Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries." (Julius Caesar; Act 4, Scene 3).

Page 3 of 80

Trump Is Elected & World Shudders

I’ll begin this analysis of the election that is unfolding tonight, November 8th, at 2 a.m. CDT with a quote from my own book, “Obama’s Odyssey” (Vol. I,” which is all about the 2008 election:

FROM 2008:

“If you’ve read my analysis of why and how Hillary might lose (in Iowa), predictions I made before she DID lose in Iowa, you know that I referenced her “lackluster” speeches, her failure to take many questions, her aloof demeanor at times, her screechy voice, her lack of charisma and her plasticity on the stump. As James Stockdale (VP candidate with Ross Perot in 1992) once was put down by his opponent when he referenced JFK (and I paraphrase roughly to fit this candidate): ‘I knew Bill Clinton, Madam, and you’re no Bill Clinton.’…Let’s not forget how inaccurate the polls were in Iowa (in ’08) reporting Hillary Clinton leading at almost all junctures, only to see her finish third.
During the live debate with Charles Gibson moderating and Facebook users weighing in, the issue of likeability was raised with Hilary, as Gibson came right out and said, “They seem to like Barack Obama more.” It was Hillary’s best—and possibly only—good moment in that debate, as she said, ‘Well, that hurts my feelings, but I’m going to go on.’ Hillary has modified her appearances in New Hampshire to take questions from the audience more. I’d like to think my blog articles influenced that, but I’m too rational to take credit for what a lot of people pointed out: her plasticity, her prepared stump speech, the stiffing of the fourth-grade reporter by daughter Chelsea. To this viewer, Hillary looked, to use a colloquialism of my mother’s, ‘Mad enough to spit’ at several junctures. She took shots at Edwards. She took shots at Obama. She seemed irritable, out-of-sorts and semi-desperate in trying to make her points.”

Other blog entries from my book about the 2008 election included blog entries with titles like: “Can Hillary Cry Her Way to the White House?” and “Hillary Clinton (aka Miss Frigidaire) Losing Popularity Contest (What Are You Gonna’ Do When the Most Popular Kid in the Class Takes You On?”)

When I wrote those words back in 2008, that most popular kid was Barack Obama. Perhaps that “most popular kid” in 2016 is reality TV star Donald J. Trump.

Mike Pence has said “this is a historic night” in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s conceding the election to Donald Trump tonight—(too early, as far as I’m concerned with the election so close)— and he is right about that.

We have learned that the following events will bring down a political dynasty:
1) The FBI Director releasing statement mere days before a presidential election and then half-heartedly taking it back 2 days before the election. (You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, Folks, and this just proves it.)

2) Third party candidates who have no chance of winning siphoning off votes (Johnson/Stein), much like in 1992 with Ross Perot. Every vote that might have put HRC over the finish line that was given, instead, to Johnson or Stein or withheld because the nominee was not Bernie is responsible for this razor-thin loss.

3) Uninformed voters who are constantly barraged with negatives about one of the candidates (Hillary) for a period of literally decades. True charges? Not usually, but nevermind about that. Certainly neither candidate was a great one, but we have selected the one that knew nothing about governing anything and declared bankruptcy about 5 times and never paid any federal taxes, so good luck with him, then.

4) Blacks and millennials failing to rise to the occasion and support Hillary Rodham Clinton with the same enthusiasm they had demonstrated for Barack Obama in ’08 and ‘12.

5) Bernie’s loyal supporters who wouldn’t make the switch, no matter what.

6) The inherent difficulties of any party winning 3 consecutive terms.

7) Gender. Not only do women not receive equal treatment, other women don’t support them, either, so, sadly, our first woman nominee was beaten by THIS guy.

8) The inherent unlikeability of Hillary Rodham Clinton, which I wrote about extensively in 2008. It was recently reinforced by my visit to the rural Heartland, but I chose to ignore those tremors.

9) The Hispanic vote being taken for granted. The Hispanic vote did turn out, but it turned out selectively, trying to get rid of Sheriff Joe in Arizona, etc.

10) The media not doing a good job of coverage, but, instead, supporting a candidate who was a reality TV star. They knew him from his TV show, so he must be good, right?

11) The Rust Belt dissatisfaction with their jobs being sent overseas, which Donald Trump must now deliver on. Good luck with that, when some of the jobs have not been sent overseas but have given way to computerization. (Soon, no more truck drivers with driverless trucks).

12) Charisma, even if it is of the most obnoxious kind, was more a Trump characteristic than a Clinton characteristic. It may not be the kind of charisma that I admire, but it was apparently the kind of charisma that the electoral college voted for tonight.
Good luck to all of us as our economic indices fall faster than a speeding bullet.

I should have listened to my people in Independence, Iowa, where I recently visited, who were bound and determined that Hillary Clinton NOT be allowed to become our first woman president and that her philandering husband not be allowed near the Oval Office again.

Sad day for competent leadership.

If you know where I can purchase another keyring that counts down the years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds of the orange person’s term until he is through with this hopefully one-time term, please drop me a line, as that key-ring kept me sane through “W’s” years at the helm of the United States, ruining our economy and getting us into war.

Election Predictions for Presidential Race of 2016 on Nov. 8th, 3 a.m.

Donald Trump, Republican Presidential candidate..

Donald Trump, Republican Presidential candidate..

Hillary is ahead roughly 44% to 40% on the eve of the 2016 election (Nov. 7, 2016). It also looks like Democrats have a very good chance of taking back the Senate, with only 2 votes in dispute and 50 that look like they’ll go Democratic (48 were in the Republican column with 2 in dispute as of this writing).
Congress is not as good a bet.
It seems now would be a good time to make a prediction about the presidential race. I’m not alone in thinking that Hillary Rodham Clinton will win. It was unfortunate in the extreme that FBI director James Comey, 9 days before the election, made some vague allusions to additional e-mails.
Then, just 2 days before the election, Comey tried to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Pulling a stunt like that is tantamount to your pregnant girlfriend announcing at the wedding reception, “Turns out I’m not pregnant after all.” Comey was also involved in the Whitewater Investigation, parts of Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings and has a long history of “investigating HRC.
So, we won’t know how much worse Trump’s defeat could and would have been without the assistance of Comey and Putin and the WikiLeaks hackers, but I still think she has a good shot at beating him silly, with over 300 electoral college votes, for sure.
Counties to watch, early on are:
1) Duval County in Florida, where Jacksonville is located. This county had 74,000 votes in ’08 and ’12.
2) Hillsborough County in Florida, where Tampa is located. There were 543,000 votes there in 2012 but there are more Hispanics registered this year than ever before.
3) Miami-Dade County. I got an urgent e-mail asking for money from Little Marco saying that the early voting by Hispanics was outpacing the Republicans. 541,000 Democratic votes were cast in 2012. Nevertheless, most analysts think Marco Rubio will hang on, which is unfortunate, since he doesn’t believe in global warming.
4) North Carolina: New Hanover County was lost by 92,000 votes in 2012. There are more Independent voters in Wilmington and New Henry Counties than there are registered Democrats or Republicans and this county will signal how Independents are breaking. Obama lost by 1.5% in 2008 and 4.5% in 2012.
Wade County is the state’s most populous county and Independents are up by 50,000 (24$) since 2012. Obama won by 56,000 (11 points) and, in Watauga, Obama won by 4% in 2008 and in 2012 he slipped 13% and lost by 3 percentage points.
5) Ohio: Belmont County is a county that Obama won in 2008, but lost in 2012. 90% of Belmont County is white, but NOT college educated, but working class whites. Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located, has many black voters. Obama won by 225,000 and 220,000 in his 2 runs, a 6% win.
6) Pennsylvania: Chester County (Philadelphia) has white, college-educated voters that gave Obama a 6 to 1 victory. Pennsylvania (Scranton) is also current Vice President Joe Biden’s hometown.

Last time there was a national election it was all wrapped up by 11 p.m. when Ohio went for Obama. Will it be as decisive (and early) this time?

My favorite predicting group (Moody’s Analytics) did not use polls to predict at all, but used different statistical indexes including:
1) The standing of the incumbent President, which should be favorable to Hillary since Obama’s are the highest since Reagan.

2) Gas prices. In my area, a gallon of gas goes for $2.05 right now and when we were in Texas you could purchase a gallon of gas for $1.44. In Des Moines at Sam’s Club yesterday it was $1.89. This bodes well for HRC, just as high gas prices were bad news for Carter in his re-election run.

3) Housing starts: How is the housing market doing? It seems to be on the upswing in Chicago and Austin with cranes everywhere, something that has been missing from the Chicago skyline since 2007/2008. Advantage Clinton.

4) Household income: it’s up slightly. In Illinois, federal employees are going to be paid $13 an hour, minimum. My friend in Des Moines said it was $10 per hour for ordinary jobs like Starbucks barrista. In Illinois the plan is to raise the minimum wage for everyone to $13 soon.

5) Unemployment measures: unemployment is under 5% whereas it had been above 7% back in the day.

All of the above support my contention (and nearly everyone else’s) that Hillary Rodham Clinton will become the first female President of the United States, God willing and the river don’t rise.

2016 Presidential Race Predictions on Nov. 8th, 2016

Donald Trump, Republican Presidential candidate..

Donald Trump, Republican Presidential candidate..

Hillary is ahead roughly 44% to 40% on the eve of the 2016 election (Nov. 7, 2016). It also looks like Democrats have a very good chance of taking back the Senate, with only 2 votes in dispute and 50 that look like they’ll go Democratic (48 were in the Republican column with 2 in dispute as of this writing).
Congress is not as good a bet.
It seems now would be a good time to make a prediction about the presidential race. I’m not alone in thinking that Hillary Rodham Clinton will win. It was unfortunate in the extreme that FBI director James Comey, 9 days before the election, made some vague allusions to additional e-mails.
Then, just 2 days before the election, Comey tried to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Pulling a stunt like that is tantamount to your pregnant girlfriend announcing at the wedding reception, “Turns out I’m not pregnant after all.” Comey was also involved in the Whitewater Investigation, parts of Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings and has a long history of “investigating HRC.
So, we won’t know how much worse Trump’s defeat could and would have been without the assistance of Comey and Putin and the WikiLeaks hackers, but I still think she has a good shot at beating him silly, with over 300 electoral college votes, for sure.
Counties to watch, early on are:
1) Duval County in Florida, where Jacksonville is located. This county had 74,000 votes in ’08 and ’12.
2) Hillsborough County in Florida, where Tampa is located. There were 543,000 votes there in 2012 but there are more Hispanics registered this year than ever before.
3) Miami-Dade County. I got an urgent e-mail asking for money from Little Marco saying that the early voting by Hispanics was outpacing the Republicans. 541,000 Democratic votes were cast in 2012. Nevertheless, most analysts think Marco Rubio will hang on, which is unfortunate, since he doesn’t believe in global warming.
4) North Carolina: New Hanover County was lost by 92,000 votes in 2012. There are more Independent voters in Wilmington and New Henry Counties than there are registered Democrats or Republicans and this county will signal how Independents are breaking. Obama lost by 1.5% in 2008 and 4.5% in 2012.
Wade County is the state’s most populous county and Independents are up by 50,000 (24$) since 2012. Obama won by 56,000 (11 points) and, in Watauga, Obama won by 4% in 2008 and in 2012 he slipped 13% and lost by 3 percentage points.
5) Ohio: Belmont County is a county that Obama won in 2008, but lost in 2012. 90% of Belmont County is white, but NOT college educated, but working class whites. Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located, has many black voters. Obama won by 225,000 and 220,000 in his 2 runs, a 6% win.
6) Pennsylvania: Chester County (Philadelphia) has white, college-educated voters that gave Obama a 6 to 1 victory. Pennsylvania (Scranton) is also current Vice President Joe Biden’s hometown.

Last time there was a national election it was all wrapped up by 11 p.m. when Ohio went for Obama. Will it be as decisive (and early) this time?

My favorite predicting group (Moody’s Analytics) did not use polls to predict at all, but used different statistical indexes including:
1) The standing of the incumbent President, which should be favorable to Hillary since Obama’s are the highest since Reagan.

2) Gas prices. In my area, a gallon of gas goes for $2.05 right now and when we were in Texas you could purchase a gallon of gas for $1.44. In Des Moines at Sam’s Club yesterday it was $1.89. This bodes well for HRC, just as high gas prices were bad news for Carter in his re-election run.

3) Housing starts: How is the housing market doing? It seems to be on the upswing in Chicago and Austin with cranes everywhere, something that has been missing from the Chicago skyline since 2007/2008. Advantage Clinton.

4) Household income: it’s up slightly. In Illinois, federal employees are going to be paid $13 an hour, minimum. My friend in Des Moines said it was $10 per hour for ordinary jobs like Starbucks barrista. In Illinois the plan is to raise the minimum wage for everyone to $13 soon.

5) Unemployment measures: unemployment is under 5% whereas it had been above 7% back in the day.

All of the above support my contention (and nearly everyone else’s) that Hillary Rodham Clinton will become the first female President of the United States, God willing and the river don’t rise.

Mel Gibson Tells the Story of Desmond Doss in “Hacksaw Ridge”

Mel Gibson’s first directorial effort in 10 years (since 2006’s “Apocalypto”) is “Hacksaw Ridge,” the true story of conscientious objector Desmond T. Doss, a 7th Day Adventist who served as a medic in WWII in Okinawa and elsewhere in the Pacific Theater. As Gibson said, “He was an ordinary man doing extraordinary things under the most difficult of circumstances.”

Gibson went on to explain that, in one 12-hour period, Doss saved 75 men and subsequently was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by then-President Harry S. Truman. Some say Oscar may come calling. I’m not one of them, but all things are possible in this era of Marvel Comic book movies and Andrew Garfield does the role justice.

I was reminded of Mel Gibson’s arrival on the scene starring in “Gallipoli” in 1981, when only 25 years old. Of that film, a war movie in which he starred as Irish-Australian soldier Frank Dunne, Mel said, “It’s not really a war movie. That’s just the backdrop. It’s really the story of two young men.” (*Note: Mel cast his 6th child, son Milo, age 26, as Lucky Ford in the soldiers-in-the-barracks scenes.) We could say the same thing of “Hacksaw Ridge” and call it a film about faith or a movie about true love, but the battle scenes are what you’ll remember. (I can’t think of another film where 9 people were listed as “flame and fire technicians;” there is also a credit for a “flame compositor.”)

In November of this year film critic Matt Zoller Seltz described Gibson, who won an Oscar as Best Director for “Braveheart” in 1995 (a film in which he also starred) as “the pre-eminent religious filmmaker in the U.S.”

This film certainly falls into the religious category, as Andrew Garfield re-enacts the heroism of Seventh Day Adventist Conscientious Objector Desmond Doss, who, as Gibson described Doss’ character “honed his spirituality while he was in hell. He never lost his equilibrium. He stayed true to himself.” Doss was the first Conscientious Objector to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Harry S Truman and one of the best things about the movie is the opportunity to see and hear the real Desmond T. Doss speaking to us at the end of the film. (He died at 87 in March of 2006.) We also hear from one of the men he saved, the real Captain Jack Glover, in archival footage. (Doss’ humility is a refreshing change in the closing days of Donald Trump’s presidential run).

I learned from Gibson’s Oscar-winning effort in directing “Braveheart” or his 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ” that you need a strong stomach to sit through Gibson’s cinematic vision(s). Often, his films involve non-stop violence. It would be good to remember that fact when selecting a movie for the weekend (the film opened wide on November 4th.)

From the first shot of soldiers on fire, there are numerous lengthy scenes of hand-to-hand bayoneting, one memorable scene of decapitation, lots and lots of fire (and rats….Mel likes fire and rats), grenades blowing people up and more gory mayhem.

The violence and depiction of bodies blown up or set on fire or decomposing/bleeding/blown apart are some of the lengthiest and goriest battle scenes this side of “Saving Private Ryan’s” D-Day invasion. Michael Phillips of the Chicago “Tribune” said something to the effect that it might be the goriest religious movie ever made. But, then again, we’ve got “The Passion of the Christ,” and it’s rumored Gibson may direct a sequel to that savage cinematic gem (the highest-grossing “R-rated” film made.)

Most critics compared “Hacksaw Ridge” to “Saving Private Ryan” with its D-Day Normandy Beach re-enactment. Some mention the more recent “American Sniper,” Clint Eastwood’s 2014 film with Bradley Cooper. No one brought up “The Hurt Locker” or the two I kept being reminded of, which were Clint Eastwood’s 2006 films “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima,” films shot from both points-of-view: Japanese and American.

Perhaps I felt that way because Okinawa seemed much more like the Iwo Jima of Eastwood’s 2006 films. There is a jarring shot, underground, of a Japanese soldier (Hoshi Kosuga) who, defeat imminent, has hanged himself. Desmond stumbles onto the corpse without warning. It’s like the scary moment in a horror movie in its unexpectedness: the hand reaching up from the grave in “Carrie;” the quick flashes of horrific visions in films like “The Conjuring” (or this coming December’s “The Autopsy of Jane Doe.”) Viewers are also treated to shots of two Japanese officers, deep underground in tunnels, committing Japanese ritual seppuku (suicide by disembowelment) as impending defeat looms.

So, don’t say I didn’t warn you, if you are faint of heart (or stomach).

The film intercuts the lengthy scenes of soldiers bayoneting one another (and setting fire to one another—don’t forget the fire) with family background of young Doss as he grows up (young Desmond is played by Darcy Bryce) with young brother Hal (Roman Guerriero) and an alcoholic, abusive father (Hugo Weaving of “The Matrix”) who has PTSD following his service in WWI at Belleau, France. Doss, Sr., occasionally physically goes after Desmond’s mother (played by Rachel Griffiths, the nymphomaniac from television’s “Six Feet Under”) in his alcoholic rages.

In an almost-too-chaste-to-be-true romance, Desmond meets and falls in love with Dorothy Schulte, the woman he will marry (played by Teresa Palmer) when he accompanies a young accident victim to the hospital where she is a nurse. Thanks to Desmond’s good instincts in applying a tourniquet to the severed artery in the boy’s leg, the young accident victim survives and Desmond’s lifelong interest in medicine is born. He decides he will volunteer to be a medic, but he will not bear arms. As Desmond says, “While everybody else is taking life, I’m going to be saving it.”

Only an actor as good as Andrew Garfield could make this part believable. In less certain hands, it could have been mawkish, overly sentimental or just plain bad. Corny is the word that comes to mind. But Andrew Garfield is a fine young actor and, as one of the film’s producers, Bill Mechanic, said, “Some people have said that this film does what films used to do—tells a story and lets people see it the way they see it.”

Some of the lead-up to the intensely violent battle scenes seems overly saccharine.
The romance with Dorothy Schulte (Teresa Palmer) falls into that category. It’s very old-fashioned. Also, the training scenes are not very fresh with tough-talking drill sergeant Vince Vaughn cast as Sergeant Howell. At one point, during rigorous training, Vaughn has to utter the line, “We’re not in Kansas any more, Dorothy.” Blame the screenwriters (Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight.)

The cast of disparate fellow soldiers took me back to “the old days” of war movies with character actors like Aldo Ray who played these parts, over and over, in war movie after war movie. There’s one of every ethnicity; someone for everybody. Now ninety-year-old comedian Don Rickles even received praise back in the day (starring alongside Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Carroll O’Connor and Donald Sutherland) for his 1970 screen appearance as a character named Crapgame in “Kelly’s Heroes,” another war movie peopled by old-fashioned stereotypical cardboard cutout soldiers. But screenwriters Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight get the blame (or credit) for the sometimes sappy dialogue, most of which is assigned to Vince Vaughn. (I kept remembering Vaughn as “Fred Claus,” Santa’s bitter older brother, in that 2007 movie, so I was prepared to laugh at almost any dialogue assigned Vaughn, without blaming him for the misfortune to be known as much for silly comedies as for serious roles.)

VERDICT

If you can take the nearly unremitting violence, Andrew Garfield’s performance is worth the price of admission. Shooting on a budget of only $40 million, (one-half of the budget for “Braveheart”) in Australia, and over only 59 days, Gibson has told the story of a real war hero. As Gibson described Doss’s exploits, apparently the director didn’t even use a scene that was true-to-life but judged to be just too much heroism for one real-life man.

Doss, who is being carried off on a stretcher with a wound, kept getting off the stretcher to rescue others nearby. Gibson did a good job of making war seem like Hell on Earth and, as he said, he had to do it on a budget because, “If you’re not wearing spandex today, you don’t get a big budget.”

Sadly, in the Marvel world, too true. (Who cares about a real war hero when we have Captain America?)

Adventures from the New Computer Age

Well, because of the idea that installing a Windows 10 would be an “improvement,” I’ve been without ANY Internet service in Chicago since October 28th. A technician came out on a Saturday, but he needed access to a closet that is kept locked and can only be accessed by the building manager. (We have a building manager, but only Monday through Friday).

I was able to get a board member of the building to let us in, but more bad news awaited us in that he needed to “put a ticket in” to AT&T to do some sort of “upgrade” and, long story longer, he is coming back on November 14th to (hopefully) put an end to my computer woes at the condo and exponentially increase the speed of my new computer while reducing my bill by half. (I’ll believe THAT when it happens.) When he left, he didn’t make it clear that he had left me high and dry with no Internet AT ALL, so I was pretty much up a creek without a paddle unless I wanted to find a Starbucks. Since I was waiting on Deborah Riley Draper (director of “Olympic Pride, American Prejudice”) to respond to my questions, I decided to wait until returning to East Moline, 3 and 1/2 hours away, to continue with movie reviews.

We were hanging around in Chicago during the World Series hysteria. (In fact, my son drove all the way to Cleveland from Pittsburgh and was present at the 7th game last night; ticket price $998; and my husband and son bought rooftop seats at Wrigley for Game #4 for $1008 apiece.) The priorities quickly shifted from movies to baseball and I’m not sure if we are driving back to Chicago now for the homecoming or what. (Keep in mind, Chicago has waited for over 100 years for this!)

I am now using my desktop (Windows 7) in the basement, since it is not involved in the upgrade (yet) or the slow speed I had always blamed on my Vista computer when it seems it may have been the fault of the building’s Internet provider not being as fast as possible. While I have a laptop, it was affected by the same issues in Chicago and it is a Windows 10, which I am still learning how to fully operate.

No, I do not currently like it, but that’s par for the course for me and new technology, which is ironic when you consider that I owned and operated a Prometric Testing Center (computers) from 1995 to 2003 (along with Sylvan Learning Center #3301 in Bettendorf, Iowa).

I just got home and working on “Olympic Pride, American Prejudice,” which is now up. It opens in December on HBO. I asked Deborah Riley Draper (its director) if it was “okay” to run with a review now and she was more than positive on that idea, but she also has not sent back her responses to my 10 questions and my last words to her were: “I’ll wait to hear from you to write up the film.”

I’ve now given up on “waiting” for her, so I can get on the review, and I’ll do “Heartstone: from the film festival, as well, and I may write something on “Hacksaw Ridge.”

So, it’s been All Baseball, All the Time here. The son and heir got roughly 3 hours of sleep after deciding on the spur of the moment to drive from Pittsburgh to Cleveland for the game, with no ticket to get in. He then flew back home to Austin today and just called us from St. Louis.

Meanwhile, we will be flying to Austin on Nov. 15 to close on a house there that started being built for us in July. (No, we’re not selling the other 2).

“Arrival” Arrives at 52nd Annual Chicago Film Festival on October 27, 2016

Director Denis Villeneuve (“Sicario”) was in Budapest filming a remake of “Blade Runner” with Ryan Gosling, so no Red Carpet action for the closing film of the 52nd International Chicago Film Festival.

Amy Adams plays a linguist named Louise Banks who is drafted by the military to figure out how to communicate with aliens who land in 12 locations around the globe. Forest Whittaker has a small part as the reasonable representative of the military who fetches Adams for duty The reason for the appearance of these extra-terrestrial beings is a mystery to all, but figuring out how to speak to them would certainly help solve the question, “What do they want? Why are they here?”

Jeremy Renner co-stars as a theoretical physicist also assigned to the case. You just know that, at some point, there will be a romance between the two, but let’s not go there just yet. Let’s take a stroll down Memory Lane and examine other movies about extra-terrestrial visits. The most noteworthy, of course, would be “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977) which holds its own against this film. “Close Encounters” is, after all, the Gold Standard. I also thought of Jodie Foster’s “Contact” and even such oddities as “The Man Who Fell to Earth” (David Bowie) and the primitive “The Day the Earth Stood Still” first released in the fifties and remade in 2008. All of these films have laid the groundwork for “Arrival”, so nothing wrong with examining “Arrival’s predecessors, even if it’s just a kids’ movie about an alien who wants to phone home. (“E.T.”).

The sounds the aliens make are very reminiscent of “Close Encounters” and the noises that whales make, coupled with moans, breathing noises (from Adams and Renner in their haz-mat suits), whooshing sounds and loud brass instruments. All of that sort of thing we’ve seen (or heard) before.

The alien ship itself resembles the Hindenburg, a black oval standing on end. It’s been described in other terms, but suffice it to say that, yes, it is creepy and effective as an alien spacecraft and the aliens are equally strange-looking.

What do they look like, you ask? They are heptapods, which means that they have 7 legs like a squid or an octopus. I jotted down the word “mollusks” and “starfish” at various points. There is so much dry ice fog in every shot that I almost got the feeling that the aliens were part of a rock band. (I haven’’t seen that much dry ice white fog since it totally blocked out Isaac Hayes playing the “Shaft” theme from that 2000 movie at the Academy Awards).

Early on, we learn that Amy Adams had a daughter she lost to an incurable disease
. Fortunately, the film doesn’t dwell on this plot point, but there are frequent flashbacks to Amy’s relationship with her daughter. I remember finding it odd that the father’s face was not shown, but I think I understand why now—if it’s the “right” interpretation. I thought of Sandra Bullock in “Gravity,” who has also just lost a child before going into space as an astronaut, so apparently it’s a pre-requisite for women undertaking dangerous missions in space that they be emotionally fragile following the death of a child.

I will say that this film seems like it should give way to a separate film that focuses exclusively on Amy Adams’ character, as she seems to have the ability to “see” the future. It was surprising, to me, that so little interest was shown in her unique abilities as the film winds down. Odd, that. She asks a poignant question of Jeremy Renner near film’s end, “If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?” Prior to that, she says, “Despite knowing the journey and where it leads, I embrace it and I welcome every moment of it.”

Some other plot points that might help you figure out one probable interpretation of the plot, (hopefully without actually giving it away), are these lines: “Memory is a strange thing. It doesn’t work like I thought it did. We are so bound by time, by its order. I remember moments in the middle…There are days that define your story beyond your understanding.”

I’ve described both the alien spaceship and the aliens themselves and anyone who has seen a sci fi movie since the fifties will know that there is always some government stooge who immediately wants to blast the aliens. In this movie that role is played by Michael Stuhlbarg as Agent Halpen. The experts can’t figure out why the 12 ships have landed in the selected locations (in the U.S., it’s Montana) At one point, they throw out the theory that all of the countries where the 12 alien ships have made an appearance were countries where Sheena Easton had a hit in the eighties. (Pretty sure that was a joke, Son.)

One other important plot point that viewers planning on attending this movie should know is that the aliens have a very fluid concept of time. This seems to be a characteristic they share with the writers. At one point the idea is thrown out that, if you learn a foreign language, you might think in a different way due to being immersed in the language…a sort of “brain training.” The line “You can see time the way they do” is thrown out at one point, and it certainly does seem that Louise has some major-league “gifts” that we normal folk don’t have, when it comes to seeing what the future may hold.

The movie is based on the short story “The Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, with a screenplay by Eric Heisserer. I have a feeling that some of the movie-going public are going to go away very confused by the film and the way in which the plot jumps around in time.

The rest of you—real movie buffs—are going to enjoy discussing this film at length in the same way that serious movie buffs enjoyed discussing the meaning(s) hidden in “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Twelve Monkeys.”

“Olympic Pride, American Prejudice” Screens at Chicago Film Festival

This film from Director Deborah Riley Draper examined the 28 athletes who traveled to Berlin in 1936 for the Olympic games held when Hitler was in power. Everyone remembers the name Jesse Owens from those games. But there were 17 other African American or Jewish athletes who participated as part of the U.S. team of 400 who remain largely forgotten, and this film tells their story.

THE GOOD

Over four years of time, newsreel footage was assembled of all the participants, including spending much time in Berlin and Cologne. German families who had attended the Olympics contributed family photos. Director Draper told the crowd at the Chicago screening, “It came to life for me here. It was very special. It was a confirmation of stories we had been told. They were powerful and extraordinary and beautiful.”

Even more interesting was Draper’s acknowledgement that she was originally working on a story of a woman from the South who had been imprisoned in a Nazi prison. But, as she said, “These athletes competed 30 years before Wilma Randolph. The irony and paradox of that was intriguing. It was astonishing to know that these women had been part of the 400-member Olympic team.” Draper hinted that the story of that female prisoner in Germany might still get her day on film in the future.

Asked if there were other black athletes participating, Draper mentioned those from Haiti, Brazil and Egypt, but reinforced that Hitler wanted to use the Olympics as a propaganda machine to sell his theory of white racial superiority. Hitler was sorely set back in this goal when Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals and the black athletes, as a group, won half of the total U.S. medal count, including 8 gold medals. The African American contingent won all but 2 events in which they competed. In fact, Hitler stormed from the stadium after one such African American win and the Olympic committee had to tell him to either greet all winners or none. He chose the latter, but met with German winners privately in his box to congratulate them on their victories.

Draper’s film not only documents the lead-up to the games (some felt the U.S. should boycott the Olympics entirely, as the U.S. did in Russia under President Jimmy Carter), but there is a post that tells what happened to the athletes after the games, and it is nearly as heartbreaking as the stories of racial prejudice and religious injustice that are documented by the film.

The injustices were not just perpetrated on blacks. Two Jewish athletes who were supposed to run track and field (Glickman of Syracuse and Stoller of Michigan) were pulled from competition in order to use Caucasian runners at the last minute, prompting Jewish contestant Marty Glickman to confront the coach and ask, “Is it because I’m Jewish that I wasn’t allowed to run?”

The same pulling at the last minute technique occurred with Louise Stokes, who was replaced at the last moment and never got to run another race because of racial politics, while the women’s 80-meter-hurdles contestant, Tydee Pickett of Chicago, broke her foot when the hurdle in German didn’t “give’ as they had in the U.S.

One of the worst cases of the unfairness of Hitler’s regime was the story of Greta Bergmann, a German national who fled to England and was slated to compete for the British team when Hitler sent word that she needed to return to Germany and compete for the Motherland. Bergmann returned, but was refused the right to participate and, to add insult to injury, had all her records expunged. Bergmann, who was still alive, described the ordeal as “a terrible time.”

Two boxers who traveled the 10 days across the ocean on the S.S. Manhattan to compete, Joe Church and Howell King, were sent home with weak excuses that they were “homesick.” Howell King was even told he would have to box against the man he had already beaten once (Rutecke), which he did, beating him again on board the boat.

The black athletes were frequently chased from the movies shown aboard ship, were not able to train, in some cases (notably, Tydee Picket) were seasick and the ship had to stop in England to take on more food during the 10-day voyage. The Olympic Black Gang, as they were known, or the Black Eagles as the boxers were called, were, however, treated extremely well by the Germans, who wanted to dispel rumors of Nazi persecution of minorities. The Nazis orchestrated every aspect of the games, staged them, choreographed them, for propaganda purposes, with Lennie Riefenstahl (“Triumph of the Will”) documenting it all on film for the Third Reich after convincing Hitler that the films would prove the Aryan race was superior.

There were 100,000 spectators in the stadium with the (doomed) Hindenberg shown hovering overhead, and 49 nations competing. As the U.S. athletes entered the stadium to the strains of “The Star-Spangled Banner” German authorities orchestrated it in such a manner that the German team then entered and 5,000 German voices sang the Hallelujah chorus and “Deutschland Uber Alles” while hordes of pigeons were released, drowning out the United States national anthem, which ceased being played. Werner Viehs, a spectator who was aged 10 at the time. remembered the spectacle. All agreed that some of the pigeons left their mark on the U.S. team before they departed the stadium.


Mack Robinson, older brother of Jackie Robinson, was one of the competitors, winning a silver medal.
He could only get a job sweeping streets after his return and wore his Olympic jacket at night to stay warm. Jesse Owens was penalized for not touring other European countries to help raise money for the Olympic Committee. He was banned, stripped of his amateur status and ended up having to race against racehorses to make money upon his return to the U.S. As Draper put it, “The country turned its back on him.” It was a far cry from the German frauleins who stood at the dock in Germany waiting for the World Record Holder to disembark, many holding scissors so they could snip parts of his clothing off as a souvenir.

Athletes who competed were Dave Albritton (high jump), John Brooks, James Clark (boxing). “Cornelius Johnson (high jump), Willis Johnson (heavyweight boxer), Howell King (boxing), Dr. James LuValle, Ralph Metcalfe (track), Art Oliver, Jesse Owens (track), Fritz Pollard Jr., Mack Robinson (track and field), John Terry, Archie Williams, Jack Wilson (bantamweight), John Woodruff, and the 2 African American women, Tydee Pickett and Louise Stokes, both track standouts with Tydee a hurdler. Nearly all are dead, although we heard the voice of competitor Dr. James LuVelle, who went on to earn a Phd from UCLA and went on to become one of the Tuskegee airmen. Narrating the film was Blair Underwood, who executive produced with Deborah and Michael Draper.

Throughout the film we hear commentary from famous folk like Isaiah Thomas, Carl Lewis and Andrew Young who confirm the message that filmmaker Draper conveyed to the crowd: “These 18 are the ones who paved the way for those of us who are here today.” The jump from 1936 to the black salute of 1968 to Jackie Robinson playing major league baseball 10 years later would not have happened at all or as quickly without these trailblazers who proved their mettle at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

Draper’s film not only documents the lead-up to the games (some felt the U.S. should boycott the Olympics entirely, as the U.S. did in Russia under President Jimmy Carter), but there is a post that tells what happened to the athletes after the games, and it is nearly as heartbreaking as the stories of racial prejudice and religious injustice that are documented by the film.

As the film underscored, “This was an incredibly important moment in human history,” not just in sports history, but also because of the principle of racial justice and equality that started the slow climb upwards at this much-heralded event. As an Iowa graduate, I noticed one athlete wearing an “Iowa” shirt in the still photographs that are part of a collage effect, and I’m going to have to do some research to determine which one of the 18 names above was given a chance at my Midwestern alma mater.

The film will air on HBO in December.

“You’re Killing Me, Susana!” with Q&A from Director at Chicago Film Festival

The new Gael Garcia Bernal film, based on the Spanish novel “Deserted Cities” by Jose Agustin explores the changing nature of male-female relationships in Mexico and the world. This entire concept of the changing nature of female roles in the world has been a big topic in this year’s films, including “The Eagle Huntress” (from Mongolia) and documentaries “Girls Don’t Fly” and “The Swedish Theory of Love,” (in which we learn that the growing independence of women in Swedish society means that full 25% of Swedes now die alone.) Perhaps that is to be expected in a presidential election year in the United States in which a woman heads the top of a major party ticket for the first time.

“You’re Killing Me, Susana” played to a packed house, which I attribute to the star power presence of Gael Garcia Bernal, who broke out with “Y tu Mama Tambien” (2001) but is also known to U.S. audiences for “Babel” and television’s “Mozart in the Jungle.”

“You’re Killing Me, Susana” is charmingly hilarious, depicting a womanizing Mexican actor (Gael Garcia Bernal was a Mexican soap opera star in real life) named Eligio whose wife abandons him in the dead of night and strikes off for a writers’ conference in Iowa. Upon reading this plot point, I assumed the Writers’ Workshop would be the world-renowned Writers’ Workshop at my alma mater, the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, so I was interested in seeing how it was portrayed.

That assumption proved incorrect, as the scenes that represent Iowa were actually shot in Winnipeg, Canada and the college is the fictitious Middlebrook College, which looks nothing like the “real” Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa (nor the city of Iowa City).

The plot has Eligio walk off the soap opera set in the middle of filming (when a fellow actress protests, he says, “Tell them to kill me. It’s a soap.”) to chase his now missing wife to the United States, landing at Central Iowa International Airport, (which is non-existent, as well). Funny scenes ensue at the airport when he is rather vague about where he will be staying while in the U.S. and Customs steps in to perform a strip search.

When Eligio reaches Iowa, there are many amusing scenes of culture shock.
I remember this theme from as far back as 1979’s “Time After Time” when Jack the Ripper is transported into the present and must cope with modern life. The culture shock between coming from Mexico City and landing in whatever fictional city in Iowa this is supposed to be is no less vivid to Eligio. In fact, one of the funniest scenes involves him stiffing the cab driver for an $84 fare from the airport and hiding in piles of leaves on campus to avoid paying. Eligio seems to always be big on breaking petty rules, which makes him lovable but also exasperating.

Neither Eligio nor Susana can believe that nobody is out walking around on the streets of the (supposedly) Midwestern town, when he is from Mexico City, one of the most crowded cities in the world. Eligio is also upset to learn that Susana has been having a fling with a Polish poet, who stands at least a foot taller than Eligio. I admit that I also laughed out loud at the prospect of Eligio trying to drive a car to Chicago through a blizzard when Susana and the poet flee again. Eligio obviously knows nothing about driving in Midwestern winter weather and proves this.

Director Sneider, who now lives in the United States, when asked, after the film, about his reaction to seeing it in Chicago said, “When I saw it, I wanted to change it. I tend to think different things, even in editing.” He added, “I love the character of Eligio. He is deplorable in many ways, but very human. I also saw an exploration of how relationships between men and women are being re-imagined. (See first paragraph above) We think we are beyond machismo, but we’re not. I think it’s a lot about self discovery. Eligio feels fidelity is overrated—until he experiences infidelity. It’s definitely not funny then. We see the characters fighting themselves.”

Sneider added that much of the dialogue was improvised and that Gael Garcia Bernal (who is also a director) enjoys improvising, unlike some other actors. “It feels very raw, spontaneous and fresh (if you improvise). I felt this was important to get that feeling of freshness.”

Sneider commented on the jump cuts in the film, cutting through the scenes to pick the moments and improvising in front of the camera. “I think he does some very deep serious roles but I, personally, like to see his great sense of humor and how he gets to display that here.”

Sneider also remarked that “music was super important because the music softens the tone.”
He gave credit for much of the music to a San Antonio based group (StumpFhauser and Victor Hernandez) and said that the entire movie was shot with a hand-held camera. He mentioned the song “Uncertainties of the Heart.” We hear the lyric “He who loves a woman doesn’t know what he gains when he loses her. Another one comes along.”

When asked how much time is supposed to have passed between the time that Susana leaves and Eligio follows her, he said, “7 months and 3 days” with a laugh, leading me to believe he plucked the number from thin air. He added, “I wanted the ending to be a little like the end of ‘The Graduate.’ They each look at one another and say, ‘What now?’ I think the characters are both full of defects, but they’re still the same. I actually think with many couples you think, ‘Should we be in this position?’ There are some things in relationships that we can’t explain.”

When asked about the casting of Veronica Echegui opposite the male lead he admitted that he was “looking for chemistry between the leads” and that he found it in the lovely Veronica, who plays Susana, a strong-willed, beautiful woman who is also a great writer and wants to find her own fulfillment of her own talent.

Sneider said that Gael Garcia Bernal has done 3 adaptations of Mexican novels and that this novel (“Deserted Cities”) is “very much an exploration of what it means to be a Mexican man.” He commented, “In Mexico, he’s just a guy. Now, in the U.S., he’s a Mexican guy.”

American audiences (especially female audiences) will probably wonder why it took Susana so long to pack up and leave. She had plenty of provocation prior to her actual departure.

The ending, which is faithful to the book and involves Eligio spanking Susana, was also questionable, but adhered to the novelist’s vision. (Good luck with that approach with feminist audiences in the U.S.)

“Kaleidoscope”: Toby Jones Takes Us Into Anthony Perkins “Psycho” Territory with Psychological Thriller

Kaleidoscope is a taut, psychological thriller that explores the inescapability of a destructive relationship between a middle-aged man and his mother. At the heart of this modern-day “Psycho” are some unsettling questions: Can we ever escape the role in which we are cast by early circumstances? Is a perpetrator first a victim?

The film starred Toby Jones, the well-known actor who portrayed Truman Capote and, more recently, portrayed the mad scientist on television’s “Wayward Pines.” It is the first original feature film by Toby’s brother, writer-director Rupert Jones.

Rupert Jones has had success with shorts, pop promos, television and theater work, but, as he told the audience at the end of the film, he had presented brother Toby with 4 other feature film projects and this was the first time that he agreed to star in this psychological drama.

There are some very interesting camera angles throughout the film (staircases, apartment cubicles, etc.), which tells the story of a rehabilitated ex-convict, Carl Byrne (Toby Jones) who tries to return to the dating game while adjusting to life on the outside. A hopeful date night is shattered by the unwelcome appearance of his dreaded mother, whose mere presence sends Carl into a psychological tailspin with deadly consequences.

This twisted Hitchcockian tale of mother and son gleefully explores how just the right push can send anyone over the edge. Toby Jones’ co-star in the film as his mother, Anne Reid, is well-known in Britain for playing comic parts. Said Rupert, “She was very keen to sully that reputation.”

As for the sets, Rupert Jones said, “I knew it had to be a one-bedroom flat. I sort of had it specifically in my head. The ground floor was to be a place of seduction; the kitchen was the public space and then there was movement, light to dark.” Rupert Jones also shared another stylistic device: “I wanted to start a film with a dead body.”

A disgruntled audience member at the end of the film when the lights went up shouted out her question: “So can you tell me what happened in this film? Did he kill her or was it all in his head or what?”

Confusion reigned supreme for some of the audience members.

“The Oath” Is Top-Notch Thriller at 52nd Chicago International Film Festival

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vPNwJ4yab8

Genre: Thriller
Director: Baltasar Kormakur
110 minutes
Actors: Baltasar Kormakur (Finner), Hera Hilmer (Anna), and Gisli Orn Gardarsson (Ottar)

This film from Iceland (with English subtitles) was my favorite drama from the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival. Even without English subtitles on the trailer, you can tell it is thrilling. Directed by Baltasar Kormakur, who also directed the Hollywood films “Everest”, ‘Contraband” and “2 Guns,” this action-packed story of a successful heart surgeon battling to save his daughter from drug addiction and the influence of a sleazy drug dealer boyfriend was well-paced, well-written, shot and edited beautifully (cinematography by Ottar Gudnason) and shows why “Variety” pegged Kormakur as an up-and-comer.

I became aware of the wonderful films coming out of Iceland at a previous film festival while watching one about the explosion of crystal meth in the country; the title was something like “Black Ice,” although I cannot find any mention of it on IMDB. Born in Rekjavik (Iceland) Variety selected Baltasar Kormakur, (son of Baltasar Samper, a famous Icelandic artist) as one of the “10 Directors to Watch,” along with Alejandro González Iñárritu, Lukas Moodysson, Christopher Nolan and other newcomers.

Korrakur not only wrote, directed, and produced this film, he plays the lead role of a skilled heart surgeon (Finnur) who has a wife and two daughters.
Finnur is not unique in having to deal with the effect of a headstrong older daughter (Anna, played by Hera Hilmer) who is past the age of 18 and, therefore, can make decisions that are detrimental to her health and well-being, which Anna does repeatedly.

Finnur—who has so much success in the operating room saving people’s lives—thinks through several logical ways of getting Ottar (Gisli Orn Gardarsson), the bad boyfriend, out of Anna’s life forever. He tries the obvious: paying him off. He tries the less obvious (short of murder), and that is when things go south.

Even when Finnur seems to have been successful in removing the threat that Ottar posed to Anna, you wonder if he has lost his daughter forever
. The legal implications of the route Finnur ultimately chooses (or the route that chooses him) are left up-in-the-air, which gave the film a nice ambiguity of ending.

Kormakur has already acquired a compound in Iceland, since his interests are so far-ranging, running from theater to television to acting/writing/directing of film. He has also helmed at least 3 Hollywood movies with stars like Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington. He is quoted as saying that he can conceive of working outside of Iceland. Said Kormakur, “It doesn’t matter where my movies are set. Right now, I have a script that’s set in Canada and is in English. Just because I was born on the island [Iceland] doesn’t mean I want to spend the rest of my life telling stories for 300,000 people. It helps that I’m half-Spanish, because the market I can reach is much bigger.” He added of his homeland (Iceland): “The winters are too long, and there’s only one airline, so it’s difficult to escape when you feel frustrated or claustrophobic. The audience for our films isn’t very large, so it’s difficult to support an industry. But, Iceland is beautiful. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else.”

I was on the edge of my seat for this one, and I shall look for this director’s work in the future. Since he speaks Icelandic, English, Spanish and Danish and has already directed films starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg (among others), I am hoping for films that go beyond just the 300,000 person audience in Iceland. His work certainly deserves a wider audience.

The Oath was a winner from start to finish.

Page 3 of 80

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén