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!

Category: Interviews Page 2 of 6

Danny Glover Accepts Visionary Award at Chicago International Film Festival

Danny Glover accepts the Visionary Award from Cinema Chicago founder and artistic director Michael Kutza.

Danny Glover accepts the Visionary Award from Cinema Chicago founder and artistic director Michael Kutza.

Danny Glover appeared in Chicago to promote the Nigerian film “93 Days” and accept a Visionary Award from Festival Founder Michael Kutza.The film “93 Days,” based on real-life events, follows the Nigerian effort to stop the Ebola virus from spreading, when it was introduced into the capital city of Lagos (21 million people) in 2014.

Director Steve Gukas and star of "93 Days" Danny Glover.

Director Steve Gukas and star of “93 Days” Danny Glover.

As Director Steve Gukas said, “This film is about our inter-connectedness. The sacrifice of a few actually saved the lives of many the world over.” The trailer looked good, so I gave the film my attention for what seemed like an interminable 124 minutes of time. The film has international distribution at this time, but no U.S. distribution yet, so my remarks about the film must wait for later.

(L to R) Producers Dotun Okahunri, Bolanie Austen-Peers, Pemon Rami and Director Steve Gukas.

(L to R) Producers Dotun Okahunri, Bolanie Austen-Peers, Pemon Rami and Director Steve Gukas.

Many of the film’s producers and stars accompanied the film to Chicago and Glover said, before its screening, “I can’t tell you how proud I was to work with my brothers and sisters in Nigeria. I can’t thank the producers and Steve Gukas enough for allowing me to be a part of this.”

Producer Pemon Rami of Chicago.

Producer Pemon Rami of Chicago.

The only United States producer on the project was Pemon Rami, who is one of the elders of black cinema and has been involved in the development of TV shows, films, music concerts, documentaries and plays for more than 60 years. He is the first African American casting director for Chicago films. When asked about his experiences helping make “93 Days,” Pemon said, “I was the only producer from the U.S. I was there for 3 months working on the film. We were in places in Nigeria that you don’t typically see. Some of the places the houses all looked like the White House!” When asked how Danny Glover became involved with the film, Rami said, “When he read the script, he wanted to be involved in a bigger way.” As it is, Glover’s part is bigger in the opening parts of the film when the crisis is being diagnosed than it is during the “solve-this-problem” parts of the film, when actor Tim Reid, playing Dr. David, took over.

ffthroughdannyglover-077When Festival founder Michael Kutza mentioned that an invitation to attend Chicago’s Film Festival has been extended on three earlier occasions, Glover vowed it would not be his last visit and said, “You know, I was in Hyde Park in New York City accepting an award just a day or so ago, and then I had a commitment with the school board there. Then I was cooking dinner for Harry Belafonte at his home the other night, at Idlewild to honor labor leaders, and at the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party on Saturday.” In other words, Glover keeps busy, and he was nowhere busier than in Chicago where he appeared in not just one, but three separate film entries.

“One Day Since Yesterday” & Life Achievement Award Focus on Peter Bogdanovich

bogdanovich101616-010Peter Bogdanovich, ex-wife Louise Stratton and the makers of a documentary on Bogdanovich’s career entitled “One Day Since Yesterday,” (Director Bill Teck; Producer Victor Brazo) attended a screening entitled “Peter Bogdanovich and the Lost American Film” at the Chicago Film Festival on Sunday, October 16th. The “lost American Film” in question is Bogdanovich’s movie “They All Laughed,” which starred his then-love interest Dorothy Stratten opposite John Ritter and was Audrey Hepburn’s last film, as the love interest for Ben Gazarra.

During the evening’s presentation of the Golden Hugo Award to Bogdanovich for his life achievements in film, the Bill Teck documentary was screened and Bogdanovich answered questions afterwards from Michael Phillips of the Chicago “Tribune” and talked about his storied career. [He didn’t take questions from the Chicago “Sun Times,” as that phone interview was canceled.] But the legendary director did convey quite a bit of information to the audience.

Peter Bogdanovich

Peter Bogdanovich

The audience was treated to clips from some of Bogdanovich’s greatest films (see chart at end of article) and interviews with those who know him well, like Jeff Bridges and Ben Gazzara.
When the portions of the film that focused on Dorothy’s heinous murder were reached in the documentary, Bogdanovich left the theater. About ten minutes later director Bill Teck followed, no doubt to check on him.

As he spoke to us, some grisly coincidences were revealed:
1) Dorothy Stratten was murdered by her psychotic husband/manager after she began her affair with Bogdanovich, seemingly ruining his life from that point on. (Dorothy’smurder was particularly brutal and heinous).
(2) “They All Laughed” was Audrey Hepburn’s last film (and that’s ignoring John Ritter’s untimely death at a too-young age)
(3) Bogdanovich directed River Phoenix’s last completed film, “The Thing Called Love,” before River Phoenix died of a drug overdose in 1993 outside the Viper Room in Hollywood; at the time, Phoenix was at work on a movie called “Dark Blood.”
(4) Ben Gazarra’s interview with Bill Teck that we saw this night was his last interview
(5) Bogdanovich, during his remarks, said that Bob Fosse’s making of “Star 80,” (which Bogdanovich objected to and said was not accurate, “killed him.” It was Fosse’s last film)

So, yikes! (Does the term “Kiss of Death” resonate, or is it just me?)

bogdanovich101616-008In the Q&A following the documentary, Michael Phillips of the Chicago “Tribune” asked a question that many might have posed: “How do you manage to remain friends with an astonishing number of exes?” Bogdanovich answered, “If one aspect of a relationship doesn’t work, why dump it all?”

His most lasting and well-known relationships were with wife Polly Platt, a working relationship and one that lasted from 1962 to 1971, producing two daughters, Antonia and Sashy (he put both girls in “They All Laughed”). In 1971, while making “The Last Picture Show,” he fell in love with its star, Cybill Shepherd, and left his wife. They were a couple until 1978. In 1980, while making “They All Laughed,” Bogdanovich became romantically involved with Dorothy Stratten, 1980 Playmate of the Year who was murdered in 1981. He married her younger sister Louise in 1988 when he was 49 and Louise was 20; they divorced in 2001.

Bogdanovich’s climb to director was not the traditional path through film school. Instead, he privately reviewed every movie he saw from 1952 to 1970 and sought out the great masters of film to interview them and write about them. A true student of the cinema, he has written extensively on all matters concerning film.

Hired as a film programmer at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York City in the sixties, Bogdanovich organized film retrospectives of Orson Welles, John Ford and Howard Hawks. One of those film retrospectives on Alfred Hitchcock I had the good fortune to see, taking my daughter from individual table-top computer to individual table-top computer to view such classic Hitchcock film scenes as the shower scene from “Psycho” or the attack scenes from “The Birds.”

bogdanovich101616-007Bogdanovich would ask publicists for invitations to movie premieres and industry party invitations. Roger Corman was sitting behind him at one of these events and, after a conversation in which Corman complimented Bogdanovich on a piece he had written for Esquire magazine, Corman offered him a job directing.

Bogdanovich accepted immediately, taking on the film “Targets” that starred Boris Karloff. Bogdanovich has said of this experience (undertaken under the pseudonym Derek Thomas), “I went from getting the laundry to directing the picture in three weeks. Altogether, I worked 22 weeks—preproduction, shooting, second unit, cutting, dubbing—I haven’t learned as much since.” (Quote from “What They Learned from Roger Corman” by Beverly Gray of MovieMaker magazine, spring of 2001.)

During his remarks this night, Bogdanovich articulated his dislike of numerous, obvious cuts, a style in vogue today (think Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon’s “Bourne” movies), which Bogdanovich called “the MTV School of filmmaking.”

Bogdanovich’s opinion: “I don’t like that. You cut for emphasis. I believe in the intelligence of the audience, (originally an Otto Preminger quote).”

When asked about how he developed his own style, he replied, “I never thought about style. I was interested in telling the story and using the craft to make the film the most effective way possible. I saw a lot of pictures and I’d say, ‘Why is the camera there?’ I was told always cut on movement. Then they’ll never notice the cut. The MTV influence, which I despise but which is in vogue nowadays, they want you to notice the cuts.” To make his point, Bogdanovich offered up Ginger Rodgers/Fred Astaire musical numbers or Gene Kelly’s dance numbers.

Asked if he had ever considered following some other notable directors into directing for television, Bogdanovich said, “I directed an episode of The Sopranos in the 5th season. But, to do the job right, you have to be in charge. I don’t look forward to it when you don’t know your cast, but I did know the cast of The Sopranos.” (from his role as Dr. Melfi’s psychotherapist, Dr. Elliot Kupferberg.)

bogdanovich101616-029Bogdanovich noted of his Sopranos time, “We couldn’t change a word of dialogue on The Sopranos without consulting the director. If you wanted to change anything, you had to call him (David Chase) up and ask him.” Given those strictures, he was told to ask Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) a question, but no question had been written for him. He improvised a question. The director said, “Ask a better question.” Laughing, Bogdanovich said he told the director that if he wanted a better question, he should write a better (expletive deleted) question for his character to ask.

Throughout the evening’s question and answer period, Bogdanovich, an avid film historian, kept repeating how much he had learned from studying other great directors. He repeated this nugget of information from an interview he did with Howard Hawkes in 1962. Hawkes told him, “It’s not about plot. The plot is people either getting together or not. Hawkes wanted to focus (in Rio Bravo) on the characters. I loved him. I learned so much from him and from Ford and Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, Renoir, Alfred Hitchcock. I was so lucky. And they were all my friends. Well, maybe not Fritz so much.” (laughter)

Asked about his collaboration with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal in 1972, “What’s Up, Doc?” (and, especially, about Barbra’s reputation as a prima donna), Bogdanovich said that Barbra had seen an early cut of “The Last Picture Show” and wanted to work with him. He recalled mentioning to her how Barbra might read a certain line in the script (which Bogdanovich had written) and Barbra saying, “Oh, so now you’re going to give me a line reading?” Later, when Barbra was singing “As Time Goes By” in the film, he mentioned to her that she might put more emphasis on the word “can” within the lyric “on that you can rely” and Barbra retorted, “Oh…so now you’re going to give me line readings for the song lyrics?” He added, “She was fun to work with. I really loved her.”

bogdanovich101616-034Bogdanovich quoted Jimmy Stewart, whom he interviewed for the 1971 AFI documentary “Directed by John Ford:” “If you’re good and you’re lucky enough to have a personality that comes across, a good film is like giving the audience back little pieces of time.”

Here are the film “pieces of time” Bogdanovich has given us since 1968 (and he has written extensively):

Year Film
1968 Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women Alternative Title: The Gill Women of Venus and The Gill Women. Credited as Derek Thomas
Targets Alternative Title: Before I Die
Also Writer/Producer/Editor
1971 Directed by John Ford Documentary
The Last Picture Show Also WriterBAFTA Award for Best ScreenplayNew York Film Critics Circle Award for Best ScreenplayNew York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Director
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated – Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Feature Film
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Director
Nominated – Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
1972 What’s Up, Doc Also Writer/Producer
1973 Paper Moon Also Producer
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Director
1974 Daisy Miller Also Producer
1975 At Long Last Love Also Writer/Producer
1976 Nickelodeon Also Writer Nominated – Golden Bear
1979 Saint Jack Also Writer Venice Film Festival for Best Film
1981 They All Laughed Also Writer
1985 Mask Nominated – Palme d’Or
1988 Illegally Yours Also Producer
1990 Texasville Also Writer/Producer
1992 Noises Off Also Executive Producer
1993 The Thing Called Love
2001 The Cat’s Meow
2007 Runnin’ Down a Dream Documentary
2014 She’s Funny That Way

The documentary “One Day Since Yesterday” was directed by Miami native Bill Teck and produced by Victor Brazo. It focuses on Peter Bogdanovich’s film “They All Laughed.” This was the Dorothy Stratten film. Said Teck of Bogdanovich, “I never met a more brave human being. He gave us unprecedented access to everything.”

bogdanovich101616-020Teck explained his fascination with Bogdanovich’s film work this way: “When I was 13 I went to the Art Theater in Miami and saw ‘They All Laughed.’ My movie is about that movie. I don’t know that anyone else embodies old Hollywood combined with the new more than Peter Bogdanovich. ‘They All Laughed’ is a valentine to love: love of his art, movie love and true love. I call it ‘The Lost American Film’ because it was Audrey Hepburn’s last film role, co-starred John Ritter and Ben Gazarra and, of course, Dorothy Stratten.”

Following the showing of the film, Bogdanovich commented on directing Audrey Hepburn in her final film.

Q: Why did Hepburn take the role?

A: “I think she did it because I told Audrey that Sean, her son, could be my assistant. But she was paid $1 million for 6 weeks’ work.” Said Bogdanovich of Hepburn: “She was very apprehensive, very shy, sensitive. In front of the camera, however, she had a steel-like intensity; it was all there. We had a limited budget for this movie. We couldn’t shut down 5th Avenue, so all the trailers and trucks were blocks away. She had no trailer. No chair. No dressing room. She was great. She was just great. She’d go inside the store and we’d use hand signals to let her know when we needed her to come out for shooting a scene and she’d come out and say, “Oh, look, Peter. They gave me this lovely umbrella.” (mimicking Hepburn’s accent)”

Ben Gazarra plays Hepburn’s love interest in the film, and documentary director Teck was fortunate enough to be able to record Gazarra’s last interview about making both this film and Saint Jack with Bogdanovich.

Tabloids buzzed after the brutal murder of Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten by her estranged husband/manager Paul Snider, who then committed suicide. The murder, in 1981, sent Bogdanovich into a tailspin from which he seems never to have fully recovered. His marriage to Dorothy’s younger sister Louise in 1988, when he was 49 and she was 20, did nothing to cause the memory of the brutal murder to recede into the past for the public nor, it would seem, for Bogdanovich to fully recover.

In fact, both with his master plan to buy back the film from the studio and distribute it himself through a distribution group he dubbed Moon Pictures, his actions since 1981 seem to have produced a long period of grieving for what he has lost in life. Descriptions of how distraught Bogdanovich was after Dorothy’s murder include his daughters testifying that he couldn’t walk, but crawled to them. Ex-wife Polly Platt, mother of his two children, thought that writing The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980 was probably good therapy for Peter at the time.

bogdanovich101616-016Perhaps it was, but it doesn’t seem to have worked that well.
His daughters remember August 14, 1980 as “the day we lost our father.”

Bogdanovich addressed the Bob Fosse-directed picture “Star 80,” (based on Pulitzer Prize-winning articles in the Village Voice) which featured Eric Roberts as Snider and Mariel Hemingway as Dorothy. When the film came out, Bogdanovich called up Bob Fosse, its director, whom he knew personally. “‘Why are you doing this, Bob?’ I asked him. Fosse said, ‘We think it’s a good story.’ It was Bob Fosse’s last picture. It killed him. All I know is that if this had happened to Bob, I wouldn’t have made a film about it.”

Producer & director of "One Day After Yesterday," the Bogdanovich documentary, smile on their way into the screening.

Producer & director of “One Day After Yesterday,” the Bogdanovich documentary, smile on their way into the screening.

Bogdanovich was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1985 and again in 1997. The bankruptcy of ’85 was caused by his rash decision to buy back Stratten’s film “They All Laughed” (mortgaging his house to do it) from the studio and to try to distribute it himself. “We had no clout,” he said. (According to Wikipedia, at the time, he had income of $75,000 a month and expenses of $200,000 a month). “That was dumb,” he said during the Sunday event, of his attempt to self-distribute. Had it been a big success, however, he might have revolutionized the industry as singularly as Amazon has revolutionized the publishing industry with its Print-on-demand service.

More studio problems presented themselves when Bogdanovich helmed “Mask” in 1985 with Cher and Eric Stoltz. He became embroiled in a dispute with the studio over the replacement of Bruce Springsteen’s songs in the film with songs written by Bob Seger.

Whatever ups and downs Bogdanovich’s career and personal life have had, his 3 hits in a row (“The Last Picture Show,”1971, “What’s Up, Doc” in 1972, and “Paper Moon” in 1973) alone will forever cement his reputation as once being among the best of the best.

His extensive writing about film, preserving the wisdom of previous great directors whom he personally knew and interviewed, also justifies awards like the Gold Hugo Lifetime Achievement Award, bestowed upon the 77-year-old Bogdanovich in Chicago on Sunday, October 16th, 2016.

“La La Land” Opens the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival on October 13, 2016

“La La Land”—that place where “they worship everything and they value nothing” (i.e., Hollywood and Los Angeles)—is the subject of Writer/Director Damien Chazell’s third film, following on the heels of his highly acclaimed “Whiplash” with Miles Teller. (Bad teacher J.K. Simmons even has a bit part in this one as Gosling’s boss in a supper club).

Miles Teller was originally supposed to play the lead in “La La Land,” Chazell’s attempt to make a musical like those from “the old days.” This is where I’m supposed to sing the merits of musicals of old (“Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Big Broadcast of 1940”) or mention the stylistic and tonal debt the film owes to Jacques Demy’s “Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and “The Young Girls of Rochefort,” but I was never a huge musical fan and this is a modern film in so many other ways. [My mother-in-law, were she still alive, would love this film! She always admired “Chicago” (the musical).]

But me? I’m more of a thriller type. I had to be won over.

THE GOOD

If you’re going to send an actor to win me over, by all means send Ryan Gosling. I’d have accepted the equally talented Miles Teller in the part, (and I’m still hoping that Gosling will star in a remake of “Logan’s Run,”) but if it’s musicals we’re here to discuss, let’s have at it. Who can forget the onscreen chemistry Gosling already had with Emma Stone in “Crazy, Stupid Love” when he told her his signature move was the lift from “Dirty Dancing” and they replicated it?

I liked this one. I would like any musical where the camera lingers lovingly on Ryan Gosling; the fact that he sings passably well and can even do a bit of soft shoe added to my enjoyment. This is to be expected, given his stint on “The All New Mickey Mouse Club” and his early training in Ottawa at the Elite Dance Studio and the top Hat Dance School in his hometown of Cornwall. You have a male lead who can legitimately sing and dance. Emma Stone does an equally good job in both areas, but, somehow, you are less surprised when the female of the species can sing and dance.

Take into account that Gosling’s character of Sebastian is supposed to be a passionate jazz pianist (great lighting in the scenes where he’s playing the piano) and appears to actually be playing the piano, and I’m in. (And I haven’t been “in” to a musical since Leonard Bernstein and “West Side Story.”)

No review would be complete without giving much credit to composer/arranger Justin Hurwitz, with assists lyrically from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul for the great songs. There’s also one song contributed by John Legend.

Themes:

When Gosling says, “I’m a Phoenix rising from the ashes” and “I’m gonna’ let life hit me and then I’m gonna’ hit back. It’s a classic rope-a-dope” you believe him. He’s so devoted to jazz that, says co-star John Legend (yes, the singer), “How are you gonna’ save jazz if nobody is listening. You’re holdin’ onto the past, but jazz is about the future.” Another conflict-laden scene where the young couple are being pulled apart by (initially) Gosling’s success featured dialogue that was largely improvised and included the line, “Maybe yu just liked me better when I was on my ass because it made you feel better about yourself.” (Ouch!)

Second theme is the age-old conflict between art and commerce, i.e., the need to make a buck versus the need to create art.

And, last, but certainly not least, I found echoes of two recent films struck me. Those 2 previous films were Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s 2009 film “500 Days of Summer” and Woody Allen’s even more recent film (2016) “Café Society” with Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and Steve Carell.

Each of those non-musical predecessors suggests that there are a variety of people who might be “right” for you at one time or another in your life, and a variety of futures you might have with each person. And, at least in Woody’s film, you can see the wheels turning in Jesse Eisenberg’s head when his first love re-enters his life briefly at the end of the drama. (“Ah, what might have been!” he seems to be thinking.)

The music of Justin Hurwitz, with lyrical assists from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, helps carry the themes of reaching for the stars and not giving up on your dreams. (Hurwitz also did the music and arrangements for “Whiplash”). With lyrics like, “Here’s to the fools who dream, crazy as they may seem. Here’s to the mess we make” the plot is carried along a brightly colored path where a young would-be actress and a young would-be jazz musician who wants to own his own club meet and fall in love, rather slowly by today’s standards. (In the age of Tinder, it was nice to see the slow build-up to the romance.)

THE BAD

Well, it’s a musical.

But it’s a good, witty musical that will garner awards at Oscar time, including a possible Oscar nomination for Emma Stone and the picture itself. If Emma gets a nod for the Best Actress Oscar and Ryan Gosling does not receive a similar endorsement for his skills, it will be a bit like Dustin Hoffman carrying the day in “Rainman” while Tom Cruise was ignored.

I also smiled at the scene when Mia (Emma Stone),who has thoughtlessly double-booked herself with her date Greg and is standing Ryan Gosling up for their spontaneously arranged movie date, gets up from the table and excuses herself, leaving Greg to join Sebastian. The actor playing Greg (Finn Wittrock) played the psychotic killer clown on the circus episodes of “American Horror Story” and was also featured in the hotel year episodes (with Lady Gaga). I think anyone in the theater who has seen old Finn in his psychotic clown make-up was seriously rooting for Emma to flee, not so much because we felt bad about her standing Ryan Gosling up, but because we half-expected Greg to attack her with a steak knife at the dinner table at any moment. I also recognized a second suitor at the very end of the film (Tom Everett Scott) from the 1996 Tom Hanks film “That Thing You Do” and wondered what he’s been up to since then.

Both of the leads, as well as the Writer/Director and everyone who did such a fine job on this film deserve recognition of how difficult it must have been to pull off a romantic musical in today’s crass times. Between all the talk of Donald Trump’s assaults on women and his genitalia and the specter of Bill Clinton’s trysts elevated to front row status at the second presidential debate, it’s really hard to remember more romantic times.

Those who loved musicals do remember, and this is the kind of film they’ll love, which really should be seen on the Big Screen.

So, “Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem, I’ll always remember the flame.”

[*The Lionsgate representative on the Red Carpet on October 13th, when asked, said it would be perfectly fine to run a review now, as it was playing elsewhere, but it is slated to open wide in December.)

Opening Night of the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival on Oct. 13th

http://search.aol.com/aol/video?q=Valerie+Perrine&v_t=aolrt-ff

Claude LeLouch with interpreter.

Claude LeLouch with interpreter.

Now that I have your attention, may I mention that the lovely creature featured in the tribute above is the co-author of French director Claude LeLouch’s (2015) film “Un & Une?” You may recognize Valerie Perrine from her Oscar-nominated role as Honey Bruce, wife of Lenny Bruce, in the 1974 film “Lenny” or any of her many other film roles. She accompanied LeLouch to the opening night and is a lovely and vibrant 73-year-old (LeLouch is 79).

Damien Chazelle, Writer/Director of "La La Land" and "Whiplash."

Damien Chazelle, Writer/Director of “La La Land” and “Whiplash.”

The current hot director who attended the Opening Night of his film was Damien Chazelle, whose musical “La La Land” has been well-received virtually everywhere it has screened. In Venice, on August 31st, the opening sequence on a Los Angeles freeway received a standing ovation. Since then, the film has opened to kudos at Telluride and Toronto and Emma Stone won the Best Actress award for her role (She is being prominently mentioned as a Best Actress Oscar contender). The chemistry that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone displayed in “Crazy, Stupid Love” (he told her his signature move was the lift from “Dirty Dancing”) remains.

Michael Rooker

Michael Rooker

Another classic flick brought back to life for the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival was “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”, an indie film directed by John McNaughton and starring Michael Rooker. The film premiered in Chicago in 1986 and has achieved cult status over the intervening 30 years. Rooker, himself, now 60, has gone on to appear in such films as “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Days of Thunder” (1990), “The Bone Collector,” and as Merle in television’s “The Walking Dead.”

When McNaughton was asked his advice for aspiring filmmakers who want to make an independent film he said, “Ill give them the same advice my father gave me: become a dentist.”

Rosemarie DeWitt of "La La Land."

Rosemarie DeWitt of “La La Land.”

In addition to Writer/Director Chazelle of “La La Land”, actress Rosemarie DeWitt, who plays Gosling’s older sister in the film, came to Chicago and her comments to me about the film were, “I think Damien made something very beautiful and very fresh that is going to make you very happy and maybe even make you cry.”

Bouchercon in New Orleans Brings Out the Big Names

Lee Child

Lee Child

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Bouchercon in New Orleans (Sept. 15-18) was a party for over 2,000 authors and their families. For the second time in our lives we participated in a parade from the Marriott on Canal Street to the Orpheum Theater, where author David Morrell (“Rambo”) was interviewed by author Lee Child (Jack Reacher).

Also present and interviewed by romance author Heather Graham was R.L. Stine, author of the “Goosebumps” series.

Each participant took home 6 books of their choosing and the book room was packed with signings and books for sale. 13Thirty Books had a signing in the Napoleon Room from 3 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, in which I participated.
A good time was had by all.

Happy 93rd Birthday, Nelson Peterson

Nelson G. Peterson

Nelson G. Peterson

My good friend and former teaching colleague Nelson Peterson is celebrating his 93rd birthday today. I took him to lunch at a restaurant of his choice and asked him about his service during World War II.

Nelson is a veteran of both the Battle of the Bulge and, among other locations, Normandy Beach, Nuremberg, Salzburg and Munich. Although he has WWII memorabilia on the walls of his house, I had never really heard him speak about what he actually did during the war, so I asked him.

He responded, “I was a radio operator for the forward observation for artillery. We radioed back to the guns. We were way up front and we were way back.” Asked about Normandy, memorialized in Stephen Spielberg’s film “Saving Private Ryan” he said, “D-Day was the sixth of June. I went in 10 days after D-Day.”

Asked how, exactly, he “went in” (“Did you parachute in?”) Nelson said he had gone in on an LST ship and also remembered that he crossed the Rhine at Worms.

Nelson joined the Army when he was just 18, so, out of his company of 150 men (there were 3 or 4 companies in a Battalion), “All of those men are gone.” His best friend was Jack Norris from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Since Jack is long gone, perhaps it won’t matter that Nelson described him as a bit of a kleptomaniac at times.

When asked to describe his experiences during World War II in a word or phrase, he said, “It was a great experience.” Asked about war, in general, he said, “It’s a necessary evil. And sometimes it’s an unnecessary evil.”

Happy 93rd Birthday, Nelson, and many, many more.

“Captain Fantastic” & “The Infiltrator” Best Movies of the Summer So far

For those of you tired of the seemingly endless supply of children’s animated films and/or Marvel Comic spin-offs, two new movies for serious film buffs offer respite this summer season, and I highly recommend them both.

First (because I saw it first, in Chicago, with the director present) would be “Captain Fantastic,” and, no, it is NOT a Marvel picture. Ross even told the impressed audience who had just sat through the film, that he was unaware that there was a comic book movie of the same name, as well as an Elton John album, but that he likes “powerful titles.”

PLOT

Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) has removed his children from society, living a seemingly idyllic life in the woods of Oregon. (Note: Director Matt Ross, himself, attended Julliard by way of Ashland, Oregon). The main character opts to educate his children on his own, but, as Matt Ross told “CineArts” magazine: “If we’re analyzing Ben’s faults, it is that he really hasn’t prepared them in terms of socialization to the world outside. He has this idea that, in order to really teach his children his values, he needs to take control of their education and their environment. In a larger case, that is true for everyone. We send our kids to school and hope that it’s the truth that they are being told and taught.”

Q&A

After the showing of the film at the AMC Theater in Chicago (it opened July 13th), Ross answered questions for the audience, and many of them had to do with the casting process for the children and the lead, played by Viggo Mortensen.

First, let it be noted that this is a film about family and the other great film of the summer (so far), “The Infiltrator” with Bryan Cranston, is also a film about family. Said Ross: “I think all great dramas are about the family. Look at The Godfather. What is it really about? It’s about family. Tonally, it’s a very different movie, but about family.” A great line from “The Infiltrator is this one, articulated by Benjamin Bratt’s character: “Without family or friends, what kind of world would this be? There would be no reason to be alive.”

Ross—who has an impressive array of movie and television roles to his credit, including Alvy Grant in “Big Love,” as well as roles in “American Psycho” (2000), “Face/Off” (1997), and “The Aviator” (2004)—both wrote and directed “Captain Fantastic” and it won him the Best Director award at Cannes for new directors, something he admits pleased him immensely.

BACKGROUND

The writer/director was also able to draw on his own life experiences as the product of a mother who was active in the eighties in commune-type life in North Carolina and Oregon, explaining that his parents were “artisans who didn’t’ want to live in cities, but in harmony with nature. I also lived in London and some people had electricity and plumbing. Some did not. We celebrate Noam Chomsky Day (Dec. 7th) at my house.” (A recurring film point).

Ross also admits that becoming a father, himself (he has two children) was a factor in the film’s genesis, saying, “For me, personally, the reason I wanted to tell this story is because I have two kids and I was certainly thinking, ‘What are my values? What do I want to teach my children?’”

The conflict in the film comes when Matt Cash’s wife, who is bi-polar, dies. Matt (Viggo Mortensen) and his unorthodox family are not exactly welcome at the funeral being planned by her father and mother (Frank Langella and Ann Dowd). It is obvious that Claire’s father (Langella) may blame Ben for his daughter’s death, and they have no intention of honoring her wishes of having a Buddhist funeral, cremating her remains and scattering her ashes. It is this crusade on the part of her husband and children to honor her wishes in death that becomes a major plot point, as they drive to the funeral destination, cross-country, on their family bus.

CONFLICT

One reviewer dissed this plot idea, but it serves the purpose of injecting even more conflict into the plot and making Ben Cash aware of how his own viewpoint about the world might not be the only point-of-view that his young children should be exposed to. In one of the most poignant scenes of the entire movie, Viggo is simply shown driving the bus, thinking that he has sacrificed his entire family to society (i.e., giving them up to his wife’s parents to raise) for their own good.

VIGGO MORTENSEN

Mortensen displays why he is such a perfect choice for the role and what a great actor he is during that scene, which consisted of no dialogue at all, but simply his own communing with his thoughts as he drives.

Ross said, during the Q&A, that Viggo Mortensen was his first choice to play the role, and it is quite easy to understand why if you know anything about Mortensen’s somewhat unorthodox lifestyle. Aside from Gary Busey, I’ve not read more stories about a leading man who “lives off the land” and generally has unusual idiosyncrasies in his personal life. Said Ross during the Q&A of the film in Chicago: “Viggo is always very real and very simple. On paper, the main character was more of a playful father. Viggo had a bit more of a center for him. Any actor will make a part their own. With actors, you get to see their work habits. For most people, you are not cognizant of the mechanics. Great film moments are great acting moments. Some directors do not like actors, but I have acted and I don’t feel that way. The answer is that I believe that if you’re reading and playing instruments and you are intelligent, you are right for these parts.

Ross even shared that Viggo showed up early with definite ideas about Ben Cash’s character. Said Ross: “He (Mortensen) helped build the set. He came a couple of weeks early and slept in the tipi before and during the shoot. He built the garden by himself and made sure it was a functional garden that would sustain itself throughout the year. He showed up with a pick-up truck full of props and books. We had an excellent prop department on hand, but he felt very strongly about what kinds of books the characters might read. I wanted to cast someone I believed could really live in this environment an actually understands what he’s talking about.” Said Ross to “CineArts’ Frank Gonzales, “That’s a tall order. You need an actor who can portray someone who is well spoken, well read, and very intelligent. These are challenges you have to navigate with casting, but with Viggo you absolutely believe it!”

Q1: What about the children in the film? How were they cast?

A1: “It was a traditional casting process with Jean Carthy doing the casting. We cast in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United States. We had an extensive call-back process. I wanted kids who were fit, who could play musical instruments. All the goods are objectively good actors, but I made judgment calls based on their spirit. For some kids, there was only one choice. I wanted them to look like Viggo’s—that they could be from the same gene pool. We were in Washington state for two weeks. Then we sent the kids to a wilderness camp: rock climbing. Rehearing music. Esperanto. Two girls actually killed a deer. Yoga. Viggo was learning to play the bagpipes. Training changed their eating habits during the time of shooting. Ultimately, we wanted them all to fall in love with Viggo. (*The children were Bo: George McKay; Rellian: Nicholas Hamilton; Kielyr:Samantha Isler; Vespyr: Annalise Basso; Zaja: Shree Crooks; Nai; Charlie Showell).

Q2: Talk a little about your directing style.

A2: I went through the script, line-by-line, and talked them through it. The way I like to work is they have their lives and they could follow them and improvise. I’m not propping up a dead object, but creating a living, breathing thing. Charlie picking his nose around the fire because he forgot he was being filmed is an example of that. Film is a collaborative medium.

In this way, Ross’ words echo the sentiment expressed regarding “The Infiltrator” in Frank Gonzales’ “CineArts” summer film guide this way: “All great moments in sports, in moviemaking, and in life are not done alone and in a vacuum. Just as a pro-golfer or tennis player needs a coach to nurture and push their talents to championship levels, a great movie is usually the result of a team of actors and artists working together to reach unprecedented heights. And the coach that gets them there is the director.”

Q3: What’s the deal with the Noah Chomsky references recurring throughout the film?

A3: (*Noah Chomsky is an intellectual who is far, far left). For me, personally, I think he’s a brilliant human being, a great humanitarian. You’d have to ask him about making his birthday (December 7th) a holiday like Festivus. He’s still alive. He might be appalled.

Q4: Talk about the opening scene of the movie, shot in the wilderness and involving the death of a deer.

A4: There is a tradition of felling a deer with nothing but a knife. I think it is felt that, in that way, they honor the deer. (Masai tribesmen sent their young men out to kill a lion with just a spear.)

Q5: When you conceived the story, did you have the backstory of Viggo’s wife Claire being bi-polar?

A5:

"Captain Fantastic" director/writer Matt Ross.

“Captain Fantastic” director/writer Matt Ross.

[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form] The short answer is yes. Because of the temporal nature of films, I outline very carefully. Things change when you’re writing it. And then there’s a long rewriting process.

Ross, when asked about how the family was able to survive in the wild (what about money?) said, “I purposely chose not to answer that. I think there are clues in the movie. She had a lucrative law career. I think they have savings and they are frugal.”

More about “The Infiltrator” momentarily.

Radio Interviews on June 1st & June 2nd

“Obama’s Odyssey” continues its national radio tour with 3 stops tomorrow and some special pricing.

The stops will be: 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., CT in Centralia, Illinois on WILY-AM with Tootie Cooksey’s “Hotline.”

11 to 11:30 a.m. on WAMV-AM with Bob Langstaff’s “We the People” in Amherst, Virginia.

Noon to 12:16 on KPCL-FM in Albuquerque, New Mexico with Annette Ayoub’s “Day Brightener.”

In conjunction with the radio tour, Volume II of “Obama’s Odyssey” is FREE for June 1 and June 2. Volume I is only 99 cents in e-book format from Amazon. The easiest way to “click through” and get to the special offers (which will expire on June 2nd) is to go to ConnieCWilson.com and click through, although you can also opt to go directly to Amazon and type in the book’s titles (Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House) and/or my author name, Connie Corcoran Wilson).

Specific Times & Stations for Radio Tour

It was pointed out to me that potential listeners would not know, from my previous post, what station to tune in to (if they happened to be in cities ranging from Ocala, Florida to Minneapolis, Minnesota to Seattle, Washington.)

So, here is a more specific update by station and show and time for May 18th, Wednesday, only. There will be an additional 5 stations on May 19th and then it will jump till June 1st.

Don’t forget: on May 18, 19, 20 and June 1 and 2, you would be able to download BOTH “Obama’s Odyssey” books for a total of 99 cents, because of the radio tour. Volume II will be totally free and Volume I will only cost 99 cents (normally $4.99) for the dates mentioned here.

Wednesday, May 18:
1) Harrogate, TN, WCXZ-AM with Tom Amis in the Morning from 7:30 to 7:40 a.m.
2) Willmer, MN, KWLM-AM with Bill Dean’s The Morning Brew from 7:50 to 8:00 a.m. (*Note: Bill Dean once attended the Mason City, IA, auctioneer college.)
3) Charleston, SC, WTMA-AM with Charlie James from 8:06 to 8:16 a.m.
4) Minneapolis, MN, KBEM-FM, with Ed Jones from 8:40 to 8:50 a.m.
5) Charlotte, NC, WSAT-AM, with Buddy Poole from 8:50 to 9:00 a.m. (*Note: Buddy is now General Manager of the station, but he owned it up until 2014.)
6) Lexington, KY, WMST-AM, Dan Manley’s Mid-Mornings on Main from 9 to 9:30 a.m. (*Note: this is a full half-hour on Kentucky radio. Yee haw!)
7) Hartford, CT, WJJF-FM with The Lee Elci Show from 9:40 to 9:50 a.m. (*Note: Lee used to play pro baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals.)
8) Ocala, FL, WOCA-AM, Larry Whitler’s The Source from 10:05 to 10:15. (*Note: This is a Fox News Outlet).
9) Festus, MO, KJFF-AM, Matt West’s The Morning Magazine from 10:30 to 10:40 a.m. (*Note: Festus, Missouri, is just south of St. Louis, I’m told.)

Thanks to all the radio hosts and wish me luck at those hours in the morning!

“Obama’s Odyssey” (Vols. I & II) on Radio & Specially Priced

For all of you who, like me, are watching this year’s presidential race with mouth agog, I thought I would remind you that my book about Hillary Clinton’s last run for the presidency, [when she was soundly beaten by the upstart Barack Obama], is going to be on a national radio tour of 18 major markets, starting tomorrow, May 18th.

In honor of my dragging myself out of bed and speaking to morning drive talk show people from coast to coast (list to follow), I’ve lowered the price of Volume I of “Obama’s Odyssey” (e-book only) to 99 cents for the dates May 18, 19, 20, June 1 and 2 and we are giving Volume II away absolutely FREE during those same dates. (Normal price: $4.99 in e-book; $14.99 per book in paperback).

If you don’t know much about either book, you can see me explaining my light-hearted approach to political coverage in a YouTube video that was shown on Chicago television. Simply go to YouTube and type in Connie Corcoran Wilson. You’ll see a picture of Joe Biden, one of the many politicians I tracked through the snowy wastelands of Iowa (and elsewhere) for close to 24 months in 2008.

My 1,000 articles were “hit” over 3 million times by Yahoo readers, and I was named Yahoo Content Producer of the Year for Politics. The books came later—not until after July 14 of 2014, when the Content Contributor Network I served for 10 years was dissolved to employ Katie Couric, instead. ($10 million for Katie; $0 for us).

The company informed us they were not going to maintain the servers to keep the thousands of articles from those of us in the Content Contributors’ Network up on the Internet.

So began MY Odyssey of hiring public school teachers who were off work in the summer to assist me in getting my articles down off the Internet before they would be trashed. And, once down, it seemed as though there were too many pictures–especially unused ones still in my pictures file— for just one book, so I divided the campaign up into 2 parts: 1) The run-up to the conventions, when various candidates jockeyed for position to be their party’s nominee and,
2) The campaign itself, right up to and through the Inauguration.

Volume I has 67 blog posts from the field, with only 27 photos. Volume II has 60 (sixty) previously unpublished historic photographs taken all over the country and within the DNC and RNC, town hall meetings and the Ron Paul Rally for the Republic, with 27 accompanying articles.

My appearances on various radio stations began with a small station in Brownwood, Texas at 7:10 a.m. Tomorrow, 9 stations will speak with me, as follows:

1) Harrogate, TN, WCXZ-AM, Tom Amis in the Morning
2) Willmer, MN, KWLM-AM, Bill Dean’s the Morning Brew
3) Minneapolis, MN, KBEM-FM, Ed Jones
4) Charleston, SC, WTMA-AM, Charlie James
5) Charlotte, NC, WSAT-AM, Buddy Poole
6) Lexington, KY, WMST-AM, Dan Manley, “Mid Mornings on Main”
7) Hartford, CT, WJJF-FM, Lee Elci, “The Lee Elci Show”
8) Ocala, FL, WOCA-AM, Larry Whitler’s “The Source”
9) Festus, MO, KJFF-AM, Matt West’s “The Morning Magazine

On May 19th, Thursday, I’ll be chatting with:
10) Burlington, IA, KBUR-AM, the Steve Hexom Show
11) West Chester, PA, WCHE-AM, Geoff Harris
12) Seattle, WA, KORE-FM, Ken Johannessen
13) Minneapolis, MN, KLTF-AM, Ron Specker’s “Party Line”
14) Yuba City, CA, KUBA-AM, Moe Howard

Then, I’ll be silent (and sleeping in) until June 1st, when I’ll be heard on:
15) Centralia, IL, WILY-AM, Tootie Cooksey
16) Amherst, VA, WAMV-AM, Bob Langstaff’s “We, the People”
17) Albuquerque, NM, KPCL-FM, Annette Ayoub’s “Day Brightener”

If you’re anywhere within listening distance of these stations, tune in. If you’re not, I recommend the YouTube video, which I may post here momentarily.

And, regardless, please consider downloading (or is it uploading?) a FREE copy of Volume II of “Obama’s Odyssey” on the days it is free (May 18, 19, 20 and June 1, June 2) and a 99 cent copy of Volume I on those same days.

Anyone who knows my aversion to early mornings knows I won’t be doing THIS again any time soon, so get them while you can!

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