[This article courtesy of www.osv.ltd.uk]
Category: Of Local (Quad Cities’) Interest (Page 2 of 20)
I’m here at SXSW Film Festival (for the 3rd year) and the Opening Night film, “A Quiet Place,” written by two Hitchcock-loving Bettendorf, Iowa, 34-year-old filmmakers, (with some contributions from Director and Star John Krasinski of “The Office” fame), is wowing the critics and the crowds.
I was fortunate enough to grab a few minutes to speak to Scott Beck and Bryan Woods about this big-budget Paramount film the day after it premiered. It is not difficult to see how these two young Iowa graduates, who have been collaborating since junior high school (and throughout college at the University of Iowa) have helped create a suspenseful thriller that is destined to become a classic. It’s the start of something big, career-wise. Their next film “Haunt,” currently in post-production, is one they both wrote and directed.
The filmmakers were articulate, congenial, diplomatic and enthused about the audience’s 100% Rotten Tomatoes response to their film about a family of four that must remain totally silent in order to keep some scary underground-dwelling creatures from killing them. They’ve survived in a dystopian world (no further explanation) where any loud noise will bring these “things” down on the family of Krasinski, his wife Emily Blunt, their deaf teen-aged daughter Millie (played by a lovely young actress, Millicent Simmons, who is deaf in real life), a son of about 10 and a younger boy who looks just about ready for kindergarten in a normal world.
But, when the film opens, they are not in a “normal” world, but are searching for drugs in a ruined drugstore, where the youngest of the brood finds a noisy toy that he’d really like to keep. You know this bodes ill for the family, which has resorted to using sign language to communicate, has sound-proofed their dwelling and has an extensive camera and light set-up to try to protect themselves from the blind, armored creatures in an attempt to try to stay alive. There is also a tower that the father (Krasinski) lights a fire atop at night. We see two other fires in the distance, so we know there are at least a few other survivors. The set design and special effects are extraordinary, reminding of the “Alien” days, (when we finally see this threat—which isn’t for a long time). Marco Beltrami’s score is great and–most importantly—the acting from all is terrific.
The log line for the film is: “A family lives an isolated existence in utter silence, for fear of an unknown threat that follows and attacks at any sound.” That is an original premise that has not been done before. It leads to one of the most spare scripts in Hollywood history. Not only do the actors seldom speak (they sign or whisper or mouth the words), we don’t get to “see” the monster(s) until quite late in the film. And they are “Alien-” quality when we do.
There is not one “down” or boring scene, always the goal for a screenwriter, but difficult to achieve. No unnecessary exposition or wordy speeches. Just good old-fashioned Hitchcockian suspense from a screenwriting team that mentions “Vertigo” as one of their favorite movies and have been making films since they were six years old.
I met up with them at a Starbucks the day after the film and wrote a piece giving the local ties to the Quad Cities of Iowa, which appears above this one. To achieve that, I had to embarrass myself and climb over about 8 other movie-goers in my row to go to the microphone during the Q&A. Where, exactly, were these two talented young men? Fortunately, my willingness to go that extra mile led to a brief but informative meeting the very next day.
The film’s extraordinary quality is leading to this recommendation: if you like suspenseful, well-acted, well-directed films, beautifully-shot films where you care about the characters and root for them to escape, even against overwhelming odds, you’re going to love this movie.
Most of those present on Opening Night did, and the remark I heard made most often in the lobby following it was, “This was so much better than last year’s Opening Movie.”
Last year’s opening film was Terrence Malick’s “Song by Song” with Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman and some other “A”-list talent. Perhaps Malick should have hired Beck & Woods to script the thing, as that renowned filmmaker’s work, which was often wonderful, was not well-received because of its meandering storyline.
The film opens wide in the U.S. on April 6th and, yes, it IS that good. Take it from someone who’s been reviewing film for 47 straight years.
Nominations for the 2018 Academy Awards on March 4th were just announced and, to no one’s surprise, the Best Picture nominees are:
- “Call Me By Your Name”
- “Darkest Hour”
- “Get Out”
- “Lady Bird”
- “Phantom Thread”
- “The Post”
- “The Shape of Water”
- “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
I confess to having missed one out of that list, which I plan to rectify in the upcoming weeks before the March 4th ceremony. The one I have not seen is “Phantom Thread,” but it is playing near me at the Lamar Boulevard Alamo Drafthouse and contains what is rumored to be the last performance by Daniel Day Lewis, who announced that he was going to stop acting. (Of course, Cher announced her final tour how many times?)
I heard Richard Roper, the film critic for the Chicago Sun Times, say on WGN radio that “Three Billboards” has the inside track now for Best Picture. It is about an empowered woman seeking justice for her daughter’s rape and murder. Empowerment and women’s rights being all the rage now with the “Me, Too!” movement, he could be right. It is a darkly original well-written script directed by its writer, Martin McDonagh (“Seven Psychopaths,” “In Bruges”). Frances McDormand (married to a Coen Brother and star of the original “Fargo”) is always a force to be reckoned with and she certainly is in this film.
The cast for “Three Billboards” is uniformly great, including Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson, both of whom were nominated for Best Supporting Actor. I saw “Three Billboards” twice, once in Chicago at the film festival and once when I took my husband to it, because I knew he would enjoy it. It was a true original and I think my assessment on The Movie Blog.com at the time was “original and bad-ass,” both of which still apply. At the time, I was being chastised for ranking movies too high (I only go to movies that I think are going to be good, if possible). I had to find a “bad” thing to point out about the film, I commented that Frances McDormand’s character was unremittingly negative, to the point that it was difficult to “humanize” her, even though an attempt was made in a scene with a deer, and that, in real life, many of her actions would have gotten her arrested and thrown in jail. I also did not like the ending as much as the rest of the film. I wonder now if the plan was, even then, to potentially have a sequel?
If I were to rank order these films in terms of how much I enjoyed them, rather than alphabetically, as above (“Phantom Thread” excepted, of course), the rank order, for me, would be:
#1: “The Shape of Water”
#2: “Lady Bird”
#3: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
#4: “Get Out!”
#5: “The Post”
#6: “Darkest Hour”
#8: “Call Me By Your Name”
I’m a former HWA (Horror Writers’ Association) member and that means that the idea of the monster getting the girl appealed to me (“The Shape of Water”). When you read my detailed review of the film elsewhere on this blog, you, too, will appreciate the achievement that “The Shape of Water” represents. It was the closing film of the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival and I was blown away when I read through all of the press notes about how much care and effort went into making it. It truly deserves its record number of nominations (13, the most) and I would love to see it win as Best Picture of the Year. I also remember meeting Guillermo del Toro at a previous Chicago International Film Festival, when he was being given a special award, and a nicer man you cannot find.
Because of my connection to writing horror, I was also very happy to see “Get Out!”, directed by one-half of the Key & Peele comedy team, make it onto the list. It was truly a good film and the lead actor, Daniel Kaluuya was great in the lead part and got a nomination for Best Actor. I particularly enjoyed the Golden Globes opening, when host Seth Meyer described the film as being “a black man finds himself surrounded by a group of rich white people who don’t want to grow old.” Then, in alarm, Meyer looked at Kaluuya in the audience of Hollywood actors and actresses and said, “Oh, no! GET OUT!”
“Lady Bird” is another well-written script. It has the distinction of being a film written by and about women by Greta Gerwig in her directorial debut. It was clever, capturing the essence of the mother/daughter relationship growing up, and much of it was based on Gerwig’s own upbringing in Santa Barbara, California, although she denies being much like Saiorse Ronan’s character of Lady Bird, when she was a teenager. (Saiorse Ronan received a nomination for Best Actress and Laurie Metcalf received a Best Supporting Actress nod playing her mother.)
I took a close friend (who also has a daughter) to the film, telling her it had a good chance of being nominated for Best Picture, and we both enjoyed it (for the second time, in my case). Laurie Metcalf is great in her part as the mother and Tracy Letts, a Chicago native and the playwright responsible for “August: Osage County”, came to our screening. He is perfect as the father (who always gets to be “the good guy”), although, in real life, he admitted he had no children. (Something I read he was rectifying right now.) It would be nice to see a small film triumph, but I’m thinking the fine acting in it and the screenplay has a better chance of getting the kudos.
Interesting side note: Timothy Chalamet, who is nominated as Best Lead Actor for “Call Me By Your Name” also has a part in “Lady Bird.”
His double play may only be surpassed by Michael Stuhlbarg, whom I met and chatted with on “The Shape of Water” Red Carpet in Chicago. He portrays Chalamet’s father in “Call Me By Your Name,” has a role as a Russian scientist in “The Shape of Water,” and played the owner of the New York Times (Abe Saperstein) in “The Post,” so he is in three of the nine nominated films.
Quite the coup for this versatile actor, who shared with us that his next project was supposed to be playing Gore Vidal’s long-time homosexual partner opposite Kevin Spacey in a bio-pic. (One wonders what has happened to that planned picture now that Kevin Spacey seems to be persona non grata in Hollywood?)
This picture was taken just as Michael Kutza (founder of Cinema Chicago 53 years ago) said to the two Michaels onstage, “Why doesn’t Spacey just come out of the closet and admit he’s gay?” Both of the actors cracked up laughing. At the time, it was a fairly brave remark, as Spacey had not fallen out of favor and the proverbial s*** had not hit the fan.
Since it seems a foregone conclusion that Gary Oldman will (finally) get the Best Actor statuette for his outstanding portrayal of Winston Churchill in “The Darkest Hour” I’d like to add that the film is actually very good, as well. It’s not just a case of a good acting job in an otherwise ho-hum film. Oldman truly deserves this honor, after so many, many good roles, and I would be surprised if any of the other actors in the category (Timothee Chalamet, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Kaluuya, Denzel Washington) give him any real competition for the gold statuette.
Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour”
I would also be surprised if the make-up artists (Kazuhiro Rsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick) for “The Darkest Hour” didn’t cart off the award for Best Make-up and Hair, since their competition is “Victoria and Abdul” and “Wonder.”)
The nominees are Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water”); Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”); Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”); Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”); and Meryl Streep (“The Post”). Streep has just announced she will join the cast of “Big Little Lies” next season, playing the mother of Alexander Skaarsgard.
This brings me to the snub of both Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks for “The Post.” Maybe the Academy just feels they have been honored enough, but this was a truly fine and enjoyable film, and an important one in these times, since it deals with attempts to suppress the free press and focuses on the publication of the Pentagon Papers. I was also sad to see that Ridley Scott’s re-shoot of “All the Money in the World” got short shrift and that Jeremy Renner’s turn as Corey Lambert in “Wind River” didn’t get a closer look, but I think it was released too early. The Academy seems to have a short memory for films that aren’t released closer to the date of the actual ceremony.
Right now, all the momentum is definitely with “Three Billboards” and Frances McDormand, but I am an admirer of “The Shape of Water.” If I may remind viewers, however, Sally Hawkins (previously known for playing the meek sister of Oscar-winning Cate Blanchett in Woody Allen’s 2013 film “Blue Jasmine”) had to play her role without speaking, as she portrays a woman who is mute. All of the actresses I saw were good (haven’t yet seen “I, Tonya” performance yet) but, for my money, having to play your role completely without words makes Hawkins’ task that much harder and her achievement that much greater. I wouldn’t mind seeing Frances McDormand win because women’s empowerment is today’s buzzword, but I’d really like to see Sally Hawkins be recognized for such a fine job, working under adverse conditions.
This category is one of the most difficult to predict. The nominees were Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”); Woody Harrelson (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), Richard Jenkins (“The Shape of Water”), Christopher Plummer (“All the Money in the World”) and Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”).
First, let me say that having two actors from the same film (“Three Billboards) nominated for that film is always detrimental to one of them, but Rockwell, who has labored long and hard in the indie film field, has carted off SAG and Golden Globe honors already and certainly has a quirky, comic role that deserves recognition. But so do the others. Woody is equally good as the long-suffering and fatally ill Sheriff of Ebbing, Missouri. Christopher Plummer, playing J. Paul Getty in the had-to-be-shot-over-from-scratch “All the Money in the World,” is an old pro who does a great job for Ridley Scott, replacing the disgraced Kevin Spacey. The entire film was great and Ridley Scott, who pulled off an impossible task, at the ripe old age of 80, deserved more nominations for this film. Some said Michelle Williams would get a nomination as Best Actress for her role as the mother of the kidnapped grandson of J. Paul Getty, but she did not. I’d really like to see Richard Jenkins win, because he has been so good for so long (played the dead undertaker father in television’s “Six Feet Under“), but has never received the recognition he is due. It also would not bother me to see Christopher Plummer, a veteran actor, get the nod. Having said all that, it seems this is Rockwell’s year. Saw “The Florida Project.” The child actors—especially Brooklynn Prince as Moonnee—-were impressive, but it was not Willem Dafoe’s finest hour or strongest part in a storied career.
Nominees are Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”); Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”), Lesley Manville (“Phantom Thread”), Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”) and Octavia Spencer (“The Shape of Water”). I have not yet seen either Allison Janney, Lesley Manville, or Mary J. Blige, but I’m a big fan of Steppenwolf product Laurie Metcalf, better known to TV audiences as RoseAnne’s television sister. She was terrific as the Mom in “Lady Bird” but somewhat snubbed at earlier awards shows, in favor of Allison Janney, who plays Tonya Harding’s mother. It was interesting to learn that, although both Letts and Metcalf came out of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater, they had never shared a stage before “Lady Bird.”
Guillermo del Toro
Nominees are Christopher Nolan for “Dunkirk;” Jordan Peele for “Get Out”; Grets Gerwig for “Lady Bird”; Paul Thomas Anderson for “Phantom Thread”; and “The Shape of Water” for Guillermo del Toro. Again, notable snubs to Ridley Scott for “All the Money in the World” and to Steven Spielberg for “The Post.” My heart is with “The Shape of Water.” It was quite the achievement; read the review posted here earlier.
Without mentioning ALL the categories, I’d like to see “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” triumph for Steve James and Kartemquin Films in the documentary category. They are headquartered in Chicago (40 years and counting) and this is their second nomination for an Oscar this year, along with “Edith & Eddie” in the Best Documentary Short Subject category. I’d also like to see “The Square” win for Best Foreign Film, “In the Fade” (which I also saw) from Germany seemed to have the inside track, but was another notable snub.
Another interesting odd fact concerns the Best Actor/Best Supporting Actress categories where the one-time former husband/wife team of Gary Oldman (for “Darkest Hour”) and Lesley Manville (for “Phantom Thread”) were both nominated. Oldman has been married 5 times. Lesley Manville was his first wife, whom he married in 1987. He left her in 1989, 3 months after their son, Alfie, was born. In 1990 he married his most famous wife, Uma Thurman but that only lasted two years. He also had a drunk driving arrest in 1991 while out with Kiefer Sutherland (his blood alcohol was 2x the legal limit in California) and has made numerous unfortunate statements that caused him (some say) to be blacklisted in Hollywood for a while. (One was a “diss” of the Golden Globes, which, this year, he seemed genuinely thankful to receive for playing Churchill). His most recent wife is writer and art curator Gisele Schmidt, whom he married in September of 2017, so Oldman will be a newly-wed with about 6 months of matrimonial bliss to his credit in his fifth marriage by the time the awards are televised. Met him during a Chicago showing of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” in 2012, for which he was also nominated as Best Actor.
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The dirty and sometimes downright offensive game Cards Against Humanity is back with another stunt, and this time they’re taking aim at one of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises.The company announced its holiday promotion on Tuesday, called Cards Against Humanity Saves America. Essentially, the company purchased a plot of vacant land on the border of the United States and Mexico, making it extremely difficult for Trump to build his expensive border wall which the U.S. taxpayers will inevitably pay for.
The government is being run by a toilet. We have no choice… we are going to save America and attempt to keep our brand relevant in 2017
Join in and for $15 we’ll send you six America-saving surprises this December: http://CardsAgainstHumanitySavesAmerica.com
“Donald Trump is a preposterous golem who is afraid of Mexicans. He is so afraid that he wants to build a $20 billion wall that everyone knows will accomplish nothing,” the website reads. “So we’ve purchased a plot of vacant land on the border and retained a law firm specializing in eminent domain to make it as time-consuming and as expensive as possible for the wall to be built.”
Fork over $15 of your hard-earned cash to Cards, and they’ll send you “six surprises” in the month of December, including an illustrated map of the land, a certificate of promise to fight the wall, and some new cards.
Given the nature of the game, the company has no problem being a bit brash, and because they are self-owned, and don’t rely on big box stores to push their product, the company can get away with a bit more.
On it’s FAQ page for the new expansion, one question asks: I don’t like that you’re getting political. Why don’t you just stick to card games?
Their answer? Why don’t you stick to seeing how many Hot Wheels cars you can fit up your ass?
FOLLOW COLOR OF EVIL SERIES BY CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON TOUR
Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Sept 29 Review & Giveaway
Gayle Books Reviews Etc Oct 3 Review
Beverly’s Book Blog Oct 13 Review, Excerpt, Interview, & Giveaway
Dawn Bound 2 Escape Oct 10 Excerpt & Giveaway
Angélica Amazon Review Nov 1 Review
Jessica JBronder Book Reviews Nov 8 Review
Shannon The Pulp and Mystery Shelf Nov 13 Excerpt & Interview
Donna Amazon Review Nov 15 Review
Cheryl’s Book Nook Nov 21 Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway
Dawn Bound 2 Escape Nov 28 Review
Dr. Jacques Coulardeau Amazon Review Nov 28
Lisa Lisa’s Writopia Nov 29 Review
Erica Bassgiraffe’s Thoughts Nov 30 Review
Lorna Amazon Review Nov 30 Review
COLOR OF EVIL SERIES BOXED SET
BY CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON
Publisher: Quad Cities’ Press (Aug, 2017)
Category: YA, Psychological Paranormal Thriller
Tour Dates: Oct/Nov, 2017
Available in: E-book, 725 Pages
THE COLOR OF EVIL series presents you with characters who live, breathe and die in small town Cedar Falls, Iowa. Tad McGreevy, the focus of the series, has a paranormal power, Tetrachromatic Super Vision, that allows him to see auras that tell him whether a person is good or evil. At night, in horrifying nightmares, Tad relives the crimes of the evil-doers. Eventually, becomes the target of a particularly lethal antagonist, Michael Clay (aka Pogo the Clown) who wants to eliminate the teen-aged boy. In three books, we witness the power of evil faced off against a good-hearted young boy who just wants to protect those he loves.
Beginning with the first manifestations of this supernatural power at the age of 8, the book quickly takes us forward to the high school years of Tad and the band of friends we come to know well. We follow their progress from their junior year of high school through graduation with danger always lurking in the background. As others have said, it’s quite a ride.
Begin the journey today with this specially-priced trilogy: THE COLOR OF EVIL; RED IS FOR RAGE; and KHAKI=KILLER..
“THE COLOR OF EVIL series is old-school psychological horror, artfully blended with new-school shocks and twists. Bravo!” —Jonathan Maberry, New York Times best-selling author, multiple Bram Stoker winner.
MY THOUGHTS COLOR OF EVIL SERIES BOXED SET BY CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON
by Teddy Rose
I rarely read books like these but have heard so much about them and have enjoyed Ms. Wilson’s writing in the past with her diverse topics. Thus I decided to give this series a try. It has just been made into a boxed set on Kindle.
In this multi award-winning series, Tad McGreevy as a boy discovers that he can see auras. At night he dreams of evil people doing evil deeds and he knows that these aren’t just dreams. He doesn’t know if the evil doing has already occurred or will occur in the future. His parents tell him to keep his power a secret. When he turns 8 years old his third grade classmates are invited to his birthday party. His parents hire Pogo the Clown to entertain the children. However, Tad knows right away that Pogo (real name Michael Clay) is really a serial killer. Of course, his parents don’t believe him and even send him to a psychiatrist who does not believe him either. That is until Pogo is arrested.
Fast forward to Tad as a young adult, In the second book ‘Red Is For Rage’, Tad tries to control his power more. He doesn’t want to end up back in a hospital under a psychiatrist’s care. His best friend Stevie Scranton goes missing. To top that off, Pogo (aka Michael Clay), the serial killer clown, escapes from prison. Tad teams up with a retired policeman and others to try to find out what happened to Stevie. Will they be too late?
Then there is the teenage aghast of Tad and his friend, not to mention that of Stevie’s poor parents during the 9 month ordeal while their son is missing.
The third book, ‘Khaki=Killer’ picks up where the second book leaves off. Melody Harris Carpenter was rushed to the hospital due to an accident when cheerleading at her college. We find out what happened to her. There are budding romances, more people disappearing, and Michael Clay is on the hunt for Tad.
Okay, so even from what I just described, it is clear it isn’t the type of book I would normally read. In fact I would usually stay far away from. However, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this series.
Connie Corcoran Wilson really amazes me with her pen.She can write both non-fiction and fiction effortlessly, or at least it seems the case to me. Will I go out of my way to read more paranormal thrillers? Probably not, but I am glad I read this. I also know that she is working on a fourth, (perhaps final?) book for the series and I will certainly read that.
I recommend you pick up a copy of The Color of Evil series and experience it as well!
PRAISE for THE COLOR OF EVIL SERIES
By Connie Corcoran Wilson
‘The book has all the elements of a compelling mystery and an inventive paranormal twist. One must credit Wilson for treating her teenage protagonists with respect, as they face adult dilemmas and resolve them with maturity and grace.”- Kirkus
“Connie Corcoran Wilson weaves a deftly fine scalpel in an age where a crude blade is more the norm. Her work is a smooth, subtle hybrid mix of science fiction, thriller, and horror that realizes a unique and pointed vision in the great tradition of Phillip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury. Her voice is a wonder to behold, at once dark and somber while maintaining a glimmer of hope that shines in the hearts of her heroes, who cling to the light. Like Stephen King, nothing escapes her discerning eye, the result of which is tale after tale that bleed life onto the page, both literally and figuratively.”–Jon Land, bestselling author of the Caitlin Strong Series
“Wilson’s characters come alive on the page. Comparisons to Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Philip K. Dick aside, Wilson has spent 35 years teaching students in this age range. She knows what she is talking about.”–Gary Braver, author of “Flashback” and 8 other thrillers.
Darron Aronofsky’s new film “Mother!” looks to be a re-imagining, perhaps, of “Rosemary’s Baby” from its trailers. After Aronofsky films like “Black Swan,” “The Wrestler” and “Noah,” you come out of this one feeling slightly bilious—partially from Matthew Libatique’s hand-held close-up camera work—and partially because the film, (allegorical though it may be), just leaves you saying, “What the hell just happened here?”
For the first one-half to two-thirds of the film we have a normal story of a couple living in a remote house in the woods (Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence). He is a poet who has writers’ block and she is his loving, much younger and very supportive wife. [They don’t have names in the film, so I’ll simply refer to them by the actor’s names.]
As a would-be writer myself (30 books, to date),the depiction of how the publishing industry works was ludicrous, but it gives us a chance to see how Lawrence feels that she is not the Most Important Person in Bardem’s life, as he shows her his (finally, belatedly) completed manuscript, she cries and calls it beautiful. Immediately the phone rings and we learn that Bardem’s agent in New York (weirdly enough, played by SNL’s Kristen Wiiig) has already seen the manuscript. [Uh—-okay, folks. Not the way REAL publishing works, but let’s move on. And good luck on living on a poet’s income; better he should write horror novels or screenplays, like this film appeared to be from the trailers.]
I want to warn anyone reading this that there will be potential spoilers in my remarks, so look elsewhere if you don’t want to know some specific details about the film. However, to quote the critic in “Time” magazine, “It tries so desperately to be crazy and disturbing that all we can see is the effort made and the money spent.” That observation is not mine and seems a bit harsh, but my remark to a fellow critic as I left the theater was, “This one will not do well at the box office once word gets out.” So, a few details are here, but, no, I won’t give you the entire plot, blow-by-blow, (one of my biggest beefs about those who review my short story collections.)
So, what “word” am I suggesting will get out?
The word that the film makes minimal sense while trying to comment on a host of current topics as varied as the chaos in the world where refugees from any of a myriad list of countries are fleeing for their lives (Syria, almost anywhere in Africa, Afghanistan, et. al.), how we are destroying the Earth (Mother Earth—get it?), how artists both need fans, but also resent the rabid ones who won’t leave them alone, and egoism as demonstrated by those artists, etc.
True film buffs will see “Mother!” and be glad to have seen Aronofsky’s latest film. Word out of TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) was that people came out of the viewing either loving it or hating it, but definitely talking about it. I heard that, at one film festival screening (Cannes, I think) it was both booed and received a 5-minute standing ovation, so opinions come down on both sides of the issue.
IMHO, I don’t think the average couple who want a night out on the town without the kids will like it. They’d prefer a story that made sense. This one does not. It reminded me of Terrance Malick’s “Tree of Life” in that there was a story present that could have been told on a “normal” plane, but things quickly spiraled out of control on that front. “Tree of Life” went wild with great cinematic images, but the story suffered a quick death.
Don’t look for too much of that Malick touch here. The hand-held, close-up camerawork is all zoom-y and jerky. I found it really annoying on the big screen. I feel I have seen every pore on Jennifer Lawrence’s face. I think that is probably the movie’s strength: Jennifer Lawrence in her prime.
The sound is also quite good, and some of the early spooky shots in the old basement made me think of the film “They Come At Night” earlier this year in 2 respects: the shadowy spooky lighting and the fact that nobody ever really came at night and patrons were quite upset at being suckered in by the title and the trailer that seemed to portray a standard horror story. [I hope this isn’t the second instance of misleading advertising in film trailers this season, in the fans’ opinion(s).]
As for the secret room in the basement that is never properly explained or the bloody hole in the floor that I was sure was going to give way when someone walked over it, or the constant influx of strangers whom husband Bardem will not get rid of: not as enchanting or as well-explained.
Bardem ultimately becomes a religious figure (Satan? The Devil?) and Worst Husband & Father Ever.
The story makes sense for a while, but ultimately: “things fall apart, the center cannot hold.”
At first, we have the couple in the woods ( I was reminded of the house used one season on “American Horror Story”) with the wife trying to (literally) re-build the house to please her husband, because, (we learn in an aside), it was his childhood home. We are also told that a fire destroyed it and killed his mother. All Javier has left from the wreckage is a precious piece of glass that he keeps on display on a pedestal. It gets broken, of course, but nevermind about that right now.
After we woozily (those close-up shots and hand-held photography) watch Jennifer run to the bathroom to periodically bolt glasses of a yellow liquid that she mixes on multiple occasions, I wanted to know what it was she was drinking. The film never said. I read (elsewhere) that it was some kind of migraine medication. It would have been nice to have known that, somehow, from the dialogue. I don’t have migraines, have never heard of a yellow powder that people take for it, and was trying to figure out if Lawrence was a closet drug addict or trying to abort an unwanted pregnancy, since there is a conversation in the film where random guest Michelle Pfeiffer tells Jennifer that she (Michelle) can tell that Jennifer doesn’t want kids.
First guest to disrupt the couple’s solitude is Ed Harris, who tells Javier that he is an orthopedic surgeon at the hospital in town and suggests that he was told this was a bed and breakfast where he could stay. Once he finds out that Bardem is the famous poet Harris admires, Harris is invited to stay at their house by Javier as long as he likes. This disturbs Jennifer as she was not consulted.
Then, Ed’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up. Later, his two warring sons (real-life brothers Brian Gleeson and Donheel Gleeson) arrive and a violent fight breaks out about their father’s imminent demise and the money he will leave. [We have learned that old Ed is coughing up a lung because he is terminally ill.]
Let’s examine some of the themes/allegories that Aronofsky has laid out for us, or why I feel they are there. What is my support for my interpretation, in other words? When it comes to the Mother Nature reading, in addition to the film’s title, we need only pay attention when Jennifer says she wants to make the house “a Paradise” for her husband. And there is this line: “I gave you everything. You gave it all away.” Then, of course, there are the lines of the song that plays over the credits: “It’s The End of the World As We Know It, it ended when your love left me.”
Believe me, you won’t miss this. Gifts brought to the child born under chaotic circumstances. Preacher-like figures and small votive candles. Adoring worshippers. Small photos of the object of their adoration everywhere. And we all know what happened to the first son of God in The Good Book, so don’t look for a happy ending here.
“Vanity Fair”cited “the fevered insecurity of an artist who fears the attention of his public as much as he does their abandonment.” It is undeniably true that a writer or artist of any sort is dependent on an adoring public for both ego gratification and sales. Still, it’s taken to the limit here. Jennifer’s constant desire to have her husband make the unwanted guests go away made me think of a story she told tonight on Seth Meyer’s Late Show. She described being asked to pose for a selfie in a bar after a hard day on a shoot (and a few too many beers) and turning the young man down, whereupon he used the “f” word and went away mad. Not as mad as Jennifer, however, who describes dousing him and his luggage with beer because he wouldn’t leave her alone.
You get the feeling that the character Jennifer Lawrence portrays in “Mother!” would dearly love to give every character in the film except Bardem the old heave-ho, but nobody listens to her polite requests that they not sit on the still unmoored kitchen sink counter or simply get the hell out of her house. She is telling them what to do both politely and, ultimately, ragefully, just as Mother Nature has been warning us about weather crises to come for decades, but we just don’t listen. And, just like the 2 recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida within 4 days of one another while vast parts of the west are going up in flames, things are getting wildly out of hand now, because milder warnings given early on were completely ignored.
The film is crazy and disturbing and, in Lawrence’s words on television tonight, “horrifying” but it’s not your normal horror film with an ending that wraps things up for you, with or without a twist ending, so if you hated “They Come At Night” because you thought there was actually going to be something coming at night, you will probably think this film has done a bit of false advertising with its trailers, too.
Doesn’t mean you can’t watch it to try to decode the layers of meaning and enjoy Aronofsky’s skill as a writer/director, but I liked “The Wrestler.” It made sense from beginning to end.
When I showed up at our local Cineplex at 5:10 p.m. last Saturday to see “It,” I didn’t expect to find that particular showing sold out—but it was. So was the 6:20 p.m. showing, after I bought the last ticket.
“It”—based on a novel by Stephen King written over 30 years ago—is breaking records for a horror movie opening and easily became the largest September oepning of all time. It more than doubled the earnings of the previous record holders, which were “Paranormal Activity 3” with $52.6 million in 2011 and September’s “Hotel Transylvania 2” with $48.5 million back in 2015.
One might ask why now? Why “It”?
As one critic (Chris Nashawaty in “Entertainment Weekly”) said: “It” doesn’t shy away from nastiness and definitely earns its R rating. There’s implied incest, bullying in the extreme, and children are violently attacked. But that raises the question: Who exactly is it for? Its heroes, like its audience, are kids. What responsible parent will buy their tickets?”
Chris just doesn’t get “It.” The people I saw in the theater on Saturday were not predominantly teen-agers, although there were plenty of them, too. The man sitting next to me was probably a forty-something father who had read the book (which he told me). I definitely read the book, all those years ago, and, to refresh my memory, I strolled down memory lane with the television version of the book that ran in 1990, four years after the book came out.
The original film-for-television version had John Boy of the Waltons attired in a ponytail, to show that he was a creative sort, as Bill. I never did quite get used to that ponytail and Richard Masur as one of the boys turns up a suicide when the team gets the call to return to Derry. In the interests of not ruining the new film, I won’t tell you which of the team Masur was, but killing him off in what will be Chapter Two for this particular treatment may or may not happen.
What I did was primarily take a close look at the differences between the 1990 film and the current 2017 version, and I’ll add some theories about why “It” burst out of the doldrums of September with blockbuster numbers at the box office.
1) The original film covers both the young people and the 40-somethings who are called to return to Derry when the evil clown, Pennywise (originally played by Tim Curry of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”) returns in 27 years. This film stops when the protagonists are young and have just rescued their only female member, Beverly Marsh (well played by Sophia Lillis). We also have, as the lead (Bill), Jaeden Lieberher of “Midnight Special” and the young lead actor of “Stranger Things, Finn Wolfhard. Also present in the remake are Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) and a cast of reprehensible parent figures.
2) David Morrell has suggested that our current national situation: being led by a clown who seems bent on making bad things happen may be partially to blame for the film’s September popularity, but if you look at the anemic offerings out there, it is easy to see why “It” would carry the day. It is true that the adults in the film seem either indifferent, incompetent, or just plain evil, from Beverly’s father right on down to Eddie’s mother and the local pharmacist.
3) Pennywise was played by Tim Curry in the original film and is played by Bill Skarsgard in this one. I am not as quick to laud Curry and put Skarsgard down. I thought they were both fine in their roles.
4) The original film used a lot of blood scenes where it bubbles up from the green sink in Beverly’s bathroom. In this newer version, it isn’t just blood that bubbles p. There are also menacing black cobweb like tentacles that threaten to drag Beverly down to the sewer(s).
5) I noticed that the language was very “R”-rated in this movie. That seems natural, since the original in 1990 played on network TV. Every other line has either the “F” word in it or that four-letter word that means excrement.
6) When Beverly’s sink goes haywire with the bubbling blood, only she is able to see it and she enlists the help of the Losers gang, who are also able to see it, but her father is not.
7) When chubby Ben is menaced, he is actually cut with a knife by the bully Bowers, who, himself, has been mistreated by his policeman father. In the original, he was bullied but not quite so extremely.
8) The rock-throwing scene (Losers against local bullies) remains in the film.
9) The weapon of choice for use against Pennywise in the sewers has changed from a slingshot that only Beverly seemed able to aim well to the sort of gun that is used to kill animals at a slaughter house.
10) There is a long sequence in a haunted house that reminded me of Miss Faversham’s digs in “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens.
11) Every trope in the horror movie book is thrown at the audience over and over again: the quick jump forward, the “don’t go in there” places, the “cover-your-face-terrifying” moments. The two teen-aged girls sitting to my left actually applauded after the film ended, so it obviously works and works quite well if you have not seen it done one million times before in many other films.
12) The lighting was appropriately spooky. Not as spooky as “It Comes At Night” earlier this summer, but very dark and moody. Sewers are also plenty scary and this time, instead of just a look at the scary house, the leads are taken inside it more than once.
13) Director Andy Muschieti (“Mama”) has delivered the script by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukomaga and Gary Dauberman, based on King’s novel, in a straightforward murder mystery manner, coupled with horror movie tropes that cause one to scream and jump out of their seat(s). (Think “Psycho”).
14) Critic Rick Bentley (Tribune News Service), who gave the film only 2 and 1/2 stars (putting him at odds with most of the theater-going public) made the very accurate statement that “Pennywise is terrifying, but he’s not the biggest monster
Rock musician Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band took the stage at the Civic Center in Moline, Illinois on Saturday night, August 26th, 2017, for the second show on his just-launched tour (Tulsa was first).
The clip above shows off more of the band, in general, but the entire show was jam-packed with hits, from “Against the Wind,” “Rock & Roll Music,” “Like A Rock,” “Why Don’t You Stay?” to “Hollywood Nights.”
It was a predominantly middle-aged crowd that turned out to see and hear the rocker from Detroit and the place was as crowded as I’ve ever seen it. The downtown parking ramps were all full and we had to walk about a mile to even find a place to park.
It was a great show and very poignant when Seger sang the lyrics, “I’m older now, but still running against the wind.”