Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bates Motel in the rearview mirror

We all go a little mad sometimes.

~~ Norman Bates

After five seasons, the series finale of “Bates Motel” aired tonight. It’s been a wild ride and I feel the need to write a bit about it. (If you haven’t watched it and plan to, please note that there are major spoilers ahead.)

Some of you know that my favorite movie of all time is “Psycho.” Don’t read anything into that! There is just something about the movie that appeals to me on so many levels. The lighting, the way Hitchcock framed his shots, the perfect soundtrack, the masterful performance of Anthony Perkins, and of course, the classic shower scene.

In other words, those were some big shoes to fill.

What a pleasure to watch the show live up to its source material and see it develop into a genuinely interesting backstory of the movie and the characters. There were many twists and turns along the way, with the biggest coming at the very end of tonight’s episode. What I didn’t expect was that they would move past the ending of the movie and show the ultimate fate of Norman. I think it was a stroke of genius, because I watched thinking that I knew where everything ended up, and it was a genuine surprise to see where it went.

One of the best things about the Norman Bates character is that despite his murderous nature, Anthony Perkins played him as a sympathetic, even likable character. His boyish charm, his nervousness, his smile...you want him to be okay and it’s heartbreaking when you realize just how damaged he is. Freddie Highmore as Norman in the TV show understood that and played it perfectly. In tonight’s finale, Norman (with his poor bloodied face) drives Norma’s corpse home and relives the good times of the past. He is lost in his memories and has obviously had a very serious break with reality. It made me cry to see his battered face and his bewildered smile.

Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates was also incredible. Of course, Mrs. Bates never got a genuine word in the movie, but Farmiga created this amazing, destructive, enabling force of nature that was Norma Bates. She was funny, she was loving, she was messed up, she was irresistible. She was Mother.

A character who wasn’t in the movie was Sheriff Alex Romero, played by Nestor Carbonell (he of the dreamy eyes). He was a perfect addition who became a surprise love interest for Norma when Norman was off getting some much-needed mental health attention. It was a beautiful thing to see their love blossom and grow (Christ, that sounds sappy...but that scene at the Winter Carnival when they first realized that they had real chemistry was magical!) and when Norma died, Romero’s grief and fury was palpable. His vow of revenge upon Norman wasn’t consummated, and we had to say goodbye to Alex tonight. But damn, that final scene with him and Norman was intense!

Other characters not from the movie were Norman’s brother Dylan (Max Thieriot) and Norman’s friend Emma (Olivia Cooke). Dylan and Emma end up together and their story arc was rich and interesting. I feared for Dylan tonight but the ending to the brothers’ story was fitting. Dylan did his best to help Norman and I believe he truly loved him. His face when he walked into the dining room and saw Norma...what a perfect reaction of horror and sorrow and some major nausea! I think it broke Dylan’s heart to do what he had to do but there really was no other way, was there?

I don’t mean to rehash the entire episode but those were some salient moments for me. The entire series was inventive and intelligent, fleshing out the story of Norman and his mother, providing so many interesting subplots that all came together perfectly in tonight’s finale. I really wasn’t sure they could pull it off, but they did, and in a very satisfying way. Would I have liked to see at least a couple more seasons with these characters? Of course! But you can’t always get what you want, and in this case, I think it was the right decision. The story played out in a perfect way, giving us so much backstory in the previous seasons, and then things really coming to a crisis point in the last few episodes of this season. We were rushing to the inevitable end, and it was the right time to finish the series.

Obviously, they won’t read this, but I want to put this out there: thank you to the entire cast and crew for a job well done. I was skeptical of a show premised on my favorite movie, but you allayed my fears. It was brilliant.

Farewell, Norman. Forever in my heart.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Love’s all that matters

We equal m c squared
Einstein drank his wine in pairs
We equal m c squared
Beyond mathematics there is love in the air

~~ “Relativity” by Grafton Primary

We had a really fun weekend! Ken got a new lawnmower (that’s a big deal ‘round these parts!), we had brunch with Shane and Matt at Brew Werks and then saw the stage production of “Dirty Dancing” (fabulous!), but the highlight was the wedding of our friends Tom and Roger on Saturday.

It’s hard to explain why, but there was just so much joy in the air. The wedding was at a historic building in the area and everything was beautiful. We knew quite a few people there, I got to meet Tom’s godson in person (after doing Tom’s podcast with him), and we got to meet new people, including the guy who conducted the ceremony. The dinner was wonderful, we got to take some fun and goofy pictures, and we got to dance a little bit. Everyone was feeling great and everyone was so happy for Tom and Roger! There was just an air of festivity and celebration and it makes me smile just to think back on it!

As I watched the ceremony (which included lyrics from Prince and “The Princess Bride”), as we all congratulated the happy couple, as friends and family toasted them, as we all broke bread, drank champagne, danced, and talked, one thought stayed prominent in my mind:

Who would ever take away this happiness?

Who, because of whatever religious tropes they are clinging to, or because of whatever personal issues they have, would deny this happiness to these two people who were so obviously in love?

Who would do that?

Apparently, there were one or two people who had some issues with this marriage. I won’t name any names. But we all know people like them, don’t we?  They just can’t accept anything outside their own narrow purview.

From my perspective, all I saw was a dear friend and his beau declaring their love for and commitment to each other.

I will fight for their right to do that forever.

I’ve seen the usual arguments about how marriage is about having children. Stupid argument. Millions of people get married and choose not to have children. [raising hand] That doesn’t make a marriage invalid. Besides, ADOPTION. Duh. Or there is “the Bible says” argument. It really doesn’t, but even if it did, who gives a flying fuck? Despite what some might say, we do not base our laws on the Bible. We base our laws on the Constitution of the Goddamn United States of America. In your face!

I suppose there are other arguments, but yeah, they’re all stupid. You know what isn’t stupid? Love. Love isn’t stupid.

And when people love each other, when two consenting adults want to enter into a committed, legal relationship, they have that right under the Constitution.

It was my great pleasure and honor to see the Constitution in action Saturday night and to see love win. Tom and Roger’s program included this paragraph from Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the majority opinion in the Obergefell v Hodges case, which guaranteed the right of marriage to all citizens, and it is worth quoting it here:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

It damn well does and if you try to take that away, you are going to have a fight on your hands. I guarantee.