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 34

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

“Cruella” Success Sets Up Sequels for the “101 Dalmatians” Villainess

Cruella De Vil, the big budget Disney picture starring Emma Stone and Emma Thompson, debuted on May 28th and screams “Sequel” from the moment the last scene fades. Director Craig Gillespie has pulled out all the fashion stops on this one, and it shows.

In the last 23 hours, the Hollywood Reporter has confirmed those sequel suspicions, with these remarks:

“We are very pleased with Cruella’s box office success, in conjunction with its strong Disney+ Premier Access performance to date,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement. “The film has been incredibly well received by audiences around the world, with a 97% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes, in addition to A’s in every demographic from CinemaScore on opening weekend, ranking it among the most popular of our live-action re-imaginings. We look forward to a long run as audiences continue to enjoy this fantastic film.”

Emma Stone in Cruella (2021)   Everything I had read about the performances (Top Notch), the soundtrack (great), and the costuming (exceptionally great) was confirmed. There is even an acceptable backstory for how Cruella got so cruel, crafted by  Dana Fox, Tony McNamara, Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly  Marsel and Steve Zissin.  My remark to my companion, as we left the theater, was that it was obvious there would be a sequel that would pick up where this film left off. And I was right.

Cruella is a 2021 American crime comedy film based on the character Cruella de Vil from Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians and Walt Disney‘s 1961 animated film adaptation.

Unlike other films that have spun off from animated beginnings, this one seems to have more interest in developing sympathy for the devil that Cruella becomes (one of the many soundtrack choices from the Rolling Stones that is heard throughout the action). Audiences didn’t prefer the film versions of Disney offerings like “The Lion King” to the Disney animated pictures, but this one may be the exception to that rule. That song, by the way (“Sympathy for the Devil) released on November 1st, 1968, is but one of the many 70s punk songs like “These Boots Are Made for Walkin,’” “Time of the Season,” “Whole Lotta’ Love,” “Should I Stay Or Should I Go,” and on and on. The music is a large part of the success of the film.

COSTUMING & SETS

Cruella (2021)Emma Thompson in Cruella (2021)Cruella (2021)Emma Thompson in Cruella (2021)Emma Stone, Joel Fry, and Paul Walter Hauser in Cruella (2021)

So are the fashions and with a $200 million budget, you see some over-the-top fashions. “Screen Rant” reports that the film is far pricier than most Disney re-imagined fare. Cruella’s production budget is reportedly $200 million, making it a very expensive endeavor. That price tag is higher than other Disney live-action re-imaginings like Aladdin ($183 million)Beauty and the Beast ($160 million), and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil ($185 million). Cruella’s budget is more in line with what one would expect from a tentpole comic book adaptation. Disney’s upcoming Black Widow also cost around $200 million to make.”

So, we have established that the soundtrack and costuming and make-up will scream “Oscar” in March.

What about the acting?

ACTING: Competent, as one would expect from the two Emmas (Stone and Thompson). Also doing good work are the supporting players, namely Joel Fry as Jasper and Paul Walter Hauser as Horace, with a stylish turn from John McRea as Artie and Billie Gadson as the 5-year-old Estella/Cruella. Mark Strong also has a pivotal role as John the valet, a role that reminds of something Stanley Tucci would play.

 

Joel Fry in Cruella (2021)Cruella (2021)

PLOT:

Set in 1970s London  amidst the emergence of the punk rock movement, Cruella traces the trajectory of Estella (Stone), and the tragedies and ecstasies that mark her formative years. Her mother, Catherine (Emily Beecham) plays a seminal role in shaping her worldview. Despite being a loving and nurturing presence, Catherine often encourages Estella to “fit in” in order to stay out of trouble. Estella is viewed as somewhat different for her beautiful, black-and-white ombré hair and her  rebellious nature. As Estella defends herself in talking about the mother/daughter relationship, “It wasn’t her I was challenging; it was the world.”

As the film progresses, our heroine (Emma Stone) declares, “I want to make art, and I want to make trouble.” At first, she is constrained by her loving mother (Emily Beecham) from realizing her full potential in either field. The pair then begin a journey to London, where Estella hopes to become a fashion designer.

Derailed along the way by circumstances beyond their control (“Happy accidents can change the whole course of your life…Happy may not be the right word.”), Estella ends up living and working in an abandoned building, alongside a couple of childhood grifters straight out of a Dickens novel, Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser).

Top cast

One of the fast friends, Jasper (Joel Fry) submits an application for Estella to work at the Liberty House Fashion Firm that she so admires. That opens the door to frustration, followed by eventual fame and fortune when the Baroness (Emma Thompson)—THE arbiter of fashion in the swinging 70s scene— sees Estella’s potential and hires her to be her assistant, ripping off her originality and vision at every turn while lording it over the rest of society.

Using fantastic settings like the Tower of London (yes, THAT Tower of London) doesn’t hurt the film at all. Gorgeous mansions and even more gorgeous gowns are a treat for the eye.

As the plot thickens, Estella realizes, “I’m not sweet Estella, try as I might. I’m Cruella. Born bad and a little bit mad.” She adds, “People do need a villain to believe in, so I’m happy to fit the bill.”

We’ll be seeing a lot more of Cruella in future films, and I hope the films are as entertaining as this one was.

“A Quiet Place II” Is Terrific Sequel to the 2018 Original Film

Director John Krasinski said, on an appearance on Seth Meyer recently to promote “A Quiet Place 2,” “If you’re a fan of the movie, I wanted to bookend the pandemic for you.” He was talking about the delayed release of one of the season’s most anticipated sequels, “A Quiet Place 2.” It actually premiered in New York City on March 8, 2020, and we all know what happened after that.

I remember the premiere of the original film at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas, as opening night of SXSW 2018 and how amazed the audience and I were at the film we had just seen. It was great! Original. Fresh. Scary. Thrilling. Well-acted. The audience gave it a well-deserved standing ovation.

All those adjectives can be used for the sequel, and, thanks to jump scares and a terrific Marco Beltrami score coupled with great special effects and convincing acting, you’re in for a wonderful time scaring yourself silly viewing “A Quiet Place 2.”

The boys from Bettendorf, Iowa, who thought up the fresh idea (which languished on the Black List of great movie scripts for 10 years or more before Krasinski became involved as a vehicle for his wife, Emily Blunt) now get an opening credit as the creators of the original characters, but Krasinski has taken over with expert help from his cast, Marco Beltrami’s heart-pounding score, and the special effects genies of Industrial Light & Magic and Lucasfilm.

There is a brief flashback involving John Krasinski as Lee Abbott, who died at the end of “A Quiet Place, #1.” His real-life wife, Emily Blunt, reprises her original role as Evelyn Abbott and the surviving children, Millicent Simmonds as Regan and Noah Jupe as Marcus, plus her new-born baby are all back. Co-stars, this time out, are Cillian Murphy as neighbor Emmett and Djimon Hounsou as a man on Long Island (who is given too small a part).

The film opens in the very same pharmacy/general store that we know from the first film, and Lee (John Krasinski) is quickly picking up some water and some snacks to take to a baseball game that is ongoing. (I noticed that he must have a running tab at the store; at no point did he pay for the goodies.)

While the baseball game is underway some sort of strange aerial event takes place, which, even now, I cannot explain properly. Is it the arrival of aliens? Is it a bombing? Not sure, but the baseball game is quickly abandoned. It must have been an invasion, because the spectators in the small town are suddenly being picked off on Main Street by the creatures we know from the first film. Chaos ensues.

It was this scene, with Emily Blunt trying to flee in her vehicle, that Krasinski talked about shooting early in the film. It took six weeks of planning and 3 weeks with stunt people to make sure that Blunt would be able to do the action-packed scene without injury. A pod was built on top of the vehicle she is shown to be driving, and it was operated by an expert stunt driver who, according to husband John, reassured her, “Don’t worry, Miss Emily. I’m the best.” They did the scene one time. It is truly terrifying and is completely thrilling.  Krasinski described it as “definitely the hardest scene” to film.

As the film proceeds, the surviving Abbott family (post Film #1) must abandon their home, which is both flooded and on fire. They begin walking, barefoot, to one of the neighboring homes where signal fires have been burning at night.

The neighboring residence turns out to be occupied by Emmett, played by Cillian Murphy (“Inception,” “Dunkirk,” “The Dark Knight Rises”), whose own children died the day of the invasion and whose wife is also dead. He has holed up in what appears to be some sort of abandoned steel furnace that has a soundproof  interior. It has a secure door and one must climb down to enter it, so it is relatively safe from the creatures.

Shooting inside the steel furnace set as a bunker for the Abbott family proved difficult because of its small size. Production designer Jess Gonchor built three different sizes, with removable front and back and sections that pulled out.

“Often we were on a jib arm with small remote heads on the end of it,” added Morgan, “and we would literally push in and out through the tube with the characters as they entered and exited. It was like a scene out of ‘Alien.’”

Emmett is not thrilled that he has been joined by a woman with three children in tow.

Emily Blunt and Noah Jupe in A Quiet Place Part II.
Emily Blunt and Noah Jupe in A Quiet Place Part II. Photo: Paramount Pictures

At first, despite Marcus’ injury in a bear trap as they approach, Emmett insists that they must leave in the morning, but that soon gives way to an actual rescue that Emmett attempts, when the deaf older child, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), deciphers the message of non-stop playing of “Beyond the Sea” by a radio station as a message. They must go to the sea, she reasons.  She sets out to do this over the objections of younger brother Marcus (Noah Jupe of “Ford v. Ferrari”and “Honeyboy.”) and without her mother’s knowledge or permission.

The map that we catch a brief glimpse of clearly says the island is Long Island. Thanks go out at film’s end to Buffalo, Akron, Dover and Pawling as some of the sites used in filming AQP2.

The film ends in a way that screams: SEQUEL. Krasinski said, initially, that he did not know whether a third Quiet Place would happen, but he made plans just in case. “I set up a couple of tiny little Easter eggs in [Part II] that not only explain more about [the original], but would allow for more mythology,” Krasinski shared last year.

“I haven’t heard from the studio that they want a third one,” says Writer/Director John Krasinski, “But the good news is that the studio and I are on the same page in that this isn’t one of those franchises where we keep pumping them out if they make money. I think we’ve proven that this is an original idea that is really beloved by people in a way that… I don’t want to break that promise to people.”

Later, it was revealed that “A Quiet Place 3” is officially a go. Paramount Pictures has announced that the franchise is set to continue with a third movie, which is to be written and directed by Jeff Nichols (MudMidnight Special).

Krasinski got able help on #2 from a new (female) cinematographer, Polly Morgan, and the editor, Michael Schaever, had his work cut out for him as there are multiple quick cuts between action going on in the steel furnace, with action going on at the dock or on the island. Long shots with real film were the name of the game, an homage to the films of Steven Spielberg and to such influences on Krasinski as “There Will Be Blood,” westerns of yesteryear, and Steven Spielberg’s films, which, said Krasinski, kept the focus on the protagonist in peril.

In this film, it is the teen-agers who must cope with the monsters and with their loss of their father in the first film. Millicent Simmonds plays a much bigger role than in the first film and does a great job.

All-in-all, it’s one heck of a great film.  I look forward to seeing #3, when the survivors back at the steel furnace have to be transported to safety on the island, (as well as any other adventures the creative minds of the Paramount team come up with).

It’s great to have a “new Spielberg” coming out with novel, crowd-pleasing material, and I only hope he can keep up the level of cinematography, music, writing, acting and directing in the inevitable follow-up(s).

Some Humor on a Slow Day

McDonald’s: the Early Days.

My husband and I went through the McDonald’s driveway window and I gave the cashier a $5 bill.

Our total was $4.25, so I also handed her 25c.
She said, ‘you gave me too much money.’
I said, ‘Yes I know, but this way you can just give me a dollar back.’
She sighed and went to get the manager who asked me to repeat my request.
I did so, and he handed me back the 25c, and said ‘We’re sorry but we don’t do that kind of thing.’
The cashier then proceeded to give me back 75 cents in change.
Do not confuse the people at MacD’s.
We had to have the garage door repaired.
The repairman told us that one of our problems was that we did not have a ‘large’ enough motor on the opener.
I thought for a minute, and said that we had the largest one made at that time, a 1/2 horsepower.
He shook his head and said, ‘You need a 1/4 horsepower.’
I responded that 1/2 was larger than 1/4 and he said, ‘NOOO, it’s not. Four is larger than two.’
We haven’t used that repairman since…
I live in a semi rural area.
We recently had a new neighbor call the local city council office to request the removal of the DEER CROSSING sign on our road.
The reason: ‘Too many deers are being hit by cars out here! I don’t think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore.’
IDIOT SIGHTING IN FOOD SERVICE.
My daughter went to a Mexican fast food and ordered a taco.
She asked the person behind the counter for ‘minimal lettuce.’
He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg lettuce.
I was at the airport, checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked,
‘Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?’
To which I replied, ‘If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?’
He smiled knowingly and nodded, ‘That’s why we ask.’
The pedestrian light on the corner beeps when it’s safe to cross the street.
I was crossing with an ‘intellectually challenged’ co-worker of mine.
She asked if I knew what the beeper was for.
I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red.
Appalled, she responded, ‘what on earth are blind people doing driving?!’
She is a government employee…..

Firefly II

When my wife and I arrived at a car dealership to pick up our car after a

service, we were told the keys had been locked in it.
We went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the driver’s side door.
As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked.
‘Hey,’ I announced to the technician, ‘its open!’
His reply, ‘I know. I already did that side.’
STAY ALERT!
They walk among us, they breed, and they vote…….
(Lisa Sanderson)

Biden and the Border

The article below is a cobbled-together article from a variety of respected sources, all of them fiarly recent and all of them addressing the border, the border crisis, and the history of the border issues. In light of the constant litany of charges that “the border crisis” was all the Biden Administration’s fault, with little recognition of how long this problem has existed and no discussion of what all of the issues behind it might be, I decided to “copy and paste” some of the more enlightening articles out there…especially if they were current.

Apparently there are those who think that a problem this complex can be solved by simply throwing up a barrier, and that it should happen literally overnight, in the case of the Biden Administration in office only 100 days as of April 29th.

So, what, exactly, is the deal with the border wall, then and now? The following words from others are selections of articles, only, and this is far from the definitive word on the border and what has gone on there historically and is going on there now, but I thought you might enjoy reading some of the information for yourselves all in one place.

***********************

US-Mexico border violence deepens immigration divide | World| Breaking news  and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 27.11.2018

“Some 172,000 migrants were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in March, the most in two decades. The problem is both push and pull: residents are driven out by hurricanes, crop failure, crime and corruption; they are drawn to the U.S. by family ties, work and stability in an economy expected to explode with post-pandemic opportunities, and an administration promising more humane treatment after the harsher Donald Trump years.

On Monday, VP Kamala Harris (delegated by President Biden to handle the crisis) meets by video with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei in advance of a visit there and to Mexico in June. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Harris would discuss sending immediate aid to Guatemala and “deepening cooperation on migration.”

Harris plans to hold a call with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador next week after a virtual meeting with Guatemalan community groups on Tuesday.

Officials and advisers say Harris will have to figure out a mix of short- and long-term steps, find non-governmental organizations to partner with and use carrots and sticks to fight corruption.”

HONDURAS

“U.S. prosecutors allege Honduran President Hernandez participated in a violent cocaine trafficking conspiracy. His brother was sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to smuggle almost 200,000 kg of cocaine into the the U.S. The effort was part of a state-backed trafficking operation that netted the president’s brother nearly $140 million, according to prosecutors.

President Hernandez was also cited in a separate case in the U.S. last month for allegedly participating in cocaine trafficking. He has dismissed the accusations as lies told by convicted criminals seeking to reduce their sentences and said he remains committed to fighting the drug trade.

Hernandez narrowly won a second term in a 2017 election that Organization of American States observers called “low quality” and whose result they refused to confirm. The country will hold a presidential election in November, and Hernandez is not running. That could allow the Biden administration to hold out hope for better leadership, but there’s little optimism that corruption there is a problem with an easy solution.

“The perception of impunity or the perception that people in positions of power can commit acts of corruption without consequence discourages the population and contributes to the sense that there is no future in their countries,” Zuniga told reporters after visiting.

FLEEING THE VIOLENCE

migrant caravan

Central American migrants en route to the US starting their day departing Ciudad, Hidalgo, Mexico. (Photo AP/Moises Castillo)

“Migrants, including a growing number of women and children, are fleeing the troubled region in record numbers. On average, about 265,000 people have left annually in recent years, and this number is on track to more than double [PDF] in 2019. (And has, during DJT’s final years and now.]

Some migrants seek asylum in other parts of Latin America or in Europe. However, most endure a treacherous journey north through Mexico to the United States. Unlike past waves of migrants, in which most attempted to cross illegally without detection, migrants from the Northern Triangle often surrender to U.S. border patrol agents to claim asylum. In 2018, the United States granted asylum to roughly 13 percent [PDF] of Northern Triangle applicants, almost twice the 2015 acceptance rate [PDF]. Guatemalans currently account for the largest share of the migrant flow, followed by Hondurans and Salvadorans.

Agricultural setbacks, including unpredictable weather and a destructive coffee rust, have fueled food insecurity and become a leading driver of migration. Many households depend on money sent home by relatives living and working abroad. Remittances equal a comparatively large portion—almost 18 percent [PDF]—of the three countries’ economic output. Meanwhile, corruption and meager tax revenues, particularly in Guatemala, have crippled governments’ ability to provide social services.

Decades of civil war and political instability [PDF] planted the seeds for the complex criminal ecosystem that plagues the region today, which includes transnational gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the Eighteenth Street Gang (M-18). Critics say that U.S. interventions during the Cold War—including support for a coup in Guatemala, brutal government forces in El Salvador, and right-wing rebels based in Honduras known as the Contras—helped destabilize the region. Though they have declined somewhat in recent years, homicide rates in the Northern Triangle have been among the world’s highest for decades.

ECONOMIC INSTABILITY

Economic instability. The region’s most significant coordinated effort to address economic instability is the so-called Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity (A4P), which made commitments to increase production, strengthen institutions, expand opportunities, and improve public safety. Announced after a flood of Northern Triangle migrants arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014, the $22 billion plan is 80 percent funded by El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

Corruption. The region has made significant progress in its battle against corruption, a longtime drag on economies. In perhaps the most prominent example, Guatemala appealed to the United Nations for assistance in establishing an independent body to investigate and prosecute criminal groups suspected of infiltrating the government. Widely trusted by Guatemalans, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) helped convict more than three hundred officials and significantly reduce Guatemala’s homicide rate.

Meanwhile, El Salvador has charged three former presidents with money laundering or embezzlement, and recently announced plans for its own international anticorruption panel. With the support of the Organization of American States, a regional bloc, Honduras also established a corruption-fighting committee and went so far as to fire 40 percent of its police during sweeping reforms in 2016, though citizen confidence in the force remains low [PDF].

What’s been the U.S. approach to the Northern Triangle?

Over the past twenty years, the United States has taken significant steps to try to help Northern Triangle countries manage irregular migration flows by fighting economic insecurity and violence. However, critics say U.S. policies have been largely reactive, prompted by upturns in migration to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Critics say U.S. policies have been largely reactive, prompted by upturns in migration to the U.S.-Mexico border.

George W. Bush administration. President Bush put trade at the top of his administration’s Central America agenda, negotiating the seven-country Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which includes El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Under his administration, the United States also awarded Northern Triangle governments more than $650 million in development grants through the Millennium Challenge Corporation. During its second term, the administration grappled more with security challenges, including rising crime and drug trafficking in the region, and it responded with an aid package for Central America and Mexico known as the Merida Initiative.

Barack Obama administration. President Obama separated Mexico from the Merida grouping and rebranded it the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) [PDF]. Over the years, Congress has appropriated more than $2 billion in aid through CARSI to help the region’s law enforcement, counternarcotics agencies, and justice systems. Midway through his second term, Obama recast U.S. strategy [PDF] for Central America, forging what was intended to be a more holistic interagency approach to complement the region’s A4P plan.

After an upswing in migration from the region in 2014, the administration partnered with Northern Triangle governments on anti-smuggling operations and information campaigns intended to deter would-be migrants. It also cracked down on undocumented immigrants inside the United States. Court-mandated removals during his administration outpaced those under Bush, totaling about three million. After Mexico, the Northern Triangle countries accounted for the largest shares of Obama-era removals.

Donald J. Trump administration. The Trump administration has kept Obama’s framework for the region, but has prioritized stemming the flow of Central American migrants to the United States and ramping up border security.

Many of Trump’s actions have stoked controversy and sparked legal challenges. In the spring of 2018, the administration implemented a zero-tolerance policy [PDF] that sought to criminally prosecute all adults entering the United States illegally, including asylum seekers and those with children. As a result, several thousand children were separated from their parents and detained in makeshift facilities, many of which were criticized for being in poor condition. Trump officially rescinded the policy following a public backlash, though separations have continued.

OCTOBER 1, 2019:

The U.S. Immigration Debate | Council on Foreign Relations
 Photo courtesy of the Council on Foreign Relations

Apprehensions of Northern Triangle citizens have more than doubled so far this year  (2019) compared with all of 2018.

Meanwhile, Trump has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in Northern Triangle aid, and is holding back future funding until the region “take[s] concrete actions” to address migration. The administration also tried revoking temporary protected status, a program that allows migrants from crisis-stricken countries to live and work in the United States for a period of time, for Hondurans and Salvadorans.

This seems to have made the situation at the border worse.

CHILDREN AT THE BORDER

A growing influx of migrants has led to a record number of children – 3,200 – being held in US immigration facilities as of 8 March. (*This has supposedly shrunk to 600 unescorted children being held, as of late April, 2021, with faster turn-around on processing and at least four families reunited after the Trump administration removed children from their parental escorts and lost track of many of them. Two shown being reunited recently had been separated from their parents since 2017 and 2018, respectively.)

US media reported that the figure had trebled in the past two weeks. It was also reported that half of the children are being held beyond the legal three-day limit, after which they must be transferred to the custody of health officials.

In January, the month that Mr Biden took office, 5,871 unaccompanied children crossed the border – up from 4,995 in December – according to data from US Customs and Border Protection (CPB).

Are unaccompanied children being held?

Yes.

While in office, Donald Trump faced outrage over the conditions inside border facilities holding minors. Images from inside the detention centres showed children overcrowded in metal cages, others sleeping under foil blankets.

Some of these Trump-era facilities – now renovated and upgraded – are being used again.

Mr Biden has so far left a Trump-era Covid-19 emergency policy in place, which allows US authorities to expel almost all undocumented migrants seeking entry – bypassing normal immigration laws and protections.

But unlike Mr Trump, Mr Biden has decided not to refuse entry to migrant children or teenagers.

CHANGES UNDER BIDEN

Biden immigration policy stirs confusion at Mexico border - Los Angeles  Times
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

“Advocates say that with most children arriving with plans to reunite with sponsors – typically friends or family – they should be transferred immediately to their care.

And according to preliminary plans obtained by US media, such a system may already be in the works.

The Biden administration is reportedly rushing to convert its existing facilities into “reception centres”, meant to rapidly process migrant families with the goal of releasing them into the US within 72 hours of arrival.

The proposal would replace long-term detention with Ellis Island-style processing, allowing migrants to travel to US sponsors before completing asylum screenings. The reports, from the Washington Post and the San Antonio Express, suggest a major overhaul of the US immigration system. All those processed are tested for Covid-19 before being transferred.

What is happening with the Remain in Mexico policy?

On Mr Biden’s first day in office, DHS suspended a controversial Trump-era policy that forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their US immigration hearings.

About 70,000 migrants were enrolled in the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) – informally known as the Remain in Mexico program – since it was introduced in January 2019.

Last month, the Biden administration began to gradually process these tens of thousands of people waiting in Mexico, allowing them into the US while their cases are heard.

March 9, 2021

What’s happening to undocumented people already in the US?

Biden’s administration has taken several steps to reform the country’s legal immigration system.

He has proposed a major immigration bill that would offer an eight-year pathway to citizenship to the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the country.

The legislation would also provide permanent protection for young migrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program, known as Dreamers.

The aggressively pro-immigration policy – which would greatly increase both family-based and employment-based legal immigration – will face staunch opposition in Congress, among Republicans and some moderate Democrats.

DIFFERENCES: THEN AND NOW

The White House has also started to focus attention on addressing root causes of migration in Central America, with Vice President Kamala Harris charged to shepherd an administration-wide effort to address conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) sent a team to the region in April to scale up emergency humanitarian assistance in light of the pandemic, aftereffects of hurricanes that struck in late 2020, and other challenges. Thus far, work with these countries has focused on short-term measures to reduce the pace of migrants’ arrival at the U.S. border. But the administration has consistently noted that long-term efforts to address poor governance and create economic opportunities in Central America will be key to stem irregular migration.

 

 

 

The 2021 Academy Awards: Post Ceremony

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.

I’ve held off on commenting on the April 25th Oscars. I wanted to see what the reaction, nationwide and internationally, was to the Covid-era ceremony.

Every year, we try to celebrate with our good friends in Des Moines, Iowa. This year, that meant flying there, which was an adventure in and of itself. We had to fly from Austin to Dallas and then make it from the “A” concourse to the “E” concourse. Although we had 2 hours between flights, we almost missed the second one, and one of the reasons was that we had the Traveling Trophy (a small Oscar) in my husband’s carry-on. This showed up as a metal object on the screening at TSA and that was an interesting delay.

When we got to Austin we got onto the American flight and then sat on the runway for over an hour during a thunderstorm. But, finally, we made it to Des Moines and geared up for the Sunday night festivities.

I am always skittish about those who wish to record something important and watch it later on tape, rather than watching it “live.” I voiced those objections to our hostess, but my remarks fell on deaf ears.

Thus it was that, after watching all the way to the “And the winner for Best Picture is _______” the screen went black. That meant that we missed the 3 biggest awards: Best Picture, which was announced before Best Actor or Best Actress, so it was a clean sweep and I missed all three of the most important awards “live” for the first time since 1955. (Sigh)

We ended up having to watch the presentation of the three most important awards on YouTube.

There have been any who have decried the choice of Union Station for the presentation, but I thought it looked rather cool. Similarly, by virtue of great effort, participants were not all wearing masks and it was a step up from the Emmy-awards show where everything had to be done by zoom.

On the negative side, because of Covid-19, there was no opening monologue, no host, no orchestra, and therefore, no big production numbers, although the nominated songs were all presented by individuals. Did the women dress up? Yes, they did. Was it the traditional Red Carpet that we have seen in previous years? No, it was not.

Now as to the films this year and who won, let’s pull up the list of nominees, with an “X” after the winners:

Best Picture

The Father
Judas and the Black Messiah
Mank
Minari
Nomadland X
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

The winner, of course, was “Nomadland.” This did not come as a surprise since it had won all of the preliminary awards. I found “Nomadland” to be bleak, and would have preferred to see “Judas & the Black Messiah,” “Promising Young Woman” or “Minari” take home the trophy, but it is what it is.

Actor in a Leading Role

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Anthony Hopkins, The Father X
Gary Oldman, Mank
Steven Yeun, Minari

Everyone thought that Chadwick Boseman would win, and that, I am told, is why they re-arranged the order of announcing the Best Picture. The thought was that Chadwick’s win would end the evening and they probably had prepared some film tribute. Instead, 83-year-old Anthony Hopkins won and wasn’t even there. He was home in bed. So much for that plan.

 

Actress in a Leading Role

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
Frances McDormand, Nomadland X
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Frances McDormand won, as it was predicted that she would. This makes 4 Oscars for Frances, although only 3 of them were for Best Actress. She won the 4th one as one of the producers of “Nomadland.” She has won Best Actress Oscars for “Fargo,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and “Nomadland.” She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress back in 1988 for “Mississippi Burning,” but lost to Geena Davis in “The Accidental Tourist.”

Actor in a Supporting Role

Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah X
Leslie Odom, Jr., One Night in Miami
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah

This category pitted 2 actors from “Judas and the Black Messiah” against one another in the supporting category, which was odd, but came about because of Oscar rules. I thought Lakeith Stanfield’s portrayal was the central part, but the voters disagreed and Daniel Kaluuya won.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Colman, The Father
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari X

 

We watched “Minari” in the afternoon on Saturday, and all of us liked this sweet story of Koreans relocating to Arkansas. The win of Yuh-Jung Youn was well-deserved and her acceptance speech was charming. She was as excited about meeting Brad Pitt as I would have been. I must admit that I had assumed that, after 8 nominations, the Academy would finally give Glenn Close the Oscar she deserves for her unattractive role as Granny in “Hillbilly Elegy.” Later, she was involved in a scripted bit of entertainment involving Oscar-nominated songs and actually got up and performed something called “Da Butt.” As another said, “That was the most embarrassing thing since she appeared in ‘Hillbilly Elegy.’”

Directing

Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round
David Fincher, Mank
Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland Chloe Zhao’sX
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman

This one was announced quite early in the evening and Chloe Zhao’s win was not unexpected. It was only the second win for a woman and the first for an Asian.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman & Lee Kern
The Father, Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller X
Nomadland, Chloé Zhao
One Night in Miami, Kemp Powers
The White Tiger, Ramin Bahrani

“The Father” won. Again, unexpected to a point, but the film did take home the Best Actor award for Hopkins.

Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya 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.l

Best Original Screenplay

Judas and the Black Messiah, Will Berson & Shaka King

Minari, Lee Isaac Chung
Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell X

Sound of Metal, Darius Marder & Abraham Marder
The Trial of the Chicago 7, Aaron Sorkin

Emerald Fennell  won for scripting the Carey Mulligan vehicle “Promising Young Woman,” one of the more entertaining films of this year’s nominees. I had hopes that Aaron Sorkin might take home a trophy, as he is undoubtedly one of the best wordsmiths in Hollywood but it was not to be.

Animated Feature Film

Onward
Over the Moon
A Shawn the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

 Soul X
Wolfwalkers

“Soul” won for music and as best animated feature film. I am anxious to see it, but have not (yet) had the opportunity, although I did see all the main nominated films.

Documentary (Feature)

Collective
Crip Camp
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher X
Time

In this category, “Time” was considered a big favorite. “Collective” also had been written up positively, but I wanted us all to see “My Octopus Teacher” before the ceremony. Last year, we watched “Factory” the day before the ceremony, one of Barack Obama’s first projects after his presidency. We watched that one and it won that night (in 2019). This time, we watched “My Octopus Teacher” and, once again, it won. It’s a beautifully filmed tale of a man befriending an octopus in the underwater kelp forest off the coast of South Africa.

Documentary (Short Subject)

Colette X
A Concerto Is a Conversation
Do Not Split
Hunger Ward
A Love Song for Latasha

“Colette” won for Best Documentary Short Subject.

International Feature Film

Another Round (Denmark) X
Better Days (Hong Kong)
Collective (Romania)
The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia)
Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

I had heard that either “Collective” or “Quo Vadis, Aida?” was going to win. I have seen none of these films. I thought the Danish gentleman who accepted the award was quite articulate.

Film Editing

The Father
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal X
The Trial of the Chicago 7

This was an upset category. “Sound of Metal” was a great film—until the end. Riz Ahmed was great and I anticipated that it would win for sound, but not for film editing.

Cinematography

Judas and the Black Messiah X
Mank
News of the World
Nomadland
The Trial of the Chicago 7

“Mank” won for cinematography. I had anticipated yet another “Nomadland” win here.

Sound

Greyhound
Mank
News of the World
Soul
Sound of Metal X

In telling the story of a rock drummer who loses his hearing, many interesting and innovative things were done with sound. This one I expected.

Music (Original Score)

Da 5 Bloods
Mank
Minari
News of the World
Soul X

“Soul” won for Best Original Score. Stephen Colbert’s musical director, Jon Baptiste, and Trent Reznor, of the “Nine Inch Nails” had a hand in this win.

Music (Original Song)

“Fight For You” from Judas and the Black Messiah X
“Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7
“Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
“lo Sì (Seen)” from The Life Ahead
“Speak Now” from One Night in Miami

This one was a bit of an upset, I think. “Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah” took the award, when “Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami” seemed to be the front-runner.

Costume Design

Emma
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom X
Mank
Mulan
Pinocchio

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” won, a victory for Viola Davis’ fat suit.

Makeup and Hairstyling

Emma
Hillbilly Elegy
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom X
Mank
Pinocchio

Once again, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” triumphed.

Production Design

The Father
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank X
News of the World
Tenet

“Mank” won.

Visual Effects

Love and Monsters
The Midnight Sky
Mulan
The One and Only Ivan
Tenet X

This most-expensive project of Christopher Nolan’s took home the visual effects Oscar.

Short Film (Animated)

Burrow
Genius Loci
If Anything Happens I Love You X
Opera
Yes-People

Short Film (Live Action)

Feeling Through
The Letter Room
The Present
Two Distant Strangers X
White Eye

Of the non-major awards (i.e., aside from Best Picture, Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor or Actress, and Director) I scored 11 of 16 right. Considering the fact that I’d seen precious few of them, scoring close to 70% there was my big brag of the evening.

 

Happy Birthday Night in Downtown Austin (March 20/21)

Birthday dinner in downtown Austin at Fogo de Chau.

This will be a stream-of-consciousness retelling of last weekend’s Birthday Weekend in downtown Austin.

It was my husband’s birthday AND we had secured appointments for our second Pfizer Covid-19 shots at the HEB store on 7th Street. That is truly something to celebrate, since we are supposed to fly to Mexico in early April and who wants to fly to a foreign country if unvaccinated?

We started our weekend adventure about 11:15 a.m. (for a noon appointment) and went to HEB first (did you know that the last name of the owner of HEB is Butts? Just wondering…). There was really no line, so we were done there in record time and picked up all kinds of stuff for our room: pop, beer, fruit plate, doughnuts (for the morrow), vegetable plate and dip, chips, etc.

We then drove to the hotel on Rainey Street and checked in early. We found out upon checking in that it was going to cost an additional $50 to park the car overnight. Later, we would find out that it would cost an additional $20 to watch a movie in the room. So, the tab was now soaring to over $550.

Our first shot weekend, the entire bill was $150, at the Stephen K Austin Sonesta Hotel downtown on Congress Avenue,  and it was quite quiet there.

Jessica and I celebrate at the Hotel VanZandt in downtown Austin.

The “live” band across the street played until midnight and then some idiot outside kept revving a motorcycle until 2 a.m. I had forgotten my omnipresent wind machine. Also, there had been no mention of their much-vaunted pool deck being under construction. (The one I show in my photo is an apartment building across the street). Nor did they mention “work on the outside of the building,” which meant that we were to keep our blinds closed unless we wanted to flash someone. I will attach a photo of the bathroom, which had a large tub overlooking the city—or, in this case, the workers outside.

There are robes in the room, but mine did not fit. There were no coffee pots. We asked that one be brought up when we checked in. It took 7 hours to get it. It made one cup of coffee and then would not work.

So, we hunkered down with the son, daughter-in-law and granddaughters to enjoy our goodies and watch Iowa in their first round of play. That went well, although Iowa would subsequently lose to Oregon, so there goes the season.

We also took advantage of the wine happy hour (5 to 6 p.m.) and, after that, went to Fogo de Chau, which I have probably misspelled, and ate.

Rainey Street on March 20-21st, Austin, TX.

This is directly across the street from the Convention Center downtown and was fairly busy. It is a chain (Brazilian Steakhouse). I think the price was $54.95 per person, but this was the son’s treat for his father’s birthday, and it was delicious. Waiters circle throughout the room constantly with roasted meats (sirloin, prime rib, chicken, pork, lamb) and they bring a very small dish of mashed potatoes to the table. Then there is a salad bar. Weirdly enough, they issue you a plastic baggie thing to use on your hand, like this is (somehow) going to protect you from spreading germs, were you to be infected with a disease of any kind. I don’t generally do much salad bar stuff, but I did take some potato salad (very bland) and two olives and some bread with butter packets. It was good that I took the bread, because the girls mainly wanted to eat bread and, at one point, they ran out of bread, which is odd. (Later, they brought some additional bread to our table, by request).

The dinner was delicious and very much appreciated. We then went back to the hotel, where we rented “Let Him Go” (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) and Craig—who had his shot first on Saturday—experienced some after-effects—(fever, chills) that put him out early. I stayed up until 2 a.m. and was very sorry that I had not brought my wind machine. I was finally forced to press my phone into service, as it has a not-that-satisfactory version of my wind machine on it.

Hotel Van Zandt, Austin, Tx.

Hotel VanZandt. Corner room. Austin, TX.

When we awakened the next morning, my phone was nearly dead and we had to check out immediately to make it to my 12:30 appointment back at HEB. We were supposed to check out at 11 a.m.. but had asked for a slightly later check-out, so we left at 11:30 a.m. As a result, we got there around noon and—fortunately—there was no one there but me, at first. They were looking for someone named “Emily.” Another Hispanic gentleman signed in with his paperwork right after me. He was first; I was second, and then the MIA Emily showed and was given her shot, following mine. It is now Monday and I have not had any fever or chills or unusual fatigue or headaches, all good things.

So, we are both vaccinated for Mexico and the birthday—which included shirts, an Amazon gift card, a Home Depot gift card, and the room, itself, (with a complimentary lime pie dessert at the restaurant) feted Craig’s 76th year on the planet.

Demi Lovato: “Dancing with the Devil” Premieres at SXSW Film Festival 2021

“Demi Lovato: Dance with the Devil” (Credit: OBB Media @ the SXSW Online Film Festival 2021.)

The opening night film for this year’s SXSW Online Film Festival was the documentary “Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil.” It premiered on Tuesday night, March 16th and was directed by Michael D. Ratner.

Last year, on March 6th, SXSW in person was canceled. In 2019 the festival’s financial benefits to Austin were estimated to be $356 million, up 1.5% from 2018’s $351 million. A loss of that magnitude has been catastrophic for Austin’s live music venues, its hotels, and its restaurants. Some festival-goers are angry that they are being offered future admissions to the festival, rather than their cash back. Tickets for the online festival went for $1,600 the last year it was held in person (2019); a ticket this year for the all-online festival goes for $325.

The films this year are primarily documentaries, and “Demi Lovato: Dance with the Devil” is the opener, featuring an attitude of complete disclosure from Lovato and her staff.  One staffer on the hot seat says, “I can’t believe you all are doing this.  This is just lit, but okay.” She and the others—including fey best friend Matthew Scott Montgomery—proceed to describe the near-fatal overdose. There is also film from a 2018 documentary that was shot while Demi was on her “Tell Me That You Love Me” World Tour, but never released. There is footage of D.J. Khalid praising Demi’s 6 years of sobriety as she sits at the piano. Super-imposed is the information that one month later, she relapsed. Three months later she was fighting for her life in a hospital intensive care unit.

Demi’s overdose involved smoking heroin laced with fentanyl. She suffered a heart attack, three strokes, brain damage that has left her visually impaired, pneumonia and multiple organ failure. If her former assistant Jordan Jackson had not entered her bedroom when she did, Lovato would have died within five to ten minutes. The world quickly learned that Demi Lovato had overdosed, but most did not realize how serious her overdose was. As her assistant related, she looked completely blue when found and the doctors had to re-circulate her blood through a large machine in the intensive care unit to purify it before returning it to her body.

As the documentary continues and we learn of Demi’s heritage from her father, I feared for her continued health. Indeed, near the end of the piece, she claims that she is going to try the “moderation” route and former addict Elton John testifies that this approach just does not work.

Demi’s own father—who suffered from both bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia—was an alcoholic, a drug addict, and physically abused Demi’s mother, Dianna DeLaGarge (who was a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader). Demi shares that he died alone of a drug overdose and his body was not found for days, if not weeks.

Demi says, “You really figure out who is there for you when your whole world falls away under your feet.” It appears that there are many faithful friends in Demi Lovato’s life. She was also fortunate to be able to afford expert help at the Cirque Lodge Rehabilitation facility.  Demi also shared information of two previous rapes, one by the very drug dealer who brought her the near-fatal overdose that night.

I fear for Demi Lovato’s continued good health and wish her and everyone else suffering from  addiction issues the very best. The incidence of fentanyl abuse has increased 540% over the past three years.

“Recovery,” the Comedy, Will Help You Recover Your Smile at SXSW Online

“Recovery,” a film written by Whitney Everton and Stephen Meek was my first film of Day #2 of SXSW Online Film Festival. Two sisters, Jamie (Whitney Call) and Blake (Mallory Everton) Jerikovic stage an across-the-country trip to rescue their Nanna from an old folks’ home during the pandemic.

It is one of the few—-perhaps only—films I’ve seen that completely embraces Covid-19 in its storyline. I don’t mean documentaries, of which I’ve seen several, but a feature film with Covid as a central storyline with the emphasis on the light side.

The traveling sisters (Whitney and Mallory) have actually been best friends since the age of nine in real life. The delightful home-made videos at the end confirms their easy familiarity. They are also sketch comedy veterans of “Comedy C” and do a wonderful job of embodying their characters and (for Mallory) in writing the screenplay.  Comedy is not easy to write. It needs to be as light and fluffy as a souffle. These two seem like the likely heirs apparent to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

When the film opens, Jamie (Whitney Call) is celebrating her 30th birthday. The coronavirus is not yet a thing. Jamie is a teacher of 4th graders. She is thinking about buying airline or hotel stock and investing in a pricey gym membership. Sister Blake (Mallory Everton) has just had a one-night stand with a cute guy named Scott; that is another topic of conversation. They are unaware that they are about to be frozen in time by the pandemic. In the background of the next few scenes we hear the disheartening news of 51,000 deaths on March 30 of 2020. (If nothing else, this film will be a great, but not depressing, time capsule.)

Upon learning of the ravages of coronavirus on  Nana’s nursing home, the pair, headquartered in New Mexico, at first are counting on their older married sister, Erin (Julia Jolley), who lives in Washington closer to Nanna, to ride to the rescue. Paulina Jerockova (Anna Swerd Hansen), their beloved Nana,  needs to be moved out of the nursing home as quickly as possible—a plot point that is  factual, as one-third of all deaths in the United States took place in the close quarters of nursing homes.

The husband of Whitney Call, Stephen Meek, helped write and direct this light-hearted film, and I recommend it for those who want to see the comedy stars of tomorrow.

Unfortunately, Erin (Julia Jolley) is off on a cruise with her husband. (“The tickets were so cheap,” to which the sisters in New Mexico respond, “Yes, because it’s a death trap!”)

There are so many funny things in this 80-minute film that I enjoyed, even if I did have to watch it at 10 a.m. after covering some late-night films.  I was relieved to discover that it wasn’t a grim documentary about surviving some horrible illness (since I had forgotten exactly what I signed up early for), but a light-hearted distraction that audiences perfect for our time.

First, there is a sub-plot about the fourth grade class pet mice. Before the duo rides off to rescue Nana, Jamie must make arrangements for the mice to be cared for by one of her students’ families. Student Jacob Harper promises to take care of the mice, Bert and Ernie. It turns out that Ernie should have been named Ernestine and gives birth to mice babies. This does not go over well with Mrs. (Ainsley) Harper, who threatens retaliation. This plays out as a cell phone conversation

There’s a funny bit about the girls really getting into their music while driving and pounding on their car horn as they tool down the Interstate. Next to them on the highway is an elderly man on a motorcycle. The girls roll their window down to explain their innocent exuberance. Thinking that they are honking AT him, the Hell’s Angel Senior spits through the open window of their car.  The panic over strange spit is merited and very funny.

There is the potential hottie “Scott,” of whom Blake says, “I seriously met him at the worst moment in history.” After sending Scott several funny (but meant to be endearing) memes, she gets a text from Scott’s roommate, saying Scott has died of Covid-19. Now THAT doesn’t sound “funny,” so….

Scott has simply panicked. He tried to think of a way out of responding appropriately to Blake’s memes. His idea of an “appropriate” response is, [after revealing that he is NOT dead], sending an inappropriate personal picture and then texting Blake to ask her for her Hulu password. (Someone calling himself “LibraryGuy” once sent me a totally unwelcome pic. Use your imagination on this one.)

The excuse for Scott’s inexplicable behavior? “He’s probably just stressed about Covid.” That, or he is incurably out-of-it, but the lengths to which Scott has gone do come off as funny in the expert comic hands of our two leads.

Then there’s Nana’s dog Bruce. The girls need to collect Bruce—who has been farmed out at at an acreage with a completely weird dog-sitter— along the way. Nanna has also been very fond of Fred, a fellow inmate in her nursing home. Fred has been making nightly visits to Nanna’s room. The girls are explicit about telling Nanna NOT to let Fred in, as he may have the coronavirus. The adventures retrieving Bruce and repelling Fred are enjoyable.

Blake and Jamie are trying desperately to be the first family members to reach Nanna’s nursing home before Erin,  the older sister from the cruise ship, arrives. That, too, presents some humor, which the girls explore to the fullest. [I could really relate to the cruise ship scenario, having just come back from a cruise to Alaska before all hell broke loose.]

There is  an interlude where Blake races off while divesting of the jumper shorts she is wearing. I don’t know what the accurate term for this fashion choice is, but, when pregnant, I called it my “Humpty suit.” It is largely shapeless, with straps, and very comfortable. Blake takes them off and throws them into a tree, declaring them to have been “too chafey.” You had to be there, but it just “works.”

I also really enjoyed the simple asides about how Nanna used to drive her car by using a mop handle on the accelerator. (I had a friend who used a brick, but nevermind. Really.) And then there’s the “go-to” strategy for distracting older sis Erin by asking her to share “the birth story.” [Every family has a similar story that will set one of its members off on a long stroll down memory lane.]

“Recovery” was genuinely funny and well done. I had forgotten exactly what this one was about. Stumbling out early in the day to view it after struggling through the drug overdose stories,  Isis captivity stories and  horrible illness films (most notably, multiple sclerosis), I was delighted to start my day with “Recovery.” Try it; you’ll like it.

“Recovery” will help us all to recover our good mood(s).

Blasts from the Past

Cecile DeFrance, female star of “Hereafter” and me, after the Chicago premiere of Clint Eastwood’s new film.

With John C. Reilly at the Chicago Film Festival.

William F. Nolan & Connie Wilson. Austin, Texas, Horror Writers Conference.

Connie Wilson & Deidre Sommerville with the Silver Feather Award.

Author Jane Smiley, winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for her Novel “1,000 Acres” and me at lunch in Honolulu at Spellbinders Conference.

Antonio Villaraigosa, the Mayor of Los Angeles since 2005 and Chairman of the Democratic Party.

A few seconds before this was taken, Dennis Massoud cautioned me about touching the sand on the sides of the “chair.” Quantas Airlines sand sculpture in Sydney, Australia

Book signing in Australia.

Craig and I at a restaurant in Darling Harbour with our friends Don and Cath Zartarian.

Four-year-old twin granddaughters Elise (left) and Ava (right) Wilson, to whom the book is dedicated. (They’ll be helping me write them, from now on.)

With Harry Connick, Jr., backstage at the Chicago Theater on my birthday.

Illinois Women’s Press Association Silver Feather Award (2nd win in 3 years).

With Rob Reiner in Chicago at the Icon Theater on June 18, 2014 preview of new film “And So It Goes.”

With Liv Ullman.

With New York Times Best-selling author Jon Land.

Rolling Stones, July 23, with the daughter, down front.

Haskell Wexler and me, May 22, 2012, Grant Park, Chicago

Jerry O’Heir (Lenny in “Middle Man” and Jerry Gergich on “Parks & Recreation”) at the Chicago Film Festival.

At Lake Okoboji, less than one week from delivering daughter Stacey in 1987.

(Left to Right) Scott Beck, Connie Wilson and Bryan Woods at SXSW (Austin, TX) on March 10, 2018.

Opening Night of the Windy City Film Festival in Chicago, as a Screenplay Finalist.

(l to r), Connie Wilson, Patrick of the omnipresent hat, and Meiling Jin, CEO of Studio Meiling Productions, LLC.

San Antonio Film Festival.

Belmont Town Hall Press Room at the Belmont Town Hall Meeting, 2008, Nashville, Tennessee, 2008.

Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Yes, I go all the way back to Lincoln), Too bad his beard is falling off!

Press, inside of the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado at the DNC in 2008.

New Year’s Eve in New York City’s Times Square.

Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California. (And isn’t that Johnny Depp on the left?)

Hawaii Spellbinders’ Conference.

Elise (L) and Ava (R) at the Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Chicago.

Midwest Writing Center Writer of the Year Award.

Scott, Mom and Stacey,

SXSW Film Reviews to Come: Looking Back at One Year “Sheltering in Place”

“Lily Topples the World,” SXSW Online Film Festival, 2021.

Today is March 13th, Saturday, and it sticks in my brain pan as the day that my husband and I went out to see “The Way Back” at a local cinema. The place was deserted and, when I asked about upcoming films, the news was not good.

By that weekend, we were “sheltering in place” and we were going to be sheltering in place for one full year. My hair appointments became non-existent, My nails grew out and became a problem. I was giving hair cuts to my husband. I would not enter a movie theater for 7 months to see “Tenet” at the Regal Cinema (now closed) in Moline, Illinois.

During that long Covid-19 year my husband and I would contract the virus and be sick for two weeks (in October). We would venture out perhaps twice (once to a drive-in) to see movies, but the flow of new films would cease, so the sacrifice that no movies means, to me, as a bona fide movie buff, was slightly mollified by the realization that there were very few new good films coming out. All of us were glued to our respective television sets, and that is where I would cover the Chicago International Film Festival, the Denver Film Festival, Sundance, and, this coming week, SXSW, virtually, online.

I am Press at SXSW, again, and the films I will be seeing from March 16-20 will include the following, (with reviews here and on The Movie Blog.com and perhaps a few on QuadCity.com):

Tuesday- March 16th

“Demi Lovato: Dance with the Devil” (Credit: OBB Media @ the SXSW Online Film Festival 2021.)

“Hysterical – top female comics perform in a special.

“The Oxy Kingpins” – a documentary.

“Aretha” – a documentary about Aretha Franklin

“Lily Topples the World” – young girl sets up blocks to “fall.”

“Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil” – the story of Demi Lovato’s close call with death from a drug overdose.

“The Thing That Ate the Birds” – horror

Wednesday, March 17

“Recovery” –

“The Return: Life After Isis”

“Tom Petty: Somewhere You Feel Free” (documentary)

Waze & Odyssey” with appearances by George Michael et, al.

Not Going Quietly – feature film

United States vs. Reality Winner – a documentary about White House leaks

Offseason

Thursday- March 18

“Swan Song” (Credit Chris Stephens, SXSW Online Film Festival 2021).

“Swan Song” – I actually have already seen this one, about a hairdresser called out of retirement in the nursing home to do a dead friend’s hair. The dead friend is Linda Evans (“Dynasty”). The hairdresser is German actor Udo Kier. The co-star is Stiffler’s Mom, from “American Pie,” Jennifer Coolidge.  Todd Phillips directs.

“The Lost Sons” – fascinating documentary about a boy kidnapped at birth from Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago only to be returned to his parents  2 years later. Or is the boy found in New Jersey really their son? A fascinating documentary with many twists and a Chicago setting.

“Cruel Summer” – Jessica Biel’s project; teen-aged cast.

“The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Mary Johnson – one of the few feature length films

“Violet” – a Justine Bateman project

“Alone Together” – a documentary about Charlie XCS

“Sound of Violence”

“The Spine of Night” – animated, with voices by Patton Oswalt and others. The last 2 are “midnight fare,” meaning scary films.

Friday, March 19th

“Late Night Girls Club” – Samantha Bee and Amber Ruffin

“Cruel Summer” Q&A”

The festival does not end until Saturday, but my husband and I are scheduled to get our second Pfizer shots on Saturday and Sunday, which is his birthday. We are making a true celebration out of it, staying at the VanZandt hotel downtown in a pricey room and dining out with the son and daughter-in-law, so no closing night film for me. Check back at WeeklyWilson.com for reviews of the above.

Page 1 of 34

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén