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!

Author: Connie Wilson Page 1 of 143

Biographical Information

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson graduated from the University of Iowa and earned a Master’s degree from Western Illinois University, with additional study at Northern Illinois, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago. She taught writing at six Iowa/Illinois colleges and wrote for five newspapers and 7 blogs. Her stories and interviews have appeared online and in print and her work has won prizes from “Whim’s Place Flash Fiction," “Writer’s Digest” (Screenplay), E-Lit award for 3 works, Illinois Women's Press Association Silver Feather awards, Pinnacle award (NABE) and recommendations for the Bram Stoker award. She is the author of 4 nonfiction published books, 4 short story collections, 1 novel and there are 2 novels ready for publication (the trilogy beginning with "The Color of Evil.") She reviewed film and books for the Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa) for 12 years and wrote humor columns and conducted interviews for the (Moline, Illinois) Daily Dispatch.

“My Cup Runneth Over” (and Ruineth My Kitchen): Polar Vortex Strikes Again

Today’s random rant will be about the polar vortex and how it ravaged my kitchen in my absence (Texas).

This despite our having turned off the water and kept the heat on.

Now comes the part where the insurance company tries to tell us that they aren’t responsible, despite the many plumbers saying that we did everything “right” in preparing for an absence: shut off the water, kept heat on, etc. I have not had very good luck with insurance ever wanting to cover anything, despite having insurance and paying my premiums on time. I remember a space heater setting fire to a carpeted area and the insurance saying it was not covered and another time when flooding ruined some carpeting in my basement, and that, too, was deemed uncoverable. And it’s happening again, at the moment.

The insurance agent suggested that we could never leave our house, that we had to be in it to have our insurance cover this major league damage. Does that mean that, if you are here in town but go out for the evening and have a water main break, your insurance will not kick in? The two plumbers who have come and gone say that they had numerous calls this winter for broken pipes on interior walls of homes with people in them when it occurred. But nevermind.

Now come the delays: interminable “estimates” of what fixing the damage is going to take and waiting through weekends and holidays and waiting for the insurance adjustor people to respond. Snail-like progress.

It appears that a new sub floor is going to need to be put in. The people who removed some of the cabinetry want us to buy all new cabinets, even though the cabinets that currently are in place do not appear to have been harmed much or at all and the bottom parts would never match the top parts (and the Wood Mode cabinets were exorbitantly expensive when put in in 1993). One laborer, who had said he would intercede with the insurance company on our behalf, seemed quite put out that we don’t want to invest huge sums of money in all new cabinetry when the current cabinets appear to be largely okay. One went so far as to say, “They could collapse,” which seems highly improbable. There is talk of signing some sort of waiver that would protect from something like the recent collapse of the Davenport on Main building in Davenport, Iowa.

Currently, many of my removed cabinets are in my garage, as are several boxes of new wood boards that need to be laid to fix the “floating” floor, which floated into oblivion. (Apparently, the entire idea of a wood floor “floating” is passe. That floor had been laid 9 years ago.) I can’t put my car in the garage and, last night, a large black dog that apparently belongs to the neighbors on the corner got loose and was so vicious as our car entered our driveway that I was afraid to get out. (Sheesh!)

From May 13 until the end of May we had no water in our kitchen, and it was nearly impossible to open the door to the refrigerator because of the various cabinets that have been pulled hither and yon. Large fans (5 or 6 of them) ran around the clock to dry out the floorboards and the area under the sink where the pipes burst. You had to unzip a zipper on a plastic door to enter the kitchen. (We chose to go outside the house and enter through the deck door). The fans were noisy (difficult to hear TV over them) and a heater was employed for a while, which drove the temperature in the room up to 87 degrees. The fans were loud. My spouse told the workmen that I would not have had to run my “wind machine” at night, because the fans were that loud. That would be funny, but not if you’re living in the middle of it 24/7.

Meanwhile, I headed to Chicago to review “Relative” on May 22nd and, upon learning of the lack of water in our kitchen (and, for a day or so, in our bathrooms!) said, “No water, no me.” I remained in Chicago until this past Thursday, 2 days ago, an absence of 2 weeks. This seemed like the kind thing to do, since me whining about all this was not going to hurry things along.

So, here are some pictures of what was once my lovely kitchen, which I am quite sad to say has been ruined by the pipes breaking during the polar vortex. I hope we can speed up the process of replacing the old cabinetry and laying a new sub floor and a new wood floor, because there are various kitchen items all over my house, including the small couch that is now in my family room. If I can find pictures pre-flood, I’ll put some up. Otherwise, check back in a month or so to see if Humpty can be put back together again.

Wish us luck!

“Relative” Shows at Alamo Drafthouse in Wrigleyville for Final Time on May 22nd, 2023

Writer/Director Michael Glover Smith of “Relative.”

Chicago filmmaker Michael Glover Smith, (awarded the Gene Siskel Film Center’s Star Filmmaker Award in 2017), has written and directed four feature films since 2015. The newest film, “Relative,” was screened at Wrigleyville’s new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on May 22nd for what may be the last time. However, negotiations are underway for a streaming deal that could take place as soon as this summer.

The film will be a good one for serious film buffs to stream. It is well-acted, thoughtful and the music (Cait Rappel) and editing (Eric Marsh) add to the overall excellent product. The cinematographer was Olivia Aqualina.

I drove out to a local college where Smith teaches film history and aesthetics when his last film, “Mercury in Retrograde” screened. It, too, was very good. Way back in 2022 I promised to try to attend a screening of “Relative” before it ended its run. Ill health and treatments for same delayed that trip until Monday night.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film, not only because Smith is a talented writer/director who knows how to put a film together, but because the characters were much more relatable, to me, than the majority of films dealing with millennials and Generation X that I recently took in at SXSW. Sure, the obligatory same sex relationship was included (de rigeur these days) and there aren’t a lot of plot twists and surprises, but the cast is beyond excellent and, as another famous filmmaker once said, “The cast is everything. You get that right, and your film will be successful.”

Writer/Director Smith told the audience in the Q&A following the film, “I wanted to stretch myself as a writer in depicting a family. I wanted to depict older characters. My first three scripts were about younger people.”

He went on to say that this was the largest cast he had assembled, his biggest ensemble. “To me, the cast was everything. They had that chemistry. They found it instantly. It was the best experience I’ve ever had.” The film was also well-received during its run and, on its opening night, was the 23rd highest-grossing film nationwide.

When asked about preparation amongst the cast for the film, zoom calls between characters were mentioned, and Clare Cooney said, “I’m allergic to preparation.” The consensus seemed to be that if you do something too many times, spontaneity goes away.

As far as instructing his actors, Smith said, “I really like giving the actors a whole lot of freedom.” This echoes directors such as Brian DePalma, who told RogerEbert.com’s Matt Seitz, “But you have to be very patient and loving with your actors, because they’re putting everything on the line, and you have to try to get everything out of the way to not hurt their performances or distract them.”


Clare Cooney in Chicago on May 22, 2023.


The cast that Smith assembled was, indeed, very, very good. “Twin Peaks” alumnus Wendy Robie (who played Nadine Hurley, eye-patch and all) portrays sixty-something matriarch Karen Frank, and Steppenwolf theater actor Francis Guinan plays her husband, David Frank. They are the parents to four offspring, who are gathering to celebrate the graduation of the tag-along child, Benjy (Cameron Scott Roberts of “The Walking Dead,” “Chicago Fire,” and “Ben Is Back.”) Benji—the “happy accident”—was eight when his older siblings were all away at college. In my own nuclear family unit, my son was a freshman in college when his sister was born, 19 years later.  I can relate to the “surprise” element of family formation. (Our family motto: “Every 20 years, whether you need to or not.”)

The Franks’ oldest son Rod (Keith D. Gallagher) is an unemployed 34-year-old who moved into his parents’ basement after his wife Sarah (Heather Chrisler), a webcam performer at a sex site, divorced him and took custody of their young son. Rod is also a veteran who suffers from PTSD, although younger brother Benjy doubts that Rod’s psychic pain is for real. Rod shares with Benjy that having his father refer to him as “a fungus” at one point is very demoralizing; the father/son bond certainly seems strained to the point of incivility—especially when it comes out during the gathering that the parents might sell the house, which makes Rod wonder, “What about me?”

Tensions mount at the graduation party for Benji, which only amplifies Rod’s feelings of failure and David’s resentment of him for living in his parents’ basement and delaying their mother’s retirement.

Daughter Evonne (Clare Cooney) comes into town from Madison, Wisconsin with her girlfriend Lucia (Melissa DuPrey), a Black woman, and their mixed-race daughter Emma (Arielle Gonzalez). Clare Cooney, who portrays Evonne, flew in all the way from Cannes to join the other 7 cast members, where she was participating in the Cannes Film Festival.  I only hope that Cooney’s excellent short “Runner” was part of that Cannes’ offerings. It was one of the most impressive shorts at the Windy City Film Festival in Chicago the year my own script was in a different category. Clare Cooney—who both acts, writes, directs, and, in this case, produces and casts—is a very talented filmmaker.

Another sister, Norma (Emily Lape), has driven in from Bettendorf, Iowa (where I had a business from 1985 to 2003). Smith told us during the Q&A that Norma represents the “normal” family member, hence her name. Norma talks openly to her parents about her perception that the family is disintegrating. The line that applies here is William Butler Yeats’ “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” Or, as Smith has re-phrased that, “The more things change, the more they stay the same. Only, they don’t.“ (“I used to think that things would always be like that.”)

All of the film’s actors are terrific. The characters, as written, are multi-faceted and complex. For a film fan older than 30, it was nice to see Mom and Dad portrayed so well and to see the interactions of the four siblings. Writer/Director Smith shared that he considered Benjy, who is graduating and going on to a career as a cartographer for Google, to be “a selfish little prick.” I thought Benjy was rather harsh in his early judgment of his older brother, Rod, and certainly his desire to pick up a cute blonde girl from Iceland  (rather than attend his own graduation celebration) was selfish. But Benjy seemed as though he might join Norma in the “normal” category with the passing of time.

The film had many worthwhile observations:  the sadness of the “empty nest;” it’s hard to go home/ it’s hard to leave home,” nothing stays the same; death, as a sub-text. Mom Karen’s explanation of why she married David, rather than another suitor, was spot-on (says the woman married 55 years).  Karen explains that fierce loyalty beats all hell out of madly in love. Karen, the matriarch, talks about marital success as “just keep putting one foot in front of the other.” These observations spoke to me, because I’m not a Millennial. I’ve lived those truths. I enjoyed having an “adult film” that showed thought and did so with wit, as when the couple talks about their now adult children and comments that they haven’t done such a bad job. (“At least none of them became a Republican.”)


So, yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the film.  I would have found my way to the director and told him so, personally, but my 4-hour parking garage time stamp was about to run out and I was looking at a $19 surcharge if I ran over. When you drive 3 and ½ hours (from the Quad Cities) and wait for 2 years (through some ill health) to make it to (potentially) the film’s last theatrical showing out of 45, you want to provide feedback that shows that you, too, are pondering all the ideas that have been so well depicted. And if this means displaying your own ignorance, so be it. [After all, I’ve only been at  reviewing for 53 years, so don’t pay my very minor criticism any attention.]

At one point, the character known as Hekla (which means volcano in Icelandic) is asked to insert a monologue from “The Importance of Being Earnest.” She does so. Why? I’m sure there was a reason for including this, but, to me, it just looked like padding. I didn’t “get” its significance. I would have asked about this from the audience after the showing, but the actress who portrayed Hekla was going on about her delivery (“I was scared about that monologue”) and time ran out. Plus, I had to finish my $9 Diet Coke and settle the Alamo Drafthouse bill.

The other point—-coming from a woman who has been reviewing film since 1970—(author of “It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now”) is this: I take issue with Writer/Director Smith’s statement regarding characterization versus plot. His exact words: “As a filmmaker, I’m all about character. I don’t give a f*** about story.”

I may be all wrong about this  (feel free to disagree), but I have written and published extensively, and I know how difficult writing is. I definitely agree that characterization is very, very important, but so is something happening (i.e., plot). I think the people who mentioned that they expected Norma to have a car accident on her way home were just waiting for that “something” to happen. If all films eliminate the “something happening,” fickle and disappointed filmgoers will leave the theater griping that “nothing happened.” (Please do not throw brickbats at the messenger who has articulated what other filmgoers told the director in previous Q&As).

I agree that a lot is shown happening as a “lead-up” to something climactic. Call me silly, but I expected that to be the matriarch (Wendy Robie) telling the kids that either she or her spouse had cancer and only “x” months to live. {That is probably because I now know how much drama that particular pronouncement will provide, having lived that particular story line since Pearl Harbor Day, 2021.} (*Note to self: Never have a mammogram on Pearl Harbor Day!)

If the “C” word wasn’t going to be the coup de grace for the film’s dramatic moment, what else might have sufficed?  There are other menu options: given the recent tenor of the times, we could have a “Crying Game” transgender surprise involving the young couple (Benjy and Hekla). Too bold? We could find out that Dad David and Mom Karen are not on the same page about selling the house (which seemed to be the case). Something more dramatic could have been portrayed at the party between the lesbian couple who are contemplating breaking up. They seem preternaturally calm about it all.  There are any number of dramatic possibilities; none were selected. The porch scene with the cigarillos might as well have been the “finale,” then, if Norma was just going to drive back to Bettendorf to continue being norma(l).

I know. Some of these suggestions are too “out there;” some are too ordinary. It’s my obsession with plot and character AND story, my downfall since age twelve.

I look forward to more films from Michael Glover Smith.  I hope he will at least consider upping the plot game, not for his own preference(s), but for that of more average movie buffs who DO want to see “something happen,” but also want to have a deep dive into character. I suspect that films that “don’t give a f*** about plot” might have difficulty finding financing, but, then again, making four films in just 8 years (and during a pandemic) is remarkable. And, with 8 nominations and 5 wins at film festivals, so is this film.



“It’s Quieter in the Twilight” is Voyager Documentary from SXSW

In the documentary “It’s Quieter in the Twilight” director Billy Miossi includes information on what was once called “Man’s Greatest Modern Adventure.” What was that adventure?

The  Voyager Mission, which meant the launching of not one, but two space craft to tour the outer planets, specifically Jupiter, Uranus, Saturn and Neptune—14 billion miles from Earth (farther than any other mission ever). In the late sixties, it was discovered that the gravity of a planet might enable a spacecraft to go forward in space to more distant planets. It was also noted that a line-up of the planets that would be beneficial for such an experiment was to occur in 1977; this configuration would not occur again for another 177 years.

Therefore, the Voyager project began in 1977 and was called “a fantastic exploratory achievement.” Initially, 1200 engineers worked on the project. It was Big News as the reliable Voyager spacecraft got great pictures of far-away planets in our solar system.Today, coming up on 50 years in orbit in 2027, only a dozen hardy souls remain on the Voyager project. This is a film about them, their dedication to the mission, and the end of what was once dubbed “Man’s Greatest Modern Adventure.”

This 90 minute film is just as much the story of the devoted rocket scientists who have remained at their posts through thick and thin. The space crafts have now gone out so far that they are beyond the solar system and, instead, sending back data that allows us to learn how solar winds affect other planets. As Ed Stone, Professor of Physics at California Technology Institute, an original member of the team, said, “It (Voyager) changed our view of the solar system.” Some members of the original team, speaking on camera, are 87. Others are 70. They are largely unsung heroes of our by-gone race to space.

In addition to phenomenal pictures of the rings of Saturn and other facets of the farthest planets, transmitted continuously for 42 years, we learn that active volcanoes were found on Jupiter.  The scientific expertise comprised of the engineers behind the project is invaluable. As current Project Leader Suzanne Dodd put it, “They have what you can’t get from paper.”

We learn that there are only 3 tracking stations for Voyager  (Madrid, Barstow, and Canberra) and only the one in Canberra, Australia, would be able to see Voyager, because it is only visible in the southern hemisphere. Complicating just normal operational issues is the fact that the Canberra observatory was due to shut down for nearly a year and the Voyager team had to plan ahead for the months that they would have no way to communicate with the spacecrafts. Also, decomposing hydrogen thrusters will make it impossible to control the spacecraft over time.

The spacecraft uses 4 watts of power a year and there are only 7.5 watts left. The only way to potentially keep the spacecraft flying and sending back data, say the engineers, is to turn off some of the heaters, throwing the heating task to those that use less power so that the salvaged power can help the aging spacecraft (perhaps) limp to a 50-year finish line. The temperature in space then becomes -76 Fahrenheit.

Another problem is the amount of time it takes to both send and receive messages or commands from the spacecraft. Voyager #1 takes 20 hours for the signal to reach Earth. Voyager #2 takes 17, so fixing anything quickly is not possible. There is even a momentary hiccup in the transmission of data during the documentary that requires 35 hours to fix.

Chris Jones, rocket scientist with the Voyager Project.

One by one the backgrounds of some of the engineers trying to reprogram the 42-year-old spacecaraft are sketched: Sun Kang Matsomato of South Korea; Jefferson Hall of Mississippi; Enrique Medina (age 70) from Mexico; Fernando Peralto from Bogota, Columbia; Suzanne Dodd, who left the project in 2010 but returned as manager; Lee Yang. We learn of the untimely death of Enrique’s wife from a brain aneurysm at the beginning of the pandemic.  We see Sun Kang’s young sons growing up, after making models of Voyager as small children.

The 70-year-old says, emotionally, that he enjoys continuing to work on the Voyager project, because he feels needed. “I always loved Voyager. It makes me feel that I am needed some place. I have the expertise to take Voyager through 2025—and maybe longer.”

Indeed, others, including South Korean native Sun Kang Matsomato, say, “When I see that Voyager does not need me, I will leave.”

Perhaps the most emotional bit of film is the statement from Chris Jones, who  worked on Voyager from 1973 to 1981 and then returned to the task. He retired in 2021, but breaks down and tears up, emotionally, talking about the project, saying, “There was a time when I was a kid, and I had the chance to do something for the very first time. As it gets to the end, it’s going to be special, because it’s the very last time.”

As another engineer says, “There are probably only 8 more commands to execute on Voyager. The end is coming.”

Frank Lawlor has provided an excellent soundtrack and the cinematography (Willie Leatherwood and Pete Mignin) and editing (Matt Reynolds) are top-notch in this SXSW offering.

The film opens in Los Angeles on Friday, May 19th at Laemmle Noho #7 and on demand everywhere that day, including ITunes and Apple TV.  A premiere screening and Q&A will be held at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California on Monday, May 15th at 7 p.m. For all you space geeks out there, this is one you’ll like.



Tucker Carlson Out at Fox: Memories of His Bow-Tie Days

Tucker’s last segment on Fox was about eating bugs. And then he said he’d be back on Monday (another lie). I had the misfortune to see Tucker “live” in 2008 when he was one of the speakers at the Libertarian convention in Minneapolis (MN), held at the very same time as the GOP convention in St. Paul. He was still in his bow tie phase and looked and acted like a total doofus, but the entire convention ($17 for entry; I was press) was a surreal experience. Alongside Tucker onstage were Ron Paul (Sr.), former Governor of Minnesota Jessie Ventura and Barry Goldwater, Jr., who was the spitting image of his father. It was a totally weird experience, which I will explore in greater depth on my WeeklyWilson blog, because I still marvel that I was there at all.

I had no intention of attending the Libertarian convention, which was dubbed something like “Rally for the Republic.” The entire reason for my presence can be summed up by one name: Phil Bennett.

Who is Phil Bennett, I hear you say. Well, at the time, I had paid Phil to come to my humble abode and teach me how to post using a WordPress blog and this was truly not my forte then or now. Phil had to come back three times to “fix” various problems I had, including placement of my pictures, and, at one point, he became so exasperated that—knowing I would be going to Minneapolis to cover the GOP convention in St. Paul—-he requested (demanded?) that I attend the Libertarian rally, which he knew was being held across town in Minneapolis at the same time. Phil had the power, as I knew I’d be calling on hm, sooner or later, and I wanted to be blogging more expertly from that point (2007) on.

So, I applied for and got Press Credentials for the Ron Paul Rally for the Republic Libertarian Convention and, oh, my! It was definitely an out-of-body experience.

Ron Paul, Sr., was then the presidential candidate and hopeful of the Libertarians (about whom I knew next to nothing) and he stood, center stage, while a hastily hung banner behind him fell to the floor. He had an aide standing directly behind him, a slightly portly fellow in a suit, who was glued to his cell phone the entire time the boss was talking. He was visible throughout Senator Paul’s speech, but acted as though he was texting his girlfriend back home.


Inside the Democratic National Convention of 2008 (Pepsi Center) in Denver, Colorado.

Onstage with Tucker and his bow tie, as noted above, was Jesse Ventura, the former Governor of Minnesota and co-star of “Predator,” who claimed that he was going to run for president in 2012. As we now know, that didn’t happen, and neither did the legalization of hemp, which seemed to be the chief plank in the Libertarian platform.

I was immediately led down front to the press box, where I found myself surrounded by a bevy of men who spoke English with a definite German accent and were trying to explain to me the basic tenets of Libertarianism.  I also noticed a well-dressed young man wearing a badge to the real Republican convention, then going on across town in St. Paul. I finally asked him, “Why are you here? Aren’t you supposed to be across town at the Republican convention?” His response? “This is where the real action is.”

I still remember how much Barry Goldwater, Jr., looked like his father, the Arizona Senator. And, since I remembered Barry’s run for the roses and the slogan, “In your heart you know he’s right—far right,” seeing the young doppelganger onstage was a surreal experience, as was the entire convention.

During the breaks in the speeches the group of attendees, who closely resembled the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys we saw storming the Capitol on January 6th, would assemble in the bar and hold forth on a variety of topics, none of them concepts with which I could identity at all.

It was truly a remarkable memory of my 2008 cross-country coverage of th: e presidential season, which began in Iowa, included Florida (Rudy Giuiliani’s “run” or “trot”), involved entrance to both the DNC and the RNC conventions in Denver and St. Paul, and also involved the Belmont Town Hall meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.

For a more up-close-and-personal view of that adventure, which earned me the title Yahoo Content Producer of the Year for Politics, I recommend “Obama’s Odyssey”, volumes I and II, both available on Amazon and both exceedingly readable.

If I can find pictures from that campaign experience of 15 years ago, I’ll include them with this article on my still-in-existence blog, but, otherwise, it’s strictly going to be pictures of Tucker Carlson.

“A Small Light” at SXSW is National Geographic Series Rediscovering the Anne Frank Story

The official synopsis for “A Small Light:”  “Based on an inspiring true story, Miep Gies was  young, carefree and opinionated — at a time when opinions got you killed ― when Otto Frank asked her to help hide his family from the Nazis during WWII. Told with a modern sensibility, A SMALL LIGHT shakes the cobwebs off history and makes Miep’s story feel relevant, forcing audiences to ask themselves what they would have done in Miep’s shoes; and in modern times, asking if they would have the courage to stand up to hatred. Some stood by, Miep stood up.” The powerful, eight-part limited series is produced by ABC Signature and Keshet Studios and will begin airing on May 1st. (See last paragraph for channels and times).

Bel Powley as Miep Gies. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

The series stars Bel Powley as Miep and Liev Schreiber as Otto Frank. Anne Frank is portrayed by 17-year-old British actress Billie Boulet (“The Worst Witch,” “The Power”) and her older sister, Margot, is portrayed by Ashley Brooke (“The White House Plumbers,” “Troop Zero”). Ashley shared during the Q&A that her own grandmother was a Holocaust concentration camp survivor.

The opening episodes of the series build the character of Miep.  “A Small Light” is the story of Miep Gies ; Born. Hermine Santruschitz. 15 February 1909. Vienna, Austria-Hungary (Now Austria) ; Died, 11 January 2010 (2010-01-11) (aged 100). Hoorn, Netherlands. Miep  was sent from her native Vienna, Austria to be raised by the Gies family because her health was fragile. Her nuclear family felt it was in her best interests to relocate her to Amsterdam, so that she could receive medical care and a generally better quality of life. She remained in Amsterdam for the rest of her life.

Bel Powley as Miep Gies. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Miep, as portrayd by Bel Powley (“The Morning Show,” “The King of Staten Island,” “White Boy Rick“) seems carefree and lighthearted and not that interested in either working or settling down. Her adopted family actually has conversations about the possibility of her marrying her adopted brother, to alleviate the hardship for the family unit continuing to support Miep in war-time.

This detail about Miep’s potential marriage to someone she  regarded as her brother was true. It was researched by show creators Tony Phelan and Joan Rater, who are a married couple. The brother being gay, however, was poetic license, based on the gay community’s support for the Resistance in Amsterdam in WWII. The co-creators also shared that their diligent research for the series was all donated to the Anne Frank House/Museum after filming was completed.

Joan arrived late for the Q&A due to flight delays at SXSW. She explained that she and her husband were touring the Anne Frank home in Amsterdam when they became intrigued by the untold story of Miep Gies, the young woman who stepped up to help hide Otto Frank and his family when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. The sets were exact recreations of the space in which the Franks hid.

Ashley Brooks and Billie Boullet (Margot and Anne Frank) at SXSW. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

It is clear that Miep is somewhat naïve about how bad things will become for Jewish residents of the Netherlands. (“Hitler won’t come here. We’re neutral.”) She is among those Dutch citizens who cannot believe that the Germans will invade their peaceful city and country. Others, who are more practical, are convinced that he will, in fact, invade.

May 10-15, 1940:  The Queen fled to London and the Netherlands fell to the Nazis in five days.

Miep is proven wrong in her optimistic belief that “all will be well.” She then becomes very active in helping Jews go into hiding, not only helping the Franks build a secret hideaway above Otto’s Opetka office, with a staircase hidden behind a fake bookcase, but also helped to hide other Jewish families in the city.

Miep also has a romance with a bookish young man named Jan, played by Joe Cole (“Peaky Blinders”). Jan tells Miep that he is actually already married to someone else, but just doesn’t have enough money to finalize the divorce. That was an odd beginning to their courtship.  Miep is shown ditching Jan at a club, as she found his bookish ways (he is reading Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”) boring, initially. Ultimately, the couple discover they have many shared interests and—despite his horrible period haircut—they become a couple. Jan is played by Joe Cole (“Against the Ice,” “The Ipcress File”).

Co-creator Tony Phelan. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

As the couple become more and more involved in the Dutch Resistance—Miep in their neighborhood and Jan banding together with like-minded co-workers (he is a social worker)—the couple work together to solve problems such as how to secure extra ration books in order to feed the nine people hiding in the upper area above Otto Frank’s Opetka jam business.

It falls to the efforts and good will and chutzpah of  Good Samaritans such as Miep and Jan to hide and provide for the persecuted Jews. Miep hid the Franks for over 2 years. The Franks went into hiding on July 5, 1942.

During that time, Miep was also helping hide other families. At one point, the Franks’ Jewish dentist, Dr. Pfeffer (Noah Taylor) must go into hiding with the Franks and their guests, the Van Pels family. A line in the script, when husband Jan suggests that Miep should have shared her decision with him before saying yes to Otto Frank (Liev Schreiber with his hair shaved back to mid-pate), Miep responds, “I didn’t think I needed to consult you before agreeing to save someone’s life.”

Director Susanna Fogel of “A Small Light” (Photo by Connie Wilson).

From the stage during the Q&A Joan Rater shared with the audience that she and her husband (co-creator Tony Phelan, who directed 3 episodes and scripted others) have a son about the age that Miep was when she was asked to help hide the Franks. It was being in Amsterdam and thinking about the way in which their own son might react that got them thinking about the largely untold story of Miep Gies.


Most of us are familiar with “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Only Otto survived being imprisoned. Edith (the mother) died at Auschwitz. Anne and Margot were transferred to Birkenau and died there of typhus.

As for Miep Gies, the focus of this film, she lived to be almost 101. When the Franks were arrested in August of 1944, possibly turned in by neighbors or by the cleaning person at Otto’s business, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl were not arrested. Miep managed to excuse herself by saying she knew nothing of those in hiding. Miep and two others would rescue Anne’s diary before the Nazis cleared out the hiding place. They would eventually return the papers to Otto Frank. Anne’s father would see that Anne’s diary was published (initially as “Diary of a Young Girl”).

“A Small Light,” an 8 part series, premieres Monday, May 1, at 9/8c on National Geographic with two back-to-back episodes. New episodes will debut every Monday at 9/8c and 10/9c on National Geographic and will stream the next day on Disney +. The timeliness of the script, plus the excellent performances and on-site location shoot, have this series marked for nominations during awards season.


Listen to part of my interview with the actresses Ashley Brooke, who played Margot Frank, and 17-year-old Billie Burke, who plays Anne Frank in the 8-part National Geographic series now airing. (Ashley is also appearing in “The White House Plumbers” as Alexandra Liddy, daughter of Justin Theroux’s character of E. Gordon Liddy.) Connie met with the two stars of “A Small Light” for a one-on-one interview just prior to the film’s premiere at SXSW.

Cancun (April 9-16) at the Royal Sands

We’ve been in Cancun for a week, a week which ended today.

It’s hard to describe the beauty of Cancun in words; pictures do a much better job.

There were eleven of us until today, when departures took place.

I am posting some photos of our week, to date, with more to come.

Ava, me, Stacey, Elise (windy!).

Elise and Ava (in pink) at the Royal Sands.

Elise, (Aunt) Stacey, and Ava at Captain’s Cove.

Bob Odenkirk Rides Again: “Lucky Hank” Premieres at SXSW and Streams (AMC+) on March 19th, 2023.

“Lucky Hank” is Bob Odenkirk, in his first television outing since leaving “Better Call Saul.” The premiere episode of the AMC+ series premiered at SXSW on March 12th (Oscar day), showing once and once only at the Stateside Theater in Austin.

Bob Odenkirk and cast members of “Lucky Hank”, streaming on AMC+ on March 19th.

The series owes much to the Pulitzer Prize-winning book on which it is based, “Straight Man,” by Richard Russo.

The synopsis for the series reads: “An English department chairman at an underfunded college, Professor Hank Devereaux toes the line between midlife crisis and full-blown meltdown, navigating the offbeat chaos in his personal and professional life.”  As IMDB further says, William Henry Devereaux, Jr., spiritually suited to playing left field but forced by a bad hamstring to try first base, is the unlikely chairman of the English department at Railton East University. Over the course of a single convoluted week, he threatens to execute a duck, has his nose slashed by a feminist poet, discovers that his secretary writes better fiction than he does, suspects his wife of having an affair with his dean, and finally confronts his philandering elderly father, the one-time king of American Literary Theory, at an abandoned amusement park”

If this all sounds like a great vehicle for Bob Odenkirk, you’re right. The humor and sarcasm are on full display in this clip.



The cast, headed by Odenkirk, is stellar. Mirielle Enos (“World War Z,” “The Killing”) plays Hanks’ wife, Lily, and she is a revelation. In the Q&A following the screening, she admitted that she “wanted to play a less closeted woman.” Her serious role in “The Killing” made her a natural choice for screenwriters Paul Lieberstein and Aaron Zelman, who had worked with her on “The Killing.” Those representing the premiere in Austin referred to the cast as “spectacular.”

The writers are similarly spectacular. Although credit must also be given to the source material, as the writers admit that they constantly “went back to the book” while also adding depth to Hank’s character.

Bob Odnkirk and Mirielle Enos onstage at the Stateside Theater in Austin, Texas, at SXSW, on March 11, 2023.

Bob Odenkirk, onstage after the screening, talked about how he ended up working this hard so soon after “Better Call Saul” ended. “I had said yes to the show. I really thought it would take forever. It didn’t.” Factor in a heart attack that Odenkirk described as, “what happens when you don’t take your heart medication” and here he is in an 8-episode series that he praised as “A place for everyone to do their best” and “A lot of variety on a journey that goes somewhere.” Odenkirk added that it was “Great use of modern TV. We had 4 different directors and travel alterations. The stories and characters progress and it is more like an 8-episode movie.”

He also praised the dream cast and said, of his character, “He’s so different from Saul, who was a loner. There are people in the right relationships. You love your wife and then, if you’re married long enough, you hate them.” (This brought laughter and an admonition from the writers, “Bob! Your wife is in the audience.”) Odenkirk continued, “If it’s a great relationship, you find your way back and you don’t even know how.” He felt that Saul and Kim in “Better Call Saul” were loners, but “I liked the way this guy relates to other people.” Pointing out the fundamental differences between his Saul character and Hank he said, “It’s fun to do wildly different things. It’s one of the reasons I went into this business.”


For me, the bad is that I currently don’t have AMC+. In order to watch this wildly entertaining series, I am going to have to subscribe, which means that my spouse (of 55 years) is going to be gifted with a subscription to the series (which premieres on March 19th). Since his birthday is March 21st, thank you, Hank, for figuring out what to give the man who has everything. This looks like a totally enjoyable, witty, well-written and well-acted 8-episode series that will entertain mightily.

Anti-Semitism on the Rise in the United States

I’m almost caught up from the recently concluded SXSW film festival.

I still have a review of a screened horror film (“Appendage”) and one that is embargoed until April 24th for a drama financed by National Geographic commencing May 1st that will focus on the brave young woman who helped hide Otto Frank and his family in war-torn Amsterdam. Most of us know the story of Anne Frank from her recovered diary and the many spin-off dramatizations that sprang from it. Most of us did not know about Miep Gies, however.

It  was Miep Gies, then a 24-year-old secretary to Otto Frank at his business (a jam factory called Opetka) who agreed to hide Otto Frank (Liev Schreiber) and his family of four (Otto, Edith, Anne and Margot) and five other Dutch Jews from the Nazis during WWII and the occupation of Holland. They lived in hiding for 2 years, until they were turned in.

Only Otto Frank survived the war after the Nazis captured the family, hiding in a hidden annex built above Mr. Frank’s business establishment, Opetka.  He and his family were sent to concentration camps, separated as a family, and only Otto survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.

Together with her colleague Bep Voskuijl, Miep retrieved Anne Frank’s diary after the family was arrested, and kept the papers safe,  returning the papers to Otto Frank when he came back to Amsterdam from Auschwitz in June of 1945.  Gies had stored Anne Frank’s papers in the hopes of returning them to the girl, but gave them to Otto Frank, instead, who compiled them into a diary first published in June of 1947,

Bel Powley, who portrays Miep Gies in “A Small Light.” (Photo by Connie Wilson)

In collaboration with Alison Leslie Gold, Gies wrote the book Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family in 1987. Born in 1909, she died just one month shy of her 101st birthday in 2010, which was surprising, considering the fact that she was instrumental in saving many Dutch Jews from the Holocaust. [She denied any involvement in helping hide the Franks when their hiding place was discovered.]

Considering that anti-Semitism is at its highest point since the seventies, the choice to dramatize this story at this time in history is a timely one. The Anti-Defamation League began keeping records of anti-Semitic activity in 1979. In the past 5 years, the incidences of assaults or robberies or other crimes have increased 500%. On college campuses, the incidences have risen 4o% and in Kindergarten through 12th grade schools, the incidences of such wrongdoing are up 50%.

Specifically, incidents of violence against Orthodox Jews are up 67%. Incidents of vandalism are up 51%. General harassment is up 29% and assaults, in general, are up 26%. As the experts have said, “Extremists feel emboldened right now” and various other spokesmen called it a “battleground against bigotry.”

As one CNN expert said, “It may start with the Jews, but it doesn’t end with the Jews.” A super spreader of such hatred would be social media outlets. When social influencers (like Kanye West and Mel Gibson) express hatred for the Jewish people, there are surges in such evil acts. There is a reverberation effect within and among conspiracy groups; the actions condoned by the MAGA hordes are germane.

Signs of people in positions of authority condoning, explicitly or complicitly, man’s inhumanity to man contributes to the deep-seated problem and exposes a sickness in society. Kanye West today tried to dig himself out of the deep hole he had dug for himself with his anti-Semitic rants, saying that watching Jonah Hill in “21 Jump Street” had changed his opinion to one that is more positive. Not only is this a weak defense against his previous bigoted words and actions, but it hardly seems likely to stem the tide of actions like those that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia from August 11th to 12th in 2017.  That Unite the Right rally was a white supremacist rally that seems, now, to have been a watershed moment in giving radical groups permission to act in  uncivil and illegal manners. It is worth noting that it took place during Donald Trump’s presidency.

The focus on the heroic actions of the Miep Gies’ of the world comes at a time that should give the excellent production “A Small Light” a welcome platform. (Review to follow in April).

“65” by Scott Beck & Bryan Woods Is Well-Acted, Entertaining Sci-Fi Thriller


(Scott) Beck and (Bryan) Woods, the boys from Bettendorf (Iowa) ,have created another great film in their latest offering, “65.” The film stars Adam Driver as Mills, the pilot of a space craft from the planet Somaris, who is embarking on a 2-year run when his spaceship encounters cryogenic failure during an asteroid shower and crash lands on a planet that we will soon find out is Earth, 65 million years ago.

The ship had been carrying passengers in pods, but eleven of the passengers are dead after the crash, including the family of a young girl about the same age as Mills’ (Adam Driver’s) own daughter back on Solaris. Chloe Coleman plays Nevine, Mills’ ailing daughter. He’s being paid three times the going rate to make this long trip; his hope is to earn enough to save Nevine’s life. Alas, that is not in the cards, but the surviving pod person on his ship, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt) will, in time, grow close to Mills, despite their inability to easily communicate.

The acting in the film is terrific. Adam Driver selects interesting roles and this is an interesting role, dealing with two people who are trying to come to terms with deep grief, while also staying alive on a planet inhabited by dangerous dinosaurs. Filmed largely in Louisiana and in Coos Bay, Oregon, the end credits also mention Ireland and Australia. Wherever they found the realistic-looking caverns and mountains, the “sets” (if one can call them that) are truly fantastic.

More importantly, the suspenseful beats that beset the characters while they attempt to make it to a still-working escape pod that has landed far from the impact point of the rest of the ship, are truly terrifying. The chasms they encounter look real. The attack by a velociraptor looks real. The imagined encounters—including Koa swallowing a large insect while asleep—are creative and original.

That is the best thing about this “Jurassic Park/Alien/Star Wars” combination movie: it does not feel derivative. It feels real and fresh and new. I’ve now been at this since 1970; trust me. Check it out!

All of the above are “the good.” I enjoyed this film more than the much more generic “Haunt” that the team of Beck & Woods followed up “A Quiet Place” with in 2019. In a month that saw sequels (“Creed,” and “Scream”) galore, this film is the rare indie, stand-alone, not-part-of-a-franchise.

A thinking man (or woman’s) film; I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is also family friendly with a PG-13 rating,


The “bad”  of “65” is not the writer/directors’ fault.

The movie got pushed back in its release date from April of 2022 to March 10 of 2023 by Covid. Then, Sony, which budgeted it at $91 million, did not market it properly. I heard almost nothing about the film before it actually launched, slated to open against the franchise sequels mentioned in the paragraph above. It should have premiered at Sundance or at SXSW, like “A Quiet Place” did in 2018.

Some have mentioned that the title (“65”) did not help the film. It tells you nothing about the theme. I was not a fan of the information projected onscreen. Yes, I know that “Star Wars” did it, but saying “Prior to the advent of mankind in the infinity of the universe, other civilizations explored the universe” seemed about as cutting edge as using a voice-over to give us essential information, which generally is not done in modern-day movies nearly as much as in years of yore.

Others have pointed to Adam Drver’s last few films as not box office catnip. They mentioned “Annette,” “The Last Duel” and “White Noise.” With the exception of “The Last Duel,” which looked like a real lemon from the get-go, both “Annette” and “White Noise” will find fans when they stream, IMHO.

Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, screenwriters of “A Quiet Place,” the morning after the film opened SXSW in 2018 with Connie at Starbucks.

I also wanted to share these insights from Beck & Woods in an interview with“The Hollywood Reporter,” because it underscores why “65” deserves to find its following.

Bryan Woods told the “Hollywood Reporter, “In order to sleep at night, we have to believe in a world where a great idea, if executed well, can still break out and get people talking about it. And I do believe that. I absolutely think that can still happen. Inevitably, there will be franchise fatigue. It’s just inevitable when you think about comic book movies, which we’re fans of. They’re done at such a scale that’s mind blowing, and they’re executed so well most of the time. They’ve had a stranglehold on the box office for 20 or 30 years, but there was 70 years of cinema where the only thing people would go see was the Western. The Western dominated 70 years of cinema, and then one day, people were like, “I’m done with the Western. I don’t want to see the Western ever again.” And now there’s only a couple that come out a year, so it’s all cyclical. Things will change, but I believe that there’s always room for a splashy concept that’s executed well.”

From Scott Beck: “And just the little that we can do as filmmakers, we’re always going to be interested in trying to carve our own path and make something new, and not necessarily stand on the shoulders of sequels or remakes.”

Q:  You guys said something to THR years ago that’s stuck with me ever since. It was on the subject of John Krasinski getting the spotlight on A Quiet Place, and your thinking at the time was that he’d paid his dues for a long time to get that moment. And in due time, the two of you might find yourselves in a similar position to get a moment like that. Where did you guys develop such a mature mindset about all that? Is it your Midwestern values? 

Beck: “Well, thanks for saying so. We had to develop thick skin early on, but we brought it upon ourselves. In high school, when we made these short films and feature films for no money, we would test screen them at the local community college. And we will never forget our first scathing review of one of our films. We were 17 or 18 years old, and at that age, you’re incredibly vulnerable while still trying to find your voice.

And yet it opened our eyes to criticism. You can learn from it as long as it’s a critique. There’s something to pull out of that, and that’s coming from two people who’ve read film criticism for ages from many different outlets. You also learn that you can’t please everybody, and things are not always within your control.”

“65” is a good movie. It will ultimately find its fans. Check it out!

“Evil Dead Rise” Premieres at SXSW and Heckler Makes News

The first film of the trilogy, The Evil Dead, as well as its 2013 remake, were so horrifically gory that they were actually banned in various countries including Finland, Ukraine, and Singapore. That should have been my first clue that I would hate this movie.

 Eight months, one Covid lockdown, and 6,500 litres of fake blood went into making the latest in the Sam Raimi “Evil Dead” series, this one entitled “Evil Dead Rise” and shot in New Zealand. Its Irish director, Lee Cronin, earned a Saturn award nomination for Breakthrough Director at Sundance. I had high hopes upon entry to the World Premiere on Wednesday, March 15th, at SXSW’s Paramount Theater.

I was game to sit through “Evil Dead Rise.” As a former active voting member of HWA (Horror Writers’ Association) and the author of three novels some might call “horror,” this would be right up my alley for “The Color of Evil” trilogy author.

Wrong, Snore-Snout.

If 80% of a film’s success is casting, this one started out wobbly with a freakishly tall and extensively tattooed leading lady, Alyssa Sutherland. The tattoos may not have been real and the Australian actress/model’s height is listed as five feet eleven inches, so take those comments with a grain of salt. I didn’t buy any of the actors’ performances.

The synopsis read: “A twisted tale of two estranged sisters whose reunion is cut short by the rise of flesh-possessing demons, thrusting them int a primal battle for survival as they face the most nightmarish version of family imaginable.”

I reviewed film through the eighties, when slasher films were all the rage. After about twenty in a row, I swore off the entire series of films that attempt to entertain you by thrusting a knife into someone’s throat (Kevin Bacon in one memorable eighties cabin scene) or  gross you out by having excessive projectile vomiting.

This film has taken the worst of those gross-out concepts and amplified them. If that’s your thing, as it seemed to be for the man next to me who was laughing hilariously and thoroughly enjoying this movie, then go for it. If this audience member hadn’t been very large (and blocking the aisle to exit) I might have left before the end, but, thanks to Mr. Laugh-A-Lot, I couldn’t escape. I saw the entire film (as did the heckler.)

Watching an eyeball fly across the room from a severed head and someone else inadvertently swallow it: gross. Buckets of blood in an elevator that bursts forth? Derivative of “The Shining” but with much less plot justification.

During the Q&A for the film, Bruce Campbell was brought onstage, the original Ash of the first 4 films, who raised the $350,000 for the very first film that Stephen King championed and ended up playing a lead in subsequent films (but not this one.) This new version moved from the woods to the city

As Campbell (“Ash”) was speaking, an apparently inebriated male theater-goer in the audience shouted out, loudly, “This movie effing sucks” (profanity euphemism substituted). Campbell demanded that the man—already on his way out— be removed from the Paramount Theater. (It made all the papers.)

You’ve been warned.

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