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Shameless: Iron City (2014)
After a fantastic opening season, I was entertained but uninspired by seasons 2 and 3. The show seemed to settle down into an almost domesticated din of platitudes. One might even suggest the Gallagher's were finally getting their act together.
Season four has brought us full circle back to some pretty stone cold reality. The illusions of youth are now supplanted by the consequence of the choices we make. There is no noble cause for it -and no hero to save us.
Our protagonist is in jail for a crime she never intended to commit but is nonetheless responsible for. We have all been caught in the reality of our lives and Fiona certainly is feeling reality hit her on the head.
Lip is now thrust into the head of the household, at the very moment he finally committed himself to something positive for the first time in his life. He is shocked and confused to see his big sister act just like.......well, just like their father.
For people like me who love real TV, this season promises to be the best yet.
Breaking Bad: Felina (2013)
Landmark Television History
Very few of us ever get to witness history. When we do we feel a sense of awe . Time seems to cease, and we revel in the moment. Then afterwords we are left with all the time in the world to think about it.
We cannot look for history. Like looking for love, knowledge -or for a lack of a better word (a famous character stated) ...greed. It finds us.
For unknown reasons, call it fate, luck, or whatever you want, the show was free from pretense. It had no superstars demanding huge salaries. It had no overblown budget, exotic locale or fancy gadgets.It had no predictable script of suburban families and their woe. No prima donna who needed to be written out. Just real life people, doing what they love for a living. Acting. Directors and writers doing what they love for a living.
As fans, we get to sit back and soak it all in. Think about it. Live through each character. Laugh, cry, be confused. Most of all, come back for more.
However, now there is no more.
Breaking Bad: To'hajiilee (2013)
Greatest Show on Earth
I have watched this show since its inception 5 years ago. I can tell you that it is probably the greatest TV series ever made. Its acting is flawless. Its screenplay is pristine.
Every episode I watch makes me feel like someone has punched me in the gut. I end up so raw, cursing the fact I have to wait another week until the next show. They should just hook us Breaking Bad junkies up to intravenous so we can get our fix 24/7.
By now, I am certain every character has become a favorite sports team. There is team Walter. Team Jesse . Team Hank and team Skyler/ Walt Jr. Each with a loyal following who are trying to figure out which team wins the super-bowl in the final episode.
I wonder if Saul will continue the effort in his spin off . Perhaps some of the cast will appear on it once in a while just to keep us hoping there will be more episodes.
After 5 years I know I am headed for some very serious withdrawal.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
This film based on a critically acclaimed play is one of the most real films I have ever seen. It shows the underbelly of who we are as people but do not want to admit. To see this film is to see the death of us all as we slowly degrade from smart ass young men into middle aged denial and finally , fossilized fools.
Regardless of whether you are an actual 'used vacuum ' salesmen or we work in a hospital, we are all salespeople to someone and something. All of us play angles and shovel small talk each and every day. As we see the bull crap flying out of these guys mouths, we comfort ourselves that the vulgarity separates us from them and thus we aren't as bad as these guys. Its not about vulgarity or being a salesman. Its about stress. The film holds up a mirror of ourselves under enormous stress and we thank god we very rarely are.
The plot in this script is the weakest part. Its too simplistic and shouldn't be able to carry an entire film. Its basically a bunch of guys in a lousy job whose life gets worse to the point of desperation. Each man deals with it in their own way. Just like each on of us deals with our own world , in our own version of heaven or hell, depending on how we view our lives.
In this case, these men's lives are versions of hell. Each one is at loathe with themselves and therefore blames everyone and everything around them for their plight. One of them states he wont live in hell of earth, but even he disintegrates into a childish brat whose personal character is nothing like the image he tries to portray.
The acting is the movie. It is unbelievably good. Both Alex Baldwin and Jack Lemmon give scenes that rival any they have had in their careers. Al Pacino has been so good in so many movies I cannot tell how good he was in this movie. He was good but by his standards I don't know.
Alan Arkin drew the short straw when it came to casting. He had the part of a lovable loser who everyone likes but nobody respects. The most despicable character (besides Baldwin) belongs to Ed Harris. He is brilliant but a bit too loud as David Moss , who is ambitious , frustrated and fed up. But he is no fool.
The lucky part goes to Kevin Spacey, who was jumping up and down with utter delight to be selected to be on the same screen as his hero Lemmon , and be considered at such a young age to be able to hold his own with some of the greatest character actors in Hollywood history. It must of rubbed off on young Spacey, as his mediocre performance in this film would springboard into academy award winning roles in several films after wards, making himself into an acting legend in his own right.
Unlike most of Hollywood, this film has no hero, no real villain and no justice in the end. Its what we see every day. Ordinary people wishing they were somewhere else and someone else. Regular folks making bad decisions, and wallowing in the consequences. The movie left me feeling so much gratitude for the little integrity I was lucky enough to maintain in my own life.
The Panic in Needle Park (1971)
Unusual Display of Raw Young Talent
I watched this film because I could not believe Al Pacino would play in such an undeveloped B movie. I am literally stunned at the acting and shooting of this film.
We may be tempted to undervalue the piece as some cheap pre amble for Pacino and Raul Julia's careers . Upon first look there is no doubt the film is flawed .
The writing is sub par The plot is coherent in parts and then wanders in others. In particular the abrupt ending punishes the entire acting performance.
Many of the supporting characters go undeveloped. It reads like some of the actors improvised most of their lines.The writers fumble their opportunity to enhance the main characters. The actors were there. The lines were not.
However, the main roles are powerful and real. Al Pacino is so outstanding as a player that only his peers can truly appreciate how good he is.
This film gives us the beginning of a fatal attraction between him and the camera. He can move in and out of any scene under any emotional state. He can blend into the background or jump into the center and steal the language.
He can hold you captive by switching his pitch with a sharp of soft tongue. Often within the same monologue. We can see from this performance that this young man has the natural talent to move onto a whole range of different genres. And the rest, they say, is history.
However, he does not give the best performance in the film. This film belongs to Kitty Winn. Her performance constantly draws you to her. She flawlessly changes from naive to usery to scheming to whoring back to helpless then lonely again. We lose ourselves in her vulnerability convinced of her true desire to be loved, all to find another side to her that we didn't see coming. Sometimes Winn pulls all this off in the same scene.
This weird cop driving around in a volkswagon beetle is probably the smartest plot twist to the main story. Alan Vint is outstanding as this cynical young narc officer who could care less about solving crime or detoxing these folks . He seems far more interested hatching schemes to get busts in an attempt to move up to detective.
We start out hoping he can intervene but soon find out that he gave up helping long ago. The beauty of his part is our desire to believe the goodness of who policemen are but then are faced with the realty of what the street has made him become.
Julia is good but has too brief a role. One of my many wishes for this film is that he was given a much bigger part. He was too large a talent for his bit as a callous street artist.
Paul Sorvino has a small stint as a John . The script does not allow you to really get introduced to his on screen presence but even in his few lines you can tell he isn't an extra getting a lucky shot at a part. You could see he was a professional at the beginning of a career.
The shooting of the film is superb. It is ahead of its time . Its done without background musical interface. This allows the audience to see hear and almost smell the dirty streets. I almost want to believe the audio is MONO recording its so grainy. . It really made me think I was standing right on the street. This was brilliant.
I found the need for ultra- realism of street life to be unnecessary in hindsight, but for 1971 it is disturbing, anti social and telling.
As a whole, in spite of the limitations, I found myself addicted to Pacino and Winn. Rooting for them to make it in the end. But for reasons unknown, the movie simply ends, leaving the audience confused and somewhat empty.
It abandoned all the great drama that had been created by Vint . The ending ignores all the effort that had been built up between Winn and Pacino. I felt like I had been invited to a great awakening, and then nothing happens.
Remake it and develop the supporting characters . Enhance Helen's and Bobby's personal problems for the audience to see in more detail throughout the film. Create more sub drama and insight into Hotch . Then draw out the ending in more detail.
I have never watched the British version of this show so I cannot comment on the original. I was under the impression it was a new Showtime story.
I have to admit that started watching because I have always been a fan of William H Macy. However, viewing Macy in this kind of role was startling . I had always seen him in more conventional-almost typecast - parts. I knew that Joan Cusak was a quality actress which lent the project some further credibility.
At first the show seemed to be almost forced. The plot seemed bizarre, and unbelievable. It seemed awkward. Its quite common for shows to take time to develop chemistry when the actors haven't defined their characters yet. The same can be said for the writers.
However, I had never seen anything like it. In that regard it was dynamic and worth the time. The young actors soon found their roles and by the 5th episode I found myself thinking about the show every day.
Now I cant stop watching. Im addicted. The actors are fantastic. The plots are far more developed. The supporting players play a big part in the series, and new characters keep rotating in flawlessly. The show has evolved .
And just for the record, Im getting really sick and tired of people trashing the show because in their minds it doesn't measure up to the original. Its not supposed to be the original. If you don't like it, stick with the British show.
One of the great gen x movies
This movie is well written, smartly directed, and brilliantly acted. Ewan Mc Gregor gives his best performance as Mark Renton, a young Scottish screw up. Many of the actors are in their early twenties and new to film, which makes their performances even more incredible.
The lasting success of this film is due to the subtle brilliance of the major part actors that lives on each time we watch a scene. Irvine Welsh's vision of the downtrodden youths is uncanny, real and worthwhile. The actors,notably newcomer Kelly McDonald act without overacting. Making the characters engaging and believable.
This film became so popular because it can be viewed by many different viewers on many different levels. Some can watch it for the junkie screw up value. Some watch it to see a Scottish Comedy. Some of us view it for the camera shots, where there are generous profile monologues . Some see it as a cultural piece, and praise its cult value.
Its definitely worth a look, then a second, third and so on. I have seen the movie 16 times now, and I still catch nuances.