Check out this great interview by This Week In Start Ups with host Jason Calacanis posing questions with Storyhunter Co-Founder and CEO Jaron Gilinsky.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
In “hero” we get to see that Saul is anything but as the episode starts where last week’s episode left off after a short trip down memory lane where we see Saul in his criminal pomp back in Cicero running a con on a mark.
There isn’t much truth to be found in this week’s edition of Better Call Saul but then again, is there ever? We begin the episode with Saul and a partner in crime scamming a mark for beer money and after the opening credits, we hear the bullshit rationalizations from the Kettlemans as to why they stole money and even why they deserve the money in all fairness!!
However Saul’s not exactly BS free as he tries to get the Kettlemans to come home so he can get Nacho off the hook and save his own skin. The Kettlemans however are not so keen on coming back as coming back will make them guilty despite the fact they’re guilty as sin.
The Kettlemans are so determined not to go back or give back the money that they offer Saul a bribe which he rejects, at first. After refusing the Kettlemans bribe several times, Saul suggests that he can take the money as a retainer to represent them legally. Saul then keys into sales patter selling himself as a better alternative to HHM but is shut down by Mr’s Kettleman with a galling but truthful line when she tells Saul he’s the “kind of lawyer guilty people hire”.
Saul has suffered one gut punch after another with nothing to show for it but in the next scene we see that this time he come out smelling of roses and lot of money. So far, Better Call Saul has been a tale about morally flawed man doing his best to fight his own moral corruption and getting punished for it at every turn but in “hero”, we see Saul become a little less morally conflicted and in the next few scenes bask in the “glory” of his ill-gotten spoils.
But before that we see Saul assert himself after Nacho accuses him of snitching. So far, we’ve seen Saul wear his fear of Nacho for all to see but in “hero” Saul’s disdain for Nacho’s crude methods would have got him caught without his “intervention”. Saul’s disappointed with most things but his pet peeve is inefficient criminals as we saw him castigate the twins for their choice of victim and rakes Nacho over the coals for his crude plan to extort the Kettlemans with brute force.
In the few scenes we see Saul return to his office making a paper trail for his new windfall that day before spending some of his new funds on a new suit and haircut. However, in the next scene we see what his transformation was for as Howard and Kim make a short tip off the highway to reveal a hilariously large advertisement with Saul cut like Howard from the hair to the winning smile promoting his “JMM” firm using the same logo and font as HHM. For all the we’ve learned about Saul so far what has clearly stuck out is his desire to compete with Howard and HHM despite him knowing he’s up against the odds as he is, in his own words, a lemonade stand going up against Wal-Mart.
And like the real Wal-Mart, HHM doesn’t take competition lightly no matter how insignificant it is as we find out when Kim makes a visit to Saul’s office with a cease and desist letter. Kim clearly cares about Saul as she probes him over his motivations in poking Howard and HHM in the eye by cloning his and the firms likeliness. Saul denies it’s personal but we all it’s definitely personal as Howard, through his brother, tried to get him to use another name than his own.
Since then Saul’s been looking for a way to get at Howard and HHM and the ad, placed perfectly in a highway Howard takes to get to work everday, was just another attempt to do it. Despite Kim’s attempts to reason with Saul, Saul remains resolute in his personal war with HHM and Howard in particular Kim (and Saul) knows he can’t win.
In the next scene we see Saul and Howard in front of a judge making their cases with Howard accusing Saul of trademark infringement as he stole the HHM logo and “Hamlindigo blue” font. Saul counters with the fact that he’s being penalized by using his own name by HHM causing a “restraint of trade” and basically cites them as being anti-competitive. However, the judge wasn’t buying it and order Saul to take down the ad.
Despite another setback, we get another montage showing Saul as his best trying to sell a story that frames him as the little upstart being thwarted by a bigger and faceless corporation in HHM. When that clearly doesn’t work, we see Saul resort to what he knows best, the con game. This time Saul plays a con on the press as he just happens to film a public message attempting to shame HMM and the court that made him take down the billboard as he “saves” a billboard installer who hangs suspended in the air screaming for help before Saul climbs up and pulls him back up.
From the outset of Better Call Saul we’ve seen that Saul has a real talent for deception and “hero” is no different as his con on the press works perfectly as his local TV interview after his “heroic” effort makes it into the HHM boardroom and regional newspapers. He also gets 7 new messages on his answerphone which just might help him deal with his painful anxiety in checking his messages in the future.
However his work isn’t done as he has to hide all evidence of the con away from Chuck who can see through Saul’s bullshit a mile away. Knowing full well the truth will break his brother’s heart; Saul lies through his teeth about his recent success crediting his brother’s sage advice for the turnaround. While pleased with brother’s recent success, it clear that Chuck smells a rat and thanks to an episode induced by his desire to read a local paper, his suspicion are confirmed.
All in all, “Hero” was another solid episode with Bob Odenkirk putting in another great performance.
Till next week!!
Check out this short sneak peek into next week’s episode of the AMC smash hit drama “The Walking Dead”.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
“The Distance” was great episode where we got to see the depths of Rick’s paranoia and someone, finally, get in his face and question his authority which instantly brought an end to the “Ricktatorship.”
While Rick officially brought an end his dictatorial reign at the back end of season three and part of season four, Rick still has made just about every major call since then without little or no push back. As per usual, not all his decisions we’re great including the dangerous 100 mile hike to Washington. But in “The Distance”, Michonne makes herself heard and makes Rick see sense.
While we’ve seen Michonne grow leaps and bounds from when we first saw her and in this week’s episode we see her browbeat Rick into giving new character Aaron a chance. However, for all that we’ve seen in the last five seasons of The Walking Dead we can’t fault Rick from looking a gift horse in the mouth.
Just about every time the group has placed trust in strangers they’ve paid the price from the Governor to the Terminus residents and now a polite, well dressed and clean shaven man comes along promising salvation is sure to cause suspicion. Rick paranoia pops up front and center the moment Maggie and Sasha introduce Aaron to the group as Rick quizzes him wearing his “I’m going to kill you and wear your face” look. Despite the understandable skepticism, hostility and caution among Rick and most of the group, Aaron manages to keep his composure selling his community to a tough crowd.
From the first few minutes we can tell that Aaron has perfected his pitch and is a skill salesman but trust is hard enough to establish in the world we live in but so just imagine how much harder it is to do in a zombie apocalypse where the only humans left are more dangerous than the flesh eating monsters aimlessly walking around looking for lunch. This point is punctuated as Rick gets sick of his well-polished sales patter and nails him with a right cross that put Aaron out cold.
And with that begun the episode long clash between Rick and Michonne as she gets in Rick’s face for attacking Aaron but Rick is too busy preparing for an ambush from Aaron’s group. Aaron come back from right cross induced stupor and still manages to keep his cool despite being decked and interrogated by a dead eyed Rick. In this scene Aaron makes a great point about trust when he questions Rick skeptical mindset about as points out to Rick that no matter how many of his people he says is out there, Rick won’t believe him anyway because he’s skeptical from the outset.
However his well-reasoned and argued point goes way over Rick’s head as he continues to wear his paranoia on his sleeve. You can’t really blame him as for all that he’s lost since the zombie apocalypse began; he still has the most to lose out of the group which makes the safety and well-being of Karl and Judith his number one priority.
So for all the well-reasoned and argued points Aaron can come up with under serious interrogation from Rick and the group’s more skeptical members, he’s not making any hay on getting them to join his community. However Aaron does kind of shoot himself in the foot when making a point about what would happen if he had foul intentions by describing how he would ambush a group. This was a whopper of a mistake given all Rick and the group has shown him is hostility and suspicion. However I don’t really think this the fault of the show’s new character but of the writers of TWD looking for ways to introduce tension where it doesn’t exists.
The writers are well aware that TWD suffers from a serious lack of dramatic tension in light of the show having no real antagonist with The Governor gone and the Walker now a palpable but ultimately manageable threat. So far Aaron has maintained his polite demeanor and has given the group no reason to trust him but with the writers looking to introduce tension where there isn’t reveals the writers eagerness to fix a problem they can’t fix anytime soon.
After Aaron makes another attempt to get the group to trust him by revealing that another member of his community is up the road with a camper, Rick and Michonne clash again as Rick thinks it’s a trick but Michonne, notably desperate for sanctuary in the second half of this season, is willing to give Aaron the benefit of the doubt as is Maggie.
Rick, not willing to take the risk, retorts that Michonne’s plan to check Aaron’s claims out are dangerous but Michonne rightly points out that living hand to mouth in a barn in the middle of nowhere isn’t exactly safe either. Then what happens next is pretty much one of the highlights of the episode as Michonne rallies the group into following her plan and sternly insists that Rick plays ball. We’ve seen Rick for the most part get his way without much resistance right or wrong but in “The Distance”, Rick is forced to follow the lead of one of the group members.
This a good development as the “what Rick says goes” regime the group has pretty much cosigned from the outset clearly needs tweaking. Most of the group has been fine with merely surviving but Michonne has been pushing for a place to settle and realizes that it may take a risk like trusting a stranger to get it no matter how much what they have to say or offer is hard to believe due to the group’s bad experiences with other groups willing to take them in.
The group then splits in two with some of group following Michonne while other hanging back looking out for threats. Michonne’s plan was the smart play but leaving Rick with Aaron wasn't due to his paranoia clearly getting the best of him. We find that out pretty quickly as Rick threatens to put a knife in the base Aaron’s skull if Michonne and co weren’t back in an hour.
In between the couple of scenes where we see that Aaron’s story checked out, we see the depths of Rick’s Paranoia after Aaron offers Rick apple sauce to feed Judith to stop her crying because she might attract walkers. Rick then makes Aaron taste the apple sauce before he gives it to Judith which is understandable but telling given the fact that if Aaron did poison the apple sauce, it would be an automatic death sentence for him given his job means he has to encounter groups with every reason to distrust him.
When Michonne, Maggie, Glenn, Rosita and Abraham return to the barn with a bevy of canned food, Michonne once again campaigns for the group to leave the barn, most of the group is onboard given Aaron story checked out and even Daryl, who’s been a Rick loyalist for the longest, joins Michonne in her insistence to leave the barn and join Aaron’s community.
Seeing that Michonne has pretty much has the whole group on her side, Rick reluctantly agrees. Once again Ricks mistrust puts him and others in danger as Aaron tells him and the group which road to take back his group but thanks his paranoia, Rick decided to split group with him, Michonne, Glen and Aaron take another route and the rest of the clan take the route Aaron suggested.
The plan pretty much went Pete Tong for Rick, Michonne, Aaron and Glen as Aaron was correct when he suggested that Rick’s plan to go down a route his group hadn’t cleared of walkers was a bad idea as Glen mows down a herd of walkers. The group get out of the car when Aaron gets out of the car after seeing a flare light the sky. If the plan hadn’t already gone awry it’s about worse as the group end up having to shoot and chop their through a herd that nearly gets them killed before they make it back on to the main road and walk the rest of the trip.
As the group meet up again we follow Aaron into as he meets up with his partner Eric and find out Maggie and Glenn aren’t the only hope for relationships in the zombie apocalypse. The few seconds we spent with Aaron and Eric revealed a relationship that’s tender and loving which makes one of the bleakest and cynical shows on television today a more bearable watch considering the emotionally draining episodes over the last two weeks.
In the next scene we see that Aaron has some steel to go with his politeness as he stands up to Rick when tries to tell him where to sleep. This scene was particularly telling because Aaron was prepared to take on Rick before Glenn stepped in to talk sense into him. His steel is even more impressive as while he must have figured out by now that while Rick is good man willing to do what it takes to protect the ones he loves, he is also a stone cold killer with a serious case of paranoia made worse by the burden of leadership.
The real highlight of the whole episode was in the last three minutes of “The Distance” as get a close up on Rick’s eyes and in them we see a man looking for hope while waiting for other shoe to drop until the hears the sound of children playing which allows him relax as we see the life rush back into his dead green eyes. For all faults the show has, the performances from its cast are almost always on point with Andrew Lincoln acting his boots off in this episode.
Ross Marquand, who plays Aaron, was also pretty good in his first full episode as we, through his performance, learned much about his character. Now that Rick and co are now part of another group, we get to see how they deal with a group of real human beings that don’t want to kill them and keep their walker remains or eat them alive.
The show has needed an instance where the group joins a community where they’re not in control and now we get to see whether they can really play nice with others or has the being out in the world hardened them beyond repair.
We may get some answers on that front next week.
Monday, February 16, 2015
“Wow. You gotta mouth on you”
In “Uno” we saw life handing Saul lemons but his sharp lawyer but in “Mijo” we see Saul show off his ability to, in his own words “turn a death sentence to six months’ probation”
“Mijo” started where “Uno” left off as the twins talked their way into a world of trouble after the old lady (who we find out in short order is the grandmother of Breaking Bad alumni Tuco Salamanca) informs Tuco of the accident but one of the twins makes the mistake of calling the old lady a “crazy old biznatch” which instantly hit the kill switch in Tuco who we know from Breaking Bad is not one to take insults or even perceived slights lightly.
The Tuco presented to us so far seems a far calmer and sober version than the violent lunatic we saw in Breaking Bad who took meth in just about every scene we saw him in and killed for little or no reason. However, it’s not long before we see Tuco’s violent tendencies get the best of him as after he ushers his distressed grandmother upstairs and waits till she’s out of sight, he clocks both of the twins unconscious with his grandmother’s walker after getting sick of the twins disrespectful tone and constant claims for compensation.
It’s not been a great day for Saul and it gets worse as he interrupts Tuco in the middle of scrubbing the twin’s blood out of his grandma’s carpet. We hear Saul knock on the door and as soon as the door opens he’s greeted with Tuco sticking a gun in his face ushering him into the house.
After searching Saul, Tuco offers Saul a seat while pointing his gun right at his face asking him who he is. Saul, scared out of his mind, pretty much tells Tuco the truth though leaving a couple of incriminating details. When their discussion is interrupted by Tuco grandma, Saul notices the “salsa stain” on the carpet he knows full well isn’t salsa and which instills even more fear in him.
However, despite being petrified, Saul still manages to stay in full lawyer mode as he manages to talk Tuco into releasing the twins after but the twins, desperate to find a way out, undo all of Saul’s good work and incriminate Saul which earned all three of them a trip to the New Mexico desert.
When we see Saul, the twins, Tuco and three of his goons in the desert, I instantly perked up and paid attention as in Breaking Bad trips to the desert accounted for some of the best television of the last decade as characters either, died, made deals or talked their way out of the death in the New Mexico desert and this scene in “Mijo was no different. Trips to the desert in Breaking Bad often came across as a masterclass in how talk your way out of impending death as Walt and Jesse found themselves, more often than not, begging for their lives at the end of a gun and in this episode, Saul showed us he can match Walt’s world class talent for presenting rational arguments under duress.
Tuco and his crew interrogate Saul who spills the beans on his original plan to scam his way into getting the treasurer’s business that had gone woefully wrong but Tuco and his crew don’t believe him. One of Tuco’s guys makes a trip to the van to take a toolbox which only makes Saul reiterate his line which Tuco and his crew aren’t buying. Tuco then takes out pair of sharp looking pliers and motions to cut Saul’s fingers off which makes Saul talk real fast insisting he’s not a cop.
Tuco still doesn’t believe him after taking checking his business card. After Tuco cuts slightly into his fingers and realizing that the truth just might get him killed, Saul starting singing claiming to be an undercover FBI agent and insist that Tuco lets him go. Tuco is totally sold that Saul’s a fed but one of his henchmen is not so sure as he questions “Jeffrey Steel” about the apparent “investigation” but Saul, working off his wits, is running out of story. Saul’s already proven that he has a real talent for deception but the BS story about operation “kingbreaker” runs thin as Tuco’s man borrows the pliers and coldly asks him to tell the truth. Seeing that his FBI deception isn’t working on Tuco’s savvier henchman, Saul reverts back to the truth.
Probably thinking two moves ahead of his less than strategic crew leader, Tuco henchman suggests that Tuco let’s Saul go. After short exchange where Tuco’s Henchman convinces his boss that Saul is not FBI agent, he cuts Saul loose reminding him that he knows where to find him which, as we find out later in the episode, is way sooner than Saul would like.
As one of Tuco’s other henchman escorts Saul back to his car, Tuco, undoing his shirt cuffs, bears down on the twins which prompts Saul into one of great performances of his life as he goes from creating a BS story about the twins’ mother to talking Tuco down from gutting, blinding and slitting the twins throat to breaking their legs with by giving Tuco a small lecture in justice 101: proportionality.
It was truly a great feat to watch and clearly a great feat for Saul to pull off as the whole ordeal gives Saul a major shot in arm as he realizes he’s “best lawyer ever” after saving the twins from a slow and painful death. It was the stand out scene the episode and arguably the season as it will take something great in future episodes to top it.
In the last two episodes we’ve seen Saul’s ability to think on his feet but in “Mijo” his skill to react to situations quickly made this less of a painful as we watch a signature Gillianesque montage involving Saul negotiate the daily grind his profession of taking on no hope clients, an overcharging prosecutor, poor pay and a formidable toll booth operator an awful lot better than he did in the first episode.
However towards the end of the montage, we see the daily grind of his job wear him down as the shot in arm earned from the Tuco situation wears off. In the next scene we see Saul pass through the nail salon to get to his office which is isn’t much to write about but what was notable was that the ladies in the shop were much more receptive than they were in “Uno” as he glided through the shop barely noticed.
Once we’re in his office, we once again see his hesitation in checking his messages in fear he has none and once again, his fear are realized. Just before Saul opens up takes a siesta on his bed cum office sofa, his landlord inform that he has a customer but, as it turns out, it’s not a customer he’d bargained for. Tuco savvy henchman pays Saul a visit he’s less than glad to receive and propositions him to rip off the treasurer and his wife which Saul, surprisingly, rejects swiftly stating that he’s “a lawyer, not a criminal”.
His insistence that he’s not criminal took me aback as it brought out of me the same “you’re shitting me” reaction it brought of Tuco’s henchman as it seemed out of character of a man who has shown he’s prepared to break the law to get clients. This was the only misstep made so far in the series as Saul in just two episodes has shown a high level of street smarts that would make Tuco henchman’s last line about Saul figuring out he’s “in the game” redundant.
Nonetheless, “Mijo” was a great episode and another sterling performance by Bob Odenkirk who once again shows he’s a great dramatic as well as comedic actor. More episodes like this and Better Call Saul just might be as award laden as its predecessor.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Rarely has there been this much anticipation for a spinoff of a successful show and what’s even rarer is the spinoff being anywhere as good as its predecessor but with Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and Philip Gould at the helm and off the first outing of Better Call Saul, It’s already quite clear that it won’t go the way of other spinoffs.
The show doesn’t have ounce of fat on it as it focuses tightly on our protagonist who is present in just about every scene. In the first episode, we learn more about Saul Goodman A.K.A James McGill than we did in the character’s four season run as Walt and Jesse’s wisecracking “criminal lawyer”. In stark contrast to the upbeat and glib charm we come to know and love Saul for in breaking Bad, he cuts a forlorn figure before and after the events of Breaking Bad as we see him working at Cinnabons and watching over shoulder his in fear of reprisals.
His supposed fall from grace is hammered home as we follow him home to decent but eerily empty abode where pours a mix of Drambuie and Dewar White Label and watches his old cheesy commercials a picture of sorrow and regret. These short but depressing few scenes at the start of the episode reveals to us not only his fall from grace but a man stripped of purpose and on a road to self-destruction which makes for a compelling but ultimately sad spectacle especially in light of what we knew of him before.
We flashback to his life before he met Walt and Jesse and to some extent it’s kind of hard to say which part of his life was more depressing: his life before or after the events of Breaking Bad. We once again learn more in a scene than we did in his whole run in Breaking Bad as we see Saul, now going by the name James McGill, holding up a court trying to get his closing argument down pat.
This small scene is pretty great as we learn all his charm doesn’t come from natural charisma but from bloody hard work. Throughout this episode, Saul (I find it difficult to refer to Saul by his real name), is portrayed as a lonely and severely insecure man looking to prove himself and failing at every turn but in the scene in the bathroom where we find him going through his closing argument in his head to when delivers it perfectly in the courtroom, we know it’s not for a lack of trying.
There’s a great comedic moment when Saul rips through his great closing argument in defense of three teenage boys, the prosecution simply goes across the room, drags a nearby television hooked to a VCR in front of the jury and pops in a tape that shows Saul’s clients sexually molesting then cutting of the head of a dead corpse.
The video pretty much kills his case as we find Saul remonstrating with a court receptionist over his measly pay as a public defender demanding extra for representing three defendants. What this short but telling scene revealed is that Saul from the outset could care less about the guilt or innocence of his clients. It also reveals that he’s no fan of his current position as public defender as the last case showed, most of them are unwinnable. We find out later in the episode that Saul was morally corrupted back in his teens but in this short scene and in others in the episode, we see that it wasn’t going to take much to corrupt him later on.
Another short scene right after shows us Saul’s uncanny skill for deception as he impersonates an Irish assistant supposedly working for his firm on the spot. We’ve already seen Saul is a pretty good at working a crowd but his skill for on the spot deception is outright criminal genius. In that same scene we see him pull up at a tool booth and from a voice off screen we instantly realize that this is Saul’s first encounter with Mike. Jonathan Banks was excellent as the deadpan and no-nonsense hitman and it’s great to see that he’ll be playing him in future episode which already makes my anticipation for the next episode that much unbearable.
In the next scene, we find Saul at the four O’clock appointment setup by his “Irish assistant” in a diner with a couple once again showing his great ability to pitch. His ability to pitch is even more highlighted by the awkward conversation about the case which reveals the couple’s guilt and, once again, Saul’s indifference towards the guilt of his prospective clients.
So far, we’ve seen Saul frustrated by his legal career and thanks to the treasurers’ wife, he suffers another setback as she stops her husband from signing a letter of engagement at the last minute. Gilligan and Gould make a great choice of focusing on Saul’s face watching the treasurer almost sign on the dotted line before his wife stops him as one frame on Saul’s face shows us the desperation and over-eagerness of a man looking for a break and the dejection when that break turns into a false dawn.
The time we’ve spent with Saul has been one disappointment after another as life is handing one lemon after another and they keep on coming as two twin scammers try to pull one over on Saul as one jumps upfront of Saul’s car while the other twin ramps up pressure on Saul with a camcorder that just happens to be handy when his brother is “unfortunately” run into.
However their misfortune is compounded by the fact that Saul has their number as while Saul initial reaction of blind fear is real, he relaxes when they bring up the issue of compensation. After the twins settle on $500 being the number that “make(s) things right”, Saul proceeds to cut through the act and then rips them for their poor choice of victim with a great line about his car “only being worth $500 with a $300 hooker sitting in it”.
That great line is one of the few lines that made me laugh out loud in this episode which wasn’t particularly funny. This is not bad thing as I’ve found the best comedies don’t make you laugh but when they do, it’s worth remembering. The episode wasn’t funny because Gilligan and Gould can’t write comedy (they clearly can as Breaking Bad would have been an unbearable watch if they couldn’t), it’s because Saul’s life is more tragic than it is funny. We’ve seen Saul get poorly compensated for taking unwinnable cases, get rejected by drop dead guilty clients and chase off twin scammers for trying to get one over on him, none of which is funny to him or would be funny to us if we were in his shoes.
If there’s any comedy in Better Call Saul, you’d better believe it’s down to the great lines and comic timing of Gilligan and Gould and a stand out performance from Bob Odenkirk (whose been great in everything we’ve seen him in post Breaking Bad from the Oscar nominated Nebraska to the brilliant and award laden TV reworking of the classic 1996 Coen brothers’ film Fargo) because it’s certainly not coming from the events taking place in Saul’s life.
In the next scene, we see why Saul’s “Irish assistant” set up a meeting at a diner rather than his office as his “office” is basically a spare room at the back of nail and pedicure joint. Again we see traces of his insecurity as he hesitates to check his messages fearing he has none, his fears are realized when the answering tells him what he already knows. Saul files through his mail then opens up a letter from Hamlin, Hamlin, and McGill (HHM) with a check made to James McGill for $26,000 which Saul, after a beat, rips into pieces.
In the next scene we get to see why as he makes a visit HHM. From his interaction with just about everybody outside the main office, he’s not exactly man of the year as while the staff there remember him, it’s palpable they don’t remember him fondly. We get an even greater sense that his presence is not welcome when he makes his entrance into a partners meeting to discuss the check in mail which he empties out of his palm onto a finely polished table.
We learn through his conversation with one of the partners that the check wasn’t for him, it was for his brother, Saul clearly thinks his brother is being shortchanged and wants HHM to buyout his share of firm but it becomes clear that Saul doesn’t have the authority to make such a demand on his brother’s behalf. Saul then threatens to take HHM to court then exits the office but not before his best impression of Ned Beatty’s performance in the classic 1976 Paddy Chayefsky satire “Network”.
All we’ve seen all episode is Saul suffer one knock back after another but the one that clearly hurt him the most was seeing the treasurer and his wife in the foyer of HMM chopping it up with the senior partner we saw earlier in the main office. As he exits the elevator we see Saul lets go of all his frustration as he wails on a nearby bin with a barrage of kicks. This is telling as lets out all the choked back anger at his situation and the cosmic joke that has become his life. We got none of this in Breaking Bad as more often than not, Saul always had some semblance of control.
In the next scene we follow Saul home and find that his house is powerless but not empty as we hear a voice off screen. After Saul lights a lantern and puts groceries in an ice bucket, we find Saul’s brother Chuck at a typewriter. The conversation between the two is the first conversation between that wasn’t purely business or outright adversarial as Saul clearly cares for his brother and vice versa.
The love between the two is palpable when Saul insists that Chuck quits HHM and his brother also determined to prove he can get back in the game but with his fear of electromagnetism (hence the powerless house), Saul’s not so sure. However, Chuck proves himself to be a great debater as he swiftly cuts through his brother’s arguments regarding his career as he rightly points out that his arguments are built on false principles but Saul counters with an argument built on a principle that’s hard to falsify: economic reality.
Saul informs Chuck that he’s broke and while Chuck argues that money is “beside the point”, Saul counters that “money is the point” which reveals a sharp philosophical break between the two. From what we’ve seen so far, Chuck is clearly the more patient, intellectual, and therefore the more successful of the two while Saul, driven by his insecurity and lack of success in spite of his sharp mind, is overly concerned about the result of his actions which makes the continual cosmic setbacks harder to take on the chin.
In the scene with Chuck we find out that Saul only took public defender work because of Chuck’s insistence of its nobility and the precious experience he would gain which again brings into focus the philosophical difference between the two as Saul, less than impressed with monetary results never mind the unwinnable cases, is clearly not convinced that public defender work is either noble or the experience of doing it enlightening.
However, Saul soon found out that his impassioned argument to get his brother to cash out of HHM was to come to naught as the firm was already sending Chuck checks he was more than happy to accept due to his insistence he will resume work at the firm. Saul, flabbergasted, thinks HHM are taking advantage of his brother’s optimistic assessment of his health but is shut down by Chuck’s insistence that he will get better. Saul has spent the whole day suffering setback after setback but when Chuck hands him the matchbox he gave to the couple earlier in the episode and suggests he changes his name ”to build his own identity”, we see that this was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as Saul playing by the rules.
While we know later that Saul took Chuck’s advice wholesale down the line, right now, blinded once again by his anger and insecurity about his life and now HHM taking advantage of his brother’s naivety, all he can fathom is a certain sense of betrayal and a major hard on for poking HHM in the eye.
Saul plan to poke HHM in the eye is crudely simple by potentially effective as he recruits the twin scammers to play the same hustle they tried on him on the treasurer’s wife so that he can come to her rescue and possibly steal the treasurer’s embezzlement case from HHM. Not a bad plan but, as with all plans, good or bad, they are useless when the variables they’re based on suddenly change or were faulty in the first place. The twins are on the right street and target the right car but clearly the wrong driver as instead of getting out of the vehicle to see if their “victim” is ok, the driver speeds off. While Saul rightly tells the twins, now following the car, that the hit and run is a good thing as it gives them more leverage.
However, this makes the twins greedy as they figure they could shake down once they catch up with the driver and demand compensation. They ignore Saul’s wise advice to hang back which they ultimately pay for as they roll up on the driver, an elderly but stern looking Hispanic woman, and demand, through a cursory understanding of Spanish, compensation. However, the old lady, certainly nobody’s fool, sees right through the twins and invites them into their home and calls out for her son in Spanish which would have sent a red flag among the twins if they understood a word of Spanish beyond the terms that sound similar to their English equivalents.
Their greed also drags Saul into the same quagmire as he spots the twin’s skateboards and headgear on the old lady’s lawn which should have sent a massive red flag but with Saul working on his pitch to reel in the treasurer’s wife, he’s too focused on cashing in to register any danger. However, Saul inability to register danger is soon addressed as he gets a 45 Magnum Revolver stuck in his face by none other than Tuco Salamanca who drags Saul into his house.
In Tuco we see another face we recognize from Breaking Bad and s sure to feature heavily in the show and probably might explain how Saul got connected with Gus Fring and in the New Mexico underworld in general. In any case, I trust Gilligan and Gould’s ability to tell a story as if the first episode is anything to go by, it might just match its original inspiration for greatness.
In sum, “Uno” was a great episode as it was brilliantly written, directed, shot and acted and if Gilligan, Gould and Odenkirk keep giving us episodes and performances like this, all three are shoe in for Emmy consideration not only from the good will garnered from their magnum opus but from the quality from their current work of art.
Monday, February 9, 2015
The world that makes up The Walking Dead is a grim one but that’s only because the minds that dreamt up the hyper bleak TWD world are extremely grimmer.
“What Happened And What’s Going On ” opened with pieces later to appear in the episode as we saw the sadness and desolation in reaction to the death of Beth and not content with the group trying to process of losing another group member, we lose another character in Tyreese.
To say the least, episode 9 was a somber and sorrowful episode as Rick, Glen, Michonne, Tyreese make a trip with Noah back to his old neighborhood with the hope that his mother and two twin brother were still alive which if you watched TWD for any amount of time, was a foolish hope indeed. Much of modern TV is remarkably cynical but The Walking Dead takes it to another level as the group spend most of their time trying to keep hope alive and find meaning in a world devoid of both and the show seems dead set on punishing them for trying and us for hoping they succeed.
Episode 9 was no different as Noah’s hope to reunite with his family were crushed as after realizing that his neighborhood was overrun and everybody he knew was either dead or a meat-eating monster, he made a break for his house only to find his mother dead on the living room floor brained and blood soaked. That wasn’t the end of the ordeal however as not only was his younger twin brothers dead, one of them takes a chunk out of Tyreese’s forearm before he kills him.
This scene has extra weight as on the trip to Noah’s neighborhood we see a father-son dynamic begin to form between the two as while we get tells from other group members in the truck that they think this trip isn’t going to end well, Tyreese tells a story about his father and buffers Noah faint hopes that his family is still alive. He also elects to stay with Noah after his breakdown and when Noah makes a break for his house, insists that he goes in first.
While just about everybody in TWD universe has bought in to The Governor’s sinister creed of “kill or die” in order to survive, Tyreese has held on the longest to his humanity and has done his best to avoid, in the words of his father “pay the high cost of living”. Once again the show reveals its cynical nature as it disperses of a character that has done better than most to keep his moral center in a world that demands one moral compromise after another.
Dale, T-Dog, Andrea, Hershel and now Tyreese have all paid the price for attempting to keep their humanity which in some sense is inevitable but it establishes a clear belief among the writers of the show that what we may admire about a character might just be what gets them killed.
This isn’t necessarily a bad premise to work on but it does make the show a little predictable and repetitive. The show already suffers from a lack of a real antagonist as while walkers pose a threat to the group, they are a manageable threat. While the group is sure to run into another group run by a unrepentant psychopath whose only redeeming quality is a disarming but ultimately glib charm, we’ve seen that Rick and co. know how to deal with psychopaths: match them for their cruelty and unerring ability to kill others.
We know full well that the group will encounter one or both antagonists at some point as there’s a world full of flesh eating zombies and the humans still alive and kicking that aren’t exactly the best representatives of humanity by any estimation. We still haven’t seen the group live with another group where they weren’t in total control but I doubt that will ever happen as it won’t be long till Rick and co plan to take over as let’s face it human beings working in tandem to build a new world after the old one went to hell makes for a less than exciting spectacle to say the least.
Episode 9 encapsulates these problems especially in Tyreese’s hallucination as the writers try introducing conflict in Tyreese’s psyche as we see hallucinations with Bob, Beth, Lizzie and Mikka where they all somewhat attempt to reassure Tyreese that his impending death played out how it supposed to. Probably noticing the lack of real conflict throughout the episode, the writers clearly made the choice to introduce one of the members of the Terminus group who Tyreese severely beat but didn’t kill and strangely the Governor who basically held him accountable for his own death.
While the hallunication of the Terminus member makes sense as he did predict Tyreese was going to die trying to keep his humanity, the hallucination of The Governor made no sense. The two spent only a few seconds together in screen time which left no time for the show or Tyreese to establish a connection strong enough for either one to figure strongly in their dying thoughts. One would have thought Sasha would make an appearance in his hallucination as they have strong connection with each other and had one of the most close knit sibling relationships in the show.
While it was good to see David Morrisey return to the show, the fact that The Governor and not Sasha made an appearance in Tyreese’s dying thoughts shows that the writers weren’t being true to the character and made the choice to serve the story at the expense of plausibility.
For me , the writers committed the high crime of all television, taking an audience out of a story. In the end we get to say goodbye to Tyreese but what was noticeable was how worn out rather than sad the group was to lose Tyreese, particularly Sasha, who has already lost Bob and now her big brother.Throughout the run of The Walking Dead, the group has mostly swung between cautious optimism to acute but temporary dejection but it looks like the group has resigned to indifference particularly towards death. In truth, you can’t really fault them for to worn out to grieve as they’re well aware that death awaits them, one way or the other.
And with Rick’s plan to take the group to Washington, expect more group members to pay the price. As all leaders do, Rick has made many bad decisions but his plan to take the group to Washington looks like it’s going to be a whopper of a mistake that may cost him the lives of everybody he loves.
Maybe Rick saw the need for the group to have goal to strive for or wanted to reassure Michonne who came up with the plan, but to take the group on an 100 mile hike to Washington, knowing full well it’s probably overrun by walkers or worse, has been taken over by psychopaths that make The Governor look like the Dalai Lama, is unwise to say the least.
In the trailer showing clips of the next episode, we already see Sasha questioning the logic behind the new mission openly musing about the inevitable losses in numbers the group will suffer in this foolhardy quest. A least next week we’ll see someone challenge the faulty logic that underpins the plan that so far makes no sense.
In sum, episode 9 was a decent episode that dealt rather briefly with the grief of the group in the aftermath of Beth’s shocking death but in the death of Tyreese, the show made a point to kill a character, who didn’t need to die, just to keep consistent with the show’s philosophy of “humanity will get you killed” which instantly took me out the story and clouded what would have been somber but decent episode.
(Movies) Straight Outta Compton Official Red Band Trailer #1 (2015) Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Paul Giamatti
Check out the first official red band trailer for the first biopic on the legendary hip hop group NWA, “Straight Outta Compton”, starring Dr Dre, Ice Cube and Paul Giamatti.
Check out this great documentary, “Game of Thrones: A Day in the Life” that gives a great behind the scenes look into what it takes to produce an epic show like Game of Thrones and manage by far the largest TV production ever.
Saturday, February 7, 2015
(The Big Disrupt) Shadow IT: Why CIO’s are becoming one of the most important yet irrelevant members in the C-suite at the same time
No job in the C-suite is easy but thanks to onset of technology like the cloud and big data, a CIO’s already difficult job has gotten a little tougher.
In an age where CIO’s relevance is being openly questioned, CIO’s are being asked to deliver business value while at the same time being undermined by other C-suite executives, most notably chief marketing Officers (CMO), who are turning to vendors outside the business for IT solutions (particularly cloud and big data solutions) bypassing their CIO and IT department in the process.
This process wouldn’t be so bad if CIO’s where given a heads up on the adoption of new technology and a number of prominent CIO’s weren’t trying to sell this process as a positive. In an interview with PC World, Ramon Baez, CIO of HP, makes the point that “innovation just doesn’t reside in IT—it’s all over the map” which is all well and good but he knows full well that there’s a problem when the CIO, the head of IT, isn’t leading innovation in a business or at the very least leading IT buying decisions.
Then again, this really isn’t Baez’s problem on the whole as he works for a company that’s in the IT vendor business that’s largely fuelling debates over the role of the CIO in the first place. This “shadow IT” phenomenon has become widespread as according to a study by BT “the practice is now common, with 76% of CIOs seeing it within their organizations. On average, shadow IT now accounts for a quarter of an organization’s IT spend”.
What this really means is that CIO’s are going to become integrators as opposed to innovators with the aforementioned growth of other departments buying their own IT solutions. Countless articles have sold as a positive outcome but I doubt there an IT executive in love with the fact that IT journalists, consultants and researchers are stressing the positives of CIO’s losing control over a number of their organization’s IT functions and shadow IT decimating their budgets.
Sure there’s value to the business in cutting IT costs and making CIO’s do “more with less” (arguably the most depressing mantra of the modern age), but what’s a CIO do when more and more IT functions move to the cloud? The answer lies in CIO’s seeing this as an opportunity to add value to the business which is fine but what this really means is that CIO’s are going to be accessed by business than IT metrics more than they ever have been.
However, in light of CIO’s having less control over IT and a slimmer budget, this has put CIOs on the radar of their boards as they realize despite the sinking budgets, BYOD, and the growth of shadow IT all over the C-suite, the success or failure of many a business is going to depend heavily on how good or bad their CIO is in handing the integration of new technologies into their business processes whether they like it or not.
In this new role where CIO’s have to add value to the business, they will have align well with other executives in the C-suite particularly the CMO however, that doesn’t seem to be going so well.
Much has been said and written about the clash between CIO’s and CMO’s due to CMO’s being by far the leading procurers of outside IT solutions in the C-suite to the point Gartner were confident enough to predict that marketing will spend on IT than IT departments in the next two years. If this supposed rift between CIO and CMO has any truth to it (many a CIO and CMO has denied tension between the roles vociferously), this is bad news for any company looking to make their digital transformation seamless as no company, no matter how much cash it has to burn or how great their product is, can afford to have their IT and marketing executives at loggerheads.
The truth is that from this point forward, CIO’s and CMO’s are going to be an organization’s most important hires as both are already at forefront of the big data revolution and will be the main beneficiaries of explosion of data that will provided by the Internet of Things. With this in mind, an alliance between IT and marketing is not only preferable but critical.
In sum, CIO’s are confronted with a unique scenario where they’re in crisis yet confronted with opportunity and it depends on the mindset of CIOs whether he or she embraces or fall victim to one or other.
 J. Jackson, 2014, HP CIO Ramon Baez sees your future in the cloud, http://www.pcworld.com/article/2363280/hp-cio-ramon-baez-sees-your-future-in-the-cloud.html
 IT Online, 2015,Shadow IT inspires CIO Renaissance, http://it-online.co.za/2015/01/21/shadow-inspires-cio-renaissance/