Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books—-her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: Of Local (Quad Cities’) Interest Page 1 of 21

“Lowland Kids” Attests to the Effects of Global Warming: World’s First Climate Change Refugees

Director Sandra Winther. (SXSW Photo).

“Lowland Kids,” a documentary short showing at SXSW directed by Sandra Winther and beautifully shot by Director of Photography Todd Martin tells the story of America’s first climate change refugees.

Brother and sister Juliette and Howard Brunet are being raised by their Uncle Chris Brunet, who is handicapped and confined to a wheelchair. The parents of the teen-agers apparently died from drug addiction, although Howard, when asked, says, “I don’t want to talk about that.”

The two siblings and their Uncle Chris live on Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana and, as Chris explains their predicament after 3 generations of living on the island, their island is losing one football field of earth every hour because of the oil and gas company building canals and due to natural disasters. The rising water is going to take over the island, the lowlands, and, as Uncle Chris says, “This is home. You really can’t get that again.”

The government has pledged to build houses to relocate the entire lowland island because, “The ground is sinking.  You’re looking at mass relocation.” When asked how they feel about moving in questions like, “What are you gonna’ miss about this place?” Chris answers “Everything, Man!” It is clear that the teen-agers feel the same way. Explains Chris, “That’s just it. It’s the simplicity.”

While the house they live in is not much, the scenery is gorgeous with beautiful sunsets and trips by boat to hunt alligators. The young people spend a lot of time driving all-terrain vehicles around the lush and isolated grounds and Howard says, “Moving off the island is gonna’ change a lot. Nobody really wants to lose their hometown.”

Howard shares that he is an aspiring football player and adds, “If you’re good at it, you shouldn’t just waste your time.” He hopes to get a college scholarship to help him go to a college or university in the future. He is shown watching a Saints/Vikings showdown on his cell phone and practicing his throwing.

Juliette shares that, “The person I respect the most is Uncle Chris…in a wheelchair and raising two teenagers.” She seems to have made her peace with the deaths of her parents, saying she doesn’t need a female role model because, “They died for a reason. To me, it’s cool.” The only hint that the loss of their biological parents really isn’t so “cool” for them comes from a family friend, Mike, who talks about her brother Howard being “in a bad way” at one point, but all of them rallying to care for the orphaned children.

The place and its loss is front and center, with gorgeous cinematography and comments like,”They say there’s not too much here. That’s the thing—it’s just implicit.”

There are so many unanswered questions in the short (approximately half an hour) documentary: What happened that confined Uncle Chris to a wheelchair? Is Uncle Chris their true, biological uncle, or is that an honorary title? What do Chris (and, for that matter, Mike) do to earn money to live?  How do the Brunets get around the lowland island and, for that matter, off the island, when the comment is made that floods frequently shut off the ability to get to the mainland? How much is the relocation of 180 to 200 families going to cost the government or the families affected? Are the oil and gas companies that Chris says are responsible in large part for this erosion going to pay for some or all of the moves that are supposed to take place by 2022?

See this one for the beautiful shots of the Watery Island lowland paradise of which Uncle Chris says, “I would like to find a place like this with good friends and family…Home, you really can’t get that again.”

H.Q. Trivia Goes “Live” in Austin at SXSW with Scott Rogowski—And You Are There!

The inimitable host of H.Q. trivia, Scott Rogowsky, hit SXSW in Austin, to conduct a first-ever “live” version of H.Q. on Sunday, March 11th at 90 Rainey Street in Austin Texas at 4:15 p.m.

An avid player, I made certain to get in to the small bar, where we were given tickets good for 2 free drinks. I nailed down a seat right in front of a large-screen TV to watch Bohannon (of Iowa) take his final shot against Nebraska which was blocked in overtime, resulting in a 93-91 loss.

Over 2,500 of us were playing, after we entered in a special “code” that was handed out on site. (You had to be there to win).

Scott Rogowski, Host of H.Q. Trivia, “live” in Austin at SXSW. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Scott Rogowski, “live” from SXSW at 4:15 p.m. on March 10, 2019. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Scott Rogowski congratulates one of the 72 winners of the $10,000 prize on March 10, 2019 at SXSW in Austin. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Scott Rogowski, host, and one (of 72) winners of the first-ever “live” game of H.Q. in Austin, Texas at SXSW on March 10 at 4:15 p.m. CDT. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

The prize money was $10,000 for answering 12 questions in 10 seconds or less, per question. Having just attained Level 7 during the season that ended on February 28th, I was feeling pretty lucky—but, then, I’ve never won (although I won The Cash Show 7 times and then they folded and never paid me my $20!)

As always, the first three questions were the easy ones.  (Q1:  Where is SXSW held? A1: Austin, Texas. Q2:  What song did Phoebe on “Friends sing to her cat? A2:  Smelly Cat. Q3:  What did the soup Nazi on “Seinfeld” yell at his customers on occasion?  A3:  “No soup for you!”

Then, things got interesting. And difficult.

Had I known there would be a question about which chef had not been a judge on a cooking show, I would have paid more attention when trapped in the nail shop in Chicago where that is all they ever have on TV. Or, I would have phoned a friend. And who knows what the MS in MSNBC stands for?

The rest were right up my alley. Q6:  What famous actress does George have a date with on “Seinfeld?” A6:  Marisa Tomei, of course.

Q7:  Which Saturday Night Live performer has amassed the longest tenure?

A7:  Kennan Thompson

Q8:  Which one of “The Office” cast members was not in its first episode, Jan, Kevin or Andy Bernard?

A8:  Andy Bernard, of course. By this time, 566 were still in the game.

Q9:  In the mid 70s which one of these acts appeared on the first “Saturday Night Live”:  Paul Simon, Billy Preston or the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band? I KNEW this was Billy Preston, but only 183 others did. (Most said Paul Simon, who got 328 votes and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band got 56.)

That one was declared a “savage” question and I temporarily forgot to write down what was asked next, but I can tell you that the final question, with 943 competitors in attendance, was: “Which of these shows did not appear on NBC: Today, Tomorrow or Late Show?” I was positive it would be the Late Show, and it was—although my 2 much younger seat mates were not in agreement.

Seventy-two winners split the prize (one is pictured with Scott Rogowski, the host) and took home $138.89 apiece.

Carry on, Garth.

Beto O’Rourke HBO Documentary “Running with Beto” World Premiere on March 9, 2019, at SXSW: Crowd Wants to Know: Is He Running for President in 2020?

(L to R) Amy, Molly and Beto O’Rourke on March 9, 2019, in Austin, Texas at the World Premiere of HBO documentary “Running with Beto.” (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Beto O’Rourke (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Running with Beto,” the HBO documentary that will air on HBO in early spring (May 28 release date), was screened at a World Premiere at the Paramount Theater in Austin this morning (March 9 at 11:30 a.m.) and a rapt crowd of supporters got to see Beto O’Rourke, his wife Amy, and their daughter Molly (as well as all those associated with the film) up-close-and-personal during a Q&A after the film.

I was seated in the third row on the right for “Running with Beto” when a large group of people began ascending the stairs that lead to stage right. The tallest of the group, hunched over so as not to block the credits then running, was Beto O’Rourke, who managed a small wave to those of us who noticed his entrance with family and campaign workers and Director David Modigliani.

All spoke to us after the film. Director David Modigliani described his goal as “wanting to capture a moment in Texas where there’s a real political re-awakening going on. It’s never too late or too early to get involved in politics.”

The crowd outside the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas, at SXSW, waiting for the World Premiere of “Running with Beto,” an upcoming HBO documentary, on March 9, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Modigliani had creative control of the film, however, saying that the 700 hours of footage they shot in nearly final draft format was cleared as his project (others wanted the job, as well) with Beto over lunch in Austin.  Beto protested, “I didn’t realize it would be THIS involved. I am very Begrateful that you did this with us.  The audience was probably wondering why Shannon Gay wasn’t the candidate.”

Shannon Gay was a particularly feisty blonde worker on the campaign (and in the film) who fought for Beto’s win to promote veterans (among other issues). She was seen crawling around on her roof to tack down a large campaign sign in a prominent spot. When asked what her reaction was to being onstage this day,  Shannon’s response was typically Shannon: “I wish I had a vodka IV,” (which got a laugh). She is shown in the documentary saying “Tough as Texas, my ass” (an allusion to Ted Cruz’s campaign slogan) and “I want so desperately to hear Beto tell Ted Cruz ‘pack your shit and get the Hell out of Dodge.’” Easy to see why Shannon’s outspoken advocacy will catch your eyes—and ears.

(L to R) Wife Amy, daughter Molly and Beto O’Rourke onstage in Austin, Texas, on March 9, 2019. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

When Amy O’Rourke (Beto’s wife) was asked her reaction to the rough draft that “David was kind enough to show us in advance,” she said her reaction was that it was “Very powerful. We knew this was their (HBO’s) film and we trusted him (Modigliani) at every turn.” She also added, to the crowd’s amusement, “The only thing I asked was ‘Could you take out some of the expletives?’” The film was separate from the campaign. It was being edited up until six months before the election.

In an Austin “American-Statesman” article that ran the day of the World Premiere (March 9th) Modigliani said, “The film is about people responding to crisis in democracy and allowing themselves to be vulnerable and allowing themselves to participate in politics in a new way.”

David Modigliani, Writer/Director of “Running with Beto.” (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Modigliani went on to say, “I felt it was brave of Beto to give us the access that he did. There is real conflict and tension and there are moments where he doesn’t always come off as a prince. It just shows the realities of the stress on the campaign trail, the realities of stress and tension within the family.  It has a realness that we were able to capture because of the access we were afforded. They were committed to running a no-BS campaign and we wanted to make a real no-BS film that captured that experience.” Modigliani, a Massachusetts native who is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas (and the director of the 2008 documentary “Crawford,” about George W. Bush’s effect on that small Texas town) added from the stage during the Q&A his suspicion going in that Beto’s campaign was going to be interesting, that O’Rourke was a total long shot, and that he was unlikely to win.

However, said, Modigliani, “I felt like there was going to be a national conversation that was going to run through the middle of this race.”

O’Rourke was asked point blank, from the audience (in the Q&A following the show), if he was going to run for President. He bobbed and weaved on that one. You can sign up to be one of the first to find out at [email protected] [Sounds like a yes, to me.]

When the turnout in Harris County in Texas increased from 26,000 to 60,172 in the last election cycle, you know something is happening at the grass roots level. The possible candidate, onstage after the film, said, “Thank you to everyone who allowed themselves to hope and to dream.  I am grateful. I was like, what can we talk about up here that will not make me cry.” (laughter) He added, commenting on the many candidates who subsequently drew inspiration from his unsuccessful attempt (and have begun campaigns of their own) that he visited every one of Texas’ 254 counties. The O’Rourke campaign brought the Democratic party alive in Texas like it had not been in over 25 years. Said Beto,“Turn hope into action.”

The Oscars and The Blizzard in Iowa on Feb. 25th, 2019

Snow Is the Name of this Weather Game

The morning after the Academy Awards. I’ve not done as much due diligence  about other people’s opinions of the Oscars this year as I will in the hours that loom sitting in airports between here (Des Moines, Iowa), where the temperature feels like zero, or 43 minutes away (by air) in St. Louis, Missouri, (or when we are back in Austin, Texas, our ultimate destination, where it is 65 degrees.) I am just feeling relieved to have made it here and hoping to make it back! As usual, I enjoyed Oscar night, and, as usual, there was an upset or two.

I did see a photo of Rami Malek, still clutching his Oscar, climbing out of what looked like an orchestra pit, with the information that he had fallen offstage after winning. (This was not televised to us out here in the Heartland but I saw it before heading off to bed about 3 a.m.). He was looked at by medical people on the scene and was fine.

How was the ceremony without a host in charge?

It seemed about the same as ever, to me. It moved smoothly with fewer SNAFUS than the year  Jimmy Kimmel hosted and the wrong film was given the Oscar for Best Picture. In that classic case of Situation Normal: All F***** Up, “La La Land” had to give the trophy back to “Moonlight,” as the critics’ groups across America triumphed over the popular will.

I was a member of a critics’ group in Chicago at the time; I voted for “La La Land.” However, “Moonlight” (Barry Jenkins, 2016) carried the day, buoyed by a great performance from Mahershala Ali. Still, “La La Land” was far and away the crowd favorite that year and deserved to win. To me, a working critic, it felt like “the fix” was in. The theme (of “Moonlight”) was “timely” and that would carry the day, even if Damien Chazelle’s musical with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone was far and away more popular, seen by many more people, just as original and high in quality, and a more “uplifting” feeling film.

Viggo Mortensen at the 2008 Chicago Film Festival.

This year, it looked, to me, as though Big Money was at play trying to land a Best Picture Oscar for “Roma” over any of the more popular competitors and “A Star Is Born” also was over- hyped with that goal. It is normal to campaign, and the idea was that Alfonso Cuaron (already lauded for both “Gravity” and “Birdman”) would be able to snag a Best Picture Oscar for a streaming network(s) for the first time ever.

I had to make my picks early in the game, prior to beginning our multi-state pilgrimage to meet up with our old friends who celebrate the Oscars with us each year. Those picks are posted on WeeklyWilson.com. You can see for yourself that I missed only  the category of Best Actress (I was surprised, like everyone else, that Glenn Close lost. Again.) Selecting Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Director (with a slight hedge there) and only missing the Best Actress category means 5 out of 6, for +83% accuracy. (Of course, on party night, we have to select all 24 categories and the accuracy percentages plummet.)

I went with my instincts, which served me well last year when I was delighted to see Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” win, but also thought “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was a strong contender and insisted on taking my husband to see it after the Chicago International Film Festival. You will remember that, while “Three Billboards” did not win Best Film, it did garner both Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell (who showed up this year with a shaved head) Academy Awards for their performances in that Coen Brothers film.

So, I disregarded the “Roma” buzz, especially after seeing the film. Let them eat cake, I said. Let it be Best Foreign Film, but don’t try to foist it on those of us wanting a real Best Picture of the Year. “Roma” is black and white and subtitled in Spanish. A maid—(who, I am told, was a real maid and not an actress when the film was shot)—-is shown cleaning a house in Mexico in the seventies. A lot of the film involves the maid cleaning and interacting with other help. If you enjoy watching scenes of that sort for a large portion of your film-going experience, by all means hit it up. There are also several scenes of the car port floor being swept. It made me remember that I should be vacuuming the entire house. (Is that a good thing?)

Film buffs applauded Alfonso Cuaron’s ability to recreate the Mexico City of the seventies and the events of his youth, but to audiences who wanted a good story they could relate to, there were only a few themes to hold onto. The universal theme of being a vulnerable pregnant woman who is abandoned, or a mother who loses her child, or a woman with a family whose husband abandons her are there, but the thread is disjointed. [The reasons why the Mistress of the house is jettisoned are never fully explored.]

There were scenes of the woman of the house having trouble driving her large behemoth of a car into a very small parking space connected to her home, and, as a condo dweller in Chicago who has to park in an extremely small parking spot (and pay $52 a month in taxes on that spot), I could relate to that, but it was not riveting cinema.

I could empathize with the young girl abandoned by her somewhat weird martial arts fanatic boyfriend, a male chauvinist pig who completely rejects her in her hour of need, but the entire film seemed like a vanity project. It would be tantamount to me taking an audience on a rather boring and uneventful day from my youth  in Independence, Iowa. If I then shot it in black-and-white and subtitled it in a language you do not speak, would you really be sucked into this story?

The backdrop of riots was compelling for the few scenes that depicted the violence, and I salute the cinematographer (et. al.) who was able to recreate those historic events, but, overall, it was not a film I would want to see win the Best Picture of the Year award. I once almost drowned in Hawaii when I swam out too far, but, since I did NOT drown, the impact of that, on film, would be pretty “meh.” (I mention this life event because of a similar life event involving the maid/nanny and her young charges.) To be fair, I have to admit that I was not a huge fan of “Birdman,” which veered between reality and floating in the air. I did not like the backdrop of the guy pounding on drums in the side room. Of Cuaron’s films, I liked “Gravity” the best, so far, because of the difficulty of recreating Sandra Bullock’s journey into space, but we saw “First Man” (Damien Chazelle) this year do a similar “man-or-woman-in-space” recreation, with more on-the-ground psychological make-up of the astronaut provided. “First Man” came away with very few plaudits for a far more complete and realistic recreation of a foray into space. Maybe it’s all about timing, as with “Moonlight’s” burning themes?

The U.K. papers were unhappy that “Roma” didn’t win, as it would have marked a “first” in having a streaming film take the Best Picture Award. That sounds more like a political statement (rather than a quality-of-the-film-statement) than a good reason for naming this peek into Alfonso Cuaron’s childhood in Mexico Best Picture of the Year.

The other film that threw a lot of dough-re-mi at the Oscars and came up relatively short was “A Star Is Born.” It did win Best Song of the Year (for “Shallows”) and deservedly so, but the Best Actor, Actress, Director and Picture awards did not materialize.  Cynthia (my Chicago hairdresser) and I did not find the chemistry between the stars that dynamic in this one. We both agreed that it was a revelation that Bradley Cooper really can sing; he proved it once again onstage at this year’s Oscars. I saw “A Star Is Born” at the Icon Theater on Roosevelt Road. I admit my opinion of the film was negatively impacted by the volume. It was so loud I feared my ears would bleed. On the “story” front, however, “A Star Is Born” has been done about 5 times and the ending is telegraphed from a million miles away.

This year’s Annual Oscar Party went off without a hitch because we ditched plans to drive 3 and 1/2 hours from Chicago to the Quad Cities and then, a day or so later, to drive another 3 miles from I-80 to Des Moines from the Quad Cities. Here is why we flew directly from Austin to Des Moines: a weekend blizzard brought much of Iowa to a halt. Des Moines broke its record of snowiest February with 24.1 inches of snow. The old record was 22.7 inches set in February of 2008. Winds of up to 50 mph created drifts and white-outs across much of the state and I-35 saw some of the worst of it, with the road closing from Ames to Minnesota on Sunday morning. Between 9 pm. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. Sunday (Oscar day) more than 100 cars ended up in the ditch between Des Moines and Ames and Iowa State Patrol spokesman Nathan Ludwig said they had assisted 390 motorists and responded to 90 crashes between 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 6:30 p.m. on Sunday. A number of state patrol cars were hit by cars traveling too fast and a firetruck was struck on Sunday morning between Ames and Des Moines.

Keith Morgan, Storm County’s emergency management coordinator, said, “Visibility is so poor in open areas that our snow plow drivers can barely see the front of their plows, making plowing conditions very risky.” A State of Emergency was declared in Wright County on Sunday afternoon (Oscar day) due to blowing and drifting snow. More than 18 people stranded in their vehicles were rescued in the county before 11 a.m. on Sunday (Oscar day). The temperature outside right now, given the wind chill factor, is zero.

The Iowa Department of Transportation warned against traveling on roads north or west of Des Moines through Monday as “conditions can be life-threatening.” Near Fairbank, Iowa, my father’s hometown, a woman on her way to Oelwein and Des Moines to deliver her baby had to be rescued when her vehicle slammed into a snowbank.

Oscar Winners On Feb. 24th are “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Roma” and “Black Panther”

The Green Book with Viggo Mortensen and Mahershali Ali

This year, because we were going to be traveling, I was forced to make my Oscar predictions much further in advance than any other year. I tried going with my gut instinct and not playing the “odds.” I also did not want to do any “research” because the other 3 people in our long-time Oscar party already would cry foul about competing with a film critic in our small foursome of Oscar predicting.

The big upset tonight was that Glenn Close did not win the Oscar for Best Actress. This means that she has been nominated 8 times and is winless. She may have to go for 19 nominations like Susan Lucci.

Chadwick Boseman of “Black Panther”

I honestly thought that Glenn Close would garner the award, but Olivia Coleman from “The Favourite” gave an absolutely charming impromptu speech (see notes below).

From the informal tally I kept, “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the most, with 4-–although we all seem to have drifted off when Michael Keaton came out and announced the Best Editing award. I’m pretty sure it went to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which means it won for Best Actor (Rami Malek),Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Production Design.

The “Roma” film—[black-and-white, Spanish subtitles, about a pregnant Mexican maid who cleans houses]—won 3: Best Director, Best Foreign Film and Best Cinematography. Also winning multiple Oscars was Black Panther, which won for Costume Design and Production Design.

The Big Surprise of the night, as mentioned above, was Glenn Close NOT winning. She had on a gold dress designed with 4 million gold beads that weighed 42 pounds, but still she did not win. I can relate; I wore a gold-beaded dress to my son’s wedding and it was the heaviest dress ever.

Queen, with Adam Lambert performed at the Oscars tonight. This is from a Chicago appearance of Queen that I attended.

I really had hoped that Spike Lee would be given the Best Director Oscar, but, otherwise, the Best Picture choice was fine by me. I had taken my husband to see it, saying that I thought it would do well. Last year, the film I went to with him prior to the awards was “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” so my hunches regarding movies that come on strong at the end have been spot on.

I was soundly drubbed by my spouse, as usual, however. We make him perform “the chicken dance” when he trounces us and I have posted one such dance.

16 of 24 is pretty good: 66 and 2/3 %!  (I was about 50% and most in our party of 5 got only 9 to 12 right.)

I am glad that “Green Book” won. It is too bad that Glenn Close didn’t “win” but, since Olivia Coleman is going to be in Austin at SXSW soon with a new film, that will be neat. I had predicted that Rami Malek would take home Best Actor and that Regina King would win Best Supporting Actress and Maharisha Ali would win for Best Supporting Actor.

I had voted my heart in hoping that “First Reformed’s” script might win for the 72-year-old screenwriter (Paul Schrader), who gave us both “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull,” and my vote for Spike Lee was “hedged” in print, as I knew Alfonso Cuaron was the favorite, but I hoped in my heart of hearts that Spike would prevail. (The Best Adapted Screenplay Award did go to “BlackKKlansman.”

So, it’s another one for the books as we head into the films of 2019.

Supporting Actress – Regina King in “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Documentary Feature – Free Solo

Make-Up and Hairstyling – Vice

Costume Design – Black Panther

Production Design – Black Panther

Best Sound Editing – Bohemian Rhapsody

Best Foreign Film – Roma

Best Supporting Actor – Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”)

Best Cinematography – “Roma”

Best Editing – Bohemian Rhapsody

Best Animated Short – Bao

Best Documentary Short Subject – Period. End of Sentence.

Best Short Action – Skin

Original Screenplay – Green Book

Best Adapted Screenplay – BlackKKlansman

Best Original Score – Black Panther

Best Song – The Shallows

Best Actor (Lead) – Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)

Best Actress (Lead) – Olivia Coleman (The Favourites) “This is quite stressful. This is hilarious. This is not gonna’ happen again. Any little girl who’s practicing her skills at home, don’t stop; you never know.” Olivia thanked her husband (shot of her husband) and said, “He’s gonna’ cry.”

Best Director – Alfonso Cuaron (for “Roma”)

Beto O’Rourke Speaks Out

Beto O’Rourke photo from his Facebook page.

Beto O’Rourke reached out via an e-mail and, since I’ll be traveling for the Oscar weekend, I’m going to break it up into smaller sections and share it with those of you who have, perhaps, not received it. I probably received it because I contributed to his campaign against Ted Cruz; I am in Texas. We are likely to hear a lot more about Beto O’Rourke, I think, so hear him out, in smaller segments. Thanks!

Connie:

The President came to El Paso last week.  He promised a wall and repeated his lies about the dangers that immigrants pose.  With El Paso as the backdrop, he claimed that this city of immigrants was dangerous before a border fence was built here in 2008. (*Untrue, El Paso was named the nation’s 2nd safest city after San Jose, California in one poll).

El Paso was one of the safest communities in the United States before the fence was built here. The president said the wall saves lives. In fact, walls push desperate families to cross in ever more hostile terrain, insuring greater suffering and more deaths.  He spoke about immigrants and crime, when immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than Americans born here. It’s worth thinking about how we got to this place.

How did it come to be that 11 million undocumented immigrants call America home? How did we come to militarize our border?  How did we arrive at such a disconnect between our ideals, our values, the reality of our lives, and the policies and political rhetoric that govern immigration and border security?

I’ve come to the conclusion that the challenges we face are largely of our own design—a function of the unintended consequences of immigration policy and the rhetoric we’ve used to describe immigrants and the border.  At almost every step of modern immigration policy and immigration politics, we have exacerbated underlying problems and made things worse.  Sometimes with the best of intentions, sometimes with the most cynical exploitation of nativism and fear.

Much of the history of immigration policy, and the source for the data that I’m using, is powerfully summarized in a report entitled “Unintended Consequences of U.S. Immigration Policy:  Explaining the Post-1965 Surge from Latin America,” by Douglas S. Massey and Karen A. Pren.

In 1965, the United States ended the bracero farm-worker program, in part because of the sub-standard wages and conditions in which these Mexican workers labored.  And yet, after decades of employing this labor, with our economy dependent on the laborers and the laborers dependent on access to the U.S. job market, the system of low-cost Mexican labor didn’t go away.  Many of the same Mexican nationals returned to the U.S., returned to the same back-breaking jobs, only now they were undocumented.  Ironically, despite the intent of the 1965 law ending the program, they enjoyed fewer protections and wage guarantees in the shadows as they continued to play a fundamental role in our economy.

As this same population converted from being documented to undocumented, a wave of scary metaphors was employed to gin up anxiety and paranoia and the political will to employ ever more repressive policies to deter their entry.  It was good for politicians and newspapers, but terrible for immigrants and immigration policy.  Thus began the “Latino threat” narrative.

As Massey and Pren wrote:

“The most common negative framing depicted immigration as a ‘crisis’ for the nation.  Initially, marine metaphors were used to dramatize the crisis, with Latino immigration being labeled a ‘rising tide’ or a ‘tidal wave’ that was poised to ‘inundate’ the United States and ‘drown’ its culture while ‘flooding’ American society with unwanted foreigners (Santa Ana 2002).  Over time, marine metaphors increasingly gave way to martial metaphors, with illegal immigration being depicted as an ‘invasion’ in which ‘outgunned’ Border Patrol agents sought to ‘hold the lin’ in a vain attempt to ‘defend’ the border against ‘attacks’ from ‘alien invaders’ who launched ‘banzai charges’ to overwhelm American defenses.” (Nevins 2001; Chavez 2008).

The fear stoked by politicians produced the intended paranoia and political constituency demanding ever tougher immigration measures.  The result of this was not to stop undocumented immigration.

Instead, it caused the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States to grow.
(Beto O’Rourke’s words continued tomorrow)

Oscar Predictions for February 24, 2019 Academy Awards

2019 Oscar Predictions

My Oscar Predictions for February 24, 2019, have to be put up early, so I can start the trek back to the Midwest for our Annual Oscar Party with friends.

Meanwhile, I’ve had 2 requests from wannabe bloggers to guest post.  I asked each of them to prepare a “Predicting the Oscars” piece by today. I have neither Oscar Prediction piece by deadline, so I will give you mine, just prior to our trip back to the frozen wasteland of Des Moines, Iowa, from Austin, Texas.

(Pictures from IMDB)

Viggo Mortensen and Linda Cardellini in Green Book (2018) Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in Green Book (2018) Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in Green Book (2018) Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in Green Book (2018) Peter Farrelly in Green Book (2018) Viggo Mortensen in Green Book (2018)

BEST PICTURE

I think the Best Picture will be “Green Book.”

The nominees are:“Black Panther”

“BlackKKlansman”

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

“The Favourite”

“Green Book”

“Roma”

“A Star Is Born”

“Vice”

I have seen all of the nominated films and my top favorites would be “BlackKKlansman” and “Green Book,” with “Bohemian Rhapsody” in third place. I thought the hype for “Roma” and “A Star Is Born” (and, for a while, for “Black Panther”) was Big Studio money talking.  I am glad that it isn’t looking like big money will win out, this time.

As for “Vice,” as I said in my review on WeeklyWilson.com, it lacked focus. And “haters gonna’ hate” so the GOP members won’t like it much.

BEST ACTOR (MALE)

Joel Edgerton and Rami Malek in The Late Late Show with James Corden (2015) Rami Malek and Gwilym Lee in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Joseph Mazzello and Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Joseph Mazzello, Rami Malek, and Gwilym Lee in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Joseph Mazzello, Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, and Ben Hardy in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Rami Malek with Joel Edgerton on James Corden’s Talk Show;IMDB “Bohemian Rhapsody” shots.

I think Rami Malek will win.

For some reason that I cannot explain, neither the much-nominated Viggo Mortensen (3 nominations, including “Eastern Promises,” “Captain Fantastic” and this one) or Willem Dafoe (4 nominations for Oscars, but his first for the lead) ever prevail. Willem Dafoe’s previous Supporting Actor nominations were for “Platoon” in 1987; “Shadow of the Vampire” in 2001; “The Florida Project” in 2017; and this year for “At Eternity’s Gate.”)

I actually saw all four of Dafoe’s nominated films (and all 3 of Viggo’s) and can point to fantastic work with roles in  films like “To Live and Die in L.A.” (as the counterfeiter) to bolster my impression that they are reliable actors who always turn in good work. “The Florida Project” was a very low budget film where Dafoe played a landlord managing a run-down motel complex in Florida. It was an odd project, but so was this year’s “At Eternity’s Gate.” If you needed any further convincing that Willem Dafoe is a worthy nominee, think about the fact that he and the film’s director Julian Schnabel (“At Eternity’s Gate”) were responsible for all the knock-offs of Van Gogh paintings used in the film (about Van Gogh’s life). It was a truly unusual film; at various points, the screen would simply go black. [The director of “The Bell Jar,” Julian Schnabel, strikes again].

I can’t imagine why Viggo and Willem, with 7 Oscar nominations between them, are always the groomsmen and never the groom. I think Rami is going to beat out Bradley Cooper (“A Star Is Born”), Willem, Viggo, and Christian Bale in “Vice” (even though Christian Bale took home one of the prestigious awards, saying, as he did so, that he looked to Satan for inspiration in playing Dick Cheney in the George W. Bush administration bio-pic helmed by Adam McKay).

BEST ACTRESS (FEMALE)

Image result for glenn close recent photos
Image result for glenn close recent photos
Glenn Close at the SAG Awards winning Best Actress.

Nominees are Yalitza Aparicio in “Roma;” Glenn Close in “The Wife;” Olivia Colman in “The Favourite;” Lady Gaga in “A Star Is Born;” and Melissa McCarthy in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

First of all, WHY would the Academy think it “fitting” to give such a prestigious award to an actress in her very first outing as a leading lady? That reference applies to Yalitza Aparicio, (who isn’t even an actress, usually), and Lady Gaga. Then we have “The Favourite,” in which Olivia Colman plays the Queen, and my own personal favorite, Melissa McCarthy in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” I truly enjoyed McCarthy’s dramatic turn, but Glenn Close has been nominated 7 times.

If there ever was a sure thing this year, Glenn Close is it.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (MALE)

Image result for Mahershala Ali pictures
Image result for Mahershala Ali pictures
Mahershala Ali’s Oscar for Moonlight (IMDB).

Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”

Adam Driver, “BlackKKlansman”

Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”

Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Sam Rockwell, “Vice”

Mahershala Ali should nail this down for “The Green Book.” He’s already won almost all of the awards from other groups and he is doing some great work in “True Detective” on television right now. Again, I don’t know enough about the concerns of the family of the pianist whom Ali portrays to say that he is not represented properly onscreen, but even if “Green Book” is a work of semi-fiction, it was a heart-warming audience favorite in both Toronto and Chicago. It was the only film I took my husband to, after the Chicago International Film Festival was over, telling him I thought he’d probably want to take it in before Awards season began. The year prior (2017) that distinction went to “Three  Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and that turned out to be a dark horse late in the game.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams, “Vice”

Marina de Tavira, “Roma”

Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Emma Stone, “The Favourite”

Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

I would like to see Amy Adams win, but I think Regina King will emerge victorious.

Why?

With 800 new members recently inducted into the Academy, many of them minorities or women, it is time.

 Amy Adams may join the ranks of Viggo and Willem as “Most Likely to Be the Bridesmaid but Never the Bride.” Amy has been nominated with great frequency (6 times), beginning in 2005 with “Junebug,” for Best Supporting Actress (the only nomination for her that I have not seen). She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress again, in 2008, for “Doubt,” and again in “The Fighter” in 2010 and again for “The Master” in 2013 and again in “American Hustle” in 2014 and now, this year, her sixth nomination for an Oscar. All but “American Hustle” were in the category she is nominated in this year, Best Supporting Actress.

The nomination of both actresses from “The Favourite” will split that vote. I honestly don’t think non-actresses in a black-and-white film chronicling Alfonso Cuaron’s childhood days in Mexico deserve to be nominated in their first outing. We watched it on Amazon; underwhelming. Lots of money spent promoting this one. Much ado about nothing, for me, but I wasn’t that keen on Cuaron’s “Birdman,” either. (“Gravity” was better.)

BEST DIRECTOR

Image result for Spike Lee pictures recent
Spike Lee, (IMDB image)

Spike Lee, “BlackKKlansman”

Pawel Pawilkowski, “Cold War”

Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”

Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”

Adam McKay, “Vice”

I keep being told  how much I should like the black-and-white “Roma.” I have not been a huge fan of Cuaron’s other films. I found the drumming in “Birdman” annoying, while others hailed it as brilliant.

You can pretty much eliminate Pawel Pawilkowski (which you’ll all have to see on television on Amazon or Netflix, probably, as I did “Roma”) and, while I did enjoy “The Lobster” by Yorgos Lanthimos” and thought his work on “The Favourite” was impressive, I think it is time for Spike Lee to win, don’t you? It’s been THIRTY YEARS, people, since “Do the Right Thing.” So, do the right thing.

If I were working with my students in class to help them “win” a predicting contest, this is one where I would tell them to “wheel the horses.” That is, fill out ballots with Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”) and Spike Lee as their Director picks. I think it is between those two men, and I, personally, think Spike really deserves it for his entire body of work and for this film, in particular. It was easily one of my very favorite films of the year and we all got to see Denzel’s son, John David Washington, break out.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

“Capernaum” (Lebanon)

“Cold War” (Poland)

“Never Look Away” (Germany)

“Roma” (Mexico)

“Shoplifters” (Japan)

Let Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” win for Best Foreign Language Film.

OTHER CATEGORIES

As for the other categories, I’m thinking that “Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse” has the best current “buzz,” but Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” may have the director’s name recognition on his side. (It premiered at SXSW last year).

I, personally, liked “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” enough to award it a best adapted screenplay award, but James Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk” adapted by Barry Jenkins might be difficult to beat.

For an original screenplay, many old-timers like the idea of giving it to Paul Schrader for “First Reformed,” after his long career of excellent work (“Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull.”) But there are other good original screenplays in this category, including “The Favourite” (Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara;) “Green Book” with Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and Petr Farrelly, “Roma” with Alfonso Cuaron; and “Vice” with Adam McKay.

The latest word is that the Oscars will have NO host and that awards such as Cinematography and Editing will be given off-screen during the commercials. Not a fan of that idea. The other sure thing this night will be Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” (with Mark Ronson and Anthony Rossomando) will be Best Song. (The question mark, right now, is whether Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga will duet on it onstage.)

QUESTIONS

Why were there only THREE nominations for Make-up and Hair? (“Border,” “Mary Queen of Scots,” and “Vice”). Why wasn’t “The Favourite” nominated, as well?

As far as acting nominations that were overlooked, Timothee Chalamet (“Beautiful Boy”) and Lukas Hedges (“Boy Erased” and “Ben Is Back”) were robbed of rightful nominations. I also thought Charlize Theron (“Tully”) and Toni Collette (“Hereditary”) and Emily Blunt in “A Quiet Place” did work that was Oscar-worthy and should have potentially been nominated.

My own “don’t miss them” list for movies of this year, [for films that were entertaining and should have done better at awards time] would include “First Man” with Ryan Gosling; “The Front Runner” with Hugh Jackman; and “A Quiet Place,” with an acting nomination for Emily Blunt.

Promotion of Volume 2 of “Obama’s Odyssey”: Today and Tomorrow

As usual whenever I plan a promotion, nothing is going “right.”

First, the website (ConnieCWilson.com) crashed, after I had pointed out to my computer assistant that there were several framed squares with nothing in them. She says it can’t be fixed until she can talk to GoDaddy. That will most likely not be before Tuesday.  The sale ends on Presidents’ Day, Monday, February 18th, for the paperback version. The e-book version is on sale only on Feb. 17, today (Sunday). So much for having a helpful buy button set up for the promotion on my author site. (Sigh).

Secondly, Kindle, for some reason I do not understand, said the price of the paperback could only be reduced to $7.17. Besides being just a really weird amount, I don’t understand why that is the case, but there you have it. It’s still a reduction of over 50%, but the original plan to reduce your cost to $4.95 (from $14.99) has also crashed and burned.

The only thing that remains the same in this promotion (as far as I can tell now at 1 a.m. on Sunday morning) is that the e-book is on SALE for ONE DAY ONLY, $1.99.

I beg you to post a review for one or both of the books in this promotion. This can be as simple as clicking on the number of stars for the book(s). Without reviews, none of us can survive.  It doesn’t have to be a huge promotion on your part; a click will do.

Thank you, and I apologize for the above things regarding the Presidents’ Day promotion, which are beyond my control.Pr

“Obama’s Odyssey” (Vol. 2) ON SALE for $1.99 Tomorrow (2/17); Paperback $4.95 on 2/17 & 2/18

“Obama’s Odyssey” (Vol. 2) (Convention to Inauguration) with 61 photographs from the field that have appeared nowhere else will be ON SALE in honor of Presidents’ Day, February 18th. The sale will commence on Feb. 17 (e-book) and continue through Feb. 18 for the paperback version. Both books are significantly reduced in price, from 66 and 2/3% for the paperback to -40% for the e-book. Prices will return to normal on Feb. 19th, as I return to my Texas lair and try to stop shaking my head at the comments being made in Munich, Germany and elsewhere by members of the current administration.

The e-book version of “Obama’s Odyssey” (Vol. 2) will be on sale ONLY February 17th for $1.99. (Normally, it is $3 more). The paperback will be on sale for TWO DAYS, February 17 and February 18 for a 2/3 reduction, from $14.99 (normal price) to $4.95. 

This is me, missing President Obama while dealing with the rambling, incoherent announcement yesterday from the current occupant of the White House regarding his “national emergency.” (The “pronouncement” was so rambling and unfocused and unintelligible that CBS cut away from the unfocused rambling after 25 minutes.)

I’m here in Texas (Austin). While most Texas representatives have fallen in line behind DJT, here is the pronouncement from our representative Chip Roy (R) who said (and I quote):  “With this authoritarian power grab, Trump would divert resources from real security challenges elsewhere to his politically-contrived, on-crisis on the Rio Grande.  I am a sponsor of a privileged resolution to stop him.  If his routine Republican enablers refuse to join us in standing up for the Constitution, we will promptly seek judicial relief.  What we clearly don’t need is a multi-billion dollar waste in pursuit of his anti-immigrant hysteria.”

 

Bombshell Andrew McCabe “60 Minutes” Interview Runs (Feb. 17)

Andrew McCabe
Andrew McCabe official portrait.jpg
16th Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

(Wikipedia image)

Former Acting FBI director Andrew McCabe of the FBI, regarding a “Sixty Minutes” interview to be aired on February 17th: “I wrote memos about my interactions with President Trump for the same reason that Comey did: to have contemporaneous records of talks with a person who cannot be trusted.”

 McCabe called for an obstruction of justice investigation in advance of Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation. The violation of the president’s oath of office and his abuse of power, was under discussion by CNN talking heads at noon on Valentine’s Day. The concern level regarding Trump’s loyalty to the nation amongst career FBI officials was so high that they were discussing which Cabinet members might support a movement to remove the president from office using the 25th amendment, says McCabe. Legal experts within the department were approached more than once.

WEARING A WIRE

The fact that Rod Rosenstein was approached to wear a wire in conversations with the President is confirmed by Andrew McCabe. Andrew McCabe says he  did not consider Rosenstein’s proposal “joking around.” The top intelligence officials of the United States government, with resources above and beyond the average citizen, saw enough evidence of potential collusion with the Russians and enough wrongdoing on Trump’s part during the election that the very top officials (McCabe, Comey) were trying to right the ship of state and sound the alarm early in the game. (* Paul Revere:”One if by land and two if by sea moment…”)

NEW ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR

The Mueller Investigation is nearing completion, but, with the confirmation of William Barr (which seems to be a foregone conclusion and is happening now in the halls of the Congress and Senate), will Barr attempt to hush up the Mueller findings to “protect” the president? Barr’s pre-hearing writings indicate that he would not move against a sitting president; it is clear that this is Barr’s chief virtue in Trump’s mind for selecting him, following temporary Acting Attorney General Matthew Whittaker.

Matthew Whitaker
Matthew G. Whitaker official photo.jpg
Acting United States Attorney General
In office
November 7, 2018 – February 14, 2019

(Wikipedia image of Matthew Whittaker)

ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL MATTHEW WHITTAKER

Whittaker was unqualified for the job  and turned out to be a very uncooperative Senate testifier during recent hearings (with only 6 days remaining in his temporary term). Like so many Trump appointees, Whittaker got the job temporarily not because of what he knew, but because of who he knew. In this case, Whittaker was previous Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ sidekick, but had, himself, been accused of defrauding veterans while involved with an Iowa concern and served only a few years in the southern district of Iowa in a position that would even remotely qualify him for the top judicial spot in the nation. [But nevermind about calamitous Cabinet appointees or we will have to discuss Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education and the policy of poor picks will take over this piece.]

FROM TED DEUTCH of the JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

“What we ought to really focus on is that there  enough concern about the president’s actions and behavior that this even came up. We knew that the Republicans saw their role as defending the president above anything, above their duty to defend the Constitution. Now we know what they were defending from.”

The statement above from Representative Ted Deutch of the Judiciary Committee also included the response that he didn’t know that Bill Barr, (who appears to be headed towards confirmation as Attorney General), is now bringing his son-in-law along with him to the Attorney General’s office. Said Deutch: “I didn’t know it was a two-fer.”

Andrew McCabe, Deputy Director of the FBI who was fired just days before his retirement, said, in the interview that will be aired on Sunday, February 17th, that the idea that Rod Rosenstein should perhaps wear a wire to talk to Trump was NOT “sarcasm,” (although some have dismissed it as such.) He said that the concern was high enough that legal experts were approached on more than one occasion about steps that should be taken; legal sources were consulted on more than one occasion.

ANDREW MCCABE

McCabe was ultimately fired from the FBI, days before his retirement eligibility.  His offense was that he leaked to the press and then denied it under oath. The consensus amongst the three-member panel discussing the upcoming “60 Minutes” interview was that Andrew McCabe’s impeccable record as a public servant over decades offset the  minor offense used to remove him from the FBI and that McCabe’s warnings should be taken seriously. McCabe quote: “I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia probe on absolutely solid ground that were I removed the case could not vanish in the night, that if I were removed there would be a documentary record that those investigations had begun.” “Sixty Minutes interviewer recaps: “Because you feared that the investigation would be made to go away?” McCabe’s response: “That’s right.”

Will the Trump supporters, (one of whom told me yesterday that he would “ride the Trump Train to hell,”) consider the implications of the former head of the FBI saying how concerned they were (and are) that Trump was (and is) a traitor and change their minds? [*Is there no amount of evidence that will convince them that the man has conned his way into the White House? Have they drunk not just a glass of Jim Jones’ Kool Ade, but the entire pitcher?]

The Trump people will try to discredit this public servant. He is selling a book now. He was mistreated, first, by being fired just days shy of his pension eligibility. Naysayers will see dumping on McCabe as an attempt to stifle the free press, (since McCabe was accused of leaking to journalists). [James Comey has experienced how a person who lies 8,500 times in his first 2 years in office then points to truthful others and claims THEY are the liars; it’s the old “The best defense is a strong offense.”] Will Trump’s base accept this judgment from the top? [*I rode the Edwards Express until his true colors showed. Why can’t Trump supporters do the necessary analysis to see that their own trust has been misplaced? Learn to admit it when you are wrong and move on.]

James Gagliano, a retired FBI Supervisory Agent, said, in regards to McCabe (whom he knows personally to be an honorable public servant) that not telling the truth about leaking to the press under oath was incorrect, but that the FBI is supposed to defend the United States against foreign interference including situations where a fictional “Manchurian Candidate” becomes fact.

Gagliano says that there may have been panic on the 7th floor of the FBI headquarters (I’ve been there, by the way). Career justice department people panicked at the very thought of Donald J. Trump with the power of the presidency. “You have to be the calm in the chaos,” says Gagliano. He questioned whether McCabe was being calm amidst the chaos. The talking heads say that McCabe saw a five-alarm fire where the President of the United States was involved with Russians in an inappropriate way. (The five-alarm fire may have just escalated to a six or seven-alarm fire).

IN OTHER BREAKING NEWS

1) Paul Mananfort is declared to have lied while supposedly cooperating with the Mueller investigation. (“You’re burnt!”)

2) Dianne Feinstein says Joe Biden is going to for President.

3) Trump is leaving everyone hanging on whether he will sign the funding bill to avert a shutdown. The news from that front goes back and forth. Fox News host Laura Ingraham is dictating Trump’s actions, as per usual, by suggesting that he NOT sign the compromise bill that others have worked on for weeks.

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