a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘New Mexico’

Better Watch “Better Call Saul”! It’s So Great, It’s Bad! As in “Breaking Bad”!

Saul 1“Better Call Saul” has done the seemingly impossible. It’s just as good as its’ fabled predecessor “Breaking Bad,” and who knows? As it goes along its’ merry way, it could get better, and even better. For those of you out there who have been missing “Breaking Bad” on some kind of level of bereavement ( I know, because I have), “Better Call Saul” as unlikely as it first sounded, really does more than fill the bill.

It’s a prequel, of all things, six years back in time, and the most unlikeliest of central characters, Saul Goodman, the loudly dressed, strip-mall  lawyer, who winds up defending Walter White(Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman(Aaron Paul)played masterfully here by series regular Bob Odenkirk.

Odenkirk, a former stand-up comedian, here proves himself to be ridiculously adept as a three-demensional dramatic actor, giving us an Everyman, who reminded me of Willy Loman of “Death of a Salesman”, of all characters. He has a potato-like face that’s sometimes mashed and sometimes fried.

True, Walter White started out as wildly relatable, too. The meek chemistry professor who was dying of cancer and who kept getting the s__t kicked out of him on a daily basis, with part-time jobs he had to take because his teaching job just didn’t make him enough money to support his family. And he had a disabled teenaged son with cerebral palsy, and a new baby on the way.

So he began to think of other ways of making money…like, well, using his chemistry skills to make Crystal Meth at the behest of his wayward student Jesse Pinkman. And a Myth of Television, one of its’ greatest shows ever, was born.

We, as an audience, know where “Better Call Saul” is going. We are going to follow, this now incredibly sympathetic character of Saul, as he becomes a criminal.

But we have six years to delight in his descent. We know that’s coming. And we know where he ends up. He didn’t die at the end of “Breaking Bad” but ran off into the sunset prophesying that he’d “end up as a manager of a Cinnabon in a mall in Omaha” which is precisely where “Better Call Saul” starts.In Black and White!

So in grainy chirascuro, we see the now nearly unrecognizable Saul with a Deputy Dawg moustache, and ten-to-twenty-pounds heavier, laying on the cinnamon and sugar creme in a soul-less Cinnabon, a repetitive, drab, living hell. Product placement anyone? You’ll never be able to eat or look at a Cinnabon again without thinking of Saul’s fate worse than fat.

He then goes home to his drab, single dwelling to watch a VHS tape that he has hidden on his sink in a shoe-box, as the snow begins to fall on Nebraksa,and the winter wind is howling, and we see him enjoying, or trying to, TV commercial advertisements of his days in colorful, bygone Albuquerque. These commericals are only heard, but not shown, as the reaction on Saul’s mashed potato face says it all.

And yes, boom! We are now back in Saul’s Oz, and everything shifts into color and we see the still-worn down Saul, back when he was even a different person, Jimmy McGill. And oh what a delight it is to be back in Albuquerque, N.M.! I felt like I was coming home! I couldn’t believe how much I missed it!

Never has the plight of a Legal Aid Defense Lawyer, been painted, or even observed (EVAH?) in such heart-wrenching, soul-squashing clarity. Nothing seems to ever go right for Saul, or rather Jimmy. And as fate deals him, blow after humiliating blow, we are with him every step of the way on his road to lawyerly hell.

And also, because Odenkirk, is a superb comic actor, “Better Call Saul” is much funnier than the bleak “Breaking Bad.” So it’s humor quotient, as well, as the dramatic, is sky-high. God is In the Details. Like the fact, that Saul/Jimmy’s pathetic law “Office” is in the back room of a Korean nail parlor.(see above picture ^)

To reveal anymore, would be to spoil, and I don’t do that. I’ve said too much already. “Better Call Saul” is a Must Watch TV event. It’s third episode is coming next week, so DON’T MISS IT!

“Breaking Bad” I Love It! Watched EVERY SINGLE episode!

Everybody kept telling me for years to watch “Breaking Bad,” which starts its’ final eight episode run tonight at 9pm on AMC, but I never did. I kept thinking “Drugs? A middle-aged professor-type? Bryan Cranston? Who? Meth? What?”

Then Bryan Cranston kept winning Emmy after Emmy for Best Actor…

Then the Film Society of Lincoln Center announced that it was honoring “Breaking Bad” “TV’s Best Series” by having an unprecedented marathon run of EVERY SINGLE episode for FREE at its’ Elinor Bunim theater at Lincoln Center, and well, I thought if THEY are doing this….there must be something to it.

So I started watching it all about a month ago and just couldn’t stop! Color me surprised! It was as addictive as the Crystal Meth the series revolves around. Not that I’ve ever taken any or know anyone who has, but you certainly get totally immersed in the Crystal Methamphetamine culture of Albuquerque, New Mexico and pretty soon, almost immediately in fact, I was hooked. 

And yes, Bryan Cranston deserved all those Emmys and so does Aaron Paul, his former chemistry student/protégé/partner as Jesse Pinkham, a name that will in television history.

The Paul/Cranston duo, their whole father/son, December/May relationship is what really holds the series together, I feel. Its’ elucidation and intensely involving evolution over five series and hundreds of episodes breaks new ground constantly in this unbelievably well-done-in-every-way television series, and makes the case for “TV being the new Movie.” Very much like the Ripley novels of the late Patricia Highsmith, “Breaking Bad” takes you from identifying wholly with the milquetoast, underpaid Chemistry teacher Walter White and takes him and us in to the dark underground world of drug dealing and meth making that is very much like Alice going down the rabbit hole, as Walter White follows Jesse Pinkman into a bizarre, meth-fueled world that gets more and more frightening as the series progresses.

Being so late to the party in this case, I would hate to spoil any other late-comers delight by giving away plot points, but just let me continue the praise that has been heaped on Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and the show’s creator Vince Gilligan.

This is very much like a low-budget indie thriller that you never want to end, it’s so riveting, and guess what? It doesn’t end! Not for five TV seasons, with yet more to come! Bryan Cranston proves himself a great American actor here. The former forgettable father of “Malcolm in the Middle” totally blows your mind in episode after episode. His range is staggering. The award-winning “Breaking Bad” writers throw everything but the kitchen sink at Cranston, and he meets their daunting challenges at every turn. An unsung and overlooked character actor well into his middle years has found the role of his career beyond a doubt and risen to the ranks of American’s finest and television’s greatest.

Ditto Aaron Paul’s Pinkham. Pathetic, needy, irritating, whiney, never-wracking, infuriating and utterly adorable, Aaron Paul also proves Himself as one of America’s finest YOUNG actors. And he’s won a couple of Emmys, too. And is prized to win, along with Cranston, Gilligan and the writers, more accolades in the every near future.

The starting premise of “Breaking Bad” is so brilliant, a middle-aged, hen-pecked high school chemistry teacher finds his inner Don Corleone, or as Gilligan likes to say “Scarface”, with a wife who doesn’t understand him, and a son with cerebral palsy, and a brother-in-law in the DEA, who gets obsessed with catching this ever-elusive “Heisenberg”.

Dean Norris is the new King of Cops as the ever-vigilant brother-in-law from hell. It’s taken him five television seasons to eventually come to the startling conclusion that the “W.W.” he has been seeking is living right in his own backyard. He’s on the commode poring over evidence when it FINALLY hits him, which is where we have left them all.

The women in “Breaking Bad” are nowhere near as strongly drawn as the male characters. I hate to knock them now, without seeing how this all plays out, but Anna Gunn(no, that’s her REAL name) as Schuyler White and Betsy Brandt as her sister and the wife of the DEA Agent Norris, are thumpingly ordinary and suburban, but I guess they are supposed to be.

And Ms. Gunn has the daunting task of having nearly all her scenes with the uber-brilliant Brian Cranston, as her husband, and she just can’t hold a candle to him.
As her marriage unravels and ravels again, it’s the “marriage” of Walter White & Jesse Pinkman(Emmy winners Cranston & Paul) that compels us. It’s gone through every single permutation a partnership can go through, every thing except exploring that homo-erotic undertones that it just reeks of. THAT hasn’t been gone in to yet. But there’s still eight more episodes coming our way. We can only hope…

I just wish I had AMC on my channel system. But dear readers be careful about what you read about “Breaking Bad” re: the eight new episodes, there are bound to be spoilers everywhere online once it starts unveiling its’ tightly guarded secrets which start unspooling tonight at nine.

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