the 100 season 4 finale, and me

I am not one to indulge in direct public revelations about my life. My “memoirs” as represented on this blog consist largely of my thoughts on movies and television and music. I purposely don’t spend much time exposing my “inner self”. This is, perhaps, a character flaw. Certainly, I have a tendency to look away from the problems of others. I am too alienated from the world to make the proper connections to my fellow humans.

My wife had a tough day at work, and she asked if we could go out to a nice restaurant for dinner, which we did. Donald Trump did something stupid ... I can’t say what, in fact as I type this I don’t know what he did today that was different from the stupid thing he did the day before. Some of my friends are doing well, but others are struggling.

But, if I am being honest, the only thing that really mattered to me was that The 100 would be airing their Season Four finale.

In too many ways to count, the characters on TV shows and in movies are more real to me, more important to me, than the human beings I know. I know this isn’t right, but there it is.

There is room for both our interaction with the world and our experience of works of art. But I’m aware that there is an imbalance for me, that I’m more intensely involved with the art than I am with the real.

And so, as I watched the extremely tense season finale of The 100, I cared, deeply, about what might happen to the characters and their world. If you are unfamiliar with The 100, it takes place around 100 years after a nuclear apocalypse. Season Four has focused on an impending second nuclear apocalypse, and the attempts of the remaining survivors to cope with that situation. There was excitement in watching our heroes and heroines showing their strength in the face of the potential end of the human race. It must be said that part of the excitement came from knowing that the people behind The 100 have never been shy about killing off popular, important characters, so that no one’s survival was guaranteed. (This is not quite true ... there is one character, arguably two, that won’t be dying any time soon.) In fact, death on a major scale is an integral part of the series. Of course, the built-in premise is that only a few people survived the initial apocalypse. But as the show progressed, characters were forced to make decisions with no good answers that often meant pulling the plug on hundreds of people. This video, made after only two seasons had aired, shows how the main character, Clarke, has been responsible for the deaths of more than 900:

I am deeply invested in Clarke, and the other characters on the show, especially her relationship with Lexa ... although I am nowhere near as invested in that relationship as some fans:

OK, I lied. I was right there with those fans.

I don’t quite understand it. There are better shows than The 100 ... The Leftovers is probably the best of what is currently running, or The Americans. But none of those other shows connect with me the way The 100 does. More to the point of this post, nothing in real life affects me the way The 100 does.


casual: hulu's back in town

I dropped Hulu when Criterion moved their collection to FilmStruck. Thought I wouldn’t miss it, since I mostly used it for the Criterions, but today, the Hulu series Casual began its third season. Given that my wife was kind of hoping I’d re-up with Hulu so we could watch The Handmaid’s Tale, I gave in.

Based on the first episode of the new season, I am still not sure why I’m watching Casual, or even writing about it. I had a couple of things to say, but then I looked at earlier posts and saw I’d said it already:

There are television shows (and movies, for that matter) that my wife tends to avoid because they have no characters to “root for”. It’s not about a contest, it’s just that she likes to have a least one person who has some chance of becoming a good person, if they aren’t there already....

Casual, a Hulu series which just finished its second season, is about a woman who is breaking up with her husband and moves, with their daughter, into her brother’s home. Once we meet the siblings’ parents, we understand why they are having such trouble as adults ... they had a rough childhood in a psychological sense. And over two seasons, the three main characters work gradually towards becoming better people. All three of them are extremely self-absorbed, but when they step outside of themselves we see some pretty decent people. The characters feel real, with all of their flaws, and we root for them.

Except ... the brother is the #1 amongst equals when it comes to self-absorption. He tramples on the lives of others, always thinking that he is the one who is suffering (in fairness, he often is). I know this kind of person ... I am this kind of person. And I try to do better, as does the character. But he is so horrible that, using my wife’s criteria, he is practically unwatchable. The writing is good, the acting is good, but I simply can’t stand that guy. I don’t even like when he gets a comeuppance, because I know it will lead to more scenes where he thinks only of himself and his traumas.

Let’s just say he hits too close to home for me. It’s a good show, but I can’t say I enjoy it much.

That first episode of the new season gave me no reason to change my mind. Yet here I am, back for another round.


stalker (andrei tarkovsky, 1979)

I recently took part in a poll asking for our favorite “road movies”, such films being loosely defined. My top five, in order, were Bonnie and Clyde, Breathless, L’Avventura, Y Tu Mamá También, and The Wizard of Oz. Topping the poll was Badlands. My own fave, Bonnie and Clyde, finished third. Second was Tarkovsky’s Stalker, which gave me an excuse to add another of his films to my list. I admit I was hesitant ... I haven’t exactly loved the ones I’ve seen, and Stalker is almost three hours long.

To recap: I liked Ivan’s Childhood and Andrei Rublev, thought less of The Mirror, and have terrible memories of Solaris. For me, Stalker was closer to the first two than the latter two.

There is a plot to Stalker, but I don’t think anyone cared about it too much. It plays a bit like an artier, more philosophical version of Linklater’s “Before” movies. There are essentially three characters, known by their professions ... The Stalker (a guide who takes seekers through The Zone), The Professor, and The Writer (the latter two being the seekers). As they walk through The Zone, they partake in philosophical discussions about not only their own lives, but also the state of all humankind. It’s three hours of existential angst that sinks deep, not only because of the acting and dialogue, but also because of the look of the film, which is at times beautiful but it almost always stark. Add the setting, some kind of post-apocalypse world of blasted landscapes and leftover tanks that look like dinosaurs. It is bleak ... this is a bleak film, with little room for any kind of hope. The vagueness of the narrative, and the lack of explanation for what has happened to the physical world, forces us to narrow our focus to the discussions with the three men.

And it isn’t always easy to remain interested in those discussions. Some are better than others, but eventually you wish the damn thing was about an hour shorter.

As usual, Tarkovsky makes the film he wants, and leaves it to us to come to him ... he’s not coming to us. Take this segment from the film’s Wikipedia page:

Upon its release the film's reception was less than favorable. Officials at Goskino, a government group otherwise known as the State Committee for Cinematography, were critical of the film. On being told that Stalker should be faster and more dynamic, Tarkovsky replied:

“[T]he film needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theatre have time to leave before the main action starts.”

The Goskino representative then stated that he was trying to give the point of view of the audience. Tarkovsky supposedly retorted:

“I am only interested in the views of two people: one is called Bresson and one called Bergman.”

Fine aspirations. But my name is neither Bresson nor Bergman, which leaves me once again in the awkward position of trying to figure out a work by an artist who doesn’t care if I get it figured out or not. And this makes Stalker into one of those films that I admire much more than I actually like it. And my admiration is muted by Tarkovsky’s lack of interest in that admiration. Most critics can get past this ... it’s #59 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 7/10.