10 March 2014

It occurs to me

It occurs to me that I have certain viewpoints that, when expressed negatively, can tend to make certain people angry. Very angry. I wondered, then, if there was a way I could express them positively, and whether they would still make people angry. If so, I want to know why. If what you read here disturbs you or if you feel threatened by it, I ask "Why?" Here goes:

I believe in one humanity, undivided by lines on a map, pigment on skin, belief (or lack of) in a higher power, or any of the myriad reasons people have been coming up with for years to rationalize inflicting cruelty on others. I believe in the power of the human spirit, that it is vast and that we are all connected to it. I believe the earthly expression of the human spirit is that we can think and feel and that we can communicate those thoughts and feelings to each other. I believe in the truth of what I can see, what I can measure, and I trust what others have told me that they have seen or measured. Also, and this is not a contradiction, I believe that there are things in the universe, maybe even places, that transcend our five meager senses and appeal directly to our spiritual selves. These are to be treasured, and unbound by the fact that what we see and what we measure tell us they cannot be.

I believe that there are powerful truths in the stories we tell each other, and in the stories we share together.

05 January 2014

ah dammit

I want to write more. I want to tell you that if you come back tomorrow you'll see something new. I have a lot to talk about; I have some new thoughts on how Butch Coolidge and Marsellus Wallace perpetuate a cycle of abuse. I'm deep into Bioshock Infinite and Beyond:Two Souls, and I am loving Lily Rabe's portrayal of "swamp witch" Misty Day on American Horror Story. Our sweet girl Eva, who was quite sick during this blog's last flurry of posts, has gone over to the Rainbow Bridge, but soon after we welcomed another little furry one into our clan. I work at home now. 40 hours a week and zero commute. That's at least 10 hours a week I haven't had in my life in nearly 20 years. No reason not to write, indeed.
Here is the million dollar question: is anyone going to read it?

24 August 2012

Episode 6: Buyout

These sure are some excellent green beans, Mrs. White.
[Coletta Factor:Breaking Bad-current]
As exciting as the heist was, as shocking as its aftermath, it all seemed like so much table-setting. There needed to be a dramatic event to throw a monkey wrench into the boys' operation. We've seen children threatened and even murdered before on this show, and it's a relatively easy way to go super-dark and serious. I guess it just seems like a rehash for me; it would have been much more interesting to see a major character go into the clearing at the end of the path. (Listen up, Vince Gilligan: you need to kill someone off before the end of these 8. Shit has gotten as real as it can get without it.) 

Having said that, the cold open of this episode was, to quote the Bald Move guys, "one of the most effective...in television history." Dave Porter's somber score is the only thing we hear as Mike, Walt, and Todd carefully disassemble the boy's dirtbike, dropping all the pieces into one of those translucent white barrels so handy for disposing bodies. The bike is a substitute for the boy, and it feels just as chilling and somber, more so even then if it were the boy's body we saw them placing into the barrel. Thankfully we are spared that sight. Jesse sucker-punches Todd, opening credits. 

Lot of good moments in this one. Mike is listening to the bug in Hank's office as they discuss his throwing of 3 DEA tails. Hank tells Gomie that sooner or later Mike will slip up, and they'll be watching. It's kind of a trite line, but the way Jonathan Banks plays Mike's reaction to it is brilliant. He knows; Mike knows Hank is right, that Mike will eventually make a mistake. Mike knows his career as a criminal is over, and you can see mixed in his eyes relief, sadness, contentment, closure. Mike also gets a funny line later on when he tells Walter they will be spending the night sitting up together at the office "like it's my birthday."

In the absence of a Walt we can identify with, Mike has started to fill that role for me. He's an ex-cop who broke bad himself somewhere along the line, and I'm sure someone who'd been on the business end of his gun would tell you he was soulless, (dead mackerel eyes, anyone?) but Mike has a heart. He's not corrupted by power or greed. He does his job, and damn well, too. Everyone we've seen him kill has been in the game and therefore fair game. (And most of them came north looking for trouble, which they found.) He has a granddaughter; he buys her balloons and plays Hungry Hungry Hippos with her. He's funny, too, and as much as I want him to have a happy retirement, he's got Walter White, the famous Heisenberg, to deal with before he can ride off into the sunset. 

If Walt and Mike are 2 points of a right triangle, Jesse is at the right angle. equidistant from each of the older men. Jesse's had a hard life, and as he pointed out from his hospital bed after Hank whooped his ass, he's lost everything since hooking up with Walt. Walt has used, abused, and manipulated Jesse even as Jesse has matured into a responsible, sober young man. Walt's breaking bad has caused a Newtonian opposite direction break for Jesse. I like Jesse and I feel for him, and I want him to get out of the game and move far away from the ABQ, but he's got to make it through at least one more of Heisenberg's machinations before he can ride off into the sunset. 

Another good moment: the Marie-Skyler scene. First, that is the 2nd cutest baby in the world. I think Marie may break bad herself and abscond with the little cherub. But Skyler was gonna tell!! Skyler was all ready to confess everything to Marie, which would have been game over. Good thing Marie had to open her mouth about the affair, giving Skyler a chance to play off the Ted thing as the only thing wrong with the marriage. 

Another note to Vince Gilligan: Gomie needs Hank around. Hank is such a good cop that he makes Gomie look good, but Gomie as the lead on a team looks almost as bad as Barney Fife or that deputy from the Dukes of Hazzard. Gomie sees his subject make a dead drop and wonders aloud if someone is going to pick it up. "Geez, that could take hours, and I want to go to Applebee's. Lemme run over there real quick and check it out." Stupid. If Hank's out of the field, Walt can just go crazy, because the DEA is not going to catch him. 

Gray Matter. We learned in this episode a little more of the backstory, and again I was reminded of Lost, how the past so closely mirrors the present, how one's choices are made in large part based on one's experiences of regret, bitterness, joy and happiness. On Lost, Michael's rocky history as a mostly-absent-but-not-by-choice father meant predetermined that he would betray everyone for just three minutes more with his son. Here, Walt took a $5K buyout 30 years ago from a company that is now worth billions, and as much as we are not really clear on the history, it seems Walt blames Gretchen in particular for some heartbreak or another. Gilligan, on the insider podcast, said this calls into question for him whether Walt is breaking bad now or if Walt always had a darkness in his heart over this perceived slight. (Great thing about Vince Gilligan: he wants you to argue about people's characters and motivations; he freely admits that he has his own interpretation of the story he tells, and that his take on it is not necessarily canon.)  Either way, the Gray Matter buyout  turned Walt into a George Bailey-type sympathetic loser, someone who dreamed big but was never able to pull the trigger.

What else? Walt used science to get out of a tight spot. Great effects on the burning hand by KNB, the same house that does the zombies for Walking Dead.

Oh yeah! How could I forget? The dinner scene. Probably the seminal example of how Breaking Bad does comedy. Walt recklessly invites Jesse to his house. As Jesse is making his pitch to dissolve the business, Skyler comes home, and Walt decides to punish them both by inviting Jesse to stay for dinner. At the table, Skyler is well interested in her wine, Walt is silent with that smug look on his face, and Jesse, trying to be the most poilte dinner guest ever, fills the awkward silence with a monologue about false advertising and frozen lasagna. It's exquisitely painful and funny as hell at the same time. This is the first time we've seen Jesse and Skyler together since season 1, and I have to wonder how much Skyler put together during the dinner. Can she guess that Jesse is Walt's partner? Does she think Jesse is a customer? Also, keeping Jesse away from the house in the beginning was smart, as he didn't want Skyler to find out, and it's colossally arrogant and stupid to have him over now that Hank knows Jesse is involved with the blue meth. It's looking as if, like so many powerful men in the world's history and literature, Walt's hubris will be his downfall.

The pieces are set. Jesse and Mike both want out, but Walt can't do it alone. He's got some kind of plan that will probably involve him double-crossing the Phoenix crew, and with Gilligan's semi-spoilery remark that episode 7 would be a doozy, I am amped for next week's episode, entitled "Say My Name." (Interestingly enough, this episode was originally titled "Everybody Wins," but this and 1 or 2 others were changed within the last week or so.)

Quick Hits:

  • I was able to get my hands on an advance DVD copy of the Avengers and can safely say that it still holds up as a fantastic superhero flick, now that all the hype has worn off. (Temporarily, anyway, until end of next month when everybody, myself included, will buy the film.)
  • Our dog is doing much better now. She's eating again, and we couldn't be more relieved. She seriously has more lives than a cat. Every time I think she's ready to call it a day, she bounces right back. Someday she won't, but I'm enjoying today.
  • "Legitimate rape?" "Shut that whole thing down?" Get a fucking clue already.

17 August 2012

Dead Freight

[Coletta Factor: Breaking Bad-current]
"Sooner or later the day comes when you can't hide from the things you've done"
                     --Commander William Adama

This episode should have wowed me. The boys, with a little help from Todd and Bill Burr, pull off a massive train heist that will keep them in precursor for the immediate future. Jesse had a great idea, Mike had one or two great Mike-isms. ("Everyone sounds like Meryl Streep with a gun to their head." or "There are two kinds of heists: ones where the guys get away with it and ones that leave witnesses.") Walt actually went into Hank's office and planted not one but two listening devices, for pete's sake. So why was I not thrilled?

Of course, there was that moment, and when I saw that moment, I knew that it didn't matter how good the episode really was, because Gilligan had given us another watershed water cooler moment. (Does anyone actually talk about stuff around the water cooler?) Let's tackle that one first, then. The cold open showed us a boy on a dirtbike catching a tarantula as a train whistles in the background. Of course, it was beautifully filmed, showcasing the New Mexico desert like only Breaking Bad can. And maybe Oliver Stone. Anyway, this kid shows up again at the end as Todd, Jesse, and Walt are back-slapping each other over a heist well done. After about 10 seconds of awkward, tense silence, Todd pulls out his pistol and shoots the kid, fade to Gilligan's name and closing credits.

It reminds me a bit of the Sopranos. At least twice on that show there was a character who wanted to make an impression on the boss. One robbed a card game and one tried to kill Tony's nephew Christopher. Both took liberties that were not theirs to take, and both ended up dead. It's hard to see how Todd makes it out of next episode alive. No way he can go to the cops; the best that would do is take the death penalty off the table. All three of the "owners" are going to be furious with him: Jesse on humanitarian and moral grounds, Mike on practical grounds, and Walt on the taking liberties ground. Me thinks Todd will get a boxcutter to the neck before too long.

Everytime a kid goes missing, well, every time a white kid goes missing, they always have a million volunteers out there on a search grid, sifting through the landscape for a button or a drop of blood. I don't know what kind of ground this kid covers on that dirtbike, or what kind of ground his parents think he covers, but it's likely that train trestle and surrounding area will be swarming with heat within 48 hours. A couple of freshly filled in holes under a bridge? Suspicious, getting dug up immediately. Funny fumes coming from one of the holes? Test the soil and find residual methalymine. It's not too far a jump to say killing this kid will be Walt's downfall. And Hank supposedly put together a surveillance team on Mike last week, too. Was the DEA watching the heist go down, ready to swoop in, Reservoir Dogs style, after the fact?

Why was I not thrilled? It seems to me like they (the writers) rushed through the job of planning a believable heist just to give us that moment. There's a lot of good stuff here, it's just not quite as tight as I expect the best show on television to be. For example, last week we had an epic bedroom showdown between Walt and Skyler, the point of which was, if I read the scene correctly, that the power dynamic in the marriage had shifted almost completely to Walt. The key moment is when Skyler admits she is powerless, a coward. It was a powerful moment, and the scene between them this week took some of that power away by letting Skyler dictate terms to Walt. It felt redundant but also a little contradictory.

I said there was some good stuff, and I was mainly talking about the scene with Lydia, where the boys have her cuffed to a table in an abandoned warehouse. Lydia is a great new character. I know there's haters out there, but she's a mom, she's a corporate bigwig, she dabbles in the meth trade and seemingly was a notch above Gus in the food chain. You take those things I just listed, and 99% of TV series will give you a domineering, confident, cold-hearted bitch. I'm not railing against strong female characters, just saying that's what you would expect, instead of the twitchy, jittery, constantly anxious squirrel that is Lydia Rodarte-Quayle. From her super-spy routine in the diner with Mike to her mismatched shoes to her awkward simultaneous hiding and peeking at her henchman as he's led off in handcuffs, Lydia gives us all these entertaining moments that cast her in three dimensions. Laura Fraser, a Scotswoman who does an American accent for the role, does an excellent job of selling Lydia as believable, and I hope we get to see a lot more of her. 

That's most of what I have to say about this week. Long on action, short on character, pretty much the polar opposite of last week's brilliant, Rian Johnson-directed episode, "51." I didn't cover "51" last week, and my apologies again, but let me tell you what stood out for me. The bedroom showdown I referenced earlier was pretty epic. Walt chased her around the room like a cat does a mouse, cornering her then letting her scurry away only to play with her some more. Any pretext of love between them is nullified, and their relationship is now a grim battle of wills over the fate of their children. (Hank and Marie stepped up and took in Junior and Holly, and it was another good thing about this week's episode to see Hank enjoying that baby so much.) Johnson has a visual flair that melds so well with the way Breaking Bad tells the story, and "51" was rife with meaningful visuals, most of them callbacks to earlier episodes.

That is all, except for a couple of non-BrBa quick hits:

  • The Olympics were awesome. NBC's coverage, not so much. However, they did a great job of promoting their fall line-up. The sitcoms look pretty lame, but I'll be tuning in to Revolution for at least an episode or two.
  • Russell Brand is not The Walrus. Russell Brand is a jerkoff. 
  • The date is set: On May 1, 2015, Avengers 2 will be released, written and directed again by Joss Whedon. Can't wait!
  • Decided to skip Total Recall in theaters this summer, due to poor reviews and a weak box office. I'll just wait until this fall and bootleg it, oops I mean legally purchase or rent it.
  • Paranorman opens today; it probably won't be as good as Coraline, but still a lot of fun. Better than that Pixar rubbish anyway.
Ok, see ya next week!