Category Archives: Movies and TV

Breaking Bad: Not-So-Live Blog of Episode 515, “Granite State”, and the De-Heis-dration of Walter White

Undoubtedly, everybody’s held off actually watching the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad so they can instead follow it on my as-it-happened, minute-by-minute, far-from-live blog. So, grab the popcorn, dim the lights, and just pretend it’s last Sunday night. SPOILER ALERT if you’re still not up to date on the show, or if you’ve never seen Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.

0:52: So the Vacuum Repair Guy (credited, according to IMDB, as Ed) is that crazy sergeant dude from Full Metal Jacket, right? Oh…apparently not. They must be twins. Oh…they’re not.

sergeant 2

1:41: Saul’s not too crazy about Nebraska. I’m on Wikipedia now, searching for something interesting to say about the Cornhusker State. I got nothing.

4:16: Uncle Jack and co. are having family movie night in front of Jesse’s tell-all videotape for the DEA. It’s nice to know that, just like the rest of us, Nazis take that special time out to bond with loved ones. Next time maybe they can connect over giving their place a little spring clean. (And it so happens I know just the guy if they need a vacuum, too.)

Quotable #1: “Does this pussy cry through the entire thing?” – Jack on Jesse’s interview

5:50: Say all you like about Uncle Jack, but the man’s not greedy. $80 million is perfectly enough for him. Walt should really take a page from his book (“The Jack Welker Guide to Contentment”).

6:20: Quotable #2: “She’s probably got a wood-chipper for a coochie.” – Jack on Lydia

6:35: “The heart wants what the heart wants.” Another gem from the Aryan sage’s book. Is Uncle Jack the next Dr. Phil?

7:43: On the phone: “How thick is it?” Guy-who-looks-like-Full-Metal-Jacket-guy ordering deep-dish pizza? “This is mild steel?” Probably not pizza then. Or bad pizza.

8:43: Walt’s still plotting away – now planning a hit on Jack and the gang. The man’s a workaholic. Relax! People who take business on vacation are party-poopers.

11:10: “What I do, I do for my family.” There he goes again. I believe you Walt, thousands wouldn’t. (I don’t either, but I don’t want you to kill me.)

12:02: Finally found a fact about Nebraska: the state is the nation’s largest user of center pivot irrigation. And Saul would rather go there than tag along with Walt. Told you: all work and no play makes Walter a dull travel buddy.

13:06: “It’s over.” Saul stands up to Walt, as the once-indomitable power of Heisenberg is swiftly fading with each cough and splutter. Is this the last we’ll see of Saul and the comb-over? (Until the spin-off, that is.) Or will Walt still be sending him to Belize?

14:07: Hey…she just won an Emmy.

18:26: Todd all dressed up and bashful for his coffee date with Lydia. Is that gel or pomade? “Mr. and Mrs. White’s house”: so respectful, a true gent. Nazi family time really has paid off.

21:12: “I just think we work together good. We make a good team. It’s kind of…mutually good.” So, in summary, it’s good. Todd and Lydia bring romance to a whole new level. A couple that produces methamphetamine together stays together.

22:11: The hostile, Southwestern desert landscape is replaced by an equally hostile, snowy New Hampshire landscape. Does Walt never get to see New York or Miami Beach? Why can’t he be relocated to Disneyworld?

23:13: Quotable #3: Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Two copies.” “I’m not much of a movie guy.” – Walt being overly fussy over the DVD collection

23:28: He paid $50,000?! And no TV, phone, or Internet? He should have gone with Expedia. Room service and buffet breakfasts thrown in. And pay-per-view movies other than Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.

27:47: Even after donning the magic Heisenberg hat, he’s too afraid to leave the reservation. First backing down to Saul; now to the fear of getting caught. And the cancerous cough, clearly a symbol for the weakening – dying – of this alter ego. Back in the cabin, we see the black, pork pie hat finally hung up. Walter White is being de-Heis-drated.

Ben & Jerry's Americone Dream

28:59: An ice-cream treat for Jesse! Peanut Butter Cup and AmeriCone Dream?? Has Todd been reading Jack’s book again? He already gets to work for the rest of his life chained up as a slave, piss in a bucket, and sleep in the stench of his own shit! And now Ben & Jerry’s? Guyssssss, you’re spoiling him!!

32:09: GO! RUN, JESSE! GET OUTTA THERE! #TeamPinkman

34:10: Quotable #4: “Just so you know, this isn’t personal” – Todd reassures Andrea, before he shoots her in the back of the head. I’m sure felt blessed to hear that, in the nanosecond before the bullet entered her brain.

34:38: I genuinely can’t take Jesse’s life being ripped apart any longer. He’d better escape soon and kick some Nazi (and Walt) ass. Seriously, #TeamPinkman 4 lyf.

35:53: Heisenberg hat replaced with gray, striped beanie. I actually have that very same beanie. I don’t see the Nike check mark on his – must be a knock-off.

37:12: On his first glance at the newspaper, Walt just thinks he needs new glasses because he thought he just saw a photo of Hannah Montana twerking.

38:24: Vacuum Repair Guy is no one-trick pony: he can now perform chemotherapy. Courtesy of YouTube, where he surely got distracted by Miley videos, too.

39:05: Bearded, frail, shortsighted Walter White, sat by the fire begging Vacuum Repair Guy/Part-Time Oncologist to “stay a little longer”. Not brave enough to prick his own arm with the needle. No desire to even cut the cards. Loses the first round of cards to two kings. Emaciated and powerless. No trace of Heisenberg in sight.

43:21: When he finally makes it past the gate, it’s not for his original Heisenbergian purpose of going to town and taking care of business. This is pure Walter White: selflessly putting his family first by sending a modest (well, $100,000 – but modest in comparison to what could have been) sum of money for the sole purpose of their wellbeing. And again – donning not the black hat, but the humble gray beanie, even if it is a cheap Chinatown counterfeit.

44:06: I wish my high school had had a hot, Latina principal. Mine was an old, pudgy white guy. Funnily enough, his name was Carmen, too.

46:37: On the phone to his son: “I wanted to give you so much more…but this was all I could do.” Heisenberg wouldn’t have settled for “all I could do.” It seems to me that Walt isn’t just talking money here: he’s addressing his failures as a father, and as a fender for and protector of his family. “I made some terrible mistakes”: this is the confession we’ve been waiting long for – not only for his guilt for crimes committed, but for his divergence from the objective of keeping his family safe.

47:37: Tears running down Walt’s face as he realizes it’s too late for reparations with his son. Flynn – not Walt Jr., and not Walt Sr. – is now the protector of his mother and sister. “You asshole, why won’t you just die!” Now that both Skyler and Walt Jr. have expressed their wish for Walt’s death, there’s nothing left for him. Family-less, now twice the pushover he once was, he turns himself in to the DEA. An episode ago, I wanted to punch him square in the jaw when he spitefully told Jesse that he watched Jane die. Now, I want to give him a reassuring hug. Why do the writers of this show do this to us!

51:00: Hey, it’s Ross’s lesbian ex-wife’s lover from Friends on TV! Oh, wait, she also plays a character in Breaking Bad. We haven’t seen Gretchen and Elliot since Season 2. What is it about their Charlie Rose interview that puts Walt right off his Dimple Pinch, whatever the heck that is, and sets him off again? Surely it’s this: “Is Walter White still out there?” “No, he’s not.” Well, he just was. Now Jekyll’s turned back to Hyde. Thanks guys, we’d just gotten the beast to sleep. Gretchen and Elliot were, theoretically, the fundamental cause for Walter White syndrome. They’re the ones who, inadvertently, led him to become a downtrodden, worthless teacher whose great chemical mind was wasting away. They’re the ones who, indirectly, spurred him on to become Heisenberg.

And, yup, there’s that face – here he goes again. He’s out of there. In a reversal of chemical reactions, the Heis-dration process is under way.

So what now? White dudes with beards are always good guys, right? Santa. Jesus. Mr. Magnorium when he’s out of shaving cream. Well, beard or no beard, it certainly appears that Walt’s going back to Albuquerque for one last showdown, and to fetch his money back – whether for his family or simply for his own pride. Of course, it’s no coincidence that Walt was relocated to New Hampshire. The Granite State’s motto is Live Free or Die (incidentally the title of this season’s first episode). It finally looked like Walt was ready to live free, whether that meant staying at the cabin or turning himself in and putting the past behind him, thus freeing himself of his burdens. But at the end of the episode, he makes his choice to return to a Heisenberg state of mind and do just the opposite of living freely: dying. The question is, though: who will he take with him?

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Excuse Me, But I Think I’m About to Have a Disney Moment

A monkey made me cry the other day. Not even a real monkey, but an actor in a computer-generated chimpanzee suit. Try going to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes and not feel your tear glands getting a little agitated.

Let’s be clear: I didn’t cry, per se, but I was undeniably “welling up”. Completely ignorant of the older Planet movies, I did not really know what to expect. I knew I would see plenty of action, stunning special effects, some freakishly hirsute apes, Freida Pinto looking gorgeous as usual, and Michele Bachmann somewhere in the back shaking her head and tutting: “There is no way we evolved from these brutes.” At no point did I consider that my tear glands might be treated to a workout. From John Lithgow’s poignant portrayal of James Franco’s Alzheimer-touched father to main monkey Caesar’s humanlike attachment to his adoptive family – and his springing to its defense in the face of harm – the film was unashamedly saturated with Disney moments.

“Disney moments” is the term I use for teary episodes during movies. I think I first coined this phrase after watching Cars at the theater with a couple of buddies. At the touching Disney moment, when simpleton truck Mater sensitively confesses to protagonist Lightning McQueen that he was his “beeeeeerst frieeeyend” (“best friend” in Larry the Cable Guy diction), the audience, caught in the Disney bubble of sentimentality, became as quiet as a mute person in a silence contest at a library. With the exception of one of my friends, who burst into inexplicable, uncontrollable laughter, assumingly embarrassed by the schmaltziness. “Great,” I whispered as disconcerted faces turned to him with scowling looks, their immersion into enchanting fairytale land shattered suddenly by his incongruous chuckling, “you just ruined the Disney moment.” The Disney moment should be cherished: it is the emotional turning point in a movie that will eventually drive the hero to accomplish whatever needs to be done. Disney moments should generate awe in an audience, and a couple of tears shed in the visceral detection of this awe is a natural and healthy reaction.

Or is it? For men, at least, is it acceptable to well up during a movie? Don’t get me wrong: it’s not as if I reach frantically for the Kleenexes in the middle of Die Hard or Terminator. But some movies do tug incessantly at the heartstrings, to the point that I feel that male viewers are secretly being jeered at and ridiculed by a panel of macho judges somewhere. I think Sly Stallone, Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are in an undisclosed location someplace, sitting in a room filled with guns, beer and pictures of Tom Selleck’s mustache, peeking at hundreds of little TV screens which show the reactions of men watching romantic comedies and bittersweet dramas, while these men are unaware of the fact that the ultramasculine trio have planted cameras in living rooms and theaters everywhere, as a means to mock those of us more susceptible to blubbering.

I’m ashamed to admit that it has gotten to the point where I started welling up during Click. Yes – the Adam Sandler flick about a remote control. A monkey is one thing. But tearing up because of a remote control? Tearing up in a movie whose ending was: “it was all a dream.” How pathetic is that? I’ll admit wholeheartedly that I am a sucker for formulaic, Sandler-esque comedies, but when it reaches the extent at which they are making me sob – that is something I would be less inclined to disclose. Still, I can attempt to rationalize this uncomfortable deed by explaining that, actually, Click does contain more than its fair share of Disney moments. There is the moment when his father, played affectionately by Henry Winkler, dies without Sandler having uttered a kind word to him for a long time; and then Sandler himself ends up on his deathbed, surrounded by his children and estranged wife. (No need to panic, I repeat: at the end, it’s all a dream). These are pretty profound issues for a man whose films have previously consisted of him teaching an adopted boy how to piss against a wall (Big Daddy, incidentally, is one of my favorite movies of all time. I’ll explain another time). But here’s the thing: bring out your pretentious talons and claw at Sandler all you want; criticize and despise his motion picture template to your heart’s content, but the man is truly not a bad actor by any means. He’s believable and convincing – even in the laid-back, easygoing characters he usually plays, probably because they’re so similar to his own character – and that is the key to a great performance. If I can believe that he is dying; if I can believe that he deeply regrets the way in which he treated his father – which I can – then this is what turns me into a crybaby. Surely, good acting – breaking down the fourth wall and all that jazz – is supposed to provoke your senses and fire up your emotions. And what can I say: it works on me. This is why I have never brought myself to watch The Notebook: if I can’t control myself during Click, what chance do I have of holding it together during one of the most maudlin “weepies” of the past decade? Vin Diesel and co. would be pissing in their jockstraps.

I have been absorbed in ER reruns lately. I used to follow the show every Thursday night; it followed Friends, a childhood favorite of mine, and I began to get hooked by the effortlessly drawn storylines. I hate to repeat myself, but “effortless” is truly the best word to describe this legacy of television history. Revolutionary in being the first (and only true) hospital drama, it was a tearjerker, though not in the same sense of the word as the films mentioned earlier. It was never intentionally schmaltzy or sappy, rather painfully accurate and staggeringly realistic. The writing was flawless, the dialogue never being contrived nor clichéd, and the main characters’ plotlines were weaved so naturally around the chaos and energy of the emergency room. In its heyday, even the seemingly lackluster episodes would, in the space of a second, take a 180-degree turn and things would start to spiral out of control, and in the aftermath of patients spontaneously combusting and doctors getting arms severed by helicopter propellers, the writers would make you hate yourself for ever doubting them.

“Aren’t “spontaneous combustion” and “realistic writing” ingredients for an oxymoron?” you might ask. Quite the opposite, I think. The writers would follow scenes of blood, vomit and general pandemonium with the most pacified, restrained scenes, and it was this obvious juxtaposition that – just like in real life – felt so stupefyingly moving, and that’s exactly the point at which you would feel that embarrassing choking sensation at the back of your throat. It was only a few hours ago, incidentally, that I watched the episode in which the amiable, wise mentor, Dr. Green (not too amiable, not too wise, and not too mentoring, though: remember – the characters were painted without clichés) learns that he has an inoperable brain tumor; a frenzied scene where Dr. Carter attempts to suppress a sudden, violent seizure induced by the tumor is juxtaposed with the poignant scene when Green has to inform his fiancée, Elizabeth, of the devastating news. ER is so realistic that although it chokes viewers up continually, its Disney moments are distinctively produced through – here it is again – its effortless study and depiction of human nature and life.

So, in these cases, where the writing and acting are so strong that you can’t help but shed a tear or two, does “welling up” become permissible for men? I say: have no shame. This is why they personify the vehicles in Cars, and why they get an actor (Andy Serkis) to play the chimp in Apes – so that we can see and feel the human emotion. And it’s no coincidence, Michele Bachmann, that the animals rising are apes and not octopuses or Komodo dragons – because apes are so similar to us that we can relate to their feelings. Call me a crybaby, but it is the job of writers and actors to move us and to stir in us some sort of reaction, and if this reaction happens to be a little watery, then so be it. Otherwise I feel as if I’m doing a disservice to the people in show business, and it’s evident that they care an awful lot about what I think. Anyway, if you’ll excuse me, all this talking about emotions has got me a little worked up so I need to go and break open that Costco-sized crate of Kleenexes that I bought the other day. Excuse me, but I think I’m about to have a Disney moment.

Hey, Dwayne Johnson, stop judging. You were in a movie called Tooth Fairy so you can shut up.

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