Posts Tagged ‘Television’

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LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH: THE MAKING OF DAVID CRONENBERG’S ‘VIDEODROME’

Definitely influenced many works to come after… including my own novel:

 

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My David Cronenberg installment: Radically Different Films, Part 3.

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Article complains that sex, violence, torture and rape are allowed on US television, but not a girl masturbating.  Explanations?  (I don’t watch TV.)

Why female pleasure — not sex — is the real taboo on primetime television

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Turning the Planet Into Junkies
by PEPE ESCOBAR
 

Never underestimate American soft power.

What if the US government actually shut down to mourn the passing of Breaking Bad, arguably the most astonishing show in the history of television? It would be nothing short of poetic justice – as Breaking Bad is infinitely more pertinent for the American psyche than predictable cheap shots at Capitol Hill.

Walter White, aka Heisenberg, may have become the ultimate, larger than life hero of the Google/YouTube/Facebook era. In an arc of tragedy spanning five seasons, Breaking Bad essentially chronicled what it takes for a man to accept who he really is, while in the process ending up paying the unbearable price of losing everything he holds dear and what is assumed to be his ultimate treasure; the love of his wife and son.

Along the way, Breaking Bad was also an entomologist study on American turbo-capitalism – with the 1% haves depicted as either cheats or gangsters and the almost-haves or have-nots barely surviving, as in public school teachers degraded to second-class citizen status.

Walter White was dying of cancer at the beginning of Breaking Bad, in 2008. Progressively, he gets rid of Mr Hyde – a placid chemistry teacher – for the benefit of Dr Jekyll – undisputed crystal meth kingpin Heisenberg. It’s not a Faustian pact. It’s a descent into the dark night of his own soul. And in the end he even “wins”, under his own terms, burning out with a beatific smile.

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His secret is that it was never only about the transgressive high of producing the purest crystal meth. It was about the ultimate Outsider act, as in a Dostoevsky or Camus novel; a man confronting his fears, crossing the threshold, taking full control of his life, and finally facing the consequences, with no turning back.

And then, as in all things Breaking Bad, the music told a crucial part of the story. In this case, no less than the closing with Badfinger’s My Baby Blue, the bleakest of love songs:

Guess I got what I deserve

Kept you waiting there, too long my love

All that time, without a word

Didn’t know you’d think, that I’d forget, or I’d regret

The special love I have for you/

My baby blue

So – as Walter White finally admits, fittingly, in the last episode – he did it all, Sinatra’s My Way, not for the sake of his family, but for him. And here we have the purest crystal meth as a reflection of this purest revelation in this purest of TV shows, blessed with unmatched writing (you can almost palpably feel the exhilaration in the writers’ room), direction, sterling cast, outstanding cinematography quoting everything from Scarface to Taxi Drivervia The Godfather, meticulous character development and gobsmacking plot twists.

But then again, that spectral song My Baby Blue is not only about crystal meth – just like Tommy James and the Shondell’s Crystal Blue Persuasion, used in a spectacular montage in season four.

It’s about Jesse Pinkman, Walter White’s repeatedly used and abused young business associate. It’s as if it was written by Walt as a tribute to Jesse; Jesse is the “baby” always evoking Walt’s “special love” in the form of usually spectacularly misfiring paternal feelings.

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I’m in the Empire business

Walt/Heisenberg is a scientist. His scientific genius was appropriated by unscrupulous partners in the past, who enriched themselves in a tech company. As Heisenberg, finally the scientific/mechanical genius comes to full fruition – from a wheelchair bomb to a raid based on magnets and even a remix of the 1963 Great Train Robbery in the UK, not to mention the perfectly cooked meth.

Here’s one the writers’ take on cooking Breaking Bad. Yet that does not explain why Walter White touched such a nerve and became a larger-than-life global pop phenomenon from Albuquerque to Abu Dhabi.

A classic underdog narrative explains only part of the story. In the slow burn of five seasons, what was crystallized was Walter White as Everyman fighting The Establishment – which included everyone from demented criminals (a Mexico drug cartel, brain-dead neo-nazis) to vulture lawyers (“Better Call Saul”), cheating former associates and, last but not least, the US government (via the Drug Enforcement Agency).

Nihilism – of a sub-Nietzschean variety – also explains only part of the story. One can feel the joy of the Breaking Bad writers tomahawking the Judeo-Christian concept of guilt. But this has nothing to do with a world without a moral code.

One glance at James Frazer’s The Golden Bough is enough to perceive how Walter White, in his mind, does hark back to family-based tribal society. So is he essentially rejecting the Enlightenment?

We’re getting closer when we see Breaking Bad as a meditation on the myth of the American Dream – and its extrapolation as American exceptionalism. As Walter White admits to Jesse, he’s deep into “the Empire business“. In real life, Walter White might have been a mastermind of the Orwellian-Panopticon complex.

So with My Baby Blue ringin’ in my head, I ended up finding my answer in a book I always take with me while on the road in America: D H Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature. Not by accident Lawrence was a deep lover of New Mexico – where Breaking Bad‘s geopolitics is played out. And Walter White is indeed there, as Lawrence dissects James Fenimore Cooper’sThe Deerslayer. (Here’s a digital version of the essay.)

Walter White, once again, embodies “the myth of the essential white America. All the other stuff, the love, the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play. The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.”

When Walter White turns into Heisenberg he morphs into Deerslayer:

A man who turns his back on white society. A man who keeps his moral integrity hard and intact. An isolate, almost selfless, stoic, enduring man, who lives by death, by killing, but who is pure white.

This is the very intrinsic – most American. He is at the core of all the other flux and fluff. And when this man breaks from his static isolation, and makes a new move, then look out, something will be happening.

The genius of the Breaking Bad writers’ room – with creator Vince Gilligan at the core – was to depict Walter White’s descent into the maelstrom as primeval, intrinsically “most American”. No wonder Gilligan defined Breaking Bad essentially as “a western”. Clint Eastwood was fond of saying that the western and jazz were the only true American art forms (well, he forgot film noir and blues, rock’n roll, soul and funk, but we get the drift).

So call this warped western a masterful depiction of American exceptionalism. And mirror it with the soft pull of a dying, lone superpower which is still capable of turning the whole planet into junkies, addicted to the cinematically sumptuous spectacle of its own demise.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com

This column originally appeared on Asia Times.

 

One hour documentary on the handheld, portable cinema camera, and the rise of documentary filmmaking in 1960.

 

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This caught my attention: “Two and a Half Men” star finds religion, calls TV show “filth”

Angus T. Jones

“If you watch ‘Two and a Half Men’, please stop watching ‘Two and a Half Men,” Jones says in the video. “I’m on ‘Two and a Half Men’ and I don’t want to be on it.”

“If I am doing any harm, I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be contributing to the enemy’s plan… You cannot be a true God-fearing person and be on a television show like that.

“I’m not okay with what I’m learning, what the Bible says and being on that television show,” Jones added.

I’ve never bothered with the show, or with much of any “Prime Time” crapola on the boob tube. Maybe I’m safe from “the enemy’s” insidious plans. Who is this enemy? Is it S-A-T-A-N-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-?

Josh Olson talks about a powerful film that examined the rise of populist media personalities crossing into politics. Film geeks and grindhouse freaks will know the Trailers From Hell series.

 

Source: The Entertainment Industry Foundation

Apparently, the Obama administration has made a deal with all the major TV networks to push “service” conceptually onto Americans.

“Campaign Elements
– Unprecedented week long of television programming on all four leading broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and all affiliated broadcast and cable properties as well — and other networks, beginning October 19,

– To “organically” create and produce as many stories as possible about service and volunteerism and connect them in the plots of network dramas, comedies and reality shows”

Let’s be clear, there is an agenda at work here. Obama has come out in favor of what he calls “service” in the form of military service and other non-military federal programs (AmeriCorp) as a mandatory requirement for American children to graduate from high school.

Such “service,” the military variety in particular is very much on the minds of Washington war planners as they struggle to find more available troops for their never ending quagmire in Afghanistan/Pakistan.

Obama prefers the soft-sell. That is to use lofty, roundabout rhetoric and innocuous seeming propaganda (like sitcoms) to get ideas out there that the US government wants you to go to Asia and kill.

Obama’s strategy has always included increasing the bloated military, and his latest military budget is the largest in history, outspending the rest of the entire world combined on miltiary (which they call “defense,” but that is quite false when the funds go to “offense.”)

Let’s return to this “volunteerism” agenda in the midst of an economic meltdown, the likes we haven’t seen since the 1930s.

While the government and its fatcat base of donor/bribers continues to plunder the treasury to the tune of $13 Trillion plus, and yes, as Obama himself continues to cash his paycheck for his own personal government “service,” our nation is collapsing.

I suppose it takes a special kind of sucker to be distracted by the president’s call to go volunteer when you can’t find a paying job to feed your kids, keep your house, or afford medical treatment.

A lot of the motivation behind propaganda is distraction. They get you talking about the wrong issues, the wrong problems, the wrong solutions. The right issues, the right problems, and the right solutions are squeezed out of the discussion. That is the nature of the modern propaganda state. Remember eternal vigilance. Don’t be punked.