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Date Posted: 14:26:40 12/06/09 Sun
Author Host/IP: 126.96.36.199
Subject: Is Joss M. Night?
I am starting to think that when it comes to television Joss is starting to be M. Night Shamylan. I think it's too bad, that JJ Abrahms seems to have taken the quirky actioner to places that Joss aspires to but has only come close to with Firefly and Serenity.
M. Night Shamylan hit it out of the park with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable is an under-appreciated masterpiece. Since then he has been turning out one terrible film after another and it's become clear he needs to stop wirting his own scripts and stick to directing. (And lose the cameos too).
Joss seems to be having a similarly bumpy follow up, at least in TV. BtVS, brilliant, Firefly too, and then he pulls off a coup with the big screen rebirth. A limited budget hurt the film's chances, and while I love the film it was never clear that River was this superhuman threat.
A bar fight? She should single handedly destroyed an alliance ship or something massive to show her threat. But, otherwise a fine film.
But now we have Dollhouse. The second season has shown only glimmers of how brilliant this show could have been.
Friday's two hour Dollhouse was so sloppy and displayed none of the type of grown up drama that we've come to know television is capable of, with Battlestar Galactica the best recent example and Stargate Universe seems to "get".
I know he had no where near the budget, but the directing and writing could have been so much better.
As a show runner, is Joss slipping when it comes to approving scripts and directors to execute his vision?
Dollhouse could have been as cool, dramatic and funny as Alias, in fact it is the very concept of literally adopting another personality that is so genius.
The execution was just bad, especially given that they were offered a second chance. The show seemed too much like 1990's TV, programming that learned nothing from BSG, Alias The Shield, Sons of Anarchy... hmm maybe the show should have been on FX?
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No. -- Kashmanik, 10:25:01 12/09/09 Wed  (188.8.131.52)
Simply because, as you say, Shyamalan's last few films have been universally mauled by critics whilst Joss' recent work has, at the very worst, been regarded as average. I do think you make a good point about Abrams, and I wish that Dollhouse had crafted as many strong character relationships as are shown on Fringe. (To use a recent example, the scene between Walter and Astrid regarding the beating she received was extremely touching in a way that the interpersonal relationships on Dollhouse rarely are.)
I agree that Dollhouse has never quite lived up to its potential, but the most recent two episodes (barring Alexis Denisof's questionable performance) were great and demonstrated exactly what the show should have been doing since the start of season two.
As for your River/Serenity comment, c'mon! The bar fight wasn't the demonstration of River's skills, that was just the taster. The proof of her superhuman abilities came from the fact that she single-handedly fought off dozens of Reavers in the climax of the movie.
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Re: No. -- toothy, 18:52:32 12/09/09 Wed  (184.108.40.206)
I always felt Rivers true threat to the Alliance had nothing to do with super power, but rather her knowledge of how the Reavers came into being.
Joss still has his true believers, but he lost a lot of regular fans that may have followed him to other projects when he deconstucted many of the Buffy characters he constructed so brilliantly.
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Re: No. -- rlb, 16:53:09 12/16/09 Wed  (220.127.116.11)
Even JJ Abrams admits to screwing up Alias in Season 3 an some of S4, but recovered nicely in S5.
My issue with Joss is he seems to be just slightly out of his depth in the action film genre. What seems gigantic in scope on TV, comes across a little too small on the silver screen.
His career is far from over, look at David Fincher, he screwed up Joss' Alien 3 script then went off to do Seven.
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Re: Is Joss M. Night? -- rlb, 03:45:22 12/13/09 Sun  (18.104.22.168)
"The proof of her superhuman abilities came from the fact that she single-handedly fought off dozens of Reavers in the climax of the movie."
Yes, I know that. But as a potential summer blockbuster the 30 seconds of River taking on all the Reavers should have been more if the bar fight was all the taste we were going to get. The movie was satisfying to fans but I can see how an outsider might find it lacking, and thus is fell about $30 million under what would have guaranteed a sequel.
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Re: Is Joss M. Night? -- chuckit25, 13:22:39 12/15/09 Tue  (22.214.171.124)
‘Tis the season of “Ah, humbug” and choirs, so I join in the consensus regarding M. Night Shamalaya. But I believe learning in the wisdom of the darkness renews, energizes and frees the light! Spoiler alerts all over the place, including JJ Abram’s STAR TREK, BTVS season 8, Angel season 6 (comics), Dollhouse and other sources from “gossip/interviews” below.
I find the comparison of Joss to JJ Abrams interesting and particularly clear comparing “Serenity” and such an example as the new “Star Trek.” By way of personal preferences, in this discussion, I am a fan of the television TOS “Star Trek,” even if “Battlestar Galactica” (BSG) has fans having utter contempt for it; and this comparison of shows is closer to me in actually describing the relationship that describes Joss, who loves BSG, as well, and JJAbrams, who actually handled the mythos of Trek, particularly on the premise and structure of actually * proving * there is a reason for hope in the human condition.
Joss tends to explore the darkness in describing his characters, with great moments of doubt, guilt, anger through feelings of revenge and “fated” duty driving heroic action: the reluctant hero. JJ Abrams showed us people who were willing participants and especially grateful to even be in the position of heroes facing the unknown and pressing back the darkness of ignorance, with characters who were built of light, with humor and a healthy fear of dying as insights into other character issues of a back story and skill sets arising from them. Both “good” and “bad.”
JJ Abrams is a master of “action,” but the truth, in his latest example of “Star Trek” is that it is indeed a shallow treatment of character, yet it enables the entire franchise of adventures to start all over again—which, to me, was satisfying for what it was and that it didn’t really pretend to be otherwise; or perhaps, promised possible, deeper exploration of this new universe of these “known” characters to make all new and different choices. (An idea widely considered to be the point of BTVS season 8, which can be utterly dismissed, without harm, to the psyche of Buffy Summers, for we have been shown the hints of similar action, even if taken to new extremes that many fans find are choices she has chosen not to take previously).
“Humans struggle with what being a human is.” Who am I, how do I know, why am I here; and lastly, am I here for how long? Besides, the idea of being all alone in hostile universe, Joss offers answer that humans must struggle to live in the now and that being heroic is to struggle with these ideas, but how he drives the drama is singular in nature: “life is pain” and that has become one note. Positive feelings are merely the set up for pain, immediate and blinding. Therefore the action is in protracted scenes of torture and violence. Further he tends to have incredibly poor final finales in which the message of a successful plan is more important for the heroes final statement than the conflicts he raises regarding the hero himself and that happens in the switch from evil as the antagonist to that of it being death—which is not evil—and when the heroes always could have just left as a solution. Yea, it’s a jaw dropper, but Joss’s narrative offers the solution for a reason and I always found ego drove the answer, a flaw in his heroes, that left them unchanged to me. My example is Angel on ATS. It isn’t a cliff hanger to me, but it was a bait and switch on character and themes; the protagonist was turned into a thug to suddenly deliver an all important * plan * of infiltrating the Black Thorn. Seems to me the senior partners (SP) won right there for a dark (A)angel who wasn’t Angelus.
Furhtermore, I doubt the SP would even notice the oblique kick in the shins, despite the over reaction we were shown, especially with the heavy metaphor of rain suddenly dumped on Angel’s head, without having won the wisdom for himself what the metaphor meant through out the narrative, in terms of his own humanity and struggle for his own soul. Angel failed himself and ultimately didn’t change, something Brian Lynch grasped, and fixed in season 6 “Angel: After the Fall,” that actually defeated the evil he had to face, within himself, before facing it externally, that all the previous humiliations and heroics had not provided. (The humility required of wisdom to deal with his own fatal flaw of pride and ego. To do nothing). I gather Joss approved the idea and Brian’s conclusions regarding shanshu, so it is considered canon.
However, I think that even the famed BSG “ends” in the “you gotta be kidding eyeroll,” even if it was pretty, and provided relief in catharsis, in suddenly offering an “escape’ from the infinite cycle everyone else is stuck in, within the * entirety * of the (heroic yet bleak and dark) series in searching for what is human and its right to surive..
My examples are that Joss uses the device of “connection”—the capital G Good on any psychological level from which evil *reacts * to describe the difference in what separates humans from evil, but always and invariably kills and denies its existence for the dramatic device of showing pain, while the actual, helpless pain of loss of love is more likely a discussion on some off shoot of the topic “potential.”
Therefore, for all the beauty of story structures, freshly turned metaphors, surprise, humor, paradox, Joss becomes formulaic—not to create admiration for complex conflict, but a memorable response to pain, for pain is also the dramatic catharsis! It is the latter point that loses me, and is why “love” is utterly unbelievable, coming out of the protagonists mouth, as some binding tool to narrative, and is also why the finale endings—all blame of cancellation, lack of budget, blah blah blah included *or * set aside—ends up structurally or emotionally disjoint .from all that was shown just moments before by the self same protagonist.
It makes me some willing masochist, sitting through torture, unable to leave, for more of the same. Relief moves me into cynicism, clever and safe, in objectification treated to some distraction of violence and a CGI extravaganza, having little to do with identity, and some grand statement on the successful * plan, * but nothing more on WHAT made the successful (or even tragic) hero. The hero, to me, comes off as egoistic, selfish, and often preachy…. and dreadfully stupid, particularly when crowing about belief that has taken the entire project to show is merely pride, misguided mirroring on what the actual evil or enemy is, and has to be understood that death is the winner, regardless of good and evil, in a tempest meaning nothing, floating on the same old nihilsm. But struggle on as death isn’t a good teacher.
Even in “Dollhouse,” the (evil) client has to have some sort of expressed and “honest” trust or intimacy for his fantasy to be known and in order to “get” the satisfaction he seeks from the doll he hires, making him and his pain “human” to us. WTF? This is simply an abuse of power over those people who were *required * to have a premise of inescapable pain and abuse to even join the Dollhouse, or who were people flat out stolen, lied to, and wiped. Probably why Equality Now could even stomach this thing.
Further, special Echo is explained as mostly a glitch of downloaded programs—not her own capable imagination at work also shown, even if her moral sense isn’t empowered by an obvious fact of poverty and overwhelming requirements to overcome it—to be some “equal” and opposite in the glitched programmed Alpha, who himself had to have once been either a sociopath anyway ;or perhaps he was a person in pain who was “too naïve”—a doll of a person—or “too weak” to “man up” and instead “chose” the Dollhouse. Anyway, our heroine, Echo, doesn’t even like her “true self,” Caroline, so her chance is actually to be, as she already is. We’re actually done watching any reason TO watch. Snort.
Sorry Kashmanik. I don’t quite understand your complaint regarding Alexis’ performance in the word “questionable” next to the descriptive of the last two episodes being “great.” I don’t mean to put words in your mouth, but I can’t even tell quite the direction of your complaint.
I didn’t accept the surprise of Paul Ballard joining the Dollhouse, as shown, other than the strain of making more episodes cheaper. Yet we are to now explore the idea of identity in how to extract “pure Paul Ballard” from the “contamination’ of the experience of sociopath “Alpha”. Which means the sum of our parts isn’t the sum of parts, but makes something else; and mostly it’s tragic so let’s find how much pain there is possible and end up in the usual explosions and CGI. . Jeez Joss. What else DO you got? I guess I have to wait for the epi of Glee—a miscarriage on Christmas should get the focus on pain for an ‘all is actually well’ kind of comedy.
I guess, in truth, the finale of Dollhouse and most of Jossville is one I will avoid, even for the pretty people, old friends, and such new talent—to me—in those like the actor for Victor. —Joss do find himself some great talent to do his (great) talk. But I reallllly don’t need yet another * half view of reality* from the elevator of Holland Manners on the condition of humanity. We don’t chose what “victimizes” us, but we can choose how we feel about it. Just like on Angel.. Yes, parents yell at kids, but they also pick them up and dry their tears, telling them they are loved in each hug and kiss, even when each moment of really listening is telling them they can learn to help themselves; they can see and know more than pain; and they can even provide the space for others to heal themselves, for they are truly wondrous in the world.
If Joss is talking about mob psychology, I don’t think individual identity is the discussion to have.
And I so agree, toothy with your expression on Buffy. Many fans think she was more accomplished and mature in her early incarnations than after this deconstruction I haven’t seen repaired and just isn’t going to happen, if Kitty Pride and Amazing X-men is any clue. Admittedly I can’t quite integrate her from the usual rush and jumble of Joss’s endings that themselves are supposed to be “life like” in not getting all answers. But I do hold an author to keep * his * promises made within the narrative and that isn’t about shipper wars.
Which is why Joss utterly fails me here. Evident extremes, as example, are clear between Buffy of BTVS 1-3 and 6-8 (the comic) in the ways of how complexity, power, maturity, responsibility, and character are portrayed and thus enjoyed by a fan —whatever preference or some considered “growth” is perceived. I saw deconstruction that lost its way in the name of “exploring ideas” and cobbled the bits of a character into some “plan of action” that actually required no participation by the hero(es ) whatsoever by merely leaving. Especially with something like the First Evil, the Martha station, the shin kicking against powers dumped into the action, last minute, that make the hero second fiddle to his own ego, in the execution of a plan to infiltrate the Black Thorn and claim “the senior partners” even gave a damn for a character who already was “toast” in their requirement of a dark Angel. That wasn’t Clorox coming out of the sky in NFA nor anything to do with the wisdom of the female principle to renew, when he didn’t. He execusted a plan that made his meaning sufficient in struggle. That’s to me is only a definition describing biology.
Buffy’s Season 5 finale “The Gift” may be controversial, but it’s clear to me she answers all the questions of her series existence, repeated in the learning from the hints posed even within the episode, as a *provable * solution to the questions continually posed, with the hero living the answer, to the last moment, in action, in destiny and in free will—and it really is complete and true love, not pain that is the proven human “more.” It provides for the satisfaction I want in keeping the promises offered within the narrative. I found it satisfying for the series questions, conflicts, and identity struggles—not to mention relief for her enlightened and deserved bliss.. Yet that finale is satisfying because everything else that survives has an answer that is more than just “more.” These characters were shown a guide and proof to the value of being human. THAT is all Joss, too. It’s in him. I miss that.
I absolutely agree that Joss’s power—great story structures, inclusive of economical writing; devices that are fresh, multi-leveled metaphor; humor; surprise; and diabolical paradox to show a character’s internal world, often in conflict with the external world’s pressures are best left to his own hands. However; it is not the other writers that I think is the central problem, but (1) in Joss’s endless willingness to take on several other projects that he feels may “keep him fresh,” but really just don’t, they make all projects suffer in poor tempo, disorganized directions and incoherence that is mystifying.
No, not the accidents of continuity, e.g. “Angel having no reflection”—well established in that he is himself a reflection of life, (vampire) or even use the mythological reasons regarding light and silver, or psychological reasons in Angel’s inability to deal with the female principle to suddenly switch gears on a * statement * , not show: he can take a fuzzy picture—from a camera using *silver * nitrate, a metaphor carried on two shows, and dependent upon reflected light, as is a mirror. His enlightened soul (perfect happiness) would have been reason enough, but that didn’t fit the storyline of 1950 LA. Tim Minear was directed by Joss to make this structural and mythological mistake.
And (2) “find the pain” as the singular, driving intensity of experience, making all other feelings of joy and happiness seem like a “set up” or device that can be twisted into pain to be “truth” and the only force that can drive drama or describe human existence. The reasons for connection* despite loss* are glossed over in that light is just as much a part and real and lasting power of a human, as is all the darkness of focus. Otherwise we see mostly just torture and flying hunks of human meat that becomes the (desensitizing). point.
Yes, it is the LACK of Joss * remaining * within his own projects, with his personal touch and guidance on each project for itself that has utterly let each of his projects derail, with “some blame for something” as answer for it. Wah, wah, wah. Others manage under the same constraints. For example, Babylon 5 had its main hero leave in the first season requiring a whole revamp of story, and an execution of characters that eventually brought the original actor back and made an entirely satisfying mythology ‘work’ in an even more stupendous imaginative way. It had one writer, except one episode; it was cancelled in the 4th season; and a fan demanded movie was made on the cheap, as all the sets were long gone, and it still accomplished the author’s promises being kept, in extreme compression from a planned full season, while still providing the possibility of new story cycles in this universe of raised stakes and awaiting new characters.
And yet, it is still Joss’s lines that are just so golden in tight construction, character reveal and interplay and play, with theme structure to the fore and plot lines of several POVs in rapid fire. At least, in my memory!
In drama, I know what is at risk in “Fringe,” and the built in tragedy of it is clear, the power struggles are complex, with the human beings in this struggle of the unknown and in great peril, also fight and struggle and lose, are lost and afraid, naïve and knowing, daring and selfish. But we are being shown they can overcome tragedy with their own patchwork natures, flaws and all. The joy is their belief in that idea of support of each other. It is an innocence that takes much knowing and the beauty to perceive this is that they grasp it. It’s not in the tech or geniuses, it is in the “they are all they got” and it arises in spite of forces inside them AND around them. Like the Sarah Chronicles Terminator concept that Joss wishes to buy of a human mother, almost robotic in singular focus for her child to survive for humans to survive and claim humanity as worthy of it. Like Buffy and even her Angel, expressed best in their true love, once were to me. I have to say, I am curious how the comics will treat Spike without some love interest to drive his raison d’etre; I’ve not seen him otherwise.
“Ya gotta know when to quit” is my answer with Joss—avoid the finale—the weakest part of the whole. Joss and I simply don’t agree. Maybe because my life experience is totally nothing remotely like his, and that might be sufficient, but despite that, we are both human beings and his final finales have ALL been misses to me. . I love a lot of Joss’s politics and I love his talent, but I also hate that I have to endure loving Joss. *His * love for his deserving creations just doesn’t endure as long or as perfectly, as his gifts have been shown possible.
I hope you are well and enjoy your lives!
I remain humbly your servant always,
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