If there’s a better executed television series that sustains its tension and narrative drive over 50 episodes, I have yet to discover it. Executive produced by Vera Farmiga, with the capable help of a top notch ensemble of producers, editors, and filmmakers, “Bates Motel” pays off big on its high concept of imagining of events leading up to Alfred Hitchcock’s groundbreaking 1960 horror film, albeit with an essential twist of being updated to our modern era.
Vera Farmiga proves herself one of the most talented and hardworking actresses in the business as Norma Bates, a deeply troubled woman with an all too close relationship to her post-pubescent son Norman (Freddie Highmore).
Set in the fictional town of White Pine Bay, a community fueled by a marijuana industry that the town’s charismatic sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) oversees, the serpentine storyline follows a violent if satisfying path. After the recent [suspicious] death of her husband, Norma relocates with Norman when she buys the coastal Seafairer Motel, which becomes the iconic central location for Norman’s not so gradual decent into psychopathic insanity.
Max Thieriot is stellar as Norma’s bastard son Dylan whose trajectory takes its own series of revelatory twists. Nestor Carbonell’s resemblance to a young Anthony Perkins circa 1960 adds to the series’ necessary sense of bizarre simile to the Hitchcock classic.
From its pitch-perfect production and costume designs to its well written arc of ebbing climaxes and violent episodes, “Bates Motel” cooks on all burners. There is no overstating the exquisite performances of the series' ensemble of actors, not the least of which are the impeccable portrayals from Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore. This is one high-wire act you have to see to believe. Wow.
(March 18, 2013 – April 24, 2017) (A+) (Five stars — out of five/no halves)
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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.
JOSEPH LOSEY: ENIGMA
LINA WERTMÜLLER: THE SOCIALIST AUTEUR
YASUJURO OZU : THE HUMAN PERSPECTIVE
STEVEN SPIELBERG: POPULIST
AKIRA KUROSAWA: PIONEER
TAKESHI KITANO: RENAISSANCE MAN
SOFIA COPPOLA: AUTEUR
ROBERT ALTMAN: SATIRIST
JIM JARMUSCH: OUTLIER
SAM PECKINPAH: LIBERATOR
KEN LOACH: SOCIAL REALIST
JOE CARNAHAN: THE BEST-KEPT SECRET
CATHERINE BREILLAT: TRANSGRESSOR
WERNER HERZOG: MENSCH
DAVID FINCHER: MODERNIST
WILLIAM FRIEDKIN: THE MUSCLE
JOHN CASSAVETES: INDIE ICON
PAUL VERHOEVEN: REBEL
LARS VON TRIER: PROVOCATEUR
QUENTIN TARANTINO: MAVERICK
ALFRED HITCHCOCK: MASTER OF SUSPENSE
LUIS BUNUEL: FETISHIST
By Cole Smithey
Remember the reports of the broken bathroom door, and broken mirror, and broken soap dispenser? All lies espoused by the oh-so-reliable Brazilian police who were busy shooting protesters with rubber bullets and killing hundreds of other impoverished Rio citizens as part of the daily violence that goes on in the same hellhole that filmmaker Hector Babenco famously captured in his unforgettable neo-realist drama “Pixote” in 1981. Babenco’s film was, and is, a cinematic plea for an end to an inhuman social system in and around Rio that has blood running in the streets on a minute-to-minute basis. An all too common, and tragic, footnote to "Pixote" came a few years later when the film's charismatic non-professional lead actor Fernando Ramos de Silva was murdered by a cop in the city's litter-strewn streets. Evidently, not much has changed since 1981.
You got played if you’re one of the suckers who bought into the establishment media’s pillorying of American Olympic champion swimmers Ryan Lochte, Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz, and Jack Conger. They fell victim to anti-American public relations attack designed and executed by Rio de Janeiro’s notoriously corrupt police officials. As if ignoring the public robbery of four Olympic athletes wasn’t enough, the Brazilian Police Department exploited the crime to deflect blame and extort money from the victims. The “security guard” bandits were never even named, much less arrested. Here is a criminal international incident twisted to blame American Olympic champions and humiliate anyone who isn’t Brazilian.
An utter lack of editorial oversight and responsibility would be a generous alibi for the thousands of media outlets (American and otherwise) that fell for the Brazilian police's ploy. The first rule of engagement with any media outlet that everything is a lie, and you have to read between the lines to come away with any semblance of truth.
Long story short: a Rio yellow taxi with four American Olympic swimmers inside pulls up to a gas station in the wee hours of the morning. Gas station workers and security guards shark the [obviously drunk] America Olympic athletes desperate to relieve themselves. Bathroom doors are locked. The four young men go behind the station and urinate in the grass.
Let he or she who has not peed upon sage or brush, throw the first stone. If you pretend to feign indignation at four inebriated guys peeing in the grass behind a gas station at six in the morning, you be frontin’ homie.
An armed guard approaches the athletes, presumably in the act of urinating. Lochte plays the punk when he pulls down a paper ad posted on the side of the gas station as he exits the area. The athletes calmly get inside their waiting cab before being ordered out of their taxi by two black-clad men with badges, both waving around loaded guns. Happy 2016 Olympics suckers.
At gunpoint the athletes are made to sit down with their hands raised, execution style. At one point in the video of these events, we see Lochte stand up to argue with the guards holding he and his pals at gunpoint. Brave or dumb. Doesn’t matter. Dude stood up. Ryan Lochte did the right thing in the heat of the moment regardless of how drunk he was. He’s a patriotic hero. You feel me?
An English/Portuguese-speaking man intercedes to translate what the guards are saying to their victims. This ringer tells the athletes that the guards are demanding that each of the four American hostages pay up for damages done to the gas station property. Who knows if that grass will be able to survive so much Olympian pee? The four swimmers forked over whatever money they had, and were allowed to leave. The badges wearing men-in-black used semi-automatic handguns to rob four American Olympic champions at gunpoint, and got away with it Scot-free. You feel me now?
Don’t forget that this was these athletes’ big night of celebration behind a punishing schedule of Olympic heats. Why these Olympic athletes didn’t have proper chauffeurs and official escorts for their big night out on the town remains a burning question that no one in corporate media has thought to ask.
If Lochte and his teammates are smart they’ll hire a big American law firm to sue every single media outlet that libeled them, and also personally sue each Rio police official responsible for the miscarriage of justice and public smearing they committed. If these athletes do follow up in the courts, Ryan Lochte Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz, and Jack Conger could become the most financially successful Olympic athletes in its history.
So what about the legacy of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games? Police officials on an international revenge crusade have reduced that sporting relic to the public mugging, and consequent pillorying, of four of the fastest swimmers in the world. File the 2016 Olympics in the file entitled, “Mistakes to never make again.”
Brazilian politicians and authorities are still smarting two years after Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s spying on Brazil’s [now impeached] president Kilma Rousseff. Whether you call Rousseff’s ousting a “soft” coup or a hard one, one thing’s for sure; there was nothing legal or proper about it. At the time, the Guardian news outlet called the situation, “the most serious diplomatic fallout to date from the revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden."
Aside from the monies they extorted, the Rio police’s lust for vengeance derives from the slaughter that their soccer team received at the hands of the German team at the 2014 FIFA World Cup before a crowd of 58,000 in Brazil. The 7 to 1 loss spoke volumes of inconvenient truth about where the rubber meets the road in World Cup soccer.
At the recent Olympics, Brazil’s shootout match victory against Germany, that delivered gold to Brazil’s soccer team for the first time in history, has drawn much suspicion for obvious reasons. Sometimes, winning is losing. Let’s also not forget the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent indictment of Marco Polo Del Nero, the president of Brazil’s soccer federation. Salt on an open wound.
I stopped watching the Olympics the second the story about the robbery of the U.S. swimmers came out. I wasn’t the only one. Brazil sent its message loud and clear, if you come to Rio you can expect to be robbed at gunpoint. The police will then rob you again before they let you leave the country. We know this because they made Lochte’s companions each pay a charity donation in the neighborhood of $15,000. You don’t need to worry about the nature of the unidentified charity; this is strictly a cash deal. False arrest, kidnapping, extortion, and liable per se are just a few of the charges that a large firm of American attorneys should be looking over.
Whether or not you bought into the lies dreamed up by the Rio police, which every media outlet in the world regurgitated like twice-vomited split pea soup, I bet you’re not in any hurry to vacation in Rio anytime soon.
If the shoe were on the other foot, and this same sequence of events played out for a group of foreign athletes visiting a city in America, this automatically politicized narrative would have played out in a very different way. You can bet the gas station guards would be sitting in the pokey, and not the athletes.
Much has been made of Ryan Lochte’s exaggeration of specifics involving the proximity of the gun pointed in his direction, and cocking of said pistol, but there is no question that two guns were drawn and the four swimmers were made to sit down, at gunpoint.
More egregious than Lochte’s enriched telling of events were exaggerations from the Rio police, who stated that the American swimmers had vandalized a bathroom at the gas station. Supposedly, this unruly group of hooligans reportedly broke a door, a mirror, and a hand-soap dispenser broken. That none of this happened didn’t stop every newswire in the world from running the lies. Good luck finding any retractions. What you will find, however, in supposedly respectable news outlets such as the Guardian, is reference to “the Olympic gas station hold-up that wasn’t.” Except that it was a hold-up followed by a police shakedown.
Welcome to Rio, now give us all your cash along with your reputation, and we'll sell you back your passports for $15,000. Don't come back, or [better yet] don't come at all. Brazil's tourism industry will suffer the backlash it deserves.
Ah, the glorious flaws of democracy! As a film critic, I learned long ago to abandon any sense of personal investment in the conclusions drawn by Academy Award voters about the most deserving participants in the seventh arts. As in every previous year, the 85th annual list of Oscar nominations comprises its share of clunkers — “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” glaring omissions — “The Turin Horse,” “Killing Them Softly,” and “Rust and Bone” are nowhere to be found — and blatant filler — “Argo” and “Sliver Linings Playbook” aren’t exactly the stuff of classic cinema.
Still, everyone loves to take a shot at second-guessing the results hidden in those carefully sealed envelopes come Oscar night — February 24th at 7pm Eastern Standard Time.
Of the nominations for Best Motion Picture, you can rest assured that Quentin Tarantino’s genre masterpiece “Django Unchained” will remain unfettered by the weight of any stinking award.
“Zero Dark Thirty” is too politically larded to charm the average notoriously elderly Academy voter. “Argo” tips the same scales, albeit with significantly less dramatic weight.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” is far too kooky for a win in any of its three categories (Best Film, Best Directing, or Best Actress). How it scored an Academy nomination with its indefensible resort to child abuse is a mystery.
As for “Les Misérables,” suffice it to say it’s no “Cabaret.”
“Sliver Linings Playbook” contains some respectable performances, but has all of the narrative impact of a half-dose of Alka Selter.
With its ten nominations in various categories “Life of Pi” will receive its share of little gold statues; Best Picture won’t be one of them.
That leaves us flipping a coin between “Amour” and “Lincoln.” I’m putting my dime on Michael Haneke’s “Amour.” I forgot about “Lincoln” by the next day except for the fact that the movie painted its racist subject as some kind of humanitarian. Cough. Yet I’m still savoring the wellspring of emotions that “Amour” stirred up.
The Achievement in Directing award should go to either Ang Lee for “Life of Pi,” or to Michael Haneke for “Amour.” But logic based on the past dictates that it go to Michael Haneke alongside his statue for Best Picture.
Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) and David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) will go home empty-handed. That said, Steven Spielberg is likely to be the one making a speech for his Academy no-brainer “Lincoln.” A cold glass of irony will sit between Tarantino and Spielberg for their vastly different depictions of slavery in the South. Tarantino’s version is a damn sight more cathartic and, oddly, more accurate.
Daniel Day-Lewis is a shoe-in for the Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role prize even if Hugh Jackman is more deserving for his superb work on “Les Misérables.” The Academy could surprise everyone and give it to Jackman. After all, the Oscars are all about the surprises, and this year will have its share.
Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Denzel Washington (“Flight”), and Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”) will look great in their seats — well, Cooper and Washington will look elegant in their seats. Joaquin Phoenix will just look uncomfortable and out of place.
I’d be bemused if not entirely surprised if Emmanuelle Riva didn’t win an Oscar for Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her overwhelming work in “Amour.” Her performance stands heads and shoulders above all of the competition — Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Naomi Watts (“The Impossible”), and Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”).
The Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role honor will likely go to Robert De Niro (“Silver Linings Playbook”) because it’s the first bit of respectable acting De Niro has done in recent memory.
Personally, I’m blinded by Christoph Waltz’s expansive gifts in “Django Unchained.” I’d put my money on Waltz because, well, it is my money after all, and I know consummate acting when I see it. If you put Waltz and De Niro at the same party, I know which man I’d want to spend a few hours talking to.
Tommy Lee Jones suffered from a poorly written part in “Lincoln” that left audiences scratching their heads. Alan Arkin’s lighthearted efforts in “Argo” come across as throwaway because that’s how his part was designed — I’d still watch Alan Arkin read from a phone book and love every second of it. Phillip Seymour Hoffman sadly seemed like he was reading from a phone book in Paul Thomas Anderson’s hollow excuse for a movie “The Master.” More filler.
Things get interesting in the Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role category. Helen Hunt went over the moon in “The Sessions,” and really does deserve to receive the honor for her transparent portrayal of a sex therapist. Sally Field lit up “Lincoln” with some much needed female energy. Anne Hathaway gave an indisputably powerful performance in "Les Misérables." Less deserving are Amy Adams (“The Master”) and Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”). Remember what I said about filler. The Academy will give the prize to Sally Field.
The Best Animated Feature Film category is crammed with worthy rivals. Tim Burton’s exquisite “Frankenweenie” sits agreeably alongside “ParaNorman,” ”The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” and ”Wreck-It Ralph” — “Brave,” not so much. I’d like to see the Academy give the award to ”The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” but I wouldn’t grouse if it went to any of the other nominees — except for “Brave.”
Original Screenplay is the one place where Wes Anderson [and his co-writer Roman Coppola] could win the limelight for “Moonrise Kingdom.”
Nonetheless, I believe the Academy will hand over the victory to Michael Haneke for “Amour.”
Obviously, Quentin Tarantino is the correct choice for the prize, but I don’t get the sense that the Academy is ready to welcome him into their club just yet. Not that it matters much since Tarantino already hit the international high watermark when he won the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or in 1994 for “Pulp Fiction.” The Academy is always a few decades behind.
John Gatins (“Flight”) and Mark Boal (”Zero Dark Thirty”) will be left to drown their sorrow in after-party vodka rather than champagne.
The squishy category of Adapted Screenplay will likely find favor for David Magee, whose ”Life of Pi” hits every grace note of religious predisposition Academy members lean toward.
It still wouldn’t be a surprise for Chris Terrio to get his chance to shout out thanks from the Oscar stage for his sugary script version for “Argo.”
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar), the historically dubious ”Lincoln” (Tony Kushner) and ”Silver Linings Playbook” (David O. Russell) will be left to parlay their Oscar nominations into future projects.
The Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar should be a cakewalk for Austria’s “Amour.” Other contenders include “A Royal Affair” (Denmark), “No” (Chile), War Witch (Canada), and Kontiki (Norway).
Hands down, the Original Score Oscar should go to the redoubtable Thomas Newman for “Skyfall.” The other nominees are “Anna Karenina” (Dario Marianelli), ”Argo” (Alexandre Desplat), ”Life of Pi” (Mychael Danna), and ”Lincoln” (John Williams).
Look for “Skyfall” to also take the Original Song trophy. Of the nominees, “Skyfall” is the only one that audiences will want to sit through, if nothing else to be wowed by the always mesmerizing Adele.
Rival contenders include: "Before My Time" (by J. Ralph for “Chasing Ice”), "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" (by Walter Murphy and Seth McFarlane for “Ted”), "Pi's Lullaby" (by Mychael Danna and Bombay Jayashri for “Life of Pi”), "Suddenly" (by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boulil for “Les Misérables”).
“Life of Pi” will take the prize for Achievement in Production Direction. “Anna Karenina,” ”The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” ”Les Misérables,” and “Lincoln” just don’t have as much visual oomph.
The Achievement in Cinematography Oscar should go to Roger Deakins for “Skyfall.” But “Life of Pi” (Claudio Miranda) could run away with the prize.
The other nominees are: "Anna Karenina” (Seamus McGarvey), “Django Unchained” (Robert Richardson,” and ”Lincoln” (Janusz Kaminski).
The Achievement in Costume Design statue will be handed to Jacqueline Durran for her great work on “Anna Karenina.”
Paco Delgado (“Les Misérables”), Joanna Johnston (“Lincoln”), Eiko Ishioka (“Mirror Mirror”), and Colleen Atwood (“Snow White and the Huntsman”) have nothing on Jacqueline Durran.
The best-kept secret of the Oscars is the documentary category. The exclusion of Ken Burns’s “The Central Park Five” and Amy Berg’s “West of Memphis” are great oversights on the part of the Academy. “The Invisible War” deserves to take the Oscar considering the competition, but the Academy will likely present the award to the feel-good documentary “Searching for Sugar Man." The other contenders are: “5 Broken Cameras,” “The Gatekeepers,” and “How to Survive a Plague.”
Best Documentary Short Subject is the category that trips everyone up because hardly any of the public has seen any of the offerings. Sean and Andrea Nix Fine’s “Inocente” — about a young homeless artist — is a shoe-in. The other nominees include “Kings Point,” ”Mondays at Racine," “Open Heart," and "Redemption.”
“Life of Pi” is a lock for the Achievement in Film Editing Oscar, though “Zero Dark Thirty” could squeak out its only prize of the night in this category. “Argo,” “Lincoln,” and “Silver Linings Playbook” don’t stand a chance.
The Achievement in Makeup & Hairstyling trophy should and probably will go to “Hitchcock.” “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and “Les Misérables” are the other noms.
The glory of the Best Animated Short Film Oscar presents one of the most beguiling guessing games the Academy plays. Look for Walt Disney’s “Paperman” to walk away with this one. The other nominees are “Adam and Dog,” ”Fresh Guacamole,” ”Head Over Heels,” and Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare."
The category for Best Live-Action Short Film seemingly exists only to tack another five minutes to an already overlong Oscar ceremony. Look for “Death of a Shadow” to walk away with the Oscar. “Asad,” ”Buzkashi Boys,” ”Curfew Death,” and ”Henry” comprise the rest of the candidates.
It’s bizarre to imagine that Academy voters have the slightest clue about what fulfills the demands of the Achievement in Sound Editing category. On first blush a movie like “Zero Dark Thirty” would seem to have the requisite amount of woof and whistle to secure an Oscar from Academy voters who don’t know that “Life of Pi” is the title that most deserves the win. “Django Unchained,” “Skyfall,” and “Argo” make up the rest of the films considered in this category.
Common sense dictates that the “Achievement in Sound Mixing” Oscar go to the same film as won the Sound Editing award. Really, it’s just an excuse to give out another trophy to a movie that didn’t get a win in the previous category. Look for “Les Misérables” to get its just reward here. The other films considered for “Sound Mixing” are “Argo,” ”Life of Pi,” ”Lincoln,” and ”Skyfall.”
If you’ve made it this far into my predictions for the 85th annual Academy Awards, you probably feel like you’ve sat through three hours of backslapping and brownnosing. The Achievement in Visual Effects Oscar should and will go to Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi.” Don’t get me started on the other nominees — “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” “Marvel's The Avengers,” ”Prometheus,” ”Snow White and the Huntsman.” I could talk all night.Tweet