WEIRDLAND

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Ozark finale review: A Story of Self-Preservation amidst Late-Stage Capitalist Chaos (Spoilers)

The Season 4 (the last season of TV drama Ozark) is officially finished. And it seems there are quite a few things some fans would have wanted to change about its heartbreaking conclusion. The most important, probably, Ruth Langmore's death at the hands of Camila Navarro (the ruthless sister of Omar Navarro, boss of a Mexican drug cartel). Sadly I think it felt inevitable, due to Ruth's self-destructive bent during her last days, shown very effectively by Julia Garner. Ruth Langmore's affective bond with Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and her longing to escape the Langmore curse made her demise even sadder to accept. Many fans of Ozark probably looked forward to a final comeuppance for Marty Byrde and especially his wife Wendy (Laura Linney). But Ruth's actual death wasn't directly related to the Byrdes. Ruth had killed Camila's son Javi, and the Byrdes tried to placate Ruth's wrath, but the young Byrdes' mentee had completely lost her sanity after learning her vulnerable cousin Wyatt had been killed by the cartel. The Byrdes knew they couldn't save Ruth or they all would have gotten killed by Camila's henchmen.

At the beginning of Ozark Martin "Marty" talked to the viewers about economics: "Money as a measuring device. That which separates the haves from the have-nots. You see, the hard reality is how much money we accumulate in life is not a function of who's president or the economy or bubbles bursting or bad breaks or bosses. It's about the American work ethic. The one that made us the greatest country on Earth. Patience. Frugality. Sacrifice. What do those three things have in common? Those are choices. Money is, at its essence, that measure of a man's choices. Half of all American adults have more credit card debt than savings. 25% have no savings at all. And only 15% of the population is on track to fund even one year of retirement. Suggesting what? The middle class is evaporating? Or the American Dream is dead? You wouldn't be sitting there listening to me if the latter were true. I think most people just have a fundamentally flawed view of money. Is it an intangible? Security or happiness, peace of mind." 

Stanislaw Ulam had been a member of the Manhattan Project (that produced the first nuclear weapons during World War II), and once challenged Paul Samuelson (the first American economist to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences) to name one theory in all of the social sciences that was both true and nontrivial. Samuelson responded with David Ricardo's theory of Comparative Advantage: "That it is logically true need not be argued before a mathematician; that is not trivial is attested by the thousands of important and intelligent men who have never been able to grasp the doctrine for themselves or to believe it after it was explained to them."

Marty Byrde started laundering money for a drug cartel because he saw it all as a mere business of supply and demand, which operated in his view not very different from Purdue Pharma's shady practices. Marty had suggested this idea of cooperating with a Mexican drug cartel to his seemingly bipolar wife Wendy, thinking only about the potential benefits and taking for granted his low-profile behind these illicit enterprises. Although Jason Bateman was formidable and dryly funny as Marty, for me, it's Laura Linney as Wendy who made this show worthwhile. Her astoundingly vivid and unforgettable performance is truly deserving of an Emmy at the next celebration of the 74th Emmy Awards (September 12, 2022). 

Wendy Byrde is the dark soul of Ozark, my favorite character of the show. Laura Linney is capable of etching on our memory each moment of doubt, mental anguish, courage, and manipulative decisions that passed across Wendy's disturbing mind in impeccable dramatic fashion. Linney embodies Wendy Byrde's psyche through memorable thespian work, making Wendy into the most theatrically developed character in Ozark. At the end of Season 2, we witness how fast Wendy evolves from bored housewife into an egotistical, unpredictable, power-thirsty anti-heroine. In a recent interview with Harper's Bazaar, Linney explained: "She's a wildly complex character that you can't quite figure her out. Is she sociopathic or just emotionally immature? The authentic part of her is hard to pin down."

Wendy teaches her son Jonah a hard-won lesson: “You need to grow up. This is America. People don’t care where your fortune came from.” And when trying to persuade Clare Shaw (CEO of Shaw Medical Solutions) to associate with the illicit Navarro cartel, Wendy affirms: “It’s the only way to make the bad mean something: Bury it. Pile good on top of good.” This scene is key to understand Wendy's unstable personality. Wendy had suffered as a kid from abusive treatment by her alcoholic father Nathan, which provoked in her a deep distrust towards the society; she thought the system had failed her when she most needed it. So now she is on a mission to prove that this system had always been broken, and in a twisted way to self-justify and compensate for her personal unhappiness.

As the Byrdes become a political power couple, many viewers might think their win-at-all-costs ethos, their lack of moral scruples and metastasized hubris, would inevitably lead them to a terrible comeuppance for their amoral actions. The Byrde clan, according to some analytical critics, certainly seems to represent the complicity of a corrupt family with the systemic corruption rooted within the USA's capitalist system. But why then the Byrdes win in the end? The answer is a heightened sense of perseverance. The answer might be "Comparative Advantage." Or the answer might be reformulated as a question: are they really the bad guys? The FBI have made tricksy deals with Omar and Camila Navarro. The politicians voted by the average Joe are mostly corrupt. The reality is the Byrdes win because they are the smartest players in the capitalist game. They are soberer than their rivals and know exactly when the light fades down the tunnel. In fact, they have distinguished from other TV criminal characters by manipulating people who are often much worse than them. Article published previously as The Master Manipulators: "Ozark" Season 4 (Finale/Spoilers) on Blogcritics.



Friday, May 13, 2022

Laura Linney and Jason Bateman analyze their Ozark characters Wendy and Marty Byrde

Laura Linney gets some of her juiciest material in her run on the moody drama Ozark as the ruthless matriarch Wendy Byrde, and has a nasty-good time with it. The good reviews are there, the attention is there, and the overdue factor may be too—this show has been a hit since its inception. Tellingly, the Emmys have warmed toward final-season embraces of late: think Jon Hamm of Mad Men, or Claire Foy of The Crown, both winning the first lead-acting trophies on their last try. Linney could easily fit among that company. Wendy’s transformation has been the most radical throughout the course of Ozark. Where once she was simply Marty’s disillusioned wife, she became the icy, unpredictable villain of the show. Look beyond that spoonful-of-sugar smile and she is evil, a modern-day Lady Macbeth capable of sacrificing her own brother Ben. Marty suggests the cartel option to Wendy before accepting Del's offer. They had lost a child recently and Wendy had been told she was basically too old for working as a PR in political campaigns. Marty was looking to cheer up his wife and she needed a distraction. They got straightforward into a nightmare after Marty's partner Bruce started to skim money from the cartel. Many fans really loved Laura Linney for the portrayal of a very complex character and for doing it with such brilliance. 

“There’s a lot that I love about this character,” says Linney. “She is constantly changing, going deeper and deeper into a vulnerable place where a survival instinct hijacked her entire being. Which I think fuelled her intellectual decisions, her emotional outbursts, her strategy. She is very shrewd but makes terrible decisions. She’s wildly immature; she’s not wise. And then, as the series goes on, you learn about her mental illnesses and her family: that allowed me a wider berth in which to veer out into more impulsive behaviours.” When Linney first saw the script, however, she thought Wendy needed more depth. The role felt “typical of a female character in a male-driven show”. So she asked that the part be rewritten. “I had no problem being a sideline to Jason Bateman under any circumstances,” she explains. “I just wanted to make if I was going to commit to a multi-year endeavour, I would need to be able to bring something to it that would keep me engaged. If you have just one character that never changes, you can become subconsciously disinterested and start to detach.”

About the current political atmosphere, Linney says: “The Americans are just passing all of these laws that I find really offensive, and for some reason, the swirl of distrust just keeps going around and around. It’s just wrong, deeply wrong.” She takes a breath. “It’s just awful and it’s ignorant; there’s nothing more dangerous to me than ignorance and arrogance. Those two things coupled together are a nasty engine.” Laura Linney talks about how Ozark is a survival story, and “Wendy is just trying to survive“. However, it is not just about surviving for her. Wendy wants to come out with some kind of payoff from the situation. “It’s a real drive that she inflicts upon everyone, and it’s not mentally sound,” she adds. However, Linney denies any comparisons that are being made between Wendy and Lady Macbeth, the conniving queen of the Shakespearean tragedy Othello. Linney says: “She’s not really a villain. But if Wendy showed up in my room, I’d just slide out the door. She scares me.”  Source: www.independent.co.uk

In the early days of “Ozark,” Marty Byrde couldn’t be seen screaming or losing his temper. Bateman showed Marty's methodical nature and his reflexive calm even as he watched his business partner get shot in the head and his wife have sex on camera with another man. "In fact the satisfying sound of your lover smacking the pavement is the only thing that gets me to sleep at night," are the calm yet chilling words that Marty uses to reproach Wendy's infidelity. Dan Jackson wrote in a recap of Ozark pilot episode: "As Jason Bateman's Marty Byrde angrily approaches a Chicago office building, fuming about his wife's affair with the smarmy businessman Gary Silverberg, he sees a body smack right against the pavement, hitting the ground so hard a shoe flies off. Some shows might have waited to kill off the character, letting Gary's conflict with Marty stretch out for a whole season, but, as we quickly learned, that's not the Ozark way. Either you're completely disgusted and want to turn the TV off—a totally reasonable reaction—or you're sucked in and can't wait to find out what happens next."

Once New York Times film critic Mike Hale wrote a negative review right after the first season premiered, calling Marty “boring” and “a guy you see at the airport when you buy a ticket.” This review didn’t discourage Jason or made him change how he portrayed Marty. Instead, season after season, we peeled layers of Marty, until one day his cool demeanor is no longer. Speaking about Marty’s character, Jason said, “There’s a reason Marty is not hysterical because he’s the center of all the madness. I knew why I was playing it like that and where I was going with it and how that, hopefully, is going to be satisfying by the time we get to the end of the series.”

Naturally, when you have been part of a show for almost six years, it gets hard to say goodbye. So when Jason Bateman was asked how it felt the last scene he shot with his on-screen wife Laura Linney, he said “there were definitely tears”. About the possible future of the Byrdes, Bateman speculated: “I would bet you that they’ll go up to Chicago and they’ll test this theory of Wendy’s”. While talking about whether the ends will have justified the means for the Byrdes, Bateman said, “My assumption is that, while they’re smarter now than when we first met them, I still feel like their hubris and arrogance will continue to trip them up. I think a sense of humility might guide them towards better decisions, but unfortunately, they are just not there yet.” Lately, Bateman has been re-watching “Ozark” with his wife, but he says his own viewing habits are more limited. He assures he’s seen quite a few episodes of “Friends,” but he never caught the fever of “Breaking Bad,” only the pilot. Bateman started watching HBO’s “The Sopranos,” but stopped after six episodes because he found it hard to get into.

“I watch MSNBC news, until the Dodgers game starts,” Bateman explains. “And then I watch that until I pass out and then finish the last few innings first thing in the morning, rolling into ‘Morning Joe.’ That’s it.” “Delightfully boring” is how Jimmy Kimmel describes Jason Bateman in a phone call. “We’ll go on trips together sometimes, and he’s really good at putting the kids to bed because it means he gets to go to sleep at 9 o’clock.” “He likes to talk but there’s a limited window,” says Jennifer Aniston—another close friend who has been his co-star in “Horrible Bosses” and “The Switch”“When you’re gathering in a group, Jason gives you maybe an hour. All of a sudden you can see that imaginary window shade sort of pull down. He’s like, ‘Okay, that’s it. I’ve got my time in.” Bateman describes himself as an introvert. 

He listens mainly to classical music and does tend to prefer staying at home. Part of this is rooted in his decision to quit partying in 2001, but it also speaks to a lack of pretension, and a perspective of life he formed time ago. When he talks about directing, he gets excited, talking about the challenges, and the problem-solving. He takes particular pride in an early scene in “Ozark” that featured Laura Linney behind the wheel of a boat. He sketched out the single shot on a napkin for the camera operator. Linney says Bateman’s enthusiasm for directing extended to his pushing her to do it, too, even though she had no interest. Her first directing gig was the 11th episode of the final season. When Bateman was directing, she says, his experience and temperament allowed everyone to “take a deep breath, a deep sigh.” Source: vanityfair.com

Saturday, May 07, 2022

Ozark surpassing Breaking Bad (Spoilers)

When it premiered, Ozark was met with a certain degree of skepticism and even suspicion. Though it garnered positive reviews, many TV critics had mixed emotions about the latest sleek Netflix drama. In Vox magazine, Emily St. James argued she found the white guy antihero trope somewhat clich├ęd. Not helping matters was the fact that a critical darling loomed large over the show, inviting some comparisons with Ozark. That show, of course, is Breaking Bad, the crown jewel of the good-guy-turned-drug-kingpin genre. It was inevitable to put them side by side given some of their similarities. After all, in Ozark’s earlier episodes, it did seem like Marty (Jason Bateman) was going to be the heart of the show. It’s his voice we first hear, waxing poetic about how “money is, at its essence, that measure of a man’s choices.” In both Ozark and Breaking Bad, we had two middle class men trying to provide for their families, while complicated circumstances drive them to the underworld of drug trafficking. 

These comparisons did not stop it from becoming a Netflix hit. When the fourth season debuted, it hit a historic high of 4 billion minutes of viewing, per Nielsen ratings. What made it so irresistible? Five years later, the Byrdes are still at it. Its reputation had steadily but stealthily grown – a rarity in our short span times. The first episode of Season 4 starts with a flurry of activity: the Byrdes are now prosperous casino owners, but somehow their list of antagonists is longer than ever. In the first season, The Byrdes had landed in Missouri. There, financial adviser Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and his wife Wendy (Laura Linney) had to somehow find a way to launder $500m for a criminal cartel. The word “Ozark” had a certain obscure mystery, at least to non-American viewers. Ozark sounds like dark: spiky z’s and k’s.  

Ozark’s unexpected triumph is partly down to those old-fashioned qualities of writing, acting and directing. Classic. Ozark’s violent twists and dark mood are leavened with intelligent humour. In the face of all this misery, what is there to do but wisecrack? It has a distinctive gloomy aesthetic all of its own, which makes oppressive use of the landscape, all looming forests and brackish water, lit in milky sunshine. In Laura Linney’s brilliant hands, Wendy has evolved from something like a stock wife into an unpredictable, power-thirsty anti-heroine all of her own. Although Jason Bateman was best known for holding the erratic Bluth family together in Arrested Development, he had shown in Juno that he could be a really creepy nice guy. 

His shifty smile told you that for all his outward respectability, in another world he could do shady things. In Ozark, he has been able to show just how immoral, sleazy, and tricksy anti-hero Marty has become. Ironically, Ozark has superseded the original potential Breaking Bad had once long time ago. Especially if you think Breaking Bad might have been a bit overrated. Of all the great TV dramas since The Sopranos, it is only Mad Men that portrayed a rather optimistic view of America, and that was set in the postwar glow of the Fifties and Sixties. It certainly says something that so many of the country’s great dramas are about drugs. Breaking Bad dealt with meth, Better Call Saul deals with meth, too. Dopesick was a devastating portrayal of the opioid crisis caused by the Sackler family. 

Ozark also plays out against the legacy of the opioid epidemic, with its lingering boost for the heroin market. Baltimore, Albuquerque, or the Lake of the Ozarks: these are the left-behind places of America, far away from technology gold-rush or clean-living finance executives. Drugs turn the individual against themselves, and the drug trade turns Americans against each other. In a subtly different scenario, Marty, a drab financial adviser, would never have been obligated to operate in this shadow world. It’s not just these individuals that have broken, but the system has, too. Linney’s and Bateman’s outstanding performances are the reason this despicable pair can be so enjoyable to watch while they go wallowing into their moral misery. During its four seasons, the Byrdes become less sympathetic, less relatable. 

Specially, Wendy leaves behind our initial sympathy we had for her as a mom screwed out of the labor force after a depressive episode following her miscarriage. Marty might have made the deal with the devil, but only with her blessing. And once Wendy realizes that her strategic power can surpass that of her husband, she appears chilling, insane, and using up every benefit of the doubt afforded to educated white women. Wendy becomes a more formidable presence with every passing episode. She has her reasons for her behaviour, though. Camila Navarro was relentless in her vengeance, and even Clare Shaw did not hesitate to put her self-preservation first. Paradoxically, the Byrdes have distinguished from other criminal characters being unusually effective by manipulating people who are often worse than them. It’s like the show finally found its footing by being its unabashed self: hyperbolic, dizzying, and unwilling to give real redemption to Wendy and Marty. While previous seasons had relished in plenty of deaths, those killed were by no means innocent bystanders. 

They all had blood in their hands, and the world was probably better off without them. With the exception of Ben. As it's made apparent in the series conclusion, Ben's ashes will follow the seemingly indestructible Byrde family forever. Unlike Breaking Bad, Ozark wasn’t really a story about a family’s fall from grace. It was a story about how a system built up around the American middle class family is already rotten. Shaw Medical is going nowhere. The Navarro cartel will continue to thrive, thanks, in no small part, to the FBI’s dependence on the cash seizures it can get from them. The Byrdes will get to play do-gooders thanks to their foundation. It is a tale as old as America, but television has not always had such a pessimistic outlook. In this sense, the show was unflinching in its critique of the American Dream. Source: www.independent.co.uk

“The question of whether America is in decline cannot be answered yes or no. Both answers are wrong, because the assumption that somehow there exists some predetermined inevitable trajectory, the result of uncontrollable external forces, is wrong. Nothing is inevitable. Nothing is written. For America today, decline is not a condition. Decline is a choice.” —American political columnist for The Washington Post -and Pulitzer Prize winner in 1987- Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018)

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

"A Hard Way to Go": the bleak ending of Ozark

Wendy Byrde (the exquisite Laura Linney), has checked herself into a mental hospital in an attempt to prevent her father, Nathan (Richard Thomas), from taking their kids back with him to North Carolina. Wendy might be a terrible parent, but she refuses to let her children suffer at the hands of Nathan, an alcoholic who was sometimes abusive to her as a kid. Marty has finally reached a breaking point as he attempts to simultaneously assuage the cartel, the FBI, and his family, so if Ruth doesn’t help him win back his kids, he might tell the cartel that she killed Javi. Marty meets with Camila, Omar’s sister and the Byrde family’s ally as they attempt to a) kill Omar and b) fulfill their deal with the FBI. They sketch out their plan, which involves a cell transfer in which Omar will “escape” only to get gunned down, and Camila will take over the cartel, so long as she continues making regular payments to America's finest law enforcement agency. But Camila wants to meet with the FBI first to soothe any doubts, and Marty agrees. Meanwhile, Ruth confronts Wendy at the mental hospital, where she tells her she’ll try to get the kids back on her side. 

Ruth finally admits she’s sorry for letting Ben (Tom Pelphrey), Wendy’s brother, out of the same exact mental hospital last season. If she’d have left him alone, despite his suffering, he’d still be alive. Ruth withdraws a gun from her safe and visits Nathan in his motel room at the Lazy O, with the premise of toasting Ben's life and death. For the first few minutes of their conversation, Ruth and Nathan discuss Wendy’s “reputation” for promiscuity, a trait Nathan clearly resented. “Well, you beat her,” Ruth says, with a sweet smile. After Nathan’s face falls—“How's that?”—her eyelashes flutter. “You won! You got Jonah and Charlotte!” But we know the act won’t last long, and within minutes, Ruth’s switched off the doe-eyes. “You don't even fucking want them, do you?” she asks. Increasingly agitated as the conversation grows frosty, Nathan admits his real intentions: He only wants custody over Charlotte and Jonah to punish his daughter. “She was a slut and an embarrassment,” he says. As he turns to place the whiskey bottle on ice, Ruth pulls out her gun and shoots a glass on the counter, exploding it into pieces. Charlotte and Jonah come running, and Ruth demands Nathan tell them the truth behind his custody battle—or she’ll shoot him in the dick. (This show has a thing for dick-shooting.)

Showrunner Chris Mundy says: “Marty and Wendy love each other, but they’re also the only two people who have lived through this. How can they have a normal relationship with anybody else or in any other situation?” After leaving the mental hospital as a family, Wendy has accomplished her task of getting the gang back together. As she climbs into the passenger seat, she shoots Marty a sweet, almost bashful smile. “You really didn't have to threaten Ruth,” she says, as if it’s the most romantic gesture her husband has ever attempted. In the Byrdes’s love language, it probably is. Season 4 has spent many of its best Marty-Wendy scenes emphasizing the dynamics of their marriage: Wendy pushes for control, and Marty acquiesces, in part because she's erratic, but also because he loves her. (Keep in mind that, in Ozark’s pilot episode, Marty spent the first half obsessed with the fact that his wife was cheating on him, and the second half desperately trying to protect her.) Whether or not it’s true, he feels, by now, that everything he’s done this season—going to Mexico, cooperating with the FBI, distancing from Ruth—is for his wife. Marty visits Ruth to confirm Nelson’s at the bottom of her pool. Marty offers to give her a new identity after Omar's assassination, but Ruth refuses: “I like my name.” So Marty invites her, as the casino's new ownership, to meet with the cartel and FBI, where they’ll hammer down the details of their laundering arrangement. Source: elle.com

Showrunner Chris Mundy tells Vanity Fair that the writers room argued spiritedly about which of the show’s still-standing characters, Byrdes included, would survive the finale—considering that so many people who crossed Marty and Wendy during their criminal descent wound up dead. Ultimately, the room wrote the finale in accordance with its season-four credo: “Building a myth. Creating a curse.” But in plotting out the death of Ruth, it was important to Mundy that her fate be self-propelled. So Ruth’s death is a direct result of her decision to avenge Wyatt’s death by killing Javi. “I wanted everybody to have active choices in the last seven episodes,” says Mundy, pointing out that Ruth had a decision to make after Javi killed her cousin Wyatt. “Ruth could go for revenge or not, and she knows if she did, it is going to unleash things that might end up with her getting harmed. People keep saying Ruth got caught in the crossfire of the Byrdes, but Ruth's actual death had nothing to do with the Byrdes. Ruth killed Javi, and the Byrdes tried to help her stop it but Ruth held them at gunpoint. Wyatt's death happened because of his association with Darlene, not the Byrdes. Darlene even had positioned against the Byrdes and had crossed the cartel. The Byrdes couldn't save Ruth or they all would've gotten killed. They actually showed remorse and were trying to think of anything they could do to stop it, including calling a hitman, but everything was in play already...” 

The show winds down after Ruth’s death with a coda scene in which the Byrde family returns home to find Mel (Adam Rothenberg), the private investigator who had been looking into Ben’s death. Mel’s holding the cookie jar containing Ben’s ashes, and reveals that he has discovered that Wendy offered up her brother like the ultimate sacrificial lamb in her quest for power. “You don’t get it, do you?” Mel tells Wendy and Marty, in their backyard. “You don’t get to win. You don’t get to be the Kochs or the Kennedys or whatever fucking royalty you people think you are. The world doesn’t work like that.” At that moment, Jonah appears with a shotgun—a callback to the season-one finale, in which Jonah pulls a gun on Garcia only to find out it is unloaded. (Buddy, played by Harris Yulin, saved the day.) This time, though, the gun is loaded. Jonah pulls the trigger, the screen cuts to black, and a gunshot is heard—meaning that the Byrdes have miraculously survived Ozark’s deadly fate. In a way, Mundy says, Jonah killing Mel signifies “the family being brought back together through this act of violence.” The showrunner wanted to end the series on a note so unexpected that it took viewers a beat to process whether Jonah killing Mel is “a thing to cheer for or not.” He adds, “We wanted people to think about the reality of what happened, not just in the context of watching a TV show, but also in whatever reality these characters are going to keep living in.” Source: www.vanityfair.com

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Ozark Season 4 Part 2 Theories

I spent an embarrassingly long amount of time dissecting the trailer of Ozark Season 4 Part 2. Wendy is my favorite character, and I just want her and Marty to somehow come out of this together. Unlikely chance, but one can dream. Based on the trailer, Netflix stills, and comments I’ve read from the show runner and actors themselves: Wendy is clearly headed towards a mental breakdown. She cannot accept what she did to her brother Ben and she is basically dissociating. She’s so consumed with guilt and grief that I think she’s beginning to truly believe the lie she started on Season 4 Part 1 - that he is missing. 

From what the show runner said, it sounds like they will be focusing more on Wendy’s mental issues. So I’m assuming she’s going to do some more crazy things when it comes to “looking for Ben.” I think Marty will be conflicted about Wendy's choices so far. I do not know what’s going to happen with Javi. Maybe Ruth shoots and kills him right away and that sets everything into motion. Either way, Navarro has to begrudgingly use Marty and Wendy to find a way back on top. So Marty goes to Mexico to take care of businesses. I wonder what role Javi’s mom will play? Meanwhile Wendy could be at home dealing with detective Mel and her dad looking into Ben’s disappearance. Maybe she’s confronted by them with a photo. I’m sure it’ll all blow up and Marty will learn about it when he gets back. 

Somehow they have a plan to meet up with the FBI as discussed in the van. Jonah is with them probably because he has nowhere else to go, but he’s still pissed at Wendy. Wendy seems like she’s on a relaxed mood but Marty is iffy. I think the significance of the car crash is that it’ll be the thing that brings the family together. They will realize they only have each other and could lose each other at any moment. It’ll change their perspective. I think it’ll happen maybe in the penultimate episode. Perhaps this will be the event that snaps Wendy back into reality. I think the Foundation event will happen and it will be real. 

But something will go wrong. And somehow at the last minute, the Byrdes might come out on top. They’ve outsmarted everyone (both intentionally and not intentionally) so far and have elevated themselves higher and higher each season. So everyone expects them to die or go to prison, but instead they’ll “win.” Other theories I’ve seen: Wendy gets committed at some point, Marty or Wendy betray each other (I don’t think that will happen), or they will be killed at their big event. If I'm remembering correctly, Navarro's relationship with his sister is strained, and the reason he brought up the whole "those closest to you are the first to abandon you" speech. I’d like to hope Ruth and Marty end on good terms regardless of what happens. I have a hard time truly feeling bad for her because most of what has happened to her family is her fault or at least a result of things she’s done. I do feel bad about the guilt and grief she must feel over Wyatt. 

I don’t think we know who attacks Wendy. I don't think it's Jonah, Sam, or her dad. Wendy is trying to get the Byrde name out there, the brand, very publicly. Perhaps it is someone related to the rehab centers or someone who knew Ben. I think Marty sees Wendy get attacked by some man, reacts emotionally, and pounds the guy. He just snaps. I think he looks so upset walking away because he is coming off adrenaline for snapping. There is another scene in the trailer where Wendy is being attacked again. It looks like she is being dragged up some stairs. I am 99% sure that it is her dad. I saw a still of him wearing the same clothing. Seems like he was abusive to her as a child. Maybe he finds out what happened to Ben. I also think the poster that shows Wendy dead-eyed with blood on her head is after whatever this incident is. It looks like the same colonial brick building in the background. Perhaps a court house, a police station, a church? Source: medium.com

Friday, April 01, 2022

Bruce Willis stepping away from his film career

The news of Bruce Willis’s retirement on health grounds brings its own special kind of sadness. Admittedly, he has been booking some dodgy films in the last year or so – I recently sat through a pretty sorry action thriller called Out of Death with Bruce in his comfort zone as the retired cop who has to take on a terrifying situation. But even there, Willis’s coolly amiable, faintly contemptuous, always battle-ready presence sprinkled a little much-needed vinegar in the blandness. And so often in so many different kinds of film, Bruce Willis has been the wild card, an iconic action hero with a heart and tons of humor.

He has been the archetypal super-testosterone male-pattern, the guy who made wearing a vest – not a t-shirt, a vest – look iconic. Despite being the rebel with bullshit-detector on high alert, Bruce has often been cast as the authority figure. For all of us, he will always be the legendary maverick warrior-cop John McClane in Die Hard saving his estranged wife in a high-rise office block on Christmas (perhaps saving Christmas itself) with that bizarre battle-cry: “Yippee-kai-ay, motherfucker!” and putting the all-American smackdown on loathsome Euro-Brit terrorist bad guys like Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons. But what a superbly subtle, gentle performance as child psychologist Dr Malcolm Crowe in M Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, deeply troubled by the state of his marriage. Somehow, the film’s whiplash final twist does not diminish Willis who maintains a plain-speaking humorous dignity throughout.

In Wes Anderson’s comedy Moonrise Kingdom he plays another cop, the quietly spoken small town officer Captain Sharp who has to deputise kids in the local scout troop for the search party when two young lovers go missing. It’s such a lovely, gentle performance – maybe my absolute favourite of his. But for sheer impact, it can’t match his great performance as Butch Coolidge in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction: the punchy prizefighter with the troubled childhood memories who contrives to kill the hitman sent to kill him for winning a fight he’d been bribed to throw – and then rescues the guy who wants to kill him from an awful fate.

Willis, the grizzle-haired tough guy with a sense of humour, is the only actor who could have carried off this supremely bizarre role and even endow it with sympathy and even underdog charm. It’s so sad for all of us that Willis will not take any more movie roles. It’s like seeing a great sports star suddenly getting an injury or a sandwich shop deciding to withdraw one of its tastiest flavours. All we can do is wish all the best to Bruce and his family for a happy retirement. Source: theguardian.com

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Jessica Chastain (Oscar Contender) shines in "The Eyes of Tammy Faye"

Jessica Chastain’s portrayal of the notorious American television evangelist and gospel singer Tammy Faye is at the moment the favorite contender in the battle of the biopics which is dominating the Best Actress category at this year’s Oscars race. Chastain will go up against Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos), Kristen Stewart (Spencer) and Penelope Cruz (Madres Paralelas). Chastain had her eye on Tammy’s story since 2012 when she bought the rights to a documentary made in 2000 by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. Unlike Jerry Falwell, who had a selective view of those eligible for a block of heavenly real estate, Tammy Faye Bakker was convinced that all would be welcomed into the afterlife. As a result, she openly defended gay rights and advocated support for AIDS sufferers when her church was stigmatising them. 

In "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," Vincent D’Onofrio plays Jerry Falwell as a gruff power broker who considers gay people to be evil, and we see, through him, how the new Christianity will market itself, competing with secular America on its own corrupt terms. Tammy Faye, by contrast, is chirpy and volatile, but by offering God’s embrace to people with AIDS, she shows what true Christianity is: love versus what some Christian sects around her are turning (into hate towards the misfits).

"Fall From Grace" TV film, 1990: Kevin Spacey as Jim Bakker, and Bernadette Peters as Tammy Faye Bakker.

Tammy’s abundant cosmetic armoury–wigs, false eyelashes, tattooed eye and lip liner–is showier over the years, as if she’s afraid she might disappear without it. Chastain herself does the opposite and disappears into it – yet it’s not a performance made up of prosthetics and mannerisms. Chastain catches the fear beneath the pretence, along with Tammy’s urgent desire to maintain her vision of herself as a good person despite the hypocrisy that underpins her existence. Although Chastain was at first a bit suspicious of devoutly religious people, she learned a valuable lesson through Tammy Faye's character. 

Jessica Chastain: “In some sense, Tammy Faye's openness is something we all have. We all have this earnestness inside of us, but it’s taken out of us by the cruelness police. There is so much celebration of that cynicism nowadays. Random acts of love are sometimes seen as weakness, and, in reality, I see that as courageous and brave and beautiful. We are trained to make fun of that, so I had to get over that, and it made me so much happier. As I was studying her, I found her to be a very sensual person in all aspects. I saw that in how she hugged strangers or how she tasted food. Tammy grew up in a community that was Pentecostal, and there were so many restrictions. Tammy talks in her book about how could God not love something that makes you feel beautiful, that makes you feel loved and makes you feel joy. For her, God and faith didn’t equal deprivation.” Source: www.smh.com.au

The most boring person in the world has been revealed by University of Essex research—and it is a religious data entry worker, who likes watching TV, and lives in a small town. The paper, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (March 8, 2022) also discovered the dullest hobbies were seen to be religion, watching TV, bird watching and smoking. Boring people were also perceived to live in small cities and towns. Led by the Department of Psychology’s Dr Wijnand Van Tilburg, the research revealed that stereotypically boring people are generally avoided due to preconceptions. Van Tilburg explained: “The irony is studying boredom is actually very interesting and has many real-life impacts. Perceptions can change but people may not take time to speak to those with ‘boring’ jobs and hobbies, instead choosing to avoid them. They don’t get a chance to prove people wrong and break these negative stereotypes. It was interesting to me to see the study showed that boring people were not seen as very competent.” Dr Van Tilburg added: “The truth of the matter is people like bankers and accountants are highly capable and have power in society—perhaps we should try not to upset them and stereotype them as boring!” According the study, the top five most boring jobs are: Data Analysis, Accounting, Tax/Insurance, Banking, and Cleaning tasks. The top five most exciting jobs considered are: Performing Arts, Science, Journalism, Health/Medicine, and Teaching. “Boring People: Stereotype Characteristics, Interpersonal Attributions, and Social Reactions” by Wijnand A. P. van Tilburg, 8 March 2022, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Source: www.essex.ac.uk