In which I expand upon incoherent livetweets and deliver my thoughts on last night’s insane episode of Breaking Bad. You probably shouldn’t read this article if you haven’t watched the ep, so I’m putting it under a read more.
I don’t feel like I’m exaggerating when I refer to Breaking Bad as The Best Show On Television. Vince Gilligan’s sophisticated, riveting, and beautifully engineered meth drama is a masterpiece of television, with a cinematic quality that almost seems too great to be contained by the small screen. AMC’s gem is well-written, beautifully photographed, thematically complex, and contains top notch performances unlike any on television.
Bryan Cranston is mind-blowingly amazing (and often terrifying) as the once high school science teacher and cancer patient Walter White, a brilliant chemist and family man who, to secure his family’s future, morphs into the criminal mastermind and meth manufacturer “Heisenberg”, the New Mexico kingpin constantly eluding capture by his DEA brother-in-law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris). Anna Gunn is absolutely brilliant as Walt’s wife Skyler, an amazing character who, for some reason, gets a lot of misguided hate from viewers (back off, Skyler is queen). Aaron Paul shines as Jesse Pinkman, the heart of the show whose humanity and tender-heartedness only become more apparent as his business partner and frenemy Walter White grows colder and abandons more and more of his scruples.
A lot has changed since the Pilot, in which Walter White is first diagnosed with cancer, teams up with his former student Jesse Pinkman, and cooks his first batch of meth in a beat up RV. As Walt says, “Chemistry is the study of matter. But I prefer to see it as the study of change. It is growth… then decay… then transformation.” Growth, decay, and transformation are the basic plot points of the show, as viewers witness the frustrated, dying chemist stuck in a low-paying job transform into Heisenberg (and by Heisenberg I mean an enormous douche who kills people and does terrible things). My mom used this proverb to describe Walt (even though she doesn’t really watch the show): “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Most times, Breaking Bad makes me feel like I’m on the verge of a heart attack. Season 4, my personal favorite, is like one gigantic instant heart attack, especially the last three episodes, which contain a level of intensity so high it’s almost dangerous. When you’re not crying, cowering, or on the edge of the seat, Breaking Bad also has the ability to make you laugh a lot with its brilliantly crafted dialogue. It’s an amazing show, and an amazingly well-written show. It also has really good music.
And now, after four and a half seasons, AMC is preparing to air the final eight episodes that will bring the series to its close. It’s not the kind of show for which a happy ending seems likely, and I could speculate about who will die and how, but, like everyone else, I’m just going to have to wait and see how the drama unfolds. In preparation for the conclusion of my absolute favorite television show, I’ve been marathoning a rewatch via Netflix (the first eight episodes of season 5 became available on streaming just in time!), and I’m currently extremely emotional about this insane roller coaster ride of a show.
Since writing the above, the first two of the final eight episodes have aired, and after watching both multiple times, I’m still in shock. 5×9, “Blood Money”, was a finely crafted episode directed by the wonderful Bryan Cranston, who I think deserves a big round of applause. Tears appeared in my eyes the second it started, and throughout the rest of the episode it became apparent that this is going to be an insane final season containing a dangerous level of intensity. If every episode is anything like this one, I thought, I’m not really sure if I’m going to survive the end of this show.
“Buried” aired last night, and there’s so much that I could say about it that I should probably make a separate post. Basically, it was even more intense than “Blood Money”, and had me crying at intervals. Breaking Bad is probably the most stressful show on television–you’d think that sitting down to watch your favorite show in the evening would be an enjoyable experience. Well, watching Breaking Bad is… certainly an experience. THAT EPISODE WAS CRAZY.
The short version of this post? Go watch this show if you don’t already. And if you do, please join me in a group hug as we await the end.
I remember reading on the back of the Nights of Cabiria DVD case, “features the never-before-seen seven-minute ‘man with a sack’ sequence.” I watched a special feature on the sequence after I watched the film but still couldn’t fully understand why the censors made Fellini cut the sequence. I knew that it upset the Catholic Church but still, why? After a few viewings my question was answered.
When Cabiria and the others are discussing to go see the Madonna, the group of Catholic pilgrims pass by. The way the lights
shines on the group makes them look like they are a phantom, something unattainable and intangible to Cabiria. She feels drawn to them and walks towards the street. She stops and falls under a streak of light; but this light shows Cabiria’s realness. She is a human person living in the difficult conditions of post-WWII Italy and, more importantly, struggling to find happiness and love. This shot is stark, sharp, and concrete. She continues to walk behind them when their chanting is dominated by the hum of a truck, Cabiria’s next costumer. This sets the basis for what is to come in the next few scenes.
I will begin with Cabiria’s travel to the shrine. I focus on Cabiria because of all the people in her group, she is the one who takes the visit to the Madonna solemnly. One could argue Wanda as well but, to me, Cabiria is the only one. In The Story of Film, Mark Cousins argues that “Nights of Cabiria reflect[s] a society in which religion has disappeared and only its kitsch images remain” (249). When Cabiria and the others arrive at the shrine, it’s a mad-house or, if I may, a circus. There are numerous stalls selling Catholic trinkets, people walking every which way, the sound of people’s chanting and bells overlapping, elaborate candle setups, people cramming to get into the shrine.It seems many of the workers are there to capitalize on the Madonna; and it only gets worse. As Cabiria scans the walls, there are numerous lighted signs and candles in “honor” of the Madonna;
crutches to show that the Madonna did have mercy on them. However, the way Fellini shoots it makes it seem like it’s a commercial attraction rather than something holy. As they climb up the steps, people scream and shout to the Madonna to make them well or to help them. They throw their arms in the air, in a sense, forgetting themselves. Cabiria, in contrast, does not. Cabiria is the only one wearing a white, plain outfit, a color that is synonymous with holiness and purity. Her expression is sincere and her wide eyes says much more than all the shouts in the room. When Cabiria does say something, it is not exaggerated or head turning, but rather honest and quiet. Even her request to the Madonna, “Help me change my life,” is much more humble than some of the other requests like the uncle who asks to walk again. Once they leave the Madonna, Cabiria becomes frustrated and angry that the Madonna has not helped any of them. The Madonna, and therefore God, is not there for the people. All the people have now are the objects and images which fuel the faith.
Now for the man with a sack sequence. The night Cabiria sees the traveling Catholics, she receives a costumer. Afterwards, she walks home and stumbles upon a man with a sack. However, this time, that haunting light does not hit him. Rather it shines above him, thus he is real. As she follows him, she sees he gives poor people without homes food and other items that they need to live. He is kind but his expression does not reveal much else of his personality. After reviewing this scene again, I can understand why they made Fellini cut this sequence. When they first meet, the man with a sack shines his light directly onto Cabiria, seeing her as she is and not forcing her to catch up with him. As she talks with him, she is more spiritually fulfilled than she is when she goes to pray to the Madonna. The man with a sack is tangible, real, and someone she can talk to. The more Cabiria talks to him, the more we learn about Cabiria’s early life. She says that her name is Maria Ceccarelli and that her mother and father died when she was young. Cabiria takes down her defenses and shows a side that we have not seen previously. Without this sequence, Fellini is just slamming the Catholic faith. However with it, he is saying that it is everyday people take it upon themselves and help others by giving them what they need, whether it be faith, confidence, or everyday necessities. Probably not something they want to hear.
Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express is the interconnected tales of two police officers who’ve just undergone heart-breaking breakups and face loneliness in a city of millions.
In a swirl of beautiful imagery, Chunking Express tells the stories of Cop 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro), depressed about the end of his relationship with a pineapple-loving girl named May, and Cop 663 (Tony Leung), likewise depressed about the end of his relationship with his beautiful flight attendant girlfriend (Valerie Chow). Similarly, both cops become interested in new women: Cop 223 becomes captivated by a mysterious drug runner in a blonde wig and sunglasses (Brigitte Lin), while Cop 663’s storyline becomes entangled with that of a quirky, well-meaning, California-dreaming snack bar worker named Faye (Faye Wong).
The two narratives are separate from each other, though loosely connected in that both of the lovesick cops frequent the same restaurant, and both deal with heartbreak, though in different ways. Cop 223 collects cans of pineapple with the expiration date of May 1, telling himself that once he has collected 30 of these cans, he will either be reunited with his ex-girlfriend May, or his love will, like the cans of pineapple, “expire”. Meanwhile, Cop 663 pep-talks the various objects around the apartment he used to share with the flight attendant girlfriend who left him.
Though Chungking Express is humorous and smartly written all throughout, I found the second part of the movie (Cop 663’s storyline) to be the most compelling. After falling for Cop 663 (Tony Leung), endearing snack bar worker Faye begins sneaking into his apartment he shared with his girlfriend and brightening up the place, unbeknownst to him. Eventually, though, he figures it out (although it takes him a ridiculously long time). It’s pretty goddamn cute.
This is only the second Wong Kar-Wai film I’ve seen after In the Mood for Love, and I loved it a whole lot. I can’t wait to watch more!
It’s been awhile since any of us kool kats posted here at Moviefellas. I’ve been trying to get in as much movie-watching as possible in between rewatching the entirety of AMC’s Breaking Bad (expect a post about that coming soon…) and getting ready to go off to college for the first time ever, and recently I enjoyed watching Umberto D. for the first time during a Skype movie date with my fellow Moviefella Miranda.
Umberto D. is, in a word, heartbreaking. Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist film offers a stark view into the reality of Umberto D. Ferrari, an aged former government worker in postwar Italy who loves his dog Flike and is having a hard time making ends meet. Nothing seems to go his way–his coarse, unsympathetic landlady threatens to evict him and his dog if he does not come up with a large sum that he is incapable of raising. As if things weren’t looking bleak enough, Umberto falls ill with tonsillitis.
Umberto’s life is marked by loneliness. Perhaps his only human friend is the pregnant maid who works in his building. Umberto’s one constant, loving companion, though, is his adorable little dog Flike, a source of light in his otherwise depressing life. Flike was probably my favorite part of this overall wonderful film. Watching it, I found myself growing extremely anxious about what would become of these two friends.
The performance by Carlo Battisti, a nonprofessional actor, felt incredibly real. Umberto is a resilient, heartbreaking figure whose desperation and poverty make for a grim but sincere and heartfelt film from De Sica. De Sica’s exploration of working class struggles (and just human struggles in general, such as old age and loneliness) make for a beautiful, tear-inducing, and noteworthy neorealist film that I definitely would recommend. In a relatively short running time (1 hour and 29 mins), De Sica packs an emotional punch and powerful message, creating a film that is sure to stick with you.