Breaking bad on Wall Street

Yeah, like everyone else in the early 2010s, I was addicted to Breaking Bad. It came at a turning point when we started evaluating the male ego in art and storytelling. Many bitch about this paradigm shift, but honestly it’s given me a fuckton of creative fuel to write my dumbass stories.

Without it, I wouldn’t have a writing career at all! So thanks Breaking Bad for all the digital trees I’ve wasted on the internet.

But as time has passed, it’s obvious that there were problems with the show. Now I try to evaluate art by the intentions of the artist. So what were the showrunners trying to do here?

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/breaking-bad-creator-vince-gilligan-231701266.html

https://variety.com/2022/tv/news/breaking-bad-skyler-hate-vince-gilligan-1235347122/amp/

Apparently, creator Vince Gilligan didn’t know either. While I think everyone involved did their jobs in the most competent and effective way possible, in my opinion, there was a fundamental difference between Gilligan’s vision and Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of Walter White/Heisenberg.

I base this opinion on zero research, but hear me out…

I’m assuming, when the show was pitched, that the thrust behind the story was to watch the protagonist turn into the villain. At least this is what drew me into the show. But if that’s the case, we run into an age old Clark Kent/Superman problem.

Philosopher and film theorist Slavoj Zizek, while discussing The Joker, claimed that the real identity of a superhero IS the mask and the person beneath it is the alter ego. Or, in other words, the MASK is what permits us to be our true selves.

In that sense, Heisenberg-the “MASK”- is really what Walter White is. If Heisenberg was ever wearing a mask for a disguise, that mask was the man Walter White. Therefore, Walter White…or, more accurately, Heisenberg…was ALWAYS evil.

I’m glad all of that makes sense.

But the problem is Walter White doesn’t always ACT like the bad guy. In fact, he’s usually shown being a loving father and Jesse’s guardian. Sure, he poisons a child, watches a woman choke to death, etc etc. but Walter White…probably due to Cranston’s acting choices…seems to signal horror at some of his decisions. In fact, if memory serves, he shows a sigh of relief when he learns that the child WON’T die from the poisoning attempt.

He even begs for Hank’s life for fuck’s sake!

Would Gus Fring, Walter White’s arch nemesis, have done that?

Fuck no!

And therein lies the fundamental problem with Breaking Bad: the audience never severs its sympathy with Walter White. Nor, I would argue, were they ever encouraged to do so.

Was this a deliberate choice by the showrunners? Was Cranston too damn competent at his job? Did anyone think any of this through?

I don’t suppose that this undermines the quality of the show. It’s just annoying to consider while re-watching it. The show seems to fail at meeting its own objective.

In fact, this concept…displaying a totally deplorable character in the most engaging way possible…has been successfully done before. Perhaps you remember it: The Wolf of Wall Street.

To be fair though, Martin Scorsese has a knack for this kind of thing. In fact, the movie that put him on the map, Taxi Driver, does something similar. The audience is exposed to a deranged world of a protagonist, we even empathize with him to a certain degree, but we can’t ever imagine coming to his defense (as fans of Breaking Bad have done many times before with Walter White).

With the Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese “let’s you in on the joke.” Jordan Belfort is an over-the-top nutcase, and Scorsese allows you to indulge in his depravity, but you know that the end will come crashing down at any moment.

Scorsese isn’t afraid to “pull the trigger”…or show you the moment when a protagonist looses his grip on reality.

While Walter White certainly had his over-the-top moments, the audience is never encouraged to lose sympathy for him. This is reinforced through the writing. White should have never of begged for Hank’s life, his relationship with Jesse should have been established as being purely manipulative and nothing more, his role as a father should have deteriorated, etc etc.

Perhaps that’s the limits of television. When you spend five or more seasons with a character, it’s hard NOT to have sympathy for them.

But it always felt as though Walter White never quite broke bad.

‘the internet ruined everything’s’ canon of greatest films ever made

You know what the internet needs? Another list of greatest movies.

So, in no particular order:

The Deer Hunter (1978): I’ve discussed this movie at length numerous times. I think it’s the greatest example of the power of filmmaking.

Robocop (1987): For the simpletons, this is just another 80s action film. For those that know better, it’s the greatest satire ever made. But each time I watch it, the more horrified I become. The idea of “Robocop” is terrifying. Imagine getting killed in the most violent way, then you get revived and made property of an evil corporation and begin to struggle to understand who or what you are. Hollywood is a lesser place without Paul Verhoeven.

-The Thin Blue Line (1988): This, along with Errol Morris’ (currently known for directing Chipotle commercials) Vernon, Florida are my two favorite documentaries. This is the story about a killing of a Dallas cop and a man getting rear ended by the justice system. I love Randall Dale Adams. He’s an everyday dude that took an unfortunate trip to Texas. We’ve all been there.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982): Yes, I’m a Trek fan. While every nerd has seen this movie dozens of time, I don’t think it gets the credit it deserves. It’s not really sci-fi, it’s more of a Shakespearean tragedy in space. In many ways, this film revived Trek. And director/writer Nicholas Meyer, who knew nothing of Star Trek prior to this, deserves credit.

Dances With Wolves (1990): I will go to my grave saying Kevin Costner deserved his Oscar. Fuck Martin Scorsese.

Taxi Driver (1976): We all know Martin Scorsese is a genius. And Paul Schrader may be the greatest screenwriter of all time. In the era of angry, lonely young men roaming the internet, this movie was well ahead of its time.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): if you’re gonna do science fiction, do it right. Everybody knows this movie. And because this movie rightfully gets the credit it deserves, we take it for granted. But, to this very day, it is the most ambitious film ever made.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974): I love movies that satirize a very serious situation. It’s kinda like Dr. Strangelove, albeit this film is dealing with a much less serious subject: the taking of hostages. Every actor is great, but Walter Matthau was an unusual talent. His face alone could carry a film.

No Country For Old Men (2007): The best movie made in the last 20 years. Cormac McCarthy may be the greatest living author and it ain’t easy adapting his work for the big screen. The nihilism, the existential themes, Javier Bardem, the vast, empty Texas landscape… “okay, I’ll be a part of this world.”

Blood Diner (1987): Most fans of the B-movie, cult genre are familiar with this film but it should be more widely known with general audiences. Probably the funniest fucking movie I’ve ever seen.

deer Hunter is the greatest movie ever made

Along with Tourette’s Guy and Randall Dale Adams, Michael Cimino is my spirit animal.

And The Deer Hunter is Cimino’s finest hour. Nay…the finest hour in film history.

I always love it when filmmakers buck tradition. Now I love James Bond as much as the next guy. But honestly, I’m glad they killed Bond in the latest movie. I hope they do it in every Bond movie going forward. Don’t give the audience what they want. Give them what YOU want.

And The Deer Hunter does that.

So why does no one mention it as one of the great classics of 70s cinema…up there with The Godfather, Taxi Driver, and Apocalypse Now?

Michael Cimino probably has something to do with that. His notorious flop Heaven’s Gate ruined his reputation forever. But as I mentioned, Cimino doesn’t give the audience a rewarding cinematic experience.

There’s a wedding scene that takes 9 hours for fuck’s sake.

But I’ve said this once and I’ll say it a thousand times: The Deer Hunter is not a film. It’s a fever dream.

You know…you’ve had those dreams that were so powerful that you feel forever changed when you awake. But you can’t explain it to others.

So you don’t talk about it again.

That’s the Deer Hunter.

That’s why it sort of gets lost in the shuffle when the subject of greatest movies ever made is discussed. You can’t explain it.

What’s it about?

It’s about coming back from Vietnam.

But is that what it’s really about?

I suppose it’s subject is of family, of friendship…of surviving…and it’s all loosely held together by a plot of three friends going to Vietnam, getting separated, then coming home.

When the the Deer Hunter is brought up, it’s usually in reference to the Russian Roulette scene. And that is a DAMN GOOD scene, perhaps the most tense in all of film. But the ending is perfect.

Is it meant to be sarcastic? Hopeful? Pessimistic?

It all ends ambiguously and unresolved.

Much like a dream.

Michael Cimino might have been a one hit wonder, but damn…