Wednesday, 22 August 2012

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Realism and bad manners in Breaking Bad In the previous post, I wrote: [W]hy do people insist that Breaking Bad is a realistic portrayal of the perils of the methamphetamine trade? Because of scenes like what I’ll call “The Story of Jesse and the Beans.” I suggested that the answer is the power of conventions: if you shoot a family sitting down to dinner, the audience will peg the frame as being realistic because they've seen so many television families sit down to dinner. And there's something to that. Quite a bit actually: film conventions normalize human relations. Consider the last frame from the previous post: Even if you've never seen the show, you know exactly what this is: a family sitting down to dinner. How do you know it's a family? Because there's a husband on the right and a wife on the left and a son in the middle? How do you know that's a son? Because he's smaller than the father and the mother. (Even if Aaron Paul were taller than Bryan Cranston or Anna Gunn, the director, Colin Bucksey, could make him appear smaller by staging the scene as he does here and simply placing Paul further away from the camera.) How do we know it's dinner? Because they're at the dinner table. But they eat breakfast at the dinner table too, which is why Bucksey doesn't backlight the window and instead employs the light above the table to illuminate the scene. I know they could be eating before dawn, but the mother has a wine glass in her hand and people don't conventionally drink wine with breakfast. All of which is a long way of saying that the elements in the frame demand it be read as an image of a nuclear family sitting down to dinner. This shot is effective because its formal conventions militate toward the nuclear family interpretation, whereas our knowledge about the content of this situation requires we draw the exact opposite conclusion. The tension between form and content creates an awkwardness analogous to the awkwardness each of the three characters in the scene currently feels. That's not a husband on the right nor is it a wife on the left: that's a terrorist on the right and that's his hostage on the left. That son isn't their son, though it could be said that the father adopted him—except that this surrogate son is only at this dinner table because he stopped by to break up with his fake father. And the mother only knows this soon-to-be-emancipated not-son as the father's former drug dealer. At this precise moment in time these people couldn't be more unrelated, but if I show you that frame your brain will insist that it's a nuclear family sitting down to dinner. Director Bucksey takes advantage of this. As I noted in the previous post, the sense of isolation experienced by each of these characters is typically reinforced by sequencing their conversations as a series of shots and reverse shots. The camera tells you...
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He is Boss What do the ladies want? Men want wide-hipped young sluts, while ladies want old men like me—that’s why the ladies love men my age even though I can’t stand the sight of them. That celebrity couple disgusts me—it disgusts me like it would another man my age seeing a woman our age wet and naked. Old women look old, and it’s cruel to make me look at them. There’s this one rich old bird who looks hot, but at her age she sags in all the wrong the places as any drunken frat boy knows and they wouldn’t bone her for all her money. It’s a good thing Mitt Romney’s not a drunken frat boy. You know why Mitt Romney’s awesome? Check out his stats: he has so much money he gives it away and when he touches things he rules them. He has kids. They’re boys. All of them. Science says that means he’s awesome. So does money. Rich people are mostly men. See that picture? No daughters. Barely any granddaughters either. When he goes to church he goes to church. He gets all up in that house. Obama? All daughters. Mister Rogers was a pussy. Science says Romney should have all the lady-votes. Even Obama’s bitch should vote for him. I’m not saying he’s a polygamist, but he could be if he wanted to. Like this rich guy who had 61 children and they were all boys. He can’t have a harem, but if he could bitches would be lining up to join it. He’s in charge. Because now that we don’t hunt it’s all about the money and Mitt has more. He’s more President than the last eight Presidents. If he paid taxes, he’d pay more a year than Obama’s worth. If he didn’t tap ass so expertly he’d have more money than the only wealthy black guy I can think of who’s a rapper. It’s time for Romney to drop trou’ and show us his moneybags. Some hippies think calling him “R-MONEY” is funny. The only wealthy black guy I can think of uses lowercase letters but R-MONEY’s capitalized. He drops can do what black rappers do only bigger. Rappers have money, but R-MONEY’s money has money and it lives in money. He has so much money it’s heavy. Romney’s always saying that he loves money, and that we should love money, but the haters will hate. He celebrates people with money and how they got it. He even loves the little money so much he once didn’t give in a fight to protect it. He could’ve sued that guy and took his money but the point is he was on an airplane he didn’t own because he cares about the little money. He could buy his own airplanes and still have more money than an actress and a Senator. And the Senator can’t even remember how many houses he owns. I suppose he’s frontin’ and good on him. Humility is next to godliness which is...

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