Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Breaking Bad

Okay, so for the past few weeks my son has been telling me I need to watch "Breaking Bad." I'd been putting it off because I've been busy with work, family, home improvements and various and sundry summer activities.

When I finally got around to watching the pilot episode I had not anticipated a new TV show addiction. Seriously, this show is THE BOMB!

In the last few days I've watched three complete seasons - back to back.

So why do I like this show? Let me count the ways:

The story is compelling and plot lines are unexpected.
Fascinating characters.
It's a blast seeing Walt's moral compass go on the fritz.
The acting superb.
The show is set (and shot) in beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico - I used to live in New Mexico.
The cinematography is absolutely stunning!
Flashbacks work to enhance the story line.
Visual motifs (water, pink teddy bear, book "Leaves of Grass" by Walt Whitman)

As of today, I am just starting season four and am covering my eyes and ears to protect myself from spoilers that seem to be everywhere right now.

Interestingly, I had just started to watch the "Fly" episode of season three yesterday and had to hit "pause" to kill a fly that got inside the house. I can't stand flies buzzing around. I'm OCD about that. The same time I was trying to kill the fly, Walt was trying to kill a fly in the lab. Weird.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Lake House

Back in 2006, Hubby and I went to see “The Lake House” with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. No, it wasn’t a double date.

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon when we walked through the doors of the darkened theatre and found seats in the back row. As I looked around, I noticed that most of the people were older couples. Except for a squad of teenage girls that giggled throughout the show. And, of course, there was the lone guy you seen in every movie house in America, sitting dead center with a giant popcorn and large Mountain Dew wearing a “Stupid Is As Stupid Does” t-shirt.

The movie was a romance. A man and woman fall in love ... but an obstacle keeps them from being together. So far, so good.

The obstacle is not what you would expect. One of them dying a slow, painful death from stepping barefoot on a rusty nail? Parents that would rather see their kids joy-riding on the Titanic than to marry? A Park Avenue princess twisting her ankle in the Outback and being captured by renegade armadillos and offered as a sacrifice to a massive stone statue of Sylvester Stallone?

No, the problem is much more severe: Keanu lives in the year 2004 and Sandra lives in the year 2006. Yeah, you heard me right. Time is “not” on their side.

They “meet” at a secluded lake house on the outskirts of Chicago and communicate by writing letters and placing them in the mail box. I didn’t get it, either.

As a woman, I took note of Sandra’s cute outfits and perky hairstyle. She dyed her hair black for this movie. (Is she going gray in real life? Inquiring minds want to know.) She plays the part of a doctor and has virtually no life outside the hospital. I wonder how she manages to find time to flirt with Keanu with all those handwritten letters. It’s the 21st century. Ever heard of email?

Keanu is an architect. Handsome. Sexy. The perfect man. Not a trace of “Bill and Ted” dudism or Matrix mystery. Dressed to kill in L.L. Bean togs, he looks so cool traipsing through the woods in his Acadia hiking boots and multi-pocket cargo jacket with detachable hood and flannel lining … available in camel, chestnut, navy and hunter green.

All the elements for a tear-jerker romance are there: a beautiful, successful, neurotic woman whose loathsome boyfriend is a nerdish, self-absorbed yuppie; a sensitive man with rugged good looks and gentle eyes who was mistreated by his neglectful father; and a lovely house on a lake nestled in a scenic woodland with scurrying squirrels, twittering bluebirds and the unabomber.

The nemesis is time itself. Two people living in the same city in different years. In the end, the lovers meet at the lake house. Don’t ask me how the time thingamajiggy worked out because I don’t know. All that matters is they “lived happily ever after.”

As we left the theatre, hubby and I discussed the film and the concept of time travel. We had this same discussion in 1985 with “Back to the Future” (how in the world did “old” Biff know how to operate the De Lorean time machine, go back to 1955 to give himself the sports almanac, and then fly back to the future? Huh?)

Hubby was quick to point out that there were no car chases, explosions or female nudity. Be we knew this going in. The big question: Did it make sense? The big answer: No. But we liked it anyway.

Later at home as we snuggled on the couch watching the Rockies and the Dodgers game, we came to the conclusion that we are perfectly content sharing the same time dimension. Although, hubby really liked the idea of me living in the future and mailing him scores to baseball games that haven’t been played yet.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Conversation

So I'm browsing through my Netflix streaming videos and find a fabulous movie called "The Conversation," directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Gene Hackman. Released in 1974, the story is about a surveillance man who gets caught up in a murder plot. Other cast members include the pre-"Star Wars" Harrison Ford, John Cazale (from "The Godfather") and Cindy Williams ("Laverne & Shirley" fame).

First of all, this was one of Gene Hackman's best performances ever. His character, Harry Caul, is paranoid, introverted, and secretly plays jazz on his sax in his living room. Hackman skillfully brings this intriguing character to life.

Another fascinating thing about the movie is that in 1974, surveillance technology was pretty primitive compared to today, so it was interesting to see the use of dial telephones, bulky recording devices and reel-to-reel tapes.

What really knocked me out was the incredible cinematography. The shots were stunning. I particularly liked the shot of Harry near the staircase in the hall way at Amy's apartment which revealed his suspicious nature and his awkwardness in social and romantic situations. A cool cinematic technique I've seen in other films was used here as well -- the camera is fixed on a stationary object in the room as the actor moves in and out of of the frame and speaks off screen. All I can say is "mind blown"!

I checked the IMDB and found out that the cinematography (director of photography) was done by Bill Butler and Haskell Wexler - UNCREDITED! Why, I wonder, were they uncredited? Was it because of a legal issue? Did they not want their names attached to the film? Inquiring minds want to know.

If you've never seen this movie, check it out. You'll love the surprise twist at the end.