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!

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“Stormchaser” Is Well-done Short Film by Gretl Claggett

Stormchaser”

Filmmaker Gretl Claggett both wrote and directed a short film/narrative pilot called “Stormchaser.”

I’m not sure which Midwestern state is portrayed in this 27 minute film, but the license plate said Missouri, so I’ll take a wild guess that it was, indeed, Missouri.

Gretl’s indie film, which might morph into a pilot if all goes well, won the AMC Networks’ Best Female Creator Award at the Stareable Fest 2020 and is traveling throughout the festival circuit now. She will be my guest on my podcast Weekly Wilson on November 19th at 7 p.m. (CDT) talking about this film and her burgeoning career. The film will be screening at Film Girl Film Festival in Milwaukee November 13th through November 20th.

So, what is the plot of “Stormchaser”?

I expected it to be up-close-and-personal information on tornadoes and their devastating effects on those trapped in them.

Not the case.

“Stormchaser” is about Bonnie Blue (Mary Birdsong of “The Descendants”), who grew up chasing tornadoes with her dad and now is making a statement for female empowerment. She’s trapped in a  demeaning job as a sales person for Flip Smith’s shingles and siding business, where “Flip the Switch” is the go-to phrase for the sales people.  (Nice acting on the part of Stephen Plunkett, who has been recognized at several film festivals.)

The film begins with a young Bonnie sliding into the cab of the truck next to her father as they seek to chase a tornado, described as “a gift from the infinite universe.” They encounter “a great river of air” and are off to the races.  Later, a radio preacher is heard burbling about “a visual manifestation of turmoil just beneath the surface.” By that point, the turmoil has pretty much broken through to the outside world.

Oddly enough, I wrote this review in my basement (hoping I would not lose power and the internet while working) during a tornado warning for the Chicago area and  Illinois on 11/10/2020, which lasted until 3 p.m. It is a classic gesture of serendipity that I was actually hunkered down in my basement avoiding the possible consequences of a tornado while watching “Stormchaser.”

The film becomes a story about a woman of a certain age—only female in a male-dominated workplace—standing up for her rights. She’s disconnected, up against a recession, and facing down a boss (Stephen Plunkett of “The Mend”) who deserves everything that comes to him in the course of the film.

Mary Birdsong (“The Descendants”) portrays Bonnie Blue and does a fine job. Plunkett won Best Actor awards for his role as Flip Smith at the Grove Film Festival (New Jersey) and the cast won Best Ensemble Cast at the Richmond International Film Festival. Plunkett also was nominated as Best Actor at the Idyllwild Film Festival.

Filmmaker Gretl Claggett said, “I created ‘Stormchaser’ as a darkly funny allegory, in which the main characters represent different facets of our sociopolitical system, from the Old America and culture of entitlement to the changing face and values of a New America struggling to find its way.”

Tune in on November 19th at 7 p.m. (CDT) when Gretl and I talk about “Stormchaser” and her past and future film projects. 

 

Film Festival Favorite Theme: Losing One’s Mind in “Little Fish”

“Little Fish” at the 43rd Denver Film Festival.

Every year, attending film festivals in Chicago, Texas, Colorado and elsewhere, there is often a pattern that emerges for that year’s films. Sometimes, it’s a similarity of titles. Sometimes, it’s a similarity of theme.

In 1984 there was “The River” and “Places in the Heart,” two movies about families losing the family farm. One starred Sissy Spacek and the other featured Sally Field, with America’s farm crisis taking center stage. That thematic refrain has echoed through the decades.

In 2018, at the Chicago Film Festival, the big theme was drug addiction, with “Beautiful Boy” (Timothy Chalamet) and “Diane” (Mary Kay Place) dealing with the opioid crisis in the U.S.

In 2019, the theme that more than one film covered was Death Row. We had Alfre Woodard’s “Clemency,” with Alfre as a prison warden tasked with carrying out the execution of a Death Row inmate, and “Just Mercy,” with Jamie Foxx as a convicted prisoner on Death Row and Michael B. Jordan working to free this  innocent man.

So, what is the Topic Du Jour in 2020?

Perhaps not surprisingly, the topic is epidemics that come out of nowhere and strike without warning. But what the epidemics cause is different from real-life horror stories like “Contagion.”

This year, the pandemic that is sweeping the multiplex, afflicting people at random is amnesia. In both “Apples,” a Greek film, and “Little Fish,” we have people who are losing their memories and their minds. I didn’t like “Apples,” the film that showed at both the 56th Chicago International Film Festival and the 43rd Denver Film Festival, because it tried to play the theme as humorous, when losing our knowledge of who we are is anything but humorous. Still, in Chicago “Apples won the Silver Hugo for Best Screenplay.

Olivia Cooke

“Little Fish,” directed by Chad Hartigan and based on a short story by Aja Gabel which Gabel and Mattson Tomlin crafted into a screenplay, is a love story between Emma (Olivia Cooke of “Ready Player One” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) and Jack O’Connell (2014’s “Unbroken” and “Seberg”).

Called NIA, Neural Information Affliction, at first people simply forgot to stop running a marathon or abandoned the bus they were driving in the middle of the street. Over time, more and more people began to forget their loved ones and pilots forgot how to fly and crashed.

The plot focuses on the romance between Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Jude (Jack O’Connell) and their friendship with another couple, Ben (Raul Castillo) and Samantha (Soko). As Ben, a musician, is losing his memories, he strikes out and becomes violent, ultimately destroying his relationship with Samantha.

Emma and Jude are determined not to let his memory loss ruin their relationship. Jude even qualifies for a pilot program that will try an experimental method called Oral Cranium Puncture, where a hole is surgically drilled in the top of one’s mouth into the brain cavity. When Ben is turned down for the experimental treatment because he tests positive for cocaine, he talks Emma, a veterinarian, into trying the method on him herself. That adds drama and intensity to the simple retelling of people losing their minds, but, ultimately, neither film could figure out how to come to a satisfactory “ending.”

Jack O’Connell

The cinematography by Sean McElwee (some nice aerial shots and great scenery) is good, the acting is more than good, and Josh Crockett has done a fine job editing the film, but, ultimately, the failure to stick the landing hurt both “Apples” and “Little Fish.”

Baby Hannah Gets Married (Sept. 6, 2020)

Elise, Jessica and Ava.

September 6th wedding of Hannah & Chris Poffenberger.

Niece Megan Wilson Eddy and daughter Stacey.

Son Scott with his daughters (Ava & Elise) and the bride and groom, Hannah and Chris.

Ava and Elise Wilson.

Ava & Elise Wilson.

Ring bearer.

Figge Museum Reception location.

The bride and groom.

 

Craig, Connie, Scott & Stacey

Scott & Jessica, Elise and Ava

Don, Jr., Describes Dear Old Dad

Suzi Quatro Performances

 

 

 

SPIKE “At the Mike” O’DELL TO GUEST on 6/11

Sign

Route 66 Rest Stop on the way through Oklahoma from Texas to Illinois.

We recently drove from Austin, Texas, to the Quad Cities, through Oklahoma, Missouri, and Chicago.

The entire landscape seemed dystopian and surreal. Nothing was open except large food chains like Wendy’s, Taco Belle, and McDonald’s, which had lines snaking through the drive-throughs, but signs on the doors saying, “No dining inside. Curb pick-up only.”

Rest stops along the way often had chains around their vending machines with the message “No Vending” posted.

The one pictured in this article had a message within the women’s rest room that said, “The streaks on the inside of the glass are from the disinfectant for coronavirus.”

And this is America by road today, in the year of our Lord 2020.

We spent one night in a small town near Springfield, Missouri. The “free” morning buffets have been abandoned and the Best Western—-which had only one bar of soap in the bathroom, and whose sink was not inside the tub/toilet room—looked like something you’d stop at in an impoverished country, There were only 2 motels in this small town and it had taken us so long to get through dallas (traffic accident) that we couldn’t make it to the bigger town of Springfield, so our choice of motels was a grand total of 2, both of them hard to get to.

When we got to St. Louis, we stayed at my brother-in-law’s house, who recently lost his wife (April 18) and on late-night television the demonstrations began in towns like Ferguson. I watched a clumsy Anti-Fa black-clad member try repeatedly to light a Molotov cocktail to throw through the window of a nice-looking brick pizza place (Luciani’s). A black resident of the city lumbered over and told him to “take that shit elsewhere.” After he tried (and failed) to be able to light the wick, again, he did, finally give up.

BuildingBy the time we got to Chicago the streets were impassable. Police at each intersection kept us from being able to drive to my downtown condo, where my car had been parked for 5 months. I had to show the cop my driver’s license to be allowed to drive to Indiana Avenue.

When we finally reached the Quad Cities we learned that:

  1. An animal of some size had eaten a hole in the side of our house. It took a handyman about 6 hours to fix it.
  2. My toilet would not flush for 3 days until some interior part was replaced. For 3 days you had to take the lid off and pull up on something by hand.
  3. A small lake had begun forming under our kitchen sink. The plumber can’t come until next Thursday.
  4. My neighbors had taken in my microphone boom, which my husband had to assemble for tonight’s podcast. It was supposedly going to be sent back to the sender after 3 days of attempts to deliver. Fortunately, my messages and phone calls averted this and everything arrived.

Tonight’s podcast featuring sci-fi horror author Barbara Barnett went well. We discussed her new release, “Alchemy of Glass” and her previous novel “The Apothecary’s Curse.” Next week’s (June 11th) guest is Spike (“at the mike”) O’Dell, WGN personality for 22 years, followed by New York Times Best-Selling author Heather Graham on June 18th.

FREE BOOKS ON AMAZON FOR THREE DAYS

The New Cover Of the book The Color Of EvilJust a reminder that THE COLOR OF EVIL, book number one in the award-winning series of the same name, is FREE for 3 days: May 15, 16 and 17th. In addition, the second book in the three-book series, RED IS FOR RAGE, is also being offered FREE for those 3 days. This series was named Best Indie Thriller Series of the Year 2018 by “Shelf Unbound” magazine, and book #1 sports a brand-new award-winning cover. The series is also available in paperback and audio book formats.

Get THE COLOR OF EVIL Free

 

Also FREE for the dates of May  15, 16 and 17 are two of the three short story collections based on Dante’s “Inferno” and the crimes or sins punished at each of the 9 Circles of Hell in that classic. HELLFIRE & DAMNATION, books 1 and 2, are going to be FREE for the same 3-day period, in order to give you something to distract you from the problems of the world while sheltering in place, which many of you still are.

Get RED IS FOR RAGE Free

 

We also wanted to mention that the release “The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” normally a Christmas-themed book with puzzles and coloring book inserts, is one of the two newest releases of Quad Cities’ Learning and those of you who are true blue Progressive voters would find it a welcome addition to your child’s day, now that schools are not in session.

Get HELLFIRE & DAMNATION Vol1 Free

 

Hellfire & Damnation 2 Cover

Click on the appropriate buttons for purchasing of the four FREE books, or to view “The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” a whimsical book for children aged 3 to 11 that also contains beautiful illustrations with the message “Elections have consequences. Choose your leaders wisely.”

Get HELLFIRE & DAMNATION Vol. 2 Free

Jennifer Berliner

4/30/2020 Podcast with Jennifer Berliner

My guest on my Weekly Wilson podcast on the Bold Brave Media Global Network and Tune-In radio on April 29, Thursday, at 7 p.m. (CDT) will be Jennifer Berliner (pictured above).

At 15 years old, Jennifer was treated for bone cancer (Askin’s Sarcoma) and one of the drugs used afterwards, known as “red devils,” caused heart failure 8 years after her treatment.

Therefore, at 39, Jennifer had a heart transplant.
Four months later, doctors diagnosed breast cancer and she underwent a double mastectomy. To add to this litany of woes, Jennifer’s mother died from ovarian cancer just before her 41st birthday.

Through it all, Jennifer had “kept on keeping on” and has maintained a positive attitude using techniques that she studied in college as a social work major and others she had developed to keep her attitude upbeat in trying times.

This is a live call-in format (866-451-1451) and we welcome callers (be prepared to hold for a bit) with questions. Tune in to learn more about how to “shelter in place” successfully from a woman who knows more about face masks and staying inside for months at a time than any of us knew before the pandemic.

I had my teeth cleaned on February 19th.

I had my teeth cleaned on February 19th.

 They took more X-rays of my mouth than I have ever had taken. That took almost an hour. I had asked if I couldn’t have my X-rays from my dentist in the Quad Cities sent and avoid having to have MORE X-rays. They agreed, but, when the X-rays arrived, they didn’t like them very much. It seems that this dental practice prides itself on being much more thorough and rigorous. 

By the end of February (10 days) I noticed that the cold bottle of water that I take into my bathroom at night to take my nighttime pills and to swish my mouth after brushing my teeth caused me to “twinge.” Our water here takes a long time to get hot; it takes a long time to get really cold, so I carry my bottle of refrigerated water into the bathroom at bedtime every night.

I noticed that the cold water, when it made contact with some sensitive areas of my metal-laden mouth (old silver fillings) hurt briefly and sporadically.

March began.

I continued to notice a “twinge” here and a ‘twinge” there, but the steady throbbing didn’t really set in until after Friday the 13th of March, which was the last time I went out into the world to go to a movie (“The Way Back,” with Ben Affleck. Very good movie. Stream it on Netflix). When the 19th of March arrived, it had been one solid month since my teeth were cleaned. By March 30, it was hurting more than  “normal.” I called the dentist’s office, got a recording, and learned that the dentist’s office will not re-open until April 22nd. There was, however, an “emergency” number.
Was I an “emergency”?  It hurts off and on, but can’t I make it through until April 22nd when the dentist re-opens his office?
Uh…that would be a no. I made it the entire month of March (31 days), 10 days in February, and another 13 days in April, for a total of 54 days, or approximately 8 weeks since the thorough tooth cleaning.

By the time I declared myself a “medical emergency” I was neither eating nor sleeping much. I was spending a lot of time holding cold things against my cheek and hoping that that would make it feel better. It did not.

I sent 2 e-mails to the dentist’s office, declaring myself an “emergency.” (*Note to self: do not declare yourself an “emergency” using e-mail. I have not yet received a response.)I ended up calling the dental emergency number and getting an appointment with an endodontist in a downtown building.

First problem: I have no idea where “the Marketplace” is and had great difficulty finding the building. I finally had to pull up in front of a large sign for a different dental group (Floss), which had a large address emblazoned on the sign, so I could tell the receptionist exactly where I was with a real address. She was able to guide me to an underground parking garage for the two building towers.
Most of the lower parking spots were reserved for physicians or dentists (no cars in them). I kept climbing in the ramp and parked, taking the elevator to the basement, as instructed (and then up to the 4th floor).

A kindly neighbor had given me a mask, so I started heading towards the building door without the mask and then remembered to go back and retrieve it. (I had not been wearing it while driving.) I put it on.

Immediately inside the door there was a table with 2 health care workers, wearing protective gear, issuing masks to anyone who planned to go into the building. An African American gentleman in front of me was trying to enter a floor that said it was the oncology floor.

I was heading to the tooth guy on the 4th floor. I entered the elevator with another mask-wearing rider, mumbled that I needed the number 4, and she pushed it with her cloth-covered elbow. I found the office and chatted with the receptionist for a short time—no longer than 5 minutes. They had me fill out some forms and  took my picture.

Now I was summoned to the back of the office for 3-D X-rays (MORE X-rays!)The endodontist shows me the X-ray of my abcessed, cracked tooth (last molar, back left), complete with a rather large pool of what he described as “infection.”
“How long have you been in pain?” he asks.

“Off and on for 8 weeks, but really bad since March 13th. I was trying to make it through until April 22nd when the dentist’s office re-opens. I was doing the Spartan thing. Mom would be proud.”
“Yikes! That’s heroic! That must really hurt!”

No comment from me, but, yes, that’s why I finally declared myself a “medical emergency” and made the decision to risk my life by going downtown to have what would turn out to be three and one-half hours of dental surgery. That is 3 and ½. Hours. In the dentist’s chair in one place. No bathroom breaks. No coughing. Mouth open the entire time.

I’ve been offered nitrous oxide once before, but, after seeing my daughter come out of oral surgery  laughing and loopy while blood dripped from her chin, I kept thinking of Steve Martin in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

It is explained to me that it might make the deadening and the anxiety more effective if I take the nitrous oxide.
 “Sure. Bring it on.”

A small mask is fitted to my nose, and I am instructed to “Breathe through your nose and breathe deeply.” Just before the mask goes on, the nurse asks me, in a conversational tone, “What kind of music do you like?”

“I had tickets for the Rolling Stones on May 24th.  I’ve seen them about 12 times. I like straight ahead rock-and-roll, but I’m not a rap fan or a heavy metal fan, necessarily. No reggae. No punk.”
I’m answering this question thinking that the nurse is just asking, conversationally.  Within seconds I have on headphones and I’m hearing the strains of “Highway to Hell” (AC/DC).Three and one-half hours later, I’m asked about my impression of root canals and nitrous oxide.

My response? “Whenever I think of root canal from now on, I’m going to think of ‘Highway to Hell.’”
Lone Star Deception Poster

Weekly Wilson Podcast(s) of April 2 and April 9, 2020

Tonight’s podcast with Texas author Charlotte Canion went well. Charotte said she had had two previous radio shows, and she had much to share about caring for one’s elderly relatives, while also coping with one’s own health and family responsibilities.

Charlotte has 20 grandchildren or great-grandchildren and is a cancer survivor. We talked about her book “You Have to Laugh So You Don’t Cry.” In Chapter 5 (“Forgiveness”) Charlotte shared the story of her 14-year-old daughter’s having been molested by her grandfather (Charlotte’s dad). The actual event happened when her daughter was six years old, but did not come to light until Charlotte shared the experience with a girlfriend, who alerted counselors.

The discussion of that chapter was a late-in-the-recording moment, but we did cover it and Charlotte described it as “ripping the family apart.”

“Lone Star Deception”

Next week, film star Eric Roberts and his wife Eliza are schedule to talk about his movie “Lone Star Deception” and their careers, in general. I hope it works, this time. Please remember that it is a “live” call-in show and you can join us with your questions. The phone number to call in “live” is 866-451-1451.

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