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!

Author: Connie Wilson Page 1 of 105

Weekly Wilson on Channel 100, Bold Brave Media Global Network Debuts 2/27 @ 7 p.m. (CDT)

“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” sixth book in the Christmas Cats series (www.TheXmasCats.com).

My podcast, entitled Weekly Wilson (like this blog) launches at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 27th on Channel 100 of Bold Brave Media Global Network.

As the maiden voyage of the Hindenburg floats out over the airwaves of Bold Brave Media Global Network, you can call in at 866-451-1451. I’ve already lined up eleven-year-old twins who will lend their youthful voices to the air waves and solve the world’s problems. (!) Well, maybe not that, but they ARE my collaborators on one of my (many) series I will start out discussing. (Check ConnieCWilson.com for the others).

Since no one will know who I am, it is customary for the hostess to tell them, which I will do during the first segment (2 after the hour of 7 p.m. CDT to 10 after the hour). Then, a commercial break will occur.

There will be 5 distinct segments thereafter (followed by commercials). For your scheduling pleasure, since I know you won’t want to miss a single word, they are currently scheduled to be:

THE COLOR OF EVIL – from 7:12 to 7:20 p.m.

Hellfire & Damnation series – from 7:22 to 7:30 p.m.

Ghostly Tales of Route 66 – from 7:32 to 7:40 p.m.

Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House, Vols. I & II – from 7:42 to 7:50

The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats series, with co-authors Ava & Elise Wilson – from 7:52 to 7:56 and 1/2.

Following these cursory descriptions of the 40 to 50 books I’ve published since 1989 (most since 2003), other weeks may see me going into great depth about a series, but I’m planning on having as many guests as I can round up. So far, here’s how that looks:

 1) Author Michael Serrapica, of “Conned Conservatives and Led-On Liberals” (politics, anyone?) on Show #2. Michael has graciously consented to come back and talk politics as the presidential race heats up. He has a background in radio and is a proud former union member and representative, so we’ll be talking politics.

2) Several representatives from SXSW of various sorts during that run (March 13-23) and before and after (working, right now, on a Val Kilmer thing at the local Alamo Drafthouse on Sunday for an article for the blog).

3) An expert on the corona virus from the University of Texas in Austin (Bill Kohl).

4) Author (Charlotte Canion of “You Have to Laugh to Keep from Crying” who will discuss caring for your elderly parents while also coping with your own health issues.

I am sure there will be technical issues aplenty, knowing my usual luck, but feel free to find Weekly Wilson on Channel 100 on Bold Brave Media Global Network and call in (it’s live) at 866-451-1451.

Hoping to hear from you with your questions or comments about any of the various topics this program will feature. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that it tends to be movies, politics, books, some travel, but the corona virus falls into none of those categories. Think of it a bit like any of the late night talk shows with hosts (Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, etc.). I’ll be interested in what you’re interested in, hopefully.

H.Q. Trivia Game Dies A Grisly Death on Valentine’s Day (2020)

I’ve been playing H.Q. Trivia for about 3 years now, and it had become a staple of our evening, with an 8 p.m. show. We played the individual daily games to “level up” and, generally, it was a 15-minute date with trivia.

Scott Rogowski, Host of H.Q. Trivia, “live” in Austin at SXSW. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

The app fell on hard times with the departure of Quiz Daddy host Scott Rogowski, who asked that he be allowed to host H.Q. part-time and host another sports-themed show on the side. The show declined to allow Rogowski to serve two masters and half of the faithful departed. He was obviously still in high dudgeon at SXSW in April, because I took the pictures of him hosting the first-ever “live” show there, which I attended that year.

There were issues with the leadership of the game show. One of the two founders died unexpectedly of a drug overdose. Peter Thiel was revealed to have been one of the initial investors, which dampened the enthusiasm of other investors. Prizes shrank to low, low amounts—-usually not even more than $1,000—and the very last game on Valentine’s Day caused last host Matt Rogers to give the winner $5 out of his own pocket, while the other winners took home only one cent.

Scott Rogowski, “live” from SXSW at 4:15 p.m. on March 10, 2019. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Stand-up comic Matt Rogers did his best to inject enthusiasm into the mix after Rogowsky’s departure, and his co-host for the Words game, Anna Roisman, was competent in her verbal duties, if sometimes annoying in other ways.  Sharon from England did a good job.  (We watched to see if she’d ever fall out of her low-cut dresses.) Tyler the Fish (Tyler Fisher) was fast, and the blonde who handled sports did good work, but a new “add” to the hosting group who hosted a music version on Friday nights was obnoxious and awful. Laina Alaina (probably not spelled correctly) thought she was way too cute and insisted on singing, which was painful for the rest of us. Guest hosts were increasingly infrequent, but they sometimes appeared (Neil Patrick Harris, Jimmy Kimmel) and that kep fans wsatching and playing.

It was rather unexpected that the game was going to tank completely, however. Had I known, I would have “cashed in” the $13 I was owed earlier. (I’m still nursing a bruised ego over the $20 that the Cash Show took down witout paying me).

Scott Rogowski congratulates one of the 72 winners of the $10,000 prize on March 10, 2019 at SXSW in Austin. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

The season had just ended and I had “leveled up” to Level 10 without winning anything more substantial than coins to use for free lives. Nevertheless, the trivia was a welcome diversion and reminiscent of that old game Trivial Pursuit, which I always enjoyed. I am sad to see H.Q. go.

The final night (Valentine’s Day evening) co-hosts Matt Richards (“Money-flipping Matt Richards”) and  co-host Anna Roisman (the poor man’s Sarah Silverman) Matt had just consumed a large meal consisting of crab legs and shrimp and lots of booze. Anna was complaining non-stop about Matt’s belching in their small studio and kept standing on her head, which was never funny. At one point, Matt insisted that he was going to “moon” the cameras, but Anna talked him out of it.

They were both “in their cups,” sad about becoming unemployed. Matt’s dogs eat $200 of dog food monthly, he said; they might starve. Plus there was the jewelry he had purchased (a gold ring with the initial “R”). Bad timing for Matt. Anna kept shilling for her podcast. I understand this impulse, as I’m going to be starting one on February 27th at 7 pm. CDT on the Bold Brave Media Gloal Network.

Indeed, the quiz show originally had about 35 employees, but a petition to get rid of the other co-founder of the game had circulated and, in a Trump-like gesture, that still-living founder fired 20% of the staff. Some, it was said, resigned in protest, claiming the founder was impossible. Meanwhile, veterans of marketing and coding were defecting and the staff that was left was trying to find a way to attract new downloads of the app, which had declined 92% over time. (measured June to June).

Scott Rogowski, host, and one (of 72) winners of the first-ever “live” game of H.Q. in Austin, Texas at SXSW on March 10 at 4:15 p.m. CDT.

One new game was billed as HQX and involved taking pictures with your IPhone and mailing them in. Bad game.

Then there was Laina Alainna and her non-stop singing and posing during a Friday night music game. Plus, the Words game had truly ridiculous premises, which simply meant that the Tuesday and Thursday night schedule drew fewer and fewer players and the prize money declined to almost nothing.

So, I shall have to fill my time with something else at 8 p.m. each night. Farewell, H.Q.

Revolution or Evolution? New Hampshire & Politics

Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the 4th of July.

The New Hampshire primary election results are in, and the political choice between revolution and evolution continues.  I liked Chris Matthews characterization of the race as this: “Americans are looking for a designated driver. They just want someone to safely drive the car so they can say, ‘You got this’ and go do anything else.” (loosely paraphrased) Matthews went on to say that he was afraid that voters had lost confidence in Joe Biden as a good designated driver for our careening country. And so it goes.

Millennials, having officially eclipsed Baby Boomers as the most populous group in the United States, love the messages of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and have since 2016. David Axelrod said the candidate race, this year, is a choice between revolution and evolution.

The younger generation, saddled with onerous debt from their college loans and eager to make the 1% pay their fair share of taxes, are tired of living in their parents’ basements because they are unable to find affordable housing. Bernie’s message resonates. (Warren’s did, for a while, until her spat with Bernie onstage.)

When I am told I am too “middle-of-the-road” and that my gut instinct that Bernie Sanders is not the best candidate to successfully head up the Democratic ticket in a national race, I am either shouted down with “OK, Boomer” or told (by a millennial Facebook crowd) that “Joe Biden is just a desiccated corpse looking for a grave to fall into.”

Not only is that maligning Joe Biden, it’s wrong in my own case. (I’m the Silent Generation, I think—although I get them mixed up.)

It’s looking like the “best” ticket to potentially win nationally for Democrats, at this point, might be Bloomberg/Klobuchar, but, again, cries of “OK Boomer” tell me that I know nothing about politics, and Bernie is the revolution that millennials want, with free college and all the rest of it.

As a one-time Berkeley (Ca) college student and activist during CORE and SNCC and the Vietnam War, I’d just like to remind the Millennials celebrating the Sanders surge, that middle-of-the-road Democrats are not the enemy. Nor are we indifferent to the causes that dominate the news cycles now. Here are the lyrics of a Quicksilver Messenger song “What About Me.” (The band formed in 1965, 55 years ago.)

 

You poisoned my sweet water.
You cut down my green trees.
The food you fed my children
Was the cause of their disease.

My world is slowly fallin’ down
And the air’s not good to breathe.
And those of us who care enough,
We have to do something…….

[Chorus]
Oh… oh What you gonna do about me?
Oh… oh What you gonna do about me?

Your newspapers,
They just put you on.
They never tell you
The whole story.

They just put your
Young ideas down.
I was wonderin’ could this be the end
Of your pride and glory?

[Chorus]

I work in your factory.
I study in your schools.
I fill your penitentiaries.
And your military too!

And I feel the future trembling,
As the word is passed around.
“If you stand up for what you do believe,
Be prepared to be shot down.”

[Chorus]

And I feel like a stranger
In the land where I was born
And I live like an outlaw.
An’ I’m always on the run…

An I’m always getting busted
And I got to take a stand….
I believe the revolution
Must be mighty close at hand…

Oscar Night Predictions on February 9, 2020

“1917” film’s cast and director Sam Mendes in Chicago at the AMC Theater on December 10, 2019.

My favorite picture of the year, if anyone cares, for sheer enjoyment, was “Ford v. Ferrari.” It doesn’t have a chance for anything but the sound editing and potentially some visual effects.

So, here are my picks, based on having seen almost all of the films. (I do admit that I have not seen “Little Women” or Antonio Banderas’ nominated role in “Power and Glory.”
Let’s see how these come out:
Supporting Actor – Brad Pitt
MakeUp and Hairstyling: Bombshell
Costume Design: Little Women
Documentary Feature: For Sama (the favorite is said to be “American Factory,” which I saw last night. I think that the life-and-death nature of “For Sama,” filmed behind ennemy lines in Syria, was so riveting that, despite its technical issues, I voted for it.
Sound Editing: Ford v. Ferrari.
Here are my current picks: Brad Pitt for Actor in a Supporting Role
Maeup and Hairstyling; Bombshell (for transforming Charlize Theron into Megyn Kelly)
Costume Design: Little Women
Documentary Feature: For Sama (I know that American Factory is the favorite, but For Sama was so powerful in its depiction of medicine in Syria behind enemy lines.)
Sound Editing: Ford v. Ferrari
Sound Mixing: Ford v. Ferrari
Production Design: 1917
International Feature: Parasite (could be the Best Picture for a big upset)
Actress in a Supporting Role: Laura Dern
Amimated Short Film: Hair Love
Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 4
Visual Effects: 1917
Film Editing: Ford v. Ferrari
Documentary Short Subject: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If you’re a girl)
Live Action Short Film: The Neighbors’ Window
Adapted Screenplay: Little Women
Original Screenplay: Marriage Story
Cinematography: 1917
Original Score: 1917
Original Song: “I’m Gonna Love Me Again”
Director: Sam Mendes
Actor in a Leading Role: Joaquin Phoemix
Actress in a Leading Role: Renee Zellweger
Best Picture: 1917 (* Well aware that “Parasite” may knock it off)

Chaos and Confusion in the Corn State

Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the Fourth of July, 2019.

Iowa drops the ball on caucus night, February 3. We still don’t know the results of the Iowa caucuses of Monday night, and it’s Tuesday afternoon.

Donald J. Trump will, no doubt, say something along the lines of, “Look at the Democrats. They can’t even hold an election. How can they run a country?” when he makes his State of the Union address tonight. I’d like to see the Iowa Democratic Party delay releasing the tardy results until the exact moment that the Orange One begins talking. That would be poetic justice.

I’ve actually been to the Iowa caucuses, in 2008. I wasn’t voting, but observing. What I observed in Des Moines was orchestrated chaos that was very home-spun and folksy, but not that efficient. There were all sorts of journalists from all over the globe snaking through the lunch room of the elementary school where my college roommate and I went so that she could caucus.

One thing that remained constant from 2008 to 2020 is that Joe Biden was among those one could vote for at both times. So was John Edwards back then, and I was an early Edwards supporter, while friend Pam caucused for Joe.

I’ve been watching the results (or non-results) of the caucus last night “live” on television since last night. I watched Precinct 38 in Des Moines weigh in, with 2 delegates going for Warren, 2 for Mayor Pete, and 1 to Sanders. Then, the talking heads switched to Cedar Rapids where 437 caucus goers  had gathered. There were 2 ruined ballots, we were told, but Mayor Pete got 26.5%, Warren 19.8%, Amy 18.4%, Sanders 18.4% and Joe Biden 16.8%.

The talking heads today are saying, “Old School was faster.” The back-up of paper ballots is what the Iowa Democratic party is now falling back on to laboriously count them by hand in 1700 caucus locations. “It’s beyond Old School. It’s really rudimentary,” says CNN’s Dana Bash.

During the evening, we viewers were also taken inside Drake University’s Field House (gymnasium) where 400 people had turned out. Sixty-six people would make a “viable” candidate.

In North Liberty, Iowa, just outside Iowa City, bigger numbers were expected than appeared. 591 showed up. Eighty-nine caucus goers meant that one’s candidate was “viable.”

In Cedar Rapids, 900 voters were expected, but 437 showed up. It appeared that Pete, Warren and Sanders prevailed with Biden in 4th and Klobuchar down there in the standings with the former VP. In another Des Moines precinct, 356 people showed up and we were told that fifty-six people would make for a viable candidate. Pete, Sanders and Warren were prevailing. Would the more rural districts weighing in change all this? Don’t know; can’t tell you. Just like the Iowa Democratic Party.

One group, forming 16%, refused to be categorized. They were originally Cory Booker delegates, but there were not enough bodies for Cory to prevail without throwing in with others, and that is what happened, with Biden and Klobuchar people forming an “uncomittted” group. It was weird.

“State of the Union” tonight.

By midnight, nobody knew anything, although, in Grinnell, large screens were lowered from the ceiling that showed the images of Warren, Biden and Pete, at one precinct in this college town.

Overall, it was complete confusion and the much-vaunted “app” seems to have been part of the reason why. One wonders if older volunteers who had done this “the old-fashioned way” for over 20 years were quick to pick up on “the app.” I was reminded of me trying to teach my mom how to program her VCR.

When all was said and done, it appears that Mayor Pete and Elizabeth Warren and Bernie seem to have done well, while Biden is in trouble, both monetarily and in terms of live bodies that showed up. It is now 12:15 p.m., the afternoon of the day AFTER the caucus, and there are still no definitive results known. There are 41 delegates at stake, which is not that many, but the real fall-out is going to be for Iowa.

If Iowa loses its “First in the nation” designation, the millions spent on television and radio spots go away. The economic boom for housing and feeding all of the campaign workers who come from afar goes away. The idea that Iowa can give candidates a boost, as it did for Obama in ’08, goes away. Iowa’s position as national “influencers” goes away.

I would posit the idea that this is a very bad day for Iowa and Iowans. The state looks like it doesn’t know how to conduct a caucus, and they’ve had many, many years to get the process down.  Now the talking heads are all saying they want to see the caucuses “go away.” That means no more visits from national candidates to the Hawkeye state, and it is the state itself that will be hurt the most.

The delay in reporting results may work to the benefit of such old soldiers as Joe Biden, who did not seem to be doing well early in the evening. It seems that the new kid on the block, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were the ones who came on strong, from what little we know. It remains to be seen if the money is going to be sufficient for candidates like Klobuchar and Biden, whose coffers are becoming increasingly bare.

It makes one wonder if Mike Bloomberg of the bottomless pockets had thought this through and decided to go all in on being there as an alternative candidate when former Vice President Biden collapsed. Did the “smear” in the Senate (the Ukraine thing) take its toll? These are points that will be debated for years.

Meanwhile, the beat goes on in New Hampshire.

E-book Titles on Sale & Radio Show Coming

I’ve been offering some titles for sale (on Kindle) for $1.99 this month, and it seems like a good time to mention which ones are (still) going to be reduced in price for the rest of January and February.

Taken during a McCain rally at the Cedar Rapids Municipal Airport during the 2008 presidential campaign. Cover of Volume II of “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House.” (Available on Amazon in paperback and e-book).

January 26, “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vol. 2, will be on sale for $1.99.

February 1, (Sat.), the second volume of “Obama’s Odyssey” will remain on sale for this one day only for $1.99.

February 8 (Sat), 2020:  “The Color of Evil,” Book #1 of the 3-book series. This book is currently priced at something like $7.95 in e-book and will be $1.99 for one day.

February 15 (Sat.), 2020:  “Red Is for Rage,” Second book in THE COLOR OF EVIL series.

February 22 (Sat), 2020:  “Khaki = Killer”, Third book in THE COLOR OF EVIL series.

I’ll be starting a radio show entitled WEEKLY WILSON on Bold Brave Media, discussing movies, politics, books and whatever else interests me. Expect me to start off with politics; my newest book is BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE. Call in format at  866-451-1451.

Who Will Be Nominated for the Oscars on January 13th?

“1917” film’s cast and director Sam Mendes in Chicago at the AMC Theater on December 10, 2019.

First, let’s mention the potential Best Actor nominees to be awarded in 2020 for the films of 2019.

BEST ACTOR:
Joaquin Phoenix, who will probably win, if nominated, for “The Joker.”
Christian Bale for “Ford v. Ferrari”
Taron Egerton as Elton John in “Rocketman”
Either or both of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt for “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood”
Any of the principal actors from “The Irishman,” which includes Al Pacino (most likely), Robert DeNiro and/or Joe Pesci.
Adam Driver for “Marriage Story.”
Possibly Jonathan Pryce or Anthony Hopkins from “The Two Popes.”
These are the actors who have been getting the most buzz to date.
The actual nominees will be named tomorrow.

Noah Jupe appears in Honeyboy by Alma Har’el, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Natasha Braier

BEST PICTURE:

My expectation(s) for Best Picture are:
“The Irishman,” “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood,” “Marriage Story,” “1917,” “Parasite,” and, after that, to make up the field of 10 that the Academy has nominated in recent years, the best bets are: “Us,” “Portrait of a Woman on Fire,” “Honeyboy,” “Joker,” “JoJo Rabbit,” and possibly “Judy” or “The Two Popes.” I would also love to see “Ford v Ferrari” earn a nomination.

BEST ACTRESS:

Renee Zelwegger in “Judy” is going to be hard to beat for Best Actress. Others who might be nominated (for Best Actress) include Scarlett Johansson in “Marriage Story” (she was also in “JoJo Rabbit”); Charlize Theron for “Bombshell;” possibly either of the other two stars of “Bombshell” (Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie).

Those that aren’t nominated for Best Actress or Best Actor might well be nominated for Best Supporting performances. For example, if DiCaprio gets the nod for Best Actor, then Brad Pitt would get the nod for Best Support, and vice versa. This is also true for the women of “Bombshell.” although Charlize Theron’s performance as Megyn Kelly seems the most outstanding, due to her uncanny resemblance to the real Megyn Kelly and her ability to mimic her vocal patterns.

These are all thoughts for Sunday, January 12th, with the answer(s) to WHO WILL BE NOMINATED FOR THIS YEAR’S OSCARS to be announced tomorrow.

Dr. Jill Biden Addresses Supporters in Clinton on January 2, 2020

Dr. Jill Biden and Eric VanLanken in Clinton (IA) on Thursday, January 2, 2020, at Biden Headquarters on 2nd Street.

Dr. Jill Biden came to Clinton, Iowa’s Biden headquarters at 415 South 2nd Street and spoke to a crowd of approximately 30 faithful Democratic supporters who agree with former Vice President Joseph Biden’s wife that, “Anyone can tell you what they want to do, but Joe Biden can tell you what he’s done.”

Dr. Jill Biden in Cinton, Iowa, on January 2, 2020.

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of VP Joe Biden, in Clinton, Iowa on January 2, 2020.

Most of us also agree with her assessment that Biden is the one candidate in the field with the national reputation and experience to defeat Trump in 2020.

A career educator (over three decades teaching at high school and community college levels), Jill Biden holds two Master’s degrees in English, education and reading, as well as PhD degrees, and continued to teach full-time throughout Vice President Biden’s time in office. She is thought to be the first wife of a Vice President to continue her full-time job while her husband was in office.

The granddaughter of Italian immigrant signalman Dominicki Giacoppa, the family anglicized the name to Jacobs and Jill Biden’s maiden name was Jill Tracy Jacobs. Her father, Donald C. Jacobs (1927-1999) became President of a Savings and Loan in the Chestnut Hill area of Philadelphia.

The attractive blonde was due in Clinton at 4:00 p.m., but, with 3 previous stops on Thursday, she arrived about 5 p.m. and was introduced by Eric VanLanker, Commissioner of Elections and County Auditor.

Dr. Biden talked about such initiatives as education, alternative energy (wind and solar), the Affordable Care Act and promised that there would be “no late-night tweet storms” if Biden were elected. With only 32 days until the Iowa caucuses, the push was on to secure Iowa voters who would commit to caucus for Biden on February 3rd and to find others to volunteer in various capacities.

No Tweet storms at 3 a.m.! Yeah!

In the most amusing malapropism of the early evening, Dr. Biden noted (to her amusement and that of the assembled crowd), “We can’t stand 4 more years of a Donald J. Trump pregnancy.” Quickly correcting pregnancy to presidency, the personable blonde posed post remarks with each and every person willing to line up for a selfie.

With packing for warmer climes on my mind, I was forced to depart immediately after her remarks, leaving three books in the care of a staffer to deliver to Dr. Biden,  including “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Volumes 1 and 2, and BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE.

Finnegan Biden, granddaughter of VP Joseph Biden, son of Hunter Biden, in 2008.

I hope she enjoys the books, including the picture of Joe Biden’s granddaughter Finnegan Biden in “Obama’s Odyssey,” Volume I, taken in 2008, when I interviewed her at the annual Jefferson/Jackson dinner in Davenport, Iowa. Hunter Biden’s daughter, the lovely 10-year-old, is now twelve years older and, no doubt, just as lovely a young lady.

Best Movies of 2000-2019?

Cover Photo, Image may contain: 3 people, including Connie Corcoran Wilson

With Oscar Isaac at the premiere of “Inside Llewyn Davis” at the Chicago International Film Festival in 2013.

Two writers (Jake Coyle and Lindsey Bahr) from the Associated Press recently penned an article entitled “A Look at the Decade’s Best Big-Screen Releases.” The list, according to these two, was as follows:

  • “Tree of Life”
  • “Phantom Thread”
  • “Margaret”
  • “Lady Bird”
  • “Moonlight”
  • “Somewhere”
  • “Cold War”
  • “Certified Copy”
  • “Inside Llewyn Davis”
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel

I would like to comment on their list.

First of all, yes, “Lady Bird” was a great coming-of-age film, especially since it was a directorial debut for actress Greta Gerwig, but the rest of the films on this list lacked audience appeal Big Time. This is a horrible list of the “best” of the decade.  I question whether anyone except these two even saw half the films on it, most notably “Somewhere,” “Phantom Thread” (did not cross the million-dollar threshold in tickets bought), “Cold War” and “Certified Copy.”

I nearly walked out of “Tree of Life” and watched as many others did exactly that. Ultimately, I chose to write a review that you can read here: https://weeklywilson.com/terrence-malicks-new-film-the-tree-of-life-wins-at-cannes-but-will-they-get-it-in-the-heartland/ It was not a film that I enjoyed, nor did most of the audience. It was a Terence Malick film. He’s made some wonderful films. This wasn’t one of them. He’s been off his game for the past few years, and I’ve been reviewing non-stop since 1970. Opening night of the 2017 SXSW Film Festival in Austin was a semi-disaster, to hear the audience coming out of Malick’s film, muttering and shaking their heads. Despite a star-studded cast, wonderful cinematography alone cannot “save” a film. “Tree of Life” falls into that category.

The same incredulity about the entertainment factor applies to “Phantom Thread,” despite its Oscar nominations. Daniel Day-Lewis as a dressmaker in post 1950s London. Poison. Fetishes. Not a crowd pleaser. One of the reviews at the time referenced a pervading sense of melancholy.

“Moonlight” was well done and beat “La La Land” as Best Picture in the infamous mis-read Oscar telecast ballot screw-up. The best thing to come out of “Moonlight,” however, was a higher profile for Mahershala Ali, who went on to star in “The Green Book,” which would have been a better film to include on this list. The films selected by Coyle and Bahr were well done, yes. But enjoyable? Check out what the audiences had to say on Rotten Tomatoes.

While I loved meeting Oscar Isaac in Chicago at the premiere of “Inside Llewyn Davis” back in 2013 at the Chicago International Film Festival, the film was not that entertaining.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Wes Anderson’s entry on the list, did get more Oscar nominations than his much more enjoyable film “Moonlight Kingdom,” but it was not nearly as enjoyable by the audience.

As for “Margaret,” “Certified Copy,” “Somewhere” and “Cold War”: what? The list above is horrible and, furthermore, reducing all of the great movies from 2000 through 2019 to 10 is ludicrous. I narrowed my list down to this:

American Hustle (2013)

Amy (2015, Amy Wineberg documentary)

Argo (2012)

The Babadook (2014)

The Big Sick (2017)

Blackklansman (2015)

Bridesmaids (2011)

Bridge of Spies (2015)

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

Captain Phillips (2013)

Dallas Buyers’ Club (2013)

Ford v. Ferrari (2019)

Get Out (2018)

I, Tonya (2018)

Inception (2010)

The Irishman (2019)

The King’s Speech (2010)

Twelve Years A Slave (2003)

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Marriage Story (2019)

Mud (2012)

Nightcrawler (2014)

Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (2019)

The Post (2018)

A Quiet Place (2018)

Room (2015)

The Shape of Water (2017)

Skyfall (2012)

Snowpiercer (2014)

The Green Book (2018)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

The Social Network (2010)

Director Sam Mendes Appears with “1917” in Chicago December 10 at the AMC Theater

Sam Mendes, director of such classic films as “American Beauty,” “Road to Perdition.” “Skyfall” (one-time husband of actress Kate Winslet—7 years, ending in 2010) visited Chicago with the two leads from “1917.” His co-writer on the film, Krysty Wilson-Caerns and stars George McKay and Dean-Charles Chapman were also in attendance.

“1917, plotwise, is a bit like “Saving Private Ryan.” Two young British soldiers must go behind enemy lines to reach Benedict Cumberbatch, the Commander of 1600 men poised to attack at dawn. New intelligence shows that they will be walking into a trap the morning of April 6, 1917.

Director Sam Mendes, flanked by screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Caerns, Dean-Charles Chapman and George McKay.

Mendes is one of only six people to win a Best Director Oscar for his first film, 1999’s “American Beauty.” He has spent most of his career directing theater productions and told the audience in Chicago, following the showing of his Golden Globe-nominated film “1917” that, because of his heavy-duty theater background, he is used to “judging the audience.”

“I couldn’t take out anything.  It is not ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ It’s an instinct. To me, it’s part of my theater judging of ‘Yeah, that’s what I want.’” He added, “I was encouraging them (the actors) to live it as much as act it.”

In the Q&A following the showing of the film Mendes told the audience that the film was an homage to his grandfather, who, at the age of seventeen, served in World War I as a messenger. “It’s not about my grandfather because of my grandfather. It was the spirit that I really remembered from his stories. The two leads are two of two million, but representative of those who fought in the war.  The sense of a collection of individuals was very special…It’s 110 minutes in someone else’s life.”

Director of “1917” Sam Mendes (“American Beauty,” “Skyfall,” “Road to Perdition”) and screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Caerns in Chicago at the AMC Theater on December 10, 2019.

The actors were rehearsed for a period of six months. The sets were built to support scenes that sometimes ran, uninterruptedly, for eight or nine minutes. The cinematography is gorgeous. In many cases, the scene had to be achieved in one take. Reciting those principles that good writers have often cited (Show, don’t tell.) Mendes said, “For me, exposition is the death of storytelling,”

Mendes pointed out that the audience is not told the lead’s name or about Lance Corporal Schofield’s family until the end of the film. “You need a good actor is what you need,” said Mendes. He added, “You want the happy accidents that occur.” One such “happy accident” was a scene where George McKay is knocked over (twice) by cast members whom Mendes described as “over-eager extras.” “The crew and I, 92 people watching, were muttering, ‘Get up, George. Get up, George.”

Of the journey of the two soldiers behind enemy lines Mendes said, “The ways the characters react to the space is not unlike the way the audience reacts.” George’s character of Lance Corporal Schofield, the more seasoned soldier of the two, has seen more combat, and tries not to look at the corpses and dead horses along the way, but Dean-Charles’ character, Blake, a novice, (like the audience), looks at everything. “Blake looks at it. He sees a generation gone.”

“1917” film’s cast and director Sam Mendes in Chicago at the AMC Theater on December 10, 2019.

This European attitude towards the ravages of both World Wars is distinctly European and British.  The wars were fought on the continent; the blitzkrieg targeted England. There is, as Mendes said, “a sense of time passing and bodies piling up.”

When “Road to Perdition” was mentioned (another superb Mendes film, which was shot in Chicago), Mendes—who is listed as having only 10 director credits on IMDB (but many producing and TV credits), said, “I loved being here, absolutely loved it.” He went on to relate an anecdote that occurred during shooting in Geneva, Illinois.

“I was walking down the street in Geneva with Tom Hanks on one side of me and Paul Newman on the other. A local woman was coming toward us, walking down the road carrying a Starbucks coffee. As she got closer and could make out the famous faces coming towards her, she passed out. Imagine when she woke up and who was looking her in the eyes but Paul Newman with those blue eyes saying, ‘How you doin’? You okay?”

“1917,” which is garnering awards nominations in many “best of” categories, opens in select theaters on Christmas Day and will be playing wide on January 19th.

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