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: Pop Culture (Page 1 of 36)

ssuu.com/shelfunbound/docs/shelf_unbound_april-may_2018

“Shelf Unbound” magazine has named THE COLOR OF EVIL boxed set to its list of the BEST INDIE E-BOOKS of 2017. (p. 44).

All 3 books are currently touring as a boxed set in e-book formatbut the  also are available in paperback and audio book.

 

Type in The Color of Evil by Connie Corcoran Wilson to go to the Amazon ordering site for the 753 pages that comprise “The Color of Evil” (Book 1), “Red Is for Rage” (Book 2) and “Khaki = Killer” (Book 3).

In the Notes from the Author section on page 44 of “Shelf Unbound,” Connie mentions that the inspiration for the series came from a short story that appeared, originally in Volume I of her short story series “Hellfire & Damnation” (Books 1, 2 & 3).

For trailers and reviews of each of these series go to www.TheColorOfEvil.com and www.HellfireAndDamnationTheBook.com. Enjoy!

The Impact of “Black Panther” in Film and Society

                                      Guest post by Zayin Allen

(A La Siskel & Ebert here….)

Marvel’s Black Panther is historic and iconic all at the same time. The film has brought in nothing but positive reviews, and the conversation concerning the film’s importance has been further increased by positive social media. This  happened even before the film was  released. (*Generally, this means that the P.R. machine of the studio was working in high gear and working well.)

Under the expert direction of Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed), this film is more than a superhero blockbuster; it has become a movement all its own. Director Coogler deserves kudos for touching on some tough topics, like the incarceration of people of color and the gentrification of their neighborhoods.

The film acknowledges everything from the traditions of African societies to debatable topics pertaining to the African American community. (*Connie wonders what the ‘debatable topics’ might be, since she has not yet seen the film. Debatable by whom? Who is debating what?Black Panther is a film filled to the brim with power and extolling the beauty of black women who aren’t pushed to the side but are a key element to the nation of Wakanda.

The all-female protection squad, Dora Milaje, make their power known through their chant  “WAKANDA FOREVER,” followed by the strong and culturally iconic X emblazoned across their chests.

Tennis player Sachia Vickery crosses arms on chest in celebration of victory (L). US athlete Tommie Smith raising his fist in protest at the 1968 Summer Olympics (R)

All in all, Wakanda, which is an eyegasm (*Connie says: W-H-A-A-T?)  for audiences, isn’t the same film for white viewers as the film black viewers see. Seeing modern day African American kings and queen gives  African Americans in this country a certain measure of  cultural comfort. (*I wonder if that is a true statement with Jeff ‘Beauregard’ Sessions as our Attorney General and Donald Trump as Agent Orange, but let’s not get off on politics here. CW)

Africa has often been viewed as  an eye sore, especially in the American media (*or when Donald Trump trashes the entire continent, actually referring to it as “a s—hole.”). Past generations viewed the second largest continent in the world as chaotic, impoverished, and savage. (*Probably past and present. Who knows about the future?) Today’s generation will envision Wakanda when asked about their perception of Africa.

(*Connie says she doubts this, because there are plenty of other films about Africa that are not as glowingly positive about this FICTIONAL country in this particular film. It’s like saying that we should all move to the country where “Wonder Woman” was shot, if we are female. Welllll, there IS no such country, is there, now?  I think the film will be good, but I don’t think I’ll regard it as a travelogue look at the REAL Africa. Especially not after I watched that horrible 2016 turkey “93 Days” that Danny Glover was in (Chicago Film Festival offering) about the Ebola virus in Africa. You can only watch so many people bleeding to death onscreen before you say, “Uh….book me to a different country/nation/continent, Ma’am.”) 

Black Panther  offers a positive look at the African American experience. (*Except that it’s not a real country and that might make it a bit dubious. It’s like saying: ‘Avatar offers a positive look at Jupiter.’ (or wherever that was supposed to have been in the sci-fi film by James Cameron. Total fiction, in other words. But I digress and this isn’t  Zayin. This is a bit like Siskel & Ebert here. Old vs young? Marvel Comics fan versus really good movie fan? Something like that. I’d also point out that Black Panther’s “rating” on IMDB is 7.8; “A Quiet Place,” which has not opened wide yet, is 8.4 and rising.)

Black Panther has been doing so well at the box office for the simple reason that it is different. (*Connie says it is also because of its terrific cast, but....) The film offers a powerful image of the culture. It’s what’s behind the shine of Wakanda; it’s what is behind the message of Killmonger. It’s what is behind T’Challa’s 16- year old genius Shuri, whose intellect surpasses Tony Stark aka Iron Man.

(*Connie was not impressed with Iron Man’s intellect after film #1 and is glad to hear that the great actor Robert Downey, Jr., might quit being Iron Man after one more film and go back to actually good roles. First one was fun. Others? Not so much.)

These messages and visuals  on the screen are what make Black Panther a successful film.  (*Again: many reasons why it is a successful film, including a good script, good cinematography, good acting, good directing, etc., but okay.) It’s a film where African Americans can step outside hatred and judgment and be unapologetically black.

(*O…..K….Connie will review the film, no doubt positively, at a later date and, no doubt, differently than Zayin. I thought Chadwick Boseman should have gotten an Oscar nomination for “Get On Up” (which, by the way, Mick Jagger produced/financed) but Boseman didn’t, because the studio released it at a really stupid time of the year. Boseman was also very, very nice when in Chicago at the Premiere of “Marshall” and If I have a picture of him there, I will use it when I am done here.

Chadwick Boseman at the Premiere of “Marshall” in Chicago. (Photo by Connie Wilson)

Avengers Infinity War Anticipation: Will It Live Up to the Hype ?

Guest Review by Zayin Allen

Coming off the hype of “Black Panther,” the top-grossing super hero movie of all time, Marvel Studios has a hard act to follow. “Black Panther” offered both a step forward for the culture and a much needed change within the superhero genre. “Black Panther”  changed the momentum of the Marvel Universe. A different villain who was right, is, in a sense, a different hero, going in a different direction.

“Avengers Infinity Wars” will have to change its dynamic altogether. As much as I hate to say it, Marvel has the superhero movie genre locked down right now. DC needs to be better coming off its recent flop.

The problem with Marvel was the villain, but “Black Panther” succeeded where the last 12 MCU films failed. This means the highly anticipated arrival of a villain who can tie together all MCU films has to be great.

*cue Thanos*

Josh Brolin will be reprising the role, having previously voiced the Mad Titan. Although his stature and demeanor are menacing, his true power has yet to be unveiled. His goal is to collect the Infinity Stone and take over the universe. We last saw him in the post credit scene of Guardians 2 proclaiming after many failed attempts he would get them himself.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has offered  fans at least three of the five Infinity Stones. The Space Stone ( Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers), The Reality Stone (Thor: The Dark World) The Power Orb (from Guardians of the Galaxy) and The Time Stone( Doctor Strange).

The last remaining stone The Soul Stone has yet to be revealed in the MCU. More than likely in ” The Avengers: Infinity Wars”, at which point Thanos will either collect or know the whereabouts of the stones and use them for the Infinity Gauntlet, which will grant him unforeseeable power. Each individual stone has great power on their own, but with all of them together, that represents  the call of action for all seen and hopefully unseen heroes in the MCU.

The proper formula for a superhero movie calls for a good villain, a sacrifice, and a triumphant return. (Hence, “Dark Knight,” “Black Panther,” “Alien”, and what should have been “Justice League”).

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige himself said that Thanos, within the first five minutes of “Infinity Wars” will prove why he’s a sinister and destructive force. Both Chris Evans (Captain America) and Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) hinted that the fourth “Avengers film” would be their last. [*To which this old person says, ‘We can only hope and pray.'”]

Someone is going to go out in a devastating way in “Avengers: Infinity Wars” but who and how is why seats will be filled April 26th.

(The review opinions above are from Zayin Allen, a college student in Delaware, who is enthusiastic about these movies. May I simply say: JUST SHOOT ME NOW if I have to watch any of these movies,— with the possible exception of “Black Panther.”)

Two Documentaries at SXSW On Professional Athletes & Retirement

Scottish bicyclist tries to qualify for the Tour de France after a 2-year ban, at age 37.

Two documentaries showing at SXSW deal with the difficulty of being an athlete and hanging it up (i.e., retiring). Those two are “Time Trial” by Finlay Pretsel of Scotland and “Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes,” directed by Robert S. Bader. Cavett is 81 now and traveled to Austin with the documentary.

Scottish director Pretsel shot  film of Scottish bicyclist David Millar’s final attempt to qualify for the Tour de France after a 2-year suspension for doping. It was shot, colorfully, from the point-of-view of the cyclist. We learn that Millar got his first road bike at 15 and, while he only wanted one win at the Tour, he has competed there 12 times.

Robert Bader, director of “Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes.

Millar won in 2003, but was later shown to have used drugs. He was banned for 2 years for using EPC. He has felt himself a cheat since that time and this is a story of redemption.

Millar’s trial is Pelleton, a tough gig and, ultimately, Millar is cut from the tour by Charlie, the team leader, and we see him shedding tears in a moment of extreme vulnerability. I, for one, felt he had the look of a haunted man, and I wondered if Lance Davenport looks this way when you meet him.

The director of the bicycling documentary said, “I feel like I’ve had this in the back of my mind for many years.  The only UK cyclist in the Tour de France—the best Scottish cyclist ever.” He did share with us that he considered the film to be capturing “this bizarre sport in a microcosm” and that the rest of the crew that Millar rode for and with was not that supportive.

At the end of the colorful documentary, Pretsel was to take questions, but he was down the hall watching “Heredity” so the bicyclist, himself, got up and said, “Oh, well, I can talk about the film.” He was 37 when they shot the documentary and is 41 now. It was very late this night; Millar had the haunted look of a man who could benefit from counseling as he said, “I’m a very twisted human being.” He added, “I wish there was a film that existed of me winning.”

When I asked what he plans to do now, at 41, his cycling career over, he said, “I hope to do things that are worth telling stories about.”

Muhammad Ali & Dick Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes

In the Dick Cavett/Muhammad Ali tapes we also see a champion—-the only fighter to ever to win the Heavyweight Championship crown three times—who is loathe to stop fighting when he should. Cassius Clay’s early history is portrayed, and then the documentary moves on to the friendship between Ali and Cavett that developed because, as Ali said, “You’re the only one who ever asks me on when I lose.”

After one particularly brutal beating, Ali’s cheeks are as round and bulbous as a chipmunk’s. He is a gracious loser, giving credit to the fighters who have bested him. He calls Cavett his “main man” and the two are shown at Ali’s training camp, where, at one point, Cavett even dons  green trunks and dances around in the ring.

There is also a notable tape where Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali are both on Cavett’s show together and they literally pick him up, physically. All-in-all, the appearances, shown together like this, are like a time capsule of the sixties and the turbulent era of the Vietnam War, which Ali opposed. When Ali converted to Islam and would not fight in Vietnam, he was stripped of his title and lost years of his fighting career, after which he was no longer “floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.” I saw him on campus at the University of Iowa when he was not allowed to fight, and the Union was jammed with students like me who had come to hear what this icon had to say.

Both films treat the difficulty of a pro athlete adjusting to hanging it up forever. However, regular human beings also have to hang up their cleats at some point, in terms of giving up their day jobs, jobs which have also defined them. The thing that helps make it more palatable for a professional bicyclist or a professional fighter has to be the tremendous paychecks some made during their heyday, not to mention the adulation of the crowds, which we see in both documentaries.

The downside is that a sport like boxing can doom those retired from it to diseases like Parkinson’s Disease, which Ali suffered from during the rest of his life. The film is a powerful argument for more stringent protection for athletes in all contact sports. The image of Ali lighting the Olympic torch, arm shaking visibly from the effects of the debilitating disease, is both touching and historic.

I’d recommend the Ali/Cavett  documentary to anyone who was alive in the sixties and remembers them, or to anyone who wants to learn what was happening in this country during that turbulent era.

“A Quiet Place:” If You See Just One Suspense Thriller, Make It This One

AUSTIN, TX – MARCH 09: Director/Executive Producer/Writer/Actor John Krasinski attends the ‘A Quiet Place’ Premiere 2018 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Paramount Theatre on March 9, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

I’m here at SXSW Film Festival (for the 3rd year) and the Opening Night film, “A Quiet Place,” written by two Hitchcock-loving Bettendorf, Iowa, 34-year-old filmmakers, (with some contributions from Director and Star John Krasinski of “The Office” fame), is wowing the critics and the crowds.

I was fortunate enough to grab a few minutes to speak to Scott Beck and Bryan Woods about this big-budget Paramount film the day after it premiered. It is not difficult to see how these two young Iowa graduates, who have been collaborating since junior high school (and throughout college at the University of Iowa) have helped create a suspenseful thriller that is destined to become a classic. It’s the start of something big, career-wise. Their next film “Haunt,” currently in post-production, is one they both wrote and directed.

 

AUSTIN, TX – MARCH 09: Emily Blunt and Director/Executive Producer/Writer/Actor John Krasinski attend the ‘A Quiet Place’ Premiere 2018 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Paramount Theatre on March 9, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

The filmmakers were articulate, congenial, diplomatic and enthused about the audience’s 100% Rotten Tomatoes response to their film about a family of four that must remain totally silent in order to keep some scary underground-dwelling creatures from killing them. They’ve  survived in a dystopian world (no further explanation) where any loud noise will bring these “things” down on the family of Krasinski, his wife Emily Blunt, their deaf teen-aged daughter Millie (played by a lovely young actress, Millicent Simmons, who is deaf in real life), a son of about 10 and a younger boy who looks just about ready for kindergarten in a normal world.

But, when the film opens, they are not in a “normal” world, but are searching for drugs in a ruined drugstore, where the youngest of the brood finds a noisy toy that he’d really like to keep. You know this bodes ill for the family, which has resorted to using sign language to communicate, has sound-proofed their dwelling and has an extensive camera and light set-up to try to protect themselves from the blind, armored creatures in an attempt to try to stay alive. There is also a tower that the father (Krasinski) lights a fire atop at night. We see two other fires in the distance, so we know there are at least a few other survivors. The set design and special effects are extraordinary, reminding of the “Alien” days, (when we finally see this threat—which isn’t for a long time). Marco Beltrami’s score is great and–most importantly—the acting from all is terrific.

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

The log line for the film is: “A family lives an isolated existence in utter silence, for fear of an unknown threat that follows and attacks at any sound.” That is an original premise that has not been done before. It leads to one of the most spare scripts in Hollywood history. Not only do the actors seldom speak (they sign or whisper or mouth the words), we don’t get to “see” the monster(s) until quite late in the film. And they are “Alien-” quality when we do.

There is not one “down” or boring scene, always the goal for a screenwriter, but difficult to achieve. No unnecessary exposition or wordy speeches. Just good old-fashioned Hitchcockian suspense from a screenwriting team that mentions “Vertigo” as one of their favorite movies and have been making films since they were six years old.

 

AUSTIN, TX – MARCH 09: Writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck attend the ‘A Quiet Place’ Premiere 2018 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Paramount Theatre on March 9, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

I met up with them at a Starbucks the day after the film and wrote a piece giving the local ties to the Quad Cities of Iowa, which appears above this one. To achieve that, I  had to embarrass myself and climb over about 8 other movie-goers in my row to go to the microphone during the Q&A.  Where, exactly, were these two talented young men? Fortunately, my willingness to go that extra mile led to a brief but informative meeting the very next day.

The film’s extraordinary quality is leading to this recommendation: if you like suspenseful, well-acted, well-directed films, beautifully-shot films where you care about the characters and root for them to escape, even against overwhelming odds, you’re going to love this movie.

Bryan Woods (left) and Scott Beck at SXSW in Austin (TX) on March 10, 2018.

Most of those present on Opening Night did, and the remark I heard made most often in the lobby following it was, “This was so much better than last year’s Opening Movie.”

Last year’s opening film was Terrence Malick’s “Song by Song” with Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman and some other “A”-list talent. Perhaps Malick should have hired Beck & Woods to script the thing, as that renowned filmmaker’s work, which was often wonderful, was not well-received because of its meandering storyline.

AUSTIN, TX – MARCH 09: (L-R) Actors Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and director John Krasinski attend the Opening Night Screening and World Premiere of ‘A Quiet Place’ during the 2018 SXSW Film Festival on March 9, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

The film opens wide in the U.S. on April 6th and, yes, it IS that good. Take it from someone who’s been reviewing film for 47 straight years.

What does Black Panther bring to the table?

It’s Black History Month and time for Black Panther, the film.

February is  the month with the fewest days, but  African-Americans rise to the occasion by celebrating the achievements of their ancestors.

This film is more fit for the occasion because it is the only film in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) to feature a predominately African American cast, an African American director, and great role models for African American children. T’Challa of Wakanda, aka The Black Panther ,made his debut back in 2016 in the heavily  hero populated film Captain America: Civil War.

Now his awesomeness has his own film. It’s not just a blockbuster film.  It’s a movie that’ll feed the culture, the culture being everything that African Americans stand for. Most films either feature African Americans as slaves, maids, or as silly creatures. This is a film where they  got the culture right tying the roots of the film s back to African origins. This film goes beyond the comic book movie cliches of fantasy, explosions, science experiments gone wrong, love triangles, or training montages.

Creed’s director Ryan Coogler who was snubbed at many awards ceremonies. He set the film in the fictional country of Wakanda, a hidden kingdom in Africa, one of the most secretive and technologically advanced countries in the MCU mainly because of its reserves of the world’s most useful but rare metal, vibranium.

Aside from setting the film in Africa, Coogler and Chadwick Boseman considered what they could do to make Wakanda and its people more authentic.

Via Youtube /©Marvel Studios 2018

Black Panther Is Not Just A Hero

One thing about Marvel is that their stable of characters is diverse. The revolutionary Stan Lee, creator of Black Panther, said, “He’s an interesting character that is going to be such a different a things for the audience to see on screen.”

T’Challa was last seen in Captain America: Civil War  giving the business to everyone that stood in his way but also coming to grips with his father’s death and the knowledge that he has to assume leadership of his country. That is what makes him such a complex character . That is why Black Panther is on a whole other level. He’s not just a hero. He’s a leader of many.

Boseman who has portrayed many African American heroes on screen in the past, will not be alone in this step forward for African Americans in cinema. Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker are among many others who are helping carry the weight of this film.

Important Messages

It is not just the names that make the movie stand out. It is the message the film is sending. One message is that women of color are fully capable. The women of Wakanda explained what makes the country so special. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly Angela Bassett explained that “It’s a nation that respects and reveres women. They think of us not just as Queens but as the Queen Mother. Mother is the nurturer and the first teacher. That position is embraced. She’s not someone who is off to the side.”

Photo Credit: Entertainment Weekly/ Kwaku Alston/©Marvel Studios 2018

Via Youtube/ ©Marvel Studios 2018

See Black Panther For Yourself

The film is already sold out in pre-order tickets. Advance reviews are positive.  The cultural appreciation is on point. This is the movie that Marvel fans have been waiting for like dinner on Thanksgiving Day.

Black Panther definitely has a lot to bring to the table. I hope everyone is ready for the release February 16th.

Thoughts on This Year’s Oscar Race

Nominations for the 2018 Academy Awards on March 4th were just announced and, to no one’s surprise, the Best Picture nominees are:

  • “Call Me By Your Name”
  • “Darkest Hour”
  • “Dunkirk”
  • “Get Out”
  • “Lady Bird”
  • “Phantom Thread”
  • “The Post”
  • “The Shape of Water”
  • “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

I confess to having missed one out of that list, which I plan to rectify in the upcoming weeks before the March 4th ceremony. The one I have not seen is “Phantom Thread,” but it is playing near me at the Lamar Boulevard Alamo Drafthouse and contains what is rumored to be the last performance by Daniel Day Lewis, who announced that he was going to stop acting. (Of course, Cher announced her final tour how many times?)

I heard Richard Roper, the film critic for the Chicago Sun Times, say on WGN radio that “Three Billboards” has the inside track now for Best Picture. It is about an empowered woman seeking justice for her daughter’s rape and murder. Empowerment and women’s rights being all the rage now with the “Me, Too!” movement, he could be right. It is a darkly original well-written script directed by its writer, Martin McDonagh (“Seven Psychopaths,” “In Bruges”). Frances McDormand (married to a Coen Brother and star of the original “Fargo”) is always a force to be reckoned with and she certainly is in this film.

The cast for “Three Billboards” is uniformly great, including Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson, both of whom were nominated for Best Supporting Actor. I saw “Three Billboards” twice, once in Chicago at the film festival and once when I took my husband to it, because I knew he would enjoy it. It was a true original and I think my assessment on The Movie Blog.com at the time was “original and bad-ass,” both of which still apply. At the time, I was being chastised for ranking movies too high (I only go to movies that I think are going to be good, if possible). I had to find a “bad” thing to point out about the film, I commented that Frances McDormand’s character was unremittingly negative, to the point that it was difficult to “humanize” her, even though an attempt was made in a scene with a deer, and that, in real life, many of her actions would have gotten her arrested and thrown in jail. I also did not like the ending as much as the rest of the film.  I wonder now if the plan was, even then, to potentially have a sequel?

If I were to rank order these films in terms of how much I enjoyed them, rather than alphabetically, as above (“Phantom Thread” excepted, of course), the rank order, for me, would be:

#1: “The Shape of Water”

#2:  “Lady Bird”

#3:  “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

#4:  “Get Out!”

#5:  “The Post”

#6:  “Darkest Hour”

#7:  “Dunkirk”

#8:  “Call Me By Your Name”

I’m a former HWA (Horror Writers’ Association) member and that means that the idea of the monster getting the girl appealed to me (“The Shape of Water”). When you read my detailed review of the film elsewhere on this blog, you, too, will appreciate the achievement that “The Shape of Water” represents. It was the closing film of the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival and I was blown away when I read through all of the press notes about how much care and effort went into making it. It truly deserves its record number of nominations (13, the most) and I would love to see it win as Best Picture of the Year. I also remember meeting Guillermo del Toro at a previous Chicago International Film Festival, when he was being given a special award, and a nicer man you cannot find.

Because of my connection to writing horror, I was also very happy to see “Get Out!”, directed by one-half of the Key & Peele comedy team, make it onto the list. It was truly a good film and the lead actor, Daniel Kaluuya was great in the lead part and got a nomination for Best Actor. I particularly enjoyed the Golden Globes opening, when host Seth Meyer described the film as being “a black man finds himself surrounded by a group of rich white people who don’t want to grow old.” Then, in alarm, Meyer looked at Kaluuya in the audience of Hollywood actors and actresses and said, “Oh, no! GET OUT!”

“Lady Bird” is another well-written script. It has the distinction of being a film written by and about women by Greta Gerwig in her directorial debut.  It was clever, capturing the essence of the mother/daughter relationship growing up, and much of it was based on Gerwig’s own upbringing in Santa Barbara, California, although she denies being much like Saiorse Ronan’s character of Lady Bird, when she was a teenager. (Saiorse Ronan received a nomination for Best Actress and Laurie Metcalf received a Best Supporting Actress nod playing her mother.)

I took a close friend (who also has a daughter) to the film, telling her it had a good chance of being nominated for Best Picture, and we both enjoyed it (for the second time, in my case).  Laurie Metcalf is great in her part as the mother and Tracy Letts,  a Chicago native and the playwright responsible for “August: Osage County”, came to our screening. He is perfect as the father (who always gets to be “the good guy”), although, in real life, he admitted he had no children. (Something I read he was rectifying right now.) It would be nice to see a small film triumph, but I’m thinking the fine acting in it and the screenplay has a better chance of getting the kudos.

Timothy Chalamet

Interesting side note: Timothy Chalamet, who is nominated as Best Lead Actor for “Call Me By Your Name” also has a part in “Lady Bird.”

 

 

Michael Stuhlbarg: Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (aka, Dmitri) in “The Shape of Water.”

His double play  may only be surpassed by Michael Stuhlbarg, whom I met and chatted with on “The Shape of Water” Red  Carpet in Chicago. He portrays Chalamet’s father in “Call Me By Your Name,” has a role as a Russian scientist in “The Shape of Water,” and played the owner of the New York Times (Abe Saperstein) in “The Post,” so he is in three of the nine nominated films.

 

Quite the coup for this versatile actor, who shared with us that his next project was supposed to be playing Gore Vidal’s long-time homosexual partner opposite Kevin Spacey in a bio-pic. (One wonders what has happened to that planned picture now that Kevin Spacey seems to be persona non grata in Hollywood?)

(L to R) Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Shannon and Cinema Chicago founder Michael Kutza in Chicago after the screening of “The Shape of Water.”

 

 

This picture was taken just as Michael Kutza (founder of Cinema Chicago 53 years ago) said to the two Michaels onstage, “Why doesn’t Spacey just come out of the closet and admit he’s gay?” Both of the actors cracked up laughing. At the time, it was a fairly brave remark, as Spacey had not fallen out of favor and the proverbial s*** had not hit the fan.

Gary Oldman

(Anthony Harvey for Getty Images)

 

Since it seems a foregone conclusion that Gary Oldman will (finally) get the Best Actor statuette for his outstanding portrayal of Winston Churchill in “The Darkest Hour” I’d like to add that the film is actually very good, as well. It’s not just a case of a good acting job in an otherwise ho-hum film. Oldman truly deserves this honor, after so many, many good roles, and I would be surprised if any of the other actors in the category (Timothee Chalamet, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Kaluuya, Denzel Washington) give him any real competition for the gold statuette.

Image result for gary oldman gallery

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour”

I would also be surprised if the make-up artists (Kazuhiro Rsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick)  for “The Darkest Hour” didn’t cart off the award for Best Make-up and Hair, since their competition is “Victoria and Abdul” and “Wonder.”)

LEAD ACTRESS

Sally Hawkins as mute cleaning woman Elisa Esposito in “The Shape of Water.”

The nominees are Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water”); Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”); Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”); Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”); and Meryl Streep (“The Post”).  Streep has just announced she will join the cast of “Big Little Lies” next season, playing the mother of Alexander Skaarsgard.

THE SNUBS

This brings me to the snub of both Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks for “The Post.” Maybe the Academy just feels they have been honored enough, but this was a truly fine and enjoyable film, and an important one in these times, since it deals with attempts to suppress the free press and focuses on the publication of the Pentagon Papers. I was also sad to see that Ridley Scott’s re-shoot of “All the Money in the World” got short shrift and that Jeremy Renner’s turn as Corey Lambert in “Wind River” didn’t get a closer look, but I think it was released too early. The Academy seems to have a short memory for films that aren’t released closer to the date of the actual ceremony.

 Right now, all the momentum is definitely with “Three Billboards” and Frances McDormand, but I am an admirer of “The Shape of Water.” If I may remind viewers, however, Sally Hawkins (previously known for playing the meek sister of Oscar-winning Cate Blanchett  in Woody Allen’s 2013 film “Blue Jasmine”) had to play her role without speaking, as she portrays a woman who is mute. All of the actresses I saw were good (haven’t yet seen “I, Tonya” performance yet) but, for my money, having to play your role completely without words makes Hawkins’ task that much harder and her achievement that much greater. I wouldn’t mind seeing Frances McDormand win because women’s empowerment is today’s buzzword, but I’d really like to see Sally Hawkins be recognized for such a fine job, working under adverse conditions.

SUPPORTING ACTOR:

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Richard Jenkins

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Sam Rockwell

This category is one of the most difficult to predict. The nominees were Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”); Woody Harrelson (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), Richard Jenkins (“The Shape of Water”), Christopher Plummer (“All the Money in the World”) and Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”).

First, let me say that having two actors from the same film (“Three Billboards) nominated for that film is always detrimental to one of them, but Rockwell, who has labored long and hard in the indie film field, has carted off SAG and Golden Globe honors already and certainly has a quirky, comic role that deserves recognition. But so do the others. Woody is equally good as the long-suffering and fatally ill Sheriff of Ebbing, Missouri. Christopher Plummer, playing J. Paul Getty in the had-to-be-shot-over-from-scratch “All the Money in the World,” is an old pro who does a great job for Ridley Scott, replacing the disgraced Kevin Spacey. The entire film was great and Ridley Scott, who pulled off an impossible task, at the ripe old age of 80, deserved more nominations for this film. Some said Michelle Williams would get a nomination as Best Actress for her role as the mother of the kidnapped grandson of J. Paul Getty, but she did not. I’d really like to see Richard Jenkins win, because he has been so good for so long (played the dead undertaker father in television’s “Six Feet Under“), but has never received the recognition he is due. It also would not bother me to see Christopher Plummer, a veteran actor, get the nod. Having said all that, it seems this is Rockwell’s year. Saw “The Florida Project.” The child actors—especially Brooklynn Prince as Moonnee—-were impressive, but it was not Willem Dafoe’s finest hour or strongest part in a storied career. 

SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Saiorse Ronan in “Lady Bird”

Nominees are Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”); Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”), Lesley Manville (“Phantom Thread”), Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”) and Octavia Spencer (“The Shape of Water”). I have not yet seen either Allison Janney, Lesley Manville, or Mary J. Blige, but I’m a big fan of Steppenwolf product Laurie Metcalf, better known to TV audiences as RoseAnne’s television sister. She was terrific as the Mom in “Lady Bird” but somewhat snubbed at earlier awards shows, in favor of Allison Janney, who plays Tonya Harding’s mother. It was interesting to learn that, although both Letts and Metcalf came out of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater, they had never shared a stage before “Lady Bird.”

DIRECTORS:

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    Guillermo del Toro

Nominees are Christopher Nolan for “Dunkirk;” Jordan Peele for “Get Out”; Grets Gerwig for “Lady Bird”; Paul Thomas Anderson for “Phantom Thread”; and “The Shape of Water” for Guillermo del Toro. Again, notable snubs to Ridley Scott for “All the Money in the World” and to Steven Spielberg for “The Post.” My heart is with “The Shape of Water.” It was quite the achievement; read the review posted here earlier.

Playwrght/actor (“August: Osage County”) Tracy Letts, at the showing of “Lady Bird” in Chicago.

Without mentioning ALL the categories, I’d like to see “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” triumph for Steve James and Kartemquin Films in the documentary category. They are headquartered in Chicago (40 years and counting) and this is their second nomination for an Oscar this year, along with “Edith & Eddie” in the Best Documentary Short Subject category. I’d also like to see “The Square” win for Best Foreign Film, “In the Fade” (which I also saw) from Germany seemed to have the inside track, but was another notable snub.

ODD FACTS:

Another interesting odd fact concerns the Best Actor/Best Supporting Actress categories where the one-time former husband/wife team of Gary Oldman (for “Darkest Hour”) and Lesley Manville (for “Phantom Thread”) were both nominated. Oldman has been married 5 times. Lesley Manville was his first wife, whom he married in 1987. He left her in 1989, 3 months after their son, Alfie, was born. In 1990 he married his most famous wife, Uma Thurman but that only lasted two years. He also had a drunk driving arrest in 1991 while out with Kiefer Sutherland (his blood alcohol was 2x the legal limit in California) and has made numerous unfortunate statements that caused him (some say) to be blacklisted in Hollywood for a while. (One was a “diss” of the Golden Globes, which, this year, he seemed genuinely thankful to receive for playing Churchill). His most recent wife is writer and art curator Gisele Schmidt, whom he married in September of 2017, so Oldman will be a newly-wed with about 6 months of matrimonial bliss to his credit in his fifth marriage by the time the awards are televised. Met him during a Chicago showing of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” in 2012, for which he was also nominated as Best Actor.

Signs from the Resistance in Chicago on Jan. 21st, 2017

My good friend Mary Gerace took part in the Chicago Women’s March yesterday and has prepared this report on the signs that TV didn’t show us.

“After marching from Columbus and Congress to Michigan Avenue, I stepped up on the sidewalk to do some serious sign reading; I then did the same on Jackson Blvd. These were memorable:

  • I’ve seen better cabinets at Ikea
  • 2018 We shall overcomb!
  • And you thought we were mad last year
  • So, Trump who?
  • Prevent Truth Decay
  • Super Callous Fragile Sexist Racist Nazi Potus
    (Must be of a certain age to get it, I’d say; Mary Poppins would approve.)
  • Witchhunt: I’m a witch and I’m hunting you
  • Respect Existence or Expect Resistance
  • The power of the people is stronger than the people in power! We Decide
  • Does this ass (drawing of Trump) make my country look smaller?
  • (Under photos of Trump, Pence, Ryan and McConnell) Do these asses make my sign look fat?
  • (Drawing of the White House) Sex offenders CANNOT live in government housing!
  • If HILLARY were PRESIDENT we’d all be at BRUNCH
  • EMERGENCY ALERT: Threat to democracy – Inbound to Mar-a-Lago – Seek immediate impeachment -This is not a drill
  • Without Hermione, Harry would have died in Book One
  • Remove the Malicious Mango
  • Out with the Dope, In with the Hope
  • Snowflakes turn into avalanches
  • It takes a snowflake to start an avalanche
  • I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change; I am changing the things I cannot accept.
  • Vote with heart because they don’t have one
  • White people renovating houses, Congressional edition
  • My mom is pissed!!!
  • If you’re not terrified, you’re not paying attention
  • If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention
  • Too depressed to be funny!
  • The reasons why I march will not fit on just one sign
  • Global warming is not a liberal conspiracy
  • Make America Hate Again! Oh, you thought he meant GREAT?
    Well, you know how he tends to say one thing and do the exact opposite.
    He’s very presidential like that.
  • Norway, please help us!
  • Keep your tweets off my rights
  • Girls just want to have FUNdamental human rights
  • Grab them by the Ballot Box
  • Grab ’em by the Mid-Terms
  • Grab him by the Putin
  • New Public Trust Poll: Trump 24% Gas Station Sushi 26%
  • So sex offenders can’t live within 1000 feet of a park or school but Trump lives in the White House?
  • (Drawing of Trump) I don’t always use mouthwash but when I do it’s Fleet
  • I will not go quietly back to the 1950s
  • REsisters
  • So bad, even introverts are here
  • (Photo of Robert Mueller) Make America Great Again
  • Vaginas brought you into the world; Vaginas will vote you out
  • We aren’t going anywhere except to the polls
  • RIP GOP
  • Trump Shutdown: Nice deal, Donny
  • (Photos of Trump and Kim Jong-un) The Moron Terror
  • I didn’t see my favorite sign from last year this time, but here it is:
  • Give him hell until he goes back there

And that’s your report from the field.”

https://www.gamevillage.com/

 

“Black Lightning” on the CW Premieres for DC Comics Fans

by Zayin Allen

(Episode 1, “Resurrection” trailer.)

The CW has sparked the attention of many DC comic book fans and their new show (debuted January 16th) “Black Lightning” has electrified the entire network.

The first African-American superhero in DC Comics, Black Lightning debuted originally in 1977 and defined an era of social injustice in the United States. Creators Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden showed the world that an African American man can have power.

The decision to have the television show premiere the day after the Martin Luther King holiday was a strong move on the CW’s part, because it filled viewers’ screens with an extra jolt of soul power.

Black Lightning tells the story of Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams), father of two, teacher of few, and activist of many in the city of Freeland. Pierce struggles with finding balance in his life after retiring his superhero alter-ego. Following the divorce from his wife Lynn Pierce (Christine Adams), Jefferson is called back to fight for justice after his daughters, Anissa and Jennifer Pierce (China Anne McClain and Nafessa Williams) are threatened by the rise of the 100 gang, led by their leader, former politician Tobias Whale (Marvin Jones III).

The casting of the show is amazing. China Anne McClain said, in an interview before the show’s debut, that, upon arrival she “knew very quickly that they would be able to play a family easily.” The passion of Jefferson makes viewers understand that he wants better for his family and nothing will get in his way. Black Lightning is not just about a man who can glow like a light bulb and walk around shocking people. The show tells a deeper story about conflict and living in trying times. Cress does not tell this story alone.

Nafessa Williams and China Anne McClain set the standard for strong independent African American women, and that is what the show needs. Anissa is an open member of the LGBT community, and is als an educated teachers who takes after her father in more ways than one. Jennifer is an intelligent high school student who is stressed by the pressures of school, but has a strong family dynamic to support her. Between the love of her overprotective father and her sister she stands her ground, but she’s still a teen growing into adulthood.

Everyone in the cast meshes well together, including Tobias Whale. It is declared early on within the show that Whale is not a force to be taken lightly. Even with 1000 plus volts and the ability to step walk on air, Jefferson still has things he has to battle with, things that he cannot combat with his incredible strength alone.

The discussion of race is what sets this show apart from others. It deals with issues like the struggle of trust between a community and law enforcement, the destruction of a community from within, and gang violence. This show is different because it talks about real world issues. These issues need to be seen by viewers in the comfort of their own homes to fully understand what is happening in the world around them. I, personally, applaud the CW for recognizing diversity, and I want to applaud the director, Salim Akil, for having enough understanding to make a show about the struggles and triumphs in the African American community, depicted by a predominantly African American cast of actors.

All in all, the show is amazing. It offers action, drama and humor all rolled into one. The casting is spot on and the issues are relevant. Like all superhero shows on the CW, the fight scenes are long and drawn out, no matter how fast or spectacular they look. However, this was only the first episode and the actors take you to a place beyond the comic book.

There is more to be seen, and judging from this week’s premiere, the voltage is definitely high.

Game Village

http://www.bingoaffinity.com/

Observations on the January 7th Golden Globes from Zayin Allen

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Oprah at the Sunday, January 7th, Golden Globe Awards
During the Golden Globes, the big moments are not about the ceremony and awards themselves,.
It’s more about what the nominees and winners have to say. especially with everything  happening leading into the new year with the “Me, Too!” movement..
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Natalie Portman was strong to subtly voice her opinion on the “All male nominees” for the best director category.

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Guillermo Del Toro took home the Best Director award for “Shape of Water.”  This act basically called out the elephant in the room with a loud speaker, especially since Barbra Streisand recalled being the last woman to win the award for Best Director and that was in 1984. Portman laid the ground work for the biggest moments of the night, but Oprah’s remarks (which she had been asked to shorten, but refused) were the cherry on top of the sundae..

Who else is there better to steal the show with grace and status than Oprah herself?
 After Oprah accepted the 2018 Cecil B. DeMille Award, Winfrey, the first African American woman to receive the award, went on to use the outlet and addressed the sexual misconduct scandal happening in Hollywood.  During her acceptance speech she stated that “speaking your truth is the most powerful tool you all have.”
Among all the speeches, none of them made the audience form eye puddles like Winfrey’s.  Going on to call out to the young girls at home, Oprah said, become the leaders“I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon!.. And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they  who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, “Me too” again.” The hashtag #MeToo began to spread like wildfire all over the internet, basically questioning whether or not Oprah was locking in her run for President in 2020.
Yeah, it was that big.
That was not the only huge moment of the night.  Sterling K. Brown’s performance as Randall Pearson  in NBC’s drama “This is Us” was noteworthy. Brown won the Golden Globe award for best actor in a TV series, drama. While the show is heavy in certain moments enough to make a grown man cry.
With most of the talk of the night centering around gender, Brown went on to address something of a different caliber: being one the first African American actors to win the award for the best actor in a TV drama. In his brief acceptance speech he went on to thank the show’s creator, Dan Fogelman  “for a black man that can only be played by a black man…… I’m being seen for who I am and being appreciated for who I am, and it makes it that much more difficult to dismiss me or dismiss anybody who looks like me.”
fter Brown’s speech, the applause filled the room and the internet had a field day with the 75th Golden Globes.The night itself was a momentous occasion with many actors, directors, and films going on to claim awards and the female nominees wearing black in a show of solidarity.

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