I'm not sure whether I agree that one shot can ruin an entire movie, but certainly one bad scene is enough to spoil the fun. On the season finale of Lost, the moment came when Jack (Matthew Fox) tells Sawyer (Josh Holloway) that his reason for wanting to detonate a hydrogen bomb on the island -- which will theoretically stop "the incident" that will cause their plane to crash on the island and thereby change the future -- is so he can have a fresh start with Kate (Evangeline Lilly). Destiny needs to feel inevitable, and after five seasons this potential coupling doesn't even reach the remotely plausible. This piece of nonsense, and the overwrought fisticuffs that followed, seemed to further emphasize the clumsy editing and staging of this two-hour special. The creators of Lost have had a hot-streak with slam-bang season closures of late, and all the pieces seemed in place: Jack guiding his followers to the '77 Dharma test-site; Locke (Terry O'Quinn) leading his group to Jacob's statue in the near-present; with a wild-card team carrying a locker ominously-sized like a casket to the same place. Yet everything seemed off a beat, other than the as-always marvelous work of Holloway and Liz Mitchell, the latter of whom was alloted the explosive climactic moment. Lost, at its best, is still pulpy fun, and there was enough good stuff here to make me look forward to next year's final season. Still, when that nuke detonated and the screen turned to white, my mind couldn't help but drift to the season one climax of a certain 80s cop-spoof, and a voice hollering "Hammer!"
The dud teen comedy Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist also asks us to believe that its titular characters are meant to be together, but of the two only the raven-haired, preternaturally alert Kat Dennings brings her A-game. She's wonderful as band-groupie Norah; whereas Michael Cera, who has carved out something of a niche with his low-key style, is surprisingly charmless as Nick, a bass player way too distraught over the breakup with his skanky ex-girlfriend. Early in the picture, Nick tells Norah that he doesn't believe in labels, but what you see is all you get with this cast of one-note characters ("gay," "drunk," "skank," etc). Director Peter Sollett is going for one of those classic night-to-remember teen nostalgia comedies in the American Graffiti tradition -- crossed with some Cameron Crowe/Nick Hornby-esque passion for pop music -- and to be sure, his use of New York City settings is imaginative and alive, much more than anyone in the movie.
Having missed the theatrical run of The Wrestler, I had plenty of time to read all the accusations about the film's "predictable" plotting even by the many who liked it. All I detected was a keen subversion of the Rocky formula, with Mickey Rourke's Randy "The Ram" Robinson going through the tropes of a comeback marked by an undercurrent of despair. What keeps the despair percolating just below the surface is Rourke's gallows humor and Darren Aronofsky's refreshingly no-frills directing style. I hadn't been able to endure an Aronofsky film from start to finish prior to this one; but here he paints a bleak landscape without wallowing in it. Rourke never wallows. Self-deprecating but never self-pitying, middle-aged yet light on his feet, he hits some of the casual authenticity of Paul Newman's late period. One of the best scenes features a long tracking shot following Randy to a dismal job at a deli counter, with the faint sound of a cheering crowd from his wrestling career on the soundtrack. Those cheers become for real in the final go-for-it match, interpreted by some as a vindication of Randy's choices. Yet I remain haunted by the closing image, which seems less a leap into victory than death.