Saturday, August 24, 2013

Breaking Slowly

I'm still slowly making my way through Breaking Bad on Netflix. I'm now up to the halfway point of Season 3 and I'm constantly amazed by the plot twists and intricate character psychologies of this series.

I don't get the concept of binge-watching. I would think that in watching any really good TV show you would want to take time to savor each episode instead of burning through a bunch of shows in one sitting. That's especially true with a show like this where every installment has some sort of twist or revelation that I need to think about after I watch. The writers of this show are particularly brilliant at misdirection. You think you know where a plotline is going but then presto! it goes somewhere completely unexpected. And these turns never feel forced or contrived. As crazy as they can sometimes be, they always so far turn out to have a logical if occasionally bizarre progression.

The whole of Season 2 was a great example of misdirection. Throughout several episodes there were flash forwards to scenes of a hazmat team retrieving burned debris from the White swimming pool.  Considering that this show is about an ordinary high school teacher slipping deeper and deeper into the drug trade you think these scenes indicate one thing.  Then in the final episode of the season, "ABQ", they pull the rug out and those shots turn out to mean something completely different. Similarly in Season 3 so far, one of the background plotlines has been about twin Mexican hit men out to kill Walt. In the episode I just saw, "Sunset",  that story takes a sudden detour that makes me even more curious about what happens next.

I know that the final episodes have begun airing on AMC and I'm trying like hell to avoid reading anything about the show online. I ignore anyting about it on the Grantland website and stay away from posts on other blogs. I know that all the main characters, Walt, Skyler, Jesse, Walt Jr, Hank and Marie survive into Season 5. Other than that I don't want to know anything that happens before I actually watch the episodes. I'm just enjoying the uniformly great acting and writing of this amazingly creepy saga about a man's fall into darkness. Also I know Bryan Cranston has won several Emmys for this show but he also deserves some kind of award for his pizza tossing.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Karen Black

Jack orders toast. Karen looks away.

She always had a somewhat exotic look and there are times in later films when her performances bordered on the bizarre but in her time Karen Black could be incredible. She was fortunate enough to come along in the era when American films briefly seemed to come to full artistic maturity and she excelled in some of the greatest works of the 70's. There was Nashville and Come Back To The Five And Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean for Robert Altman. There was Cisco Pike, Easy Rider and The Day Of The Locust. Some people will probably remember her best for the Dan Curtis TV-movie Trilogy Of Terror but for me the indelible memory of her is as Rayette Dipesto, Jack Nicholson's sad little country singer girlfriend in Five Easy Pieces. 

Most of the other members of that BBS crew are still around somewhere. Peter Fonda still shows up in movies from time to time, Jack Nicholson is Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern received the Best Actor Award at Cannes last spring. Black came down to smaller and smaller roles in tiny genre films before her cancer took control but at her best she exemplified the bruised, damaged feminine response to the macho lust for freedom that dominated those films. Karen Black was a great actress.