Wife M and I watched “Hell or High Water.” I loved it.
On its own, it was an attention-holding story. I worried about the two boys (whether they’d get caught when they were trying to take care of their family), the two rangers (when the one was just a few months from retiring I had a suspicious there would be a potentially-tragic showdown) and the people along the way. I was rooting for the boys to pull themselves out of debt, but also for the likable police officers (who reminded me of the two DEA agents in “Breaking Bad” and/or the two Sheriffs in “No Country For Old Men”).
It also had many great social comments. It mentions poverty (“like a disease”) and small towns dying and humans being controlled by the bank. There was definitely a point that a bank could take advantage of an impoverished old woman and that is legal, but two men robbing that same bank to protect the old woman’s land was not. Or that it was humorous for the Ranger that the waitress was upset she’d lost her $200 tip to evidence, even after she’d made the comment she was trying to keep a roof over her family’s heads. Also, in old Westerns you got the sense that American towns were on the path towards growth and prosperity, but in this “modern western” you got the sense that American towns were decrepit and dying.
We live in an age where exploding wage inequality will mean the vast majority of Americans will not have the money to cover illness and old age, and so will do things like take reverse mortgages for pennies on the dollar to cover those costs, which means the wealthy (who give the money for these reverse mortgages) will continue to take a larger share of the pie (e.g. houses for pennies on the dollar) all the while justifying this. (This was actually one of the root causes of The French Revolution – the wealthy were foreclosing on the poor, who were struggling to cover the rising costs). It’s not fair and is a huge flaw in the system, and the movie points all this out very well.
I’d love to watch this movie again. I was too busy enjoying the story and noticing the social commentary to look for other things (symbols, etc.).
Watching Break Bad again – love that show!!! Observations:
- He is a zombie.
- Shows us early on that he was a Noble prize winning scientist 20 years earlier.
- His wife seems content, despite the poverty. They will eventually reverse roles (she is dispirited and dead, he is alive).
- He desmontrates the bonson burner in glass, which is a flame. As he says it is change, he is spritzing colors into the flame, he is alive. Then he turns the bonson burner off, sighs, and he is dead again.
- After his diagnosis, he is tossing lit matches (the flame going out) into a nearly and dead-leaf strewn pool. As he becomes Heizenberg, the pool will be clean, then lit. The pool is the blue meth, which is his light/life/power, and which a depressed wife will immerse herself in when she realizes she can’t control Walt’s meth making. Later, when they are staying in the hotel while he is making millions, he will sit next to the massive and glowing blue hotel pool. He does not throw matches into it, he stares at it.
- His DEA agent bursts into the lower floor pursuing the drug dealers, leaving Walt unattended in the car. They are clueless that Capn Cook (Jesse) is in the upper floor, and that he and Walt have seen each other, like later they are clueless that Walt and Jesse are working together.
- Jesse is in red: red sweatshirt, red car, red motorcycle, even red/chili pepper in his meth. But as Walt approaches him that first night, he is covering his red car with a blue tarp, just like the blue pool and the blue meth. I am assuming this is Walt’s blue covering up his old red life. Later, as Walt pulls into Jesse’s house with the meth equipment, Jesse is wearing a big blue jacket over a red shirt, and a touch of red shows from under his blue hat. When he sits in his red car, it has blue seats. I love this!!
- Jesse comes up with the idea for RV, since he doesn’t “sh** where (he) eat(s).”
- Jesse asks, not with kindness, “Why are you doing this?” Walt, standing against a mountain backdrop, replies, “I am awake.”
- The next scene, Walt is helping his son try on blue jeans in a blue dressing room. His wife is dressed in blue. He then physically confronts the larger-than-he bullies in the store – and wins.
- There is a lot of yellow and green. Green in the house yellow shirts, green clothes, green brush, green car – symbolic? For example, blue and yellow make green? Might be a reach but there is enough of it that it can’t be coincidence.
The first show I ever watched that I couldn’t stop watching was Mad Men Seasons 1-3. Mad Men was nearing the end of Season 3 when I started watching Season 1, and I fell in love with it immediately. Within a week I was caught up, I loved that show so much (I liked Season 4 too, or at least what Season 4 was trying to accomplish, but didn’t like Mad Men so much after that – it changed from what initially drew me in). When I started watching that show, it was the Fall of 2009, and Wife M was working a *lot* during that time, so I was in the midst of a 5-year run of raising 2 school age kids, running a household and working full time, plus was unknowingly battling lung disease, so was pretty freaking tired (although I cherish the memories with the kids), but Mad Men absolutely riveted me and to be honest the kids got dinner a little late (>7 pM) a couple of nights so I could finish an episode…
Then a few years ago, when I was still recovering from prednisone, utterly exhausted and spent from battling lung disease, and spent all weekend every weekend on the couch, recoveirng. I was bored, then I discovered Breaking Bad, and over a two or three week period I watched the entire series, seasons 1-6 or 7 until the very end. The show hit home for me because I was once a very poor high school teacher and felt Walt’s pain in that I had faced a potentially fatal disease as a 40-something year old man. The show also absolutely riveted me.
I have not seen a show since those, except now Dexter comes pretty close. I am now in Season 3, and the twists and the turns and the premise and performances are wonderul. I am wear Jimmy Smits has figured out that Dexter is a true killer – astounding. Love it.
With this week being the 5 year anniversary of my lung biopsy, I’ve been thinking about Walter White of Breaking Bad and his battle with lung cancer. I remember a scene where his wife is expressing empathy for their brother in law, who’d been involved in a shooting. “I can’t imagine what he must have gone through, looking at death like that.” Meanwhile, she is angry at her husband for his decisions, who himself has terminal lung cancer.
Having had faced – and evaded for the time being — the spectre of my own death through lung disease, I feel for Walt. Suddenly, the world feels very temporary and fleeting, and all the people and things around you seem like ghosts. It is a very surreal feeling, and I can very well imagine where he’d start doing everything possible to make a dent before he departed. How can we expect someone to be accountable to our rules and expectations, when that person knows they won’t be here in a few months and there is nothing that any of us can do to change that? I can see where someone would start looking to other things beyond human beings for validation and guidance. You hope they remain grounded, but it is hard to blame them if they don’t, and start making some crazy decisions.
In that way (and so many other ways), I really love Breaking Bad.
I can’t wait for the next season of Better Call Saul.
Wife M and Daughter L — although born and raised in Seattle (we are white, but M spent part of her childhood in a black neighborhood since it was one of the few places her single mother could afford to live, and I went to a high school that was half black) — love all things South and Central American, including the language, peoples and the pop music. M has traveled there a few times and volunteered in remote medical clinics to immerse herself in the culture and give back to communities. Today, wife M and Daughter L were listening to Ana Tijoux (by way of Chile) this afternoon, and although I didn’t know her music specifically I recognized her voice from Breaking Bad’s 1977. I love that song, and honestly, as I listen to her other music via wife M I l really like Ana Tijoux’s music. But I truly loved 1977 in Breaking Bad, how they incorporated the song into the scene, and the way they put that sequence together, which I thought was wonderful (with the undercrank and such). NOTE: wife M is always quick to point out to me that every country in South and Central America is independent, and people in these countries take pride in their particular country, so to refer to someone from Costa Rica as Mexican for example is insulting. I appreciate that lesson and take pains to avoid mistaking that. When she was in a remote part of Mexico, people in that location even refused to speak Spanish – they spoke Mayan. I love that!
Not since Breaking Bad have I enjoyed binge watching a show so much. It is a great premise (a man who kills killers – love it!) but is also very complicated in its relationships.