Category: Humor and Weird Wilson-isms (Page 2 of 8)
One of just three showings in the country of Michael Moore’s new documentary, “Where to Invade Next?” took place in Chicago during the 41st Annual Chicago International Film Festival on Friday, October 23, 2015.
What has lured Michael Moore, the documentary genre’s most entertaining rabble-rouser, back to feature films after a six-year hiatus? Only the future of his country, naturally. Where To Invade Next is a light-hearted, informative, and subversive comedy in which Moore, playing the role of “invader,” visits a host of nations (Tunisia, Iceland, Germany, France, Italy, Slovenia, et. al.) to learn how the U.S. could improve in coping with similar problems. The director of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine is back with this hilarious, eye-opening call to arms. Where To Invade Next demonstrates that the solutions to America’s problems already exist in the world; those solutions are just waiting to be co-opted by the U.S..
The newest documentary offering from Moore—whose films have been among the most profitable documentaries ever produced—won the Founders’ Prize at this year’s Chicago Film Festival. Moore was present to accept it in person on October 23rd.
Attired in his usual rumpled just-fell-out-of-bed baseball cap, tennis shoes and casual gear, Moore looked over the group assembled at the AMC Theater on Friday, October 23rd at 7:00 p.m. and, noting the balcony, said, “It’s like aerobics to get up there.” He proceeded to say this was the first time a Midwestern audience had seen the film, as it had previously shown in the Hamptons and at the Toronto Film Festival, where it was widely praised (only 3 showings, to date).
As the film has not yet opened wide, the capsule above will suffice as a sneak peek, while the Q&A he offered to filmgoers on Friday, October 23rd, gives a look at Moore’s mindset now, 26 years after his film “Roger and Me” about the crash of the Detroit auto industry was filmed with the $58,000 Moore won in a settlement from “Mother Jones” magazine following his termination as its editor (for putting a fired auto-worker on the cover, rebelling against orders not to do so).
Q1: How can we in the United States get back our greatness?
A1: Sometimes it’s as simple as voting for a guy from Chicago whose middle name is Hussein. Seventy-eight % of this country is composed of women and minorities. You can turn off the angry white guy vote and concentrate on what this country is becoming.
Q2: (from Chaz Ebert, widow of Roger Ebert, functioning as moderator) Your film seems very patriotic…
A2: Will they say that on Fox News? (Laughs) I get death threats all the time. I get death threats and I’m happy to get them, because that means I can prepare. An AK47 went off in Rockford from some guy who wanted to assassinate me. His assassination list included Hillary Clinton, Janet Reno, and Rosie O’Donnell: a list of lesbians and me! I’m proud, but I’m puzzled.
Q3: You seem to be a one-man band. How much autonomy do you have in making your films and releasing your films?
A3: “Bowling for Columbine” was a Canadian release. “Sicko” was the first film made with American money out of the gate. Before then, from 1989 to 2007, money didn’t come to me. Then, the Weinsteins and Paramount got into distributing my films. Now, these are entities that I don’t believe in. Money is the most important thing to them. I’ve done nothing but make them money—half a billion dollars worldwide. What is that old saying: “A capitalist will sell you the rope to hang yourself if it makes them a buck.” For this film, my agent broke the Number One Rule for agents, which is not to invest in your clients’ films and his company loaned me the money to make the film.
Q4: You and Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) started showing the industry that a documentary could be entertaining. Do you have any advice today for documentary filmmakers?
A4: I hate the term documentarian. It’s just a film. We need to honor that. We need to tell a story, as with “An Inconvenient Truth” or Errol James’ work. I’m always making this for the audience. This isn’t finished without them. I’m just their stand-in. It’s just really not what I wanted to do with this body (laughs), making myself 50 feet high. I didn’t make my first documentary until the age of 35. Because of Roger (Ebert0 going to the mat for us, the world of making documentaries changed. Both Gene and Roger teamed up in 1989 and supported me and Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.” I was discovered by Roger at Telluride. He was supposed to be going to the Opening Night film, “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.” They put up opposite the opening night movie in a tiny theater at 1:00 p.m. (the Nugget). But Roger and I found each other at the food in the middle of the street. I begged him to come see my film and he seemed to be offended that I’d pushed so hard, as this was its world premiere, but when he came, he looked at me and said, “Don’t say a word. I’m only here because there was a crazy look in your eyes. Ebert took this picture of me (my first fan picture) with his little camera. The next day, in the Chicago paper, he wrote that “Roger & Me” was “One of the best films I’ve seen in the last 10 years.” So, I really owe a debt of gratitude to Roger Ebert, your late husband.
Q5: Why did you choose to make this movie?
A5: People would say to me, “You point out all the problems we have, but you never point out the solutions.” A documentary is to give information. I wanted to show what’s wrong in the U.S. but none of the film is shot in the United States, except for the archival footage. And I wanted to pick the flowers, not the weeds. It’s been really well received. People say, “It’s a happier film. Mike’s in a better mood…” I think it’s going to reach a lot of people. Obviously, there are 20% on the far right who will never like anything I do. I think I didn’t make this film for a long time because it’s so unbelievable when you go out and find out how other countries deal with the same problems we face. Check my website for factual accuracy.
Q6: What will your next film be?
A6: I’ve written 2 screenplays and my next film may be a fiction film.
Q7: You visit Germany in the film. What did you think about Germany’s austerity, vis-a-vis Greece?
A7: There’s no Paradise among these countries. My personal opinion is that Germany has been a little bit harsh on Greece, but it’s amazing what the Germans are doing to take in refugees. They are doing some of the most amazing things, including teaching their young people about the Holocaust. They actually have little plaques embedded in the sidewalks outside the homes that were confiscated by Nazis in World War II giving the names of the original Jewish owners. They are not trying to keep their past secret, they are trying to change. If they can change their way of thinking around, certainly we can; we’re not Nazis. I don’t want that to be our new national motto: “We’re not Nazis! We can do better!” (laughs)
Q8: You support the union and there are union logos at the bottom of the screen at the end of the film. Are your films all staffed by union members?
A8: All my films have been made with union workers. During the film on “Capitalism”, I was finally able to convince the camera and sound people to join their unions. I’m a big supporter of people joining unions. There is a tip of the hat in the film to May Day and Chicago, because Chicago in 1886 was the birthplace of the union movement.
I am posting this on the eve of one of my very best friend’s birthdays: Nelson G. (for Gene) Peterson of Moline, Illinois. Nelson was born Aug. 20, 1923. He is 92 today. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NELSON!
I first met Nelson when I began teaching at Silvis Junior High School in the 1969-1970 school year.I taught Language Arts to 7th and 8th graders. He taught History in the room across the hall from me. In fact, we taught across the hall from one another throughout our years on-staff (my years there ended in 1985; Nelson retired earlier).
But teaching was not Nelson’s only job. He is a World War II veteran (the Battle of the Bulge, I think) just as his own father before him served in World War I. He also worked at the Arsenal and came to teaching later in life. Nelson used to say his initials (N.G.P.) stood for “No Good Prick” but that’s not true. He is one of the sweetest, kindest, nicest people I know. He has always been my friend and has never waivered or let me down or tried to hurt my feelings, intentionally or unintentionally. Nelson has never come to a funeral home and gone out of his way to snub me, as a different old friend has done on two occasions. If the funeral is that of someone who was a mother to you for close to a half-century (my mother-in-law) it is particularly distressing and upsetting to be on the receiving end of mean-spiritedness at an already trying time. (Better not to come at all than to come just to be mean.) But that’s the way some people roll— although not Nelson. He even came to one of my book signings at the (now-defunct) Book Rack in Moline and another one at the Hy-Vee Grocery store in Silvis— in the middle of winter— for a children’s book, despite having no children or anyone who needed books. He has truly gone out of his way to be the great friend he remains today. (Thanks, Nelson! I appreciate it!)
Since Nelson, at 92, is the Renaissance man who literally has everything, I stole the idea of 3 of his other friends who took him out to dinner on his 91st birthday. That was a GREAT idea. Kudos! My husband and I decided it would be the best way to salute Nelson on (or near) his special day.
I purposely did not plan dinner for the REAL day, because Nelson, who speaks fluent Swedish, has many cousins in the area and many other friends from his Baptist Church who probably also want to fete him on his birthday today (the REAL day). For example, 3 friends who taught with him for a long time, (as did I), took him out to dinner last year. Perhaps they plan another such outing for this year on August 20th, or perhaps the cousins in town will be “on the case.” [Best not to muck that up and ruin 2 dinners out for the Birthday Boy—although Nelson did say, as we dropped him off at home, that he hadn’t been out after 8:00 p.m. in a long time !] One of Nelson’s cousins, Rose Fuller of East Moline, has shuffled off this mortal coil, but also taught with us at George O. Barr Elementary School for years, so, sadly, she won’t be among the relatives there for him. (R.I.P., Rose). Nelson never married.
I love Nelson and appreciate his sense of humor and his loyalty as a friend, which mirrors my own. I try very hard to be the Best Friend Anyone Could Be, remembering special days, offering help if needed, and just generally trying to be a friend, for the right reasons, not the wrong ones. I don’t need (or want) thousands of superficial friends. I only want the really good ones, like Nelson. I won’t befriend you simply because I think you are going to do some good for my social status or because you have a lot of money or any of those other bad reasons that can come into play. I have only ever befriended people I truly like, who (seemed to ) truly liked me.
On this night, I gave him a card that said, “Everyone is young once…(and, on the inside) Your time is up.” He laughed and seemed to enjoy that and the catfish dinner he selected from the menu at Short Hills Country Club. We were (literally) the only people dining on Tuesday night and out-numbered the staff. I asked the waitress if she could turn down the air conditioning, as it was frigid. The waitress said, “Well, you’re the only people here, so why not?” The A/C was promptly reduced to something that did not threaten to turn me into a popsicle during dinner, for which I am grateful. (Thanks!)
I am also grateful for true-blue friends like Nelson. It is possibly my aversion to early mornings that makes me an unsuitable friend for invitations to join others as they take (took) trips to Chicago or Wisconsin or Las Vegas or wherever over a 40-year span. (Anything before 10 A.M. is verboten.) I admit that early, early mornings are not my thing; I write late into the night (30 books, so far). I didn’t know that being a Night Owl made me a bad person, but apparently it is a fatal flaw. Speaking your mind is not appreciated, either, but I have always spoken out and been honest about things, both for myself and for others, and if that is a flaw, I plead guilty with a certain measure of pride. It is not always easy suffering the backlash of being outspoken, but, for instance, during 4 terms as President (or Co-Chairman) of the Silvis Education Association, it was necessary in order to unionize our district’s teachers. And there are many occasions in a classroom setting where a teacher has to intervene to insure fairness. When I have spoken my mind, it has sometimes been applauded and other times, [because the truth hurts if it is unflattering], I have been reviled and, later, treated very poorly. One should, instead, play their cards very close to the vest and pretend they like people that they (may) actually despise—maybe even send them an oh-so-proper little note of some kind to suck up to them. I never aspired to such dishonesty.
I try to be loyal, honest, and true-blue— not a phony or superficial or sometimes friend . But I don’t play golf, don’t like early mornings, and I never was a teacher at our local high school (UTHS), United Township High School. I’d say that was a criteria for inclusion in dining out with Nelson in a group, although one guest last year [Judy LeMaster Patchin] was not a teacher at UTHS, either, but taught with him in Silvis, as did I. Judy made the guest list; I did not. (She is better with early mornings, for sure, but I don’t think that is the entire story.)
I was judged and found wanting, probably because I tell the truth instead of currying favor with one and all by any means possible. I am positive I am just as good a friend of Nelson’s from our mutual teaching days as any of the other attendees with whom I also taught, and the Amish “shunning” thing is both childish, hurtful and unnecessary. Is 10 years of that not enough for having noted that the invitations to the “fun” things went to others, but the invitations to help out or pitch in came in pretty regularly and routinely, and I did my best to comply.
Then, too, I’m usually off on an adventure of one sort or another that others don’t find interesting or noteworthy (*Nicest compliment of the week from someone I did not know in a store I frequent: “Your life is an adventure.”)
Yes, my life IS an adventure. It is true, as Shakespeare wrote (roughly paraphrased), “If you cut me, do I not bleed?” It is hurtful to be shunned when you have done nothing to deserve it. If you must be punished for feeling left out (when you were left out) and saying so, is that a life sentence? It is also sad to realize that people you thought were your good friends don’t stand up for you in the face of meanness directed at you for over a decade without good cause, don’t remember your special day (even if you always remembered theirs), and disappear without a trace. But, c’est la vie—right gang?
I’m lucky, though. I have a wonderful husband, wonderful kids (my daughter drove me all the way to Indianapolis to see the Rolling Stones for my birthday in July!) and at least one truly wonderful, loyal, long-time Quad Cities friend: Nelson G. Peterson. (I’d name a couple of others, but I’m a believer in quality over quantity and I don’t want to jinx my good fortune or cause them to be ostracized.) I’m pretty sure Nelson won’t leave town and move to a remote location without so much as a phone call to me, nor, intentionally or unintentionally, forget my birthday, (which he remembered this year, as he has every other year.) I’d recite a list of other loyal friends, beginning with my college roommate (who does not live in this area), but this post is for Nelson on his special day. [If you see him, wish him a “Happy Birthday!”]
Nelson G. Peterson, my good and special friend, long may he live and be my friend and here’s to many, many more birthdays! (We’re aiming to have Nelson replace the lady who was the Oldest Living Veteran at age 110.)
St. Vincent Director Ted Melfi managed to get Bill Murray to star in “St. Vincent” by being persistent and calling him “about 40 times” on his 800 phone line, because Murray has no manager or press agent. Says Melfi, “The hardest part about getting Bill Murray in anything is finding him, because he has no agent and no manager; he has an 800 number. I bet I called that 800 number 40 times. When he actually did call me back, at first, I didn’t think it was him. Then I realized that was his voice.”
“So Bill Murray says, ‘Meet me at LAX in an hour, which was 9 o’clock. And so I drive down to LAX, and, sure enough, Bill Murray comes down the causeway and says, “Ted? Let’s go for a drive.’”
“ We drive for 3 hours from L.A. to the Pechanga Indian Reservation and Casino. So, Bill says to me, “I like you. Do you wanna’ do this movie?”
I said, “Yes…that’s what I’m here for”
“Do you want to do it with me?”
I said, “Yes, and Bill Murray says, ‘Let’s do it!’”
“I say, the only thing is, do you think you could tell someone else besides me that this whole thing happened—that we were driving down the road and you agreed to do the film? I can’t go to the studio and say, ‘Hey! Bill Murray said yes in the back of a town car on the highway on the way to an Indian Reservation. That’s just not gonna’ happen.”
“I look at Bill Murray and I don’t just say, ‘He’s one of the greatest comedians of our time. He’s one of the greatest actors of our time. And what people don’t know about Melissa (McCarthy) is that this girl did 7 years of hard-core drama in New York theater. And the goal for us, on set, was to not be funny.” This is quite obvious in the dialed-down performance of the often over-the-top McCarthy. Naomi Watts’ part as the brash Russian hooker/stripper is quite the departure from the woman surviving the tsunami in Thailand, but she pulls it off (No pun intended). Writer/Director Melfi described her talent as “the tip of the iceberg.” Chris O’Dowd, as always, was genial and enjoyable.
Says Melfi, “I remember the first day, I said, ‘Bill—do you want to rehearse with the kid?’
And Bill says, ‘No.’ And I think, ‘This is not gonna’ be good.’
I bring the kid to the set and take him over to Bill and I say, ‘Bill, this is Jaeden; Jaeden this is Bill.”
Bill grunts. And walks away. And I think, ‘This is not gonna’ work out.’
And then they did a scene together and Bill comes up to me after and says, ‘The kid’s good.’ And I said, “Yeah—he’s pretty good.’ And Bill said, ‘He’s real good.’ Once he figured out that the kid was good and that he was not a “kiddy” actor, they became, like, very best friends. In fact, Jaeden got the part on Cameron Crowe’s new movie. And Jaeden goes to Hawaii and Bill is offered a part in the Cameron Crowe movie. And Jaeden goes, ‘You should do it.’ And so Bill flies to do the Cameron Crowe movie because Jaeden told him to do the movie, and they spent the whole month scuba diving. So, it’s like this most ridiculous love affair, father/son beautiful thing.”
Melfi shared the story of the film’s genesis (which he wrote and directed). Melfi and his wife adopted his brother’s 11-year-old daughter after his eldest brother died eight years prior. Her Catholic school in Los Angeles made the assignment that is featured in this touching-but-funny movie. The students in Melfi’s daughter’s new school were assigned to write a paper on a “modern day” saint in their real life and a historic saint who shared the same qualities. She picked St. William of Rochester, the patron saint of adopted children, just like Oliver in the movie. “And, ” adds Melfi, “she picked me. It was just like this touching, sentimental moment for us. And I said, ‘Okay. That’s the movie.”
“Vincent is a timeless character because so many of us get to the end of our lives and go, “That was it?”
“So, what’s amazing about the movie, for me is that this little kid, Oliver, who’s 12, tells him, ‘Dude, you did great. You served our country in the war. You took care of your wife for 8 years. You did freaking great, so be proud of what you’ve done.
“Too many filmmakers think to themselves that they have to put their stink on everything they make,” says Melfi. Using Michael Bey’s films as an example, Melfi said, “I choose not to stink up the place” ( “Last Call” appearance with Carson Daley). Says Melfi, “The film is about an older gentleman who is a Vietnam veteran who is kind of a drunk curmudgeon who doesn’t have much to live for any more until a little boy (Oliver, well played by newcomer Jaeden Lieberher) moves in next door to him.” The young boy shows the boozy reprobate that he hasn’t been such a loser, after all. Murray becomes the boy’s nanny/babysitter while mother Melissa McCarthy works long hours as an X-ray technician.
“It is like The Isle of the Misfit Toys,” says Melfi. “Bill Murray is a misfit gambler. Melissa McCarthy is a broken-down single mom who can’t get her life together. Naomi Watts is a pregnant Russian hooker. So the only person who has their act together, really, is the kid.”
The film opens with Murray telling an Irish joke that involves confusion between the words porch and Porsche. (Fill in your own joke here). The joke’s not that funny, but, then again, the movie is not really a comedy, either. It’s more of a heart-warming “dramedy.” The humor it does contain is created by what we can call the Murray Mythos. Murray is laid-back. Eccentric. Cool. Funny in the Murray throw-away fashion. Gruff on the exterior; warm and fuzzy on the inside.
And, as we learn in scenes within the film, Vincent has been faithfully visiting his addled wife (in an expensive nursing home he can’t afford) for 8 years, even though she doesn’t remember who he is.
For me, the inclusion of Chris O’Dowd—who was so good in the little-seen movie “The Sapphires”—carried with it echoes of the younger Murray as he used to be on Saturday Night Live when he’d play everything from a bad lounge lizard singer to skits with Belushi and the gang. The troupe on SNL was truly remarkable. This cast is no less so, including Naomi Watts, Terrance Howard and the trio of Murray, McCarthy and child actor Jaeden Lieberher.
The scene we’ve all seen on television (official trailer above) where Murray tries to close out his bank account, only to learn that he has used up all the cash he received from a reverse mortgage and now has a negative balance is indicative of the kind of deadpan “so sad it’s funny” acting that Murray does so brilliantly.
What you don’t see on the film clip is “the rest of the story.”
When the Asian bank teller initially asks him why he wants to close out his account, Murray says, “I do not want to tell you to go f— yourself, so let’s just leave it at that.” There are also some Murray Moments showing the cranky curmudgeon answering phone calls from telemarketers with his typical brioche.(“Come on, Coward! Try to sell me something.)
The film also drives a sharp stake through the use of the catch-all phrase, “It is what it is.” Murray boils it down this way, explaining that it really means: “You’re screwed and you shall remain screwed.”
Chris O’Dowd’s priest, a teacher at St. Vincent’s, the private Catholic School that Oliver attends, worked 12 to 14 hour days, flying in on the red eye and working for four days, as he was also simultaneously shooting a television project. O’Dowd’s scenes are loose and genial. He gets the line, “Catholics are the best of all, because we have the most rules,” which he tells his classroom charges.
The concept of an adult who takes an innocent young boy out and exposes him to the seamier side of life was done earlier this year in Jason Bateman’s “Bad Words;” Murray’s taking young Oliver to the race track and a bar are scenes from the same playbook. The difference is that Oliver’s unsuspecting mother (Melissa McCarthy), who is waging a battle for custody of her young son, learns what “the babysitter” and his charge have been up to only when they are appearing in court. (The husband will be a familiar face from “Thirty Rock.”)
The other difference is that this is Bill Murray. Once Murray committed to the film, said Melfi, things fell into place. Other “name brand” actors wanted to work with Murray, in much the same way that marquee names known for taking films for reasons other than a gigantic pay-day attract other talented performers. This is an excellent cast, and they all deliver the goods.
It’s a fine movie with memorable performances. For emotional resonance, think of Clint Eastwood’s stint acting in “Grand Torino.” It’s always a pleasure to see Bill Murray in a role that lets him take the bit in his teeth and run with it, even if he’s running with a cigarette in his mouth and a drink in his hand.
So hunker down and enjoy the debut performances as well as those by an accomplished actor who seemingly can do it all.
We were cooking hamburgers on the grill on our outside deck about 6 p.m. on Friday, Saturday 27th, 2014, when a series of hot air balloons that were launched from the East Moline Fairgrounds sailed over our backyard
I had actually read about this plan to launch multiple hot air balloons and give citizens rides in them in the newspaper, and had planned to be present to photograph the preliminaries from 5 to 7 p.m., but I forgot all about it—-until the balloons pictured here came sailing over our back yard and nearly into our trees. Authorities announced that they expected between 8,000 and 13,000 people to show up for the launch.
All our neighbors turned out to watch these balloons soar overhead, nearly hitting the tops of our very large ravine trees. The sound of the basket turning up the heat to rise higher was quite noticeable.
So was the sound of sirens about 20 minutes later and we wondered if one of the balloons did, in fact, become entangled in something? We think they were heading for the banks of the Mississippi River, about one mile from our house.
As an added bit of interest, tonight, while driving into our court street, I saw a fox as large as a small dog in my headlights. We didn’t let the inside-outside cat (Lucy) go out after that.
This video was shot some time ago, while driving home from a trip to the Children’s Museum in Bettendorf, Iowa. It was shot on 16th Avenue in East Moline, Illinois, and the birds subsequently were identified as European starlings by research into various books of bird species.
The voices you hear in the video belong to me, my daughter-in-law Jessica, and the four-year-old twins, Ava and Elise. I have no explanation for why the birds covered just a few lawns or what they were looking for, but it inspired a story entitled “The Final Victim” that will appear in Hellfire & Damnation III.
Below are a few more still photographs of the phenomenon, which I still do not pretend to understand. The oddest thing about the event was that only a very few lawns were affected. Three lawns were infested with the birds and yet they were not on the neighboring houses just a few yards down, nor across the street. Weird.