Friday, May 11, 2018

The Pointillism of Walter White and Frankenstein

Spoiler warning!

I realized I had written this short piece, but never posted it back in 2013! It was strange to read what I had written, now knowing how Breaking Bad ended. But here is what I wrote while watching the last season of the show. Of course, I had to update a few things...

The final season of Breaking Bad is getting closer to its finale. Two more episodes until we learn why Walt purchased guns at Denny's, his intentions with the ricin, and what became of his abandoned house.  

 

As we approach the series' finale, Vince Gilligan and his writers continue to spawn twists and unexpected events that keep us on the edge of our seats. Gilligan has called Breaking Bad a hyper-serialized show which is evident in the precision and ordering of narrative information. This is most notable in Breaking Bad's use of restricted and unrestricted information for both viewers and characters alike. White's concealment of secrets primarily drives the show's tension. Of course, Hank's discovery of "W.W." at the end of season 5.A was one of the show's biggest twists.

What is also interesting to note about Gilligan's use of restricted information is how strongly it engages us with the narrative. I particularly found the precise unfolding of the show's narrative information oddly similar to the art form of pointillism: dots applied on the canvas to form an image. Pontillism was created by Georges Seurat, most notable in his famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.




Indeed, as we approach closer to Breaking Bad's finale, the parceling of narrative information (all the dots) that have unfolded over the past 5 years that form an image (and transformation) of White/Heisenberg are beginning to show us the totality of the show--the painting of Breaking Bad, so to speak.

Lastly, after watching the last episode of Hank's death and Walter departure in "Ozymandias," I kept thinking about the man in the row boat painting that showed up a few times throughout the series.  


This image reminded me of the tragedy of Frankenstein, who could not fit into the world, left to die alone. Indeed, Walter was certainly the "danger" as he famously expressed. But has he transformed into a monster? Or is this alluding to what we are about to encounter in the final episode?



Sunday, May 6, 2018

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I frequently screen Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) for my film courses. The topic we often discuss is the film's relationship between new media and memory. Although the film came out in 2004, I think it still offers some insights into concerns of privacy and big data. 



A topic that I brought up with my students this past semester is the character of Patrick played Elijah Wood. To be short, the film is a science fiction love story that entails a recently separated couple Joel (Jim Carrey) and his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) who erase their memories of each other by a company called Lacuna.  


Patrick works for Lacuna. While Patrick assisted Stan (Mark Ruffalo) with Clementine's procedure, he became attracted to her.  As a way to court Clementine, Patrick steals Joel's memory objects from Lacuna's office. 


Patrick stealing Joel's memory objects certainly addresses concerns of database breach. But Patrick's mining of Joel's memories is also similar to how digital algorithms can map and predict our shopping behaviors. In one scene, Patrick gives Clementine a gift which he stole from Joel's bag of memory objects of Clementine. Of course, Clementine is taken aback by the gift. Patrick seems to know exactly what she likes, even though they have only been seeing each other for a very short period of time.


Perhaps the most significant scene is when Patrick and Clementine are on the frozen lake. He recites some of Joel's memories about her.  Like the binary code of digital, Patrick is too perfect. And it is exactly this moment that Clementine loses her desire for Patrick.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Some Excellent Books on Jacques Lacan

Over the winter I read a number of great academic books on Jacques Lacan. If you are interested in reading about the intersection of Lacanian thought and cinema, check out Matthew Flisfeder's book The Symbolic, The Sublime, and Slavoj Zizek's Theory of Film. Flisfeder's book offers an excellent introduction to a number of key Lacanian terms and concept and how they are employed in a number of Zizek's writings on cinema. 

Image result for matthew flisfeder the symbolic 

Todd McGowan's book Capitalism and Desire is also worth checking out. McGowan examines the intimate relationship between the logic of desire and the logic of capitalism.

Image result for mcgowan capitalism and desire

Another book worth checking out is Traumatic Encounters in Italian Film by Fabio Vighi.  This book examines the unconscious in relation to film language in Italian cinema. Vighi considers a variety of Italian films from filmmakers such as Pasolini, Bertolucci, and Rossellini. Vighi's reading of Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura is indeed one of the film's many highlights.

Image result for Traumatic Encounters in Italian Film: Locating the Cinematic Unconscious

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Bells - Now Available

My second novel The Bells is now available on Amazon. For three years (on and off) I've worked on this novel. It is my second book, which focuses on the Hudson Valley, the same setting of my first novel The Postcard. I am planning to write a third book that will also involve characters from The Postcard and The Bells.I never set out to make a trilogy, but I guess I'm heading in that direction.




Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Bells - Coming this spring

I am putting the final touches on my second novel "The Bells" which will be released this summer on Amazon.

Set behind the backdrop of the Wall Street meltdown and 2008 Presidential Campaign, The Bells follows the lives and longings of ten New York Hudson Valley individuals. Sprinkled with traits of magical realism, Chaucer, and Arthurian legend, it soon becomes apparent that these characters are all connected in some way as their paths intersect during a 1980s themed Halloween party.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Films - 2013

Here is my list for the best films of 2013.  There are still some films I have not seen that I will probably add to the list.


The Wolf of Wall Street, Dir. Martin Scorsese


American Hustle, Dir. David O. Russell



Before Midnight, Dir. Richard Linklater


Inside Llewyn Davis, Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen



Ender's Game, Dir. Gavin Hood


Francis Ha, Dir. Noah Baumbach


Gravity, Dir. Alfonso Curan



Captain Phillips, Dir. Paul Greengrass


 Iron Man 3, Dir. Shane Black


Not Fade Away, Dir. David Chase



 
Prisoners, Dir. Denis Villeneuve



The Bling Ring, Dir. Sofia Coppola


Out of The Furnace, Dir. Scott Cooper

Mud, Dir. Jeff Nichols

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Top Books - 2013

As posted last year, my yearly list entails books from different genres and periods of time. This was my first year teaching which tremendously cut down on my reading time, so I had to mix up fiction and non-fiction just to generate a top ten list. Here is my list of great books read for 2013 - no particular order. . . .  

The Year of the Flood (2009) by Margaret Atwood

A Visit from the Goon Squad (2002) by Jennifer Egan

The Tommyknockers (1987) by Stephen King

Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho (1990) by Stephen Rebello

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde


The Ice Storm (1994) by Rick Moody


Garden State (1992) by Rick Moody

Alone Together (2011) by Sherry Turkle


Talked to Death (1987) by Stephen Singular


The Gunslinger The Dark Tower I (1992) by Stephen King