Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Series Three, Episode One

So Downton Abbey's Third Series finally started airing stateside. This was originally posted in September when we had lofty goals and thought we could do Wordy Old Men entries on Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey concurrently. 

Old Man Duggan: I don't know about you, but I couldn't wait for this shit to air Stateside. Shall we dive on in? This episode comes in at a lean 66 minutes. One shudders at what PBS might have done in the first season to trim the fat as it were. Lean beef is never a good thing, and Downton Abbey needs to be spectacularly marbled.

Wordy Ginters: Agreed. Have we been cruelly kept from Prime cuts? Bold flavors? Regardless, the familiar piano line in the theme song also had me at full stature.

With this smirk, I thee wed
OMD: Despite the fact that Matthew and Lady Mary are to wed, the meat and potatoes of the conflict in the episode lie elsewhere. On one front--the decidedly more dire situation--it would appear as though Robert has squandered the bulk of the Crawley fortune by investing nearly all of it on surefire Canadian railway stocks. Given the circumstances surrounding his marrying Cora in the first place, I can hardly say this came as a surprise. Frankly, I was expecting this to happen. For the most part, Lord Grantham is a good man, but not all good men are good businessmen. It would seem as though that applies here. It is at times puzzling as to why Fellowes tears down so many of the stand-up gents while letting the snakes advance, but I suppose c'est la vie.

WG: In the end, I respect Fellowes more the morning after precisely because of these kinds of moves. When you are playing within the confines of a traditional melodrama, it's a refreshing twist to see the heels get over, and the hero's heaped with woe.

OMD: As a corollary to this central point of conflict in the episode, Matthew gets news that good ol' Reggie Swire put Matthew in his will as the third in line of succession for his massive fortune. Of course, the guilt-ridden, honor-bound Matthew will not accept the inheritance if good Mr. Pumpkin/Pillbox/Pulbrook did in fact bite the bullet, as he still believes himself to have broken Lavinia's heart and thusly her will to live. If only Anna would tell them about the message from the Gods of Ouija at the end of the Christmas Special, all might be good.

WG: I hope that Ouija Board makes it into an episode or two in Season Three. Matthew is almost too good to be true. Honest, caring, thoughtful, fair. I imagine he's a lot like Jeff Francoeur. And as the episode concluded, I'm still not certain the issue of the partially purloined inheritance is resolved between the two. And probably a leap to assume the death of the would-be heirs breaks the way it needs to land the money in Matthew's lap. If the tumblers fall into place, does his principled refusal to partake of said funds hold water? I'm not so sure. Seems a bit persnickety to me.

OMD: Of course, Matthew's steadfast opposition to accepting the money should it come his way drives a wedge between Mary and himself the night before their wedding, leading to the typical pre-wedding tiff that leaves the viewer reclined back in their seat never wondering as to whether or not the couple will marry but going through the motions of watching as the stressed-out couple wonder if they can be together when they have such a fundamental difference only to realize they love each other thanks in large part to the source of the other conflict in the show, Tom Branson. If there was a slightly tedious element to this episode, it was the construction of a false barrier between Matthew and Mary. Yes, you could construe his actions as careless when viewed in scope of how they affect the family and Downton Abbey as a whole, but she loves Matthew precisely because of who he is and wouldn't really want him to change on such a fundamental level.

WG: Slightly tedious is correct. Some eye rolling occurred when that little pre-nup squall erupted. Too fast. Too predictable. But the more I think about it, the more I'm with Mary. Matty is being a little selfish in his righteous grind to toe his own moral code. He should think about what good that money could do. How many people it could help. Apparently, the aristocracy are the job creators. Several of the Crawley's mentioned the importance of providing employment to the peeps suckling from the sumptuous Downton teats. Fellowes has to be working political doesn't he? Job creatorz!

OMD: And then there's the aforementioned Branson. Nevermind the horrendous hairdo that the showing Lady Sybil is sporting, the real tension comes from the Fenian son-in-law without *gasp* tails for dinner or a morning coat. What. A. Dick. Obviously there was going to be some awkwardness, and Branson does himself no favors, but Lord Grantham doesn't make things easy. Of course, neither does that privileged jerk-off (Larry Gray) who slips our strapping Irish lad a mickey. There's a subtext here, of course. Rich English pricks slip mickeys on a prank, but I think we all know what that arch-browed, ill-mannered twink wanted once he wore down young Branson's defenses. F2FA. And Larry doesn't care if his Fenian mark is conscious or not. He's basically the proto-frat boy. Still, Branson might have been better served biting his tongue. I agree with him in spirit, but why exacerbate things when unnecessary. Oh, and Sir Anthony Strallan! Fucking put that ponce in his place, brother-man. And after Anthony swoops in, fucking Matthew makes Branson his best man.

Chests be swellin'
WG: I've felt that surge of emotion one other time in my life. Matthew making Branson his best man took me back to 4th grade, and a young Sylvester Stallone, playing a pugilist by the name of "Rocky Balboa," in a sporting drama called Rocky. The same emotion that swelled within my 4th grade chest, which showed a preternaturally sexy amount of smooth width and marbled girth even then, as "Rocky" triumphantly ramped up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, swelled again at Matthews generous offer to Branson. My heart soared. My spirits were set aloft. Great moment. Larry Gray was a dick, a dunce, a thing to be mocked. Nice twist that one armed Strallan dropped a dime on him. With Matthew's guidance, Branson just might find some dignified balance to his firebrand politics. He's a kid though, what do you expect? He's still in his Rage Against the Machine phase.

OMD: I can tell you this: Irish gardens are blessed with far more variety than English ones.

WG: I envy your globe trotting exploits.

OMD: I loved the scene with Isobel and Violet summoning Tom to Crawley House. Oh, Molesley will fit you for that morning jacket, sir. And how great was it that it was Violet who sent the money to Tom and Sybil? Snarkiness aside, she is exceedingly unpredictable.

WG: Playing against the stereotype is typically a winner. She could. Not. Be. Stopped. I almost felt bad for Branson, his principled anti-tails, anti-costume rhetoric crumbled like an old scone in a cup of warm tea. Lady Grantham pushed him all over the mat with nothing more than a confident demeanor. Jedi mind tricks learned carnally from Alec Guiness.

OMD: Are there two lonelier, sadder Brits that Sir Anthony Strallan and Lady Edith? If she doesn't end up with him, she'll turn batshit crazy and start writing poetry from her bedroom while never leaving the house, some unholy amalgam of Emily Dickinson and Miss Havisham.

WG: I could totally see Lady Edith going Havisham. A broken heart leads to a gift for manipulation and a candle fetish. I'm all for it if she pimps around Ethan Hawke. Strallan certainly needs some more convincing. When Edith practically car jacked his ride early in the episode, the look on his face was fucking delightful. Half what the hell are you doing, half surprise, and another 1/3 disgusted. I don't know if he's keeping her at arm's length out of kindness, a true belief that they are too far apart in age, or from flat-out disgust.

OMD: "Hobbledehoys," eh, Mr. Carson? I think it's safe to say this is getting stored away in the old archaic nouns notebook I keep for myself when wanting unfurl insults at the dullards and ne'er-do-wells I cross paths with on a nearly daily basis. For those wondering at home but lacking in the desire to crack out the dictionary department, a hobbledehoy is a gawky, awkward youth. Can we assume Alfred Nugent is Ted's father? Does that make Ted less American in our eyes? So are we to assume that Miss O'Brien comes from a long line of lanky gingers? Oh, and another red-head? If ever there were any question, there is none now: The ginger quotient on Downton Abbey is higher than on any other program[me] in the history of television.

WG: Would it be too much to ask for Beat Happening's "Red Head Walking" as theme music? No, I don't think it would.

OMD: Since it's unlikely that'll happen, will embedding it work?
Fucking Bates's new cellmate. You just know that's a ticking time-bomb, set to go off exactly when Bates is free/about to be free/or happy for the first time since his wedding day. And the second time Anna visits Bates at prison, there's a pair of lines that I initially thought were throw-aways, but they caught my ear the third time I watched the episode. Bates asks Anna, "But how long will that take?" when she presents her plan to write to all the contacts in the book, to which she replies, "Why? Are you going somewhere?" He smiles back at her, and the line floats there for two solid beats. I'm surely not insinuating that I believe Bates is going to break out of prison if this all takes too long, but there are lots of places for this storyline to go, and the ominous presence of his doucher cellmate could certainly externally propel him down an ill-fated path.

WG: You know what I thought of the doucher cellmate? The doucher cellmate was a physical manifestation of Bates' conscious. Believe it. Also, I think the old school English jail house uniforms are pretty sweet compared to the old black and white stripey numbers that were en vogue in the US back in those days. Saville Row has always had an edge on the US when it comes to fashion. The shots that establish the prison are a little incongruous as well. That place gleams with white light and windows. Even more so than the church. The holiest of holy is the relationship betwixt Anna and Bates. It is not to be sullied or torn asunder.

OMD: You're actually the second person I know to say that they thought Bates's cellmate was a figment of his imagination. Time will tell, I suppose.

So newly tied together through matrimony means carrying your bride up and down the stairs naked while her dad looks on helplessly but with a smile on his face? The Brits are fucking weird.

WG: As a father of a daughter, I don't know if I would look forward to that very much, if at all.

OMD: Molesley the Essential. I loved O'Brien's initial scoffing at the thought only to see at the wedding that he actually was valued. Even when he's not trying, Matthew is our hero, putting O'Brien in her place. And is that a stirring of discontent between Thomas and O'Brien? Are the thieves not so thick anymore? Speaking of stirring, discontent, and Thomas, his prodding of Daisy causes a one-person strike in the kitchen. Mrs. Patmore's handling of the whole situation actually had me laughing.

WG: Patmore was all right in this episode. "Have you swallowed a dictionary?" O'Brien and "Mr. Barrow" are definitely on the outs. I was thinking O'Brien is one of the most powerful and aggressive players on the scene. She's a shitheel schemer, but she usually figures out a way to get what she wants. Like shoehorning in her nephew as the new footman when Lord Grantham was distracted. He's tall. And he worked at a hotel. He might as well have been a convicted child molester in Carson's eyes.

OMD: Six-foot-two? Egads! Get thee to the freak show, Nugent.

When Branson and Tom are walking off together, away from the pub in their suits, hats, and overcoats, resolved to form a unified front as brothers-in-law against their high-minded wives, I had a momentary flash of how much I wanted the two of them getting a spin-off in which they fight crime on the streets of Ripon. Holy shit would that be a great fucking show. I still want them to be Tom Branson and Matthew Crawley, but they need to beat back street toughs and ruffians while hitting the bottle hard and running from their familial duties while serving a greater good.

WG: I want to watch that show. Would they have uniforms? Superhero powers? Or are you thinking more of a straight up Sherlock Holmes kind of vibe? Maybe a bit of a Wild Wild West steam punk thing? It was another heart swelling moment. You'd have to be a cyncial ass cynic of a sonofabitch not to get a little caught up in that scene.

OMD: I was thinking darker. Maybe like Simon & Simon or Hardcastle & McCormick or Cagney & Lacey (Season Two on, of course, C&L sans Gless is not C&L) or England Dan & John Ford Coley with a heavy Luther tinge.

Is Lady Mary not the spitting image of Jackie Kennedy when modeling her "going away" outfit?

WG: For real. Had the same exact thought. When the JFK, Zombie Killer movie finally comes out, I think I know who has the inside track for Jackie O. That's a thing, right? Hollywood doing movies of all the former presidents as monster killers or monster enthusiasts of some sort? Martin Van Buren, Yeti Fetishist? Grover Cleveland, Fish Fucker?  Wilford Brimley, Moustache Haunter? Was Wilford Brimley ever elected President though?

OMD: Pretty sure he was. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the catty repartee between Shirley MacLaine and Maggie Smith. I know the ladies love this stuff almost as much as they love Cool James. That homing pigeon simile complete with the "dreadful" add-on was pretty goddamn funny.

WG: Shirley hung dong. Great scene. I hope Fellowes can keep it fresh between the two. It won't be easy

OMD: If the news of who paid Branson and Sybil's fare wasn't it, the nicest moment of the episode might have been when Lady Mary descended the staircase in her wedding gown with her glowing fathers, Carson and Lord Grantham, looking on proudly. Carson is at least as moved at the moment as her actual father. I loved Mrs. Hughes's gentle ribbing of Carson in the pews at the church. I don't know about you, but when Lord Grantham said he was "so happy [his] chest could explode," I had a terrible flashback to Roseanne, when Dan had a heart attack at Darlene's wedding. That is not how I want Lord Grantham to go down.

WG: (I'm just going to stand back and admire that one like everybody else.)

OMD: Oh, and Mary's brief glimpse at Matthew, eyes sealed shut, after they kissed and made up, was a great moment. And I really liked their little exchange before running through the rigmarole of the actual ceremony.

OMD: Despite the fact that two full series and a Christmas episode built up to this moment, the actual wedding is an afterthought and therefore is not necessary. Fellowes is a crafty bastard who knows what moments actually matter.

What have ye?

WG: I've given all I have to give. Surprised at myself for how much I enjoyed welcoming Downton back into the fold.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Man on Film: Moonrise Kingdom

It's been quite some time since I saw this one, and I'll start things off by saying that my feelings were mixed. At one point, Wes Anderson was probably the working director whose next work I most looked forward to. Unfortunately, the more I grew up, the more he stayed the same. This difference has become increasingly clear as his last two films have been a stop-motion animation flick about an adolescent fox and now a summer camp movie about a 12-year-old orphan in love.

As with The Fantastic Mr. Fox, this film is cute and probably more effective than the last two "adult" films Anderson directed. There is also a certain allowance one must make when walking into the theater to see a Wes Anderson film. It will have a very distinct look and feel; its characters will be emotionally damaged and stunted; and there will be daddy issues. While Moonrise Kingdom does mostly succeed in what it sets out to do, one has to wonder if this is not because Anderson has set the film's protagonists as precocious 12-year-olds who are then called upon to convey the only depth of emotions that the auteur himself is capable of reaching. Their sentiments ring truer, in part, it would seem precisely because the writer/director is largely stuck in that place.

Moonrise Kingdom does suffer from being too precocious and cute. Its unknown stars, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, are what they are meant to be, and both are atypically outstanding for child actors, but both are used in such a way as to imply a sexuality that is frankly a bit unnerving. While they both remain sexually innocent, there exists within the film a gaze that borders on uncomfortable voyeuristic objectification of minors, as they are both clad in their underwear while on their getaway--an off-putting element of the film to be sure. When found by her father (played by Bill Murray, who reprises the role of neutered man in a loveless marriage that he played in The Royal Tenenbaums), they are donning that attire and sleeping together, innocently as it may have been.

Again, the film does mostly succeed in being what it attempts to be, and it is hard to fault a filmmaker for not being something he is not. It is just sad to see an auteur with such tools fail to realize a greater potential in favor of being a developmentally arrested genius fixated on his junior high years and a strained relationship with his father.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Man on Film: Lawless

Director John Hillcoat and long-time friend and part-time collaborator Nick Cave's latest feature together Lawless may not be as fully-realized or as well-executed an effort as their last project together 2005's The Proposition, but it's a helluva ride nonetheless.

Set in the hills of Appalachia during the Prohibition Era, we are brought into a rural America that is being encroached upon by the larger urban powers that be, both lawful and unlawful. It is an interesting backdrop, and Lawless gives us a region and a people at a crossroads, a time and place in which these western Virginians had an overarching desire to simply hold onto their way of life. More so than perhaps anyone else in this world, the Bondurant boys want to keep a grip on their way of life and by means that at times defy logic and reason they will stand up to whatever outside forces attempt to act against them.

As the leader of the family, Forrest Bondurant, Tom Hardy is fantastic. His performance is positively inspired. Each moment he is on screen is a moment in which the film is enriched for his having been there. His natural physicality is brilliantly contrasted by an otherwise soft-spoken mumble-filled performance; he is socially reserved and a bit awkward but underneath lies a darkness and brutality waiting to boil over, spilling over onto everything around him. For his part, Jason Clarke--in a role with much less meat--fully embodies the less refined, less reserved, more inclined to indulging his id bootlegging brother. Rounding out the Brothers Bondurant, Shia LaBeouf is serviceable if not spectacular as the youngest and weakest of the bunch, the one who gets too big for his britches as it were. He is supposed to be a bit feckless and disproportionately cocksure, but it's hard to get past the fact that he looks pretty haggard and booze-soaked even when he's not supposed to be.

In support (or at times opposition) of the brothers, the rest of the cast is exceptionally well-cast. Jessica Chastain, continuing on in her string of outstanding turns, is great, holding her own against an otherwise almost entirely male cast and with a role that's not brimming over with rich subtext and backstory. She is stunning, and once again imbues her character with a quiet humanity that very few can infuse into their roles as seamlessly and effortlessly. In a lesser role, Gary Oldman, ever the chameleon, sinks into his role as big city mobster Floyd Banner as he has done hundreds of times before. But the most impressive performance (aside from Hardy's) comes from Guy Pearce, who is unrecognizable in appearance, manner, and performance. As an effete city cop with a streak of brutality and a disturbing sexuality about him, Pearce was brilliant. Complete with perhaps the most disturbing hairstyle ever, Pearce is the slimiest dandy cop imaginable, and he plays this with such elan that it simultaneously makes you marvel at the depravity while being shaken.

To compliment a spectacular cast, screenwriter Cave and Warren Ellis took to working up a brilliant soundtrack, one that hasn't left the CD player in the car in weeks. Between employing the likes of Ralph Stanley, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, and Mark Lanegan, reworking tunes by Captain Beefheart, The Velvet Underground, Link Wray, John Lee Hooker, and Grandaddy, and writing songs anew, the soundtrack is so much goddamn fun.

As for the script, it manages to be significantly more fun than Cave's last time out. For all of the serious subject matter and the dire straits the Bondurants find themselves in, Lawless is actually quite funny, a trait that one wouldn't generally apply to The Proposition. Given his penchant for extreme violence, it is amusing to read Cave saying in interviews that the book from which the film is adapted (The Wettest County in the World) is jarringly violent and that much of the violence simply couldn't come through to the screen. The violence is still there and would appear to stay true to the way it manifests itself in the book, being jarring precisely because of how the lyricism in the book so suddenly gives way to darkness. The balance is struck quite well, and the quieter or more pastoral scenes of Appalachian Prohibition Era life contrast well with the violence that colors the film.

For Hillcoat's part, the film looks fantastic, and the whole thing comes together quite nicely. While not entirely perfect, Lawless is a good damn time and delivers on the promise that the assembly of the pieces involved possesses. Hillcoat largely has the sublime performances of Tom Hardy and Guy Pearce to thank for that, but they do make Lawless a helluva good time.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Three, Episode Two "Spaghetti & Coffee"

While Nucky is away sort of tending to business and sort of tending to Billie Kent in the NYC, Eli gets out of prison and begins working under Mickey Doyle. Gyp Rosetti takes up root in Tabor Heights to block the way between Atlantic City and New York. No goldfish were harmed in the filming of this episode.

Old Man Duggan: So an entire episode without either Harrow or Van Alden is a sad one, but the world keeps spinning on its axis. At least the specter of Harrow's bold act at the conclusion of "Resolutions" looms over the proceedings herein.

Wordy Ginters: Building blocks. Bricks were laid with future mayhem in mind. Still, it is a buzzkill to endure an episode without some of Boardwalk Empire's best characters.

OMD: Starting at the top, we are presented with two potentially innocent victims who are mercifully spared by the larger Powers That Be. First, the goldfish, dumped from its bowl into the sink left to, well, do whatever the opposite of drowning is, only to be spared that dire fate at the cost of a glass of whiskey, of course. Second, the gas station attendant. If there were any question as to whether or not Gyp Rosetti's introduction was an effective one, you need look no further than the tension that fills the scene with that kid. Motor oil? Map scaling? Both petty corrections that could result in one's death, I suppose, at least when those corrections are directed at Gyp Rosetti--or do we call him D.L. "Pop" Collingsworth now?

WG: Gyp reminded me a little bit of Nosferatu walking around in that long coat with the black gloves. Terence Winter did a nice job of setting Gyp's character at full-on menace. That he ultimately restrained himself this week is a nice touch too. Who knows what he'll do? What do you think happened to Pop Collingsworth? The Italian accent drifts into Super Mario Brothers territory from time to time, but the "everybody has a gotta the guns" scene was as good as it looked in the previews.

OMD: Eli wastes no time, does he? "Let me ask you something, Mickey: How the fuck are you still alive?" I, for one, am glad that someone asked the question that has been nagging at me every moment I watch him do anything. It's even better that it is the great Shea Whigham who gets to chew on that line. And the hand on the leg? Great touch.

WG: Mickey is irritating. I'm going to call my shot and suggest Gyp rub's him out eventually. I cackled when Eli said that straight away on account of you asking the same question last week. No one knows the answer. With the shipment to Rothstein getting queered, and Manny pushing up daisies, Mickey may be losing his value.

OMD: Samuel comes a-courtin'. Can you imagine the media attention young Samuel would get if he were an athlete this day and age? Jesus, all the subcutaneously racist buzzwords would get thrown in his direction. And, of course, when Maybelle is given the opportunity at the life that both her father, Chalky, and Samuel want for her, she attempts to piss it away, favoring the excitement that the danger inherent her father's way of life could bring. Well, she favors that until she's presented with the harsh reality of that danger. I'm pretty sure she shat herself. Samuel, however, got his druthers about him rather quickly and began to tend to his severely bludgeoned assailant. You think Maybelle still wants to walk on the wild side, or is she done wanting to slum it? All that really matters though is that we get more Michael K. Williams.

WG: Maybelle definitely gains a better understanding of the distance between whispered stories of jazz speakeasies with her brother in the safety of her house, and the hot, sweaty, unpredictable reality underneath the glare of bare bulbs in a real roadhouse. I liked that Samuel, the Jacque Vaughn of Boardwalk Empire characters, side-steps Chalky to tend to the man who carved his cheek. The dude who plays Samuel did a great job of alternately trembling like a bunny, and then forcing himself the courage to deal, i.e., regulate the motion offense from the point, knock down the money free throws at the end, and then dazzle Bob Davis by using 4 syllable words and being polite in the post-game presser.

I don't know if devil_fingers lurks in these parts, but it would be interesting to hear his take on the jazz in this episode, and the series in general. Chalky mentions something about a Professor from Kansas City who beat on his piano pretty good, I wonder if it was Count Basie? Also a reference to a King and Carter number. Klaassen, reveal thine self and share the jazz love in the comments section.

OMD: I also like the parallel drawn between Chalky and Eli in this episode. Both wanting better lives for their children. Both having lived lives with a modest amount of success but having had to make sacrifices of themselves to get where they were. Then they are faced with their children not embracing the lives they envisioned for them. Did their respective sacrifices of character poison the well from which their families drink? At the very least, I can answer Chalky's question. Yes, you're interesting now.

WG: Excellent question. Seems like Chalky's kids are well-suited to succeed. He can't read, if I recall correctly. But his children appear to be headed for bigger and better things, college for example, which was pretty rare for African-Americans back in the '20s. I assume the incident at the speakeasy has washed away any lingering fantasies about living a bohemian lifestyle that Maybelle had. Maybe not. Eli's kids seem like they are in a tougher spot. Will obviously resents Eli. Didn't even open up his present from a few years ago, and has quite literally taken over man of the house duties. Even his clothes looked too small, like he was growing over the course of a few scenes to further illustrate how he made the move from boy to man in Eli's absence.

Dr. Mason, I presume?
OMD: So Dr. Mason is a douche. He certainly does have "a maddening way." More importantly, doesn't it just feel like the actor Patrick Kennedy is channeling French Stewart. Also, appalling tobacco? Is that code for something? And a Catholic Hospital? Do we think Dr. Mason simply wants to educate about birth control or something far more nefarious? Abortions for all the poor, perhaps?

WG: I think he was inferring that they spend an inordinate amount of time covering up child abuse within the diocese, doesn't leave the resources necessary for pre-natal outreach.

OMD: What do you think Gyp said to Sheriff Sickles between the point at which Sickles tried to give them the ol' heave-ho from the hospitable Kinneret Lodge and Tabor Heights with the head on back to New York line and when they're cowering in fear in the street telling the booze caravan to turn tail.

WG: Very effective to leave that bit of business off screen. Only helps Gyp grow in stature. Sickles is still alive. So I'm guessing Gyp crushed his palm with paper. With favors of more sweets to come. Or more likely, totally bulldog bullied him into turning traitor.

I got a big kick out of Gyp and his henchman forcing down the diner's spaghetti and meatballs. Reminded me of the faces on the gang at Downton Abbey after Daisy sabotaged some of Patmore's dishes.

OMD: Just like mom made. Would you put $40K in a fishbowl, sight of contact unseen?

WG: Remus did. Remus is what Remus does. I don't think I would have. More out of fear than bravado. Seemed too shady. The Gaston Bullock Means character was a trip. He'd fit in nicely in a David Lynch movie. Cryptic. Intense. Knew too much. I loved how he insinuated that Smith and Daugherty were gay.

OMD: Bringing Jimmy James into the fold is never a bad idea. I'm just glad that he's not a fish killer. Stephen Root should be in everything, especially when being called upon to generally confuse all those with whom he interacts.

It seems that Nucky spends the episode living in a haze like Don Draper in The Village, running from the life he fought/lied/cheated/killed for, finally obtained, and now has mixed feelings about having gotten in the first place. And in Billie's apartment, the razor blade? I mean I get what's going on with the razor (it's not his), but why did he take the blade from the razor in the first place? Obviously, if he can kill his figurative son, the gloves are probably off, but are we to view the temporary removal of a razor blade as a brief flirtation with killing Season Three's Paz de la Huerta in a jealous rage? And leaving Mr. Sleater out to dry? Obviously, he doesn't know he's shirking off an urgent phone call for himself, but I suppose that's what happens when the King tries to run away from the throne.

WG: I read it as a possible way for him to emasculate his various competitors. She IS a vivacious young woman. Nothing more emasculating than staring at a mirror with a face covered in of ridiculous cream, and nothing to raze it with. Stealing their razors. Sending a message. Could completely be a prelude to a Soprano's style goomar whacking as well.

OMD: That seems a much more likely reading of that scene than mine.

WG: I wonder if there is anything more to the playing pool at Rothstein's place scene. Nucky and Rothstein engage in their usual bon mots chess match (Nucky has a nice habit of zeroing in on exactly the issue at hand with his speech, usually clouded in some social nicety.) Rothstein runs the table as easily as he ferrets out Nucky's knowledge of the Manny murder, and the depth of his relationship with Billie. The one point where he gets stopped in his tracks is when Nucky, absentmindedly, I think, gives the wrong date for a shipment of booze. Rothstein stuffs the pool cue in the corner pocket and gets assertive and says I hope your boys have calendars. Now that the booze run has been put on hold, I wonder if the little moment of confusion Nucky had over the date of the delivery is going to get him into hot water. 

OMD: It's hard to say whether or not that will play out at all. One would assume it would, but I can't imagine Nucky doesn't relay news of the obstructionist Gyp setting up shop as Pop Collingsworth.

WG: Ordinary men avoid trouble. Extraordinary men turn it to their advantage. This has to be about as close a definition of private equity work as I've ever heard.

OMD: Pretty on-point there. That said, Mitt Romney must have been horrible at it, judging by his complete inability to avoid trouble on the campaign trail, this in spite of the fact that an entire "news" network employs advisers to his campaign.

WG: Time for a White Rock beverage.

OMD: Crack comes in liquid form?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Man on Film: The Campaign

Let's just get this one out there.

The Campaign was decent but ultimately forgettable with very few moments stuck. Galifianakis was fine. Ferrell was fine. Sudeikis was fine.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Man on Film: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Having always sort of written off the book without knowing much about it other than having an inkling that it wouldn't exactly speak to me, I went into the free advance screening of The Perks of Being a Wallflower on Monday with an idea that I probably wouldn't like it. Moreover, I was expecting to to be a bit grating.

My preconceived notions as to what the film was going to be were wrong.

For those who did read the book--roughly 90% of my friends at the time of its release--I would imagine if you held it dearly in your heart, you will be pleased at its adaptation for the screen. The chief reason for that, of course, is that the book's author, Stephen Chbosky, adapted the screenplay and directed the film. Unlike any book adaptation in my recollection, the spirit of the original work isn't being channeled through second- and third-parties before reaching the silver screen. One would imagine that Chbosky knows what Chbosky was thinking when he wrote the book, that the subtler elements of theme and character that endeared the book to so many weren't left at the wayside.

If you've read reviews here, or worse yet know me, you would probably assume I would have hated this movie, at least if you're unfamiliar with the source material and had only seen the trailer. But goddammit, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was really fucking good.

Yes, there is way too much screen time devoted to the act of high schoolers discovering music and then idealistically extolling its virtues, but somehow it plays as it is supposed to play. These are kids. As adults, we are watching them, often painfully, discover these things.  There is an authorial knowledge that these moments are awkward. Where films like Garden State or to a lesser but still significant degree 500 Days of Summer pit musical taste as a central redemptive or appealing characteristic for a character (and more importantly those characters are fully-formed adults), these are kids. It may sound stupid, but these things matter more when you're 15. Fuck, everything seems to matter more when you're 15.

Where The Perks of Being a Wallflower is different from those films is in the heart of the film. While there are comedic elements, this isn't exactly a comedy. More than most teen movies, this gets at the heart of the pain that comes along with growing up. Perhaps the film spoke to me more because it's set against the backdrop of the mid-90s (if I were to guess, I'd say it's about 1993 or '94) when I came of age, but a movie that I didn't really want to speak to me spoke to me. My issues growing up paled in comparison to those of some of the central characters, but it seemed a snapshot of my life at the time, short of drug-use, which was around but I never (perhaps unfortunately) dabbled with.

I'd be remiss if I neglected heaping praise on the principle cast. Logan Lerman (who TSLF refers to as Percy Jackson, but other readers would be much more likely to remember as the tag-along son in the great 3:10 to Yuma remake) excelled in a complex role. Emma Watson, despite playing yet another teenager, got to play a much more adult role and did so adeptly in her attempt to distance herself from the role that made her but could still break her. Ezra Miller played the exuberant but damaged gay teen with elan, making you wish that he was your gay friend growing up, infusing nearly all of the energy into the film single-handedly. As far as the secondary cast is concerned, Paul Rudd and Nina Dobrev (probably the only time they'll ever be put in a sentence together in this blog's history and/or future) both did well but felt underused. Say what you will about Dobrev, but she's easy on the eyes.

Really, though, this is Chbosky's world, and they all live in it. He pulls this all off, leading me to actually be curious enough to contemplate checking out Jericho.

All in all, as an outsider to the original work, I have to say I liked The Perks of Being a Wallflower, despite what the skeptic/cynic that resides in my blackened, deadened heart wanted me to feel about the film.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Three, Episode One "Resolutions"

Just as each season before it, Season Three kicks off as the New Year is turning over. Opulent parties. Stages being set. Appearances being kept. This time a significant amount of time has passed--roughly a year and a half if I'm not mistaken, as the calendars are about to be turned over to 1923, whereas Season Two started in January of 1921. Things have changed. Nucky is a philanthropist. "Friends" Manny Horvitz and Mickey Doyle are in league with one another. Van Alden is now George Mueller, door-to-door iron salesman in Capone's backyard. Gillian is now a madame at the Commodore's repurposed estate, The Artemis Club, with Harrow as their caretaker.

Old Man Duggan: So here we are, basically at square one. "Resolution" feels very much like the pilot episode. Nucky is on top of the world, throwing a big soiree. Since so much time has passed since last we saw our Atlantic City friends, it really feels as though this episode is setting up all the pieces on the chess board. Let's start in the Chicagoland area. So, Dean O'Banion's a smug mick prick if I ever did see one. It's rare that I'm rooting for it, but holy shit do I want Capone to empty a full magazine into O'Banion's chest. Unfortunately this won't happen until November 10th of 1924, so we've got 23 television months to wait for this to happen.

Wordy Ginters: O'Banion's got some brass. You've got to give him that. What makes Boardwalk interesting is how they color outside the lines a little bit on well-worn gangster archetypes. Foolhardy jackassery like O'Banion displays is usually a prelim for getting beaten with ball bats and rolled into a remote corn field grave. It was bracing to see him above ground the rest of the way.

"Philanthropy" run amok
OMD: If there's a drawback of intently watching a show with such a rich historical background, it's that you can figure out when characters die pretty easily. Dean, or as the papers would come to call him, Dion O'Banion is about to set off the Chicago bootlegging wars. O'Banion got his start in the Market Street Gang, who were put to work first by the Chicago Tribune to beat newsstand owners who wouldn't put out the paper. They were made a more lucrative offer to do the work for the Chicago Examiner run by Moses Annenberg, who would be the channel through which they would meet Ward Bosses. Moses, of course, was the father of Walter Annenberg, who would unsuccessfully sue the Barnes Foundation and then use his own newspaper (the Philadelphia Inquirer) as a means by which to attack over the private art collection entrusted to the foundation as was all elucidated in The Art of the Steal. Of course, the Annenberg Foundation (and The Pew Charitable Trust) would eventually get its way, but it would seem that the Annenbergs may have been philanthropists in a way not unlike Nucky Thompson.

Nelson, Nelson, Nelson. How far you've fallen. Pitiably strolling from Cicero door to Cicero door peddling electric irons for a pittance while living in a sad little apartment with Wife Number Two with your bastard and your newer, proper child--well as proper a child as the devoutly troubled Nelson Van Alden can have post-divorce. Terence Winter sure was cagey with our reintroduction to Van Alden, playing against our expectations that he was there to bust Mr. Posner. But no, he's 1924 equivalent of the telemarketer--the door-to-door salesman. Furthermore, he's reciting Émile Coué's mantra in an almost predictable effort to improve himself through optimistic autosuggestion. It's all so goddamn sad. I just hope that Michael Shannon has plenty to do this season. Of all the great actors on the show, he's the one I want to see ply his trade the most. Do you think Mr. Gulliver gets drowned while being baptized?

WG: Émile Coué. Well done. I thought maybe he was mainlining some early Dale Carnegie. Van Alden, ahem, George Mueller, seems in danger of sinking balls deep into the faux business gospel of salesmanship as much as he was previously immersed in the Old Testament. Trading one set of values for another. I'll leave it to others to discern whether or not the Bible is also a sales book. Gulliver deserves death by baptism as much as O'Bannion deserves moozarella pounded in his arse. Which is to say, they both deserve it richly. Can you imagine buying anything the glowering Van Alden-Mueller would have to offer should he darken your door? My first inclination would be to call the SWAT team.

OMD: Thankfully Tony Robbins, or worse L. Ron Hubbard, isn't around to really do some damage to our wayward hero. His is a tortured soul, and if we're to judge by his recitation of the Coue method, it seems as though he'll latch onto any credo if it can deliver him to salvation. Could you imagine how irritating he'd be if The Secret or The Purpose Driven Life were big in his day?

Speaking of sad and moving back to Jersey, poor Richard Harrow. Our most sensitive character (well, duality obviously plays a role in Harrow's personality) sits watching over his best friend's child while his best friend's terribly fucked up and boundary oblivious mother tries to erase all traces of the boy's dead mother, the only woman who truly understood him in his mangled state. At least he exacted Angela's revenge. Now he'll have to rot under Gillian's roof unless Winter & Co. have more exciting plans for him. I, for one, hope to see Harrow and Owen Slater taking it to Nucky's new foil Gyp Rosetti in a most medieval fashion.

WG: As much as I hate to see Manny go, Harrow's Angela revenge was a nice unexpected touch. I wouldn't mind seeing him go rogue. Tough to imagine him throwing in with Nucky. Harrow is the most interesting character on the show. Regarding the duality you mention, he's often the most gentle and most remorseless character in the course of the same episode. I can't imagine anyone else tenderly taking Jimmy's son under his wing like Harrow does. Jesus, the look on the carny barker's face when he was boring holes in the Great Plains Shooting Gallery was priceless. He was going to score a wagon next, which was needed to tote the bounty of toys and trinkets he had already won. Behind that Tin Mask is a complex motherfucker with an eagle eye for targets.

Two swallows doth not a summer make
OMD: But can we not dream of a world that sees Harrow and The Duke of Crowborough meting out Jersey justice side by side?

WG: Christ. The Downton Abbey connection. I totally missed that one. You can see a little bit of the Duke of Crowborough bleeding through in his dealings with Margaret. A lascivious twinkle in his eye.

OMD: Perhaps the biggest question I had about the new season was what state would the Thompsons' marriage be in? The quick answer would seem to be: filled with strife. As soon as the dust from the party has settled and the two are alone, it is clear that theirs is a marriage now consisting of going through the motions. I suppose such was to be expected given her charitable donation of all the Turnpike land to the archdiocese. I can't say I blame Nucky for being livid. Her sad, guilt-ridden existence has always been the most irritating part of her character to me. Don't get me wrong, Kelly MacDonald is fucking fantastic, but her Catholic upbringing has left her wrought with guilt. Part of me is surprised she's still alive.

WG: I'm with you on that one. My beef is that the royal couple is a little too one-noted. Margaret in perpetual Catholic angst. Nucky as an ever-so slightly nonplussed and grumpy High School principal. Another example of the chopped and screwed character nuances that make the show unique. I get the impression Nucky feels like he's drowning in morons. It makes him weary. Not a raging volatile hothead in the Scarface/Tony Soprano/Johnny Dangerously vein. The snarling at Margaret over the ins and outs of how to appropriately lobby for pre-natal care kindled a rare show of fire from Nucky.

OMD: With Mickey Doyle still puzzlingly alive these four years later, that should be enough dipshittery in the mix to feel like you were drowning in it. Imbecile indeed.

Gyp Rosetti. Quite the intro. Clearly he's a hotheaded fuckmook with a penchant for lashing out at even the slightest hint of disrespect. Think he was an only child? And 500 cases of rum? Even his clientele are douchebags. Drinking fucking mojitos, pretending their Roaring '20s pirates? What worthless piece of shit would need that much rum? Weird rum fact: Apparently it plays a central part in the culture of the Maritime Provinces and Newfoundland. I guess if Rosetti is a Newfoundlander or has exclusive distribution rights to what was then still the autonomous Dominion of Newfoundland I can make an allowance for him needing rum so badly. Otherwise? Shitheel.

WG: But what a glorious shitheel. His thinskinnery was laughable. Johnny Dangerously again (Joe Piscopo as Danny Vermin). The way he busted beans after Nucky dropped the "only selling to one guy bomb" right before midnight was magic. I believe I actually heard the terms "smug kike midget creeping around like a dentist with the ether," "and you, like a breadstick in a bow tie," and my favorite, "I'll shit you out like yesterday's sausage you bog-trotting prick." Somewhere among that flurry of verbal brickbats he referred to Charlie Luciano as "short pants" and suggested he "sit in the corner." I thought he was possessed by Don Rickles. Or Shakespeare. Thank God Regina made it out of the episode alive. I thought for sure Gyp was going to snap her neck and leave her cute and fuzzy dog corpse in Margaret's arms on his way out. And Gyp presaged Paris Hilton's "using a dog as an accessory" gambit by decades.

OMD: It sure looks as though the most corrupt administration to ever take hold in Washington is about to come crashing down around the soon-to-be deceased Warren Harding. Teapot Dome is heating up. Silent Cal is eight months and two days from taking office from the dead and shamed 28th President. I laughed aloud at the "If Untermyer were the only woodsman" line.

WG: That line was a shade more distinguished than the spreading legs and spreading wings crack he made earlier. But no doubt, Nucky has the angles covered. The Samuel Untermyer referenced was a real-life liberal lawyer bad-ass, who made his bones locking horns with J.P. Morgan, and ultimately played a role in the creation of the Federal Reserve System. As history catches up, he'll get Daugherty in his crosshairs too.

OMD: Much like Mad Men and Downton Abbey, we get our glimpse at the plight of woman. Margaret is treated dismissively left and right in this episode. Her husband is running around on her now, though she sealed that deal when she pissed away his fortune as a fucking tithe. Every doctor is a douchebag to her, despite the fact that SHE FUCKING BUILT THAT HOSPITAL with the highway land dough. Even their manservant is disparaging Carrie Duncan, the aviatrix attempting to cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Methinks feminism comes more and more to the fore this season. What think you?

WG: Absolutely. Interesting arc that connects these three series. And some critics contend Boardwalk Empire is all dressed up with nowhere to go, that it doesn't have anything to say. Bullshit. It's not much of a reach to read plenty into the show. I'd give that type of "it has nothing to say" high-brow dismissal more credence if I'd ever see it laid upon the heads of Family Guy or The Big Bang Theory. Did you catch Nucky's kid Thomas with the shitheel snickering after the manservant made that anti-female pilots crack? Unless Nucky gets shit squared away at home, his kid is going to grow up to be the type of meatwad who ends up with the mantra of Gym, Tanning, Laundry. Thomas and Snooki are bootlegging Four Loko in an alternate universe somewhere.

OMD: Was I alone in erroneously thinking that Lillian Kent was the subject of "Pictures of Lily?" I later figured out that was Lillie Langtry, who was a Brit. Newcomer Meg Steedle was, um, fetching. Comely.

WG: Gorgeous. Beautiful smile. And a refreshing lack of pretense. Anyone who can get Nucky to Walk Like an Egyptian has to have serious game. References to The Who are my favorite references. The seaside vista is vaguely reminiscent of the setting in Quadrophenia. Nucky is a mod. Harrow is a rocker. Sting is Ace Face.

Can't Hardly Wait
OMD: I never thought I'd say this, but the show misses Jimmy Darmody. I really didn't want to like Michael Pitt. It felt like he was channeling Ethan Embry's performance in Brotherhood, but eventually it became hard to imagine the show without him. Obviously, he had to pay for his transgressions, and it's Buscemi in the opening credits sequence, not Pitt, but the absence of Jimmy means the absence of the feuding father/son dynamic that made Season Two so compelling. I assume Nucky will be haunted at having to kill his "son," but there are no signs of such haunting as of yet.

WG: This show has a penchant for erasing its bigger characters, especially the ones played by the "big name" actors. Dabney Coleman. Pitt. William Forsythe. Paul Reiser. Maybe not Paul Reiser. Whacking Darmody leaves a gaping hole in the story line. I'm eager to see how they back fill that one. One thing that leaps out is how fucking beautiful the show is visually. The scene where Manny shot the thief was gorgeous. The shadows in Nucky's hotel room at the end of the episode gave me flashbacks to a decrepit old apartment I used to live in back in college, one that likely hadn't been changed much since the 20s. They have the big budget and it shows.

OMD: Yeah, to me there's no show on television that is more cinematically-inclined than Boardwalk. Think of how much the party scene cost alone. Didn't the pilot cost something like $10 Million to shoot? [I looked it up. $18 Million.] Talk about a rich fucking palette.

WG: What did you make of the scene at the New Year's Eve party when they hauled in Tut's treasure chest? I know it was significant, but I'm not smart enough to suss it out. The well-heeled dug in around that thing like jackals at a kill. The mobsters stood back and looked disgusted. Like they had just seen a Goatse video. Nucky had a mild look of displeasure crease his face. Why were they so shocked to see the 1% go bonkers for a little bling? Did it make them reflective of their own unquenchable greed? You know a variation of that scene took place behind the curtains at the Republican National Convention.

OMD: I think it largely had to do with how disgusting greed looks when the artifice of decorum is stripped away. When greed is laid bare, it is revolting. Seeing these people, who mere moments ago were enjoying a New Year's bash, reduced to ravenous beasts at first sight of free gold serves as a reminder of how quickly we can all be reduced to animals. The first sign of food, and we're pigs to the trough.

WG: Or Pigs on the Wing. Boardwalk Empire via Orwell and Roger Waters.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Man on Film: The Bourne Legacy

I love the first three Bourne movies. They are fantastic.

The Bourne Legacy is the red-headed stepchild of the family.

I like Jeremy Renner. He is not the problem here.

Tony Gilroy's third time stepping behind the camera (he also directed Duplicity and Michael Clayton) is by and large a failure. That is due in large part to the standard that Gilroy helped set with the first three films, as he wrote the screenplays, but here, without Jason Bourne at its center, the film never really gets off the ground. So much time is spent establishing the separate origins and situational jeopardy of Aaron Cross (Renner as our new left-for-dead super soldier) and Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz as our new imperiled love interest whose companionship is at first a begrudging one but eventually love grows from it) that it would have to be particularly compelling to not disengage the audience. Alas, it is not and it does.

The tension that is so masterfully built and maintained in the previous entrants in the series is not maintained here. The action sequences are serviceable, but ultimately they are too few and too far between. The black ops mumbo-jumbo was relatively follow-able, but its domination of the dialogue made an emotional connection with the film something of an uphill struggle. Aaron Cross and Marta Shearing are interesting enough characters that the potential fifth film in the series with a teaming up of Cross with Jason Bourne would probably rekindle my interest in the series going forward, but it would require something significant being added back to the mix (Matt Damon or Paul Greengrass) to inspire any hope going forward. Given The Bourne Legacy's fairly strong returns at the box office, perhaps that is a scenario that plays out, but until then, the series has ended on a down-note.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Man on Film: Savages

I have a ton of catching up to do around here. Some of these pieces will be brief as a result.

It's been roughly two months since I saw Savages. Generally speaking, there is very little about Oliver Stone's oeuvre that I have found particularly noteworthy or compelling. In fact, there isn't a single film on his résumé that I can say I even liked. For whatever reason, I still end up seeing roughly one in three of his films, but it's rare that I ever feel anything that exceeds a neutral response.

While there are aspects of Savages that work well and/or stand out, it certainly does not set itself apart from the rest of his middling fare.

I suppose the thing that keeps me coming back to make sure that this tiger didn't change his stripes is the talent he gets in his flicks. Ultimately, that talent is what stands out. For whatever reason, he's got Oscar winners (Benicio Del Toro), Oscar nominees (Demián Bechir, John Travolta, and Salma Hayek), and up-and-coming "It" stars (Blake Lively, Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, and even Emile Hirsch in a bit part) all lining up to be in a relatively run-of-the-mill adaptation of a Don Winslow best-seller that met its fair share of critical acclaim in 2008. Don Winslow seems very cool when interviewed, as seen here,

and I'd imagine this was a relatively hot project. It's just that there seems to be a disconnect between the totality of the talent involved and the end product, largely because of the auteur at the helm. For instance, you've got the likes of Demián Bechir, John Travolta, Emile Hirsch, and the extremely underrated Shea Whigham in very insignificant roles with very little to do. Sure, Travolta is lucky to be in any movie at this point, but still three deserving actors are taking somewhat colorful but relatively insignificant character roles in a picture by a director whose apparent cachet doesn't match his actual body of work.

At this point, I've gone on so long on a tangential rant against a director who I'm simply unimpressed with that you'd think I was reviewing a Brian De Palma flick, and yet I have spoken very little of the film. I suppose its framework is one that had potential. Savages pits a rivalry-free ménage à trois against the backdrop of the borderland drug war with the cartel trying to strong-arm the two male thirds of the house into a business partnership. As far as the trio is concerned, Aaron Johnson is serviceable as Ben, even if the ecologically-minded pacifistic drug dealer character is a little lame. Taylor Kitsch is cast in precisely the role he should be cast in at this point: the damaged, brooding bad boy Chon who cares ferociously for those close to him. I like Taylor Kitsch. I liked John Carter. I even didn't mind Battleship. And I fucking love Friday Night Lights. Apparently, he's my new cause. My new Ben Affleck. And just like Affleck, some day Hollywood will figure out what to do with him, but the kernels are fucking there, man. As for the final third of the troika, Blake Lively's character O is the narrator. Despite the fact that the tale is being told through her voice, the character is not particularly interesting or rich with layers and texture. She's in love with two men who love her right back, and theirs is a blissful polyamorous union. It's just not a particularly interesting one. I suppose in a sense the three of them  represent a third of the human psyche and combine to form one complete person with Chon representing the id, Ben being the superego, and O being the ego, but that still doesn't make the three interesting as their story (at least on screen) just isn't quite compelling enough.

What is extremely compelling is the performance of Benicio Del Toro as Lado, the enforcer for Elena (Hayek) and the Baja Cartel. Every second he is on screen, he is captivating. Del Toro hasn't chewed scenery like this in ages. He eats up his role, and the camera loves him the entire time. There are very few movies where a performance completely stands out head and shoulders above what the rest of the film is, but Del Toro in Savages is fucking brilliant and inspired.

Now there is an element of the story that, for the sake of avoiding spoilage, I shall refrain from delving too much into, but holy shit is it infuriating. In fact, I was sort of enjoying the movie up until the point I'm vaguely referencing, but this turned me the other way and took one out of the win column for Stone and put it back into neutral ground, at best.

I've already written far more than I'd ever anticipated about this movie that is barely still out in the theaters. I'd wrap this up more elegantly, but I don't know that Stone deserves that.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Breaking Down: Breaking Bad, Season Five, Episode Eight

"Gliding Over All" brings us a reminiscent Walter White. Heisenberg orchestrates a few prison shankings while keeping Lydia alive to grow the business. The business grows and grows and grows. A cancer scan turns Walt into a big softy, dumping cash at Jesse's front door and proclaiming he is out of the business. Walt Whitman has something to say about that though.

Gus Fring post Robocop reconstruction
Stan Earnest: Zombie Gale is pissed. He is after Walter White. He was the Garfunkel to the Simon, the Slash to the Axl, the Ono to the Lennon, the Louise to the Thelma, the Whitney to the Bobby, and Walt had to go and ruin it. First the coffee pot being tossed across the room, and now he is leaving messages for Hank. Walter White is doomed.

Craig Scholes: So you are telling me AMC is going to do a Breaking Bad/Walking Dead season to wrap up Breaking Bad next year? BRILLIANT!

SE: Why not? I'm still waiting for the digital world to give me a Rocky/Rambo combo with dueling Sylvester Stallones.

CS: Why would Rocky fight Rambo though?

SE: Rocky gets kidnapped and Rambo saves him. They fight as a team. This is not an original idea by me, but it is a damn good one, and it should get made.

CS: A better idea would be if Conan the Barbarian was used to stop the T-800.

SE: Well, there was talk of a Saul Goodman spinoff, which would easily win the world's greatest spinoff competition.

CS: Until the Ron Swanson spinoff gets made

SE: Ron Swanson could probably use a good lawyer.

CS: Saul Goodman has to be a Libertarian too.

SE: Full disclosure time: Last week we pranked Old Man Duggan by included a plethora of ellipses and many mentions of sandals. This time I've been duped. I was 99.5% certain the spoiler I heard was correct, that Walt was going to choke out Skyler screaming, "This was for us! This was for us!" And then go into hiding. Breaking Bad, you are good, you are damn good. They planted spoilers and then had them pulled from site forums to add to the plausibility of them.

CS: The greatest trick Walter White ever played was convincing Hank Schrader that Heisenberg didn't exist. Brilliant strategery, next thing you know they will do minisodes for next year where Walter White finally owns that Lazer Tag joint.

SE: As far as Breaking Bad episodes go, there isn't much that tops this. I am so giddy right now. This episode was so fantastic. You will find no criticism here. The flash forward worked. The montage worked. The spoiler fooled me. And we finally got the Keyser Soze moment I thought would happen at the end of Season 4.

CS: Of course Landry has an in with a Neo-Nazi white supremacist group. Why wouldn't he?

SE: And the ricin didn't get used...AGAIN!

CS: That ricin is going to be a teaser forever; it’s never getting used.

Uncle Miltey isn't afraid of Heisenberg
SE: This was the writers pulling a Milton Berle. They always pull out enough to impress, but never go full monty. So Walter White is "out" huh, isn't that sweet? Well, Hank is going to pull you back in buddy!

CS: Isn't that how the bad guy always go down? A gifted Walt Whitman book? When I first saw the book, I thought it was going to be hollowed out with something stashed in it Shawshank Redemption style. I didn't even see that it was a Walt Whitman book. Of course, I also thought when Flynn went to go get the sunscreen to put on Holly that he was going to drop a little baggie of blue meth.

SE: Most productive dump ever. I thought that first shower scene was weird. Just never forget that Breaking Bad does not waste a scene. Whenever you think it is pointless, it will pendulum your ass in the face. I think Walt said it right the first time when he said, "Nothing stops this train." I mean think about it. What could he possibly do to get out? Sell his recipe? No chance that ever happens. Someone would bring him back in, but he was probably just lying anyhow.

CS: I dunno, I bet literally having a mountain of cash would be a sobering realization. I'd count all those monies many times too, just to do it.

SE: Didn't you think for a second that Walt was going to leave Jesse the entire pile, and totally punk his family?

CS: Not for a second.

SE: I can't wait to see the internet calculations on how much money that was. If only 3% of America's economy is cold hard cash, then it was all in that room.

CS: I’m watching the replay now, and I missed the part in the epic montage of how much Saul clearly hates himself now. Which is crazy that one of the sketchiest of all-time sketchy ambulance chasers actually feels dirty.

SE: Saul isn't the only one weary. Jesse was quite worried himself. That is how far Walt has come. Everyone around him is afraid. So how amazing was the montage? Does it rank up there with the Goodfellas montage?

This episode reminds me of something Billy Corgan said one time about music. It was something about how he started making music because of all of the late 80s music he heard on the radio sucked and he wanted to do something better. Well, I can sit down and write and rewrite a million scripts over a million years and never touch this level of entertainment.

CS: Never seen Goodfellas.

SE: Don't make me pop your eyeball out for not watching a mobster movie.

CS: That ranks right up there with the Rocky IV montage, which has to go on the Rushmore of all time epic montages.

SE: Somewhere, the Grantland writers are furiously putting together a montage tournament.

CS: One of my best good buddies took an AV class in college, and he had to make a montage, so he made a montage of him making a montage to the song “Montage”. That teacher shows that video to his classes now.

SE: Rad. The montage missed a scene though: Junior in the bathroom snorting the crystal blue persuasion.

CS: Do you think the DVD's will have the deleted scene of Walt throwing Skyler down on that mountain of cash and forcing himself on her?

SE: The only thing more haunting than that would be a prison shanking montage. Oh wait, we already had one of those. That had to be the darkest 5 minutes in television history. That was gruesome.

CS: Or, better yet, will it have Walt doing the backstroke in a mountain of cash like Scrooge McDuck. The prison shanktasterpiece was pretty awesome

SE: I'm not the most intelligent person in the world, but I think it would probably be a little wiser to spread that money around to several storage units. I mean, you're one good fire away from losing a billion dollars in cash. If we haven't seen Walt pissed yet, that would probably do it.

CS: Even smart people get overwhelmed. And clearly Skyler is all out of fucks. Of course, I don't get the nice convenient stack under a flowered sheet. I would have those different denominations stacked in each of the corners to ease the counting of it.

SE: So was the mountain of cash the thing that "sobered" up Walt, or was it the return of the cancer? I think he saw that mountain of cash and imagined that whole storage facility rented out with each unit full of the different denominations.

CS: Probably both. Walt having cancer is going to make him want to spend the rest of his time with the people he cares about, and giving Jesse duffel bags of cash is similar to a person who is about to commit suicide giving away their belongings.

SE: I think it also has a lot to do with how they remember him. Of course the writers have a way of making Walter somehow redeemable after he orders the deaths of 9 people in 2 minutes.

CS: The reminiscing about the old RV was a pretty sweet scene.

SE: I hope the Weeds writers watch the Blu-Ray of this season on a loop until they figure out how to plot out a season of television, because Breaking Bad just pulled a total cliffhanger to end a season, and I liked it. That hardly ever happens. We still have no clue what the M60 is for, and we don't even care. We totally got Keyser Soze'd.

So what predictions do you have going forward? I think the Hank-blamed-as-Heisenberg plot is totally at play here.

CS: Why would Hank take the fall for Heisenberg?

SE: Because Walt will MacGyver his way out of it, just watch. Hank's fingerprints are all over this thing. He showed up in perfect timing for Tuco. The cartel has come after him. He has unknowingly taken dirty money for his therapy. He will wind up on a wild goose chase after Walter and end up at a lab with his fingerprints all over it. Then a mechanical device drops a Heisenberg hat on his bald head just as Gomez shows up and has his own Keyser Soze moment. Meanwhile, Walter slowly dies in a random hospital bed.

CS: No way Skyler lets Walt do that to Hank and Marie.

SE: There is still a vial of ricin to be used bro.

CS: I think Hank simmers on it for a bit and then says something to Marie, who absolutely loses her fucking mind calling Hank insane, only to plant the doubt in her mind. Walt gives himself the ricin before he kills Skyler.

SE: By the way, I want to thank everybody that has been following along with us. I am a fan first and enjoy doing this. Secondly, I want to give a big shout out again to the guys at Bald Move; their Breaking Good podcast is the best one of them all. They actually read my random emails on the waves from time to time.

CS: I have no idea why anyone would have put up with me this long, or why you have tortured yourself with proof-reading my incoherent ramblings and random capitalization

SE: The best part of that last statement was that you put a dash in proofreading. Now say something funny to close this bitch out.

CS: I was talking about the ramblings I have written on dough that is reaching its proper age before being used to make pizza.

So…what show are we doing next? I still think it would be fun to rip a bad show to pieces.

SE: Yes! The Killing, Season Seven up next. We finally find out who killed Rosie.

CS: Nope, in Season Seven we find out the Illuminati was involved. We leave you with Mike Ehrmantraut's first ever acting role:

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Tube Steak: Terriers News, Catch The Hour Sunday

I usually don't post anything on weekends, and I sure as hell don't post something as brief as this, but these things matter too much.

First off, it looks like Terriers may get a second shot after all. Two-hour movie. Series. Whatever. I just want more Hank and Britt and give zero shits how I get it. If they do go the Kickstarter route, pony up, jerks. And if you haven't already done so, get off your ass (or on your ass) and watch yourself some Terriers. It's truly one of the best shows of the past five years.

And in airing this weekend news, The Audience Network (available to only DirecTV subscribers) is airing all six episodes of The Hour*, the spectacular BBC drama about a television news program in 1956, complete with an exploration of gender inequality in the workplace and government censorship of the news media in the U.K. with a healthy dose of espionage added to the mix.

*Proper write-up coming soonish.

You can catch The Hour, starting at 2:00 PM ET/1:00 PM CT on Sunday, September 2nd.

Do it. It's got McNulty.
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