The mid-season finale promised fireworks and I almost thought we wouldn’t see any….and then the last ten minutes happened. Wow.
PHANTOM OF THE SEWER
Lalo is back in Albuquerque. He’s living in the sewer, coming up at night to visit the local gas station to take a shower then back down he goes. He’s casing out the laundry where Gus has built his underground meth lab. He calls his uncle to let him know that he has the proof now to go to Don Eladio but while on hold he hears a funny noise. The phones are tapped. The Chicken Man! So he calls back and knowing Gus will hear him, he tells Hector that he couldn’t find the proof so he’s going back to Plan A. He’s going to kill Gus that night. Hector can ring that damn bell all he wants, it doesn’t matter. Mike goes to Gus and tells him. He’s pulled his people off all other low priority spots and directed them to Gus’ house. Gus is to go straight home as if nothing is different. The trap has been set for Lalo. They just need to wait for him to show up. Mike left Tyrus and his team at the laundry so Lalo could take them out. If that was his plan.
“Don’t rush the process”
Jimmy makes the mad scramble to re-assemble his film team to take new incriminating photos with their lookalike judge. Kim shows up and assists with creating the phony arm cast and sling and they shoot in the park. They develop the film, lace the photos with the drug the veterinarian gave them and Jimmy puts them in a manila envelope and hands them off to Howard’s P.I., who we now see, works for Jimmy.
The P.I. delivers the photos to Howard who immediately notices they are wet and the trap is set. Howard and Cliff enter the sandpiper mediation meeting and when Judge Casimiro walks in Howard takes the bait. He calls him out for being on the take. He tells his secretary to go back to his office and bring the photos on his desk. However, the photos in the manila envelope are different. They show Jimmy handing a frisbee to some guy with a mustache, clearly not the judge. Then they notice how dilated his eyes are, the drug working it’s magic. Howard looks like a stark raving lunatic. The mediation is called off. The settlement deal in ruins. Howard is rattled but he puts it all together. He’s smart. He figures out that there was some chemical on the photos that made his eyes dilate. He puts together that Jimmy managed to get his own man hired as P.I. He knows that the photos were switched by the planted P.I. he knows he’s been conned but it doesn’t matter. The deal is dead. They have to settle immediately or get nothing. The whole time Jimmy and Kim have been listening in on the conference call. Everything worked as planned. As the conference call came to an end Jimmy and Kim could be seen in the background, celebrating their victory by having passionate sex. Was the whole con just a long exercise in foreplay?
TWO WORLDS COLLIDE
“You’re perfect for each other. You have a piece missing” Howard
That evening, Jimmy and Kim are curled up on the couch, watching Born yesterday (1950) on TV and finishing up a bottle of bubbly when there is a knock at the door. It feels they were expecting it to be Howard so Jimmy goes to open the door. Kim notices the flame on the candle flicker as Howard walks in. He looks disheveled, probably drunk and he’s brought Jimmy a bottle of McCallan’s. He explains that whenever HHM won a big case, mostly thanks to Chuck, they would celebrate by drinking McCallan’s.
Howard gives a great soliloquy. He asks why they did it? What had he done to deserve them trying to ruin his good name? He comes to the conclusion that they did it for fun. And he’s right. he calls them sociopaths which I don’t think is true but they are sociopaths in the making. Just as things are getting heated between them Jimmy notices the flame on the candle flicker again, just as it did earlier when he opened the door for Howard. All of a sudden the look on Jimmy and Kim’s faces change. They look terrified. The unsuspecting Howard doesn’t notice that someone has walked in and approaching them. Jimmy looks as he he’s seen a ghost. It’s Lalo.
“Who are you?” Howard asks Lalo.
“I’m just here to talk to my lawyers.” Lalo says.
Kim tells Howard to leave. She begs him to leave but Lalo tells him to take his time as he pulls a gun out of his jacket and screws on a silencer.
“I think I’m in the middle of something” Howard nervously says.
Just as Howard is about to speak again, Lalo points the gun at Howard’s head and shoots. Howard’s blood splatters across the wall, he falls and hits his head on the table and lands on the floor. He’s dead. Jimmy and Kim are in shock. Lalo tries to shush them to calm down.
“OK. Let’s talk.”
Holy crap! I did not expect that to happen. Just seeing Lalo and Howard standing next to each other seemed surreal, like a live action figure was in the same movie as a cartoon figure. Lalo killing Howard, in essence, also ‘kills’ the legal careers of both Kim and Jimmy. They belong to the cartel now. Both of them. We know Jimmy will adapt to his new role but will Kim? Or does she disappear?
Why did Lalo go to Jimmy and Kim and not to the laundry? How can he use them to get to Fring?
Kim, more than anyone, is responsible for Howard’s death. Will this be her ‘scared straight’ moment?
Jimmy will do whatever it takes to protect Kim. Will that mean working with Mike and Gus to take out Lalo? Or making sure he goes to prison for the rest of his life?
The promo for Season 7 Part B. You hear Jimmy say, “So after all that….a happy ending?” Best case scenario, Jimmy is managing a Cinabon in Omaha and be reunited with Kim. I hope.
This is a Howard-centric episode! Howard and Cliff meet with some of the senior citizen plaintiffs of their Sandpiper civil suit. They are getting restless and wondering why the case is taking so long. Cliff’s able assistant, Erin, tries to explain it to them but it wasn’t working so Howard stepped in and charmed them! He looks to be on top of his game but Cliff noticed that Howard’s leg was moving restlessly. After the meeting Cliff confronts Howard about what he saw last week. Howard swears it wasn’t him that threw that prostitute from his car. Cliff urges him to get help and brings up his son who succumbed to a drug problem. Once Howard found out that it was Kim that Cliff was having lunch with when he saw the incident he immediately put it together. He doesn’t have a drug problem. He has a Jimmy McGill problem. Howard calls his secretary, “Cancel my week!”, he tells her. He is now laser focused on Jimmy.
Meanwhile, a familiar face shows up at Jimmy’s new offices. Francesca has been called in to help as receptionist for the new Saul Goodman and Associates offices which consists of a fold up table, a chair and a toilet. She is understandably reluctant but Jimmy assures her that in two weeks she won’t recognize the place and he promises her more money than her current job. As we know, Francesca will stick with Saul until the bitter end.
Kim can’t sleep. She lays awake and worries about Lalo coming for another visit. She gets up and checks the locks on the door. She adds a chair against the doorknob for good measure. Eventually Jimmy wakes up and sees the chair. He tries to reassure her that they are safe. ” I know the nuns back in Cicero would condemn me to hell for saying this but I’m glad he’s dead”. Kim almost looks like she is going to tell him but decides against it. What will the cost be for keeping that from Jimmy?
Francesca calls Jimmy and tells him that he needs to meet a Mr. ward concerning a job which leads Jimmy to an empty gym where a waiting Howard is there to greet him and offers to duke it out in the ring.
Jimmy laughs it off initially but ends up putting on the gloves and headgear and going mano a mano with Howard. Each gets their licks in but Howard gets the knockout. He hopes that will end their beef but he suspects it won’t. So he hires a private investigator to follow Jimmy. What will he uncover?
Gus has never been more unhinged. The usually cool and collected Gus is off his game. He has Lalo on his mind. Mike takes him to inspect how the new drug lab is coming along. He spends some quiet time looking around, inspecting everything. It was his form of meditating.
The cold open showed a plaque being made. A slide rule scale encased in glass and a saying underneath, “In Liebe…Deine Jungs”. This comes into play at the end.
Lalo shows up in Germany! He’s well dressed in a bar where he meets a woman and begins a successful flirtation which leads to him walking her home. She resists inviting him in although its obvious she would like to but she has an early meeting. That old chestnut! Lalo is non plussed but the next day he returns to her house, watches her leave and then breaks in.
Who is this woman? The wife of Werner Ziegler, the man who designed and oversaw the construction of Gus’ underground meth lab. Lalo needs evidence that Gus is planning to make his own meth and distribute without letting the cartel know. He sees the plaque and the design of the meth lab. He’s got it! Then the woman returns to the house setting her dog off. She forgot her cell phone. The dog runs to the stairs and continues barking. She goes up the stairs to have a look. Lalo pulls out his gun and screws on a silencer. However, he decides to slip out the window instead. Perhaps he actually liked her a little.
“In Liebe…Deine Jungs” translate to “Love, your boys!”
Kim meets with an ex-colleague from – working on the Sandpiper case and finds out who the judge will be and seems pleased.
Jimmy comes home with a black eye and tries to use make up to cover it up since he has to be in court in the morning. Kim tells him to leave it. “I’m Saul Goodman! I’ll fight for you!” she says as she puts up her dukes. Jimmy laughs.
Is Howard a bad guy? I don’t think so. But he’s not a good guy either. Both Jimmy and Kim have legitimate beefs with him. I understand why they are trying to bring him down but it still feels wrong. It felt wrong to Jimmy too but he is going along with it to please Kim. Tragedy will ensue.
“The wicked flee when no man pursueth” Jimmy
The wonderful Rhea Seehorn directed this episode and there are some nice touches. More pieces of the puzzle get filled in as we get ever closer to the end.
The cold open shows an older couple cycling through a quiet neighborhood. They get home and we see armed men and an intricate surveillance station. They’re keeping an eye on a big mansion. More on that later.
Kim and Jimmy’s plan to soil Howard’s reputation continues. While Howard is having a therapy session, Jimmy, made up to look like Howard, takes his car, picks up a prostitute. Kim having lunch with Cliff Main (Ed Begley Jr.) coordinates with Jimmy so just at the right time Jimmy will drive by the restaurant and make a show of throwing the prostitute out of the car. Cliff takes the bait and believes that it was Howard. Jimmy gets the car park to the therapist’s but the cone he left in the parking spot was tossed aside and another car is there. He manages to pull up the “Patient’s Parking” sign and plant it where he parks Hoard’s car just in the nick of time as Howard approaches. Everything goes off without a hitch!
Meanwhile, Kim has set up shop at the El Camino, meeting with her clients and prepping their cases in her favorite booth. It is during one of these consultations that she spots that car that she keeps thinking is following her. She decides to confront them. They don’t give her any trouble, apologize and drive off. Later, at the end of the day, we get to see a first! Kim finally meets Mike. Those were Mike’s guys in the car that have been following her and Jimmy. He tells her that Lalo is still alive and they have been keeping an eye on her and Jimmy in the even that Lalo may try to contact them. As Mike leaves Kim suddenly remembers where she’s seen him before. “You used to be the parking lot attendant at the court house”. Man, that seemed so long ago.
“You’re Salamnca’s guy” Spooge to Jimmy.
Back at the courthouse word has gotten around that Jimmy lied about representing a member of a drug cartel and is being shunned. It’s sad because Jimmy was universally loved by everyone and no he’s a pariah. The upside is that he gets inundated with new clients. This cause a problem at the nail salon and he is told to leave. The episode ends with him showing Kim his new office space. The grubby space that we all know from Breaking Bad. Kim is not impressed but it is close to the courthouse and bail bondsman offices and a great taco spot which they head to for dinner.
So back to that mansion under surveillance. Turns out it belongs to one Gus Fring! Gus comes home and changes his clothes revealing that he was wearing a bullet proof vest. Gus then opens up a secret room which leads to a tunnel that somehow, connects his mansion to the house we saw in the cold open. Mike and his men have Gus’ house under surveillance waiting for Lalo to try something. Mike tells Gus it’s been two weeks and no sign of Lalo. But Gus is certain that Lalo will make a move. So they wait.
The prostitute that Jimmy enlist to help with Operation Howard was no other than Wendy! She made a few appearances in Breaking Bad, helping out Jesse.
We do get to see a little of Howard’s therapy session. He seems like a lonely man. And it gives us a chance to empathize with him.
I love that Gus complains about one of Mike’s men that he has placed as a cook at Los Pollos Hermanos. You said he had short order cook experience. He is not Los Pollos material.” Mike promises to find someone else.
Kim asks Mike why he was telling her that Lalo was still alive and not Jimmy. “Because I think you’re made of sterner stuff.”, he tells her. Makes me think Mike will come to her later to do something that may be pivotal and tragic.
Spooge is a character that we’ve seen before. He was in a Season 2 episode of Breaking Bad called “Peekabo”. He also ends up dead.
Nacho is indeed between a rack and a hard place and there are few options left. We all know how this is going to end.
The cold open shows an empty desert landscape, vegetation beginning to grow, even some beautiful blue flowers. It begins to rain and we see a large shard of broken glass, the rain washing the dirt away.
Nacho, still driving away from the motel with a shot out tire. He stops and readies for the Salamanca Brothers to show. He sees an abandoned oil tanker nearby and runs to hide in it. The brothers arrive and also see the tanker and go to investigate. Nacho submerges himself in the remaining oil while one of the brothers peeks. They ride off to continue the search.
Nacho waits until dark and then heads out. Where can he go? He runs across a garage and the garage owner hands him soap to wash himself using the hose, gives him something fry to wear. Nacho calls his dad. They have a very uncomfortable conversation. His dad’s voice filled with disappointment and sadness. Nacho knows there’s nothing left to do but make sure that no harm comes to his father. He calls Mike.
Nacho makes a deal with Gus. He’ll come in and say that he was behind Lalo’s assassination attempt and that Gus had nothing to do with it. His one condition is that no harm comes to his father. Gus agrees but Nacho wants to hear it form Mike. “Anyone who goes after him will have to go through me.” Mike says.
Mike sneaks Nacho back into the country and keeps him under wraps while they tell Bolsa, Hector and the brothers that they have Nacho and set up a meet. Nacho gets his last meal. Mike is instructed that Nacho looks too ‘pretty’ which means he has to rough him up a little for appearances. which Mike doesn’t like. The plan is Nacho takes responsibility for the assassination of Lalo, clears Gus and then takes off running which is when Victor will shoot him dead. A much better way to go than being tortured by the brothers. Nacho understands and is ready for a beat down but Mike brings out a bottle and two glasses. Mike respects him and sharing a drink with him shows that.
The next day they drive out to the middle of nowhere to hand Nacho over for ‘justice’. Mike insists on going and being nearby with a rifle in case things go bad.
Gus, Victor, Tyrus and Nacho drive out in van to the meet. They drop off Mike before they get there. Mike and Nacho exchange a look. A look of respect and a goodbye. Mike sets up his rifle a safe distance away. The Salamanca clan await along with Bolsa. Gus hands over Nacho. Bolsa asks him who was behind the assassination. Nacho hesitates. Has he changed his mind? No, he says what he agreed to but he goes further. He admits that he put Hector in his wheelchair by switching his heart meds with sugar pills. He tells them all off then grabs Bolsa’s gun and holds it to Bolsa’s head. Mike seems to want Nacho to shoot Bolsa. He mutters “Do it”, and it seems that he would then shoot the others from his perch. But Nacho puts the gun to his own head and shoots. Nacho’s story comes to an end. Its interesting to note that every single character in this scene we know will be killed during the Breaking Bad timeline.
“I think the word you’re looking for is audacious”
Jimmy and Kim get ready for work and discuss the next stage in the plan to discredit Howard. They need to get a hold of his car. Jimmy says this is a job for Huell and suggests the ‘Valet Scam’. Kim says Howard has seen him before but JImmy says that the way Huell will do it Howard will never know. “He’ll be a ghost”. Kim says. “That’s pretty slick” and Jimmy, repeating what Kim said earlier in the scene, “I think the word you’re looking for is audacious.” Kim smiles. She looks at Jimmy and kisses him. They’re partners and the scheming seems to turn her on.
Huell manages to take Howard’s car keys from the valet who parked it and then has a guy in a van make an extra set of keys before the valet comes back to the garage to look for them. The kid is fast but the guy in the van is faster. Huell hands Jimmy the extra set of keys and then asks him a question. If he’s a legit lawyers and his wife is a legit lawyer and they make good money why is he doing all this extra scheming? Jimmy says that what he’s doing will do a lot of good to a lot of people and that they’re doing ‘God’s work’. I don’t know that Jimmy really believes that though.
The DA grabs Kim at the courthouse and starts grilling her about Jimmy and his recent work for a drug cartel. She proposes that Jimmy testify about what he knows about the cartel, seeing as Lalo is presumed dead there would be no attorney-client privilege. Kim doesn’t like it. She takes the message back to Jimmy and he asks her what he should do.
“Do you want to be a friend of the Cartel or do you want to be a rat?” Kim
She sounds more and more like a mobster. Will she be the one to transform Jimmy into Saul by become Saul first?
Back to the cold open. The blue flowers are growing where Nacho died. The shard of glass that he used to cut his handcuffs, lying on the ground beside them.
The final season of Better Call Saul has arrived and I am both excited and sad. When the show began I was sure we would see sweet, well meaning Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) transform into the slick, corrupt Saul Goodman by the end of season one but that didn’t happen. In fact, after seeing the first two episodes of this final season he is still nowhere near being Saul Goodman yet. What’s even more surprisingly and tragic is that Jimmy’s moral compass and girlfriend, now wife, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), seems to have morphed into Saul Goodman.
The past five seasons have meticulously built up to this. We know what happened to Walter White (dead), Jesse Pinkman (free and living in Canada), Mike Erhmantrout (dead), Gustavo Fring (dead) and even Saul Goodman/ Jimmy McGill (hiding in Omaha, Nebraska). But what about Kim Wexler? We never see her in Breaking Bad but then again, we never see Saul Goodman’s life apart from Walter White and Jesse so she may be alive and well and still with Jimmy. But, the beautiful opening sequence of Episode One hints at something different.
EP One: Wine and Roses
“A cathedral of justice” Kim Wexler
The opening montage begins with a cascading waterfall of colorful ties falling into a box. Movers are packing up artwork and furniture from a decadently decorated mansion. This is Saul Goodman’s home. Saul has skipped town for Nebraska now that his client has been exposed as Heisenberg. The house has a pool, a golden toilet, a collection of drugs including Viagra and a huge closet filled with suits and shirts. This is all happening to the tune of The Days of Wine and Roses, written by Henry Mancini for the 1962 film of the same title which starred Jack Lemmon as an alcoholic ad man who meets and marries a sweet, innocent blond, Lee Remick and then proceeds to drag her into his alcoholic abyss, one that he manages to escape from. She doesn’t. Foreshadowing?
Back to the past. Its 2004 and Jimmy and Kim believe that Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) is dead and that they are clear of any more doings with the drug cartel. Kim gets Jimmy to go along with her plan to ruin Howard Hamlin’s (Patrick Fabian) reputation by spreading the word that he has a drug problem and force Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr.) to move ahead with the Sandpiper settlement which would be a big payday for both of them. Meanwhile, Kim is happily back to being a public defender and very enthused for Jimmy to start creating his Saul Goodman persona. Saul Goodman needs an office, a flashy one in a good location. “A cathedral of justice”, Kim calls it. As we come to know, his office is no cathedral,
The first step in Kim’s plan is having Jimmy plant a bag of cocaine in Howard’s locker at the golf club while Howard and Cliff play nine holes. The plan almost goes awry when club member Kevin Wachtel (Rex Linn) spots Jimmy and wields his power to deny Jimmy even a tour of the facility. Jimmy puts on a great show alleging the club is discriminating him because he’s Jewish! Saul Goodman, right? he manages to plant the packet of white powder (baby powder) and when it falls out of Howard’s locker Cliff notices it.
Out in the desert, in Mexico, Nacho Varga (Michael Mando) is on the run. He has set up Lalo to be assassinated and doesn’t yet know that the attempt failed. He ends up holed up in a run down hotel waiting for rescue. He keeps calling Mike who doesn’t answer. Gus is worried that the Salamancas will think that he was behind it. The hitmen Salamanca brothers are already on the job seeking who murdered their cousin Lalo. Lalo, alive and well, visits a couple whom he has been helping, has a cup of coffee and then encourages the husband to shave and clean up. It turns out the man is a spot on lookalike for Lalo. We assume Lalo murders them both, probably hoping the federales will find the body and confirm that Lalo is dead. Lalo prepares to sneak back into the US but first calls his uncle, Hector (Mark Margolis) and lets him know that he is alive but to keep it a secret for now. he also tells him that it was the “chicken man” who tried to kill him. Hector manages to convey to Lalo that he needs proof before he kills Gus. So Lalo sets out to find Nacho. When Gus visits Hector to convey his condolences he senses it. Lalo is still alive.
EP Two: Carrot and Stick
“Whatever happens next it’s not going to go down the way you think it is.” Mike
Mike shows up at Nacho’s house and pays of the two women who have been waiting for Nacho’s return to get out and far away from there. His guys bust open Nacho’s safe and Mike empties it and puts all the money in a new safe along with an envelope that will further implicate Nacho in Lalo’s assassination attempt by having the phone number of the hotel that Nacho is hiding in written on a Mexican bank statement. One thing he doesn’t place in the new safe is the fake Canadian ID card Nacho had made for his father. Mike is trying to keep Nacho’s father out of this mess.
Nacho is holed up in that hotel room when he notices someone shows up and gets a room across the way from his. he knows he’s being watched. He kicks out the air conditioner in the back of his room and sneaks out to surprise the man. When Nacho realizes that he has been betrayed it’s too late. The Salamanca boys have shown up with their crew. It’s a brilliantly directed action sequence. Nacho manages to escape, barely, but he can’t survive for long.
Mike wants to go find Nacho and protect him while also keeping him out of the hands of Don Bolsa and The Salamancas lest they discover Gus was behind the hit. Gus would prefer Nacho dead. When Gus also tells Tyrus to bring Nacho’s father to him Mike puts his foot down. Tyrus puts his gun in Mike’s face, ready for Gus to give the order. Mikes call starts buzzing. Its Nacho. He wants to speak to Gus.
Mike and Gus’ relationship is very different from what it becomes in Breaking Bad. Mike is more defiant. Mike stands up to Gus when he feels what’s left of his ethics won’t abide.
Jimmy continues to put Kim’s plan into play. Kim is really pulling the strings now. It’s her show and Jimmy is just her instrument. Jimmy contacts his old friends, Craig and Betsy Kettleman, a couple that Jimmy represented way back in season one and who were ruined due to Craig’s embezzlement. They now run a crooked income tax business from a trailer home/office with a giant inflatable Statue of Liberty outside. Perhaps it’s the same one that Saul will one day have on the roof of his office?
Jimmy proposes filing a lawsuit in order to clear Craig’s name by claiming that their legal representation was compromised due to Howard Hamlin’s “drug problem”. They take the bait and try to get Clifford Main’s law firm to take the case. Cliff laughs them out of his office, unable to believe that Howard could be a drug addict but he can’t help thinking about the incident at the golf club. The seed has been planted.
When the Kettlemans threaten to spill the beans to Howard Jimmy tries to bribe them but they don’t want money. They want Jimmy to clear Craig’s name and restore them to their previous stature. When Jimmy can’t contain the situation Kim steps in. “OK. Enough carrot.” She then threatens to turn them in for tax fraud. She is cold and scary while doing this and Jimmy recedes in the background in quiet terror.
“Wolves and sheep.” Jimmy says as he gets into the car. Kim has turned into a wolf and Jimmy still a sheep.
Something falls out of a dresser that is being loaded onto a van. It is the bottle top of that Zafiro Anejo tequila that represents the spoils from the first con that Jimmy and Kim did together back at the beginning.
The restaurant that Jimmy meets Kim at is called El Camino, a shout out to the stand alone Jesse Pinkman movie.
Gus carelessly knocks over and shatters a glass, very unlike Gus though, he meticulously picks up every shard and deposits it into the trash.
The song that plays over the opening montage is the Jackie Gleason version of The Days of Wine and Roses. Henry Mancini’s beautifully sad music for the 1962 film.
Kim sees the “World’s 2nd Best lawyer” coffee mug that she gave Jimmy, with a bullet hole shot through it. She tosses it in the trash. Does it represent the past? Innocence? The old Kim.
Another Batman movie? Did we really need one? No. Is this new Batman movie worth seeing? Yes! What I appreciated here is that we didn’t get another ‘origin’ film. This film starts off with Batman already Batman and two years into his existence. Batman and Gordon as already a working team and he appears to be accepted by the city and the cops as a known quantity though still a mysterious one.Matt Reeves has crafted a dark, complex Gotham that is more film noir than the previous iterations. It reminded me more of Seven (95) with the dark and shadowy photography and constant low hum of music underneath it all. The stink of cynicism and corruption permeates everything and The Batman is a joyless instrument of ‘vengeance’.
Prominent politicians are being murdered by some lunatic calling himself The Riddler (Paul Dano) who dresses like the survivor of the apocalypse and, in fact, he feels that way and he would like the rest of Gotham to feel his pain. Lt. Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) brings his pal, The Batman (Robert Pattinson) to the first crime scene to get his take much to the shock of his colleagues. Batman is pretty good at solving the riddles but the big picture eludes him. As he digs deeper, he runs across Selina (Zoe Kravitz), a young woman who works in the private nightclub run by the local crime syndicate, Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and an odd looking fellow everyone calls Penguin (an unrecognizable Colin Ferrell). Selina has her own reason to bring down the Syndicate and they begin to work together but not always on the same page.
What follows is not a Marvel like adventure filled with light touches and one liners but a detective story with lots of red herrings and wrong turns. This Batman is smart but he is still working out who he is and what his purpose is. He makes mistakes. And he’s very angry. He’s coming to terms about who his parents were and how their actions shaped Gotham. He’s trying to shape Gotham himself but it turns out his influence has not been a positive one. He writes a log every night of what he saw on his nightly vengeance crawl. His narration is reminiscent of Taxi Driver (76). The Batman wishes a rain would wash away all the scum and if not, perhaps he can but as he observes, despite his actions, crime is up more than ever.
The film is long, just shy of three hours but it’s never boring. Pattinson is excellent. This film has no desire to show Bruce Wayne as a rich playboy as a front for his darker caped identity. Wayne is just as dark and sullen as The Batman. Kravitz is wonderful as “Catwoman” and the scenes between her and Pattinson crack and pop with sexual tension. The rest of the cast are collectively excellent. You don’t see Dano’s face until the very end and his final scene, locked up in an Arkham Asylum cell could foreshadow what a sequel might be, seeing as he makes friend with the lunatic in the next cell who has one hell of sick cackle. I hope there will be a sequel because I have a feeling it can be even better.
Once they find The Riddler’s apartment they discover many notebooks filled with The Riddler’s thoughts and inner demons which reminded me of John Doe’s notebooks in Seven (95).
Bruce Wayne’s mother’s maiden name is Arkham. She also spent time in mental institutions when she was younger.
The diner scene near the end reminded me of Ed Hopper’s Nighthawks painting.
It’s Oscar Night! My high Holiest day of the year!!
I’m very excited to see what interesting new twists Steven Soderbergh is going to bring to the show! It’s been a tough year but all the nominees are excellent films and they helped us get through the Covid anxieties. Here are my predictions!
Best Film: Nomadland
Best Director: Chloe Zhao- Nomadland
Best Actor: Chadwick Boseman- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Best Actress: Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya- Judas and the Black Messiah
Best Supporting Actress: Youn Yuh-Jung – Minari
Best Original Screenplay: Trial of the Chicago 7 – Aaron Sorkin
Best Adapted Screenplay: Chloe Zhao- Nomadland
Best Film Editing: Trial of the Chicago 7
Best Cinematography: Nomadland
Best Sound: Sound of Metal
Best Production Design: Mank
Best Costume Design: Emma
Best Make Up and Hair: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Best Visual Effrcts; Tenet
Best Score: Soul
There’s always an upset or two. Keep your eye on Trial of the Chicago 7 for Best Picture, Riz Ahmed for Best Actor and Amanda Seyfried for Best Supporting Actress. Enjoy the show!
The Oscar nominations are tomorrow. It has been the most unusual year for everyone and every phase of life. Movie theaters have been closed for most of the last year and studios have held back many films that would have been released for this coming Fall. Most of the films in this year’s competition premiered on streaming services such as HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon and Apple. There have been a plentiful number of excellent films to watch this year. Here is what I think will get the invite to this year’s dance.
Judas and the Black Messiah
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
Trial of the Chicago 7
Emerald Fennel. Promising Young Woman
David Fincher. Mank
Lee Isaac Chung. Minari
Aaron Sorkin. Trial of the Chicago 7
Chloe Zhao. Nomadland
Riz Ahmed. Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins. The Father
Gary Oldman. Mank
Steven Yuen. Minari
Andra Day. The US vs Billie Holliday
Viola Davis. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Vanessa Kirby. Pieces of a Woman
Frances McDormand Nomadland
Carey Mulligan. Promising Young Woman
Best Supporting Actor
Sasha Baron Cohen. Trial of the Chicago 7
Daniel Kaluuya. Judas and the Black Messiah
Jared Leto The Little Things
Leslie Odom Jr. One Night In Miami
Paul Raci Sound of Metal
Best Supporting Actress
Glen Close. Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Coleman. The Father
Jodie Foster. The Mauritanian
Amanda Seyfried. Mank
Yuh Jung-Youn. Minari
There are several performances that will be overlooked this year as happens every year. I really loved Diane Lane’s performance in Let Him Go. She was amazing and gave an Oscar worthy performance. Carrie Coons, likewise, was outstanding in the little seen The Nest. Mark Rylance was excellent as lawyer William Kunstler in The Trial of the Chicago 7. Amy Adams is always outstanding and was again in Hillbilly Elegy. Dominique Fishback as Fred Hampton’s girlfriend in Judas and The Black Messiah gave a tender performance. Bo Burnham was painfully good in Promising Young Woman. Glynn Turman turned in a finely tuned performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Delroy Lindo gives a career capping performance in Da Five Bloods. Any of these names could be announced tomorrow and I wouldn’t be surprised.
Very excited to watch the nominations announced live tomorrow morning!
I had heard about this film for a long time and started to think that maybe it was being overhyped. This is certainly better than going into a film with overly high expectations. I watched this film and was completely absorbed by it. It pulled me in. Maybe because I’m getting close to the age that many of the characters are and identifying with the crossroads many of them find themselves. It felt like a 70s film which is a compliment. I love 70s films. This is a beautiful character study and also a look at a real lifestyle of RV living and traveling from one place to another, picking up work and sleeping in your van. The film is based on the 2017 non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder. The reality of people getting to retirement age and not having any money and choosing a transient lifestyle to get by.
The film takes place in 2011 right after the new great depression has hit. It follows Fern (Frances McDormand) who lives in a small town called Empire in Nevada. The town dies after the US Gypsum plant shuts down. Fern and her husband worked there, and after his recent death and the loss of her job she puts most of her belongings in storage and buys a van. She goes on the road in search of work while living in her van. She gets a job at an Amazon plant and makes a friend Linda who tells her about a desert rendezvous in Arizona where a man named Bob Wells gives seminars on how to survive as a nomad and offers a support system and a sense of community.
Fern makes more friends here including Swankie who gives her helpful tips and Dave (David Strathairn) who develops a crush on her and she she learns more and more about how to survive on the road. She keeps moving and runs into Dave again where they both have picked up jobs at Badlands National Park. They strike up a deepening friendship and its obvious Dave is smitten with Fern. While working at a restaurant in Wall Drug, South Dakota, Dave’s son comes looking for him. His wife is pregnant and he wants Dave to come back home with him.
I don’t want to say anymore because I want you to watch it and experience the film for yourself. The film is filled with non actors playing themselves and it gives the film a real genuine feeling, a slice of life that is both astonishing and freeing as well as terrifying. Is this the life that these people really want or just what is left to them? Is this how Fran wants to spend the rest of her life? Or will she choose to settle down again? Because she has choices. The film really struck a chord with me. It reminded me of when I was a young man traveling Europe by myself for five months. It was a melancholy time but a great learning experience. Or perhaps its from spending this past year in Covid isolation and all the anxieties of mortality bubbling at the surface I responded greatly to Fern and her friends and the lifestyle of drifting around, surviving and living lightly. It’s a profound film.
Frances McDormand is one of the producers and asked Chloe Zhao to write and direct which she did with great skill and passion. The film was shot over 4 months in the Fall of 2018 with a small crew who lived out of vans the entire time. McDormand is very good as she usually is. The film has a documentary like fell to it, you feel like you’re peaking into her life and she is just so real and vulnerable. A friend of mine asked me if it was a “downer” and I said no, it wasn’t a downer but that it was a somber film and a beautiful film. It’s a film about life and choices and not living in the past but continuing on down the road.
I was familiar with Fred Hampton. I knew he was a Black Panther leader and that he was assassinated by the FBI. Just recently, I had watched The Trial of The Chicago 7 in which Hampton was a supporting character and his death had been shown as part of that story. But beyond that I didn’t know much about Fred Hampton. And I didn’t know that the FBI had an informant, William O’Neal, planted in Hampton’s Chicago Black Panther chapter and that he assisted in his assassination. The film was produced by Ryan Cooler and Shaka King, who also directed and co-wrote the script with Will Berson and it’s bookended by an interview with O’Neal for a PBS documentary from 1989.
William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) is a young, small time car thief who gets caught and courted by an FBI agent, Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemmons) to infiltrate the Black Panthers and provide them with info. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen) had Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) in his sights and was very worried that he could be a ‘black messiah’ to the ever increasing anti-establishment movement. He wanted to find a way to discredit the movement and stop Hampton.
Hampton was a young charismatic man who wasn’t afraid to step up and be a leader. He sought to unify the various gangs/groups in Chicago, black and white, to join together with the common denominator that they were suffering because they were poor and the poor were always powerless but together they could exert real power. This made him a dangerous man, of course.
O’Neal wasn’t as tuned in to the cause. He was a young thief who was just looking for a way to stay out of jail and make some money but the more he works with the Panthers and Hampton the more conflicted he becomes. Hampton also gets involved with a smart young woman. Deborah (Dominique Fishback, The Deuce) who sees the sensitive, shy man beneath the brash, inspirational speaker. We know how this ends but seeing the entire story is powerful and heartbreaking.
Plemmons continues to build a strong body of work and he’s very good again here as the manipulative FBI agent who also has moments of pause over the FBI’s methods. Stanfield also gives another strong performance as the hesitant informant who feels there’s no way out. I first saw Fishback in the HBO series The Deuce and she’s one to keep an eye on. She’s really lovely here as Hampton’s girlfriend who loves what Hampton is fighting for while being scared for what it will mean for both of them. Kaluuya delivers a powerhouse performance as Hampton. He transforms himself, physically as well, and is simply mesmerizing. It’s an Oscar worthy performance, no question.
The young director, Shaka King does a good job keeping the narrative moving and the focus tight on a small group of characters. The film tells a strong story, one you think you know and gives it new light and life. It hits a chord that still resonates today only too well. A powerful film I highly recommend .