Breaking Bad: A Series to Admire

by Aaron Navarro 

thBreaking bad is about methamphetamine and a high school chemistry teacher named Walter White.  His life is close to miserable and it only gets worse.  Walter’s salary barely makes ends meet, so Walter has another job working at a car wash.  His wife is about to pop out their second child and their teenage son is battling cerebral palsy.  Everything hits the fan when Walter learns he has terminal cancer, so Walter flips out hence the name Breaking Bad.  With the realization that his illness probably will ruin his family in the long run, Walter races to earn as much money as he can in the time he has left.  Breaking Bad is an American drama series that was aired on AMC for five seasons, and five was all it needed.

Breaking bad is a story about man versus time.  While the basic plot grabbed my attention, what really interested me was the series’ ability to tackle a current issue.  The series really showed how meth has exploded into a huge drug in the black-market.  Not only does the series shows how easy it is to make the meth, but shows how addictive and cheap the drug can be.  Breaking Bad did an excellent job of taking people out of the norm and into this underground world.  Although, as much as I love the story hook of meth and Walter’s ambition to make the most money possible, I am mostly interested in the characters’ social and internal conflicts.  

th-3Starting with the main character, Walter White is conflicted by his personal life and his meth life.  Walter is stuck between two lifestyles and finds himself trying to make sense of it all. As the series goes on Walter slowly learns to accept the immoral things by creating an alter ego. Walter’s alter ego is known as Heisenberg and he uses this identity to mask his morals, therefore committing violent crimes. In addition to his violent acts, Walter finds his inner Heisenberg slipping out of him like Dr. Henry Jekyll. Throughout the series, Walter is conflicted with family ties and loses his cool, but I believe that it Heisenberg who is taking action and not Walter. 

th-1Secondly, Jesse Pinkman is Walter’s partner in crime and is my favorite character throughout the series.  Jesse evolves throughout the series and matures.  At first, he starts off as a small time drug dealer and an occasional drug user at the beginning of the series. Throughout the series, Walter impacts Jesse in both a positive and negative way and it seemed like he guided Jesse.  While Walter did everything out of personal interest, this exposed the underlying problem Jesse had within.  Jesse struggled to seek affirmation from others since his family neglected him.  Furthermore, everyone in the series abused Jesse, thus making the audience feel sympathetic towards him.  This heightened sympathy that I felt could have been the result of me relating to his character. As a young adult, I can relate to Jesse the most because he endured social expectations and searched for affirmation from others.  Jesse’s personality gives the series a lot of color and his social endeavor grabs my attention even more.  At the end, Jesse is able to walk away with experience and maturity.

th-2Finally, the last character that I thought played a major role in Breaking Bad was Hank Schrader.  Hank, the antagonist was Walter’s brother in law.  He was constantly on Walter’s tail and ambitiously did so throughout the whole series.  Not only was it a constant cat and mouse game, but this conflict also played on the audience’s morals. Indeed, the audience becomes attached to both Walter and Jesse even though they are criminals.  The audience is forced to pick a side between justice and personal morals.  Our minds side with Hank because his actions are justified, but our hearts side with Walter and Jesse because we sympathize for them.  Besides Hank’s impact on the plot, his internal problems create another dimension to which the audience can relate.  Hank is human no matter what he does or says in the series.  He is the typical tough guy who talks big and is the big shot in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  Despite his image and reputation, Hank deals with psychological problems.  For example, Hank struggles with anxiety in the series and when he is promoted to a higher position in the DEA this anxiety is exposed to the viewer.  Shortly after his promotion, Hank strolls into an elevator by himself.  He then starts to panic in the elevator and when the doors open he walks out acting like nothing happened.  Since Hank was isolated in the elevator, this shows how he deals with this anxiety by himself because there is no one around to take notice.  This leads me to believe that his macho man attitude is affecting him psychologically.  Again, interpersonal and personal conflicts bring life to Breaking Bad.

 th-4Breaking Bad’s characters all influence the series in their own way.  Vince Gilligan, the director, does one more thing to represent all the characters’ influence on the storyline. He uses color to affect our visual perception and sensation, and to explain what is happening in the plot.  Throughout the film Vince plays with different shades of specific colors to show and explain what is going on in a certain situation; for example, green usually symbolizes money, greed, and envy while yellow is usually associated with meth. This color scheme continues throughout Breaking Bad and to understand it fully one would have to watch the series.  Overall, Breaking Bad is a wonderful series to watch because it is filled with non-stop action, mystery, and romance. Meth is exposed and explored to the point where not only are our morals tested, but so is our visual field.

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel: Signature Wes Anderson

by Robin Garcia

The_Grand_Budapest_Hotel_PosterWe are all fascinated by pretty colors that match and compliment each other, beautiful costuming, and scenic backgrounds, and so is Wes Anderson.  The Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes Anderson’s eighth feature length film.  It is filled with dry comedy, curious dialogue, and lovable characters, as well as set in picturesque areas and background drops that are sure to delight and please the eye.  Just like in previous films Wes Anderson directed, he amazes us with the colors of the set design and costuming.  But is that the only valuable part of the movie; it’s exterior?  Absolutely not. 

To begin with the film was shot in 35mm, as Wes Anderson requested to his cinematographer, Robert Yeoman.  The film is not exactly widescreen; it has a boxy shape to it.  Everything is focused in the middle of the screen.  The cinematographer was nervous about making the film this way, but it ended up working out very well because it suited the mood, and character of the film.  Everything on set including the characters are perfectly placed.  All characters were placed evenly in the center of the frame during lengthy shots.  Wes Anderson’s crew worked especially hard for it since they had to manually assess with a yellow tape measure that the character was in fact centered in the middle.  On top of that several of the places Wes Anderson envisioned, simply didn’t exist.  So an incredibly detailed mock up of the Grand Budapest Hotel was made, along with several beautifully hand painted backdrops.  All that hard precious work paid off, and gave the film a memorable quirkiness.

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The editing that takes place in this film is minimal.  The film keeps it simple by doing basic cuts from shot to shot.  I love this aspect of the film because I believe that if the editing were any more complex than it is, it would take away from the film.  It would distract from all the little things occurring on screen.  Often repeated throughout the film are long tracking shots.  These shots work wonders for the film because they really grab the audience and show off all the beautiful work they’ve put into the set.  They also make things flow smoothly throughout the film, and make people wonder just how did they do that?  Another type of shot that is commonly repeated through the film is the whip pan.  This shot also helps the film achieve its wonderful curiosity and quirkiness  (whip pan is when the camera quickly moves to face another character, or area and lands perfectly still on the subject).

grand-budapest_2813768bNow, onto the color wheel – yes, every single little thing on screen at any given shot corresponds with everything else when it comes to color.  Wes Anderson is known for choosing a certain color pallet and sticking to that for his films.  In Moonrise Kingdom, the color pallet that he used was filled with vibrant oranges, yellows, greens, and the occasional use of soft pink.  He must have loved the look of pink on film because The Grand Budapest Hotel is covered in it.  The color pallet he sticks to includes, soft pinks, vibrant pinks, soft reds, light blues, rich purples, and the occasional use of a soft yellow, all together all the time!  The brilliance it takes to make all the colors work on set is amazing.  The use of colors makes you fall in love with the film, and makes the film memorable and unique.  It made my eyes want to just engulf the screen; it made my spine shiver, and it made me wish I had a great eye for interior design.

The-Grand-Budapest-Hotel-5Of course, as much as the art design is a signature element to a Wes Anderson film you can’t forget his unique use of dialogue.  The dialogue in this movie stands out virtually as character unto itself.  Although. each character has a distinct pattern and delivery in their dialogue, which makes them stand out from one another, it’s surprising how it all remains distinctively Anderson.  Some characters speak in quick patterns and muddle words together, and say curious phrases, while others are slower and have a darker outlook that comes out in their dialogue.  Over all I love and adore all the little bits and fragments of dialogue that are shared throughout the script.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 8.45.29 PMAnother unifying factor is the music.  The music used in the film ties everything together.  The orchestral music lets the audience know what time period they are in, along with what level of social class the hotel is associated with.  It is light, airy and moving.  At times there is a choir that creates suspense in moments where needed.  At other times there is the beat from a simple drum kit that keeps things going.   Undoubtedly, the music in a Wes Anderson film breathes life into each and every scene.  Slow music makes us feel what the characters are feeling in a sad scene, while adventurous and upbeat music makes us feel that moment of adventure that is taking place on the screen.

Now to move onto the most crucial part of a film, which isn’t set design, casting, characters, or even dialogue but the story.  Every one of those aspects listed can be perfect and beautiful, but if the story drowns within all this and gets lost then the film in its entirety falls apart.  The story illustrated in this film is interesting, and attention grabbing.  There isn’t a moment where the story is lost.  The audience is always reminded of what is at stake, and where the protagonist wants to get.  The film has a strong sense of story.  I enjoyed this film very much; because the screenplay itself is brilliant, and it’s evident that time was spent working hard on it because it shows on screen.

grand-budapest-hotel-willem-dafoe-adrien-brodyI will never forget when I first watched this film at the movie theater, I was excited and I had shivers going down my spine.  Over all I completely enjoyed this film and all of the aspects that it has to offer.  All the different bits and pieces that make the film are ones to enjoy and simply appreciate.  I recommend seeing The Grand Budapest Hotel, because it truly does have something for everyone to enjoy.