Monday Morning Critic – Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 14 ‘Ozymandias’ Review, Thoughts, Spoilers – Katherine Heigl, Grey’s Anatomy and The Elite Talent Theory Of Continued Success (In Spite of Oneself)

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I was going to spend a column mocking De Niro and Stallone in Grudge Match, about a pair of washed up ex-boxers “settling the score” in a sports drama about boxing. Coming off Mayweather/Alvarez being an unprecedented success it would’ve been timely but it wasn’t all that funny. Mainly it was a bunch of hack jokes and pseudo-gambling talk about how quickly they make a Viagra joke, and who tells it (Alan Arkin was getting +300 odds, for what it’s worth) and I wasn’t satisfied with it.

You can watch the trailer below and laugh … mainly at how awful this looks.

The one thing that did interest me was the Hollywood Reporter taking a fairly candid look at her career, a near hit piece for some but a brutal assessment to others. You can read it right here, of course, and it’s a fairly substantive read about an actress who’s at a watershed moment in her career.

Heigl left Grey’s Anatomy after Knocked Up turned her into a movie star nearly overnight. 27 Dresses cemented her status as the next great leading woman … and then famously her mouth got her into the same trouble as Shia LaBeouf. She trashed Knocked Up after that fact, among other things, and a couple of less than stellar films (both commercially and critically) have left her appearing in Nyquil ads among other things. She’s currently working on a return to television with a CIA inspired project, presumably her in the lead.

It’s being viewed as a desperation move by Heigl, who hasn’t found the kind of sustained success many thought she’d have as a film star. She had all the tools you’d want in a star as well as jaw-dropping looks. Heigl would be an overwhelming #1 pick in 2006 if you did a “Who’s going to be a movie star?” draft among Hollywood’s young talent back then. Watching Grey’s Anatomy felt like you were watching Heigl be the female version of Bruce Willis; she felt like a bigger star than what she was and that eventually she’d leave the show and would never look back.

And it seemed like her career was following suit. A disagreement with Anne Hathaway left Judd Apatow needing a beautiful woman with comic timing and her schedule meshed enough to step into Knocked Up opposite Seth Rogen. Rogen got a lot of press back then, and deservedly so, but Heigl felt like a genuine star in the film.

It couldn’t have been a better role for her to step onto the big stage. She got to show off some significant comedic chops and was genuinely funny in the film. In an era where we praise a number of women for being “funny,” mainly because they happen to attractive and telling jokes at the same time, Heigl was absolutely terrific. In what could’ve been a role where she was the weak link she managed to hold her own opposite some genuinely funny people.

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She followed it up with 27 Dresses, another film that seemed to cement her status as a star. Heigl was finding her groove and establishing herself as a star. More roles, and bigger checks, followed and her films managed to make money fairly consistently. She also managed to maintain her presence on the hit show that she earned her first big brush with stardom on, as well. She was starting to get into that George Clooney position, where it would be only a matter of time before she was too big to remain a member of an ensemble medical drama.

She never had that massive Die Hard moment like Bruce Willis did; it was slow and steady. And then something curious happened: she opened fire on the film that established her career. And then she opened fire on the writers of her television show. All the while her movie career stalled; she was still mostly successful but her two attempts at franchises (Killers and Stephanie Plum novel One for the Money) both failed to find an audience.

All the while her outspokenness in public, and her problems behind the scenes, started garnering her a negative reputation. This is important.

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Hollywood works on a lot of assumptions but one of them always rings true: you can literally get away with murder if you make people money all the time. It’s why a convicted pedophile who fled the country to avoid justice is defended with the “he’s an artist” defense. It’s why a heavily muscled action star turned Governor of California can go around and sexually harass women on set en masse without consequences as long as every time he made a film it brought in ungodly sums of money back in return.

Right now Daniel Day Lewis could ask for the contractual right to beat up anyone he wants to on set, with the studio held in sole responsibility for his actions, for a prestige picture and get it. Three Oscars will allow you that kind of leverage as will the ability to consistently make ungodly sums of money every time you agree to be in a film. I call it “The Elite Talent Theory Of Continued Success (In Spite of Oneself)” and it’s how Hollywood justifies dealing with less than savory types on a continual basis.

The theory is this: no matter how big of a jerk you are, or how controversial you are, if you have elite skills in Hollywood you will always get work. When you cease to do so … you cease to be useful.

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You can make money, or win awards, and everything you do is either “cute” or covered up … it all depends on the nature of the offense. Heigl was still ok, even after The Ugly Truth failed to find an audience domestically, until her personal problems coincided with her film flops.

It’s ok to be a pain in the ass on set, and to cost people time and money, when there’s something they can bank. It’s like being a professional athlete; you can be a Terrell Owens pain in the ass if you’re T.O in his prime as the best receiver in the league. Those in charge are willing to overlook character flaws, or press coverage that could potentially alienate portions of your fan base, if you’re elite at what you do.

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And that’s what’s happened to Heigl: she’s no longer elite. Thus her talents make her expendable, like a punter who’s such a pain in the ass that you’ll tolerate a 5% dip in productivity from the position so you can save $300,000 against the cap and 25% less pain in the ass. A studio is much more willing to hire someone lesser talented, say someone like Ali Larter, than Heigl because she’s cheaper and won’t be nearly as much hassle on set. Larter (no disrespect intended) isn’t as talented as Heigl but she doesn’t have the problems on set that Heigl has.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

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This Week’s DVD TV Show – Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 14 “Ozymandias”

When it comes to the pantheon of television shows Breaking Bad has been slowly creeping up the list of terrific shows since it came on the air in 2008. I binge watched it, of course, but what I can say is that it was the show that people started watching and talked their friends into, season by season. Eventually it reached a crescendo with the final season, with Vince Gilligan promising to give one final season to remember his name by.

And oh boy has he done it.

We started this week’s episode in the middle of a shootout between Hank (Dean Norris) and the Neo Nazi skinheads that Walter (Bryan Cranston) called in to save him. After much negotiating, Hank’s dead and Walter has been robbed. Hank’s death hurt on an emotional level; Walt begged and pleaded for his life, offering up his money, because Hank was still his family. Hank knew the score, though, and as soon as they pulled up he knew he probably wasn’t going to get out of the canyon alive. The trigger pull, and Walt having six of his seven barrels taken, were moments where I had to remind myself to breathe.

Jesse (Aaron Paul) is now their hostage and we end with Walt finally taking up Saul Goodman on his vanishing man. His family knows who he is and the last shreds of humanity seemed to disappear. Walt’s finally on his way to New Hampshire, to become Mr. Lambert and grow out his hair and beard, with two episodes left. I’d go long form in summing it up but I can’t stand it when people write about everything that happened because let’s face it; we all saw it. You didn’t click on this without having watched the episode (and I thank you for your read), especially with the spoiler tag.

My guess, based on the preview for next week, is that this is a flash forward/flash back kind of episode. We’ll see what happens to Walt’s family in the ABQ, Walt and Saul’s final conversation (where Saul convinces him to get out of town) and something that causes Walt to come back home and get an M-60. The second to last episode, my guess, will be the final climb on a rollercoaster. It’s going up, ever so slowly, before one of the most anticipated finales in recent memory.

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The thing that struck me about the episode is that this was Walt finally coming to grips with what he was. He wanted everything pinned on him so that his family could not have any vestiges of guilt from the police or themselves. Walt, crying, angrily called home and admitted to everything (and in doing so cleared his wife of any wrong doing) with the cops on the line. He told Jesse, still haunted by Jane’s death, that he killed her by inaction. He left his daughter at the local fire department on his way out of town, an amber alert out on her destined to get her back home safely. Everything about this episode was Walt making everyone see the monster he had become; Heisenberg was something he thought he had to do and, seeing his former partner dragged off to die and seeing his brother in law killed in front of him, the monster had to come out.

He couldn’t hide it with lies, etc, but we missed the big epiphany. We saw him get into the monster he created but the one thing we missed with this episode was that emotional moment beforehand. Walt was crying, profoundly emotional during the call, and yet it didn’t come out. It was Heisenberg the monster, the one who took credit for killing Hank and being this villain. It reminded me of the speech Gus gave him earlier in the show.

As a man he provided them closure. He provided Jesse closure, as well, letting him know that he really was a monster and that the guilt he felt instead could be blamed on him. Jesse screamed once that Walt always won and this time was a pyrrhic victory. He walked away with some of his money ($10mm is substantial) and his life … but in the process he lost what was left of his soul.

He couldn’t leave the money, as it would be seized by the Feds, and he couldn’t take away his daughter either. In the end he would rather have them see him as this monster, nothing more, than face the truth that he was a basically good man who made a series of bad decisions that spiraled out of his control. Sometimes a good lie is better than a bad truth from an emotional standpoint, I think, and that’s what Walt wanted. He’d rather be the villain, to have provided and have been this monster, than have his family feel guilt for what he had done.

I’m still wrapping my head around this episode. This is a pantheon level episode of television, and perhaps the best the show will ever have.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Battle of the Year – A bunch of dudes get together to win a breakdancing competition or something.

Skip it – Didn’t we have like 200 of these films once and they all sucked? Yeah … this one will too.

Prisoners – Paul Dano kidnaps the kids of lesser Gyllenhaal and Wolverine.

See it – It’s been getting pretty substantial buzz so far.

Rush (Limited) – Ron Howard makes a film about Formula 1 racing.

See it – A couple friends with decent tastes in film have seen it already and are raving about it. In limited release, going wide next week, so if you can see it early I’d say go for it.

Ip Man: The Final Fight (Limited) – The final film in the Ip Man trilogy, only Donnie Yen has been replaced by Anthony Wong.

See it – The first two covered the earlier parts of his life; this is the Hong Kong years and is a conclusion to the life of Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun teacher.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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