Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

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“One of These Days:” A Snapshot of Small-town Texas Life at Hands On Contest

 Bastion Gauthier (Writer/Director) takes the topic of an annual endurance contest (Hands On) in Texas to win a pickup truck and turns it into a small-town tragedy. The contest promises thrilling entertainment to spectators and the chance of a lifetime for the participants, but it ends in real tragedy.

The contest organizer, Joan Dempsey, well-played by Carrie Preston, will be remembered by fans of television’s “The Good Wife” for playing Elsabeth Tascioni, a slightly off-beat but brilliant attorney. Carrie played the part in 14 episodes from 2010 to 2016 and won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outtanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series in 2013. She was nominated again in 2016. Joan is organizing the competition for Boudreaux’s Auto and Truck Dealership and she is very believable as a small-town employee of that car dealership.

The central contestant role is played by Joe Cole as Kyle Parson. Kyle and his wife and infant child are struggling, financially, and, as the script says, “He really needed a win.”

The rest of the cast of competitors who show up to try to win the truck by outlasting the others is a motley crew, with 20 people who seem to fit the bill often described as “poor white trash,” one of whom declares that what they are doing “isn’t rocket surgery.”

THE GOOD

In addition to Carrie Preston, who is always good in her roles, the “bad guy,” Kevin, played by Jesse C. Boyd, becomes a central figure. There are a variety of types that we can recognize from small-town life, whether it is the completely self-absorbed ear-bud wearing guy beating rhythms to the song that only he can hear on the truck’s chassis or the Bible-quoting Fundamentalist who occasionally requests that they all number off. We get a pretty good idea of the twenty competitors still standing, during the 119 minute movie, and there are those we root for and those we’d like to see quit or be disqualified—perhaps just on the basis of general nastiness.

The film won a special mention at the Zurich Film Festival and was a nominee for awards in Nashville.

THE BAD

Three things really detracted from the film:

#1) Cinematographer Michael Kotschi felt it would be a good idea to have the camera action be jerky at times, shooting forward down streets without any real attempt to focus. We can’t really call it “cinema verité (“Z”). It’s Cinema “F” as in “Failed.” The effect did nothing to enhance the film, but it did a lot to detract from it. I gave my GoPro camera to two eleven-year-olds to film a wedding over Labor Day; they did a better job of filming. The only good thing is that Kotschi did this hand-held herky-jerky treatment primarily on shots of streets, not when we were focused on the inter-action of the contestants in the parking lot of the Hands On contest. My advice to Michael Kotschi: STOP THAT!

#2)  For reasons I do not understand Writer/Director Bastion Gauthier ended the film and then added 20 to 30 minutes of additional background on our male lead, Kyle Parson. The information conveyed to us at the END of the film, (when Kyle is no longer a factor in the competition to win the truck), helps us to understand the plot’s events.. Adding the information at the end of the film was an odd and not very logical placement. It definitely belonged in the film, but chronological order would have been a better choice than tacking it on at the end.

#3) We never learn who won the truck.

I found the film to be interesting, aside from the three complaints mentioned above, but it had the potential to be more.

“On Fellini’s Footsteps” Retraces Fellini’s Career

Frederico Fellini

Meandering through Rome and Cinecittà, Gerald Morin, who worked with Fellini for over a decade, creates a touching portrait of the man, enriched by anecdotes from Fellini’s most important collaborators. The write-up on IMDB says it  “throws us back to an era that is engraved in our collective memory.”

I’ve been reviewing film non-stop for 50 years, so, yes, I have the era “engraved in my collective memory.” I still remember the Anita Ekberg scene in the Trevi fountain in Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita”, and I recall that Fellini’s films were dream/nightmare fantasy experiences.

Fellini was a visionary who “saw” exactly what he wanted to put on film, but he often didn’t “see” it util he arrived on set,  in a free form sort of creative inspirational style, of which one cameraman said, “We don’t know, the day before, how we will shoot. His mind is like a camera.”

Sometimes, Fellini would change the actors’ lines while they were filming. It was all in the service of inspiration and, as Fellini himself told a “New Yorker” interviewer (Lillian Ross):  “I am trying to free my work from certain constrictions—a story with a beginning, a development and an ending. It should be more like a poem with meter and rhythm.” It was Fellini’s devotion to being “in the moment” that often saw him go to bed with one idea and wake up with another.

Still, “8 and ½” (so named because that was how many films Fellini had made to that point) was named one of the 10 Best Films Ever Made and he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in April of 1993, his 5th Oscar.

A talented artist, Fellini was constantly making sketches of both his sets and the costumes he wanted the actors to wear. Said Norma Giacchero, his script supervisor, “His sketches were very helpful.” His set designer said, “Fellini’s world was his own. The real world didn’t interest him.” Cameramen who worked with Fellini talked about his use of the zoom, which he employed while the camera was moving. He did this to change the focal distance and width of the shot. He worked by sequence and used the zoom in unusual ways, going from 50 mm. to 250 mm. long range.

Among the adjectives that his co-workers used to describe him were charming, obsessed, never satisfied, impatient, prompt and demanding. Still, many of his long-time collaborators mention his sense of humor and his “desire to dominate matter.”

“8 and ½” began shooting May 9 of 1962 and completed shooting October 14, 1963. Stumped by the plot he wanted to film, Fellini finally decided it should be about a director who no longer knows what film he wants to make. He described it as having past, present and conditional (fantasy) elements and it was soundly condemned by many, who considered it immoral. Still, it was nominated for the Palme d’Or and received 12 Oscar nominations, 4 of which it won, including Best Foreign Language Film and Best Costume Design in Black and White.

During this documentary, which was shot in 2013, a glimpse is shown of an ecclesiastical fashion show (red-robed Cardinals) where nuns and priests roller skate past shipwrecks of cobwebbed skeletons, scenes from 1971’s “Roma.” As a former colleague put it, “Nobody touches Fellini for bringing dreams to life.”

Although the film does not allude to Fellini’s fascination with and dabbling in LSD and Carl Jung-ian psychiatry after he fell into a depressive period, the films after 1963 often reflected those interests.

Fellini tried working with Hollywood stars (Broderick Crawford, a stand-in for the ailing Humphrey Bogart in the unsuccessful 1955 film “Il Bidone” and Donald Sutherland as Casanova in that film.) His collaborations with Marcello Mastroianni are best remembered. Antonio Bardini, his barber, said, “Marcello wanted to be Fellini and Fellini wanted to be Mastroianni.”

Fellini died at 73 of a heart attack one day after celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary to  wife Gulietta Messina in 1993.

“The Comeback Trail” Will Leave You Laughing—and That’s Just What We Need!

George Gallo and Josh Posner took an old idea (based on a 1982 film of the same name  by Harry Hurwitz) and tweaked the basic idea of “The Producers” to give us the comedy “The Comeback Trail.” The movie stars Robert DeNiro, Tommy Lee Jones, Zach Braff, Morgan Freeman, Emile Hirsch and there is an uncredited cameo from Jason Bateman.

Gallo was the creative force behind “Wise Guys,” “Midnight Run,” and “Bad Boys,” among other amusing films. This is a World Class Cast and the music by Aldo Schllaku and cinematography by Lukasz Bielan are top-notch. Budget was estimated to be $25 million.

Here’s the plot in a nutshell (as revealed in numerous trailers): Max Barber (DeNiro) and his nephew Walter Creason (Zach Braff) have just released “Killer Nuns” (“They’re nuns with a bad habit.”). It’s another bomb from Miracle Pictures. [In fact, the Miracle Pictures slogan is, “If it’s good, it’s a miracle.”]

Walter borrowed $350,000 from Reggie Fontaine (Morgan Freeman) to make the picture, and Reggie wants his money back. Since Reggie isn’t kidding about wanting repayment, Max goes to James Moore (Emile Hirsch), a wealthy investor, and James (call him Jamie) demands that the great script for a film called “Paradise” be signed over to Jamie, in exchange for helping bail Max out.

It is while at Jamie’s mansion, where filming is taking place on yet another picture, that Zach Braff, seeking an autograph, inadvertently causes Frank Pierce, the star of the picture (uncredited cameo by Jason Bateman) to fall off a building.  (I wondered if Frank Pierce was modeled on Tom Cruise?) Pierce is killed,— but he was insured for $5 million.

That is the germ of the idea for Max: Hire an over-the-hill movie star of yesteryear, insure him heavily, and kill him off while making a picture. Then, collect the insurance. This isn’t too far off the idea behind “The Producers” when another Max planned to make a terrible Broadway bomb and collect for its failure. That original film with Dick Shawn (“Springtime for Hitler,” anyone?) unfortunately goes on to be a roaring success, which ruins Zero Mostel’s (Max Bialystock’s) plans.

Tommy Lee Jones is the over-the-hill Western star, Duke Montana, who is reduced to doing commercials for Big Earl’s Used Cars, while living in a retired actors’ home, where he is suicidal over his long-lost love, Bess.

THE GOOD

The dialogue frequently references famous movies of yesteryear. At one point, for instance, Morgan Freeman tells Max’s character that, if he is not promptly paid within 72 hours, “I’ll hunt you down like Redford and Newman in ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.’” There is an amusing exchange when Morgan Freeman—a frequent investor in numerous film projects—-marvels to his sidekick, Devin, that they are on the movie set where “Gunga Din” was filmed.

“This is where they shot Gunga Din!” says Morgan’s character.

Devin responds, “Who is Gunga Din and why did they shoot him?”

It’s throw-away lines like this, plus the stunt horse Buttermilk (an homage to Dale Evans) that will tickle the fancy of true movie buffs.

The horse (Buttermilk) has various tricks that he’ll perform upon the uttering of a code word. Say “rocket” and he’s off running like one. Say “mattress” and he’ll lie down. Say “Rhubarb” and watch out! There is also a bull whose intentions towards the cast are deadly and a hanging footbridge over a canyon that makes Duke ‘fess up that he is afraid of heights.

THE BAD

I’ve never thought that Robert DeNiro played comedy as well as drama. He always seems to be over-the-top hammy in fare like “Meet the Fockers,” but the movies were still funny. His mugging for the camera (again) doesn’t keep the lines and situations from being laugh-out-loud humor at a time when we desperately need more laughter in our lives.

The movie was filmed in and around Albuquerque, New Mexico, and will be streaming by December 18th. Be sure to stay after the credits to see the hilarious phoney ads for “Killer Nuns” and films like “Cows from Beyond” by the mythical Miracle Films.

 

“A Good Man” Is French LGBQT Film from Denver Film Festival and Cannes

“A Good Man” is a LGBTQ French film directed by Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar. It is a Cannes Official Film Selection and the film had subtitles, but the trailer does not. (Dust off your French from high school or college.) Noemie Merlant, who was so powerful in last year’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” plays the lead of a trans-man. There is some controversy over the fact that the part of a trans man is not being played by a real trans man.

I thought a better title for the film might have been crafted based on the scene where a nurse, leaving the hospital room of the new mother after her shift, bids the patient good night with the farewell phrase, “Good night, Sir/Ma’am.”

Noemie Merlant

The farewell causes the new mother/father to smile, as he/she has just given birth to a baby boy, a sacrifice that Ben/Sarah made so that he/she could achieve his/her goal. That goal is stated in the film as, “I want to be me and have a normal life.”  Ben tells his older brother, Antoine, “I want the same as you. No more. No less.” The script also contains the advice, “The management of truth is the key to a rescue.”

THE GOOD

I’m all for people of any sex and/or ethnicity seeking “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Freddy McConnell, a trans man, gave birth to his own son, Jack, and the “Guardian” journalist made a film with Director Jeanie Finlay about it called “Seahorse,” so the topic of a trans man giving birth to his own child IRL has been done before. The performances of the two leads (Noemie Merlant and Soko) are excellent.

The opening ocean panorama of the main character looking out at the sea from the Cote d’Azur is gorgeous. There are many other beautiful cinematic shots within the film, including some spectacular sunsets. But most of us want a story, as well, and there is definitely a story here.

Ben, the central character, was born Sarah Adler on April 28, 1990. The conflict comes when Ben’s love, Aude (Soko, who played Samantha in “Little Fish”) —after his decision to bear their child because they cannot adopt and Aude is infertile— tells Ben, “Right now, I don’t exist.  You play every part.  You play them all. I need to find mine.”

And….Poof!….Aude’s gone.

Another conflict is between Sarah/Ben’s mother, who mourns the loss of daughter Sarah and has difficulty accepting that Sarah has become Ben. There is also conflict between Ben and his male friends, whom he has kept in the dark. Some of Ben’s friends are more accepting than others.

THE BAD

Director Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar

It’s really difficult to follow who is whom and whether the apparently female girl at the bar (Sarah) does, in fact, turn out to become “Ben” later in the film. There is frequent jumping back and forth in time, between the present and the past. While audiences are savvy and will do their best to keep up, it can become difficult to figure out exactly who is whom, then and now.

The departure of Aude, Ben’s love, while understandable, seems very selfish. It reminded me of someone I know who—while his wife was delivering twins—-began an affair with a co-worker and left his wife, who had to go through childbirth alone. There is something about bringing new life into the world that mitigates for a united front to support that new life.

Poor Ben is forced to go through most of the pain, suffering, and confinement of delivery on his own, endure being viewed as a freak by some and suffering the loss of the support of the person closest to him, for whom he has sacrificed a great deal. The departure of Aude does set off a nicely done rapprochement with his estranged mother, however. Mom, watching the new-born baby attempting to suckle, says, “You think it’s a matter of instinct, but it’s not at all.”

The end of the film is slow, although cinematically beautiful. It reminded me of the famous painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat. We also get a quick glimpse of the reunited couple strolling through that scene with their baby.

I felt very sorry for Ben/Sarah, who had to give up the new life he had carved out for himself, reveal his previous identity to the world, and go through childbirth without the woman of his dreams by his side. While I understood Aude’s feelings of being “left out,”  Ben might wish to  re-consider their relationship in light of the loyalty he has shown, versus that demonstrated by Aude.

Film Festival Favorite Theme: Losing One’s Mind in “Little Fish”

“Little Fish” at the 43rd Denver Film Festival.

Every year, attending film festivals in Chicago, Texas, Colorado and elsewhere, there is often a pattern that emerges for that year’s films. Sometimes, it’s a similarity of titles. Sometimes, it’s a similarity of theme.

In 1984 there was “The River” and “Places in the Heart,” two movies about families losing the family farm. One starred Sissy Spacek and the other featured Sally Field, with America’s farm crisis taking center stage. That thematic refrain has echoed through the decades.

In 2018, at the Chicago Film Festival, the big theme was drug addiction, with “Beautiful Boy” (Timothy Chalamet) and “Diane” (Mary Kay Place) dealing with the opioid crisis in the U.S.

In 2019, the theme that more than one film covered was Death Row. We had Alfre Woodard’s “Clemency,” with Alfre as a prison warden tasked with carrying out the execution of a Death Row inmate, and “Just Mercy,” with Jamie Foxx as a convicted prisoner on Death Row and Michael B. Jordan working to free this  innocent man.

So, what is the Topic Du Jour in 2020?

Perhaps not surprisingly, the topic is epidemics that come out of nowhere and strike without warning. But what the epidemics cause is different from real-life horror stories like “Contagion.”

This year, the pandemic that is sweeping the multiplex, afflicting people at random is amnesia. In both “Apples,” a Greek film, and “Little Fish,” we have people who are losing their memories and their minds. I didn’t like “Apples,” the film that showed at both the 56th Chicago International Film Festival and the 43rd Denver Film Festival, because it tried to play the theme as humorous, when losing our knowledge of who we are is anything but humorous. Still, in Chicago “Apples won the Silver Hugo for Best Screenplay.

Olivia Cooke

“Little Fish,” directed by Chad Hartigan and based on a short story by Aja Gabel which Gabel and Mattson Tomlin crafted into a screenplay, is a love story between Emma (Olivia Cooke of “Ready Player One” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) and Jack O’Connell (2014’s “Unbroken” and “Seberg”).

Called NIA, Neural Information Affliction, at first people simply forgot to stop running a marathon or abandoned the bus they were driving in the middle of the street. Over time, more and more people began to forget their loved ones and pilots forgot how to fly and crashed.

The plot focuses on the romance between Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Jude (Jack O’Connell) and their friendship with another couple, Ben (Raul Castillo) and Samantha (Soko). As Ben, a musician, is losing his memories, he strikes out and becomes violent, ultimately destroying his relationship with Samantha.

Emma and Jude are determined not to let his memory loss ruin their relationship. Jude even qualifies for a pilot program that will try an experimental method called Oral Cranium Puncture, where a hole is surgically drilled in the top of one’s mouth into the brain cavity. When Ben is turned down for the experimental treatment because he tests positive for cocaine, he talks Emma, a veterinarian, into trying the method on him herself. That adds drama and intensity to the simple retelling of people losing their minds, but, ultimately, neither film could figure out how to come to a satisfactory “ending.”

Jack O’Connell

The cinematography by Sean McElwee (some nice aerial shots and great scenery) is good, the acting is more than good, and Josh Crockett has done a fine job editing the film, but, ultimately, the failure to stick the landing hurt both “Apples” and “Little Fish.”

“Once Upon A Time in Venezuela:” Examines the Fate of the Village of Congo Mirador

This documentary that showed at the 43rd Denver Film Festival was helmed by Annabel Rodriguez Rios and Sepp R. Bruderon (editor/writer) who visited the remote village of Congo Mirador many times over the course of years, watching it shrink from a village with population of 700 to 30 families and, ultimately, to an abandoned village.

Chief among the inhabitants of the village is Tamara Vilsamil, who is a rabid Chavez supporter and seems to be doing quite a bit better, financially, than the rest of the village. She brags, at one point, that she owns 50 hectares of land and that it is “as good as money in the bank,” saying that she can always sell a cow if she needs money.

Several old-time residents of the city on stilts talk about “the fatal night,” which, they say, has come. Throughout the time that the documentary is filming sedimentation continues to plague the village with remarks like “sedimentation is killing us all.”

The backdrop of the documentary is an upcoming election and, at one point, ring-leader Tamara says, “I’m going to get our comrades and kick their asses.” There is a lot of talk about North American government planning to take over the town and the nation and a lot of jingoistic talk about “the Fatherland.”

Near the end of the film Vilsamil and another representative from the watery town journey to Maracaibo. She says, “Going to Maracaibo is as important as Obama going to Cuba.” We see the duo being served breakfast in what appears to be the palace in Caracas and Vilsamil says, “Confo is running out of time. The town is already lost.  It’s just mud and snakes left.”

The final scenes of the film show a deserted, watery, abandoned wreck of a town

“Til Kingdom Come” Explores the Evangelical/Jewish Connection

“Til Kingdom Come” has played both the 56th Chicago International Film Festival and the 43rd Denver Film Festival, spelling out the close relationship between evangelical Christians and the Jewish community in Israel. The 77-minute film is directed by Director Maya Zinshtein.

It’s difficult to understand how this symbiotic partnership has flourished, given the prophecies in evangelical texts that have 2/3 of Jews being killed and 1/3 ultimately converting to the evangelical view of things, in the final analysis. The film’s write-up says, “They donate sacrificially to Israel’s foremost philanthropic organization, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, because they fervently believe the Jews are crucial to Jesus’s return.”

There are also the disturbing positions of evangelicals on same sex marriage, gays, legalized abortion, and many other issues, including the Arab Palestinians’ right to live peacefully on the West Bank. (This is the issue that Vanessa Redgrave championed, to her detriment, many years ago when she was receiving a 1977 Best Supporting Oscar for her film work in the Holocaust drama “Julia.”)

At the outset of the film, we hear rural Kentucky Pastor Boyd Bingham IV say, “We are the people who brought DJT to power and he pushes our agenda.” It should be mentioned that VP Mike Pence is a noted evangelical, as is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

According to the film, there are 650 to 800 million evangelicals around the world. They have single-handedly become some of the biggest donors to Israel, raising $4 and $5 million at a crack, even while, on the film, an official from Louisville, Kentucky, proudly proclaims that the state is now down to only one facility where a legal abortion can be obtained. (Shades of the sixties!)

There is film of the youngest Bingham preacher at the Binghamtown Baptist Church on a 1982 pilgrimage to Israel and his great joy at the moving of the Israeli consulate to Jerusalem. (It is Israeli Premier Bebe Netanyahu’s goal to annex the West Bank.)

Two million Arabs live under Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem now. When the embassy was moved, 58 PalestiniIsrans were killed and 2,771 were injured, all in protest of the move.

It was an interesting documentary, which is more than I can say for “I Am Greta.”

“Meat the Future” Explains How Meat Can Be Grown in Labs and Replace “Real” Meat

Now playing the 43rd Denver Film Festival, “Meat the Future” is a Liz Marshall documentary that explains the brainchild of cardiac surgeon Uma Valeti, who has formed Memphis Meats to bring meat grown in laboratories to market.

Dr. Valeti actually was a trained cardiac surgeon at the Mayo Clinic, but he had been haunted for years by the idea that, in order to eat meat, animals must be grown to adulthood and then slaughtered. Not only did the idea that “in the midst of life, we are in death” affect him as a child, he also became aware of the growing demand for meat that cannot be met by standard methods.

In the course of this film, we meet Ira Van Eelen, whose father in Amsterdam may have been the Godfather of Clean Meat, starting experiments with growing meat in a lab as far back as 2010. Dr. Valeti took the idea and has made it a reality—if an expensive reality—making it possible to cultivate meat that tastes like meat, from the cells of chickens and ducks and beef cattle, in a cultured lab setting over the course of 4 weeks, whereas it takes from 14 to 24 months to raise an animal from birth to slaughter.

SLAUGHTER

In order to feed humans, pigs and cows and other living mammals are slaughtered. It’s a reality that has driven many to become vegetarians. Even Dr. Valeti admits having tried vegetarianism for a while. The success of things like tofu burgers, however, has not been nearly as close to “the real thing” as the cultured meats that Valeti’s Memphis Meats has been able to produce.

Early news articles (April, 2016) showed a pound of what appeared to be ground beef with the label $18,000 – 1 lb. of ground beef from Memphis Meats. The three original investors put $3.1 million together but, since their successes, investors like Bill Gates and Richard Branson, along with David McLennan, the CEO of Cargill, have come onboard to underwrite the group’s efforts.  Draper Fisher Jurveston, an investment firm for those looking to underwrite promising technologies, reports that the group now has “more money coming at them than they want to take” and mentioned a figure of $4 billion.

What are the “good” and the “bad” things about “clean meat”? (“clean meat,” as a term,has tested more positively than “cultured meat” in P.R. studies).

THE GOOD:

  • Animals are a big part of the carbon footprint problem and, with this technology, the need to raise so many animals on feed lots, is bypassed, thereby decreasing the carbon footprint of the industries that are now producing our meat. The film mentions a timeline of 20 to 30 years by which time animals would not need to be raised for meat. This is, as the film put it, ‘a huge paradigm shift.”
  • Supply – The documentary posits the belief that, despite all the efforts that currently exist to feed the world’s people, we need to step up production. Comparing 4 weeks of preparation time (clean meat)  to 14 to 24 months (real meat) is educational.
  • No more slaughtering living creatures for our beef, pork, poultry or fish.

 

THE BAD:

  • As you can imagine, meat producers are not at all sure that this idea is a “good” thing for them, their industry, or the public They maintain that the government must learn how to regulate cell-based meats. Both Sonny Perdue (Secretary of Agriculture) and Dr. Scott Gottlieb of “Face the Nation” appearances talk about “clean meat.”
  • The Good Food Institute says we need the equivalent of a Manhattan Project to move the initiative forward. Why do I get the feeling that, just like the electric car, the “old way” meat people will kill the idea of cultured cells becoming edible meat, just as the fossil fuel industry killed the electric car?
  • Expense – currently, it is prohibitively expensive to create “clean meat” with figures of $1700 per pound mentioned. The use of markets and technology to solve problems cannot be supported enthusiastically enough, but I do wonder if this Bold Brave Idea might end up like the hydrogen car. (Remember that one?)

“A Perfect Enemy” Is a Film To Intrigue from Director Kike Maillo

The intriguing film “A Perfect Enemy” starring Tomasz Kot (Cold War), was directed by 45-year-old Spanish-born director Kike Maillo. Maillo helmed the 2012 film “Eva,” when 37, and it won him the Best New Director award from the Cinema Writers Circle Award in Spain and an award for Best Special Effects (2012). This time out, the basis for the complicated story is a novel by Amelie Nothomb, “Cosmetique de l’ennemi,” but the script was written by Maillo, aided by screenwriters Cristina Clemente and Fernando Navarro.

Architect Jeremiasz August has just concluded a lecture about architecture (“Perfection is when there is nothing left to take away.”) and is in a cab on his way to the airport.

Furthermore, it is an airport that Jeremiasz actually designed, with a beautiful model of his work in the center of a spacious waiting area.

Amidst a deluge outside the lecture hall, a young blonde traveler asks if she can share a cab with the architect. Tessel Textor (Athena Straites)—a petite blonde—does clamber inside the cab in the downpour and begins a pretty much non-stop barrage of information about herself. The Good Samaritan act of allowing her to share the cab causes both the architect and the young blonde to miss their flights, so their conversation continues—more or less—-in the VIP lounge of the airport.

August appears to be growing very tired of the non-stop chatter. There is some symbolism overtly explained. When Tessel first enters the cab,she explains that her name can mean “weaver of words,” although she is not a writer. (August tells her it’s not too late to start.)

There is a third character—a beautiful woman named Isabelle, who was married to August but disappeared  twenty years earlier. We see Isabelle (Marta Nieto) primarily strolling about a charming cemetery and, later, in her apartment. Her relationship with August is confirmed further along in the film by photos of the couple that adorn her apartment.

Things begin to become very surreal and fantastical at the airport. There are clear signs that Tessel is “not right in the head” (if she is even there) and her annoying monologue is beginning to irritate the reserved architect. There are several trips to view a model of the airport. Each time,  airport model has small changes occurring involving splotches of blood, etc. (Take note). The exchanges in the rest room(s) are even more central to the plot and even weirder.

Ultimately, August is on his flight. We anticipate that violence will occur at any moment, especially since Tessel followed August into the men’s lavatory and spends a fair amount of time playing with a knife throughout the film.

Now, August is on his flight. Tessel says to August, “Lower your voice.”

“Why?” asks August.

“Because you’re still on the plane,” responds Tessel. That was not where we thought August was when he raised his voice, so settings are shifting and mysterious things are occurring; the endless stories that Tessel tells are beginning to form a mosaic of sorts, coming together to form one tapestry.

The best comparison, for the viewer, to capture what may be going on in this film is to mention “Fight Club” and how it dealt with reality.

I enjoyed the film. First of all, it was well acted, (although Tessel would have been more convincing if she hadn’t been wearing 10 pounds of colored eye make-up in every scene plus what looked like camouflage pajamas).

Aside from that faux pas on the costuming, the principals carry out the somewhat confusing exchanges of dialogue proficiently, the music is good (Alex Baranowski), the sets are great, the cinematography is above average (Rita Noriega)  and the ultimate resolution of the plot is clear.

Another plus: the actors are all speaking English. I finally gave up on the subtitles of an Iranian film that was supposed to feature a burning theater. Did not make it through to the end of that one. Gave it my best shot; that’s 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back.

 Enjoyed this one all the way through to its thought-provoking conclusion.

How Trump Might Try to Cheat to Win

BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE

This is a slightly truncated version of the original “Washington Post” article that explains one of the likely methods that DJT will/would try to use to steal the November 3rd presidential election.

Could Trump steal the election? Here’s one way to find out. (Sept. 30, 2020)

The disastrous debate that unfolded in Ohio should prompt us to take the possibility that President Trump will try to steal the election far more seriously — even as it also renders that outcome much less likely to succeed.

Trump exhorted his far-right army to mobilize for a sustained conflict over the election results. He refused to say whether he’d accept a legitimate loss. And he confirmed he’s expecting the Supreme Court to help invalidate countless legally cast ballots.

It’s this last point that presents a way to gauge Trump’s chances of executing some version of his corrupt designs.

The short version is this. At Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing, Democrats can press a line of questioning that might illuminate whether Trump can pull off one of his most-discussed means for rigging the election: getting a GOP state legislature to appoint substitute pro-Trump electors to the electoral college, regardless of the popular vote in that state. 

Trump is telegraphing his scheme

At the debate, Trump said he “can’t go along” with a result tallied up from millions of mail-in ballots, which will mean “fraud like you’ve never seen.” He urged supporters to “watch” the voting “very carefully,” i.e., to engage in voter intimidation.

And asked what he expects of the high court and Barrett, Trump said:I’m counting on them to look at the ballots.”

Trump did also say he might not “need” the court to settle “the election itself.” But that only inadvertently confirms that he believes the court is at his beck and call on this matter.

As far-fetched as it seems that a state legislature might appoint pro-Trump electors, it’s important to note that some Republicans are already claiming that the fictional mass fraud in large-scale mail balloting could serve as the justification for doing just this.

As one Trump legal adviser told the Atlantic, they might say: “We don’t think the results of our own state are accurate, so here’s our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state.”

And so, when Trump casts doubt on the legitimacy of a prolonged count after Election Day — as he did at the debate — he’s opening the possibility of using exactly this justification for precisely this endgame.

As Edward Foley outlined in a prescient 2019 article, if Trump were ahead in the Election Day count, he’d likely put this scheme in motion while claiming “machine politicians in Philadelphia” are trying to steal the election with fabricated mail votes.

Could this work?

Democratic National Convention

To be clear, it shouldn’t.

The Constitution does assign to each state the authority to “appoint” its electors, in a “manner” that the legislature “may direct.”

But in a terrific piece, three legal scholars — Grace Brosofsky, Michael Dorf and Laurence Tribe — explain that precedent shows this means the legislature must “direct” how the state appoints its electors by making laws that create and define the process for doing so.

Virtually all states have made laws that provide for electors to be appointed in accordance with the popular vote outcome in them. (Maine and Nebraska do this by congressional district.) Thus, those scholars argue, legislatures can’t appoint pro-Trump electors without making a new law providing for appointment of electors based on legislators’ own will, not that of the voters.

Such a new law would require the governor’s signature. And in three states where this appears most likely to be tried — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — Democratic governors would veto any such effort by GOP-controlled legislatures.

The Supreme Court has upheld the principle that a governor can veto such an effort, those scholars note. In the 1932 case Smiley v. Holm, the court ruled that the Minnesota state legislature could not change election rules unilaterally in the face of such a veto.

This ruling confirmed that for the court, “state legislatures cannot alter” laws governing the selection of electors “except through their ordinary state lawmaking procedures,” which would require a gubernatorial signature and be subject to veto, the scholars argue.

So friendly legislatures can’t do this on Trump’s whim without a new law, no matter how loudly they scream that ongoing counting of mail ballots is fraudulent.

Such a case might again find its way to the Supreme Court. But how would it rule?

The question for Barrett

Democratic senators can press Trump’s nominee on this question — by asking whether she believes Smiley is settled law, and on whether she believes the Constitution does or does not allow state legislatures to appoint electors outside the lawmaking process.

Dorf, a professor at Cornell Law School, told me Barrett would likely evade this question, by merely promising to “respect precedent” while declining comment on a question that might soon be before the court.

Still, this might be worth trying. Given that Trump has explicitly said he expects the court — and Barrett — to help him pull off something like this, we’re in an extraordinary situation. By confirming that Smiley is settled law, Barrett could strongly suggest that such an effort will fail, sparing the country from it.

“She could certainly throw cold water on it,” Dorf told me. “She could make it clear that she’s not likely to be receptive to an argument” that legislators can appoint electors without a new law.

As for other justices — such as John G. Roberts Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — they might also look askance at such an effort. In Bush v. Gore, the court described the process for appointing electors as a “legislative” scheme. Dorf says they might see this as invalidating any effort to appoint them outside the lawmaking process.

To be clear, Trump’s disastrous debate performance makes it more likely Biden will win the “blue wall” states by a comfortable enough margin that Trump won’t even try such a scheme.

But Trump also made it clear at the debate that he’s unhinged enough to try anything — and is perfectly happy to rile up millions of supporters behind an effort to overturn a legitimate loss. So if there’s any way to take this off the table now, we should try it.

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