Cut to Black

Just tagging on to SSW’s Sopranos talk. Lots to squeeze, especially since I haven’t been really watching it until season 7 (I didn’t have access to HBO until I started dating P). For those that need a catch-up, here are some appropriate YouTube clips:

Sopranos Seven Season Synopsis in Seven Minutes (someone had way too much time on their hands)

Every death scene in chronological order (brutal)

Aaaay – Ohhhh – funny

Tour the real places in Jersey with Vito

The last four minutes

Some good commentary

My opinion: I was going for the existential “Tony – that’s what it is like to be wacked” explanation until I saw the last video commentary – it changed my mind. There were claims of four potential assassins at the diner – the 2 black guys walking in (which were claimed to have been in season 1), a trucker (claimed to be from season 3), and some Italian guy at the bar that was ID’s as the NY boss’s nephew. Others debunked these theories – identifying that they were all knocked off or didn’t exist. The last video gave a perfectly good explanation. Recreating Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” paranoia of having to look over your shoulder every moment – the way David Chase was able to make the entire audience feel – is sheer brilliance in execution (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun).

The Second Week of June

Sunday – saw Pirates of the Carribbean: At World’s End. If you saw the first and second Pirates movie, you might as well see the third. I’m now convinced that trilogies exist solely to make you feel sad – the journey, not the end; yet the end… well, it’s something. Big Tip: Stay for what comes after the credits. Oh, and I so appreciate Cobble Hill Cinemas for being the stalwart of the decently priced matinee left in this boro!

Recently read: Joyce Carol Oates’ “The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art.” Currently reading: “Espionage’s Most Wanted: Top Ten Book of Malicious Moles, Blown Covers, and Intelligence Oddities” by Tom Mahl – which I got as a bargain book from Barnes and Noble.

Judge Tries Suing Pants Off Dry Cleaners.” I saw the story on “Nightline” the Tuesday night (can’t seem to find a link to the Nightline video), and I had read about it somewhere (ABA e-Journal maybe?) some weeks ago – but now that this thing is on trial, well, the drama gets crazier. Forget that this judge is suing for $54 million for his originally lost pants (which is in the office of the dry cleaners’ lawyer, ready to be given back), the judge got all teary-eyed while representing himself, and we know that saying about the lawyer who represents himself…

The New York Times’ Mark “The Minimalist” Bittman on making a pea and crab salad. Watch the accompanying video – he creates it in real time – 3 minutes – and it looks quite tasty too (and I’m not big on peas).

As I don’t have HBO, I didn’t watch “The Sopranos” series finale – and, I’m not exactly sure I would have either if I did have HBO – but from the writer’s perspective, one wonders… I could sympathize ending a show with just a blank screen, not even a fade out, so to let the audience come to their own ending or to send the message that it’s not about an ending but about the journey itself. But, I’d be real frustrated if every series were to take this route, and as the NY Times’ Bill Carter article noted, tv writers were taking note of how “The Sopranos” ended:

Damon Lindelof, one of the creators of the ABC hit show “Lost,” another series whose viewers have high expectations about quality, said: “I’ve seen every episode of the series. I thought the ending was letter-perfect.”

Like millions of other viewers, Mr. Lindelof said he was initially taken aback by the quick cut to a blank screen and thought his cable had gone out at that crucial moment. He even checked his TiVo machine and saw that it was still running several minutes beyond the end. When he checked the scene again, he said, he noted “the scene cut off right as Meadow is coming through the door and right at the word ‘stop’ in the Journey song.”

He said: “My heart started beating. It had been racing throughout the last scene. Afterward I went to bed and lay next to my wife, awake, thinking about it for the next two hours. And I just thought it was great. It did everything well that ‘Godfather III’ did not do well.”

In an e-mail message sent right after the final scene, Doug Ellin, the creator of another HBO hit series, “Entourage,” said: “The show just ended, and I’m speechless. I’m sure there is going to be a lot of heated discussion, but that’s David Chase’s genius. It’s what made ‘The Sopranos’ different from anything that’s ever been on TV. It invented a whole new approach to storytelling that isn’t afraid to leave things open-ended, and now the biggest open story line in the history of television.”

For David Shore, creator of the Fox hit “House,” one of the best touches was Mr. Chase’s own refusal to discuss the ending. Mr. Shore said: “Obviously he wants us to speculate on what it all means. Obviously that’s what we’re all doing.”

David Milch, who has created highly regarded dramas like “NYPD Blue” and “Deadwood,” said: “It was a question of loyalty to viewer expectations, as against loyalty to the internal coherence of the materials. Mr. Chase’s position was loyalty to the internal dynamics of the materials and the characters.”

Comedy writers also said they were impressed with Mr. Chase’s choices. Chuck Lorre, who created and leads the CBS hit comedy “Two and a Half Men,” emerged from screening the final episode and said with a laugh, “This is what you get when you let a writer do whatever he wants.”

But he added that he was saying that with admiration. “People just finished watching that show and immediately talked about it for a half-hour,” Mr. Lorre said. “That’s just wonderful. What more could you want as a writer?”

If any shows feel special pressure from the attention “The Sopranos” finale is receiving, it is current series looking down the road at their expected finales, even if long in the future.

Tim Kring, the creator of this year’s NBC hit “Heroes,” said, “I have to admit that as soon as it ended, I immediately went there. I don’t have an ending for the series yet. I put myself years in the future thinking about what you do when you have viewers with these sorts of expectations. And I think you just have to be true to what you were originally trying to say.”

Mr. Kring said he had only come back to “The Sopranos” this season, anticipating the buildup to the ending, and he said he found “the storytelling in the finale a bit disjointed, so that you lost the cause and effect of some scenes.” But he said he admired the choices Mr. Chase had made to be true to the nature of his series. “This was a show that always did everything its own way,” Mr. Kring said.

For the producers of “Lost,” who have declared an official finale in three more seasons, the conclusion of “The Sopranos” carried special weight. “There was immediate blowback for me,” said Carlton Cuse, Mr. Lindelof’s creative partner on the show. “A sense of fear ran through my veins, thinking that we are going to be in this position,” he said, adding, “we know the end is coming in 48 short episodes.”

He had admitted to some initial frustration with the ending of “The Sopranos.” “But it settled well with me,” Mr. Cuse said. “In that blank screen, there was a certain kind of purity in the choice Chase made to make it the fulcrum of the ending.”

Mr. Lindelof said that as daunting as it is to think of the expectations of ending a popular piece of entertainment, there was also a bit of benefit. “If you feel that everybody is going to hate it anyway, no matter what you do,” he said, “there’s a certain liberation in writing it.”

Is it really liberation to write nothing? To let people come to their own conclusion? Are you really true to yourself? As a writer who has enough trouble as it is trying to come to endings to my weird fiction, I kind of feel weird that tv can get away with that. Then again, in life, are there really such things are endings? Do we really get closure, whatever that may be?

“Nancy Drew” the movie – NY Times’ A.O. Scott reviews it, and couldn’t seem to muster enthusiasm. I doubt that I’m the age target for it, but I grew up on Nancy Drew, and I’d be impressed if anyone could actually give Nancy’s boyfriend Ned a personality. Heck, I was the sucker who actually liked the tv movie that was aired a few years back (Nancy Drew in college; having an actual fight with her dad, who’s trying to protect her – since, it turns out that she’s not a complete goody-two-shoes and she’s too nosy; and I recall there was an aspect to the storyline where she develops a crush on a rookie police detective, leaving poor boyfriend Ned on the lurch). Actually, I also preferred the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys crossover series (she and Frank Hardy had chemistry; uh, don’t flame me for thinking that – it’s just an opinion) – Nancy in elements than her usual friends was always a little bit more interesting to me. Oh well; we’ll see how the box office goes with that.