Open Thread for July 31, 2009

How will I get my fix? I’ll have to get it from you.

In movies, Judd Apatow, Meryl Streep, and Twilight casting drama.

In music, Eminem records a diss track about Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon.

In other news, I now live in Los Angeles. There’s, like, no pop culture here. How will I get my fix?

I’ll have to get it from you. In the open thread.

25 Comments on “Open Thread for July 31, 2009”

  1. Trevor #

    I believe there is a community just to the west of Los Angeles’ lower downtown area, where culture once thrived and people were once happy. Then Mel Gibson came along and exposed the vicious Jewish cabal that ran the town, and like Gary Cooper in “High Noon” he faced them down single-handedly.

    I apologize, I was quoting from the Aryan’s Guide to Hollywood (Mein Kampf Publishing, Munich, Germany, 349 pages, circa 2005).


  2. Megan from Lombard #

    ‘Burn Notice’ and ‘Royal Pains’ both got renewed for another season. I think that it was a given for ‘Burn Notice’ but ‘Pains’ was kind of iffy…it never really grabbed me and has ended up being a wind-down from the awesomeness that is Michael Weston. Although the way they’ve set up the summer finale it should be interesting to see how they end it.

    Also, what do people think about killing main characters off of a show? Is it really needed in order to “shake things up” or just a cop-out in order to get higher ratings?


  3. Dock #

    What was skynets ultimate goal in attacking humanity? I mean, if they were successful in eliminating all humans, what would they have done next? Other than waging global war, what other aspirations did skynet have? Once successful would they have just shut off? Or would they have taken our places, and have BBQ’s and vacation down the Jersey shore? I wish the ultimate motivation was more closely examined because I gotta think that a super computer capable of learning would have realized that once its “enemies” were wiped out, they would need something to fill their time.


  4. mlawski OTI Staff #

    @Megan: Actually, Royal Pains did better in the ratings than Burn Notice. Don’t ask me why. Burn Notice has been amazing this season, and Royal Pains, while cute, is no great shakes.

    As for killing main characters off shows, I can say after recently watching three seasons of Lost and seven seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that it can be really, really good or really, really bad. It depends on who you’re killing, why you’re killing them, and how they die.

    WHO: Don’t kill off the lead, unless it’s the last episode. Even then, think twice before pulling the trigger. Don’t kill any characters that are really, really likable, unless you have a load of other likable characters to fill the void. Don’t ruin any good character dynamics by killing a character — for instance, I’d be super-angry if any of the main three on Burn Notice died, because that would ruin the show. Anyone else is fair game.

    WHY: Ideally, kill someone because it makes sense, plot-wise, not because you just felt like it or because their contract is up.

    HOW: If it’s a main character people like, have them die awesomely and/or give them a good death speech. If it’s a main character people don’t like, redeem them before they die — in other words, have that character die for a cause. If it’s a major villain, make sure a main character kills them and/or they have a deliciously karmic death.

    If you fail to follow the above rules, the death will most likely feel like a cop-out.


  5. Hazbaz #

    Hello Chaps/Chapesses,
    Just wanted to list off some of the pop culture things that have popped up on my radar today:
    The trailer for Wes Anderson’s take on The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which looks like fun.
    The next Halo game apparently reuniting the cast of Firefly, and the fact that this appears to have been massively successful in getting people excited about the game.
    The proposed remake of Captain Blood, now set in space!


  6. Gab #

    Cartoon Network “jumped the shark,” one could say:

    And don’t forget that “SyFy” was launched a few weeks ago. Careful, we may end up seeing something like “Bridal Bakedown” on Spike TV soon.

    Apatow: I think Heigl would have more credibility if she didn’t take roles like that all the time. She had a good point in _Vanity Fair_, but so did Judd and Seth on Howard Stern’s show. Her character in _27 Dresses_ wasn’t quite as bad, but she herself isn’t going to be thought of as anything but a “shrew” if she keeps playing the type.

    Streep: Are you talking about the lion thing? Or the boob thing?

    Twilight: I’m actually pretty disappointed in Bryce Dallas Howard for taking it. Not only because of the shady circumstances (are there no ethics in casting decisions?), but, come on- it’s the _Twilight Saga_ for crying out loud. I think she’s capable of a lot more. Like them or not, she was VERY good in the two Shymalan movies she did. Why does she keep picking stupid movies? _Spiderman 3_, _T:S:_, and now _Eclipse_? Why isn’t her father kicking her in the pants? I’m not saying he should pull strings for her, but he should at least sit her down and seriously talk to her about the roles she takes on. (Done rant.)

    *****Little Women, Lost, and Serenity (movie, not the series, Firefly) SPOILERS….*****

    Good example of killing a character: Beth in Little Women. Bad: Mr. Eko in Lost. Unforgivable: Wash in Serenity.


  7. Megan from Lombard #

    @Gab: I agree with you 100% on the last one; I pretend in my little world that that entire scene never happened ^-^

    and about “re-branding” SyFy; that was a dumb thing to do but then again it’s owned by NBC so it’s not shocking…I mean they already have *wrestling* on it (nothing against wrestling in general but I don’t think it belongs on the same channel that airs ‘Sharks in Venice’) and really bad reality shows so to me it just follows the stupidity of the whole concept…

    Another bad/unforgivable example of killing a character: Ianto Jones during the Torchwood miniseries ‘Children of Earth’.

    Complete and utter cop-out.


  8. DaveW #

    I’d have to disagree with you on the last one, Gab. I felt the same way for a long time, and dearly, dearly love the character, but then I thought a little more about the effect that that death had on me. Prior to that event, while there was some amount of dramatic tension, we the audience knew everyone would make it out ok, so while we were a little worried, we weren’t THAT worried. Then, out of nowhere, BAM! he’s dead, and there’s clearly no coming back from a wound like that.

    With that one death, suddenly all bets were off. Anything could happen. And when the rest of the crew start dropping like flies, the thought that was now running trough my head was “Holy Shit! No one’s getting out of this alive.” I was genuinely scared for the characters, and the final battle hit home in a way it otherwise couldn’t have.

    So while I lament the death (and cry a little inside every time his face shows up in the funeral scene), I don’t feel it was as unforgivable as it first appears.


  9. stokes #

    @Mlawski – what would you hold up as an example of a good character death?

    @Dock – They went into this a little in various places, actually. If I remember right, Skynet was originally a missile defense program designed to protect humans from other humans. At some point, it decided that humanity itself was the cause of all war, and that therefore humanity would have to be destroyed.

    @Captain Blood IN SPACE (…ACE …Ace … ace) – What the WHAT?! Can this please be a massive success, and start a minor fad for ridiculous high-concept remakes of all the classic swashbuckler movies? Screenwriter: “Okay, so picture this: Robin Hood hangs out in the woods all the time because he’s a werewolf.” Producer: “I get it! And the Sherriff of Nottingham and his men are vampires, then?” Writer: “Well obviously.”


  10. stokes #

    @Hazbaz – I’m a little concerned about the Fantastic Mr. Fox because I always feel like most of what Wes Anderson has going fo himself is a unique visual sensibility, and I don’t know if he’ll be able to impose it on the stop-motion process. Also, the wooden and/or exaggerated line readings that he seems to encourage – fun and cool in a live action movie, granted – might disturb the illusion that the animated characters are actually “talking,” and that’s never a good thing.


  11. stokes OTI Staff #

    It does look pretty good, doesn’t it? I guess it doesn’t matter if it has Anderson’s signature look as long as the look that it does have is interesting. I love the jerkiness. Hopefully they won’t try to smooth it out in post or anything.

    I’m less sure about the sound. I find myself just thinking “That’s George Clooney. That’s George Clooney. That’sGeorge Clooney.”


  12. mlawski OTI Staff #


    @Jordan: Well, I must admit that I’ve watched up to the end of Lost season three, and the death in the last two episodes was very, very well done. But let’s not do Lost. Or at least, not only Lost.

    Good main character death: Tidus from Final Fantasy X (but he gets better) — You know, it’s really hard for me to think of other good examples. I almost always hate when they kill off the main character.

    Good likable character death: Spock & Gandalf – except the fact that both of them live sort of undermines it; Kaji from Evangelion; Rorschach

    Good not-so-likable character death: Victor at the end of season 2 of Burn Notice; Charlie at the end of season 3 of Lost; Dobby, oddly enough the most affecting death in the whole Harry Potter series for me

    Good villain deaths: Vader and Palpatine at the end of Jedi; also Carla at the end of season two of Burn Notice – god, how happy I was when that finally happened.

    I actually think Wash’s death is an exception to the above rules. His death came out of nowhere, AND he was easily the most likable character on the show. BUT! I thought it was well done. If that had happened during an episode of the series, it would have been awful. But at the end of the movie, when you’re already assuming that there’s going to be no more Firefly ever after this, it works. And at least we were given some time to grieve for him, unlike at the end of the last Harry Potter book, when likable characters were killed left and right but, for the most part, didn’t get their “oh no, sadness!” moment.

    I understand why writers say, “I’m going to kill someone quickly and without fanfare, because that’s what real life is like.” And that’s fine, if you’re making a super-realistic film like, say, The Hurt Locker. But when you’re writing Harry Potter or Firefly or something, you’re not being naturalistic. You’re in the realm of the Romance (in the literary sense of the term, not the lovely dovey sense of the term). So, damn it, authors, give your audiences what they want: dramatic, awesome deaths.


  13. Gab #

    @Dave: I know from interviews and such that what you experienced is exactly what Whedon wanted his audience to experience, the feeling that all bets are off and what-have-you- and I experienced it, too. But I still am completely dissatisfied with *how* that was achieved. One moment, he’s talking, the next, he’s got a pole in his chest. It was too abrupt and sudden. Look at Mlawski’s criteria for how to make a main character we love die well. That wasn’t a “good” death. Wash was worth more than that, he deserved more. I would have felt just as terrified for the characters if, say, Jayne had decided to sacrifice himself as they were hunkered down, giving some little speech about how it’s time he proved he wasn’t as selfish as he let them think (or if someone else called him on it and he didn’t deny it), no, he needs to go, they all have a lot more to live for than he does, etc.- but I would have been *much* more satisfied with how he died. Or if it just had to be Wash, perhaps connecting his flying to it somehow would have worked, like the ship crashing into something that flies through the windshield and hits him and then giving him some sort of awesome farewell speech. *How* Wash died was/is my problem, not the fact that he died at all.


  14. mlawski OTI Staff #

    Double Post!

    Also, sometimes the quick “naturalistic” deaths aren’t that naturalistic at all. Yes, Wash probably would have died immediately from that, er, wound, and, yes, the Avada Kedavra is an insta-kill, but, otherwise, in real life, people usually don’t die so fast. Even if you get shot right in the heart, you’ll probably live for another minute — plenty of time to make an awesome death speech or allow the hero to say, “No, sidekick! Hang on! We’ll get you out of this!”

    The end of A Tale of Two Cities was another good main character death with another great death speech.


  15. Gab #


    @Mlawski: Meh, I’m still not convinced Wash’s death was satisfactory, and it comes from what you say in your last paragraph. His death just seemed too abrupt, almost as if there was no care for the character at all. I’m watching a movie with characters I have invested a part of myself in, and having them seemingly arbitrarily nicked sort of puts me at odds with the people in charge of their universe. If they had given him a goodbye speech or something, it would have worked for me. But no. “I’m a leaf on the-” STAAAAAB! Dead.

    Ham, what?

    Mayhap I just care a bit *too* much or am too picky in what I consider a “good” death? Ah, sorry.

    I agree with you about Dobby! I got choked up with some of the deaths of other main characters, but there, I had to put the book down. Well, not when he *actually* died, but the funeral bit. The funeral is what made it so good and satisfying. Had the house elves remained included in the films, that would have been a perfect place to divide the seventh book for the two-part screen adaptation. Alas, no dice, so who knows where it will be split at? But that’s not relevant to the discussion, here…

    I think all of the deaths at the end of Gladiator were done very well. Hagen (the big Germanian) had an almost-Wash death, but he gets this look on his face that, imo, takes the place of a death speech. And the death of Proximo (my favorite character, for what it’s worth here) was written well enough that I didn’t realize he was originally supposed to live until a few years after I saw the movie the first time- I knew there had been digital and editing tricks to put him in at the end because of Oliver Reed’s death, but a script change had never occurred to me.


  16. Trevor #

    Great character death: Kevin Spacey’s Jack Vincinnes in LA Confidential (you didn’t see it coming the first time around, and it adds weight to the peril that is faced by these guys trying to find out the why and the what when they’re not really sure about the who).


  17. Gab #

    @Trevor: YES!!!


  18. DaveW #

    ***YET MORE SPOILERS (Cowboy Bebop this time)***

    Spike at the end of CB. There’s really just no other way his story could have ended. It was perfect.


  19. mlawski OTI Staff #

    @Everyone else: I was rethinking my first comment on this post and thought it was too didactic. I shouldn’t write dumb rules for writing, especially when there are always exceptions (see: Blake, Henry from MASH, who died out of nowhere. Maybe one of the most important TV deaths of all time).

    I read this article on Psychology Today about how writers shouldn’t listen to writing advice, and I completely agree, so I should stop giving bad writing advice, too.

    Writers: read it!


  20. mlawski OTI Staff #


    @DaveW: More arguments! When I first saw CB at age 14, I thought Spike’s death was the best ending of all time. Then, when I rewatched it last year, I thought it was the biggest cop out of all time. It was as if the writers said, “Oh no, Spike is getting too much character development. It actually seems like he might grow and change. He might actually try to put in the work to make a better life for himself. …Let’s kill him!” Now I’m one of those conspiracy theorists who thinks he’s still alive.


  21. stokes OTI Staff #

    I’m noticing that very nearly all of the “good” character deaths people are talking about come from movies, or come from the end of a long-running series, or are villains who were clearly never meant to be permanent fixtures on the show. I’m interested in long-term, generally sympathetic characters, who die mid-serial so that the show has to continue on after their deaths.


    The only examples of this from the discussion above are
    Kaji from Evangelion, Charlie from Lost, Blake from Mash. I have actually seen… none of these deaths? But I’d be curious to know if there are any common threads.

    Oh yeah, and Burn Notice: I was *so* happy when they pegged Carla, especially because of Fiona’s reaction, “Fiiinally.” There are SO many times on that show where the best option is clearly just to have Fiona kill somebody. I’m glad they don’t do it often – it would make the show pretty dull – but it was nice to see it once.


  22. stokes OTI Staff #

    @Gab, yeah, I’d go with Hugh Jackman. Actually, he should probably be in every Errol Flynn remake ever. He’s got the right combination of charm and physicality. (And, you know. Dreaminess.)

    By the way, for a fun game, watch the original Captain Blood (or any of the old Flynn movies) and keep asking yourself “Okay, how about in THIS scene: is he actually totally drunk right now?”


  23. mlawski OTI Staff #

    Another nerdy anime reference:


    The death of L–easily the best-loved character of the show–2/3rds of the way through the series was a mix of very good and very bad. His final episode was the best episode in the show for me, and his death was quite well done. But it was the beginning of the end. The death was good, but the show went completely off the rails after that. It’s like if they tried to keep doing a show about The Joker after killing off Batman, or if you tried to do a show about Moriarty without Holmes. The Joker and Prof Moriarty are awesome characters in their own rights, but they only work if they’re up against an opponent just as smart and awesome as they are. Otherwise, what’s the point?


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