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: Of Local (Quad Cities’) Interest Page 1 of 33

The category is self-explanatory, but it would include new or old businesses, political elections, trends, restaurants in town, entertainment in town, etc.

Republicans Double-Down on Anti-Immigration Stance

Former Trump administration neo-Nazi and Breitbart spawn Steven Miller has been invited to address GOP members of Congress about the Democratic plan for an 8-year path to citizenship for illegal aliens.

This won’t be Miller’s first time trying to stop pro-immigrant legislation. Back when he worked for then-Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Miller “played a key role in ensuring the failure of a comprehensive immigration bill introduced by a bipartisan group of senators who became known as the Gang of Eight,” the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said. Miller in fact “drafted a 30-page memo that Mr. Sessions shared with the House Republican caucus,” [The New York Times, 2019].

While the Senate under former Democratic Sen. Harry Reid passed legislation by a wide, bipartisan 67-27, former Republican House Speaker John Boehner blocked it in his chamber. Now House Republicans are bringing Miller back.

“This comes on the heels of news that Donald Trump’s will address immigration in his upcoming CPAC speech. Clearly, the Republican Party is still the Party of Trump,” immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice said. “The GOP is doubling down on ugly xenophobia and racism rather than trying to grow its appeal and reclaim lost suburban voters.” They are also trying to clamp down on absentee voting and are actively trying to gerrymander districts that didn’t go GOP in the last presidential election.

The organization said that the “ongoing political transformation of Georgia captures the perils of this approach.”

“In Georgia, a multiracial majority—sparked by the combination of bottom-up organizing by Stacey Abrams, Republican extremism, and changing demographics—delivered two Senate seats for Democrats and flipped an important electoral college state for President Biden,” the group said in the statement. It points to a new NBC News report finding that Democrats’ most significant gains from 2008 to 2020 came from three suburban Georgia counties.

In a testament to this shift, one of those Georgia counties, Gwinnett, elected a sheriff who ran and won on ending a racist and flawed agreement with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

Joining Miller to “brief” House Republicans are two other notoriously anti-immigrant officials from the previous administration: former acting ICE director Tom Homan, and former acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan. Mark recently became an official hate group member, joining the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-immigrant organization deemed a hate group by the SPLC, as a “Senior Fellow.”

“Instead of changing course, working to reclaim suburban voters, and trying to expand their appeal, Republicans seem intent on speaking only to the cul-de-sac of the Trump base, re-emphasizing that white power is the beating heart of the party,” America’s Voice executive director Frank Sharry said. “They seem to gloss over the fact that Trump’s demonization of immigrants and refugees backfired badly, helping the Republican Party in the past four years to lose the White House, the Senate and the House.”

Smile All the While (And Don’t Forget to Boil Your Water)

 

Tilting at Windmills

Jimmy Kimmel and Trevor Noah touched on the issues Texas has faced this week after a winter storm overwhelmed the state’s power grid, leaving millions of people without hea

“I know people were praying for Texas to go blue, but not like this,” Noah joked. “I mean, is it too much to ask for just one apocalypse at a time?”

“Some people are putting up Scotch tape and blankets. That’s not how people should keep heat in their house; that’s how you hide the weed smell from your R.A.” — TREVOR NOAH

The electricity crisis in Texas, which has its own grid to avoid federal regulation, was largely caused by freezing in the natural gas pipelines that provide the majority of the state’s power supply. But conservatives and fossil fuel advocates have blamed wind power and even the Green New Deal, a climate proposal co-sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“The main reason Texas has plunged into darkness is that its natural gas industry has been crippled by this storm. And that might — might — have been preventable, except that Texas deregulated its power supply in the ’90s, which was clearly not the wisest decision. I mean, trust me, as a man who lived through the ’90s, you should probably rethink most of the decisions you made in that decade.” — TREVOR NOAH

“And this just goes to show you, you can’t put profits over quality and safety. Money’s not worth a whole lot if you have to burn it to keep warm.” — TREVOR NOAH

“I mean, this is the state that prides itself on its oil and gas industry, and now, that industry has failed spectacularly. This would be like Jason Momoa needing help opening a pickle jar, which is probably why state officials and their allies on cable news are working so hard to blame someone else.” — TREVOR NOAH

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas “has been working hard to somehow push the blame to Democrats and the Green New Deal, which doesn’t even exist yet. And Tucker Carlson is helping him out by blaming it on windmills.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“These guys are so desperate to just let fossil fuels off the hook, that they’re blaming A.O.C. and the Green New Deal — which, by the way, hasn’t even happened yet — for something that’s happening in Texas right now? But this just shows you, no matter what happens, no matter how far removed she is from the problem, conservatives can and will always find a way to blame the boogeyman, A.O.C. Rick Perry could have broken his arm as a kid and he would have blamed it on A.O.C.” — TREVOR NOAH

“Let’s kick off the show with the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the reason you keep refreshing vaccine websites like they’re selling Coachella tickets.” — TREVOR NOAH

“Last night, Biden promised the vaccine will be available to every American who wants it by the end of July. And then we can get back to spreading the old stuff — herpes, gonorrhea and good times!” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“The White House is said to be in talks with Amazon right now to help distribute the vaccine. The way it will work is any Prime member who can prove they’ve watched all six seasons of ‘Bosch’ will get vaccinated.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“And with over a million Americans getting vaccinated every day, everyone is anxiously looking forward to a time when they can get back to doing normal things again, like going out to eat, or not thinking about the welfare of the people who deliver their packages.” — TREVOR NOAH

If You Are A Hammer, Everything Looks Like Meat

In the ongoing effort to provide some “lighter side” thoughts, here are a few, courtesy of the Borowitz Report:

  1.  Queen Elizabeth offers to re-annex the United States.
  2. Ivanka Trump applies to become Joe Biden’s daughter.
  3. Obama proposes canceling cable at the White House to get Trump to leave.
  4. Dr. Fauci says alcohol may be an aid during coronavirus briefings.
  5. Scientists say that Earth is endangered by a new strain of fact-resistant humans.
  6. Putin warns that the United States could wind up controlled by Americans.
  7. Kim Kardashian wonders if big-bottomed girls (with 4 kids and 3 marriages) will be in demand in 2022.
  8. Lou Dobbs applies for job at Four Seasons Landscaping.
  9. Canada declares Proud Boys to be domestic terrorists, just as Trump was preparing to give Medal of Freedom to former General Michael Flynn for his service to the group.
  10. Army Hammer announces he and latest girlfriend have become vegans.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is Hit at Sundance Film Festival

“Judas and the Black Messiah,” the bio-pic about Fred Hampton, head of the Black Panthers in Illinois in the sixties, comes to us from a dynamic team. Director Shaka King (“Newlyweeds”) had met Ryan Coogler (“Black Panther”) in 2013 at Sundance.  Coogler (“Black Panther”) approached Warner Brothers with 50% of the film’s financing in hand to back the picture, directed by Shaka King (“Newlyweeds”) from a story by the Lucas Brothers. They already had the cast in mind and Shaka King had connected with screenwriter Will Berson, who had been researching Hampton for some time. After some major difficulty getting to Jesse Plemons (whose agent did not return calls)—the package came together. Judas and the Black Messiah premiered at Sundance on Monday, February 1st. It will stream on HBO Max beginning February 12th.

OVERVIEW

The film is bound to earn its two leads Oscar nominations; the film itself will be a strong contender in these Black Lives Matter-influenced times for a Best Picture nomination. As the log-line for the film says, “The story of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and his fateful betrayal by FBI informant William O’Neal.”

Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) plays Fred Hampton, (the Black Messiah of the title), and Lakeith Stanfield (“Selma,” “Straight Outta’ Compton”) is William O’Neal, the Judas figure who infiltrated the Chicago Black Panthers at the request of FBI agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons).

We follow the action through William O’Neal’s eyes, a small-time petty criminal caught impersonating an FBI officer in order to steal a car. William O’Neal was 17 when he stole the car and drove it across state lines into Michigan. Since car theft carries an 18 month sentence and impersonating a federal officer would earn him a 5 year sentence, the Judas figure in the film’s title is offered the opportunity to infiltrate the Black Panthers rather than go to jail. O’Neal doesn’t forsee that he will be asked to drug Fred Hampton (secobarbital) so that state-sponsored murder can take place in a hit executed by 14 Chicago police at 2337 West Monroe Street at 4:45 a.m. on December 4, 1969.

Martin Sheen plays an almost unrecognizable J. Edgar Hoover.  A secret group within the FBI called Cointelpro is responsible for the hit on Fred Hampton’s residence that is authorized by Hoover. Hampton, his 9-months pregnant girlfriend (well played by Dominque Fishback) and several other Black Panthers were there, sleeping overnight. Two were killed in cold blood: Mark Kelly, who was the security guard for the night, and Hampton, who survived the initial assault only to be executed with 2 shots to the head. The Panthers fired only one shot, into the ceiling, when Mark Kelly’s shotgun discharged as he was shot through the door. The police shot 99 times.

A lawsuit lodged in 1970 dragged on for 18 months, but finally delivered a judgment of $1.85 million in 1982. When the foursome behind the film (the Lucas brothers, Ryan Coogler and Shaka King) pitched the film, they compared it to “The Departed” within Cointel.

ACTING

Daniel Kaluuya, Ashton Sanders, Algee Smith, Dominique Thorne and Lakeith Stanfield appear in Judas and the Black Messiah by Shaka King, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Glen Wilson.

The acting by both leads should earn Kahluua and Stanfield Oscar nods. If you watch this at home, you might want to turn on captioning, in order to know what, exactly, Daniel Kahluua is saying. YouTube videos support Hampton’s cadence, rough articulation and fast pace as authentic to the man, himself, but it’s still hard to understand. Stanfield’s William O’Neal is better able to be understood. Both actors are somewhat older than the ages they are asked to portray, with Kahluua, at 31, playing the 21-year-old Hampton. (Stanfield is 29).

Accolades are deserved for both of the film’s leads. For me, the William O’Neal character is the more interesting, portrayed by Lakeith Stanfield as a bundle of contradictions. He seems conflicted about his role from the very beginning. As the plot thickens and he is asked to do even more for the FBI, he seems to have been drawn into a no-win situation that tortured him to the point that, after his one and only television interview about the events of that night, on January 15, 1990, he committed suicide. O’Neal’s words from the “Eyes on the Prize 2” documentary footage were, “I was part of the struggle. At least I had a point of view.  I’ll let history speak for me.”

The film portrays O’Neal’s descent into even greater betrayal(s) extremely well, even through the costuming. When O’Neal meets Jesse Plemons for dinner at a fancy steakhouse late in the film (away from the Black Panthers) he is attired in a very fly white suit. Agent Mitchell shoves an envelope with cash in it towards O’Neal, possibly the $300 in extra pay that O’Neal received for special service to the FBI. But when O’Neal depicts a Black Panther early in the film, with leather jacket and beret, he really seems to empathize with the Black struggle, despite Mitchell’s attempts to convince him that the KKK and the Black Panthers are flip sides of the same coin.

 It is a tribute to Stanfield’s acting chops and the wise decision to let the most conflicted character carry the weight of the film that elevates the movie.  After the deaths of the Black Panthers in the dawn raid, O’Neal was relocated to California under the Federal Witness Protection Program and used the name William Hart until returning to Chicago in 1984. His involvement in the death of Fred Hampton, including drugging Hampton before the planned raid, was not revealed until 1973.

Daniel Kahluua emerged as a star after his role in “Get Out.” He is now 31 and a much more substantial figure than when he played the boyfriend in that earlier film. Fred Hampton was 21 when he was assassinated. Hampton’s background prior to his death was that of a community organizer of exceptional skill, who saw the benefits in uniting all the disparate ethnic peoples of Chicago, the nation and the world. He formed the Rainbow Coalition and brokered deals where his fiery oratory moved the crowds that assembled and alarmed the FBI. The no-knock raid at Hampton’s house in the middle of the night reminds of Breanna Taylor’s recent death. The recent Black Lives Matter protests also serve as a timely backdrop for this socially conscious film.

Deborah Johnson (now known as Akua Njeri) is portrayed by actress Dominique Fishback. The fiancé of Fred Hampton, she gave birth 25 days after Fred Hampton’s death. (Fred Hampton, Jr. is now 52 years old.) Dominique has appeared in “The Deuce” and “The Hate U Give.” Dominique gives a nuanced performance as the poet who applies to the Black Panther headquarters in Chicago to help Hampton improve his speeches. Their low-key courtship adds a behind-the-scenes look at the man whom we see orating like MLK in other scenes. (One question: how would the very white Jesse Plemons character— even while wearing a stocking cap— not stick out like a sore thumb inside the meeting place when Hampton is speaking with ringing phrases like, “You can murder a revolutionary, but you can’t murder a revolution,” or “I’m gonna’ die for the people because I live for the people?”)

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Darrel Britt-Gibson, Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield appear in Judas and the Black Messiah by Shaka King, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Glen Wilson.

Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (from San Antonio), who worked on “Twelve Years A Slave” and “Hunger,” does a great job of turning late 60s Chicago into a sepia-toned retro landscape. The bar used in the initial scenes and later in the film, Leon’s Bar, reeks of that era. The scenes that involve gun battles (3) are dark and the shooting of a cop near a factory has very interesting angles framing the action.

MUSIC

Mark Isham and Craig Harris handled the music; they do a fine job setting the sixties tone.

BACKGROUND

The principals behind the film shared in an interview that they worked very hard to make sure the film was accurate. This meant contacting the families of those who were involved the night of the climactic shooting. In particular, Fred Stanfield, Jr., who is now 52 and works on prisoner’s rights, was consulted.  The team said, “It changed all of our lives and we’ll be far better off because of it.”

QUOTES

“A badge is scarier than a gun.”

“Political power flows from the barrel of a gun. You need tools, brother.”

“Words are beautiful, but actions are supreme.”

“Every ghetto across the nation should be considered occupied territory.”

“The most dangerous weapon is the people.”

“Our job, as the Black Panther Party, is to heighten our traditions so the people can decide if they want to overthrow the government. Or not.”

“We want land, bread, housing, education, democracy and peace.”

“You can’t shoot your way to equality.”

PRODUCTION TEAM’s THOUGHTS

The team responsible for the movie, including Ryan Coogler and Director Shaka King shared their experiences making the film in a Warner Brothers interview. Coogler said, “There would be nights when I couldn’t sleep.”

On the general public’s lack of knowledge about Fred Hampton until now, King said, “There could be 100 movies on this subject and it still wouldn’t be enough.”

The director and Coogler mused about how, so often bio-pics reach the screen, and the families then protest that the film is totally inaccurate, saying the movie did not reflect the truth about their loved ones. The makers of Judas and the Black Messiah did not want that to happen with their film, so they actually traveled to Chicago and sat at the very table where, 52 years ago, Fred Hampton worked.

Said one of the producing partners: “Coming out of this, I don’t think I’ll ever look at (bio-pic) movies the same way again.”

“Playing with Sharks” Features Fantastic Underwater Photography at Sundance

Filmmaker Sally Aitken took the glorious 16 millimeter film of Valerie May Taylor and her husband, Ron, and has made it into a 95-minute exploration of the fearless team, who braved the oceans of the world to study and photograph the alien world beneath the water, especially focusing on sharks.

It was not their original intention to become conservationists for the dwindling species of sharks, but that is what happened after the two first made their mark at spearfishing. Ron was four-time Australian champion and world champion in the sport and the beautiful blonde Valerie was a Pamela Anderson of the underwater oceans, inhabiting a male culture of the fifties and killing one Great White shark before she realized that the animals were beautiful in their own killing machine way and should be preserved.

In fact, Peter Benchley’s (“Jaws” author) widow Wendy offers up the sobering news that there are only 10% of the world’s sharks still swimming, since 100 million a year have been being harvested for the past 20 years.

Valerie, now in her eighties, tells us that “It’s not that I didn’t want children.  I wanted to do other things.  I waned to have my own special life.”

That she survived and much more. A polio survivor, she and Ron traveled the world, trying to make a living at what they loved doing most: diving. In 1974 Peter Benchley, who knew about the pair’s exploits, wrote a book about a shark (which his wife did not think would “work”). It became “Jaws” with 29-year-old Steven Spielberg directing in only his second major film.

Spielberg wanted the shark to be 25 feet long, although Valerie and Ron told him that Great Whites were normally only about 13 feet long. “That’s okay,” said Spielberg, “we’ll just make the diving cage half-sized.” This they did, hiring a half-sized actor to play the diver in the steel cage. Unfortunately, the very small man was not a diver and not a shark enthusiast. When he saw a real White Shark, he said, “I should have asked for more money!”

Valerie Taylor

Give-it-a-go Valerie, as she was sometimes called because of her fearlessness, is shown hand-feeding a Great White Shark off the back of a boat and her changed attitude towards preserving sharks is credited with the fact that 80 to 100 bull sharks are now back at the reef off the island of Fiji.

Now widowed after Ron’s death from acute myeloid leukemia, Valerie shares the thought that she will never give up diving and that she will “probably be diving from my wheelchair.”

The film has astounding underwater footage, remastered from the original film shot by Ron Taylor, interspersed with television appearances the duo made on talk shows around the globe. The scenes of a Great White shark getting hung up in the boat apparatus during the filming of “Jaws” is riveting (we learn that it was not in the script, but they used the footage) and the entire project reveals a world beneath the waves of which Valerie May Taylor, herself, said, “It was a different, alien world. I was just a visitor.”

“Coming Home in the Dark” at Sundance on HBO Max: Engrossing!

Daniel Gillies as Mandrake in “Coming Home After Dark.” (Courtesy of Sundance Institute.)

The New Zealand offering “Coming Home in the Dark,” from Director James Ashcroft unleashes a fast, high-energy road trip with a family that is set upon by two psychopaths with a grudge. The short story of the same name, written by Owen Marshall, was altered by Ashcroft and screenwriter Eli Kent, who had already adapted another of Marshall’s short stories prior to this feature film premiere outing.

The 93-minute film never loses its edge and, despite the warnings about graphic violence, it was far from “Saw”- like. But, yes, there is violence.

As the director explained in a brief message to the press at Sundance, the two screenwriters, working together, tried to incorporate historic New Zealand issues as background for the main character, the father of twin boys, who has been a teacher in a variety of schools. These were touches that the original short story character lacked. Alan/Hoaggie, is well-played by Erik Thomson, but Mandrake (Daniel Gillies) is evil incarnate.

The film opens with a beautiful sunset in the New Zealand countryside. It is worth mentioning that the feature film comes full circle at film’s end with that same beautiful panorama, only at sunrise. The circularity of structure is something I’ve enjoyed in films by Spike Lee and Brian DePalma over the years, and use in my own writing on occasion. There are many deft cinematic touches like this, including the failure of wife Jill to take her husband’s hand in the car, after she has just learned some disquieting information about his past. She remarks, “There is a difference between doing something and letting it happen, but they live on the same street.” The shots through grasses by cinematographer Matt Henley were outstanding.

PLOT

James Ashcroft, director of Coming Home in the Dark, an official selection of the Midnight section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Stan Alley.

The family of four—Alan, Jill and their twin teenaged boys, Jordan and Maika—are off on holiday when they stop alongside a gorgeous but remote New Zealand hillside in the Greater Wellington Region for a hike and a picnic. Ominously, two drifters appear on a cliff overhead and wave at the family below. It is not long after that a confrontation occurs.

Alan—known as Hoaggie—the father, and Jill, the mother, reassure their twin teenaged sons that it will be all right if they just give the men what they want. They promptly do so, divesting of their cash and valuables and every phone but one that Jill took from Alan and put in the glove box of their car when he began playing an annoying game on it while she was driving. But will it? Will giving the tall Maori-tattooed silent man known as Tubs and the shorter thug, who calls himself Mandrake, what they want save all their lives? At one point, a panel truck drives into the area where the confrontation is happening, and Mandrake instructs the family to wave in a friendly fashion, which they do. The paneled truck departs, honking back, and Mandrake remarks, “Later, this may be the point where you’ll wish you’d done something different.”

The film quickly spirals into a road trip to hell.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

The shots through grasses by cinematographer Matt Henley were gorgeous, as were the sunrise/sunset scenes over a glorious New Zealand landscape. I’ve been to New Zealand, and, yes, it really looks that beautiful (Great Wellington Region).

ACTING

The acting by Erik Thomson, as the father, and Miriame McDowell as the grief-stricken mother is matched in acting chops by the intensity of evil radiating from the two criminals, Tubs and Mandrake (Matthias Luafut and Daniel Gillies.) Ashcroft uses the taller of the two assailants, played by Matthias Luafut, to good effect and Mandrake (Daniel Gillies) is the worst thing you can encounter at a picnic in the wild: a polite psychopath.

Ashcroft, from Aotearoa, New Zealand, was the artistic director of the indigenous Maori Theatre Taki Rua from 2007-2013 and his native name is Nga Puhi/Ngati Kahu.  This is his first feature film, but he has plans to move in the direction of Blumhouse horror films. This is a great start.

The film is slated to stream on HBO Max. Check it out. It was the best of 5 feature films I’ve seen at Sundance in the past 2 days.

“Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided to Go For It” Premieres at Sundance on January 29, 2021

This 90 minute documentary, directed by Mariem Perez Riera traces the life of Latino icon Rita Moreno, from her birth in Humacao, Puerto Rico in 1936, to her upcoming role reprising “West Side Story” with Steven Spielberg. (Film is slated for a December release).

Along the way, such luminaries as Gloria Estefan, Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg, and Eva Longorio, among others, give testimony to the achievements of the 87-year-old singer/dancer/actress.

A still from Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It by Mariem Pérez Riera, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo: West Side Story copyright 1961 MetroGoldwynmayer Studios Inc. All rights reserved. Courtesy of MGM Media Licensing.

I’m of the generation that thrilled to “West Side Story” with Rita Moreno in the pivotal role of Anita when it premiered in 1961 as a film, based on the 1957 stage version. Watching Anita dance in the clips from “West Side Story” of the sixties is watching pure talent on the hoof.

Just to show that she is not a one-trick pony, the woman is one of only a very few to have won the EGOT: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony, and the first Latino to do so. She won her Oscar for “West Side Story,” her Grammy for the Electric Company album, her Tony for playing Googie Gomez in “The Ritz” and not one, but two Emmys, for the Muppet Show, which she starred on from 1971 to 1977.

When Gloria’s mother divorced her father and moved, with Gloria to New York City, she shares that they sailed on a ship, the S.S. Carabobo, whose name, in English, literally means Stupidface. Upon seeing the Statue of Liberty as a small child, she thought the green lady was the president and that she was holding an ice cream cone in her right hand.

Norman Lear and Linn Manuel Miranda teamed up to share with the world the story of a chameleon-like talent who “made herself into someone she wasn’t to please other people.” This was true, initially, of Rita’s career, which seemed mired in stereotypical roles as an accented beauty, whether the role was Latino or some other ethnicity. Rita also had to cope with sexual discrimination from the likes of Harry Cohn and, at one point,  attempted suicide after a failed romance with Marlon Brando that led to an unwanted pregnancy, a botched abortion, and an overdose of pills.

When she talks about Brando today, she says, “I think about it now and say, ‘What was there to love?’” But, at the time, Brando was the biggest star of the 50s and the two were together for nearly eight years. It was Brando who recommended that Moreno try therapy, of which she said, “Examining and finding value in yourself is the only way. And I chose therapy.”

Rita Moreno,1954. (Courtesy of Sundance Institute).

Married for 45 years to cardiologist (and, ultimately, her manager), Leonard Gordon, the pair remained married from 1965 until Lenny’s death in 2010. Their daughter, Fernanda Gordon Fisher, is the mother of Rita’s two grandsons and, as she admits, she is okay with living alone. In some ways, she says, felt liberated after the death of her husband, who was a bit of a control freak. She admits that there were times she thought of exiting the marriage, but stayed in the relationship for the sake of their family.

Now 87, Rita who began performing at age 6, has a role as Valentina in the re-boot of “West Side Story” planned for a December release. The cast will feature primarily Latino actors and actresses, although Ansel Elgort (“The Fault In Our Stars”) is of Norwegian, Russian, German and English ancestry. Another key fact of Elgort’s casting as Tony may well be the 5 years (ages 9 to 14) that he spent at the American School of Ballet, plus Elgort’s keen interest in music (he DJ’s as Ansolo). Elgort was named one of the Best Actors under 20 in 2014 and has been impressive in his film outings.

I

Rita Moreno. (Courtesy of Sundance Institute).

t will be interesting to see Rita Moreno’s career come full circle with her appearance in the same film, 60 years after she burst to stardom in it. The original budget for “West Side Story” was only $6 million; it went on to make $44,062,203 worldwide. The 2021 Spielberg effort has a $100 million budget with 144 cast members and is in post production.

Moreno is shown speaking and says “It’s interesting how we keep dragging our past into the present.  Damn the shadows and here’s to the light.” Morgan Freeman sums up this great talent’s career by saying, “Life is what it is—but it is what you make it.”

 

Director:  Mariem Perez Riera

Cast:  Rita Moreno, Gloria Estefan, Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg, Eva Longorio, Justine Machado, Karen Olivo.

Cinematographer:  Pedro Juan Lopez

Composer and Music Supervisor:  Kathryn Bostic and Maureen Crowe

 

 

 

Today’s Thought of the Day from the Letters to the Editor in Austin, TX

From Renee Potenza (of Austin, TX)

“Get Off the Trump Train and Admit Your Mistake”

To those friends and family members who voted for Donald J. Trump:

Perhaps you are a life-long Republican.  Maybe you have deeply held beliefs about those values for which the Republican Party used to stand. Maybe you got on the Trump train early on, and your enthusiasm in being part of a popular group carried you along.

I ask you now:  Please get off the Trump train. He’s not worthy of your trust.

Disengage your identity as a follower of the Donald, and think critically, questioning everything.  Utter those three little words, which are the hallmarks of honest, healthy communication:  “I was wrong.”

(A Letter to the Editor from the Austin American-Statesman of Wednesday, January 20th, 2021.)

January 13th is Historic Second Impeachment of Donald J. Trump

“Never trust politicians.

They are craven.

It’s an occupational attribute.”

So began Charles M Blow of the New York Times in his essay today.

I could relate to Mr. Blow, an African American essayist.

I wrote this poem, entitled “Words” when I was 16 years old, in Independence, Iowa:

If fewer words were spoken,

If fewer words were said,

If deeds alone were the mark of a man,

Not the ‘catch’ of an eloquent pledge.

If fewer words were spoken,

If fewer words were said,

If, for all the fake forensics, there were simple words instead,

And a man stated just what he started to state,

Without false fuss or further ado.

If you weren’t a politician,

I’d probably listen to you.

So, I’m in agreement with Charles M. Blow as he continued:

“Sure, there are some politicians who are good people, who tell the truth most of the time and choose careers in politics for the right reasons—public service rather than political aggrandizement.

“We have it totally under control.” (Jan. 2020)

But power, as a genre, is about power. And power corrupts. (*And absolute power corrupts absolutely).

Generally speaking, the higher up the political ladder a politician climbs, the more vicious they have had to be, and the more viciousness they have had to endure.”

As a young girl, going around with my Democratic father to help put up yard signs, I remember him saying to me, a then elementary-school-aged child, “Stay away from politics, Con. It’s a dirty business.”

Charles Blow continued:  “Politicians have had to shake more and more hands to raise the obscene amounts of money now needed to run campaigns, and they have likely had to make unsavory compromises in order to protect their own advancement.

I do not seek to draw a false equivalence between the political parties in America. While I find all politicians suspect, the utter moral collapse of Republican conscience and character under Donald Trump still stands out as an outrageous aberration.

Republican politicians, by and large, knew how lacking in every aspect Donald Trump was, not just in experience, but also character, morality and intellect.  Many said as much before he was elected.

Ted Cruz called Trump ‘utterly amoral,’ a ‘serial philanderer,’ and ‘a narcissist at a level that I don’t think this country has ever seen.’ He also said of Trump:
‘This man is a pathological liar.  He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies.  He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth.’

Lindsey Graham said:  ‘He’s a race-baiting xenophobic, religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party.  He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for.’

Marco Rubio said: ‘We’re on the verge of having someone take over the conservative movement who is a con artist,’ and called Trump, ‘the most vulgar person to ever aspire to the presidency.’

All of this was true  When these people were Trump’s opponents in the quest for the nomination, none of them shied away from telling the truth about him.  Now they have been cowed into obsequiousness.

Trump didn’t change, but his relationship to power did: when he won he had it, and the Republicans swarmed to him like moths to a flame, [or more like vultures to a corpse].

Power, in politics, changes everything.  Politicians are desperate for power the way a drowning person is desperate for air.  But in politics, there are levels of proximity:  The closer you are, the stronger you are  You can possess or be in proximity to it.

Republicans in Washington turned their backs on everything they believed.  Trump created a mob.  He recruited traditional conservatives into it.  He was in full control of it.

To a politician, a mob can look like a movement.   It can look like power. So, they caved to that which they could consort with: they feigned ignorance of the ways they had accurately derided Trump so that, one day, they might harness the white nationalist throngs he unleashed.”

 

I attended a rally for Jeb Bush back in Davenport, Iowa at St. Ambrose University, accompanied by a Republican friend, and we listened to Jeb Bush (in 2016) say, “You can’t insult your way to the White House.” As it turns out, Jeb was wrong, and you actually CAN insult your way to the White House and remain there for 4 long years insulting friends and foe alike! And some of those insults were aimed at our long-time allies, which is even more damaging.

Republicans put their personal ambitions over the preservation of America.  Maybe they thought that whatever damage Trump did would be easily repaired, so they would simply trudge through it until his time in office was at its end.

Well, it is now at its end, and he seems to be doing more damage than ever—or as much damage as ever.

The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was a shocking thing to behold.  But so much of what has occurred during  the Trump presidency has been shocking.

There is no telling what Trump might attempt to do in his final days in office.”

 

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

For those of us who have read his niece, Mary Trump’s, book “Too Much and Never Enough” or have viewed “Unfit,” Dan Partland’s fine Amazon documentary, we realize that there is nothing this man, this criminal, will stop at. Nothing.

“Even if Trump leaves office without further damage, the damage he has done is lasting and many of the people who blindly support him will persist. (The militias, the Proud Boys, QAnon, the white nationalists, are not going away).

We may be getting rid of Trump. But we are not getting rid of “Trumpism.” The aftertaste of this toxic presidency will linger.

Now we have to ask a very serious question:  What do we do now as a society and as a body politic?  Do we simply turn the page and hope for a better day, “let bygones be bygones”? (It seems, to me that most Republicans speaking on the floor today want to simply sweep aside what has occurred, punish the common street flunkies who are being rounded up, but ignore the head of the serpent, DJT.) Or do we seek some form of justice, to hold people accountable for taking this country to the brink? (And let it be known that this extends to those at the very top.)

I say that we must prosecute all people who have committed crimes and punish all those who have broken rules.  The rule of law can’t simply be for the common man. It must also be for the exalted man.  Because only then will the ideas of fairness and justice for all have meaning.

 

January 6th: How Lying to the U.S. for 4 Years Can Create Chaos

The Austin American-Statesman Editorial Board (Austin, TX) posted this on Sunday, January 10, 2021:

“We have it totally under control.” (Jan. 2020)

Politicians stretch the truth all the time. Some lies, though, are so big that they can pull at the seams of a nation, pit its people against one another, leave a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood in the halls of the U.S. Capitol, and render a police officer and a rioter dead.

President Trump’s wild-eyed claim of a stolen election is just such a lie. And a lie doesn’t grow that big or that dangerous being tended by just one man. Eager to flatter Trump or afraid to displease him, much of the Republican Party leadership repeated this lie for the better part of the last two months, giving it oxygen and a glint of legitimacy in the eyes of Trump supporters.   Belief in that lie—that their country needed saving—led to rioters assaulting the Capitol on Wednesday, as members of Congress undertook their Constitutional duty to finalize the election results.

Repairs are underway at the ransacked Capitol, the backdrop for President Biden’s January 20th Inauguration. Repairs for our divided nation will prove more difficult. The events of this past week, indeed, of the past four years, remind us how powerful words and lies can be, and how fragile our democracy is.

This moment calls for accountability and truth. Both seem in perilously short supply in today’s Republican party.  It is unclear whether Trump will be dislodged before Biden takes office. But the doubts and conspiracy theories Trump has sown will not expire with his term.  They will fester and poison the body politic unless GOP leaders heed the words of Senator Mitt Romney (R, Utah):  “The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth! That’s the burden, that’s the duty of leadership.”

Too many of our leaders have shunned that burden. They prefer to chase the adulation of their political base, to stoke the manufactured controversies that animate fundraising e-mails, than do the tough work of governing. They have forgotten that public service is about service.

Unfit for office since Day One, Trump has been the worst offender, but hardly the only one.

Senator Ted Cruz fueled Trump’s election lie, leading the charge Wednesday to block certain states’ election results, knowing that Congress had no authority or justification to disenfranchise millions of voters. If he had any shame, he would resign, but we know Cruz has no shame.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also fueled that lie, filing a spurious lawsuit last month asking the Supreme Court last month to toss four states’ election results, then returning to Washington on Wednesday to tell Trump supporters, “We will not quit fighting.”

After that crowd laid siege to the Capitol, our state’s (Tx) chief law enforcement officer shielded their sedition with another lie, claiming on social media that those who stormed the Capitol were not Trump supporters, but members of the left-wing Anti-Fa movement.

If he had any shame, Paxton would have resigned years ago, when he was indicted for securities fraud, or months ago when the FBI began investigating charges of bribery and corruption.  But we know Paxton has no shame.

The list of Trump’s abettors runs deep.  Governor Greg Abbott cheering on Paxton’s election lawsuit. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick offering cash rewards for claims of voter fraud. Central Texas Representatives John Carter of Round Rock, Pete Sessions of Waco and Roger Williams of Austin, who returned to the Capitol after Wednesday’s insurrection, tear gas residue still clinging to the walls, and voted exactly as the rioters wanted. All of them lent credence to an alternate reality of rampant voter fraud, knowing full well that multiple voter recounts, dozens of judges, and Trump’s own cyber-security chief and his own attorney general had affirmed the election results were valid.

Mitt Romney: Presidential Front-runnerVoters will deliver their verdicts on these officials in due time. In the meantime, we all need for our leaders to pull back from the brink, to dispense with the lies that incite lawlessness

We need hearty debate, of course. Discussions on tax policies and environmental policies and most crucially the path out of the Covid-19 pandemic that continues to kill a record number of Americans each day. But we cannot have those debates, and reach some resolution, if we don’t accept the legitimacy of the elections that put those leaders in office.

Once the recounts and court rulings have upheld an election, we cannot allow the lie of a stolen election to persist.  Republican officials have an obligation now to tell the truth, to accept the presidential election didn’t go their way, and to recognize it was a free and fair election all the same.

No doubt that will infuriate those who steadfastly believe the lie: Feed the lie, legitimize the mob, watch our democracy burn.

 

 

 

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