possibly give a better explanation of the film than the terribly talented young filmmaker does on her web site.

The fact that I even remembered Ledo & Ix–let alone was still excited about it–after two hours of The Monaghan, speaks volumes about how awesome it is. I came home and immediately went to Carmichael’s web site, then proceeded to e-mail the link to all my friends, then proceeded to e-mail her to gush like a twelve-year-old. Like I told her, I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Do yourself a favor and watch it!

Pretty, But Pretty Far-Fetched

Posted in Uncategorized on November 9, 2008 by Caitlin Graham

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

There’s no need for a full review of Woody Allen’s latest. My feelings about it were articulated perfectly by the cranky 80-something next to me, who got up and walked out after only ten minutes: “This is too far-fetched.”

And in case you need a bit more clarity, at one point in the film ScarJo ends up in a polyamorous relationship with Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz – and eventually leaves them.

I’m sorry, but if I stumbled into said threesome, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t jump ship. Ever.

Where Have All the Children Gone?

Posted in Uncategorized on August 16, 2008 by Caitlin Graham

A Tribute to 90s Kids Movies

As I sat down to do my nails on this lovely Saturday afternoon, I flipped on the tube for some background noise. To my shock and delight, I discovered that 3 Ninjas was starting on Encore right at that moment. Oh sweet serendipity.

The story of three very white young brothers who, by some unknown miracle, manage to have a Chinese grandfather — who also happens to be a martial arts expert — inarguably goes in my Box of Guilty Pleasures. It was, and still is, a C movie with mostly no-name actors (for good reason), and a script that’s What Would Happen if The Karate Kid and Under Siege Had a Baby (and the Baby Threw Up)? Nonetheless, I have to watch it every time it’s on.

At the end of the day, almost any kid-centric movie of the 90s can steal my attention and my heart. It’s mostly nostalgia. But it’s also the caliber of kid actors of that period.

Children of baby boomers were truly fortunate in that we grew up with extremely well-fed egos. Coming of age in the late 80s and early 90s, representations of ourselves ran rampant, from films to TV to books. We enjoyed a childhood of unprecedented self-reflection and self-indulgence.

Shawna Waldron in Little Giants

But kids movies in the 90s didn’t just feature kids — they made us interesting. Adolescent characters had real fears, quirks, and humor, and the young actors who played them had the ability to captivate all viewers, kids and adults alike. We had really never seen an era quite like it in film, and we probably won’t see one like it for a while.

I think it’s only fair that I take this time to remember my five favorite kids movies of the 90s.

The Sandlot

Why? It’s not just one of the best kids movies of the 90s — it’s one of the best movies of all time. I never wanted to be a 12 year-old boy in early 60s smalltown America so much in my life.
Best part: Too many, but I’ll only mention two. One, the great big insult-hurtling fight on the diamond between Ham and the douche bag leader of the town’s “legit” baseball team. Two, the entire sequence at the pool.

My Girl

Why? It still leaves me bawling like a baby, after all these years. And I’m sorry, but we’ll never see a young female character like Vada Sultenfuss ever again.
Best part: Vada’s big funeral breakdown. “Wanna go tree-climbing, Thomas J?” I’m tearing up just typing it.

Little Giants

Why? Two words: Junior Floyd. He was my everything.
Best part: I’ve got two for this one too. One, when The Icebox first sees Junior in the supermarket, tossing rolls of toilet paper like footballs. Two, after the running drill at Cowboys tryouts — Zolteck says, “How’d I do, Coach?” and Kevin (the genius Ed O’Neill) replies, “I don’t know, son, I don’t have a sundial.”  Never gets old.

Home Alone

Why? Are you kidding? It’s Home Alone.
Best part: Kevin using the 30s gangster film to scare off the burglars. It’s even better in the sequel. “Merry Christmas, you filthy animal. (bang) …And a happy new year.”

Now & Then

Why? It really encapsulates, better than any film, the complex dynamic amongst a group of young female friends. Aaaand Devon Sawa’s in this one too.
Best part: Crazy Pete saving Samantha’s life. Again, I’m tearing up.

Some honorable mentions that didn’t really fit the “mood” of this list:
Stephen King’s It and The Good Son. Pretty much anything with a young Elijah Wood, really.

According to the Bible (IMDB), Max Elliott Slade (“Colt” of 3 Ninjas) will be making a comeback in Ron Howard’s upcoming Frost/Nixon. Let’s see if he throws in a little roundhouse kick at some point.

The Dark Knight: A Posthumous Performance

Posted in Uncategorized on July 20, 2008 by Caitlin Graham
“In their last moments, people show you who they really are.” – The Joker

There is something both unsettling and fascinating about watching an actor onscreen who has recently passed.  I’ve often wondered how audiences contemporary to Monroe felt watching The Misfits, or James Dean in Giant.  When a film actor is taken from us too soon, we feel conflicted about unseen footage of them.  Playing that footage, seeing their image moving before us again, is like bringing them back to life, and it’s something we both fear and crave.  On one hand, it feels a bit occultish.  On the other, it gives us a chance to make peace with them.

I must admit that I felt apprehensive about seeing The Dark Knight.  As a fan of Ledger who was deeply upset by his death this past January, I felt compelled to both open my eyes wide at the screen and to clench them shut, turning my head in the other direction.  I’ve spoken with several people who feel similarly torn, and I want to let them all know: I’m so glad I decided not to turn away.

I simply can’t write a review of the film that’s not mostly a review of Ledger’s performance as The Joker.  It’s been said (and will continue to be said) over and over again: he takes this character and the entire film to unexpected levels.

Like many, I was profoundly affected by his performance in Brokeback Mountain.  His turn as Ennis is a beautifully complex piece of cinematic acting, in that his most affecting moments happen when he’s not saying anything at all.  What Ledger (and director Ang Lee) do with silence is key.

In The Dark Knight, Ledger gives the performance of a truly great stage actor, disappearing into The Joker without a trace.  I let his looming, painted image overwhelm me, searching for the performer behind the makeup and not being able to find him at all.  It is Heath’s face under there, that’s for certain, but it’s difficult to remember that when it is as if he has slipped into an actual mask.

Not only is he physically unrecognizable, though; his actual voice seems to come from another place.  His vocal quality is so transformed that it is as if he’s been possessed.  And the shades and variations of the voice he’s chosen are startling — in a scene featuring news footage of The Joker torturing a Batman impersonator, Ledger’s vocals move seamlessly from creepily playful to vicious and animal-like.  His insistent “Look at me!” comes out like a lion’s growl, his laughter almost a snarl.

At times, even Ledger’s fellow actors can’t seem to recognize him.  They seem genuinely terrified when put face to face with him, like they are not acting at all.

To say that his death didn’t inform my experience of his performance would be an out-and-out lie.   In his sadistic soliloquies, which are more like arias, certain quotes are perhaps more disturbing than they would have been or should have been had the film been released before his death.  His opening line, along with the quote above, sets an elegaic tone: “What doesn’t kill you only makes you… stranger.”

Even though he brings unprecedented insecurity and darkness to The Joker, Ledger inspired a loving response in my fellow audience members, to say the least.  They rooted for the villain for the duration of the film, more enthusiastically than our supposed dark knight.

What Ledger had in common with Dean and Monroe, aside from being taken from us prematurely, was that he was a young actor on the precipice of greatness.  I expected to feel a sense of loss watching him deliver such a performance, an undeniable indication of many more invaluable performances to come, knowing they never will.  Instead, I felt privileged to see this one at all.

The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Posted in Uncategorized on February 1, 2008 by Caitlin Graham

Okay. So I’ve never discussed my relationship with “Lost” on here before. But that’s not because it’s more dismissable than the other things I discuss on here – oh no, quite the contrary. I’ve never blogged about it because I never felt like I could. I love the show too fucking much. It’s too personal.

The show truly has taken on the presence of a person in my life. A fickle, overwhelming, scary, and insanely attractive person. I spend a great deal of time and effort thinking about “Lost,” talking about “Lost,” and generally walking around in a “Lost”-related fog.

I resisted it for three seasons. I did. I’m kind of elitist in that if there’s a film or show that everyone watches and everyone gushes over, I refuse to see it. I get skeptical for no other reason except that everyone likes it and that must mean it sucks because the best things in life are underrated. I fully admit that this is a ridiculous way of living my life, but I don’t see it changing anytime soon. So deal with it.

But after three years of protest, I finally gave in this past summer. I netflixed the first season and held off on adding the second to my queue until I had watched an episode or two.

Within five minutes, I was addicted. I spent the next month devouring episodes after work and on the weekends. I got helplessly sucked into a “Lost” vortex. I’d lay on my bed alone, shut the lights off, and let those four white, hypnotic, swirling letters take me into another world.

I don’t just watch “Lost.” It goes far beyond that. Although I’m not the type of Lostie to surf Lost Theory web sites all day trying to figure out who’s in the coffin or if Jacob is really Jack-from-the-future. Those things do interest me. (And the phenomenon of all those web sites and all those people on them interests me perhaps even more.) But it’s those 44-46 minutes of pure show that have a hold on my heart.

I won’t really go into what I love so much about the show because, like I said, it goes beyond words. I can, however, say that John Locke is the greatest character in television history, and that 80% of my passion for “Lost” is due to him. He is fucking magic. When Ben shot him at the end of last season, I almost had a coronary. But I ultimately didn’t panic, because as fickle as “Lost” is, I knew it wouldn’t kill John Locke. At least not now. He still has “work to do,” as Walt said.

Which brings me to who “Lost” did kill.

Alright. So I get why Charlie died. And honestly, I’m glad he did for the sake of the show’s arc. And they built it up WAY too much to take it back. And from what I can see from last night’s premiere, it’s going to allow for Hurley’s character to go places emotionally that are unprecedented.

And it was a truly beautiful death. Beautifully done, beautifully acted.

But. (BEWARE OF FANGIRL AHEAD.)

OMGILOVEDOMINICMONAGHAN. LOOOOOOOOOVE. L-O-V-E. OMG he’s dreamy.

And I really wanted to reap the benefits of seeing him in the privacy of my own home once a week every week. But now I won’t be able to, because Charlie had to go and get his ass drowned. God dammit.

The writers were kind enough to make my boo appear again in last night’s premiere (as a flash forward vision of Hurley’s, of course). And he was looking quite tasty. Apparently you can get a nice cut and shave in Heaven.

Will I enjoy the show as much now that he’s gone? As long as John Locke stays alive, probably.