Six thoughts about ‘Breaking Bad’ … a show that I’ll really miss


tommycummings:

Is Walter White really dead? Bryan Cranston teased the topic on CNN. Check my No. 1 contention on this blog post about Breaking Bad.

Originally posted on I'VE SEEN THINGS:

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Check Walt’s eye … completely fixed and dilated. (screencap from my DVR)

All day Monday, I was asked my opinion of Sunday night’s season finale of AMC’s Breaking Bad. Here are my top six impressions of the greatest show to grace TV. (This post is lousy with spoilers.)

6. Homage to El Paso: Early in the show, Walter White finds a Marty Robbins cassette tape in the glovebox of the Volvo he drives to New Mexico. I nearly hyperventilated because El Paso is one of my favorite songs (in addition to Crystal Blue Persuasion). El Paso made perfect sense, especially the lyric “Out to the badlands of New Mexico.” Again, music augments the story. As soon as I heard the first strum of Badfinger’s Baby Blue — one of the first 45s I ever bought — I knew which lyric was going to resonate: “Guess I got what…

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‘Bernie': I got an important lesson in Texas geography


In the 2011 movie Bernie, I learned a lot about Texas’ geography and each region’s geopolitical personality.

Now that Bernie Tiede, the East Texan whose story inspired the movie, is a free man I thought it’d be a good time to revisit that geography lesson. This is especially helpful for my out-of-state friends who believe Texas has a singular identity.

Above is Sonny Carl Davis’ on-target breakdown of the map of Texas.

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I’ve Seen Things’ second annual Academy Award predictions … and Hollywood catering news


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Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey did the caterers no favors in their roles for the Dallas Buyers Club.

So much attention is paid to the acting and production qualities of Academy Award-nominated movies.

But what about the caterers who provide the sandwiches and breakfast tacos to the poor actors and production people?

They deserve attention, too.

So, here’s the list of who provided barbecue sandwiches to this year’s Oscar-nominated films:

Location Gourmet Inc.: In between the harsh scenes, this Metairie, La.-based catering company provided food for the cast and crew of 12 Years a Slave. It’s the same caterer that provided food for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Director/producer Steve McQueen even gave Location Gourmet a shoutout: “It starts with hair and makeup, catering, the camera department, the sound department, the electricians — every single plug in the wheel was working. Without that, nothing gets done.”

Hakim Shakoor: In the credits for American Hustle, he’s listed as the official caterer and assistant chef. His other credits include World War Z and Zombieland, so he apparently knows what zombies like to eat.

Hat Trick Catering: This 10-year-old, Austin-based catering company even caters ships at sea around Malta (for Captain Phillips). Hat Trick Catering also has served the cast and crew of Idiocracy and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

Chorley Bunce: This catering company for film and TV is based in the U.K. and was also the official caterer of Robin Hood and The Fifth Element.

The Lake House Catering: This Mandeville, La.-based catering company has worked on nearly 40 feature films, including Dallas Buyers Club. One of its entrees is flank steak with peach whiskey sauce. Here’s betting that Matthew McConaughey didn’t come within 50 feet of the buffet line.

Chef Robért Catering: This West Hollywood, Calif.-based service provided the menu for Her. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, chef Robert Lampkin said he can cater a “100-day film shoot without repeating a single dish.” Before Her, he provided the meals for Moneyball.

Tony’s Food Service: This catering service owned by chef Tony Kerum is the industry standard, providing food for filmmakers for the past 35 years. Kerum provided the meals for the cast and crew of The Wolf of Wall Street. Matko B. Malinger, the creator of Cooking for Hollywood, told Cinema Without Borders that “some of the biggest stars and the most influential filmmakers will never sign a film contract without first making sure that Tony’s name is on it.”

Now, that we know who’s feeding the superstars, here are my picks:

Best Picture

Gravity: It broke new ground in 3D moviemaking. Watching space debris hurl toward you made it possible to forget that you’re wearing clunky, germ-ridden 3D glasses.

The others

12 Years a Slave: Although it carried new messages, it seemed like I’d seen it before. Maybe it was too brutal.
American Hustle: It was too complex. Tried too hard. Like Christian Bale’s comb-over.

Captain Phillips: Tom Hanks was at his best, especially his breakdown at the end of his ordeal.

Dallas Buyers Club: McConaughey and Jared Leto should make more movies together. I’m mad that this film wasn’t made in Dallas, however.

Her: Didn’t see it. Couldn’t fit it in.

Nebraska: Didn’t see it. It’s in black and white, but I do like Bruce Dern.

Philomena: Didn’t see it. Too British.

The Wolf of Wall Street: Didn’t see it. It’s too long.

Best Actor

Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Best Actress

Meryl Streep. I thought August: Osage County should have been in the best picture category. It was my favorite.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Jared Leto. Duh.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Julia Roberts

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Breaking Bad: Reasons why this was my favorite show


Jesse Pinkman and Walter White made for awesome TV (AMC)

Jesse Pinkman and Walter White made for awesome TV (AMC)

This morning, I awoke and realized life, going forward, would be different.

I sat on the end of the bed and stared at the floor for a few minutes. In the distance, I could hear the garbage truck clanking around in the streets. In another room, my son’s many alarm clocks were buzzing.

Yes, this was a tough Monday morning.

Breaking Bad was over.

It’s like I lost Walter White as a dad. No more tuning in to see how Walter, the teacher-turned-drug lord, was going to get out of another jam. No more clever lies. No more deception.

I’ve had scores of favorite TV shows before. But not like this. I have this compulsive disorder to watch every Seinfeld, every Gilligan’s Island, every M*A*S*H, every Mad Men, every Batman — if I watch one.

Because I grew up in the country with nothing else to do but watch an old black-and-white Zenith, I have a special kinship with TV. It was my window to the world.

I’m ancient enough to have watched live coverage of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. As a puzzled 5-year-old, I watched Huntley and Brinkley describe the Vietnam conflict as a “gorilla war.” I watched Jack Paar, Joey Bishop, Johnny Carson, Joe Pine, through the wee hours of the night.

Over the years, my tastes evolved. I watched a lot of network shows. A lot of counter-culture TV.

Some years, I gave up on TV. Some years, I crawled back.

It must have been when I crawled back that I discovered “Breaking Bad.” The pilot showed promise. I kept watching. It grew darker. My wife watched with me.

Pretty soon, it was obvious that this program was paying attention to the details, to the quality. The story arcs made sense. I told other friends about the show, but they dismissed it as a silly sitcom or a show typical of network TV.

But it was much more.

Was Breaking Bad always plausible? Of course not. Some liberties with entertainment were taken.

But the storytelling kept getting better each season. We began seeing alternative narratives. Episodes were getting symetric. Literary works inspired scripts. There were unforgettable characters such as Saul Goodman, Gus Fring and Hector Salamanca.

Characters spawned followers who staunchly picked sides, to the point of one actress, Anna Gunn, turning to The New York Times to defend her character Skyler.

We watched every second of every show. To experience the anxieties with others, my wife and I tweeted along with the show live. We read the blogs the next morning.

And now, it’s over.

It’s going to be tough to find another one like this.

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Six thoughts about ‘Breaking Bad’ … a show that I’ll really miss


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Check Walt’s eye … completely fixed and dilated. (screencap from my DVR)

All day Monday, I was asked my opinion of Sunday night’s season finale of AMC’s Breaking Bad. Here are my top six impressions of the greatest show to grace TV. (This post is lousy with spoilers.)

6. Homage to El Paso: Early in the show, Walter White finds a Marty Robbins cassette tape in the glovebox of the Volvo he drives to New Mexico. I nearly hyperventilated because El Paso is one of my favorite songs (in addition to Crystal Blue Persuasion). El Paso made perfect sense, especially the lyric “Out to the badlands of New Mexico.” Again, music augments the story. As soon as I heard the first strum of Badfinger’s Baby Blue — one of the first 45s I ever bought — I knew which lyric was going to resonate: “Guess I got what I deserve …”

5. Walt’s art of lying: He is world class. He was able to convince Elliot and Gretchen that Team Walt (Badger and Skinny Pete) would watch/haunt them after his death if his blood money wasn’t properly passed on to Walt Jr. I again nearly hyperventilated when Walt signaled for the lasers to zero in on Elliott and Gretchen’s chests.

4. The return of Badger and Skinny Pete: OMG, they’re the greatest duo since Beavis and Butthead. Skinny Pete uttered the understatement of the series: “The whole thing felt kinda shady, like morality wise.” I would love it if they joined the cast of the Saul Goodman spinoff.

3. The clubhouse massacre: It felt kinda Scarface in that Walt’s remote-control assault gun was deadly accurate, even though it fired, from close range, through the chassis of a late-1970s Cadillac Deville. The bullets also had to go through a window where all the Nazis were standing like display mannequins. Plausible? Probably not. But I was really wanting Jack’s gang to get wiped out.

2. Jesse Pinkman’s revenge: For all the horrible things Todd did, he got what he deserved. But for me, it was not as automatic to hate Todd. He was played by Dallas-born Jesse Plemons, who picked up the role not long after the end of Friday Night Lights (another strong serial drama). In FNL, he played a more sympathetic character who was also awkward around women he had crushes on. After knocking off Todd, Jesse shrugs off killing Mr. White and gets the hell out of Dodge. Jesse will next be seen in the movie Need for Speed. If I were the movie’s marketers, I would have bought the advertising block after Jesse made like Speed Racer out of the New Mexico night.

1. Is Walt really dead? We see him in the closing scene, sprawled face-up on the meth-lab floor, bleeding, with a bullet wound to his lower right abdomen. I freeze-framed the closeup and saw that his pupils were fixed and dilated. Seconds later, a lawman checks his pulse and shakes his head. And then, it’s all over. It destroyed my theory that Walt survives, makes it to California and starts a new life with several sons, including one named Malcolm, and a wife named Lois.

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On Father’s Day, thinking of the awesome man who made sacrifices for me


On Father’s Day, thinking of the awesome man who made sacrifices for me.

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On Father’s Day, thinking of the awesome man who made sacrifices for me


This might have been the only time that Dad and I washed dishes together.

This might have been the only time that Dad and I washed dishes together.

I was 11 years old when it happened. In the middle of the quiet night, Dad, who was in his mid-70s, was walking through the dining room not far from his bedroom. I was not yet asleep.

In the darkness, Dad’s foot hit a wrinkle in the rug. He stumbled forward. The impact of Dad’s body hitting the floor shook the china cabinet. I also heard a horrible thud, like a baseball bat hitting a saddle.

Mom and I rushed to the dining room. Dad was on the floor face-down, conscious but with his forehead slightly bleeding. His head had hit the part of the wooden floor that wasn’t covered by a rug. It would have been like getting smacked with a wooden plank. On the floor, Dad raised up and pulled a splinter from his bleeding forehead. Rather than trying to comfort him, I turned and, in a fit of rage, violently stomped the part of the rug that had tripped him and then the boards that he’d fallen on. (To this day, I’m not a fan of wood floors and I’m cautious about walking on rugs).

Dad shook it off and laughed at my display of anger. He settled me down and told me he was OK.

But something wasn’t right with Dad after that night. The scar healed, but he was not the same. He would wander the house in the middle of the night. He would forget who we were. He drove me to school, but he banged up the car when he ran it into a brick building. Mom insisted that he not drive again and he complied.

The memory loss increased. His coordination worsened to where he was regularly falling out of bed and injuring his increasing frail shoulders. We installed railings on his bed in hopes that it would slow his ability to get out of bed in the middle of the night.

It was an awful time to remember. It’s a contrast to other memories of Dad, who smoked Roi-Tan cigars, wore a felt fedora and alligator boots.

As his health faded, I asked Mom what was going on. She was vague, but a couple of times she mentioned “hardening of the arteries,” which was a layman’s default diagnosis for a lot of health issues. At the time, I tried to research Dad’s symptoms, but my version of Google — the World Book of Encyclopedias — was of little help in the 1970s. Other relatives were just as evasive. I’m sure it was some form of dementia.

For me, the really tough part: I was just getting to know Dad. Late in his life, he adopted me from his sister’s family in Wisconsin. For reasons that I still can’t fathom and that bother me today, I didn’t feel an immediate kinship toward him.

But as I got to learn what sacrifices he made to raise me, I started feeling connections. His war stories and his sports tales caught my attention. I attended a resource-poor school, skipped kindergarten and the first half of first grade, but he made sure that I had encyclopedias, dictionaries, books, magazines and almanacs, so that I would have additional guidance at home. He let me watch TV, especially the newscasts, until all the shows went off the air.

Three years later, and after extended stays in nursing homes and hospitals following strokes and kidney failure, Dad died in his bedroom, a few feet from his terrible fall. His wake was in our front room, again a few feet away, and I slept on the floor by his casket.

I didn’t cry at his funeral. Instead, I remained angry at myself, because I didn’t take the time to know the man better. Eventually, I sold his homestead because it was tough to be around that spot where he hit his head that night.

Sometimes, curiosity gets the best of me, and I’ll start searching online for my birth father, whom I’ve never met. Through interviews, documents and online searches over the years, I’m certain that I’ve pinpointed his hometown and perhaps his identity.

But just before I make that next step to confirm it all, I stop.

I start thinking about the man who raised me, who made sacrifices so that I’d have a better life, who believed in me. And I realize that I need to start investing time in getting to know his life better. I owe it to him. I owe it to the Cummings family.

So here’s to you Dad … Thomas Richard Cummings. I’m thinking of you on Father’s Day.

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