Thursday, January 31, 2008

Zero Effect: The Television Pilot (2002)

As part of the Chronological Snobbery coverage of the tenth anniversary of the film Zero Effect (released ten years ago yesterday), today's post profiles the ill-fated 2002 pilot episode of the proposed television adaptation of the film (and features interviews with two cast members). Several years after the release of the film, Jake Kasdan, its writer and director, teamed up with Walon Green (the writer of Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, among other things) five years later in an attempt to translate the film to the screen. British actor Alan Cumming replaced Bill Pullman as the brilliant and mysterious Daryl Zero, while Krista Allen, David Julian Hirsch (as Jeff Winslow, perhaps the replacement of the Steve Arlo character played by Ben Stiller in the 1998 film), and Natasha Gregson Wagner rounded out (presumably) the principal cast.

You will not be able to find a copy of this pilot on DVD or on the Internets. Many of those associated with the project never saw the completed pilot following its post production. There are likely copies somewhere in the vaults of NBC Television, Castle Rock Entertainment, and perhaps even elsewhere in the vast expanses of the Time Warner empire. Kasdan no doubt has a copy somewhere amongst his possessions and projects, but he is not sharing it.

Above: Bill Pullman as Daryl Zero.

Also credited, according to the pilot's IMDB entry, are Julio Leal and Andy Brewster (as Barfly and Barfly #2), Laura Ford, Tom Gallop, Patrick Wolff (as Room Service Waiter).

According to this Entertainment Weekly article, NBC passed on the series, forever condemning it to television limbo. But television pilots are a tricky business, as Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) observed almost a decade and a half ago in Pulp Fiction:

Well, the way they pick the shows on TV is they make one show, and that show's called a pilot. And they show that one show to the people who pick the shows, and on the strength of that one show, they decide if they want to make more shows. Some get accepted and become TV programs, and some don't, and become nothing. [Uma Thurman's Character] starred in one of the ones that became nothing.

Kasdan's show also became nothing, and for the most part, its existence is unknown. Kasdan no doubt built upon this experience when he wrote and directed 2006's The TV Set, a film starring David Duchovny as a television writer attempting to steward his own pilot through the treacherous network processes. But, alas, his prior pilot was not a special feature on that DVD.

Above: Zero (Pullman) illustrates his method.

Six years later, there is little, if any, information about the pilot on the Internets. Associates of Kasdan who responded to email inquiries remained tight-lipped. Said one person interviewed: "I'm pretty sure Jake would not be too interested in letting a copy out. . . ." Those who were kind enough to offer some memories could not recall specifics:

Remembers Leal, the aforementioned actor who portrayed "Barfly," about the project:

I was in LA selling a script and meeting with an Agent when a friend of mine was called to work for 2 days as a Medic for the show. I decided I would tag along. The Tavern in Aspen scene was set in a downtown motel bar. I was invited by Director Jake Kasdan himself to step in to the shot sequence in the Scene Featured along side the principle female Standing at the bar hearing a crazy Zero story that is being told by a thin white guy. The entire bar is listening enthralled.

David Doty, who played Officer Hagans in the 1998 film and just appeared in Kasdan's Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, had two small parts in the pilot, about which he remembers little:

i was in the pilot that jake and waylon green shot. but have never seen it. jake said they should promo it "from the people who gave you "freaks and geeks" and "the wild bunch."

An interesting tagline indeed. (There will be more from Doty in tomorrow's post dealing with the behind the scenes of the film.).

Above: Zero (Pullman) gazes into the distance.

There may have been some attempt to maintain musical continuity with the film, as well. Michael Andrews of The Greyboy Allstars (interviewed in more detail in Tuesday's post about this scoring of the film) believes Kasdan "might have used our music in the temp but we wrote no new material [for the pilot]."

But little else can be pieced together. (Multiple attempts by Chronological Snobbery to obtain a copy of the episode, or even it script were unsuccessful at best, rebuffed at worst.).

Above: Zero (Pullman) hiding in plain sight.

One wonders if Pullman was initially approached about reprising the character for the pilot. Surely, a film star such as he would not be enthusiastic about a weekly television series (although he directed the 2000 TV remake of "The Virginian" as well as a 2001 episode of "Night Visions" and even appeared in the 2005 series "Revelations" and a 1986 episode of "Cagney and Lacey").

(UPDATE: Here is a 2002 thread from Ain't It Cool News on the pilot casting).

Above: Zero (Pullman) rocks out.

Digital Boy, in his recent review of the film in conjunction with Monday's general post on the film's anniversary, posits an interesting theory:
It should be noted that in 2002, Kasdan attempted to resurrect the character Daryl Zero for television, with Alan Cummings in the lead role. However, NBC did not pick up the pilot, which is interesting as that was the same year USA Network debuted its breakout hit “Monk”, which features a brilliant, yet neurotic private eye. [USA Network was purchased by NBC when NBC acquired Vivendi Universal’s North American-based entertainment asset in 2003].

Knowing the NBC of 2002, perhaps Kasdan would have had more success if he had simply renamed it, "Law & Order: Zero Effect"?

Tomorrow: In tomorrow's coverage of the Zero Effect tenth anniversary, Chronological Snobbery focuses on the behind the scenes of the film with cast and crew interviews.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Zero Effect: Dan Bern's Unreleased Title Track

Above: Dan Bern, circa 1997-1998.

As part of the Chronological Snobbery coverage of the tenth anniversary of the film Zero Effect (which was actually released ten years ago this very day), today's post profiles folk musician Dan Bern and his 1997 song, also called "Zero Effect." Never released, the song exists only as a 1997 live recording in those corners of the Internets where such unauthorized recordings may be found. In an interview with this site, Bern reflects upon the song and its origin as a tune told from the point of view of Gloria Sullivan, the character played by actress Kim Dickens in the film, and sung to the character of Daryl Zero, played by Bill Pullman.

By the mid 1990s, Bern had released three self produced cassettes, a self titled full length album, and an EP called Dog Boy Van. His friendship with director Jake Kasdan led to his song, "One Dance" being played over the closing credits of Kasdan's 1998 directorial debut. Just two months after the release of the film, on March 31, 1998, Bern's new record, entitled 50 Eggs and produced by none other than Ani DiFranco, would hit stores. (The full version of "One Dance" would appear on this album.). Somewhere along the way, though, Bern composed a song, "Zero Effect," which includes these lyrics relevant to the film's plot and premise:

All your fancy words
Your well-constructed theories
Everything that you wore
Everything that you swore
Was what brought me to you

It was nice - all of it
It was sweet - all of it
But it was not the thing that made me come to you

It had zero effect--on me
It had zero effect--zero
It had zero effect--
The thing that brought me to you
Was you

You coulda looked for the clues
Till your magnifying glass was worn out
You coulda talked to everybody that you've ever known
Collected evidence--found a lot of evidence
Everything you think was there - was there
Everything you think took place - took place
But it was not what made me come to you

Bern played the song publicly, perhaps only once. On May 11, 1997, during a gig at Portland's Aladdin Theatre, Bern played the song and introduced it as follows:

I wrote this when I - when I - when I heard my friend was going to make his movie. So I'm going to try to do it. It's actually - it's not to him - in fact if - if - like - if something inspired this song it was reading the script and thinking about it from the woman's point of view - in that thing. So that's really what's in this song, but my vice isn't high enough to approximate it, so it will sound like me still. [Laughter].

In an email interview with Chronological Snobbery a decade later, Bern confesses that he has but "a vague recollection of playing it at that show; it was probably the only time." He recalls:

i am pretty sure i wrote the song "zero effect" as a pitch to jake for his film. i might have performed it once, and i think i recorded it well enough to give to him as a possibility for him. my guess is that it was too literal, in that it was the name of the film and all. as a director, it seems he wanted things that would resonate with his picture more obliquely than to have a song with the actual film title....somewhere in my vaults i may have the recording, but i can't even be sure about that.

Kasdan did, however, choose Bern's "One Dance" to be prominently featured in the film. The track was also released as its own promotional single. Bern remembers:

obviously, it was cool that jake used "one dance" over the end titles for zero effect. it was a really cool movie, i thought, and i was thrilled when "one dance" would come up at the end. i remember writing it in the stairwell of some hotel at a music conference somewhere, and i used it for my second sony/work album, 50 eggs, that ani difranco produced, and we did a special edit for the was my first foray into having a song in a movie, and it was awesome. especially that it was jake, who i had become good friends with a few years before, when we met in a coffeeshop in LA through a mutual friend. what a great guy. funny, smart, and incredible instincts about many things. when i first met him he was just a kid really, and we both had lots of free time for sitting around, playing scrabble, and musing on things. now he has, let's say, just a little more on his plate (!), but a great guy always. that's what i remember about zero effect, the song and the movie.

But over ten years later, Bern admits that his memory of the song "Zero Effect" is not very strong as it once may have been:

i'm sure i read the script, and i may have also seen footage; i also got to see one or two days of shooting (in portland, by the way), so any of that may have contributed to writing the 'zero effect' song. BUT...i really don't remember when i wrote it, in the timeline of the movie itself.

Bern and Kasdan have certainly kept in touch since Zero Effect. Recently, the two worked together on 2007's Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. The December 15, 2007 Bern Bulletin (his periodic email newsletter) notes:

As many of you may know, Dan has been dedicating a lot of time and energy working on the film "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story." Dan has written, or co-written, a great deal of the songs that "Dewey Cox" performs in the film. And from what I've heard, if you appreciate the song writing style of Dan, you'll really get a kick out of hearing his contributions to "Walk Hard." So, please go out and see the movie, and support this project which Dan has been so proud to work on!

But will anything ever come of his song about Daryl Zero and Gloria Sullivan?

"Maybe I'll dig up the song and use it for something else sometime," says Bern. "That's how these things work sometimes. you just never know."

Tomorrow: In tomorrow's coverage of the Zero Effect tenth anniversary, Chronological Snobbery focuses on the ill-fated 2002 attempt to turn the film into a TV pilot and series.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Zero Effect: The Soundtrack (Tenth Anniversary)

As part of the Chronological Snobbery coverage of the tenth anniversary of the film Zero Effect, today features interviews and commentary on the film's soundtrack., including new interviews with Esthero, Neil Gust of Heatmiser, Mike Viola of the Candy Butchers, and Chris Stillwell and Michael Andrews of the Greyboy Allstars). Released in January of 1998, prior to the premiere of the film itself on January 30 of that year, Zero Effect: Music from the Motion Picture boasted as its executive producers Jake Kasdan (the director of the film, Zero Effect), Manish Raval, and Happy Walters. Featuring fourteen tracks from twelve artists, the album, at a decade old, features a number of artists still rocking and thriving a decade later.

Above: Elvis Costello in December 1977, during his infamous "Saturday Night Live" set.

1. "Mystery Dance" - Elvis Costello

Originally from 1977's My Aim Is True, "Mystery Dance" plays over the film's opening title sequence. Twenty one years old at the time of the film's release, the song is also the oldest track on the album. (For completists, an acoustic "honky tonk" version of "Mystery Dance" was included on a recent reissue of My Aim Is True, Costello's very first album.).

Dan Bern, circa 1997-1998.
2. "One Dance" - Dan Bern

Perhaps the musician most closely associated with the film and with director Jake Kasdan, folk musician Dan Bern was rising to fame in the mid to late 1990s, even being compared to Bob Dylan. His 1998 album Fifty Eggs, released two months after the film on March 31, 1998, also featured "One Dance," which plays over the closing credits of the film. Produced by Ani DiFranco (who is mentioned in the song's lyrics), "One Dance" was released as a promotional single for the film, and Bern even penned an as of yet unreleased tune, titled "Zero Effect" (more about which in tomorrow's entry on that rare title track).

3. "Starbucked" - Bond

These days, if you Google "Bond," you'll find this "Australian/British string quartet," most certainly not the band which perpetrated "Starbucked" for the Zero Effect soundtrack in 1998. Thus, tracking down information about the decade old band is a Herculean task, as the band's name is not the most Google friendly; nor is that of the song, searches for which lead to either coffeehouse culture or "Battlestar Galactica." Members of 1998's Bond included Steve Eusebe, Jimmy Hogarth, Scott Shields, and Martin Slattery. On his official MySpace page, Eusebe notes:

[B]y the summer of 1996 I had formed a new band with accomplished musicians that I’d met on the road, service stations, Venues and Airports. I wrote some new songs at the time with Scott Shields (Gun & Shakespeare’s Sister), Jimmy Hogarth (Shakespeare’s Sister) and Martin Slattery (Black Grape) and within 3 months we were being courted by Record Companies in America. By the end of the year we had jumped the UK ship and signed to Sony/Work Group in Los Angeles, which became our new home and the Band Bond was formed. We produced the Album ‘Bang out of Order’ with Matthew Wilder of No Doubt fame and courted the services of the legendary Grammy award winner engineer/mixer Andy Wallace of Jeff Buckley, Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame. Bond toured the U.S extensively with Spacehog and on our own before Fatherhood forced me to make a decision to stay in America or come home. I came home. The band split . . .

The opening bars of "Starbucked" played as one would access the official Zero Effect website.

4. "Into My Arms" - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

In the film, just as Daryl Zero (Bill Pullman) and Gloria Sullivan (Kim Dickens) have shared a vanilla malt and bonded as only they can, the camera begins to drift away from their table and the deep voice of Nick Cave abruptly overtakes the film. He sings: "I don't believe in an interventionist God. But I know, darling, that you do," which, really, is a distracting sentiment. Originally from 1997's The Boatman's Call, "Into My Arms" is perhaps the only song in the film which makes its presence known with such authority that its breaks the aesthetic distance.

Above: Mary Lou Lord, circa 1998.

5. "Some Jingle Jangle Morning" - Mary Lou Lord

In the mid to late 1990s, alternative rocker Mary Lou Lord was most famous for her alleged dalliance with Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love's subsequent trashing of her during online chat sessions. Also on 1998's Got No Shadow, "Some Jingle Jangle Morning" makes reference not just to the phrase from Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," but also Guns N' Roses, with its reference to "Mr. Brownstone," slang for heroin. Since 1998, she has offered the world acoustic covers of both Van Halen's "Jump" and Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road." Lord did not respond to a request for an interview.

Above: Brendan Benson, circa 1998-1999.

6. "Emma J" - Brendan Benson

Now a member of The Raconteurs along with Jack White, Jack Lawrence, and Patrick Keeler, in 1998, alt-folkster Brendan Benson was a relatively unknown commodity. He had but one album, 1996's One Mississippi, under his belt, and it was from that record that "Emma J" came.

The Greyboy Allstars, circa 1997-1998.

7. "The Method Pt. 2" - The Greyboy Allstars
11. "Blackmail Drop" - The Greyboy Allstars
14. "The Zero Effect" - The Greyboy Allstars

If any artist's music defines the film, it is that of The Greyboy Allstars, the funky jazz or jazzy funk San Diego based group that scored the film with their upbeat and offbeat contributions to its score. In an interview with Chronological Snobbery, GBA member Michael Andrews remembers being "contacted after Manish Raval had been listening to our West Coast Boogaloo cd." But no tracks from that album were used in the film.

"All the music we made specifically for the movie," says Andrews. "None of the stuff existed before ZE."

Andrews remarks on the process:

The approach the film, write some music. We all wrote stuff separately and brought it in after seeing the film. We started at my studio in San Diego for about a week just writing and adding to what others had brought in. Then we holed up in a small theater to see how the themes would work with picture. The music editor [Jonathan Karp] was there to help us find the right tempos to work best with picture. Jake manipulated the arrangements. Once we had most of the main themes penned, we spent ten days in the studio recording directly to picture.

Also interviewed by Chronological Snobbery, GBA bassist Chris Stillwell remembers the film being a new experience for the band:

Being it our first experience-we were pretty green. We knew as far as what mood was needed per music cue-as dictated by Jake's score notes. Some things were easier than others. The longer & trickier cues required tweaking and refitting. Usually it's just one guy composing, and then he gets an orchestra to perform it. We were a basic line-up of sax, drums, bass, guitar, and keys. You'd think it would be limited, but there's a pretty wide palate of sounds you can get with something that simple.

The basic rules for scoring a film is a main theme, and thematic material for the main characters, love scene, chase theme etc. I was starting to get into film music around this time. I loved espionage/detective/spy music, so there was a piece I had written that had a sort of surf/spy melody well before the film was offered to us. It fit perfectly, and was easy to reharmonize and shift the melody around to suit whatever the main character (Darryl Zero) was up to. Everybody came up with tons of ideas. We actually ended up with too much material, so we had to ditch some cool things. As for myself, I thought everything fit well, and was well written.


I listen to what we did every year or so from a CD that was given to us by the music editor. I think it's pretty interesting stuff. Of course, it was Mike's introduction to his movie scoring career. For a big movie company to take a chance on us was a gamble, and I think both parties ended up happy.

"I think it was one of the most creative things the band has ever done together, and for me it was the beginning of my involvement in film music," Andrews notes.

Above: Jamiroquai, circa 1998.

8. "Drifting Along" - Jamiroquai

In early 1998, Jamiroquai was chiefly known for its single and video, "Virtual Insanity," which had become popular the year before. But what can be said about Jamiroquai's contribution to this film when that band will be remembered in far more detail for its contribution to a later quirky comedy: Napoleon Dynamite (which was, incidentally, a previous alias of Elvis Costello, also on the Zero Effect soundtrack with Jamiroquai)?

Above: Candy Butchers.

9. "Till You Die" - Candy Butchers

Candy Butchers began as the brainchild of Mike Viola and Todd Foulsham. In an interview with Chronological Snobbery, Viola recalls his experience with Zero Effect:

Jake was into my band Candy Butchers and asked if "Till You Die" could be included. Of course...I was thrilled. When I went to the New York premiere I LOVED the movie and couldn't believe how cool the song worked in the diner scene.

As to how the song fits into the film, Viola replies that "it's kind of perfect" as well as "dark and funny." Looking back, he relates that "the song kind of wrote itself" and "always had a life of it 's own." Describing the origin of the song, Viola points to, of all people, Dostoevsky:

I was living in Quincy a blue collar town south of Boston and making pizza's for a living. I had to get up at 5am and walk to the restaurant (didn't have a car). on my way one snowy morning I happened upon a box of books somebody was throwing away. a few inches of snow on top of ackie collins novels and their ilk. it was still dark out side....freezing cold.... but I dug into them....and pulled out Crime and Punishment. never read that book before. I was so busy playing live shows in rock bands that I barely made it through High school. so I took the book...went to work....and on break started to read it....soon I devoured it. and out popped Till You Die. and I swear...that song alone landed me a publishing deal and subsequently a major label record deal......right there for the taking on the side of the road one snowy morning at 5am 15 miles south of Boston. WAY too much info for you...but it just came back to me....

In November of 2007, Viola released to the Internets "Girly Worm" from his new album, Lurch. He was also involved with the soundtrack for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, released in late 2007 and directed by none of than Jake Kasdan. Viola provided the lead vocals for the song "That Thing You Do!" as a part of the 1996 Tom Hanks film by that name.

Above: Esthero, circa 1998-1999.
10. "Lounge" - Esthero

At the time of the release of the Zero Effect soundtrack, Canadian singer Esthero had been nineteen years old for less than a month. In an interview with Chronological Snobbery, she remembers the early days of her career and her involvement with the film:

I had just signed with WORK GROUP records, and EMI had my music publishing. I'm not sure if the song was something pitched through EMI or from the co president of WORK Jeff Ayeroff. What I DO remember was the experience of being escorted to the premier with Jeff, my very FIRST movie premier, btw....and being a country bumpkin of sorts, it was also at the after party for the event that i experienced sushi for the first time. A California roll. Ha!

I thought it fit in just fine - but I'm biased. I remember thinking it was a lil quiet - but I'm also biased on that one too. I'm just glad i liked the movie, I've had songs in movies before that weren't necessarily directed towards my own demographic. But this was something i could be proud to be a small part of. I really dug the film. I briefly met Jake the evening of the premier, and he was so young - I remember thinking "this has got to be such a big deal for him, he must be so stoked" and I was so happy for him. Especially after seeing the film. 'He did good, real good', as they say.

Her first full length record, "Breath from Another," was released three months later in April of 1998.

12. "Three Days" - Thermadore

Thermadore's "Three Days" came from that band's 1996 release, Monkey on Rico (to which Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard contributed). Somewhere along the way, the band folded, and its legacy, if any, is left mostly unpreserved on the Internets.

Above: Heatmiser.

13. "Rest My Head Against the Wall" - Heatmiser

Composed of Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Sam Coomes, and the late Elliot Smith, Heatmiser rose from the streets of Portland, the city in which the film is set. By the time the Zero Effect soundtrack was released, the band had already self destructed. Although Smith is remembered for his contributions to such films as 1997's Good Will Hunting, "Rest My Head Against the Wall" was a song by Gust. In an interview with Chronological Snobbery, Gust recalls that Kasdan requested the use of the song after hearing it on their 1996 Mic City Sons album:

I got a call from someone who was putting the soundtrack together and he asked me if he could use the song. I was blown away, and very excited to be asked. At the time, my band mate Elliott Smith had a few solo songs in Good Will Hunting and was having enormous success from it. I thought it was cool that one of mine got to be in a movie, too.

I remember I went to see the movie by myself at a multiplex in Portland, it was out at the same time as Good Will Hunting, and I walked passed 3 theaters showing GWH, all the way to the very end of the hall where the smallest theater was, and sat down with about half a dozen other people to see Zero Effect. I thought the movie was awesome.

Heatmiser broke up shortly after we made that record and I started a new band called No. 2. I used the money I made from having my song in this film to pay for the recording sessions of our first record "No Memory."

Gust recalls the scene in which his song is used in the film:

[I]t's played in a scene where Ben Stiller is sitting at the bar, and the song sounds like it's coming from the Juke Box. they filmed it at this grimy club called Satyricon that had a magnificent juke box of all-local bands. It was a triumph for a band to get one of their records on it. Ironically, Heatmiser never actually made it on to the real juke box.

It took me a while to realize it was my song when I was watching the movie. My first reaction was that my voice sounded way off key. It was almost impossible for me to pay attention to the movie while it was playing, I was so distracted by how weird I thought it sounded.

Looking back ten years to the song's inclusion in the film, and twelve years to its official release on the Heatmiser album, Gust appreciates his musical work product.

"I like that song, I like the way we recorded it, and I like the story it tells," Gust recalls. "I read a description of the song in a record review that I really liked, they said the song sounded like a cowboy hanging his hat on a hook at the end of a long day, and his head comes off with it."

Tomorrow: In tomorrow's coverage of the Zero Effect tenth anniversary, Chronological Snobbery focuses on Dan Bern's unreleased song "Zero Effect" and offers a new interview with folk musician Bern thereupon.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Zero Effect: Tenth Anniversary of Daryl Zero

Above: The title card for 1998's Zero Effect.

This week marks the tenth anniversary of Zero Effect, a quirky flick set in Portland, Oregon and originally released (and mostly overlooked) on January 30, 1998. Written and directed by Jake Kasdan (son the famed of Lawrence Kasdan), the film is an offbeat detective story allegedly based on an old Sherlock Holmes story (or so the online sources say). Considering the nature and tone of the film, it should be mentioned in the same breath as The Big Lebowski and Napoleon Dynamite, but even in the era of DVD and that medium's ability to turn a previously ignored film into a cult movie, the fates have not truly bestowed that kindness upon this film.

The film stars Bill Pullman as the brilliant and mysterious Daryl Zero, Ben Stiller as his dutiful assistant Steve Arlo, Ryan O'Neal as corrupt businessman and Zero client Gregory Stark, Kim Dickens as paramedic and Zero love interest Gloria Sullivan, and Angela Featherstone as Arlo's long suffering girlfriend Jess, who just wants Arlo to quit Zero's employ.

Above: Daryl Zero (Bill Pullman) and Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller).

In the film's tagline, Zero is billed as "the world's most private detective." He is an introvert and a hermit who uses Arlo as his eyes and ears in the world. Although uneven in some places, the script offers a tale of blackmail and the consequences of decisions long ago made. Stark, through Arlo, hires Zero to investigate a series of threatening letters he has received regarding some vague offense the nature of which he won't share. Meanwhile, Arlo, faces pressure from his girlfriend, Jess, who doesn't appreciate his time away and his strange relationship with Zero. To solve the case, Zero must leave his comfort zone as an observer and interact with Sullivan. It is the performances that make the film worth watching: Stiller as Arlo, Zero's trusted, though exhausted, sidekick, and Zero himself, played wonderfully by Pullman. His delivery of the lines is perfectly deadpan at times, as it is in his philosophy of investigation:

Now, a few words on looking for things. When you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Because of all the things in the world, you're only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you're sure to find some of them.

If the authenticity of this purported 1998 chat transcript is to be believed, Pullman described Zero as follows shortly before the film's release: "[He is] a brilliant detective . . . [who] may have a little amphetamine problem and [has] never kissed the girl. . . . It's a Sherlock Holmes story for the 90's. Ben Stiller is my Watson, my lawyer Arlo."

Lebowski, for its part, was least just over a month later, in the first week of March of 1998. Like that film, this too is a movie about an odd detective, although Zero is a hyper-eccentric introvert rather than a relic from 1960s counterculture. But Lebowski has endured, and become a part of the pop culture landscape in a way that Zero Effect simply has not.

Above: Screen cap of the film's official site (click to enlarge).

So to observe the tenth anniversary of the film, Chronological Snobbery will be dedicating this week to the film and its components. A handy gazetteer delineates the week's coverage:
Tuesday (1/29): The Soundtrack (An exploration of the film's official soundtrack, featuring new interviews with Esthero, Neil Gust of Heatmiser, Mike Viola of the Candy Butchers, and Chris Stillwell and Michael Andrews of the Greyboy Allstars).

Wednesday (1/30): Dan Bern's Unreleased Title Track (Featuring a new interview with folk musician Dan Bern regarding his unreleased song, "Zero Effect," a tune told from the point of view of Gloria Sullivan, the Kim Dickens character)

Thursday (1/31): The Television Pilot (Featuring about as much information as can be assembled from public sources about the 2002 failed television pilot based on the film and a handful of interviews with people associated with that project)

Friday (2/1): Behind the Scenes (Featuring new interviews with members of the film's supporting cast, day players, and technical crew about the making of the film)

Above: Arlo (Stiller) talks business with Gregory Stark (Ryan O'Neal).

To boot, Chronological Snobbery asked nine notable bloggers of varying backgrounds and viewpoints to watch and report upon their views of the film, ten years after its release. They are a diverse lot, and not of their thoughts are positive. Some forgive the film's faults as the natural result of a first time director. Others heap scorn upon Stiller for his post-Zero Effect oeuvre. Others praise the film as the type of late 1990s indie film worthy of praise and adulation. Still another finally investigates in some detail the rumor that the film is based upon Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story, "A Scandal in Bohemia."

Excerpts from their posts are included below, but readers can click upon the accompanying links in order to peruse the full review and commentary of these contributors:

"The highlight of the movie is Pullman's performance as the neurotic Zero - a pretzel hoarding, power ballad writing recluse who can solve mysteries of global import with a single phone call. The role of Zero maybe the high-point of Pullman's career, where we usually see him suffering in second-banana roles or cheesy cliched movies [like the president in Independence Day]. I had my doubts about the movie when I saw that Pullman was the lead, but he pulls off the role brilliantly. Equally good is Ben Stiller's performance as Steve Arlo, Zero's utterly flummoxed assistant. I think Kasdan, who also wrote the movie, did the audience a disservice by not involving Stiller's character more into the plot. Instead, Arlo is relegated to comedic relief - if that's possible in a comedy." Digital Boy, "A Look Back: Zero Effect," Ramblings of a 21st Century Digital Boy, (1/27/08).

"The similarities between 'A Scandal in Bohemia' and Zero Effect run deeper than general theme . . . [I]n both stories, blackmail, though perhaps justified, is the crime, the blackmailer's secret is revealed during a false fire alarm, a mutual respect emerges between detective and blackmailer, and they meet only while the detective is in disguise (though cunningly identified by blackmailer). When Zero first meets Gloria, he asks her if she is a paramedic; puzzled, she affirms the claim, then asks him how he knew. Zero replies, 'I'm very intuitive.' Later, we learn, in a typically Holmesian display of 'deduction,' that it was from the very distinctive smell of iodine that Zero inferred her prior presence in a hospital or ambulance. Likewise, in 'A Scandal in Bohemia,' Holmes "deduces" that Watson has returned to medical practice from a similar smell . . . ." - Horus Kemwer, "The Method of Daryl Zero," Against the Modern World, (1/27/08).

Above: Zero (Pullman) woos Gloria Sullivan (Kim Dickens), or vice versa.

"Our social standards begin with small talk; it is only at moments of vulnerability that we reveal our true feelings and desires. Being aware of this as well as having an extensive knowledge base to work from, Daryl Zero is able to blend into the throng of people seamlessly. He creates superficial friendships with his unknowing clients to observe them and to deduce missing information (as Dr. House says, 'All patients lie.'). As long as the friendships remain superficial, he can navigate through our societal standards invisibly. For (probably) the first time, a case (this case) requires him to move beyond the superficial friendship, whereupon he losses some objectivity, but more importantly becomes sloppy." - Matthew, "Zero Effect: An Examination of Social Behavior," Matthew's MySpace Blog, (1/27/08).

Above: Zero (Pullman) and Arlo (Stiller) walk and talk shop.

"As for the movie itself, it held up pretty well, in that the story was still interesting and engaging and the “mystery” aspect was better than many you see these days with all their forced twists and turns. I was struck immediately with the memory of how much I used to like Ben Stiller, and he is good here, good like he was before he totally oversaturated the market with himself and all his neurotic over the top performances. I really like him here as the straight man." - The 1979 Semi-Finalist, "Zero Effect . . . 10 Year Anniversary Post," 1979 Semi-Finalist, (1/27/08).

"Perhaps these characters had lived in Kasdan's head too long as a writer, and as a director, he was unable to get the performances out of his seasoned cast. Fresh out of school and with a father like Lawrence Kasdan to call in favors, movies can get made. Perhaps had Kasdan waited a bit before bringing this movie to the screen, the movie would have found its footing. . . . My guess is that I am missing something here that has kept the film alive with a certain group of fans. But on a second viewing, there's still not much to pull me in. For a movie that seems to think it has some great characters, they seem derivative. For a movie that ostensibly is about deduction and detecting a mystery, the plot just isn't really engaging enough to really feel like the greatest challenge of the career of Daryl Zero, which it must be, lest why would the movie exist?" - The League, "Zero Effect - 10 Years Later," The League of Melbotis, (1/27/08).

Above: The lovely Gloria Sullivan (Dickens) at the gym.

"I've watched and re-watched Zero Effect, less amused than confused. That is not to say that your work did not amuse me--it certainly did. It's also not to say that the plot of Zero Effect didn't make sense--sure, it did. Still, there's been something nettlesome about each viewing of Zero Effect. More to the point, there's something nettlesome about you, Jake ," - T.S.T., "Dear Jake Kasdan," Digest, (1/27/08).

"Yet in 'The Zero Effect' we . . . get a brief peek at the disaster that Stiller was to come to accompany: The narcissistic, whiney, rubber-faced-angry-little-bitch that would come to define his character portfolio up to the present. Arlo, Stiller’s character, is pepetually complaining about not getting his due, is perpetually obsessing about his relative import ( or lack thereof ), or being frustrated about his situation using the same 3 stock faces. . . . . These indictments should be sufficient to show that Zero Effect marked the death of Ben Stiller auteur, thinker, and risk-taker to Ben Stiller, chief participant of pablum. It hurts, because goddammit Ben, you have the skills, we saw them accidentally escape in your cameo in Anchorman, but dammit man, the penis-inflation sight-gag from Dodgeball? That from the guy who played in, but not too much, to great presentation in 'Zero Effect'. . . . [I]f if you’re looking for the genetic ancestor of all Ben Stiller roles since 1992, you can look to Zero Effect. If you’re writing your master’s drama thesis on the fecund period of Pullman, look to Zero Effect. Otherwise pick up 7% Solution, by Doyle, it’s conceit is much more compelling – and there’s no open-mouthed gaping stiller freeze frame that you will need to endure." - Steven G. Harms, "The Zero Effect: 10-year anniversary,", (1/27/08).

Above: Arlo (Stiller) and his girlfriend, Jess (Angela Featherstone).

"Kasdan seems to be searching for a style in this film, which isn’t a surprise because it’s his first, and I thought that his direction was uneven. I disliked the opening, with the cross cutting between Arlo negotiating a deal for Zero’s services with Stark and complaining about Zero in another. It was an effective way to dose out exposition but too cute. It is the kind of technique that Kasdan could pull of now with more economy and precision," - Adam Greene, "Zero Effect," Dude, He's The Stallion, (1/27/08).

"It is customary, in introductory logic courses, to treat logic as some sort of language in which we can express, more clearly, statements of ordinary language. Accordingly, students will be asked to translate ordinary language into logic and vice versa, which only becomes interesting in the context of quantifier ambiguities. Philosophers, always in need for yet more examples to give as exercises to inquisitive students, need look no further than the movie Zero Effect," madamechauchat, "Determining translation," Atoms to Zeppelins, (1/27/08).

Above: Gloria Sullivan (Dickens) in a noirish pose.

Contemporary critical response in 1998 was tepid. Noting that "the brilliant nerd hero from the Pacific Northwest is overdue in movies," Janet Maslin of The New York Times, writing on the day of the film's release, described Zero as "an aging hippie Sherlock Holmes with the household habits of a Howard Hughes." Yet in Maslin's opinion, the film could not overcome certain hurdles: "For all its admirable ambitions, this loosely focused first feature has the makings of a better buddy story than detective tale anyhow." Two weeks before, on January 12, 1998, Harvey S. Karten, in a review posted on, wrote:

Yet for all its wisecracks and mock-noir ambiance, "The Zero Effect" comes across as a minor movie, one which does not utilize the considerable talents of Bill Pullman and a puffy Ryan O'Neal. The scene in Zero's quarters that features the detective strumming wildly on his guitar while standing on his mattress is almost an embarrassment. For his part, Ben Stiller comes across as so stiff he is virtually lifeless. You wonder how this guy, who should have had the name "Zero," would be courted heavily by his seductive girl friend Jess (Angela Featherstone), whom he virtually ignores whenever his boss calls him away on an assignment however absurd.

As a cinema-goer, I have often wondered what it must be like for an actor or director to wake up on the morning that their latest film is released. Was the film shot so long ago that on the day of its ultimate release, they feel overly distant from it? Is it like a campaign volunteer waking up on election day knowing that all the work is (mostly) done and the rest is in the hands of the fates? Do they grimace knowing that there remain more publicity and marketing duties? Does it matter whether they are proud of it?

Above: Stark (Ryan O'Neal) is apprehensive.

I suspect that Pullman, Stiller, Kasdan, and Dickens were proud enough of Zero Effect (although they probably knew it was far too quirky to attract mainstream attention). Ten years later, though, the film has only a slight presence on the Internets; it has no Wiki, it has few pages dedicated to its remembrance. None of its catchphrases have been invoked in any of the rapidly coming and going Internet memes. (Although at least one person has attempted a Daryl Zero separated at birth post, while another has created a Daryl Zero MySpace profile.). Some time ago, one Liz Crisostomo created an online gallery of Zero's various identities including Nick Carmine, Mitchell Hodgemeyer, Harold Burgess, and Sergio Knight. Crisostomo also includes links to 1998 press coverage.

But there is little else.

Without further ado, Chronological Snobbery inaugurates this week of posts to commemorate the tenth anniversary of this little remembered film from the late 1990s. Revisit this post in the coming days and the above referenced gazeetteer will provide direct links to the next posts.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Week That Was (1/20 - 1/25)

Heath Ledger and Mary Kate Olsen: "Well, Heath Ledger died. That's something to post, but I'll be honest. I never saw the knight movie, or the cowboy movie, so . . . I'm honestly not sure I've ever seen anything the guy ever did. Mostly, I keep wondering how much the media is going to ghoulishly dwell on his death during the release of The Dark Knight," The League, "Nothing to post," The League of Melbotis, (1/22/08). And dwell the national press will when that film, destined to be a blockbuster even before the untimely death of the young star who would would play its villain and foil to Christian Bale's Batman. But the death of of Heath Ledger will haunt not only that film but also the life and career of Mary Kate Olsen who, by attempting to manage the crisis as it initially unfolded, became an unusual, and perhaps even suspicious, player in the events of that day. The Associated Press reported:

At 3:17 p.m., she made a call to the Olsen twin that lasted 49 seconds. At 3:20 p.m., she made another call, lasting 1 minute and 39 seconds. At 3:24 p.m., another call to Olsen. That one lasted 21 seconds.

Then, at 3:26 p.m., Wolozin called 911.

At some point during the frenzy, Olsen, who was in California, summoned her personal security guards to the apartment to help with the situation, the New York Police Department said.

Paramedics arrived at 3:33 p.m. and actually went up in the elevator to the apartment with Olsen's security guards. Paramedics did not allow the security guards into the bedroom where Ledger died, and they declared him dead at 3:36 p.m. — 19 minutes after the first call to Olsen.

The masseuse called Olsen a final time at 3:34 p.m. The duration of that call was unknown.

This series of events will no doubt become fodder in every interview the currently 21 year old Ms. Olsen gives for the duration of her (presumably) long life to come. Why she, and the masseuse who called her, did not immediately call 911 will no doubt remain a mystery. Why Olsen dispatched her "private security" to the scene (who arrived as quickly as the first responders) is also a curiousity; were they sent to dispose of something embarrassing (though unconnected to the events leading up to Ledger's death)? Or is Ms. Olsen, as a very wealthy young woman, so far removed from daily society that she felt it was her crisis to handle?

We will never know, and she will likely never, ever comment thereupon. But there was another party to that series of telephone calls, the masseuse, and one wonders if she will keep mum.

What November Will Bring: "Romney v. Clinton: if these are the nominees of the Janus-faced party in November, an interesting question presents itself: will more votes be cast for positive or negative reasons?" - Horus Kemwer, "Worst Case Scenario," Against the Modern World, (1/20/08) (emphasis in original). Taking that a step farther, if Mr. Romney and Mrs. Clinton are the nominees in November, will any votes be cast at all?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Lessons from the Death of River Phoenix (October 31, 1993)

As speculation as to the root cause of the death of Heath Ledger abounds on the Internets, long time denizens of Usenet recall similar speculation and commentary in the wake of the death of the actor River Phoenix, dead at 23, early on Halloween morning, October 31, 1993. Looking to the Usenet posts of those frequenting the newsgroups that year, we see similar, almost identical, responses to the death of a young actor known for choosing more substantive roles. Much of the discussion occurred on alt.books.anne-rice because Phoenix was set to play the interviewer in the film that would become 1994's Interview with a Vampire. (The role would be assumed by Christian Slater upon the death of Phoenix.). The aftermath of Phoenix's death even saw the poor taste that would later become associated with the Internet during the initial reporting of celebrity deaths, including a thread entitled "HAHAHAHA RIVER PHOENIX IS DEAD!!!!" on the then popular group, rec.arts.movies. Key posts on the topic included:

"I was sitting and reading this post (and the couple on alt.vampyres that appeared) and thinking "this can't be true," so I checked the on-line UPI newsfeed we have here. It is indeed true. River Phoenix died yesterday. I don't know what of. I think that's tragic. He was so young. Plus, and this will sound terribly selfish, he was one of the few characters in the movie I didn't think was horribly miscast. I wonder what this will mean for filming, since the movie started fimlimng [sic] already. Unless they did something funky and shot only scenes with Louis or Lestat or something, they will have to recast and reshoot the movie. I would imagine that this would, at the least, put off the release date," Susan Spaet of Amherst College, writing in this post on alt.books.anne-rice, on October 31, 1993, the very day of Phoenix's death.

"The rumors that I have heard have all attributed River Pheonix's death to an overdose of cocaine or heroin. Not that such rumors are uncommon when an actor dies under any circumstances . . . ." - K. Esme of the University of South California, writing in this post on alt.books.anne-rice, on November 1, 1993.

"Despite rumors of cocaine and/or valium overdose, the probable cause of River Phoenix's death is that he was dropped on his head outside the club. If dropped just so, humans will go into convulsions. If he'd been taking cocaine, that would have potentiated the convulsions, while the valium should have had anticonvulsant effects." - SG of Ohio State University, writing in this post on alt.books.anne-rice, on November 4, 1993.

"The cause of death could have been drugs, but I really dislike it when it is automatically assumed that the cause of a person's death is due to drugs. It feels to me to be a gross value judgement on a person who is no longer capable of defending his/herself," - Melissa Woo of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, writing in this post on alt.books.anne-rice, on November 4, 1993.

"So what if River Phoenix died? People die every day from drug use, I don't see anyone bitching about that! I think River was a great actor and it's a shame that he had to die, but IT HAPPENS, to a lot of people, EVERY DAY. What if River Phoenix wasn't famous, would you be bitching then? I don`t think so. Let him rest. These things happen." - MisFiT of Purdue University, writing in this post in rec.arts.movies, on November 6, 1993.

"I have been reading this thread for several hours now and I am appalled by the absolute lack of respect (or should that be the blatant disrespect) shown by many of the more educated contributors. Sure, there are many social issues related to River Phoenix's death, but surely these can be discussed in a mature and reasonable manner by people following up these threads. River Phoenix may have died from a drug overdose. He may have died from natural causes. I myself do not know - and we probably will never know. The American Media Juggernaut marches on expousing [sic] the 'truth' irregardless. I may be a dumbass Australian with no opinion to speak of, but I certainly will miss the talent of River Phoenix. If he died of a drug overdose, it was his - and *his* decision alone to take said drugs. Millions of people die each year of drug related complications. It takes the death of one person to bring the immense drug problem to the forefront of discussion," Colin Neeson of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, writing in this post on rec.arts.movies, November 7, 1993.

The Internet has come a long way?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Legacy of Budd Dwyer

Not too long ago, those with an alleged conscience in the mainstream media debated the issue of what images, if any, were appropriate to broadcast in the wake of Saddam Hussein's execution. The botched execution was newsworthy, of course, but what standards, if any, does simple decency impose upon the modern mainstream media? How does the media balance that which is newsworthy with that which is appropriate to air? As society becomes more and more desensitized to violence, standards are lowered and then institutionalized. But with so many alternative sources of information these days, the mainstream media doesn't want to be scooped by some fly-by-night website, so mainstream journalists rush to air that which they might not have even considered airing only a few years before. What to do?

This is an old, and sometimes macabre, debate. Twenty one years ago today, on January 22, 1987, R. Budd Dwyer, an embattled Pennsylvania politician, took his own life in front of assembled journalists during a press conference. That very day, Paul Vathis, a Pulitzer Prize winning Associated Press photographer, offered this account of the awful scene:

I didn't think there was going to be a problem. Dwyer was passing out handouts. I was waiting for him to bring out the handout saying he finally had resigned. He was nearing the end of the news conference.

He took a blast at the press. We thought the news conference was about to end. He never said anything about resigning.

I was waiting for him to break down and cry. I was waiting for the emotional picture at the end of the conference.

Then he held up his hands when he saw some of the television people starting to take down their cameras and start to leave.

He told the newspeople, "You don't want to take down your equipment yet."

Then he passed out three different envelopes to aides in the room. He called the people up, and I thought they were his letters of resignation.

He put his hand into the brown manila envelope, and I thought he was going to pass out handouts on his resignation. I took a picture of him with his hand inside the envelope.

Then all of a sudden I saw the pistol come out, and I started shooting pictures. He held the pistol in front of his chest with the barrel up. Then he held it outright, with his right hand straight out toward the right wall. And he put his left hand out, trying to stop people from approaching. Duke Horshock, his press secretary, was on his left.

When he pulled the pistol out, everybody started yelling, "Don't, Budd! Budd, don't!"I was standing on a chair between two television guys. Nothing went through my mind except to keep shooting.

Dwyer brought the pistol back and held it in front of his chest and put the barrel into the top of his mouth. And he pulled the damn trigger. I kept shooting my pictures during the whole sequence. I was shocked, personally shocked. From professional experience, I just kept taking pictures. After the bullet went in, it was a gory scene. He went straight down to the floor and went under the window, leaning against the wall.1

In those circles where such sinister things are celebrated, Dwyer's suicide has been referenced (and the audio has been sampled) in songs over the years (which no doubt causes pain to those family and friends if they chance across them). Filter's "Hey Man Nice Shot," about the Dwyer shooting, has an eerie and ominous feel to it (and for that reason was utilized in episodes of both "Homicide: Life on the Street" and "The X-Files," if memory serves).

It's certainly difficult to imagine an act more selfish than Dwyer's last. "You don't want to take down your equipment just yet"? He purposefully traumatized those assembled, and by offing himself in such a way, he must have made it impossible for his family and friends to fully recover from his death. How could they? When one's intentional death becomes some type of bizarre political theatre, family members and friends can never recuperate from it. But that is why the event is still being discussed a score and a year later.

1. "Painfully Close to the News," Newsday, (January 23, 1987).

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

In the fall of 1984, U2 released "Pride (In The Name of Love)" as the first single of its fourth album, The Unforgettable Fire. Written about Martin Luther King, Jr., the song would become one of the band's signature pieces, appearing later on as a live version on their 1988 album, Rattle and Hum, as well as subsequent greatest hits packages. The song's Wikipedia entry contains an interesting history of the song and subsequent criticism by both musical journalists as well as Bono itself. But as its subject is of relevance on this holiday, I present its lyrics:

"Pride (In the Name of Love")
Written and Performed by U2

One man come in the name of love
One man come and go
One come he to justify
One man to overthrow

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love

One man caught on a barbed wire fence
One man he resist
One man washed on an empty beach.
One man betrayed with a kiss

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love

(Nobody like you)

Early morning, April 4
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Week That Was (1/13 - 1/18)

Above: Summer Glau as the new model Terminator.

"3 billion human lives ended on August 29th, 1997. The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the machines. The computer which controlled the machines, Skynet, sent two Terminators back through time. Their mission: to destroy the leader of the human resistance, John Connor, my son. The first Terminator was programmed to strike at me in the year 1984, before John was born. It failed. The second was set to strike at John himself when he was still a child. As before, the resistance was able to send a lone warrior, a protector for John. It was just a question of which one of them would reach him first," Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), narrating past and future events from her vantage point in 1991, in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).

This past week saw the airing of the first two episodes of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," a television reboot of the franchise which saw its first cinematic installment in 1984, its second in 1991, and its third in 2003. The title character and protagonist, Sarah Connor (Lena Headey), scowls her way through the first two episodes, all the while attempting to protect her son, John (Thomas Dekker), the purported future leader of an underground resistance movement. A new, younger model Terminator (Summer Glau, of "Firefly" and "The 4400" and apparently now doomed to second rate television science fiction) arrives to protect John Conner from the plethora of other Terminators pursuing various related and unrelated missions in the past. Predictably, there are inconsistencies between the new series and the films which came before, although they appear to arise mostly from the writers' laziness.

In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), viewers learn that Sarah Connor died in 1997. In fact, according to Wikipedia, her fate is sealed as follows:

In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Sarah Connor is already dead, having succumbed to leukemia in 1997, after the events of Terminator 2, following a three year battle with the disease. She lived long enough to see the original 1997 "judgment day" pass without incident. Her ashes were spread at sea while a casket containing a cache of weapons was placed for John to find at a false grave site. The epitaph on her mausoleum niche reads: No fate but what we make.

Thus, according to the official Terminator continuity, Sarah Connor dies of natural causes in 1997. In the new television series, this detail is overlooked and even ignored. The narrative begins in 1999 - two years after the supposed death of Sarah Connor - yet she still lives.

Steanso, writing over at The Adventures of Steanso, liked the series and wrote :

I thought that The Sarah Connor Chronicles did a decent job of maintaining the overall feel and flow of the Terminator movies (the small handful of clunky, dumb lines on the show were delivered by Terminators, sadly, but that's also kind of in keeping with the movies), and I was glad to see that the producers didn't try to "lighten up" the mood of the overall Terminator storyline. Some people will undoubtedly have problems with the casting of Summer Glau as a cute, young, female Terminator (I have my reservations about this as well), but the focus seems to be primarily upon Lena Headey as Sarah Connor, and I thought that she carried off the role of the paranoid warrior/mommy pretty well.

In the original two Terminator films, Connor is played by Linda Hamilton, far more intense and intimidating than Headey has revealed herself to be playing the same character. As aforementioned, the character does not appeared in the third film. Hamilton is 17 years older than Headey, and it shows. In fact, Headey was born in 1973, making her 11 years old at the time of the events of the first film and 18 years old and the time of the second. Hamilton, however, was born in 1956, meaning she was in her late twenties at the time of the release of the first film and approximately 35 at the time of the second film. Although the actor playing a character need not be the same age as that character, Headey looks young enough to call into question the timeline of the entire franchise, all the more parlous when a film is about time. (There is some question about when Terminator 2 takes place, in 1991, the year of its release, or sometime later in the mid-1990s, as John Connor, born in 1984 or 1985 as per the events of the first film, is ten years old at the time of Terminator 2: Judgment Day.).

Behold the evolution of the Sarah Connor character:

Above: Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) and Sarah Connor (Linda Hamiltion) in 1984's The Terminator.

Above: Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) in 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Above: Sarah Connor (Lena Headey) in 2008's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" (which is actually set in 1999 at first, then 2007 after a leap forward in time).