Monday, October 09, 2006

Lost and "Make Your Own Kind Of Music"

Brad tells me that in LA, once something hits DVD, all bets are off, spoiler-wise, and everyone can speak freely about the secret twist ending or whatever. (I think discussions of comics, after the first week, should never need spoiler space, since comics are read only by die-hards, but that is a subject for another day). With the second season of Lost on DVD, I am going to talk about its first episode. If you have not seen it, and you are sure you are going to, stop reading now. You also might want to go download the song from somewhere, if you have not heard it.

The teaser -- the pre-credits sequence -- for the first episode of the second season of Lost is, outside of The West Wing, the most riveting television I have ever seen. One of the things that makes the sequence great it is that it revolves around the Mama Cass song "Make Your Own Kind of Music." In the the first season finale, our heroes blow open the island's mysterious hatch. The second season opens with a guy whose face we don't see in a white shirt and shorts leaping out of bed to answer some kind of alarm. He types at an old fashioned computer. Then he puts a record on -- Mama Cass's "Make Your Own Kind of Music" -- and we see his morning montage -- food in a blender, wash the single bowl in a nice sink, sit-ups on a piece of equipment, jogging on a treadmill, then off to a room full of weapons to inject something into his arm with one of those futuristic injection guns. As he goes to inject himself a dull explosion from far away rattles the place, causing dust to fall from the ceiling and knocking the needle off of the record just as the song hit the second chorus. The figure, tense, makes preparations, and a tracking shot reveals that this is no kind of flashback -- this is what is in the hatch.

Pop songs are about building tension through the verses and then exploding into the big satisfying chorus everyone is waiting for. Lost, of course, has built a lot of tension about what is in the hatch and is about to reveal the answer. Much like many ABBA songs, however, "Make Your Own Kind of Music" seems in a rush to get to the big chorus. The first verse seems to have barely begun when she bursts into "MAAAAKE YOUR OWN KIND OF MUSIC! SIIIIING YOUR OWN SPECIAL SONG!" It is a typical product of feel good 70s pop. The song is maniacally optimistic. Its nearly hysterical assertions are the opposite of Hamlet's oft quoted "thou dos't protest too much." The song asserts too much, as it were, especially as it breaks its own rhythm on "even if nobody else sings along". The fact that it has this double edged sense today -- the way it almost seems ironic now -- is why it is such a good choice for Lost.

As we get into the larger story about the hatch, we learn about the Dharma corporation. The fact that they selected such a song to put in the hatch speaks directly to the kind of "can-do" science that seems to drive them. In the case of our lone figure Desmond, the song -- an anthem about being an individual even when there is pressure to conform -- has a double meaning. On the one hand his individuality has been replaced by the will of the Dharma corporation; he mindlessly follows their orders. On the other hand he has been on his own in the hatch for a long time and so the "make your own way" theme is personal and direct and a reason to get up in the morning; the second verse begins, "You're gonna be lonely. The loneliest kind of lonely. It may be rough going. Just to do your own thing is the hardest thing to do" before it again hits the big chorus.

One of the big accomplishments of the scene is that we don't feel the influence of Tarantino, but we should -- an upbeat seventies song is being used out of context in a weird and pulpy story. The best example of this is in Kill Bill, when Lucy Liu and Uma Thurman fight in the snow to Santa Esmeralda's nearly eleven minute "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." Unlike "Make Your Own Kind of Music" "Don't Let me Be Misunderstood" builds a lot of tension, refusing to get to the big explosion for quite some time. But just as in Lost's "Make Your Own Music," Kill Bill's "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" is violently interrupted when it hits its big moment; just as we are getting into listening to it, it suddenly stops to bring home on-screen violence. But I will save that song, and that scene, for another discussion. For now, "Make Your Own Kind of Music" stands out as one of Lost's best thought through details.

12 comments:

Madd_Hadder said...

one of my all time favorite uses of music way out of their original context is in Face/off The little child is listening to "somewhere over the rainbow" in the midst of this epic slow motion gun battle.

Pat Moler said...

You said the blog was short. You lied to me. You liar. Mole mad!!!! Mole Smash!!!!

jennifert72 said...

i had only noticed that it was an odd and slightly annoying choice of music.
but as usual, your excellent analysis has brought me a much greater appreciation of the entire scene.
cheers :)

Anonymous said...

if you've watched the season 3 opening episode, you might notice an interesting correlation with the season 2 opener; i hadn't noticed until i read this post.

Anonymous said...

I loved that opening sequence. Left me asking more questions. Damn them!

Also, just as an FYI...been watching Heroes, as I said I would. The third episode is showing much better promise than the first and second. It ended with a nice cliff hanger. It feels like the show is starting to find its legs.

It's me Richard from:
http://www.myspace.com/geminis_twin

Heath Holland said...

just read your blog update on Lost. I think the season started very strong, but it just completely ran out of steam for me. I don't know if you've seen the whole season, but I am not completely convinced that the creative team behind the show know where they are going. If they do, sweet Christmas, they are in no hurry to get there.
That show had so much promise, in my opinion, but in doling out the payoff of all their teases at such a slow pace, they "lost" me. Pun intended.

Geoff Klock said...

Pat: Oh, come on, that is still pretty short! A big chunk it just a summary!

Starrlett: yes, I did notice the way the teaser of the first episode of season three revised the teaser of the first episode of season two. It's why I posted this this week.

Anonymous (and anyone else watching HEROES): keep us posted. But I am still skeptical.

Heath: I know what you mean about thinking the show's creators don't know what they are doing. But what is amazing is how they made that PART OF THE PLOT: the audience begins to feel like the numbers (for example) are just meaningless, and so John Locke begins to feel like the numbers are just meaningless. Then Locke says "I was wrong." Say what you want, but that is smart stuff. At the end of the day LOST is not the best, but it has some kind of crack in it and I can't stop watching or I will get the shakes.

Mitch said...

I've only seen a little of LOST, but so far, I love it. I was wondering, Geoff: Do you watch 24? I'm a fan of the show and I was wondering what you thought about it. I feel like it's another good example of Jazz-Style improvisation on the part of the writers. You have to bite your tongue a lot, like when Keifer gets over a Heroin addiction in 3 hours, but I think the show is still an awful lot of fun.

Geoff Klock said...

I am behind on 24, what with living in England, but is at the top of my DVD list to watch.

Anonymous said...

I dunno G, I agree with Heath (as you know) and while I can see that they are scripting that in (perhaps because they know what they are doing but making us feel that they don't and then scripting that bit in to play with us...) I can't say if it's because they might want to be covering their arses and their bases or if they sat down and actually work the pacing, timing and rhizomatic story structure for 5 seasons before the 1st one went on the air. or at least had an outline. All i do know is that it makes me nervous feeling like perhaps they aren't going to keep all these balls in the air and even if they can, TV is fickle business and we may be left hanging no matter what the writers have in mind if the networks say otherwise.

I try and keep one foot out of the door cos I've been burned before, most recently by X-Files...


oh, apropo of nothing: Smith is cancelled. Is this the first fall casualty?

Anonymous said...

For information, French dj Muttonheads has make a funny disco remix of the title... look :
http://www.4deejays.com/fr/index.php?Go=Release&Id=1530

Dan said...

I found this old post looking for any kind of analysis of the opening song from Lost season 2. Great job! One thing I love about this show is how after each season (or each new episode if you're crazy and have lots of free time) I re-watch the past seasons and see how it all fits together. First, I love the connection this commentator makes between its selection for the hatch crew and the Dharma philosophy. Good for pondering... Hopefully, Dharma will factor greatly in season 5...

Second, it's interesting to see the juxtaposition between Desmond's ongoing struggle throughout the series (determinism vs. free will) and the "maniacally" optimistic individualism captured in the lyrics of Mama Cass's song, which I always think back to whenever there is a Desmond episode. That opening sequence of season two is only rivaled by the revelation at the end of season 3. If anyone reads this....any thoughts?